Died in the crash of an 11 OTU Wellington. Fate and bio details appear in Vol One and Three of my For Your Tomorrow trilogy.
Author: Swift to the Sky – New Zealand’s Military Aviation History Author/publisher: For Your Tomorrow - A record of New Zealanders who have died while serving with the RNZAF and Allied Air Services since 1915 & A Passion For Flight - New Zealand aviation before the Great War. Publisher of Gp Capt C M Hanson’s By Such Deeds - Honours and Awards in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1923-1999
From: G Kearns <email@example.com> Subject: Kearns Reefton New Zealand Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 22:00:34 +1100
Can anyone help with information about Thomas and Eliza KEARNS who lived on the West Coast of New Zealand in the late 1800s - early 1900s? Their children were Jaketh Henry Thomas Kearns (my father), Ivy, William and Derek (also known as Terry). Thomas' father is thought to have been Charles Patrick Kearns. They had a farm out of Reefton at a place called Blackball. We are visiting Reefton in March. Does anyone know where we could do some family research while we are there? Any help will be sincerely appreciated.
Post by harvard1041 on Jan 26, 2012 3:29:11 GMT 12
Hi Kev - let me ask a cousin of mine - he's in to Geneology etc - he'll know where the Kearns fit into things around Reefton ( everyone is related somehow down the Coast as you know ).
Blackball is down the Grey Valley opposite Nghare however - not really Reefton. Sure they don't mean Blacks Point - just a couple of miles up the Inangahua towards Crushington ?
Blacks Point has a nice little Museum in the old church and a 4 stamp battery in the creek nearby. There is also a Museum on the main st in Reefton ( Broadway ) and several of the locals there would know the family.
Post by baronbeeza on Jan 26, 2012 15:01:58 GMT 12
Jamie, this website may be of interest also. It is the grave sites of your great-grandparents. They are both buried at Reefton so I think John is on the ball when he says they may have farmed around past Blacks Point. There is not much farmland there but the valley opens out into river flats about Crushington.
012419 KEARNS ELIZA ANNIE Reefton 15/08/1961 Age 80 years 012416 KEARNS JOHN THOMAS Reefton 15/04/1952 Age 77 years The family may have known neighbour John, perhaps the kids even played with him. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Lovelock
Post by baronbeeza on Jan 28, 2012 10:58:47 GMT 12
Thanks Dave, I am yet to work my way through some of those names.
Harvard1041 has emailed me with many details of the Kearns family. I am not sure what Jamie was after as he has gone quiet here.
Richard Stansfield Derek Kearns DSO, DFC, and DFM was born 21 Mar 1920 in Reefton. He died Oct 1995 in Northampton , Northamptonshire. In Q4 of 1945 he married in Ashford , Kent to Joyce C. Thompson
A lot about Derek can be found on the web. Briefly, he served with 75, 156 and 617 squadrons during WW2 (NZ 405572) rising from Sergeant to Flight Lieutenant. He served with the NZ Territorial Air Force after the war (appearing in the 1946 and 1949 electoral rolls at Riccarton and Huranui). He later returned to the RAF (SN 501043) flying Canberras until retiring on 29 May 1963 (Squadron Leader). Derek probably knew Andrew McEwin as they both were air crewing on 75 at the same time. I have yet to check to see if they ever flew together.
We may have another possible West Coast name for the photo also. Thanks for the info John.
Post by billydogjamie on Jan 29, 2012 8:20:00 GMT 12
Sorry not been on here for a while. A fascinating amount of information is coming to light. A brief insight into my circumstances: I was adopted in 1971 from the catholic childrens society in Britain. I had two letters telling me about my Father and Mother. The letter about my Father described his familiy and detailed his fathers efforts in the Airforce. I have since traced my Mother who confirmed the fact that he was part of 617 squadron. The whereabouts of my Father Jeffery Kearns is still unknown to me.
Post by billydogjamie on Feb 14, 2012 14:22:42 GMT 12
Still trying to find any photoghraphs if any one comes across any. I have had no replies from any of the e-mails that I have sent to "family members" so far. I put an add in the Local paper in Reefton and Somone kindly put a copy of an e-mail on the wall in the Working mens club for me. To date no response to any of them. I have joined Genes re-united were there is a direct family link, Despite my messages to them they too have not responded. Well I shall keep on trying because like it or not I do exist.
While searching out info on another 75'er, Bomb Aimer A.J. "Jack" Moller, I discovered that Terry Kearns was his Pilot, both at 75 (NZ) and 156 (PFF) Squadrons, and then I found this thread.
Subsequently I (sadly) stumbled on a London auction house's catalogue from Nov 2012, listing Terry's full collection of medals, photos, letters and memorabilia for sale. It also included a full history - what an amazing career this guy had!
Noted the request for photos above, so have included one from Jack Moller's collection, courtesy of his son Tony. The information here is otherwise mostly courtesy of Spinks London - apologies for the length of the post, but not sure what you would want to leave out??!
Squadron Leader Richard Stansfield Derek Kearns, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M.
Born Reefton, New Zealand, 1920; studied Engineering at Canterbury College.
Joined Royal New Zealand Air Force, December 1940; carried out Pilot training at No.1 E.F.T.S Taieri and No.1 F.T.S. Wigram, gaining his 'Wings', 26.7.1941; arrived in England, November 1941, and undertook a refresher course at No.1 A.F.U., R.A.F. College Cranwell.
Posted to No.11 O.T.U., Bassingbourn, for conversion to Wellingtons, March 1942. Whilst at Bassingbourn Kearns formed his crew of: Navigator W.J. 'Hone' Barclay, Wireless Operator M.W. (Maurie) Egerton, and the two Gunners A.J. (Jack) Moller and H.E.A. (Buck) Price; this crew were to carry out two tours of operations together, with Kearns and Barclay flying together for most of the war. Whilst stationed at No.23 O.T.U. the crew flew on the first 'Thousand Bomber' raid to Cologne, 30.5.1942, quickly followed by the 'Thousand Bomber' raid on Essen, 1.6.1942.
75 (NZ) Squadron
Posted for operational flying to 75 (New Zealand) Squadron (Wellingtons), Feltwell, Norfolk , 17.6.1942; and carried out 25 operational sorties with the Squadron including: Emden; Bremen (3), including 25.6.1942, 'Attacked by Three ME 110s - Evasive Action Successful' (Log Book refers); St. Nazaire, 28.6.1942, 'Very Sticky Trip - 17 x 250lbs. 2 Runs on Target - Shot Down Both Times - Flak Very Accurate in Search Light Cone - Shot Up By 'E' Boats Off French Coast - Rear Gunner Slightly Wounded'; Frisian Islands (2); Wilhemshaven; Duisberg (4); Hamburg (2), including 26.7.1942, 'Load 9 S.B.C.s - Very Busy Trip - Bombs in Target Area - Brought to OFT By Flak and Searchlights & 7 Searchlights Destroyed and One Machine Gun Nest Silenced - Good Trip'; Saarbrucken (2), including 29.7.1942, 'Load 1 x 1000lb, 7 x 500lb, 2 x 250lb. Bombs in Target - No Searchlights - Flak Weak - One Ju 88 Encountered - Close Call'; Dusseldorf; Essen; Osnabruck (2); Mainz (2); Frankfurt, 24.8.1942, 'Load 9 S.B.C.s 9lb Incendaries. Flak Intense - Searchlights Poor. Attacked By F.W. 190 Evaded Successfully'; Kassel, 27.8.1942, 'Attacked By Two Enemy Fighters. Evaded Successfully'; and Nurnburg.
156 (Pathfinder Force) Squadron
Transferred to 156 (Pathfinder Force) Squadron (Wellingtons and later Lancasters), Warboys, September 1942. Pathfinder Force had been formed in August 1942, and 156 Squadron was one of the four squadrons to form the nucleus of the new force.
Kearns flew in 31 operational sorties with the Squadron including: Bremen; Wilhelmshaven (2), including 19.2.1943, 'Load 1 x 1000lb M.C. - 4 X 250 T.I. Bombs - 6 x 500lbs H.E.T. - Vis. Good - Hit By Flak Over Target - Returned on 3 Motors - E A/C Encountered Over A. - A. Photos. Very Interesting Trip - W/Op's Final Op.'; Essen (4); Saarbrucken; Krefeld; Genoa; Hamburg (2); Turin (3); Stuttgart; Mannheim; Duisburg; Munich (2); Lorient (2); Dusseldorf; Cologne; St. Nazaire (2); Berlin; Keil; La Spezia; and Pilsen (raid on Skoda Armaments Factory), 16.4.1943.
Photo: Terry Kearns (third from left) with his first crew at 156 (Pathfinder Force) Squadron, Warboys. The dinghy had been donated by a school from the proceeds of a penny trail. Bomb Aimer Jack Moller is fourth from left, next to Terry. (Photo copyright of Tony Moller)
Once Kearns had finished his second tour, 'I completed a Flying Instructor Course and was posted back to No.11 O.T.U. now located at R.A.F. Westcott. I was an Instructor on the satellite airfield - R.A.F. Oakley - converting pilots to Wellington Aircraft before they joined the remainder of their crew at R.A.F. Westcott for advanced training. I was recalled to Operational Flying with No. 5 Group in September 1943.
617 'Dam Buster' Squadron
'My Navigator Flight Lieutenant Barclay and I joined [C Flight] No. 617 Squadron as it moved to R.A.F. Conningsby. We formed a new crew and trained to the operational requirements in Low Level Flying and Specialist attack procedures. In addition when the Stabilised Automatic Bomb Sight (SABS) was introduced, we trained for the delivery of the 12,000lb Blast Bomb. This was replaced by the 12,000lb Tallboy and later by Grand Slam (22,000lb). Our best effort on the practice range was - I believe - never beaten. The average error of eight practice bombs dropped from 20,000ft on Wainfleet Bombing Range was 15 yards from the Aiming Point Peg.'
Due to the casualties suffered by 617 Squadron during the Dams Raid, May 1943, Kearns was one of several skippers drafted in to bolster the squadrons strength, 'it was a new squadron being formed for a special low level operation on an unknown target - all very Hush Hush. He [Len Chambers] passed my name on to the C.O. Guy Gibson - as a recruit - but I could not get my release from instructing at Westcott/Oakley until after the Dams Raid'.
He flew his first operational sortie with the squadron, now led by Leonard Cheshire, to the Antheor Viaduct, 11.11.1943; this was the first of 30 operational sorties flown with 617 Squadron, including to 7 Special Duties Targets over December 1943-January 1944 - a series of pin-point attacks against factories in France which were reluctantly working for the German war effort, where the object was ensure maximum damage with minimum loss of French lives; other operations included: the Gnome & Rhone Aero-Engine Factory, Limoges, 9.2.1944, when Cheshire tried out his newly developed low-level marking system for the first time on operations; Aircraft Factory at Albert, 2.3.1944; La Ricamerie, 10.3.1944 'To Ball Bearing Factory St. Ettienne - 1 x 12,000lbs - Good Raid - Factory Destroyed - Bombed 7,500 feet'; Aero-Engine Factory, Metz, 15.3.1944; Michelin Tyre Factory, Clermont-Ferrand, 16.3.1944, 'Direct Hit - 1 x 12,000lb. Factory Destroyed - Landed Conningsby'; Powder Factory, Bergerac, 18.3.1944; Explosive Works, Angouleme, 20.3.1944, 'Pouderie Nationale' Explosive Works - Angouleme - Southern France. Photo A/P Factory Destroyed - Wizard Prang'; Aero-Engine Factory, Lyons (3).
He converted to Mosquitos and returned to fly, as one of the squadron's four Mosquito markers, on operations over Juvisy Railway Sidings, 18.4.1944; Railway Marshalling Yards, La Chappelle, North of Paris, 20.4.1944; Brunswick, 22.4.1944 - the first time the squadron used its low-level marking method over a heavily defended German city; Munich, 24.4.1944; German Military Barracks, Mailly- Le-Camp, 3.5.1944.
Returning to Lancasters he flew in Operation Taxable, 5/6.6.1944, as part of the D Day landings, 'Tactical Operation Causing a Diversion to Cover the Initial Landings on the Cherbourg Peninsular. Ht. 3000! - Believed Very Successful'; two days later he flew in the attack led by Cheshire on the Saumur Railway Tunnel; this was the first occasion that Barnes Wallis' new 12,000lb Tallboy bombs were used and Kearns used it to very good effect, 'Bombing Very Accurate - Load 1 x 12,000lb Tallboy - Direct Hit Tunnel Mouth. Believed Very Successful Raid' (Log Book refers); a newspaper cutting adds the following detail 'Kearns... scored a bull's eye with his 'Tallboy' - a 12,000lb earthquake bomb. He was so accurate that he obliterated the squadron commander Leonard Cheshire's marking flare, preventing other Lancaster crews from seeing their target. 'Hold on chaps,' Cheshire said. 'I'll have to mark it again'; the operation was a complete success, the tunnel was destroyed, and a German Panzer division was prevented from reaching the Allied invasion beach-head that had been established two days earlier.
Photo: Kearns (third from left) with 617 Squadron, Woodhill Spa, 1944. The motif of the saint holding a bomb on the side of the Lancaster was the design of Kearns. His crew had it emblazoned on their flying jackets.
Four days later Kearns was part of the operation over the Submarine Pens at Le Havre, 'Blue Flight Formation Leader - 1 x 12,000T.B. Very Good Raid - A/B Claims Direct Hit'; the next day he attacked, with the same bomb load, the 'E' Boat Pens at Boulogne; he flew two abortive sorties on a V-Weapon site at Wizernes, Pas De Calais, before carrying out his final operational sortie of the war, 25.6.1944, 'Operation to 'Siracourt' Rocket Installation - 3 Direct Hits On Installation - Flak Damage - Cat A/C. Load 1 x 12,000lb T.B.'.
Posted as Chief Flying Instructor, No. 17 O.T.U., Silverstone, October 1944; towards the end of the war he was seconded to British Overseas Airways Corporation to fly transports on the Karachi route and on 28.5.1946 he piloted the '1st BOAC Service Out of London Airport' (Log Book refers); on 8.6.1946, he helped fly a Sunderland in ' 'V' Day Fly Past In London'.
Discharged in 1947, he returned to New Zealand to complete his studies before accepting a permanent commission in the R.A.F. in 1949; posted to 3 (T) Squadron at the start of 1949, he spent the following two years at No. 1. I.T.S., flying a mixture of aircraft including Vampires and Meteors.
Posted for operational service in Malaya to 60 (Fighter) Squadron (Vampires), Tengah, December 1952; he carried out numerous 'strikes', rocket attacks and jungle reconnaissance as 'A' Flight Commander; having spent two years at Tengah he was posted back to the UK, April 1954; returned to Tengah in the Summer, and continued to serve with the squadron over the Malayan jungle until the end of July 1955.
Having taken part in 49 'strikes' with the squadron he returned to Bomber Command, and was posted to R.A.F. Lindholm, followed by No. 231 O.C.U., Bassingbourn, where he converted to Canberras; Squadron Leader 1956; posted as Flight Commander to 139 (Jamaica) Squadron (Canberras), Binbrook, January 1956; the squadron took part in the Suez Crisis, and flying from Nicosia, Kearns' Log Book gives the following: 31.10.1956, '1st Strike Inchas Airfield'; 1.11.1956, '2nd Strike Luxor Airfield'; 2.11.1956, '3rd Strike Huckster Depot'; 5.11.1956, '4th Strike Port Said, Mkr. For French Para Drop'.
Posted to H.Q. Bomber Command Communications Squadron (Meteor Flight), April 1959, and subsequently held a number of appointments including as part of the operational control of the Thor Missile Programme; in 1963 he contracted tuberculosis and was forced to retire later that year; in civilian life he went on to work for Shell, before retiring in 1980.
Thanks Peter, some interesting detail about the Lancaster. I have access to a copy of Jack Moller's logbook so can verify the details of Terry's 75 and 156 op's mentioned above, but not the 617 Sqdn op's. Cheers, Chris
Post by oldlayabout on Mar 13, 2015 4:10:47 GMT 12
I have just come across the thread from 2012/13 about Terry Kearns. I started my National Service in July 1950 at the age of 18 and was lucky enough to be selected for pilot training. I was posted to No.1(?) Initial Training School at RAF Jurby in the Isle of Man. My Flight Commander (and hero!) was Flight Lieutenant Terry Kearns. I have a photo of him with No.60 Course. The Air Ministry decided to see if some gliding before we started flying training would help our subsequent progress and half a dozen of us would fly in a Slingsby T21 on a Wednesday afternoon on the rare occasions when it was not too windy. One of my clearest recollections after 62 years if of my first flight with Terry. After we had released the tow rope he turned to me and said "Have you ever been up in one of these before?" I replied "No sir" His next words were "Neither have I"!
I am really pleased that this old thread has reappeared as its very timely. The NZBCA are starting to accumulate photos ( copies ) badges, logs etc etc relating to Kiwis in 617 sq. This will be added to the material we already hold , for a special 617 display being created at MOTAT. Hard objects are loved by the conservators as they dont fade or get moth eaten. Please pm me.