Archives for October 2019
NZ 401396 ~ ROYAL GEORGE LINDSAY ~ RNZAF / RAF
An email received from Sharon H. of Collingwood Ontario, Canada resulted from a 2017 referral by the Webmaster of Aircrew Remembered.com (UK) with whom I regularly correspond as both a researcher of Kiwi airmen and for assistance with tracing UK families to reunite medals with.
Sharon’s email was the start of a fascinating but sad story that had its roots in the betrothal of a Kiwi airman to a Canadian lady. In 2006, Mrs Jean Brown FITZPATRICK passed away at the grand age of 95 years. Among her personal effects was a small cardboard box containing four items – a Pilot’s Badge (wings), a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF ) non-commissioned airman’s brass hat badge, and two paua (abalone) shell brooches – a Winged Heart and a Tiki suspended from a silver brooch pin bar, known as “sweetheart brooches.” Sharon explained that in 1941 her mother, then Jean Brown CARTWRIGHT, had met an Kiwi aircrew cadet Royal George LINDSAY from Auckland, while he was undergoing aircrew training in Ontario, Canada. Within a short space of time Roy, as he was known, and Jean had become engaged to be married. After completing his training in Canada, Roy was posted to Bomber Command in England. No-one then or now, is under any illusion that life during wartime can be a tenuous existence, and not least for the ‘boys in blue’ during the Second World War. Needless to say the inevitable happened and Royal Lindsay was killed on air operations (KAO) only months after he and Jean had met.
Broken-hearted, Jean was understandably bereft and since that time had treasured the small mementos from fiancée Roy for the remainder of her life. Sharon, herself married, fully understood the depth of feeling her mother must have had for her Kiwi flyer. Following her mother’s death, Sharon had found the keepsakes Roy had given to her mother among her personal possessions and resolved to one day have them returned to Roy Lindsay’s family. She felt they rightly belonged with the Lindsays where they would likely have significantly more meaning than if she had retained them, and no doubt be greatly appreciated after so many years had passed.
I found Sharon’s story very compelling and a welcome change of research direction and so started to assemble Roy Lindsay’s family history.
The story begins …
Samuel George LINDSAY was born in the Thames-Coromandel area in 1882 to parents George LINDSAY, a Mine Manager, and his mother Emily Ann Brown STRONGMAN. The second eldest child of five and only boy, George Jnr. took up farm work after his rudimentary schooling. By 1900 he had gone to Auckland working as a farm-hand in the Otahuhu area. He had also become a fairly capable horseman and learned the fundamentals of training work horses. In 1905 he was training horses at St Helliers Bay during which time George Annie BELCHER (1889-1918), the seventh of nine children, seven girls and two boys, born to Australian immigrant father from Sydney, Thomas BELCHER (1859-1903) and his Portsmouth, UK wife, Rachael Catherine HARDINGE (1859-1940).
George Lindsay (29) did not waste much time before proposing marriage to 19 year old Annie Belcher. The pair married in 1911 and took up residence at 18 Princes Street ** in Avondale. On the 6th of January 1912, Annie gave birth to their one and only child, a son whom she and George named Royal George Lindsay. The reason for naming their son “Royal” has been long since lost in the mists of time but logic suggests a few possibilities. Could it have been because the Lindsay’s lived in “Princes Street” or that Royal Lindsay had been conceived during the coronation year of King George V – 1911.
The “Royal George” Hotel at 149 Broadway in Newmarket could also have been the motivator for their son Royal’s name. George Lindsay would no doubt have been introduced to many in the equine industry at the “Royal” from the time he arrived in Auckland and sought to establish himself as a horse trainer. The “Royal” was also very conveniently situated midway between the Avondale and Ellerslie racing courses and accordingly was a long standing and very popular ‘watering hole’ among those of the horse racing fraternity, particularly after race meetings, from the time it had opened in 1880.
Note: ** Princes Street is now part of the Auckland CBD with No.18 in the vicinity of the MacLaurin Chapel (No.12).
Tragedy in the family
George and Annie Lindsay were happy in their Princes Street home with their new son Royal, as it was close to both Annie’s widowed mother in Victoria Road, Avondale and George Jnr’s parents George Snr and Emily Lindsay who had moved to Wharf Road in Avondale (now Ponsonby) from the Coromandel after George retired from mine management before WW1.
In 1918 a Spanish Influenza pandemic swept the world and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of soldiers at war. New Zealand did not escape this scourge which struck between October and December 1918 and with the death of over 9000 citizens and soldiers. The flu also claimed six year old Roy Lindsay’s mother, Annie Lindsay on 16 Nov 1918. Twenty nine year old Annie was buried in St Ninians Presbyterian Church yard which ironically is located on the south-eastern side of the Avondale race course.
George’s sisters in the Coromandel took care of Roy until George had re-married in 1922. Ada Eunice Letitia GOW (nee Nichols) was a divorcee whose short-lived marriage in 1912 to railway engine driver George Drummond GOW, ended abruptly after the birth of a daughter, Jean Eunice GOW, in 1914. No additional children resulted from George and Ada’s union.
Royal “Roy” Lindsay was educated at Mount Albert Grammar School after which he returned to his Lindsay aunts in Coromandel and with whom he got work. Roy’s his first job was as a Cheesemaker at Turua in the Coromandel Valley. By 1936 Roy had become a grocer and moved to Puriri, a bush bound whistle stop on the north-south stock route to Thames via Kopu, now known as State Highway 26. Kopu sits squarely inside the Coromandel Forest Park and astride State Highway 26 with Puriri about midway between Paeroa and Kopu at the southern end of the Firth of Thames. Roy remained at Puriri until his enlistment application for the RNZAF was approved and he was subsequently called-up for war service in 1941. Roy’s ambition was to fly!
World War 2 – BCATP, Canada
Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War and as the country was still preparing for the inevitable European war, Roy Lindsay had volunteered for military service in the RNZAF with a preference for aircrew training – the majority of applicants, including Roy, invariably applied to be pilot. Volunteers for war service prior to June 1940 were given the option to specify a preference for the arm of service (Navy [RN], Army, RNZAF) in which they wished to serve – in the main these were approved. Once the First and Second Echelons had departed, conscription for war service started (Jun 1940) and those who had not previously volunteered for service were not afforded this option; they were arbitrarily assigned to the Army – the Service likely to have the greatest need for reinforcements to replace casualties.
NZ 401936 Air Cadet Royal George Lindsay was enlisted into the RNZAF as an Airman Pilot Under Training (AP u/t) on 04 June 1940. At the outbreak of war in Europe, an inter-governmental arrangement between Allied nations known as the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) or “The Plan” (also known by the name Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS)) was implemented to train large numbers of operational aircrew for the RAF’s fighter, Bomber and Coastal Command squadrons, as quickly as possible. Canada was chosen as the primary location for The Plan because of its ideal weather, wide open spaces suitable for flight and navigation training — sometimes on a large scale, ample supplies of fuel, industrial facilities for the production of trainer aircraft, parts and supplies, and the lack of any threat from either the Luftwaffe or Japanese fighter aircraft.
In addition to the vast number of direct entry civilians who volunteered to become aircrew, many regular serving air force personnel also volunteered, from the most junior aircraftman 2nd class (AC2) to those more senior in rank and experience not previously been aircrew – provided of course they could pass the initial selection criteria.
From 27 May 1940 the Royal Air Force introduced a minimum rank of Sergeant (SGT) for all aircrew instantly promoting all aircrew holding lower rank to Sergeant. As the war progressed Pilots (P) and Air Observers (AO) – later re-named Navigators [N] and Bomb Aimers [B] (referred to as Bombers) – were considerably more likely to be commissioned officers before the end of their operational tours as their roles were more technically demanding. Keeping pace with the enormous rate of losses, men could be promoted three times in a year. Flight Engineers (E), Bomb Aimers – ka Bombers (B), Air Gunners (AG) and Wireless Operator/Air Gunners (WAG) were more likely to be a Sergeant or Flight Sergeant (F/S) at the end of their tours with occasional promotions to Warrant Officer (W/O) rank and a good proportion as commissioned officers.
The BCATP remains as one of the single largest aviation training programs in history and was responsible for training nearly half of all aircrew who served with the RAF and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. Trainees came from the United Kingdom (RAF & RAF Volunteer Reserve), Canada (RCAF), New Zealand (RNZAF), Australia (RAAF), Poland (PAF – PSP) and Czechoslovakia (CL & CVL). At The Plan’s highest point in late 1943, an organisation of over 100,000 administrative personnel operated 107 training schools and 184 other supporting units at 231 locations across Canada. Canada alone trained 131,500 aircrew under this scheme, almost half of the projected numbers or aircrew required.
Aircrew training begins…
On 5 December 1940, Roy sailed for Canada from Wellington. On arrival at Montreal, he then travelled by train to Toronto to undergo initial training at No.1 Manning Depot, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), with effect from 23 December 1940. The Depot occupied the Coliseum Building on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)** which could accommodate up to 5,000 personnel. Don’t be fooled by the pictures or grandiose buildings – the trainee accommodation was out back in cow barns and horse stables. The visible buildings were administrative offices and mess (dining) facilities.
All aircrew trainees began their military careers at a Manning Depot of which there were seven across Canada. Here trainees learned to bathe, shave, shine boots, polish buttons, maintain their uniforms, and otherwise behave in the required manner. There were two hours of physical education every day and instruction in marching, rifle drill, foot drill, saluting, and other routines. After four or five weeks, a selection committee decided whether the trainee would be placed in the aircrew or ground-crew stream. Aircrew “Wireless Operator / Air Gunner” candidates went directly to a Wireless School. “Air Observer” and “Pilot” aircrew candidates went to an Initial Training School.
Trainees were often assigned “tarmac duty” to keep busy. Some were sent to factories to count nuts and bolts, some were sent to flying schools and other RCAF facilities to guard things, clean things, paint things, and polish things. Tarmac duty could last several months or more.
Initial Training School
Pilot and Air Observer candidates began their 26- or 28-week training program with four weeks at an Initial Training School (ITS). They studied theoretical subjects and were subjected to a variety of tests. Theoretical studies included navigation, theory of flight, meteorology, duties of an officer, air force administration, algebra, and trigonometry. Tests included an interview with a psychiatrist, the 4 hour long M2 physical examination, a session in a decompression chamber, and a “test flight” in a Link Trainer as well as academics. At the end of the course the postings were announced. Those not assessed as suited to pilot training often had issues associated with night blindness, co-ordination, or distance perception. Occasionally candidates were re-routed to the Wireless (Operator) Air Gunner (WAG) stream at the end of ITS. Roy Lindsay’s aptitude streamed him toward Air Observer and accordingly he was posted to No.3 Air Observer School.
In June 1940, part of Crumlin Airport near the City of London, Ontario (about 200 km SW of Toronto) had been leased to the government by the airport authority to establish RCAF Station Crumlin. Started in 1939, Crumlin Airport was still under construction at this time however had completed two of its four runways which it leased to the RCAF for an aircrew training facility. From this time Crumlin would be host to No.1 Elementary Flying Training School (1.EFTS – Pilot training) and No.3 Air Observer School (3.AOS – Air Observer [navigator] and Bomber training) for the duration of the war.
Note: ** The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is an annual event that takes place at Exhibition Place in Toronto during the 18 days leading up to and including Canadian Labour Day, the first Monday in September. With approximately 1.5 million visitors each year, the CNE is Canada’s largest annual fair and the sixth largest in North America. The first Canadian National Exhibition took place in 1879, largely to promote agriculture and technology in Canada, and with the exception of the First and Second World War years, has taken place continuously to the present day.
During the Second World War the 192 acre CNE grounds became home to detachments of the Canadian military. In 1939, the Royal Canadian Air Force moved into the Coliseum. The Canadian Army took over the Horse Palace and the Royal Canadian Navy converted the Automotive Building into HMCS York. During the summers of 1940 and 1941, most of the troops stationed at the CNE were re-located to permit the fairs to be held. Those troops remaining either continued their regular administrative duties or participated in CNE displays and events aimed at promoting the Canadian war effort. In 1942 the CNE was handed over to the Canadian military and the CNE ceased until after the war. During the military occupation of the grounds, virtually every CNE building, large or small, was put to use by the Canadian armed forces. The CNE grounds remained closed and under the control of the Canadian military until 1946. Between 1945 and 1946, Exhibition Park acted as a demobilization centre for returning soldiers.
No. 3 Air Observer School
The path for Roy’s training was 8 weeks at an Air Observer School (AOS), 1 month at a Bombing & Gunnery School (BGS), and finally 1 month at an Air Navigation School (ANS). The Air Observer schools were operated by civilians (civil airlines such as Canadian Pacific Airlines) under contract to the RCAF, however the instructors were RCAF. The basic navigation techniques throughout the war years were dead reckoning and visual flight skills, and the tools were the aeronautical chart, magnetic compass, watch, trip log, pencil, Douglas protractor, and Dalton Navigational Computer.
Roy Lindsay’s 8-week module on No.14 Air Observer Course which ran from 27 Dec 1940 to 22 Feb 1941, taught him the fundamentals of air navigation theory and included 19 flights of practical flying training in the Avro Anson (35 hours of day, and 20 hours of night flying). Roy also celebrated his 29th birthday during his course, on 6 Jan 1941.
Note: ** RCAF Station Crumlin was re-named after the war to RCAF Station London until the RCAF abandoned its use in 1961. Today Crumlin is London International Airport, the international point of entry for the province of Ontario.
No.4 Bombing & Gunnery School
Five days of leave followed completion of the AO course and then it was off to No.4 Bombing & Gunnery School (No.4 BGS) at RCAF Station Fingal, Ontario, to complete the Air Bombers phase. Fingal is about 20 km south of the City of London. No.4 BGS trained both Air Observers and Air Bombers in their inter-related roles using a variety of aircraft that included the Fairey Battle, Northrop Nomad, Westland Lysander, Bristol Bolingbroke and Avro Anson. Air bombing ranges were located near Melbourne, Frome, Tempo, and Dutton, plus one that was located afloat on Lake Erie.
Roy attended No.11 Sergeants Air Observers & Air Bombers Course, a four week module from 18 March to 12 April 1941. Training was seven days a week, including studying and flying in the evenings, with little spare time! The weather at that time of year was also extremely cold and not unknown to hover around 40 degrees below zero!
The Gunnery phase of Roy’s course was flown in the Avro Anson and consisted of 16 flights of 30-40 minutes each, totalling about 5.50 hours. The Bombing phase of the course involved 16 day flights, a total of 29 hours, and two night flights of 2.0 hours each.
To encourage bombing accuracy, then enticement to become members of the exclusive ‘Pickle Barrel Club’ was on offer.
After 12 weeks of intensive training and having passed all his theory a flying tests, Roy Lindsay was considered fit to graduate as a “half-winger.” A “Wings” Presentation Parade was held on 26 April 1941. The School’s Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Van Vliet, introduced Brigadier General D. E. MacDonald who gave a short talk and presented the Air Observer Badge (brevet) to 33 members of No. 16 Air Observe Course, and to the Air Gunner Course members he presented the Air Gunners Badge.
The graduands were also promoted to Sergeant AO, or AG, the same day. Wings parades were a popular event as family and friends were welcome to share the proud moment. It was a significant milestone for the aircrew trainees, the training was not easy by any means and the pressure remained on. The danger of what they were undertaking was never far from their minds as they reflected on those who did not graduate – the not infrequent air accidents which occurred during training took the lives of many students and staff instructors alike.
Air Navigation School
The inevitable’ graduation parties that accompanied the end of any training were generally held in week prior to the ‘Wings” presentations, as the tightly synchronised training schedules required graduated crewmen to be on their way to their next post or training school the day after a the parade. For Roy Lindsay and his fellow AOs, their training was not yet quite complete. They were required to complete one more four week module of astro-navigation before being qualified to fly operationally with a bomber squadron. No.1 Air Navigation School (ANS) was located at a place called Rivers near Winnipeg in the neighbouring province of Manitoba. Sgt. (AO) Roy Lindsay and his fellow AOs successfully completed the four weeks of training on 27 May 1941 and were commissioned in the rank of Pilot Officer the same day.
With this ring …
With his training completed, now Pilot Officer (AO) Roy Lindsay arrived back where he started – at No. 1 Manning Depot in Toronto on 27 May 1941, the place aircrew posted to squadrons in the the UK stayed whilst preparing for departure and awaiting their transport. Roy was due to depart for RAF Station Driffield on 18 June 1941 which gave him just 22 days in Toronto. This was now ‘down time’ in which to relax, shop, visit some of the local sights and surrounding areas like London, Hamilton, Toronto, Niagara Falls, New York, Detroit etc and of course as young men who were about to put their life on the line did, consume great quantities of alcohol. This was understandable since their next stop would be an operational squadron in England which would be when the real work of war started … and their ‘survival’ clock begin to tick!
Sometime between Roy’s arrival at RCAF Station Crumlin, London on 27 Dec 1940, his departure for Rivers, Manitoba on 26 April 1941, and/or arrival and subsequent departure from No.1 Manning Depot in Toronto, Roy had managed to win the heart of a local lady named Jean Brown CARTWRIGHT (1911-2007). Jean was the eldest of three girls born to parents Charles Victor CARTWRIGHT, a storekeeper, and his wife Lillian May BROWN. Jean had been born in the municipality of Meaford in Grey County which is some 200 km northeast of London, Ontario on the banks of SW Georgian Bay, Lake Huron. The family in due course relocated to 39 Merritt Street East, Welland in the London suburbs. Here Jean had spent the latter part of her childhood and was schooled before starting work in her late teens in the City of London.
The actual circumstances of Jean and Roy’s meeting regrettably were lost when Jean died in 2007. Irrespective, it was clear from Roy’s concentrated training timeline that there was limited time to develop their relationship, but manage it they did. Perhaps Jean had met whilst Roy was undergoing his initial air observer training at Crumlin the previous January – February? Crumlin was certainly close enough to the city of London for a chance meeting to have occurred. Perhaps Jean had attended a social occasion at RCAF Crumlin, or been introduced via a friend of hers or Roy’s – the “Wings” presentation parades were always popular occasions at Crumlin and well attended by both local residents and those who came to see sons or relatives graduate from their training. There is also the possibility their first meeting may have happened much later – after Roy’s arrival at No. 1 Manning Depot en-route to the UK? This would have meant an exceptionally short time frame in which to form a lasting relationship.
Whatever the case, meet they did. Roy was 29 years and 4 months of age when he graduated with his Observer’s brevet, much older than the majority of his aircrew course members who were aged between 19 and 25, the norm among aircrew trainees enlisting for war service. One thing he and Jean had in common in this respect was their ages, Jean being slightly older would celebrated her 30th birthday on May 8th 1941, an age similarity to Roy’s which could also have been the catalyst for their attraction?
Relationships develop fast in war-time since the future can be so uncertain. Emotions ran high and relationships tinged with desperation, particularly as separation became inevitable. Without knowing Roy and Jean’s precise situation, what is known is that by the time Roy had departed the City of London airport in Toronto for Bomber Command in the UK, he and Jean were engaged to be married. Roy had sealed their betrothal to each other with a beautiful, rather large solitaire diamond ring. Years later, Jean would give the reset diamond to her daughter Sharon in an elegant dress ring (pictured). Their future together was assured … provided Roy survived.
Apart from Jean’s beautiful engagement ring Roy had also given his fiancée several small mementos to remember him by while he was in England. The brass RAF hat badge was what he wore on his Field Service cap (side-hat) while an aircrew cadet and Sergeant. Once he had been commissioned as a Pilot Officer his hat and badge changed to that of an officers. The cloth Pilot’s Badge (wings) perhaps was a memento of Roy’s intended role as a pilot before he was removed from training, or it could have been a memento from one of his lost colleagues uniforms, or simply a keepsake he acquired.
The paua (abalone) shell Tiki and winged heart brooches were examples of what were known as “sweetheart badges” designed to be mementos of remembrance for female loved ones while her man was away. The theme of the two brooches were not only representative of Roy’s service and love for Jean but also of his Kiwi origins.
With their time together likely measured only in weeks or a few months at best, newly promoted Pilot Officer (AO) Roy Lindsay finally said good-bye to Jean and Canada, as he departed for duty with Bomber Command in England on 18 June 1941.
Duty Calls – 104 SQN
P/O Lindsay joined Bomber Command at RAF Driffield which was located in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Before he could be assigned to a crew, P/O Lindsay first had to undergo three months of operational conversion training in the Vickers Wellington bomber, conducted by No.22 Operational Training Unit. The training involved 5 or 6 weeks of night flying, day/night navigation, bombing, ditching and emergency procedures. With that successfully concluded, P/O Lindsay was posted to his first operational flying unit and crew with No.104 Squadron, at Driffield. The squadron was equipped primarily with Bristol Blenheim and Vickers Wellington bomber aircraft. No. 104 Squadron was specifically a Night Bomber squadron!
A total of 126 squadrons served with Bomber Command. Of these, 32 were officially non-British units: 15 RCAF squadrons, eight RAAF squadrons, four Polish squadrons, two French squadrons, two RNZAF “New Zealand” squadrons, and one Czechoslovakian squadron.
Vickers Wellington – “Whimpy”
Affectionately nicknamed the Wimpy by RAF personnel, after the portly J. Wellington Wimpy character from the “Popeye” cartoons created by E. C. Segar in 1931, the twin-engine Wellington was a long range medium bomber used extensively for night bombing in the early years of the Second World War, one of the principal bombers used by Bomber Command. In 1936 the first Wellington Mk I rolled off the production line and underwent engine, stability and armament modifications in the ensuing years. From 1943 the Wellington was progressively replaced by a four-engine, twin tail “heavy bomber” – the Avro Lancaster.
The Wellington typically had a crew of five or six aircrew. They were: the No.1 Pilot (P) commanded the aircraft, a No.2 Pilot acted as co-pilot and an Air Gunner (AG) as required, the Air Observer (AO) was the navigator / wireless operator (WOp), a Bomb Aimer (B) / Front turret (nose) Air Gunner in the front turret of the aircraft, and a Rear turret (tail) Gunner. The Wellington’s offensive bomb load of 4,500 lb (2,000 kg), was more than one-fifth of the overall aircraft’s 21,000 lb (9,500 kg) all-up weight. The defensive armaments comprised a twin .303 (7.7 mm) Browning machine-guns in both the front and rear turrets. Later modifications of the aircraft included a retractable ventral turret, and two mid-fuselage positions that could be made ready at short notice by opening a side panel of the fuselage and installing a removable gun, one on either side of the aircraft. These generally required the sixth crew member.
Wellingtons continued to serve throughout the war in other duties, particularly as an anti-submarine aircraft. It holds the distinction of having been the only British bomber that was produced for the duration of the war, and of having been produced in a greater quantity than any other British-built bomber.
Reported “Missing” …
From the outbreak of war Bomber Command crews were given the task of flying a required number of operations, known as an “operational tour”, usually of about 30 operations (the USAAF termed these ‘missions’). Only “ops” completed with the bombs dropped—later, those bringing back a target photograph—were allowed to count towards the crew’s operational tour. On completion of an operational tour the airman (and often his complete crew as they tended to remain very tight-knit, always flying together) would be “screened” (taken off operational flying) and split up as they received their future postings which would frequently be serving at Operational Training Units or Heavy Conversion Units preparing the next groups of young bomber crews for their postings to operational squadrons. The life expectancy of bomber crews was very short, with fledgling crews often being lost during their first 12 operations. Rear/Tail Gunners were the most vulnerable — their statistical expectation of survival averaged at just two weeks or four operations!) with even experienced crews being lost right at the end of their tours.
In the four months P/O Lindsay had been with 104 (Night Bomber) Squadron, he had spent a good portion of that time preparing for night operations. Towards the end of the year he had started crewing on night bombing raids into Germany in the Vickers Wellington II. By January 1942 P/O Lindsay had flown in eight successful night bombing operations over Germany.
On the night of 15/16 January 1942, Wellington Mk II W5417EP was airborne from RAF Driffield at 1848 hours and headed for the target city of Emden to execute a raid on a very important German shipyard. The pilot in command was 19 year old Sgt. (P) Basil Adams of the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR). His No 2 Pilot and Wireless Operator/Air Gunner was 20 year old Sgt. Charles German (P), also a RAF Volunteer Reservist. P/O (AO) Roy Lindsay was on his 9th mission as the Observer/Navigator and at 30 years of age, the oldest member of the six man crew. The remaining crew members, all RAFVR Air Gunners, were Sgt. (AG) Reg Sperring (19), Sgt. (AG) Wally Tate (20) and Sgt. (AG) Reg Cooke (19). The crew had all completed a similar number of operations and roughly equivalent time in service in terms of flying experience and bombing operations. Ironically Sgts. German and Tate had been on the same operational conversion training course (No.7 Course) at 22 OTU as Roy. Sgt Adams had been on No. 6 Course and Sgt Sperring, No. 9 Course.
Wellington II W5417EP never got to its target. A German flak battery situated at Ameland on the Dutch Coast shot the bomber out of the sky at 2040 hours local. Witnesses from one of the accompanying bombers saw the Wellington crash into the North Sea. No bodies or trace of W5417EP was ever found.
At the time he was reported missing Pilot Officer Lindsay had logged 235 flying hours and completed 8 successful missions over Europe. Roy was flying his 9th night bombing operation when his luck ran out, well before he had even reached the statistical survival average of a bomber crewman.
NZ 401396 Pilot Officer Royal George Lindsay (missing on ops, presumed dead/drowned) and the crew of Vickers Wellington II W5417EP was posted as “MISSING ON AIR OPERATIONS” the following day. With no bodies or trace of the aircraft ever found, the crew’s official “missing” status stood for many months, until such time as the judiciary could legally declare them dead. The crew’s deaths are commemorated on the Runnymede Air Forces Memorial (Panel 116) at Coopers Hill, Surrey England.
In New Zealand, Roy G. Lindsay is commemorated on the serviceman’s Memorial Cross in the historic St. Judes churchyard, now known as the George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery, on the corner of Rosebank Road and Orchard Street, Avondale. Roy is also remembered on a memorial plaque at his former school, Mount Albert Grammar.
Awards: Qualified, Air Observers Badge (1941); 1939/45 Star with “BOMBER COMMAND” Clasp, Aircrew Europe Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939/45, NZ War Service Medal; the New Zealand Memorial Cross
RNZAF in New Zealand: 184 days
Service Overseas: 1 year 41 days
Total RNZAF / RAF service: 1 year 225 days
Jean joins the RCAF
W313807 Corporal Jean Brown Cartwright (1911-2006) RCAF-WD
After an extended period of mourning Jean was encouraged to act upon a recent law change which permitted Canadian women volunteers to enlist in the armed forces to fill non-combat positions, only within Canada. Following the outbreak of war in Oct 1939 there was a nationwide outcry by women who at that time were denied any opportunity to serve their country by joining the military services. The United Kingdom had permitted their women to enlist from the outset, being seen as necessary to free up the considerable numbers of males required for all three armed services. This also had the effect of depleting the industrial and domestic infrastructure of the country. As the war continued and casualty numbers soared, the employment of women in the non-combat rolls within the uniformed services, became an absolute necessity for both the continuity of domestic operations as well as the support required for operations overseas.
Basic training first took place in Toronto at No.6 Manning Depot, the former Havergal College girls school. The new recruits started arriving in October 1941 and training began in earnest the following month under the watchful eye of several members of the British WAAF, loaned to the RCAF as instructional staff. All airwomen entering the RCAF from the province of Ontario undertook basic military training here before being posted to their various support role assignments in medical, driving, supply, kitchen and dining duties, aircraft refuelling, telephone exchange and communications, clerical and administrative work, and operators in the Station operations room. A few months later, graduates from amongst the initial 150 women were selected to fill senior officer and non-commissioned positions within the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (CWAAF) organisation.
By the time Jean volunteered her services in June 1943, the organisation had been re-named the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) – Women’s Division (RCAF-WD) and the women known as “WDs”. Being older and more mature than the average female entrant, Airwoman (AW) Jean Cartwright was identified for administrative duties and as a supervisor of female trainees entering the service.
Jean remained at No.6 Manning Depot for the duration of the war during which she progressed through the ranks from Aircraftswoman (AW) to Leading Aircraftswoman (LAW) and then to Corporal (CPL). Airwomen were required by contract to serve for at least six months beyond the conclusion of the war to facilitate transitional and re-staffing arrangements for peacetime.
Cpl. Jean B. Cartwright was honourably discharged on 31 July 1946. For her service she was awarded the following:
Awards: Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and War Medal 1939/45; War Service Badge – RCAF Reserve
War Service: 02 June 1943 – 31 July 1946
In June 1947, Jean married former Canadian soldier and Veteran of the First and Second World Wars, Captain Willson Duncan FITZPATRICK. During WW1 Duncan had served as a Gunner with the 31st Battery, Canadian Field Artillery and later as a Sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 164th Canadian Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) during the First Battle of the Somme in France. In 1917 Duncan sought to join the Royal Flying Corps however after five months of training he was mobilised for overseas service, and placed with the 14th Signallers Section, Canadian Engineers. It was whilst with the Signallers he was wounded, suffering the effects of an artillery barrage of gas shells which necessitated his evacuation to England. Following his recovery, Duncan returned to Hamilton Ontario and continued to serve on a part-time basis with the local militia unit based at Hamilton – the Canadian Fusiliers [City of London Regiment] (Machine Gun).
The C.F (CoLdn) (MG) unit was mobilised at the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 and tasked with providing the defensive firepower for the Headquarters of the 6th Canadian Army Division. Duncan was re-enlisted for full-time service and commissioned in the rank of Lieutenant.
Kiska in the Rats Island group of the Alaskan Aluetian Islands, is situated in the middle of the Bering Sea to the west of Alaska. To conclude the Aleutian Islands campaign, an Allied task force operation known as Operation COTTAGE to clear and occupy Kiska Island which had been occupied by Japanese forces since June 1942. On 15 Aug 1943 the Allied task force which included 6.CanDiv, launched an attack on Kiska which very quickly became a non-aggressive occupation as the Japanese had departed undetected.
Capt. Duncan Fitzpatrick was demobilised in September 1945 as Captain and Quartermaster of the Canadian Fusiliers (CoLdn) Regiment. Following his marriage to Jean in 1947, Duncan and Jean lived in Hamilton and had a daughter, Sharon, the lady responsible for this journey of discovery to find her mother’s war-time fiancée’s descendant family in New Zealand.
All that remained …
Clearly Jean’s mementos of Roy were very special to her as was her beautiful engagement ring which she gave to Sharon in later life. The lamentable part of Roy and Jean’s short relationship is the complete absence of any photographs of them together – either none were taken, or survived. It is not unknown for those with a broken heart to want to expunge the hurt of losing a loved one by removing all reminders of them, such is their grief – we shall never know if this was the case with photographs but clearly Jean’s feelings for Roy had run deep and no doubt stayed with her all the days of her life, perhaps wondering at times what might have been. After all that had happened, Sharon said her mother had never spoken of Roy until very late in life.
Last Will and Testament
Prior to Roy Lindsay’s departure from NZ for Canada he had drawn up a Will with Mr P.G. Finlay from the his father’s firm of Solicitors, Messuiers Wilson, Henry and McCarthy to draw up a Will. Roy’s relationship with Jean Cartwright however had prompted him to make a new Will in the event of his death. On arrival at RAF Driffield Roy had pencilled a Will dated 5 October 1941 which he signed and had witnessed by a colleague, L. J. Fairbairn of 10 Fulton Ave, Christchurch. The Will was not officially Attested by a solicitor.
Roy’s new Will had made his fiancée Jean Cartwright the beneficiary of three quarters of his Estate while the remaining quarter was willed to his father, Sam Lindsay. After his disappearance on 15 Jan 1943, Sam Lindsay had to wait for 12 months before his son’s affairs could be settled, this being the elapsed time required the court allowed before a declaration of nil contact and presumed death could be made. When Mr Finlay bought the “new Will” to light, its acceptance had to be argued in the High Court as valid under the precedence of a previous case which recognised that a missing soldier was still a “soldier in actual military service” until proven otherwise. As a consequence, a letter from the RAF several months later stated that “for official purposes, Royal George Lindsay was considered to have lost his life on 15 January 1942.”
In addition, permission also had to be sought from Jean to give Sam Lindsay permission to administer the terms of the Will. All this took time to be processed through the NZ High Court. Roy Lindsay’s Estate was finally settled in Dec-Jan 1944. His Estate had amounted to approximately £15oo.00. Jean’s share was £1125.00, the equivalent in 2019 of £49,474.50, or NZ$ 97,365.00. Sam Lindsay’s quarter share was £375 , the equivalent to £16,491.50 in 2019, or NZ$32,440.00.
The Lindsay lineage
My research into the descendants of Roy Lindsay proved particularly difficult. With Roy being an only child there was not the usual possibility of finding descendant families of siblings. I looked at possible descendants of his mother Annie Belcher’s line however this proved equally elusive. Annie Lindsay was one of eight siblings (seven girls and a boy). She had died in 1918 during the world-wide Spanish Influenza pandemic. All of Annie’s surviving siblings had been females and all had died before the age of thirty bar one – only two had had any children. Their subsequent marriages had made these families too difficult to remote in the descendant chain to be concerned with and so I resolved not to go down this route unless a more deserving descendant should appear in the mix.
Following his wife Annie’s death in 1918, Sam Lindsay re-married in 1922 to Ada Eunice Letitia GOW (nee Nichols), a divorcee whose 1912 marriage to George Drummond GOW, a railway engine driver, had ended after only a few years but not before the birth in 1914 of their only child, Jean Eunice GOW.
No additional children had resulted from Sam Lindsay and wife Ada’s union. Roy being Sam’s only child and Jean being Ada’s only child, the marriage of Sam and Ada meant that Roy and Jean became step-brother and sister to each other.
At this point in my research I resorted once more the very useful Ancestry Family Trees and their attendant authors to try and make some potential connections to the Lindsay family of Avondale. A couple of responses had me pursing a couple of alleged close connections which proved not to be. After a couple of months with no further meaningful connection to follow, the case went on the ‘back burner’ until I could devote more time to in-depth research.
In April this year (2019) I received an email from Zac Williams (Zachary Benjamin Williams, 1995) who stated he was contacting me on behalf of his grandmother, Noeline Jean MAXWELL, nee STONEX, whom he alleged was the niece of Royal George Lindsay. Zac said the family had been researching Roy Lindsay to learn more about him and in the process had come across the message I had added to Roy Lindsay’s Cenotaph profile page indicating that MRNZ was holding medals/ephemera that had belonged to Roy. Zac’s grandmother was interested in claiming the ”medals” and wanted to know what was required.
Further research showed that Noeline Maxwell had been the only child of Jean Eunice GOW and Frederick Benjamin STONEX. Noeline in turn had been married twice, first to jockey Keith William DULIEU with whom she had a family of three daughters –Deborah Kay, Sheree Dianne and Michelle Louise DULIEU. Following Keith’s death, Noeline Dulieu was re-married to Trevor Gilbert MAXWELL, a Magistrate and Court Judge. No children resulted from their union.
The youngest daughter of Noeline’s first marriage to Keith Dulieu, is Michelle Louise the wife of Cambridge truck driver Mark WILLIAMS, and parents of Zac.
The William’s family has had the newspaper photograph (above) of Roy Lindsay displayed in their house for many years as their own tribute to an ancestor who fought and died in WW2, a relative they never knew or knew much about until recently. I was able shed a little more light on Roy’s life and death for Zac which has now been encapsulated on a tribute page of the AircrewRemembered.com website.** Zac (24) has also been putting in some research time on Royal George Lindsay and learned that his medals and Memorial Cross commemorating his death were sent to his father Sam Lindsay at 18 Elm Street after the war.
Zac Williams has since assembled a replica set of Roy Lindsay’s medals which he will be able to wear on Anzac Day and Armistice Days in honour of his great uncle. Whilst researching Roy’s medal entitlement, Zac discovered an omission had been made from the original medal entitlement. It seems Sam Lindsay was never sent his son’s Defence Medal as part of the complete entitlement. This I confirmed with the help of Defence PAM section’s medal entitlement expert, Karley C. who has now arranged for the medal to be issued to Zac. Having one genuine medal among Zac’s set of replicas is better than having none at all.
The whereabouts today of Roy’s original medals and his Memorial Cross is unknown. Given that WW2 medals issued to NZ servicemen and women were unnamed, the chances of finding them if not with a family member somewhere is fairly remote – unless the medals are accompanied by the Memorial Cross.
In contrast to NZ’s medal naming policy of the day, every WW2 Memorial Cross issued by the NZ government to commemorate the death of a serviceman or woman WAS named. The boxed silver patee cross on a length of 17mm mauve ribbon was sent to Sam Lindsay at his Elm Street, Avondale address however, the whereabouts of Roy’s Cross is also unknown. Hope springs eternal and who knows, perhaps the Memorial Cross and medals will turn up in the future and be offered to the Williams family.
Sharon H. mentioned that she remembered her mother Jean had kept up regular correspondence with Eunice Stonex for many years after the war – at Christmas, birthdays, holidays etc. There were even longer letters she recalled with an accounting of all the family’s activities. Sharon could remember the letters still coming to their house at least into her teenage years in the 1960’s and 70’s. Now sadly both ladies are deceased and that link is broken. Michelle and her family at least have Jean’s daughter Sharon as a fresh point of contact for any questions which may remain unanswered.
Note: ** The commemorative page that details P/O Lindsay’s last operation can be found here: AircrewRemembered.com/RGLindsay
Roy’s father Sam Lindsay built up a successful race horse training and breeding business at Avondale and became quite wealthy during his lifetime. Sam is remembered as being a trusting and generous man, perhaps too generous and too trusting, qualities that were taken advantage of by some in the bloodstock and racing industry. In 1952 Sam Lindsay died at his home in Elm Street in 1952 at the comparatively young age of 62. His wife Ada remained at No. 18 for another year or so before selling and taking up residence in a smaller red brick house at 1137 New North Road in Mt. Albert. Ada outlived Sam by another 25 years before she to passed away in 1977 at the age of 88.
Royal George “Roy” Lindsay’s direct line of succession effectively ended with the death of his father however his memory and exploits with 104 Squadron RAF have never been forgotten by the RNZAF or the Williams household. Apart from being remembered on the Runny Meade Memorial in England, his name also appears on the Wigram Airforce Museum’s memorial wall, and is recorded in Errol W. Martyn’s book “For Your Tomorrow: Volume Three.” Indeed, Roy’s memory has now been significantly revived and enhanced in the Williams household since the return of Jean B. (Cartwright) Fitzpatick’s personal and precious mementos of a love once had, and lost.
Sharon H.’s foresight in seeking to return her mother Jean’s wartime mementos to Roy Lindsay’s descendant family has been a special gift that has opened up a world of information not previously known by the Williams family who are immensely grateful for Sharon’s gift – thank you Sharon.
Thanks also to Karley C. and the PAMs staff at Trentham for again applying their expertise to clear the muddied waters of speculation which on this occasion has resulted in the issue of an additional medal.
The reunited medal tally is now 299.
Per Ardua Ad Astra
‘Lest We Forget’
38407 ~ CLARENCE GODFREY EGAN
As students of New Zealand military history are aware, 6/246 Private William Arthur HAM (22) from Ngatimoti in the Tasman district was the first NZEF soldier to die in combat during WW1. The recent sale of his Pte. Ham’s British War Medal 1914-20 on Trade-Me for NZ$7000.00 demonstrated the public appetite – collectors, museums and citizens, for military medals of significance when they come up for sale – read the story here: Pte. W A Ham’s medal sold
As most users of the internet know almost anything can be bought or sold including not just items being bought and sold by individuals, but also by commercial traders. A case in point is the large number of professional traders who deal in coins, medals and militaria. Clayton Ross, a former RNZEME soldier from Motueka, is a man who for many years has loyally supported his local RSA as both a committee member and a welfare representative. Whilst welfare assistance is provided in many forms by NZRSAs, it is subject to the vagaries of available volunteers. Clayton however has preferred to follow up his former committee appointment by providing a personal, long term aftercare service to these veterans in his community. By his commitment to the veterans of the Motueka community, Clayton has established an enduring confidence and genuine relationships with the veterans, many now quite elderly and infirm. It is these men (and women) Clayton has put the most time into, time that few others have available to offer on such a regular basis. For Clayton it has always been a case of veterans first, last and always, above all others.
Clayton has seen the last of the WW1 veterans go from his community and since then his time and energy has gone into the rapidly shrinking group of Second World War veterans. Having seen so many whom he has cared for over the years, pass away in the absence of family or relatives, and with former friends and colleagues having already gone, it is unsurprising that when Clayton sees an item of military memorabilia on the internet that has belonged to a NZ veteran he has known, or is motivated to save, he does something about it.
Medals ‘for sale’
In early 2019 a group of five original Second World War medals plus a Pay Book attributed to a NZ soldier, was posted on a Canada/US military medals trading website called eMedals with the following summary:
“1939-1945 Star; Africa Star; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939-1945; and New Zealand War Service Medal. Mounted to a suspension with swing bar pin back, as worn by the veteran, spotting and residue in the recessed areas on the Stars from cleaning, light contact, original ribbons, better than very fine. Accompanied by his Soldier’s Pay Book for Use on Active Service (with handwritten entries dated from February 1941 to June 1944, the Pay Book also containing two receipts, an Armed Forces Second Class Free Railway Ticket issued for the period October 9 to November 5, 1944, and a Rules of the King’s Empire Veterans of Auckland booklet, measuring 100 mm (w) x 135 mm (h)).”
Footnote: Clarence Godfrey Egan enlisted for service with the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (38407) on November 14, 1940, at the age of 42, naming his next-of-kin as his wife, Eileen Muriel Egan of Onehunga. He served with 2NZEF until his return home in late October 1944. For his Second World War service, he was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-1945 and the New Zealand War Service Medal.
Oddly enough I had seen these medals in January in the course of one of my regular visits to medal trading websites looking for NZ medals being offered for sale. In April 2019 these same medals and Pay Book appeared again, not on eMedals but on NZ’s own Trade-Me website. Clearly the medals and Pay Book had been purchased (eMedals, 02 Mar 2019) by someone in New Zealand and were being on-sold for profit. The Trade-Me site identified the seller as a Palmerston North resident whom I recognised as a regular medal trader/collector.
The medals themselves were nothing special, an ordinary very original group of five medal (two stars and three circular medals) mounted as worn on a brooch medal bar, in the swing style – tarnished commensurate with their age. The medal group attribution was to 38407 L/Cpl. Clarence Godfrey Egan – 21st mechanical Engineering Company, 2NZEF. The medals were accompanied by two Pay Books and a few receipts.
British campaign medals for Second World War service were issued in their hundreds of thousands. Whilst commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada and South Africa chose to name the WW2 medals before issue, New Zealand and Britain issued the medals in blank, i.e. they were un-named. Had the Pay Book not accompanied the medals, there would have been no way of knowing to whom the medals belonged. Naming of WW2 medals was not compulsory, the choice to do so was the owners (retrospectively the issue of un-named medals has proven to be a dumb decision by the NZ and UK govt’s of the day, a highly controversial decision at the time, made in the interests of cost saving. That decision continues to have on-going ramifications for the owners of WW2 medals that are lost or are stolen today, proof of ownership if found or recovered by authorities being the biggest headache).
Fortunately the Pay Book gave the medals a degree of legitimate attribution. I say a degree as there is no way of conclusively proving the medals and the Pay Book belonged to the same man, unless the seller was that veteran. The fact the two items were being sold by a reputable dealer (eMedals) and advertised as belonging to the same person was cause for some confidence – for a seller/dealer to be discredited should items be proven not to be “as advertised”, in terms of the potential for the loss of reputation and trust by customers, the result can be catastrophic.
The Pay Book cover was marked inside with a date 14.11.40 and the soldier’s full name, Clarence Godfrey Egan. The individual books inside also contained both his name and service number. These together with his known dates of service, tallied with the locations and dates contained therein.
When Clayton saw the medals he was somewhat irked that they were for sale. He became even more perturbed as questioned the possible reasons for their sale. Surely, he thought, there must have been someone in L/Cpl. Egan’s extended family who would have been only too pleased to have been given an ancestors war medals? Clayton chewed this over for a while – perhaps there wasn’t any family descendants left? The medals seemed to be in very good original condition and he felt sure someone from Clarence Egan’s descendant or extended family could be found to pass them on to – a grandson, grand-daughter, brother, sister, nephew, niece, cousin etc – rather than have them sold on the internet.
In a spur of the moment decision, Clayton paid the “Buy Now” price for the medals and Pay Book with a view to hopefully reuniting them with someone in Clarence Egan’s family – if indeed he had any?
I had only spoken with Clayton a couple of times on the phone and did not know him personally but when he called and told me of the medals and the reason he had bought them – could I find out if Clarence Egan had any family? I was very happy to help with his noble gesture.
The odds of finding family descendants of a WW2 veteran you would think would be much higher than those of WW1 since only half as many years had elapsed and many first generation descendants still being relatively young. WW1 veterans on the other hand have largely died out making their descendant families much harder to find. Once I had looked at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph website profile for Clarence Egan, I managed to gather enough information from it without having to request a copy of his military file (WW2 files have not yet been digitised and may only be viewed either at NZ archives, or by paying for the privilege to view on-line).
From the information on the Cenotaph profile page (birth date, place of enlistment, parents, address and occupation, unit and rank, I was able to link this to NZ Censuses and Electoral Rolls to trace Clarence’s movements around NZ. There were also sufficient accessible public records to allow me to construct a good portion of Clarence Egan’s family tree to determine to whom his war medals might go to.
I pieced the following together: Wellingtonian John EGAN (1860-1943) was labourer who had worked his way from Wellington to the northern Rangitikei around Taihape by 1900. His first recorded census listing shows that he was a waggon driver from Moawhango which is an area 40 km north-east of State Highway No. 1, about midway between Taihape to the south and Waiouru to the north. In September 1896 John married a former Napier girl and then Utiku resident Charlotte “Lottie” JEFFARES (1875-1949) at the church in Utiku (south of Taihape). The couple had eight children, the first three born at Charlotte’s family home in rural Meanee, near Taradale on the outskirts of Napier.
First born was a son, Vincent Joseph (1896-2004) was the first born followed by twins, Clarence Godfrey (1898) and his brother John Leslie “Jackie” Egan (1898-1902) who unfortunately died at the age of 4 years 6 months. Evelyn Jane MINCHIN (1899-1967) followed, and a move back to Taihape saw the birth of Harold Richard (1901-1901) who survived for just 3 months, and their last born Alvera Robina Agnes “Bina” FAZAKERLEY (1902-1987). By 1905 the Egans were living at Ohutu where John ran his own carrying business for the next 20+ years. Ohutu is about 30 kms due east of Taihape in very rough and remote back. By 1930 the Egans had moved into Taihape, John working as a labourer.
Clarence Egan, or “Clarrie” as he was known, was schooled in Taihape. At just sixteen years old when World War 1 began, he was still too young to enlist. He would not be considered for enlistment until he was at least eighteen and not permitted to go overseas anyway until he had turned twenty. As it transpired the Armistice ending the First World War occurred only weeks after his 20th birthday – he had perhaps dodged a bullet ?
Once he left school, Clarence Egan started work initially as a labourer around the Taihape area and then as a sawmill hand at a local mill. Having met a young lady from Auckland in the early 1920s, Clarrie at 25 years of age took the plunge in July 1923 and married 18 year old Eileen Muriel EDLIN (1905-1971) at St Thomas’s in Ponsonby, Auckland. The NZ Herald reported the wedding in its “Social Jottings” column:
NZ HERALD – July 23, 1923
~ Social Jottings.~
“The wedding took place at St. Thomas Church, Ponsonby, Auckland, of Miss Eileen Maud (sic) Edlin, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Edlin, of Auckland (late, of Petone), to Mr. Clarence Godfrey Egan, second son of Mr. and Mrs. John Egan, of Ohutu, Taihape. The bride was in a charming frock of ivory white satin and georgette, trimmed with brocade, silver lace, and beads, also pearls. She wore a veil and orange blossom. Miss Kathleen Edlin was chief bridesmaid, and was in white silk with pearl and silver fringe. Misses Beatrice and Harriet Harrington also attended, wearing lavender silk with pearl and silk fringing. Mr. Vincent Egan was the best man, and Mr. Jack Harrington was groomsman.”
Shortly after their marriage Clarrie got a job with the Egmont Box Company in Taumaranui. He and Eileen moved to Taumaranui which two of their three children were born (at Taihape) – Vincent Edwin “Vince” Egan (1925) and Helena Alice “Trixie” MacPHERSON (1927). By 1929 Clarrie, Eileen and the two children had moved back to Eileen’s hometown of Auckland, where Clarrie again secured a job as a mill hand. The family settled in Onehunga at 262 Church Street before the arrival of their third child, Mavis Muriel EGAN in 1931.
Clouds of war
Seven years of stability in Auckland had been overshadowed by the 1929 Wall Street Crash which meant enforced shortages of all commodities across the country and widespread unemployment. Rationing and food stamps became the order of the day as the country managed their way through the great Depression with less than adequate and nutritious food supplies for almost 10 years. Fuel shortages, men out of work with little income impacted almost every citizen and family, some to a greater extent than others. Close on the heels of the Depression came the spectre of war once again threatening the peace and stability of the free world in Europe.
By 1937-38 speculation was again rife that another major conflict in Europe would undoubtedly draw New Zealand into a war it did not want. The world had followed the rise of Italian Facism, and Japanese militarism in the 1920s which had resulted in the invasion of China. Nazism under Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Party, reared its ugly head in 1933 as he pursued an aggressive foreign policy. The action taken by Germany on 1st September 1939 was the last straw and our fate became sealed – Germany invaded Poland. The immediate effect for NZ was that Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 Sep 1939. As loyal British subjects, NZ was obliged (expected) to back Britain – where Britain went, so we went meaning New Zealand was also at war. Only twenty years of relative peace had passed since Nov 1918 before the country was yet again beginning to heave under the weight of preparations for war and the dispatch of another generation of young men to a foreign war we were obligated to fight.
New Zealand was committed to supporting Britain with the provision of a Division – three Echelons (contingents) of men, equipment and supporting arms were planned for deployment overseas as the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2 NZEF). Once the First Echelon was fully manned with regular Army soldiers and volunteers (territorial forces), the numbers of volunteers dropped off markedly. The government was concerned there would not be enough men to fill the Second and Third Echelons let alone the reinforcement drafts that would invariably be needed the longer the war went on.
Reluctantly the government re-introduce Conscription in June 1940 by invoking the National Service Emergency Regulations made under the Defence Act of 31 May 1940 and Emergency Regulations Amendment Act. All men aged between 19 and 45 again became liable to be called up by ballot. Maori were exempt from conscription, since a high proportion were willing to volunteer.
At 41 years of age, Clarence Egan would be unlikely to avoid being called-up for this ‘show’. However, as a married man with dependant children (although nearing their twenties) he was unlikely to be called up immediately.
Younger single men would be conscripted ahead of married, older and family men. Having had almost 20 years in the timber industry, Clarrie Egan was as the saying goes “fit as a buck rat” and had a well developed physic and although lean and wiry, he was strong and agile. He was in the best shape of his life and was ready, willing and able if the call came. Clarrie had his forty first birthday just 24 days after Britain and France declared war on Germany. He had only just missed out on the first war but was not about to miss out on the second. When the call for volunteers came in early 1940, Clarrie, who at the time was working for the PWD (Public Works Department later known as the Ministry of Works) in Auckland, volunteering immediately. Unbeknown to him he would see service overseas much sooner than he had expected.
The Auckland Star – 22 June 1940
147 MORE ENLISTMENTS. Enlistments in No. 1 (Auckland) area continue at a steady rate. For the two days up to nine o’clock last night, 147 recruits came forward. Their names are:— C. A. Breeze, E. R. Parkinson, L. M. Deighton, D. H. Freer, L. A. W. Davis, L. A. Waller, T. Fraser, S. V. Griffiths, M. A. C. Paul, A. K. Piatt, H. P. White, V. J. Egan**, A. A. Cook, G. A. J. Smith, C. Shelly, K. R. Jackson, J. E. Ballantine, W. K. Davidson, C. G. Egan, J. C. Lennox etc, etc.
Whilst working for the PWD, Clarrie had gained many skills and in particular was very capable heavy machinery operator e.g. scrapers, rollers, excavators, ‘dozers, shovels and ditchers as well as being a fairly handy general engineer. It was fortuitous timing when Clarrie chose to volunteer for military service. Given his wide range of capabilities, wealth of experience and maturity, he was immediately selected for a new Army unit being assembled.
On 12 November 1940, the day after the 22nd anniversary of the Armistice of WW1, the following appeared in the NZ Herald:
NZ Herald – 12 November 1940:
SPECIAL COMPANY —– ARMY ESTABLISHMENT ——— MECHANICAL ~ EQUIPMENT
A mechanical equipment company, to be known as the 21st Mechanical Equipment Company, New Zealand Engineers, is now being established for overseas service. It will consist of 11 commissioned officers and 250 other ranks, and will be mainly required for excavating work. Most of the men are expected to be drawn from the Public Works Department, which is examining applications before sending selected men on to the Army Department for mobilisation. Included among the men wanted are 178 drivers of mechanical equipment, such as tractors, carry-alls, scrapers, bulldozers, angle-dozers and shovels. It is stated that only men capable of handling these machines should apply as drivers, although vacancies also exist for fitters, welders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and bricklayers. The first party of Auckland men for the company will leave for Trentham on Thursday. They are:—J. B. Batty. W. G. P. L. Brooks, H. L. Doidge. C. G. Egan, R. C. Fielder, F. Gill, R. Harris, R. Maddox, A. E. Marsh, F. J. Martin, A. A. Moore, L. N. Nankivell. H. C. Partington. T. R. Pihema, R. Polkinghorne, P. G. Reanney, C. J. Reillv, R. H. Richmond, S. Rolleston, L. E. C. Thomas, C. F. Turner, A. J. West, H. Williams, J. A. Young.
38407 Sapper Clarence G. Egan, 21 Mechanical Equipment Company, NZ Engineers (NZE), 2NZEF was attested at Trentham two days later on 14 Nov 1940, and preparations for overseas service began.
These men would become part of a non-divisional unit, soldiers who were chosen for their skill over any ability or aptitude for being turned into a soldier. The officers and NCOs of such units were also chosen on this basis, and because they related well to men engaged in this type of work, having come from similar backgrounds. Well drilled and sharp looking, regimented soldiers they were not – and had little interest in becoming so. They loved their machines and operating them, being far more comfortable pulling leavers than grenade pins. The Army needed these men, more particularly Britain needed them as they were in dire need of experienced heavy machinery operators, as well as machines that did not seem to exist in any numbers in the UK.
As a consequence the UK made a request of the NZ government for heavy machinery and operators for road building and the preparation of camps and facilities for the anticipated influx of troops, and for the construction of defence works against the potential threat of invasion from across the channel. The situation in the Middle East was also deteriorating rapidly with the German and Italian forces establishing strong infantry and armoured footholds in North Africa with their eyes set firmly on Cairo. The need here was not only for tracks and roads, but for anti-tank defences and protective bunds, excavation of below ground protection, storage and personnel facilities.
suffice to say that all attempts to convert the MEC men into functioning infantry soldiers could only be described as an abject failure, but as drivers and operators of heavy machinery and equipment, they were second to none.
Note: ** 28446 Private Vincent Joseph Egan, a labourer and Clarence Egan’s elder brother, had served overseas in WW1. He embarked in October 1916 as a Rifleman with the 18th Reinforcements, 3rd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. Pte. Egan sustained wounds to the left leg from which he recovered and discharged in April 1919 after 2 years 162 days overseas in England and France. He was awarded the British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal for his service.
Vince Egan, a general timber worker, re-enlisted in June 1940 for WW2 service with the 14th Forestry Company, NZ Engineers. Given a new service number, 34401 and the rank of T/Sgt, he was enlisted at the same time and in the same unit as brother Clarrie – 21 Mechanical Equipment Company, NZ Engineers, 2NZEF. After initial training at Trentham, Sgt. Egan embarked for England where he was employed on roads and defence works building for 1 year 270 days. Promoted to Temporary Staff Sergeant while in England, he became the Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS) before returning to Auckland for medically related reasons in May 1942. S/Sgt. V. J. Egan was discharged in August 1942 after 2 years 57 days service for which he was awarded the Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 and the NZ War Service Medal. Married and an Auckland resident, Vincent Joseph Egan died in June 1982 (84) and was buried in the Papakura Cemetery.
NZEF Base Camp Maadi
38407 Sapper Clarence G. Egan, 21 Mechanical Equipment Company, NZ Engineers (NZE), 2NZEF left New Zealand with the 4th Reinforcements on 1st February 1941 in the Nieuw Amsterdam, together with 8 Field Company, 18 Army Troops Company and a party of divisional and non-divisional Engineer reinforcements. On arrival at Bombay, because of the situation in the Red Sea – Eritrea and Somaliland were still in enemy hands — it was necessary to change into smaller ships which maintained a shuttle service to Suez. Those units not going on straight away went to a transit camp at Deolali outside Bombay. After six weeks in the transit camp, 21 Mechanical Equipment Company arrived at Port Tewfik on 23 March. The next day the unit marched into the 2 NZEF Base Camp at Maadi, about three miles from the Port.
The following is an account of one period in North Africa which gives an idea of the type of work and circumstances facing 21 MEC:
‘March and April were busy months in North Africa. The new arrivals were going through the usual routine of drawing stores including the assembly of some of the heavy equipment which had been partially dismantled for shipping purposes.
The situation in late March was that the frontier in Cyrenaica was held by bits and pieces of armoured formations, some mounted in Italian tanks which were scarcely mobile owing to the lack of replacements. Ninth Australian Division, less one brigade in Tobruk without transport, was supporting the armour. The enemy strength was known to be building up but no serious movement was expected for at least another month, when Imperial troops and transport would have replaced the formations and the 8000 vehicles that had been sent to Greece.
The enemy launched a counter-attack on 31 March by 5 German Light Armoured Division and two Italian divisions, one armoured and one motorised. The Allies were beaten back to Egypt by 11 April, with the exception of the Aussies and others in Tobruk.
Elements of 21 MEC loaded equipment on White 10-ton transporters destined for Bardia and the convoy proceeded towards Solum against a steadily increasing eastward bound stream of traffic. There was Air Force, Army and even Navy Detachments mixed together with apparent reckless abandon, and in great haste. On reaching Bardia at dusk the Section were suddenly re-directed to go to Tobruk with great urgency. The Lieutenant in charge of No. 1 Section takes up the story:
‘Having fed and refuelled and issued 5 rounds per man the convoy moved westwards at night without lights on the now empty road, arriving at the defences of Tobruk to meet a “Halt! Who goes there?” in the early hours of the morning and to be informed that we were either bloody heroes or bloody fools as the road was now cut, which accounted for the rumbling sounds, crossing laterally to the route heard during the night run; on reflection the sentry was right. We were bloody fools.
‘Having reached Tobruk and in view of the Bardia Commander’s orders re extreme urgency, a report was made to Tobruk Fortress Headquarters at 0230 hours to be met with a most encouraging reception and admonition “Go jump in the sea and let a man sleep.”
‘So, having fulfilled orders the section selected a piece of real estate and settled down for the remainder of the night. The equipment was unloaded and assembled to a background of dive and high level bombing attacks on the Fortress and harbour and subsequently handed over to an Royal Australian Engineer Company for operation.’
‘The work of assembly took a fortnight whereupon they embarked with Indian troops on the SS Bankura, but air-raid warning signals changed from white to red before they had settled down. It was soon painfully clear that the Bankura was on the target list, for near misses gave her such a list that she had to be beached. The shipwrecked sappers re-embarked on the corvette Southern Cross, survived another attack and reached Alexandria on 25 April. The engineers with 5 Brigade were having similar experiences between Greece and Crete about the same time.
While No.1 Section was undergoing its baptism of fire, No. 4 Section had departed to Matruh with shovels, ‘dozers and carry-alls to work on tank traps in case the enemy might venture farther east than the Egyptian border. Another job was the provision of berthage to replace the destroyed Matruh jetty. A wall of sandbags was built, then, with shovel and dragline, the seaward side of the wall was dredged and the spoil used to provide storage space. Destroyers slipped in after dark, discharged at the improvised wharf and were gone before daybreak.
No. 3 Section endured a few weeks in the ‘bullring’ (on the drill square) but were rewarded for their sufferings. They went to help on the outer defences of Alexandria and levelled the far bank of the Nubariva canal to provide a field of fire for pillboxes being constructed on the near side. They were quartered in Gianaclis, a small Greek community situated in the middle of acres of grapes. The sappers first ate the fruit for breakfast, dinner and tea, and then proceeded to distil the juice thereof. The results varied from awful to hellish.
No. 2 Section did not work as a unit but reinforced the other sections from time to time as well as doing sundry small jobs of their own. Not typical, but true none the less, was the experience of a detachment who were ordered to report to an Royal Engineer command in Alexandria. Nobody knew why they had come or what to do with them so they lived in Mustapha Barracks for three happy, uncomplaining weeks, during which time they were reinforced by another party, who also indulged with enthusiasm in the sea bathing and other pleasures that Alexandria provides so abundantly.
When Nemesis caught up with them they were sent to operate a drag-line at Amiriva where a defensive ditch was being excavated. The sappers claimed that the drag-line had originally been offered to Noah during his flood troubles but that he rejected it on the grounds that it was out of date. They had dug about half a mile of ditch with their prehistoric implement when new orders came that the ditch wasn’t wanted anymore and that they were to go on road repair work at El Alamaein. Nobody knew where the place was—then.’
Source: NZETC: History or World War 2, Chapter 4
In February 1944, now a Lance Corporal (L/Cpl.) Clarrie Egan was given a furlough (leave) to return to NZ to see his family. Barely had he and Eileen had time to know each other again in the four short weeks at home, and Clarrie was off again back to Egypt. Trixie and Vince, both then in their twentys, ably supported their mother for at least another 18 months as the war finally came to a close, officially ending on 2nd September 1945.
Before the war ended L/Cpl. Egan had undergone a change of corps from NZ Engineers to the NZ Army Service Corps. With the corps change went his L/Cpl. stripe – his rank was Private. Suffice to say Pte. Egan survived the war physically, and returned to NZ in early 1946.
While he was in North Africa, Eileen, Trixie and Vince Egan (not to be confused with Vincent Joseph Egan, Clarrie’s older brother) stayed together at Church Street until Clarrie returned and life started to resume some semblance of normality again. Clarrie picked up where he left off with his work, returning to the timber industry as a mill hand. In 1937 Vince had married Valda TOWNSEND and the newly weds moved into a house in Tamaki. Clarrie, Eileen and Trixie also moved to Tamaki where Clarrie had a new job as a machinist (fitter & turner). Around 1960 Clarrie and Eileen (Trixie had married – Mrs Helena Alice MacPHERSON) moved house again, to 702 Tararu Road in Thames where Clarrie returned to work in the timber industry. By 1970 Clarrie (71) and Eileen were enjoying their retirement at Tararu Road when Eileen suddenly died in June 1971 at the age of 67. Clarrie stayed at Tararu Road however the loss of Eileen took its toll on him and he too died less than two years later on 25 March 1973, aged 74.
38407 Private Clarence Godfrey Egan, Army Service Corps, 2 NZEF was buried in the Serviceman’s Section of the Totara Cemetery in Thames. Eileen was also buried at the Totara Cemetery.
‘Lest We Forget’
Reuniting the medals
My search for the families of Clarrie and Eileen Egan started with their first born son – Vincent Edwin Egan. Vince was born in Taihape and married in 1937 to Valda TOWNSEND. The couple had four children – Wayne Vincent, Kevin Edwin Egan (born in 1953), Sheryl Anne BELL, and Shane Alfred Egan. Vince Egan pre-deceased Valda at Waiuku in 2004, age 79 – Valda died in Thames in 2016.
The logical place to start the search was Waiuku in case there was an Egan family member or connection who might have been able to direct my search. The telephone White Pages showed a number of Egans in Waiuku, I was in luck – I contacted Mr Pat Egan who confirmed that he had known Vincent Egan as they had coincidentally at one time, worked together for some years at Carter Holt Industries in Waiuku. Pat Egan as it turned out was NOT a relation of Clarrie Egan’s family at all. Pat’s presence in Waiuku was purely coincidental. I asked if he knew where I could find any of Vince and Valda’s family? No, but he had heard that one of the boys, Kevin Egan, may have gone to Australia several years ago after his mum had passed away.
As luck would have it Kevin Egan had a Facebook page so I sent a text message. I also found a family tree on the Ancestry.com website which had been authored by Kevin which meant I had a backup means of making contact. As it happened, when I did not get a reply to my text message, I sent another via Ancestry which must have got through – I received a text message from Kevin confirming I had the correct family. Kevin and his wife Lynne were residing in Queensland.
Clarence Godfrey Egan’s medals and Pay Book are now back in family hands, nephew Kevin being the very happy custodian. We suggested Kevin have the medals named, both for insurance and identity purposes should they ever go missing again.
Rather ironically Kevin had no knowledge that his uncle Clarrie was a Returned Serviceman! Like so many others, Clarrie Egan was one of those returned soldiers who never spoke of his experiences overseas. Having survived North Africa and El Alamein, which had claimed the lives of so many of his colleagues, not wanting to ‘revisit’ these memories was an entirely understandable reaction.
All credit to Clayton Ross for making the return of these medals to the Egan family possible.
The reunited medal tally is now 294.