The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, has today paid his respects to the young men and women, among them many New Zealanders, who bravely defended Britain and the Commonwealth during the Second World War.
During his visit to the UK, Prime Minister John Key visited the RAF Benevolent Fund's Bomber Command Memorial with the Defence Minister Dr Andrew Murrison to lay a wreath in commemoration of the many New Zealanders who flew in Bomber Command squadrons during the Second World War.
The visit by Rt Hon John Kay to the Bomber Command Memorial in London is the first by any Prime Minister representing the Commonwealth and Allied Nations which were a key component of Bomber Command during World War II.
Approximately 140,000 men and women from New Zealand signed up and served their country with distinction during World War II.
No 75 (New Zealand) Squadron was formed as the first Commonwealth Sqn in Bomber Command in April 1940 and served until the end of the War. Following the war, the number plate was transferred to the The Royal New Zealand Air Force as a mark of respect and appreciation for the Squadron’s service and the honours it had won.
Sadly many were tragically killed. 1,679 New Zealand aircrew lost their lives whilst serving in Bomber Command.
Three New Zealanders serving in the RAF were awarded the Victoria Cross for their bravery and sacrifice, including Sergeant 'Jimmy'Ward, the second pilot on a 75 Sqn Wellington which was attacked and set on fire by a night fighter. He was awarded his VC for climbing out on the wing in flight in an attempt to put out the fire in the starboard wing and engine using a canvas cockpit cover.
He had a parachute on and the line of the dinghy tied round him, and went out through the astrodome and got to the engine by kicking hand and footholds into the fabric covering off the Wellington’s fuselage and wing.
The aircraft made it back and he was awarded the VC but sadly he was shot down and killed on his eleventh sortie, a raid on Hamburg on 15 September 1941. He is buried with three of his crew in Ohlsdorf cemetery near Hamburg.