Daily Archives: March 27, 2013

A visit to the Palace, 7th July 1967

Mum Dad and Sj at the Palace

Mum (with me), Dad and middle sister Sandra, outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, I assume, prior to the tea party.

Invitation to the Palace

I really haven’t done anything since I set up the blog regarding gathering information about dad after the war – so to make amends, here is the first of a few ‘post war’ posts, as it were, to tell a little bit of Bob and the family’s life after he came out of the RAF.

This first post dates from 4 months before I was born – so I am claiming a technical presence in this photo and therefore by extrapolation the visit to the Palace to see the Queen…….

I actually don’t know much more about this photo or the day, so I will ask my sister Sandra for her recollections and will add a little more to this as and when.

Flying Officer and Mrs Sommerville – 22nd May 1945

dad group 1013

So…….family folklore has it that some time in 1944 Bob, with another airman had to represent his squadron (based on his records either No. 3 Lancaster Finishing School, Feltwell or, No.1 Air Armament School, Manby) at a burial of I assume, of an airman.

History does not tell us where the funeral was, but it would appear the boys rolled up at the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames. On entering the Imperial’s reception, the boys saw a young girl, acting as receptionist behind the desk. Apparently Dad turned to his companion and whispered ‘I’m going to marry that girl……’

Some months later, on the 22nd of May 1945, he did.
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RAF Bishops Court No. 7 Air Navigation School – 1946

Bishops Court 1946 COs

Pete, Alf and Tommy. Bishops Court 1946

Jimmy, Mike and me, Bishops Court, April 1946.

Jimmy, Mike and me, Bishops Court, April 1946.

Bishops Court 1946 group

Flying Control Staff. Bishops Court, April 1946

Dad’s service record shows that on the 5th May 1945 he was posted to Aircrew Allocation Centre (ACAC). On the 16th June he was transferred to RAF Halfpenny Green, Wolverhampton. This airfield was constructed between mid-1940 and early 1941 for use by the Royal Air Force, being initially named RAF Bobbington. The name was changed on 1 September 1943 to RAF Halfpenny Green, to avoid confusion with RAF Bovingdon in Hertfordshire. The unit disbanded on 13 November 1945.

Bob’s service record lists him at ‘RAF Sqd/ Sch Flying Control’ between 16th July and 26th August.

On the 27th of September 1945 he is posted to No. 7 Air Navigation School. I believe this to be at Bishops Court in Northern Ireland. On the 23rd September his record states ‘7 ANS Flight Control Officer (Flight Lieutenant)’ I know the above pictures to be from Bishops Court, as they say so on the back of them – however, I don’t know what Bob’s position or duties were.

On a rare occasion of talking about this time, dad said that he used to come home to mum quite regularly and that if is his travel card wasn’t checked or taken ( I can’t remember what he said), he would have it for another trip – it also sounded like he was able to bring food and the like back with him to augment rations at home…….

Hopefully putting this up and adding a few tags might get a few answers……

More information on ‘Tap’ Heperi

Photo: Next Graduating Squadron, No. 3 Wireless School, Squadron 65,  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, September 1943. From WAGMag, September 43 issue, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

Photo: Next Graduating Squadron, No. 3 Wireless School, Squadron 65, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, September 1943.
From WAGMag, September 43 issue, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

Many thanks as always to Chris, for sending me the following information on Tapua Heperi that he initially came across whilst researching his uncle, Gerry:

Early in my research into my uncle’s service and Wireless Operator training in Canada, I came across a copy of the September 1943 issue of “WAGMag”, the monthly magazine of No 3 Wireless School in Winnipeg, and was excited to see a graduating class photo of 65 Squadron, with Gerry sitting front and centre!

Notable amongst the names listed below the photo was a “T. Heperi” – I hadn’t been expecting to see a Maori surname – and its owner “Tap Heperi” features prominently elsewhere in both this and the June and July issues of WAGMag, in 65 Squadron (class) news and various station sports results. Obviously respected by his peers, (and promoted to the rank of Corporal by the time he graduated) he is mentioned as a Squadron “senior”:

Class seniors, Tap Heperi, Errol Oakley and Jim Sutherland, are due a lot of credit for untiring representation throughout the entire course. From the boys, “thanks a lot”.”

He is mentioned as a member of the Squadron boxing team, and in a report of an away boxing match on June 30th 1943, against No.33 SFTS Carberry:

“Tapuli (sic) Hepiri took the only other decision for No. 3, when he outfought, outboxed and outgrimaced the heavy LAC Ayres from Carberry. Both boxers went at it hammer and tongs for three rounds, but Hepiri was slightly faster and used his left and his deceptive hip movement to advantage.”

– and again in games of “rugger” against Carberry on July 16th, and against No.5 AOS on 21 August 1943, where he helped “provide the power” in the forwards:

Outstanding of these is LAC Heperi, class senior for “A” flight. Tall and well built, this Maori lad likes plenty of fast action, having recently transferred his attention from punching opponents to kicking their shins. With LAC Hicks, another Newzie, he represented the squadron in rugger against Carberry some little time ago.

He must have been quite a sportsman!

Later, when I started to work my way through the the Wood crew’s op’s in the 75 ORBs, Dec 44 – April 45, it was another surprise to see the name of T. Heperi pop up as W/Op in the Clements crew! So I guess that Gerry would have known him well.

After the War, Tapua Peter Heperi apparently owned a dairy farm in in the Okaihau Valley, Northland, and archival National Film Unit footage exists of he and his family on the farm in the ’60’s. Although no longer with us, Google turns up another Tap Heperi, a singer of some note, who was born 8 October 1943 in Rawene, Northland, NZ, quite possibly conceived on final leave before his Dad shipped off to Canada!