Following on from my last post, presenting the logbook of Robert Jay, Flight Engineer with Bill Mallon’s crew, Vic has been good enough to also contribute further information on why exactly Bill Mallon left the crew as pilot to be replaced by Eric Butler.
From Vic – ‘One Family’s Story’
Initially, I had no idea why Bill Mallon (NZ427521) left his crew at the end of April 1945 and returned to New Zealand. My sister had a vague recollection that it may have had something to do with the death of his brother and with the help of Chris Newey and ‘The Wings Over New Zealand Aviation Forum’ I have now discovered the tragic reason for his premature departure. If ever there was a story that illustrates the sacrifices made by the people of New Zealand then this is it.
Alexander and Dora Mallon must have been the proudest parents in Taranaki, New Zealand. They had three sons, Thomas, John and William (Bill), born between 1915 and 1920 and a daughter, May, Bill’s twin sister. By 1940 John was an RAF pilot with No. 53 Squadron. The squadron had been based in France flying Bristol Blenheims but had returned to the UK in May 1940 as the German army advanced. Its Bristol Blenheims supported the Dunkirk evacuation and continued to fly reconnaissance missions over France. In July 1940 the squadron was transferred to Coastal Command and moved to RAF Detling in Kent. Its Blenheims were replaced by American-built Lockheed Hudsons and it continued with anti-submarine and anti-shipping operations as well as bombing sorties targeting harbours and coastal defences.
On the 8th October 1940 John was reported ‘missing in action’ over France. It was subsequently confirmed that he had been killed, together with two other members of the crew of T2036, Arthur Shackleford and Wilfred Whetton.
Despite their loss Thomas and Bill also became pilots, Thomas flying de Havilland Mosquitoes with No. 488 (NZ) Squadron and Bill, the youngest, completing his training in 1945 to fly Avro Lancasters. On the 15th November 1944 488 (NZ) Squadron was moved from the U.K. to Amiens in France and then on to the Netherlands as support for the Allied advance towards Germany. Ten days later flight engineer Bob Jay joined Bill and the rest of his crew at RAF Langar to complete their training for the 4-engine Avro Lancaster.
Bill and his crew completed their training and on the 6th March 1945 they were posted to No. 75 (NZ) Squadron at Mepal. Four days later, just before 4.30 a.m. on the 10th March 1945, Thomas and his navigator, P/O George Brock, took off in their Mosquito Mark XXX (MT484) from Gilze-Rijen airfield for a night patrol. Minutes later they crashed into a barn 2.5 km from the runway – both were killed. Thomas had become the second Mallon brother to be killed in action.
Bill continued active service throughout March and April, receiving a commission and becoming the third Pilot Officer in the Mallon family. He took part in the squadron’s last operational sortie over Bad Oldesloe on the 24th April and then said goodbye to his crew and took on ground duties before returning to his devastated parents in New Zealand. Whilst only one family of countless thousands that suffered the terrible loss of a child during the war, to lose 2 and then know a third son and brother was still so far away on operational service must have been unbearable for Alexander, Dora and May to live with on a daily basis.
John is buried alongside his crew members in the Guines Communal Cemetery, 10 km from Calais in France, and Thomas and his navigator are in the Bergen-Op-Zoom Cemetery in the Netherlands. More than1800 New Zealand aircrew were killed in action during World War 2 and Bill made a point of attending his local Dawn Parade and Service in their memory every year.
Bill had been married to Lorna for 60 years when he died aged 90 in 2010 but his brothers’ names have lived on in their two sons, Barrie John and Kevin Thomas – the only boy among their five grandchildren is called Thomas William.