The NZ Bomber Command Assn. held its annual Bomber Command Commemorative Service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum (AWMM) in Auckland on Sunday June 12th. Similar services are held each year in Canberra, Toronto and London. This year’s service incorporated a rededication of the AWMM’s RAF Bomber Command Memorial, originally dedicated in 2009. It was recently completed and moved to its permanent position in the Air Force Annex in the Hall of Memories.
A large contingent of dignitaries attended, including representatives of the armed forces of New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United States and Britain; the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, British High Commission, Returned Serviceman’s Ass., and the consulates of the Netherlands and Poland.
It was a very moving service, with several speakers pointing out some of the tragic stories and tragic statistics of Bomber Command, all underlined by the dwindling numbers of veterans able to attend commemorations such as this. Highlights for me were the Last Post, a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and the laying of poppies, accompanied by the full-volume sound of Lancasters passing overhead.
Another highlight of course, was the opportunity to meet up with the veterans, four of whom were 75ers. One of these was my good friend Doug Williamson, from my uncle’s crew, and another was NZBCA President (and author of one of the best books about 75 (NZ) Sqdn RAF), Ron Mayhill DFC.
David Anderson, Navigator with the Hardie crew (June – September 1945) was another, and the fourth, relatively new to these events, was John Swale, rear Gunner with the Adolph crew (June – October 1944). John, who served with the RAF, only emigrated to New Zealand a year ago, so it was very interesting to chat to him about his story.
The RAF Bomber Command Memorial was designed and created by Sir Richard Taylor and his team at Weta Workshops, famous for their movie props and effects. Sir Richard couldn’t be at the service, but he addressed the gathering via a very personal video. In a curious twist, Doug Williamson’s wife Janet, herself a very accomplished painter, sculptor and set designer, used to work with (Sir) Richard Taylor!
For more photos of the service click here to go to the New Zealand Bomber Command Association.
– Thanks to Dave Homewood for the above photograph, and thanks to Peter Wheeler and the NZ Bomber Command Assn. for all their fantastic work.