Tag Archives: 17th September 1944 Boulogne

Squadron Leader Garth Reginald Gunn – MiD, RNZAF NZ411397

Many thanks indeed to Ian for having the presence of mind to research the above item, having come across it during a house clearance. One shivers at the thought of the countless items that have been literally thrown away since the War.

This small, folded thank you card, one surmises a reply to an expression of condolence, commemorates the death of S/L Garth Reginald Gunn, who died of injuries on the 21st of September 1944, 3 days after his aircraft crash landed at RAF Hawkinge, having received damage during an Op to Boulogne on the 17th of that month. The thank you card was sent by Mrs Alice Melva Gunn, Garth’s Wife.

S/L Gunn and crew, received a direct hit, from 30mm shell fire, which severely damaged the aircraft necessitating both starboard engines to be shut down. The Captain and Flight Engineer had difficulty in maintaining control of the aircraft returning across the Channel. A decision was made to carry out an emergency landing at RAF Hawkinge, an airfield with a short runway. The Lancaster overshot the runway and crashed. The Captain, Navigator and Air Bomber were injured, two seriously. The Flight Engineer was killed in the crash. The other three crew escaped uninjured.The Pilot, S/L L G Gunn (‘B’ Flight Commander) died three days later from his injuries.

It was the crew’s 20th sortie with the Squadron and the 4th for Garth, as Squadron Leader of ‘B’ Flight.

The thank you card was found by Ian in a property in Herne Hill, South East London. The owner of the property was a  George Lackford, who Ian informs me, was a Naval Wireless Operator during the War.

S/L Gunn’s death was recorded on the 20th of October 1944 by the New Zealand Evening Post as follows:

Flight Lieutenant G. R. Gunn, who has died of injuries received over enemy country, joined the Air Force in March, 1941, and gained his commission in August of that year, sailing immediately afterwards for overseas service. , He served through the African campaign, and after 12 months’ service in the Middle East was sent to England, from where he was flying when he received his injuries. He was 26 years of age, the elder son of Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Gunn, of Lower Hutt, and was born in Masterton.

An enthusiastic sportsman, he was a senior member of the Hutt Football and Athletic Clubs. He was educated at Miramar South and Eastern Hutt Schools and Wellington Technical College, and was senior sports champion of his college in 1934, 1935, and 1936, and head prefect in 1936. In 1934-35 he was junior champion of the Lower Hutt Athletic Club.

Flight Lieutenant Gunn was attached to Bomber Command,. and was acting Squadron Leader, flying a Lancaster bomber, when he received the injuries from which he later died. He leaves a wife, Mrs. A. M. Gunn, of Dolly Varden Bay, Plimmerton. His brother Sergeant C. H. Gunn, is at present in New Zealand on furlough, and his sister is Mrs. T. E. Mason, of Milford, Auckland. He was well known in the building trade, and prior to enlisting in the Air Force was on the staff of the Fletcher Construction Company, Wellington.

Garth Gunn was laid to rest in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, England. Grave location – 8. AA. 10

Whilst I have received this item from Ian and will hold it accordingly, I am also happy to pass it on to any relatives of Garth, if they see this and wish to have it.


Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey – United Kingdom


Many thanks to Sandra, my sister for taking time to go to Brookwood Military Cemetery to record the gravestones of LAC Horace Simonsen and S/L Garth Gunn.

Leading Aircraftsman Horace Dean Simonsen RNZAF NZ438024 – Wireless Operator, was killed at the age of 32, whilst on an Air Gunners course, during an air raid on the capital.

LAC Simonsen had arrived at Feltwell  on the 5th of February and was and does not appear to be recorded in the ORB documents I have, so we must summise that his presence on the Air Gunner course was leading to operational flying.

The night of the 16th/ 17th of April 1941 saw one of the heaviest attacks  made on London since the war began. Bombing commenced shortly after 9.00pm and lasted until nearly dawn.

Approximately 66 boroughs were affected, the main bombing being on Central and Southern London. In addition to high explosive and incendiary bombs, a large number of 1,000kg parachute mines were also dropped dropped causing massive damage through blast and fire.

Among the public buildings damaged were St. Pauls Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the Admiralty, the Law Courts and the National Gallery. Many roads were blocked and the railway systems were hit in nineteen places. There were a large number of fires, the most serious being at L.N.E.R Goods Yard in Lisson Grove. Other serious fires were caused at Selfridges, Bessborough Gardens, Westminster, and the Kidbrooke R.A.F. Stores Depot. Although many fires were still burning at daybreak, the situation was considered to be under control.

Gunn G R

On the 17th of September 1944, 14 Lancasters from Mepal joined a combined bomber force of 762 aircraft to bomb targets around Boulogne in preparation for an attack by Allied troops.

Whilst the anti-aircraft fire was light, it was accurate. Lancaster Mk.III PB430 AA-P, Captained by ‘B’ Flight Commander  S/L Garth Gunn, received a direct hit, which severely damaged the aircraft necessitating both starboard engines being shut down. The Captain and Flight Engineer struggled to maintain control of the aircraft whilst returning across the Channel.

A decision was made to carry out an emergency landing at RAF Hawkinge, an airfield with a short runway. The Lancaster overshot the runway and crashed. The impact killed the Flight Engineer Sgt John Henry Bruce, RAFVR 1566967 and seriously injured the Pilot, S/L Gunn and Air Bomber, F/O Angus Moorcroft Millar RNZAF NZ428249.

Squadron Leader Garth Reginald Gunn, MiD, RNZAF NZ411397 died, 3 days later of his injuries

Flight Engineer, Sgt John Henry Bruce RAFVR 1566967, was laid to rest in Jarrow Cemetery, County Durham.