Tag Archives: Aubrey Arthur Ninnis Breckon

Pilot Officer Ted Wilcox and the famous “soda siphon spitting bombs”

Many thanks to Joan and Michael Wilcox who have generously passed on the story of Ted Wilcox and the ‘Bomb spitting soda syphon’ artwork that adorned R1162 AA-Y “Yorker.

Edward (Ted) Thomas Wilcox was born in Durban, South Africa on 8 March 1913. His family moved back to England in 1914, later moving to Birmingham where his father was employed at the Austin Motor Works. 

From an early age Ted had shown a talent for painting and drawing and in 1924 he went to the Birmingham School of Art where he studied art, design and silver working. In 1930 he started work for a company making stained glass and later worked for the Austin Motor Works. Subsequently, he left Birmingham and worked in London as a commercial artist. His artwork was often used in technical publications, advertising literature and car owner manuals.

Ted was granted an emergency commission with the RAFVR on 12 April 1939, gazetted on 14 May 1939 as an acting Pilot Officer and began training as an Air Gunner.

He married Mary Dalton on 3 May 1940 and three days after the wedding, reported to 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at RAF Penrhos, Wales for a further three weeks training.

On 1 June he was posted to 11 Operational Training Unit (OTU), RAF Bassingbourn, training on Wellingtons.

On 14 August 1940, Ted was posted to 75 (NZ) Squadron at RAF Feltwell as an Air Gunner. Ted and Mary lived at Laburnum Cottage, Hockwold.

Ted flew with several crews – S/L “Breck” Breckon, P/O Charles Pownall (5 op’s), P/O Ian Gow and F/O Peter Kitchin (6) – before settling into the crew of P/O Edgar Lockwood as rear gunner.

He flew ten operations with Lockwood between November 1940 and January 1941.

Meanwhile, Mark 1C Wellington R1162 was received on 19 December 1940 from No 9 MU, Cosford, allocated the code AA-Y “Yorker”.

Wellington R1162 AA-Y “Yorker” being serviced in the snow, Feltwell, early 1941.
– NZ Bomber Command Assn. archives, Ron Mayhill collection.

The Lockwood crew picked up the new aircraft and flew their first op’ in her on 1 January 1941.

We don’t know why, but the crew decided to personalise the Wellington and Ted was commissioned to create a piece of nose art for “Yorker”. The story has become part of family legend. How he acquired some aircraft linen fabric, using his own hand as model and making free with Mary’s kitchen table, created a beautifully detailed ‘R.A.F’-branded soda-water siphon, with bombs spraying from the nozzle. The completed painting was then fixed to the side of Yorker by the application of aircraft dope.

Unofficial emblem painted on the side of a Vickers Wellington of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF at Feltwell, Norfolk, depicting an ‘R.A.F’ soda-siphon spraying bombs.
IWM (CH 2718).

Ted only got to fly four air tests and three operations in the plane he had decorated. Having completed his tour at 25 op’s, Ted left the squadron on 2 February 1941.

However, his artwork, “Yorker” and her crew would soon become famous, in England and back in New Zealand, when they featured in a series of publicity photos taken at Feltwell, several of which appeared in the newspapers of the day. It was one of the most striking pieces of nose art of its time and is still admired today.

The photographer was Mr PHF “Bill” Tovey, the same official RAF photographer who took the iconic “airmen walking past Wellington” photo that came to represent the public face of 75 (NZ) Squadron.

We know that Tovey took that photo at Feltwell on the 10th of May 1941.

It seems likely that he was also the photographer when another set of publicity photos was taken at Feltwell on 9 April 1941, showing preparations for a raid on Berlin. According to information on the back, these were syndicated through Fox Photos (a London press agency). Both sets feature Yorker’s nose art.

Ted kept one of these, an original, black and white photograph showing the Wellington with his artwork, the pilot inside the aircraft and crew member outside looking up. Newspaper captions stated that it was “an RAF pilot and his observer” with a “’siphon and bombs’ mascot on their Wellington.” The pilot is P/O Oliver Rayner Matheson DFC RAF and the observer is P/O George Eric Fowler DFC RAF.

“An R.A.F. Pilot and his observer”. P/O Oliver Matheson (pilot) in cockpit and P/O Eric Fowler (observer) below. New Zealand newspapers dated the photo 9 April 1941.
– Michael Wilcox.
As it appeared in an English newspaper. “An R.A.F. Pilot and his observer at the sign of the bombs and siphon check-up on their Wellington before setting out on the R.A.F.’s 39th raid on Berlin – the heaviest the German capital has had.”
– Michael Wilcox.

Matheson had taken over the crew and aircraft after Edgar Lockwood had completed his tour.

It was Matheson’s last operation – he and the crew took a different Wellington to Berlin that night, R1409 AA-N “Nuts”, but apparently R1162 “Yorker” made a much more photogenic subject.

As it turned out, Matheson and Fowler were each awarded an immediate DFC for their photo of Tempelhof aerodrome and making a second run over the target to deliver their load that night, despite having sustained flak damage.

After that, 2nd pilot Sgt Bob Fotheringham took over the crew.

Vickers Wellington 1C R1162 AA-Y “Yorker”.
– NZ Bomber Command Assn. archives, Jack Wakefield collection

In June, a photo of the Fotheringham crew in front of Yorker’s nose art appeared in the NZ newspapers:

“Dominion Bomber Crew: A crew of the New Zealand Bomber Squadron. Their machine has a significant insignia.” The Fotheringham crew in front of R1162 AA-Y “Yorker”, May 1941. Front, Sgt Bob Fotheringham (skipper), behind him, P/O Eric Fowler DFC, navigator. Top is Jack Wakefield, rear gunner.
– NZ Bomber Command Assn. archives, Jack Wakefield collection.

From 75(NZ) Squadron Ted had gone to 18 Operational Training Unit (18 OTU) at RAF Bramcote where he continued as an Air Gunner until 27 April when he was posted to 27 OTU, RAF Lichfield.

Amazingly, his old “kite” followed him!

R1162 was transferred to 27 OTU on the 16th of August 1941 and Ted’s logbook records one more flight in her on 26 October 1941, piloted by a F/L Denton. She failed to return from the third One Thousand Bomber raid on Bremen, on the night of the 23rd/24th of June 1942, one of 23 OTU aircraft and crews lost that night.

Ted’s wife, Mary, died in January 1966 whilst Ted was stationed at RAF St Athan, some three months before he retired from the RAF.    Ted Wilcox died peacefully on 7 July 1995, aged 82, and is buried in Llywel Church, Trecastle, Powys, South Wales, alongside his daughter Gaywood Patricia (nee Wilcox, Chaffer) Griffin.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Wing Commander Cyril Kay, D.F.C.

75 s (2)

Wing Commander Cyril “Cyrus” Kay, DFC, 1941. – NZBCA archives. RNZAF Official.

Continuing thanks to Chris, for writing this follow on post from his last about Ian Millet. at the foot of this last post was a letter sent on the crew’s loss by the then Wing Commander of 75(NZ) Squadron Cyril Kay D.F.C.

Cyril “Cyrus” Kay was a founding member of the New Zealand Flight, and 75 (NZ) Squadron’s first Squadron Leader, under the command of Wing Commander Maurice Buckley.

Aviation had struggled in New Zealand through the 1920’s and 1930’s through lack of Government foresight, and then the effects of the Depression, so any Kiwi who had qualified as a pilot and established a career in either the RNZAF or RAF by 1939, had been part of its very early development. And they had got there not just on their ability, but through considerable initiative and persistence.

Both Buckley and Kay had already made names for themselves as pioneers of New Zealand aviation, well before the impending war brought them to England, and into the New Zealand Flight.

Cyril Eyton Kay was born in Auckland on 25 June 1902, and grew up in Devonport, where he enjoyed sailing. But a flight with one of the early barnstormers, while still at secondary school, inspired him to become a pilot.

He applied to join the RNZAF, but at that time only refresher training for existing pilots was available, so he worked his passage to Britain and tried to enlist in the Royal Air Force. Given only limited prospects, he approached the former New Zealand governor general, Lord Jellicoe, against whom he had once won a sailing race. Jellicoe wrote, ‘if Cyril Kay is as good in the air as he is on the sea, he will be an acquisition to the Royal Air Force’. Kay entered the RAF on a five-year short-service commission on 14 July 1926.

Serving on army co-operation squadrons, Kay earned an ‘above average’ pass from the prestigious Central Flying School. He specialised in navigation and meteorology and in 1928 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. In 1929 he flew in the RAF Air Pageant set-piece displays at Hendon.

The following year, determined to break the England-to-Australia record of 15½ days, he flew as co-pilot with a fellow New Zealander, Flying Officer Harold Piper, in a tiny Desoutter monoplane, from Croydon to Darwin.


FLIGHT TO AUSTRALIA. Flying-Officer C. E. Kay, of Auckland, who, with Flying- Officer H. L. Piper, is to attempt to fly from England to Australia in 13 days. NZ Herald, 31 January 1930.

Bad weather, engine problems and eight forced landings turned this into an epic of six weeks and two days – the men lost a stone each in weight.

In 1931 he attended the Wasserkuppe gliding school, the ‘birthplace of gliding’ in Germany,  and achieved the distinction of being the first ‘English’ aviator to secure the “C” gliding certificate. He then became an instructor at a flying school in Digby, Lincolnshire.


Cyril Eyton Kay, ca. 1930. Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. Reference: 1/2-082720; F.

In 1932 Kay returned to New Zealand, working in commercial aviation, and was involved in the establishment of Kay Robot Air-Pilots Ltd in 1934 – he had invented an automatic compressed air stabiliser (autopilot) for aircraft. His invention was overtaken by the gyroscopic stabiliser about 18 months later.

In October 1934 Kay competed in ‘The Great Race’, the MacRobertson Centenary Air Race from London to Melbourne, with another New Zealander, Sqdn Ldr Jim D. Hewett, and wireless operator Frank Stewart.  Their entry was New Zealand-backed, and they flew a twin-engined de Havilland Dragon Rapide ‘Tainui’ ZK-ACO, Race No. 60,  into fifth place.


Squadron Leader J.D. Hewett (centre), Flying Officer C.E. Kay (right), and F. Stewart (passenger) flew DH.89 Dragon Rapide, ZK-ACO, named ‘Tainui’. They finished third in the handicap race and fifth overall, taking an elapsed time of 13 days 18 hrs 51 mins and a flying time of 106 hrs 51 mins. Flight magazine, via Flight Archive.

Their intention was to also demonstrate the feasibility of an England to New Zealand air route, and on Nov 14th 1934, they flew “Tainui” from Richmond, Sydney directly across the Tasman Sea to Palmerston North,  New Zealand. This was the first direct flight from England to NZ, possibly the first and only recorded London to Palmerston North direct international flight, it set a Tasman crossing record that stood for several years (12hrs 9mins), and Kay and Hewett went into the history books as being the first Kiwis to fly the Tasman.

Kay then applied to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force, being accepted on 8 July 1935 with the rank of Flying Officer.

Granted a permanent commission in January 1938, he became chief navigation instructor at Wigram six months later.

In May 1939 Kay travelled to Britain to join the New Zealand Flight as a flight commander and navigation leader. It had been formed to ferry 30 Vickers-Armstrongs Wellington I bombers back to New Zealand, but with the outbreak of the Second World War it remained in Britain and became the nucleus of  75 (New Zealand) Squadron.

Kay led the squadron’s first operational mission, which dropped propaganda leaflets over northern Germany on the night of 27–28 March 1940.


“A SQUADRON GROUP. (1) Squadron Leader C.E. Kay; (2) Flying Officer J. Adams; (3) Flight Lieutenant N. Williams; (4) Wing Commander M.W. Buckley; (5) Flight Lieutenant A.A.N. Breckon, and others.” – From “Early Operations with Bomber Command” by B.G. Clare. Probably RNZAF Official.

This photo appears to have been taken around May-June 1940. To the left of Kay is P/O E.V. Best and second to the extreme left is Air Gunner Sgt J. Purdy. The Wellington in the background is P9212, AA-C, the regular a/c of F/O N. Williams during May 1940.

Cyril Kay was awarded the D.F.C. for an attack against German units near Baileux in Belgium on 7 June 1940.

Distinguished Flying Cross citation, June 1940:
“This officer was captain of an aircraft ordered to attack important targets in the forests south of Bourlers and Baileux during a night in June. In spite of extremely difficult conditions, and in the face of severe opposition, he successfully bombed the objective, starting several fires which gave accurate direction to other aircraft of this sortie. He then descended to a low altitude and, again in the face of heavy opposition, attacked the woods with all his machine guns. Sqn. Ldr. Kay has conducted a number of operations in recent weeks and has shown daring, determination and outstanding ability.”


Vickers Wellington Mark IAs and ICs of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF based at Feltwell, Norfolk, flying in loose formation over the East Anglian countryside. The New Zealand Wellington Flight was elevated to squadron status as No. 75 in April 1940, the first such Commonwealth unit in Bomber Command. The leading aircraft in the formation, P9206 ‘AA-A’, was usually flown by the Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader C E Kay. © IWM (CH 467)

Between November 1940 and September 1941 he commanded the squadron on intensive operations against transport and fuel installations in Germany and occupied countries, earning the respect and affection of his crews.

He was promoted to Acting W/C in January 1941, taking over from Buckley, who remained on base as Station Commander, and was eventually himself replaced as commanding officer in September 1941 by W/C R. Sawrey-Cookson.

Kay returned to New Zealand in October 1942 where he commanded training establishments at New Plymouth, home of the navigation school (1942–43), Ohakea (1943–44) and Wigram (1944–46). Usually known as Cyrus, the stockily built Kay was described as a superb instructor and a brilliant and daring pilot.

After the war he attended the Imperial Defence College, then joined the Air Board as air member for supply and was promoted to the rank of air commodore in 1947. He had a major role in determining the shape of the post-war RNZAF and in the introduction of jet aircraft in 1951–52.

After a posting to London, where he became air officer commanding at the RNZAF London Headquarters in 1951, he returned to become air member for personnel in 1953. In May 1956 Kay led a goodwill mission to the United States. On 5th June he was promoted to air vice marshal, and appointed chief of the air staff and air officer commanding.

To cap off an amazing career in aviation, that had started in the very early days of the travelling barnstormers, on 29th of March 1958 C.A.S., A.V-M. Cyril Kay became the first New Zealander to break the sound barrier over home ground, in a U.S.A.F. F-100.

He retired on 30th June 1958.

Cyril Kay died in London on 29 April 1993.

Reference, and extracts from, ‘Kay, Cyril Eyton’, by Brian Lockstone, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
URL: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5k5/kay-cyril-eyton


The Artic Star – Now, here’s a thing……..


I was contacted to day by Paul, whose Uncle, F/Sgt Arthur Stafford Christie RNZAF NZ402982, who was lost on the 21st June 1942, age 21, on return from a raid on Emden, he now rests in Schieemonnikoog  Cemetery, Netherlands.

Pauls query, based on little knowledge of his Uncle’s operational history was whether he might have flown within the Arctic Circle. A mail to Kevin (and the reminder I should read the books I have before asking other people) Identified the Narvik reconnaissance flight by F/L Aubrey Breckon, 10th – 12th  April 1940, in Wellington L4387 – with a flying time of 14 hours 30 mins, it was one of the longest flights undertaken by a Wellington bomber…….

Now, the awarding criteria for the Artic Star (thank you Wikipedia) is as follows:
“The Arctic Star is awarded for operational service of any length north of the Arctic Circle, defined as 66° 32’ North Latitude. The inclusive qualifying period of service is 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945. Though the Arctic Star is intended to recognize the service of personnel in the Arctic convoys of World War II, other members of the military and civilians may qualify. Eligibility is defined as follows:

and now it gets interesting……

“Aircrew of the Royal Air Force are eligible if they landed north of the Arctic Circle or served in the air over this area. Non aircrew on operational service in the area, for example ground crew or those sailing with CAM ships (Catapult Aircraft Merchant Ships), are also eligible.”

I would love to think that perhaps a relative of one of the boys who took this flight, or perhaps someone who knows them, might see this post. It would be wonderful if a relative could get the Arctic Star for this astonishing mission.

The crew on this reconnaissance mission were as follows:
F/L Aubrey Arthur Ninnis Breckon RNZAF
P/O Donald Joseph Harkness RAF
Sgt Robert Henry Hughes RAF
LAC Edwin Peter Williams RNZAF
A/c Thomas Leonar Mumby RAF
Also on board was Lt. Cdr. F O Howie, Royal Navy, who was there to assist with shipping recognition and naval reconnaissance