Tag Archives: Luck and a Lancaster

Inia Whangataua ‘Mac’ Maaka – Air Bomber, Yates crew. Time to return home………


P/O Inia Whangataua ‘Mac’ Maaka, RNZAF NZ421741 – Air Bomber with the Yates crew, 1944.

David, Son of Harry Yates in a very generous and noble act has passed to me the above photograph of Inia ‘Mac’ Makka. Mac was Harry’s Air Bomber throughout their tour with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF during the second half of 1944.

The photograph of Mac is almost A4 in size (10 x 8 old money) and is original, still being in the card folder that it was first mounted in. On the outside cover of the mount is the name of the photographic studio – “Du Barry Studios” – this is obviously a very good quality, posed studio portrait.

David believes that the photograph was sent to his Father at the time he was researching his book ‘Luck and a Lancaster’, probably by Mac’s wife June. David discovered it in a folder of photographs that had been sent to Airlife Publishing for the book. Unused in the book, it remained in the folder with the other images, until it’s recent discovery by David.

David’s wish is that, if possible, Mac’s portrait should be returned to his descendants. As he says in the letter accompanying the portrait:

“If one of the Maaka family comes forward, having seen your post, or perhaps someone connected to the old 75 grapevine in NZ knows the whereabouts of one of Mac and June’s children, then it would be a service to Mac’s memory to have the portrait placed in their hands.

My Dad would have wanted that too…..”

So, please blog readers – put out this request and lets collectively cross our fingers that a descendant of Inia Whangataua ‘Mac’ Maaka can be found – as I soon as I hear from them, we can return this wonderful portrait to them.

I’ll finish with Harry’s memory of his dear comrade ‘Mac’ Maaka:

“As he talked, my impressions of him became ever more favourable. No Englishman I’d met was so sincere and guileless about himself. Mac was simply a stranger to the inner tensions and vanities that make liars of the rest of us. He was mightily proud of his people who, I thought, must be formidable opponents in war if they were all like this chap. I began to see in him a military paragon. He had the heart of a lion. I don’t think he was afraid of anything or any man. He had no need to be because he was built like a bunker. I felt that his loyalty would be a rich prize, if one deserved it. He was just the sort of chap one imagines walking steadfastly into the enemy’s fire for the sake of his comrades. Well, the skies over Germany were fiery enough. Mac would be an example to us all.”

The Three Pickerels – a little something to remind us

The Three Pickerels

A picture from across the bridge looing back at the front of The Three Pickerells, in Mepal.

I must confess when we all first went to Mepal for  our first Remembrance Sunday, I was very much looking forward to going to ‘The Three Pickerells’, having read about it in Harry Yate’s wonderful account of his stay with the Squadron called “Luck and a Lancaster”. On arriving and going in I was gutted to discover that there was nothing in the pub, apart a small photograph that somebody had apparently left of Jake Aitken’s crew – ironic as it contained, of course, Ron Mayhill, the author on another book that features The Three Pickerells……..

The owners have changed since this first visit and when Bev and I stayed this time last year for a night before the Reunion, I asked Emily whether she would like a few pictures and wonderfully she said yes. Now I must confess, it took longer than I had hoped, but the pictures and frames finally went back down with us for the Mepal Retro event at the end of the summer and Emily
picked 3 to put up in the pub.


a little reminder of the Squadron Association with The Three Pickerells, on display in the restaurant section of the pub

I think its great that there is something back on the walls that records the association the boys from the Squadron had with the ‘Pickerells and to be able to remind visitors that the pub is mentioned in both Ron’s and Harry’s books.

Emily says the visitors to the pub love to read the information on the Squadron and if in this way the Squadron is remembered by someone with a drink in their hand – I think the boys would approve!

The Three Pickerels was a regular watering hole for the crews from 75(NZ) Squadron as well as perhaps other local Squadrons such as 115, based just up the road at Witchford.

From “Luck and a Lancaster – Chance and survival in World War II” by Harry Yates:

“At briefing , seventeen aircrews were detailed bombing sorties to Brunswick, Russelsheim and Falaise, while six more would lay mines in the Gironde Estuary. But F/O Yates and his crew spent the evening peppering the dart board at The Three Pickerels , a favourite watering hole of both Mepal and Witchford crews. At nine-thirty the noise of Merlins interrupted out game. We took our drinks outside to toast our colleagues. One hundred and sixty-one of them took off from Mepal that night. The seven from P/O Mulcahy’s crew disappeared without trace………”

From “Bombs on Target – A compelling eye witness account of Bomber Command operations” by Ron Mayhill:

“That afternoon Dunc and I cycled a couple of miles around the air field boundary to a strategic spot just beyond the main runway where there was a permanent gap in the hedge, to get photos of Lancs taking off and landing during air tests for the night’s operations.

We took some great action close-ups with full flaps and undercart down, and then discreetly rode onto Sutton, very much aware cameras weren’t allowed around the station. It was the first time we had seen the Fen villages and farms from the ground and they were a lot more interesting than we had thought, everything looked flat and featureless from the air.

The War seemed far away as we cycled slowly back to Mepal village and the picturesque pub The Three Pickerels, aglow, weary yet invigorated”.

3 picks

in print

If anybody would like either or both of the images above, just let me know and I will send you print quality pdf’s with crop marks for mounting – they mount and fit in an IKEA frame (nothing to do with Bev being a consultant for IKEA of course…..)

You can contact Emily here

Luck and a Lancaster

Just received a copy of ‘Luck and a Lancaster’ by Harry Yates. The book follows Harry’s training and tour with 75(NZ) Squadron. Not only does it begin to give me an idea of what it was like to fly operationally, but it provides an insight into the training (of a pilot) of aircrew. Its a fantastic read but what begins to concern me is the regular losses in the squadron. I am certainly not critisising the writing style or the sentiments of the author – but the matter of fact way that the loss of crews during a raid are described in the book are chilling and I begin to get a feel for the simple fact that during this time a loss of a crew was essentially just seen as an inevitable risk of the job – this after all, was war……