Very sad news was received recently of the death of Ron Mayhill DFC KLH, distinguished 75(NZ) Squadron veteran and past President of the New Zealand Bomber Command Association.
Ron leaves behind a very significant legacy, not only from his long service with the Association, but in the form of a significant historical record of his time with the squadron. Ron was the Bomb Aimer in John Aitken’s crew, arriving at Mepal just one day after D-Day, June 1944.
Ron and his skipper Jake Aitken shared a camera and between them captured many of the images that would come to define our memory of those times. Their regular “kite” was Lancaster ND782, “U-Uncle”. Ron survived 27 operations before their Lancaster was hit by flak when just about to drop their load on a flying bomb supply depot at Pont Remy. Ron was wounded in the eye and face by splinters of perspex and since he had missed the target indicators, they had to go around again. For completing the bombing run, despite his injuries, he was awarded the DFC. “Once you’re in a war there’s no way out. It’s not just courage — you’re on a treadmill and you know what you’re facing and we just decided: right, if you’re going to get killed we’re going to sell our lives dearly and we’re going to fight.”
– Ron Mayhill DFC, “Memories Of Service”, NZ On Screen. By the time he had recuperated, the rest of his crew had completed their tour and been posted to No.3 Lancaster Finishing School as instructors, so Ron’s tour of operations was also over.
He became a school teacher after the war, apparently a very good one, at Pukekohe High School and later at Auckland Grammar, where he taught for 27 years.
During that time he wrote books on geography, and after he retired, together with and encouraged by his old crewmates, decided to write a memoir of their wartime experiences.
He eventually found a publisher in England, but frustratingly was told to cut the book down to half the size! Published in 1991, “Bombs On Target” by Ron Mayhill FC (Patrick Stephens) is one of the two definitive books covering the Lancaster years at Mepal (“Luck and a Lancaster” by Harry Yates DFC being the other).
With Ron’s insightful writing, sense of humour, Kiwi perspective and Bomb Aimer’s technical detail, the book is a mine of information, and it immerses the reader in the life of an airman at Mepal in 1944. It’s one of those books that you don’t want to end … and we are very grateful that men like Ron and Harry Yates took the time to record their experiences in such wonderful detail.
In 2012 he travelled to London as part of the official RNZAF veterans group to attend the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial. Ron was very happy to share his great knowledge of Bomber Command and was very generous with his time – he recorded several interviews and spoke often at functions, services and schools. He made many memorable addresses at Bomber Command services, thought-provoking and well-researched.
He gave this excellent interview in 2015 as part of a series called “Memories of Service”
In 2015, Ron was awarded the Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, for his part in the air war over Normandy.
Ron had been fit, sharp and active and it was only a deterioration in his eyesight and hearing that caused him to step down as President of the New Zealand Bomber Command Association in late 2018, a role that he performed admirably right up to the age of 94.
Ronald Desmond Mayhill passed away on Thursday 9 July 2020.
A great man and a very nice man – he will be sadly missed.
Ake Ake Kia Kaha.