Tag Archives: PB820

More Pictures of Tapua Heperi – Wireless Operator Clement crew

Lou Woodward 2

Photograph from “Lou Woodward”. Chris doesn’t think that this is one of the ‘Woodwards’ that served in 75(NZ) as their dates of activity with the Squadron are before Tapua’s arrival.

Chris passed 3 more fantastic pictures of ‘Tap’ Hepari on to me, so I thought it was worth doing a separate post to present them, after adding the image in the  post to the ‘Maori aircrew who served with 75(NZ) Squadron 39-45‘ page of the blog.

We believe all of these pictures of Tap to have been taken before his arrival at 75(NZ), simply because the original attribution of the images are not names found in the Squadron Nominal Roll – so perhaps  when he was training in Canada, or just after his arrival in the UK, prior to posting to Mepal.

As always, if you have any information on these images, please get in contact!

Ian Petrie 012

Photo from “Ian Petrie”, but no individual by that name in the 75(NZ) nominal roll, so perhaps this guy and Tap trained together before Tap arrived at the Squadron…?

Lou Woodward 1

Another photograph from “Lou Woodward”. Both Tap and the individual at front left are W/Op’s, so possibly a group of W/Op’s out on the town.

A mystery solved……

JNV squadron photo

Pilot Doug Clement sat astride the nose of PB820 in the March 1945 Squadron group photograph.

Many thanks to Peter for contacting me on behalf of his father, who worked alongside Doug Clement, Pilot of JN-V, in New Plymouth as an NPDC Bus driver for many years before he retired.

It would appear that Doug is the airman sat astride the nose of the Lancaster that appears in the March 1945 Squadron photograph. Even better perhaps, Peter has also been able to confirm that the aircraft in this photograph and thus the ‘Flight’ group photographs is in fact PB820 JN-V, the aircraft that Doug and his crew flew in.

The identity of this aircraft has been a taking point for some while – so perhaps we now have an answer to our question…….

Douglas St. Clair Clement – Pilot. JN-V

Doug Clement realigned

Douglas St.Claire Clement as he was during his stay with 75(NZ) Squadron and to the left, in later life.

Many thanks to Tony for contacting me regarding Douglas Clement, Pilot of JN-V, who has been featured a number of times already on site in the last few months.

Before emigrating to New Zealand, Tony had lived in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. Upon arriving in New Zealand he joined the NZRSA club in New Plymouth and eventually became President – following in the footsteps of  Doug Clement.

Tony became very good friends with Doug and he was among a number of ex servicemen and women who allowed Tony to interview them to record their Life/War story. Tony took great interest in Doug’s recollections in particular being able to relate to his knowledge of ‘his patch’ in UK. He was also fortunate enough to meet other members of the crew at a reunion, some years ago.

Tony believes that Doug’s logbook and wartime memento’s  went to his family after he passed on – so if any of them come across this post, it would be wonderful to hear from you and perhaps be able to see some of the things Doug left with you.


More information on ‘Tap’ Heperi

Photo: Next Graduating Squadron, No. 3 Wireless School, Squadron 65,  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, September 1943. From WAGMag, September 43 issue, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

Photo: Next Graduating Squadron, No. 3 Wireless School, Squadron 65, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, September 1943.
From WAGMag, September 43 issue, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

Many thanks as always to Chris, for sending me the following information on Tapua Heperi that he initially came across whilst researching his uncle, Gerry:

Early in my research into my uncle’s service and Wireless Operator training in Canada, I came across a copy of the September 1943 issue of “WAGMag”, the monthly magazine of No 3 Wireless School in Winnipeg, and was excited to see a graduating class photo of 65 Squadron, with Gerry sitting front and centre!

Notable amongst the names listed below the photo was a “T. Heperi” – I hadn’t been expecting to see a Maori surname – and its owner “Tap Heperi” features prominently elsewhere in both this and the June and July issues of WAGMag, in 65 Squadron (class) news and various station sports results. Obviously respected by his peers, (and promoted to the rank of Corporal by the time he graduated) he is mentioned as a Squadron “senior”:

Class seniors, Tap Heperi, Errol Oakley and Jim Sutherland, are due a lot of credit for untiring representation throughout the entire course. From the boys, “thanks a lot”.”

He is mentioned as a member of the Squadron boxing team, and in a report of an away boxing match on June 30th 1943, against No.33 SFTS Carberry:

“Tapuli (sic) Hepiri took the only other decision for No. 3, when he outfought, outboxed and outgrimaced the heavy LAC Ayres from Carberry. Both boxers went at it hammer and tongs for three rounds, but Hepiri was slightly faster and used his left and his deceptive hip movement to advantage.”

– and again in games of “rugger” against Carberry on July 16th, and against No.5 AOS on 21 August 1943, where he helped “provide the power” in the forwards:

Outstanding of these is LAC Heperi, class senior for “A” flight. Tall and well built, this Maori lad likes plenty of fast action, having recently transferred his attention from punching opponents to kicking their shins. With LAC Hicks, another Newzie, he represented the squadron in rugger against Carberry some little time ago.

He must have been quite a sportsman!

Later, when I started to work my way through the the Wood crew’s op’s in the 75 ORBs, Dec 44 – April 45, it was another surprise to see the name of T. Heperi pop up as W/Op in the Clements crew! So I guess that Gerry would have known him well.

After the War, Tapua Peter Heperi apparently owned a dairy farm in in the Okaihau Valley, Northland, and archival National Film Unit footage exists of he and his family on the farm in the ’60’s. Although no longer with us, Google turns up another Tap Heperi, a singer of some note, who was born 8 October 1943 in Rawene, Northland, NZ, quite possibly conceived on final leave before his Dad shipped off to Canada!


PB820 JN-V and the Clement crew

Many thanks to Phil Jarret, via Martyn (thanks to you as well Martyn) for the contribution of these 2 fantastic photographs. They arrived with no information, but after a bit of squinting and shuffling through the ORB’s, I think this first image is of the Clement crew.

Crew JN-V

front row L to R: Tapua Heperi, Ross Manley Cato, Douglas St.Clair Clement and Randall Hewitt.(Randall Hewitt’s position confirmed by his cousin)
back row L to R: 2 members of ground crew are stood at each end of this row, the remaining aircrew are most likely to be: W. Richardson, Frank Watts and  John Sydney Wildish , but I am currently unsure who is who either side of Frank…..
© Phil Jarret.

Pilot Douglas St.Clair Clement and his crew flew 31 ops between 28th November 1944 to 14th April 1945. Of these 31 ops, 22 were in PB820. The crew had a Maori Wireless Operator, F/S Tapua Heperi. So the story goes, Pilot Eric Meharry could speak Maori – very rare for a ‘Pakeha’ and would apparently converse with a Maori airman in his native tongue over the radio. Martyn wonders if Tapua was that chap. We shall never know I am afraid – looking at the dates the Meharry crew flew, relative to Tapua and the rest of the Clement crew, it would only have given them a month for their conversations. Of course, without bidding I will look through the ORB’s for another possible candidate, though I have discovered from a fascinating thread on  the Wings Over New Zealand forum, that it isn’t as easy as one might assume to identify Maori aircrew by name……..

The second photograph shows a fantastic scene of a ‘C’ flight Lancaster being ‘bombed up’ – aside from the sheer beauty of the image, it also shows some great detail in the background of the fabric of the airfield at Mepal. Identifying the aircraft is a bit difficult – there is clearly a ‘JN’, but the letter designator is not obvious at all – all that appears after the RAF roundel seems to be a vertical line. I may be wrong, but I do not recall ever seeing an ‘I’ designator for an a/c in the squadron – so might this be the vertical upstroke of a ‘T’ ?

75 Squadron JN Lanc

© Phil Jarret.

Continuing with this unsubstantiated line of logic (as is sometimes necessary), a possible candidate is NG449. NG449 was a  MK. I – as were all the NG range – but  this doesn’t necessarily date the kite, though 75(NZ) didn’t get Lancs until March 1944. Exquisitely I have 2 sources that confirm its fate – lost on the Munster Viaduct raid 21st March 1945, but one source has it as  an A/B Flight ‘AA” T (Avro Lancaster: The Definitive Record by Harry Holmes), not JN (3 Group Bomber Command – an operational history by Chris Ward & Steve Smith)………

(having just done a bit more digging, Harry Holme’s book actually lists NG449 as being both AA and JN T’s – the plot thickens……