Virtual Museum - Medals
Ref. No. 873. MEMORIAL CROSS FOR 75
(NZ) SQUADRON AIRGUNNER SGT
W. A. WATTS, RNZAF. Sgt Walter Alexander Watts (NZ401449,
previously A401449) was born in Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand, on 4
September 1913. He was the son of Mr and Mrs G G Watts and was
educated at Alexandra District High School, being a member of the
school’s 1st XV rugby team. At the time of enlisting, his
occupation was given as a fruit inspector with the Department of
Agriculture in Wellington. He enlisted in the RNZAF on 4 June
1940 and initially went to RNZAF Levin Ground Training School as an Air
Observer under training, and then No.1 Air Observer School on 29 June
1940. He remustered as an air gunner under training on 9 June
1940 and attained his Air Gunner Badge and promotion to sergeant on 27
July 1940. He embarked for the United Kingdom and was attached to
the RAF on 10 August 1940, posted to No.1 Depot 30 September 1940, and
then No. 11 Operational Training Unit (Wellington) on 19 October
1940. He was posted to No. 75 (NZ) Squadron on 9 January 1941 and
is thought to have completed seven operations. On about 31 March
1941, he was posted to No. 3 Group Training Flight.
On the night of Sunday 6/Monday 7 April 1941, he was killed, age 27, while on a ferry flight from Stradishall, Suffolk (north-east of London), to Malta flying in Wellington IC N2818, a No. 3 Group Training Flight aircraft. The pilot was P/O Gilbert Theodore Kimberley (NZ391359), RNZAF, age 24. The aircraft deviated from track in bad weather and at 0300 crashed five km east of Ras el Akba or four km south of Ain Amara, near Guelma, Algeria. N2818 had been seen descending through cloud with landing lights on and engines throttled back. As the ground came into view, the engines were opened up, but the bomber crashed into a knoll situated between two large hills and exploded. It is not known if N2818 was seeking to make an emergency landing or simply trying to establish its position. All six crew members were buried at Guelma, but later reinterred at the Bone War Cemetery – II.D.8, Algeria. Bone is on the Mediterranean coastline in eastern Algeria, about 40 km from the border with Tunisia. At the time N2818 crashed, Algeria was under Vichy French control, so it is presumed the crash was observed by Vichy French personnel. On the 6 April, the day before the crash, the German General, Erwin Rommel, had occupied Mechilli in Libya and was pushing the Allies back into Egypt. He had landed at Tripoli on 12 February 1941.
Kimberley had also been with 75 (NZ) Squadron. Watts had been posted to the Middle East, directly from the squadron whereas Kimberley had been with the Group Training Flight since early March. Both were leaving Bomber Command for the Middle East by way of the flight.
Wellington N2818 was from a batch of 100 (N2735 –2859) Vickers Wellington ICs that were built by Vickers at Chester. A total of 1583 Wellington ICs were produced at Chester, with other aircraft built in Blackpool (50) and Weybridge (914). The IC had two Pegasus XVIII engines of 1050 hp and was built as a medium bomber weighing 28,500 pounds, had a max operational speed of 235 mph at operational height, a normal range of 1805 miles, a max range of 2550 miles, a ceiling of 18,000 feet and a bomb load of 4500 pounds. N2818 was probably originally destined to be part of No. 205 Group which used Wellingtons in the Middle East from late summer 1940.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Errol Martyn for help in
researching this information. To purchase Errol's excellent books
on the fates of New Zealanders who have died while serving with the
RNZAF and Allied Air Services since 1915, please click here.
Ref. No. 1025. MEMORIAL CROSS FOR P/O G. T.
KIMBERLEY. Pilot Officer Gilbert Theodore Kimberley
(NZ391359 – previously 391359) was born in Auckland on 2 November 1916.
He was the son of Ven. Archdeacon Oliver James Kimberley and Mrs Hilda
Annie Kimberley (nee Kempthorne), All Saints Vicarage, Nelson. He was
educated at Christ’s College, Christchurch. Prior to joining the
RNZAF, he worked as a shepherd for J W Trolove at Kaikoura. He
enlisted in the RNZAF on 19 November 1939 and initially went to RNZAF
Levin Ground Training School as an airman pilot. On 19 December
1939 he went to No.1 Elementary Flying Training School and then 1FTS on
13 February 1940. He attained his Pilot Badge on 17 May 1940 and was
commissioned on 28 May. He embarked for the United Kingdom on the
Rangitata, was attached to the RAF on 6 June 1940, posted to No. 1
Depot on 21 July 1940 and then 15 Operational Training Unit
(Wellington) on 12 August. On 4 October he was posted to No. 75
(NZ) Squadron (details of operations not known). After being posted to
No. 3 Group Training Flight on 31 March 1941, he was killed, age
27, flying a Wellington bomber on the night of Sunday 6/Monday 7
April. The aircraft (Wellington IC N2828) was lost while on a
ferry flight from Stradishall, Suffolk (north-east of London), to
Malta. The aircraft deviated from track in bad weather and at 0300
crashed 5 km east of Ras el Akba or 4 km south of Ain Amara, near
Guelma, Algeria. N2818 had been seen descending through cloud with
landing lights on and engines throttled back. As the ground came
into view, the engines were opened up, but the bomber crashed into a
knoll situated between two large hills and exploded. It is not
known if N2818 was seeking to make an emergency landing or simply
trying to establish its position. All six crew members were buried at
Guelma, but later reinterred at the Bone War Cemetery, Algeria
(Kimberley being buried in plot II D.10). Bone is on the
Mediterranean coastline in eastern Algeria, about 40 km from the border
with Tunisia. At the time N2818 crashed, Algeria was under Vichy French
control, so it is presumed the crash was observed by Vichy French
personnel. A photo of Kimberley appears in the The Weekly News on 5
June 1940 and 7 May 1941. The full crew were as follows:
Plt Off KIMBERLEY, Gilbert Theodore 391359 RNZAF (Pilot)
Sgt WILLIAMS, Herbert Llewellyn 969577 RAFVR (Obs)
Sgt FAIRLAMB, Robert Whyman 945584 RAFVR (WOpAG)
Sgt McCRACKEN, Robert Cameron 652274 RAF (WOpAG)
Sgt WATTS, Walter Alexander 401449 RNZAF (AG)
Sgt ALLEN, Keith Ruthven 1150195 RAFVR (Pilot)
The cross is without ribbon or case and has not been cleaned. On the rear is “NZ391359 P/O G. T. KIMBERLEY” with the letter “R” and STIRLING.
By a remarkable coincidence, a year earlier, I had bought the Memorial Cross for Sgt W A Watts (see above), the Air Gunner who died in the same crash that took the life of Kimberley. Both crosses were bought through the New Zealand website Trade Me. In the 18 months I had been looking for RNZAF items on Trade Me, I had only seen three RNZAF memorial crosses for sale. The fact that two of these (both of which I bought) were for aircrew from the same aircraft was an amazing coincidence.
Ref. No. 1185. MEMORIAL CROSS FOR F/O A. N.
SAWARD. Flying Officer Albert Norman Saward (NZ4213297)
was killed on 15 January 1945 while flying an RNZAF Corsair as part of
rescue attempt of Frank Keefe from Simpson Harbour near Rabaul, which
was the Japanese stronghold on the island of New Britain. Keefe had
been shot down by flak when dropping bombs on the Toboi Wharf. Saward
and six other Corsair pilots
crashed or went missing while returning through a tropical storm to
American Medals Issued to
Personnel Serving in the RNZAF