Friday, 30 August 2013

14. Eric Butler - replacement pilot

When Bill Mallon was granted compassionate leave immediately after the squadron's last war operation on the 24th April Bob and the rest of the crew had to adjust to a new pilot. Fortunately for them their new pilot was very experienced, having completed a tour with 75 (NZ) Squadron earlier in the war (1941?), so their remaining 40 hours of flying, from the 25th April until the 6th of July, were fairly uneventful. F/O (later F/L) Eric Butler (NZ 425558), who was from Wellington, had completed his first tour when the Squadron was based at Feltwell and had been posted to Mepal for his second tour on the 6th October, 1944

Eric Butler is third from the left

Eric's crew at Mepal was:
  • F/S Herbert Ronald (Ron) Holliday (RAAF 434602) - Navigator, from Australia
  • F/S Hilray (Ray) Hubert Stratford (NZ 4213296) - Bomb Aimer
  • Sgt (later F/S) Daniel (Dan) Brazier (RAFVR) - Wireless Operator, from Bromley, Kent
  • Sgt Charlie Payne (RAFVR) - Flight Engineer
  • Sgt (later F/S -and P/O?) Jack Heaton (RAFVR) - Mid-upper Gunner, from Liverpool
  • Sgt (later F/S) Jack Messer (RAFVR) - Rear Gunner
Eric and his crew then participated in nine operations from the 19th October to the 11th November, including raids on Stuttgart, Flushing, Essen (twice), Leverkusen, Cologne (3 times) and Castrop-Rauxel - quite a baptism of fire for Eric's new crew.

According to Jim Haworth's letters home Eric then had to stop flying and spend some time in hospital, but he gave no indication why. His crew was left without a pilot for the remainder of 1944 but they were flown by W/C Jack Leslie, the Squadron Commander, on the Neuss operation on the 28th/29th November and Jack Messer, the rear gunner, flew with F/O J. McDonald's crew on a raid on Cologne on the 27th November.

It was January 1945 before they resumed normal operations with a new skipper, F/L D. Thomson (NZ 41613), with whom they completed another 17 operations before the approaching end to hostilities brought their tour to a close on the 23rd April with a raid on Wesel.

Eric saw no more action until he piloted F/O Ernest Amohanga's crew, who had arrived on the 10th March, on the Bremen operation on the 22nd April 1945. Three days later he joined Bob, Jim and the rest of the Mallon crew and he remained with the squadron until the 28th September 1945.

Eric was born on the 31st December 1917 and was living in Levin in the Wellington region of the North Island when he died on the 26th of July 1994 at the age of 76. His ashes are buried in the Avenue Cemetery in Levin.

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