Wednesday, 4 September 2013

10. Frank Symes - wireless operator

 Just when I was beginning to think I would be unable to find out anything about the remaining members of the crew, I received a short e-mail from Yvonne, the daughter of Frank Symes, the wireless operator. "Can I help in any way?" she wrote. I had been trying for weeks to locate the two Kiwis and two Brits that made up the rest of my dad's crew, and, although the New Zealand Herald was unable to help, Sarah Lawrance, the P.A. to its Editor in Chief, suggested I contact the New Zealand Woman's Weekly. I did this on the 11th of March 2014 and was rewarded for my efforts with the e-mail just three weeks later. Frank's grandson Warren e-mailed me later the same day.

Frank during his training as a wireless operator

Early life
Frank "Tinker" Symes was born on 3 March 1924 in Wairoa, northern Hawke's Bay,
Frank (L) at the age of about 17
New Zealand, the fifth of eight children of Stuart Symes and Ellen Crombie who were farmers in Nuhaka, east of Wairoa. Frank's mother died when he was five years old and he was raised by his father, elder siblings and later by step-mother Lily Symes.
He was educated at Nuhaka Primary School (1929-37) and then attended Hastings Boys' High (1938-39). Frank enjoyed playing cricket and football and was a member of the Hasting Boys' 1st XV Rugby Team.
Frank's father Stuart passed away on 12 January 1941. Frank was employed by his uncle, Bert, in Waverley, Taranaki as a farm labourer when he first applied to enlist in the RNZAF in 1941.

Frank (R) in Canada in 1943

Frank's service in the RNZAF commenced in July 1942 when he was 18 years' old. He eventually trained as a wireless operator and air gunner and departed New Zealand on 1 April 1943 to continue training in Canada where he was promoted to Flight Sergeant. He was then transferred to the United Kingdom and in December 1944 he and the rest of the Mallon crew were joined by Bob Jay. After their posting to Mepal on the 6th March 1945 Frank flew eight operational sorties, remaining with the crew until the end of hostilities. He continued as Eric Butler's Wireless Operator in 'Tiger Force'* until he left on the 27th August 1945, eventually returning to New Zealand in December 1945 and being demobbed in March 1946.
*'Tiger Force', also known as 'Very Long Range Bomber Force', was formed after V.E. Day from Bomber Command squadrons for use against targets in Japan in support of U.S. forces. They were going to be deployed to the Far East but were disbanded in August 1945 when the Japanese surrendered.

Some time later he received his medals:
  • France and Germany and Star
  • Defence Medal
  • War Medal
  • NZ War Service Medal
A wireless operator who completed more than 60 operation with No.97 Squadron tells his story here.
    Post service life
    After service Frank eventually returned to the Wairoa district and moved
    Frank & Winnie on their wedding day
    to the Mahia Peninsula where he worked for Mahia Freight. He met Winnie Smith (born on 12 February 1933) while she was working at the Morere Tearooms, just north of Nuhaka. Winnie had moved to New Zealand from Levuka, Fiji when she was 17.

    Frank and Winnie married on 3 November 1954 in Wairoa, where they then lived. Frank worked at the local Freezing works and then at the Deluxe Ford Gas Service Station. Frank and Winnie went on to have seven children - six sons and one daughter: Stuart (deceased), Yvonne, Graeme, John, Anthony, Stephen and Cecil.

    Frank passed away on 4 November 1979 at the age of 55, coincidentally the same age at which Bob died, and is buried at the Wairoa Cemetery, next to his mother Ellen. He is survived by Winnie, six children and 26 grand children. Winnie, Yvonne, two of Frank's sons, Graeme and John, and daughter-in-law Pauline (wife of the late Stuart) still live in the Wairoa district.

    Sadly, Frank and Winnie's eldest son Stuart was killed in a car accident in 2012 at the age of 56.

    Frank & Winnie with (L to R) Stuart, Yvonne, Graeme, Antony (baby) and John. Stephen & Cecil were yet to be born.

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