Sunday, 1 September 2013

12. Ken Philp - bomb aimer

Ken in 1945

Ken Philp left the Mallon crew some time after the 1st May operation and left the squadron on the 15th June to join No. 9 Squadron, one of the squadrons scheduled to join 'Tiger Force', at Bardney near Lincoln. It was here that he met his future wife, Marjorie, who joined him in New Zealand a few years later in the early 1950s.

Ken's replacement was Flying Officer Lancelot Osgood Waugh (R.N.Z.A.F.) whose crew, the Milsom crew, had also joined No. 9 Squadron.

Following the surrender of Japan in August 'Tiger Force' was no longer required but No. 9 Squadron, having packed up and left Bardney on the 6th July, did at least get to travel east. They arrived in India in January 1946 and carried out four months of photographic survey duties.

An amazing twist of fate had also taken Ken to Trieste in Italy, probably in June or July of 1945, where he met up with his brother Jack, who was waiting with the 2nd New Zealand Division (commonly known as 'the Div') for transport home.

NZ soldiers relaxing in Trieste, May 1945

The Italian campaign had been New Zealand’s primary combat contribution to the war following the hard-won victory over Axis forces in North Africa. Almost all the New Zealanders who served in Italy did so as members of 'the Div', and they had endured harsh winters and 18 months of gruelling combat before ending the war in Trieste in May 1945. The legacy of the campaign was profound and long-lasting: more than 2100 New Zealanders were killed and 6700 wounded during the liberation of Italy. Limited availability of shipping and the political chaos that followed the German surrender meant that the evacuation of New Zealand troops would prove a slow process and it was not until February 1946 that the last Kiwis left Italy.

Jack's joy at meeting his older brother in Trieste would have been tempered by the knowledge that their younger brother Gibb had lost his life 18 months earlier in France.

Gibson Philp (NZ412265) was a pilot with No. 486(NZ) Squadron which had been based at RAF Tangmere in West Sussex since September 1943. Equipped with the Hawker Typhoon the squadron had become a ground attack unit targeting shipping and airfields and providing escort missions for RAF and USAAF light and medium day bombers.

A Hawker Typhoon of 486(NZ) Squadron, October 1943
(Note the stripes painted under the wings to avoid confusion with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190)

On the 14th. January 1944 Gibson was involved in operation 'Ramrod** 453' which involved British and American aircraft attempting to destroy German flying bomb sites near Fruges in the Pas de Calais, northern France. Raids on these sites were notoriously difficult, with very strong anti-aircraft fire, targets which were well-camouflaged, the majority with no conspicuous landmarks, and information on the exact position of each site often unreliable. Add to that the problems caused by the winter weather and losses were very high. Gibson's Typhoon Mk IB SA-R (JR329) was hit by flak whilst flying at low altitude and he had little chance of survival. He was just 23 years old.

He left a wife, Nancy Jean, and was buried in the Viroflay New Communal Cemetery in Yvelines, just outside Paris.

Weekly News, 12th April 1944
Gibson's memorial stone at Viroflay
**Ramrod operations = short range bomber attacks to destroy ground targets.

Ken was born on 24th December 1913 and worked as a 'tinsmith', or sheet metal worker, before he enrolled in the R.N.Z.A.F. When he was demobbed he returned to his family in New Zealand, parents Ralph and Maud, brother Jack and sister Enid, and continued working as a sheet metal worker, employed for most of his working life by Chubb in Porirua. He died on the 13th of June 1991 at the age of 77 and is buried in the Whenua Tapu Cemetery in Pukerua Bay, Porirua where these photographs were taken by Glen Turner in November 2014.

The RSA (Returned and Services' Association) Monument

Ken's and Marjorie's memorial plaque

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