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Air Crews Honoured in ANZAC Day Documentary


Air Crews Honoured in ANZAC Day Documentary – on Maori Television

An extraordinary documentary about the Kiwi survivors of the RAF’s Bomber Command in World War II and the impact that experience continues to have on their lives today – not only in New Zealand but also in Germany, Britain, Belgium and Canada – will screen on Maori Television as part of its all-day ANZAC broadcast on Friday April 25 at 5.45 pm.

NIGHT AFTER NIGHT – which takes its title from Max Lambert’s book – is a tribute by filmmaker Jennifer Bush-Daumec to their memory and honours all members of the air crews, Kiwi and German, who risked their lives to fight day and night. The feature-length film is a Bushcraft production for Maori Television in association with NZ On Air with assistance from the Year of the Veteran Community Grant and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Some 55,000 young men died while serving as bomber crews during World War II including 1,850 New Zealanders. One in every three young New Zealanders, all volunteers, never returned home but gave their lives ‘for God, for King and for Country’. Some 1,450 of the 1,850 killed are buried in Holland, France, Belgium, Denmark, England, Poland and Czechoslovakia but the other 400 have no known graves and are commemorated on plaques in England’s Runnymede.

The Kiwis left home to train in Canada, arrived in England to fly inadequate aircraft – until the arrival of the Lancaster – had only basic navigational aids, coped with unreliable static-ridden radios, suffered freezing weather conditions and watched their friends being shot down and die. They never knew from one night to the next if they would survive and were enthralled by the promise of adventure. The gruesome and terrifying nature of what they would have to do never occurred to them. They had a job to do.

The stories told in NIGHT AFTER NIGHT are from the remaining survivors of Bomber Command’s battles, several of whom have since passed away. Most are in their late eighties or early nineties now and many have never talked about the years they spent at war with an enemy they never knew. Back home they were told it was better to ‘forget the past and to get on with life’ and though many tried, the horror endured and could not be forgotten. As former Bomber Command pathfinder pilot and squadron leader Phillip Farrow (Thames) says: “It’s always been with me that I got out and he didn’t”.

Some, during the time they were incarcerated as prisoners of war, risked their lives by recording as much as they could on pieces of toilet paper or scraps of cardboard, on anything that could be hidden. Bomb aimer Ron Noice (Cambridge) describes how, during the journey home, he wrote down everything he could remember in an exercise book. He did not want to forget.

Watching planes being shot down and colleagues being burned to death night after night could not be blotted out easily. Pilot Doug Hawker (Christchurch) describes feeling “emotionally dead” on returning home. For some, the only way to cope after the war was to ‘shut down’ – a numbness that might last for years. Des Horgan (Auckland), also a pilot, admits he has not had an “honest” night’s sleep since he returned home.

Though not as well known as those who served in the Maori Battalion, there were many Maori volunteers in Bomber Command. Their contribution, according to Wellington historian and journalist Max Lambert, was as pilots, navigators, bomb aimers and rear gunners. Singer-songwriter Whirimako Black recalls that her grand uncle, Ihiaia William Trainor, was 32 when he served in 620 Squadron. Iwikau Te Aika, a rear gunner, was awarded the DFC after saving his plane from being shot down; his friendship with the pilot, Des Horgan, survived the war.

“NIGHT AFTER NIGHT documents the acceptance by both the Allied Forces and the Germans, of the futility of war,” says Bush-Daumec. “In the decades that have passed, some of the New Zealanders who survived the fighting met with their German counterparts and have maintained regular correspondence with each other.”

NIGHT AFTER NIGHT screens as part of Maori Television’s all-day broadcast, A TATOU TAONGA: ANZAC DAY 2008, on Friday April 25 at 5.45 pm and will also be streamed live on the website


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