Service Number: NZ401027 & 132722
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 9th of April 1940
Date of Demob: 5th of September 1944 (Reserve till 9th of February 1967)
Rank Achieved: Squadron Leader
Flying Hours: 2554hrs, 15 mins at conclusion of RNZAF flying. 3517 hrs 5 mins total flying
Operational Sorties: 85 ops
Date of Birth: 8th of February 1912, at Hamilton
Personal Details: Before the war Brian had farmed sheep with his brother Ian at Whitehall, Cambridge.
Service Details: Brian was ordered to report to RNZAF Station Levin to train as a pilot on the 9th of April 1940. Being a pilot already, he became an instructor and he instructed from December 1940 till June 1943 at No 4EFTS and at No 3 EFTS.
This note comes from the New Zealand Observer magazine from the 7th of January 1942"
"Mrs Brian Oliver spends her time between her home at Whitehall, Cambridge, and Whenuapai where her husband is an instructor. Christmas was spent at her home, with her sister, Joan Acton-Adams, of Christchurch, paying a visit."
He then joined No 2 (BR) Squadron RNZAF, flying Lockheed Ventura bombers.
His first flight in a Lockheed PV1 Ventura took place at RNZAF Station Ohakea on the 25th of October 1943 in NZ4520 under dual instruction. Soon Brian moved with the squadron up into the Pacific forward area. He was Mentioned in Despatches “For Meritorious Service” whilst with 2 Squadron.
Interview With Brian Oliver mid
"I learned to fly in 1936, and I got my flying licence and everything else. It was a satellite field. But, the local instructor, Harry Lett, his little hut was burned down with my original log book in it, of course. And so I haven't got that, but I knew pretty well how many hours I'd done. I didn't have it in printed evidence. That was eliminated."
"When I first joined it was called No. 7 War Course, at Woodbourne, in 1940."
"DH60's, that was long before the Tiger Moth, it was a wooden Gipsy.
"From about the 6th of the 5th, 40, we had the Vickers Vincent and Vildebeest, you know them? Dizzy with the altitude by climbing into the cockpit. For intermediate I was on a Magister. That was a low wing monoplane if I remember right.
"At Blenheim, I was a flying instructor at one stage, and I said to this CFI, I said "Look here." I said, "Here we are flying all these things. I would like for we flying instructors to have a Harvard." You know, something with a bit of zing in it. And he said, "Right, you get yourself up to Blenheim and bring a Harvard back. I'll authorise it." And that was that."
26/10/41 Flying Officer
1/4/43 Flight Lt
1/8/44 Sqn Ldr
"I flew the Huddy when I got out of instructing. I was put onto Hudsons at Ohakea. I only got part way with them, when they had a vacancy on 2 Squadron, hich was, you know, a recoonaaisance squadron, which was due to go out. So they promptly bunged me onto a Ventura."
"I actually was asked by my [instructor], you know, when I was in training, how would I like to be a flying instructor. And I said I wouldn't, and told the reason why - this was 1936 I think - because I had this rough hill farm, and that all I wanted to do was get this job done and get back onto the farm again. So I had the job, and they said you'd get your commission and all these things, and I said no, just give it. I'd satted what I want to do. But when the numbers came up, I was in charge of the group that was going to England. Because it was said all through our training was the Battle of Britain was on. And yeah, you know, we just lived with it the whole time. And so this particular instructor obviously impressed somebody because I got my commission, and you know, he's saidl about getting my commission, and I said "Oh well, skip that, I told you what I want to do." So I was in charge of the group going to Britain. They safely got to Britain all right, but I was eliminated out of it, you see. I was suddenly sent to the Flying Instructors School without any excuses. So I missed out on that bit."
Was he disappointed he didn't go to England?
" Oh yeah, definately. Because as I say, all that training time, you know - flying Vincents and Vildebeests and various other things, was when the Battle of Britain was on. We lived every moment of it."
Just couldn't wait to get there I suppose?
"No, that's right."
What were the Vincents and Vildebeests like to fly?
"They were a big double wing, like the Tiger Moth, but as I used to say, you used to get dizzy with the altitude climbing up into the cockpit, before you even got in on the ground. I did quite a few hours on them. They had about an 18 cylinder fixed motor - the motor didn't turn, the prop did. And what they used to do, when you finished your flight, the groud staff would pull the bottom three plugs out so you didn't oil up. And this particular day I was flying out over the Sounds, you know, up from Nelson - over all that country where you can't put down anywhere there obviously - and all of a sudden the old girl started to run very, very roughly. So needless to say, I headed off for home, and I eventually got down. I think i was flying from Woodbourne, that's right. And landed. And they found that the three bottom plugs were missing. But it had fifteen others, so..." he laughs. "But the point was, it ran very roughly obviously, and made quite a din. But I could see that I wasn't... I was getting along all right. I ceased to worry. What they'd done, the ground staff had obviously put the plugs in, and finger tightened them, and got called off somewhere, and they didn't tighten them in. So with the vibratuion and the flying, one, two three, the plugs disappeared. It all added to the local excitement."
After the war, I went back to the farm. That was what I said I wanted to do. But I got itchy feet again. Oh, it was about fifteen years after the war. And I was talking to Ozzie James and Arthur Baker, and they were over there at Rukuhia. And I was talking to them, and I said that I'd like to start flying again. And so they said, "Oh, we've got just the very thing for you here. We've got a little Auster." And so I had a look at it, and the poor little thing, all the sparrows up in the ceiling had covered it in jolly plaster. And I said, "Well there's one or two things we've got to think about here. One - you can give that unfortunate little aeroplane a clean-up, and when I say a clean-up I mean a proper clean-up. And then two - at a date suitable to both of us, you can come out and take the wife and I for a fly. But if after all my war flying and everything, she wasn't interested, I would cease to be interested too. But however, she was a mountaineer and a top horse rider and showjumper and all these sorts of things, and she just loved it. So, I said righto. And I was grounded because of my hearing. They put that when i got out of the Air Force, so I would need another medical. And if I passed the medical I could go for a licence again. Of course I didn't have to do much flying to prove that I could fly. And so that's how I got back. I bought the little Auster. And then at a later date, the family were all so keen on the flying, I would get into the retched position of having flown out to someone's farm, down-country, you know, to a strip, there were strips all over the place, and the wind would change or something, and I would be faced with (it was a four-seater) do I put my other three passengers in a dangerous position by taking off down-wind, on possibly a doubtful strip as far as length of take off was concerned? So, I then was give the chance to get a Cessna 180, you know the old tail-down jobs? They were a lovely aeroplane, and I remember the first time I got into this plane to fly off, I was just pushed back against the seat after the Auster which was much slower and had much less power.
Reads from logbook, "Commenced flying again on the 18th of the 5th, '59, the Auster."
"And then the Rotorua Aeroclub were wanting a Cessna 180 so they could drop flyers off, and they said I could just make a clean swap for the Cessna 182 which was a nosewheel job. And on my strip, and sometimes I had stock on it and this sort of thing, it just meant I had a much better view of my farm strip of what was down the track. So, they were ZK-AZT, ZK-BMU and ZK-Bravo Romeo India."
"My wife, who was also keen on flying, suddenly one day wasn't well. So I said to myself, "Look fellow, you've been flying these things for forty-odd years, give it away." So I sold it. And that was the end of my piloting."
"I was on Bomber Reconnaissance, they called it. And you had to do all your flying at 1000 feet or under, ith the idea of catching Jap submarines chargung their batteries. So if you were down below 1000, then because of curvature, they didn't know you were coming until too late for them to crash dive. Well, you'd be over them and drop your depth charges or whatever, with a good chance of upsetting their equalibrium, shall we say." he laughs.
"Then we were up through Rabaul, and whatever. A lot of these ones [indicating missions in his log books] Bougainville, Guadalcanal, all of those, you'd go from station to station. And in a lot of cases there were thousands of jolly Japs back in the hills, but the airfields were protected. Although, they made raids on them every so often."
Night flying in Venturas?
"Oh, in the Venturas? Yes. Oh yes I did night flying, in the first instance, I think it was, in the old Vincent or Vildebeest. Most of these flights were doine in daylight, I think you'll find, because we were on the lookout, really to try and clobber some of these big Jap subs that they had. But they had to come to the surface to charge their batteries.
Brian was grounded on medical reasons due to hearing loss and posted to the Reserve of Officers on the 5th of September 1944
Details of Death: Died peacefully at Waikato Hospital after an illness on the 30th of July 2004, aged 92
Interred at: A private cremation