Kenneth Oscar LAW DFM

Continued... Page Four

Onto England - and Action

At this point Ken was shipped from Canada to Britain, via Iceland where they stopped during August 1941. Details are as yet unknown of his departure date from Canada but if his path continued to follow that of Alan Feisst, which is very likely, then on the 14th of August he would have made his was to No. 1 "Y" Depot at Halifax, Nova Scotia. There he would have embarked on a troopship bound for Britain.

Along the way on the Atlantic journey, Ken took the following photos:

The convoy in which Ken travelled to England, via Iceland, had a total of 80 ships in it when it left port. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


Swimming in a hot pool in Iceland. The island's volcanic activity heats the water. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


The sunset in Iceland. The photo is not enhanced, the print has yellowed that colour over the years. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


Washing day in Iceland, the old fashioned way. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


American warships seen in a Fiord at Iceland. This was before the USA entered the war. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


After the break at Iceland, the convoy steamed onwards. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor

He'd have arrived on British soil in late August 1941, and was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth. This depot was a rest point where RNZAF aircrews waited in a 'pool', awaiting for further orders to their next training course. It seems he took advantage of this period to see some sights of southern England.


A view of Bournemouth in late August 1941, Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


Airmen pushing a double decker bus around on a turntable. It is owned by the Bournemouth Corporation. Its destination plates states 'Boscombe' and 'Landsdowne Square'. Perhaps it was on such an excursion that Ken took in the following sights. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


The Old Priory at Christchurch. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


A very artistic view of Corf Castle. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor


The Forest Barn Guest House, location unknown. Ken's caption was simply 'Typical thatched roof'. Photo Ken Law Collection , via Pam O'Connor

Duty called eventually and on the 10th of October 1941, Ken began a conversion course onto the Vickers Wellington Mk Ic at No. 23 Operational Training Unit, Pershore. It was this posting that saw Ken and Alan finally split up.

No. 23 Operational Training Unit

Ken's first flight in the twin-engined Vickers Wellington happened on the 15th of October 1941, when he flew as second pilot with Sgt Groskin as captain and instructor in Wellington 8867. This was followed by a number of flights with Groskin as pilot, as well as flights with Flight Sergeant Atkinson, Flying Officer Parker, Pilot Officer Hay, Flying Officer Dyer and Pilot Offer Bonnett in command of the aircraft at different times.

At the O.T.U., Ken came face to face with the realities of war. As well as flying there was ground training, including gas drill. England lived in fear that Hitler may use gas, and here two photos show Ken preparing for such an eventuality, before and after I guess.



On the 27th of October Ken took over the captain's seat and flew as first pilot for the first time, with Sgt Bradey in the second seat. After a satisfactory number of hours on these training flights, Ken was then ready to move onto C Flight of the OTU, where he was teamed up with a full crew.

Ken's first crew consisted of himself as second pilot and instructor F/Sgt Walsh in charge, with Sgt Nightengale, Sgt Reay, Sgt Calvert, Sgt Weller and Sgt Bertie 'Bing' Cosby onboard. They took to the air together on the night of 20th of November 1941 and flew from Pershore on a navigational flight that took in Aberystwyth, Codling Bank, and Douglas Point A before returning to Aberystwyth and then to base at Pershore.

After a second training flight on the same navigational circuit with the same crew except this time Sgt Doudswell as captain on the following night, Ken was then ready to step into the captain's seat and fly in command of his crew for circuits and landings.

More navigational flights with instructors in the pilot's seat continued over various nights, working up the proficiency of the crew.

On the 29th of November Ken flew as second pilot with Flight Lieutenant Bois on a weather flight, and the only other crew member at this time was navigator Sgt Jack Fox, who would later fly several such flights with Ken, and then join his crew more permanently.

On the 8th of December 1941 during the day the crew, with F/Sgt Henderson in command and Sgt Stubbs along for the mission too, conducted their first bombing exercise at Hilmartin. Then in the evening they set off again with Sgt Goodman in command, this time into enemy territory. They conducted a Nickel Raid on Paris, and upon returning to Britain they landed at Middle Wallop. Nickel was the RAF code for the dropping of propaganda leaflets on enemy-held territory, so this did not involve the dropping of bombs. Aboard on this trip instead of Sgt Reay was Pilot Officer Goad. This was quite possibly Pilot Officer Leon Goad.

No. 150 Squadron

In subsequent days they had another bombing practice at Hilmartin. This course was completed on the 12th of December 1941, and after a week of leave, the crew joined No. 150 Squadron, at Snaith, in Yorkshire, on the 19th of December.

More circuits and landings for the crew followed joining the squadron, with Flight Lieutenant Kirkby joining the crew for each flight as 1st pilot. They did have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, but on the 27th of December their second operational mission was noted as a 'Fresher on Boulogne'. F/Lt Kirkby was again in command.

The following day Ken gained some air experience as a passenger during an air test on a Consolidated Liberator II, serial 506. This was flown by F/Lt Kirby and P/O McDonald.

On January the 2nd 1942 the crew, with Kirkby in charge, bombed the practice range at Finningly. This daytime practice was prelude to the crew's first night bombing raid, which took place on the 6th of January, on Brest. However not all the regular crew were aboard. The pilot in charge of Wellington Z1150 'Q' was F/Lt Kirkby with Ken as 2nd Pilot. The rest of the crew were Sgt's Kay, Brown, Quinn and Young. Probably all more experienced airmen, and perhaps the rest of the crew also went on the raid but split into other aircraft with more experienced crews?

On the night of the 15th of January Ken, Kirkby and the regular crew raided Hamburg in Wellington X9812 'A', and on the 17th the crew practiced formation flying by day in Z1072 'S'.

Then the crew got their regular aircraft, 'Q' for Queenie back and they raided Bremen by night on the 21st of January. More formation flying on the 25th in the daytime was followed by a raid on brest that night. between all these flights were various air tests in the daytime to ensure that Queenie and the other aircraft they used were running smooth and efficiently.

On the 28th of January 1942, the crew set out to raid Munster in Z1150 'Q', but the mission was not completed due to the aircraft icing up.

On the 6th of February Ken joined a different crew to raid Brest, with the first pilot being Sgt Stirling, and crew consisting of Sgt's O'Donogune, Duringer, Edington and Roberts. Upon returning the aircraft, Z9683 'Z', landed at West Raynham.

Returning to raid Brest on the 11th, Ken was back with his own crew again and this time flying with Sgt Stirling in the captain's seat, aboard X9814 'O'.

Something a little different happened on the night of the 12th of February when Ken and crew joined F/Lt Kirkby aboard 'Q' again to search the North Sea for German warships. No sightings are listed in Ken's logbook.

Another crew swap occurred on Ken's next raid, on Mannheim, where he and Kirkby teamed up again with the now F/Sgt Kay and Sgt's Brown, Young and Quinn.

The 19th of February was also eventful when on a cross-country exercise with his regular crew of Nightengale, Calvert, Cosby and Weller and Sgt Briggs who seems to have taken Reay's place at some stage, aboard, plus Pilot Officer Yates, the flight was cut short when the port engine cylinder head had temperature failure.

A lot of domestic flying occurred now, cross-country navigations, circuits and bumps, air tests and formation flying over the next few weeks. Even some single engine flying practice. Various aircraft from the squadron were flown over this time including L7870 'W', R1283 'O', R1491 'V', X9815 'Y' and the venerable Z1150 'Q' for Queenie.

During formation practice on the 22nd of March the exercise was cut short when the starboard engine became unserviceable (i.e., conked out). Ken abandoned the practice and guided R1491 'Y' home to Snaith safely.

It was back into action on the night of the 25th of March, when Ken flew R1491 'Y' with Sgt's Nightengale, Fox, Briggs, Cosby and Weller on a 'Fresher' to St Nazaire.

Two days later the crew flew to Stanton Harcourt to prepare for their part in one of the great raids of the war. In the hours of the night of the 27-28 of March 1942, British Commandos sneaked in under the watchful eyes of the occupying Germans at St Nazaire docks aboard an old warship, HMS Campbelltown. The ship had been disguised as a German vessel and had managed to get right in and then ram the docks, allowing the Commandos to disembark and run havoc among German defences in the town. This daring and successful seaborne assault was accompanied by the RAF bombing the town at the same time to heighten the enemy's confusion, Ken was in command of one of those bombers, Vickers Wellington R1491 'Y'.

After the six hour, fifty minute trip that this St Nazaire raid turned out to be for Ken, he and his crew finally landed back at Stanton Harcourt. This was the first operation into enemy territory that Ken had made where he was in command of the aircraft, without any other senior pilot aboard. He was now a captain.

After repositioning to base at Snaith on the next day, the 28th, the crew were off again that night for a seven hour and five minute trip to bomb Lubeck. Ken's log book has the comment "Grand Blaze" after this one.

Another op on the night of the 2nd of April saw Ken flying Wellington DV578 'Y' to raid the suburb of Poissy in Paris. This was a low level attack, and took six and a half hours.

The next op was to Cologne on the 5th of April. and joining Ken, Jack Fox, Jock Briggs, 'Bing' Cosby and Sam Weller aboard DV578 was C. Gordon Cairns, as 2nd Pilot.

The next night as the crew headed to raid Essen, the aircraft iced up and they were forced to turn back. In the cold altitude when ice builds up on the wings of an aircraft, it destroys the lamina airflow of the wing, reducing and eventually eliminating the lift effect. So ice is a very dangerous thing.

Ken and his crew raided Hamburg on the night of the 8th of April, and then on the 10th they bombed Essen. Their Wellington DV578 was attacked by a Messersmitt Me110 on this raid, but they survived the attack.

On the 24th of April they flew an op in X3450 'Y' but the logbook entry of Dunkirk is struck through with pen, and the word Fresher appears in brackets beside it.

Then on the night of 27th and 28th came the crew's most eventful raid, one that made history due to Ken's great skills as a pilot. During a raid on Cologne his skill as a pilot saved himself and his crew after the aircraft X3450 'Y' had been set alight by an Me110.

In the book 'Official History, New Zealanders With The Royal Air Force' (Vol. 1, 1953), Wing Commander H.L. Thompson describes this 1942 incident thus:

“In the early hours of 28 April a battered Wellington of No. 150 Squadron skidded in to make a belly landing at a base in Lincolnshire. The outward flight to Cologne had been comparatively uneventful, but while the Wellington was returning over the North Sea a German fighter made a surprise attack.

Fire broke out amidships and spread rapidly, burning away the fuselage as it did so. Before the enemy machine broke away, both the main and tail planes of the Wellington had been damaged, numerous struts were shattered, and the undercarriage rendered useless.

The fire was eventually extinguished, but by that time the machine was little more than a skeleton as most of the fabric had been burnt away. It was only the fine airmanship of the pilot, Sgt Law, that got the Wellington back across the sea to England .”

When word of this event finally reached home, the local Cambridge newspaper, the Waikato Independent, ran this article on the 10th of July 1942 about the event which includes a description in his own words:




Blinded by smoke and sparks when the plane under his command caught fire during a recent bombing raid, and with his rudder out of action, Sergeant-Pilot K.O. Law, of Cambridge, brought it safely to earth, saving the lives of his crew of six as well as his machine. He describes his experience as "rather a shaky trip."

In a letter written from England, and dated April 29 last, to his parents, Mr and Mrs A.J. Law, of Cambridge, Sergeant-Pilot Law says:-

"I had rather a shaky trip the other night, and will tell you as much as I can. I was nearly home from a raid when an enemy plane attacked us before we saw him. He set the plane on fire, and what a fire it was! I was blinded by smoke and sparks, so I dived down 5000 feet very fast and this put out the fire.

"My rudder controls were smashed, but at this stage I got control and flew home. I had to make a belly-crash landing, as I could not get my wheels down. But we landed O.K., and nobody was hurt, thank goodness.

"Everybody who has seen the plane since have wondered how it ever flew, as half the body was burnt. Even experts say they cannot think how it flew, which says a wonderful lot for British planes."

Sergeant-Pilot Law is in charge of a Wellington bomber with a crew of six and had done 23 raids to the end of April. He states they always like to see a long stream of big fires left in their trail - a good job well done.


Ken's comment in his logbook is somewhat understated however. He remarked:


The following photos show just how badly damaged the aircraft was by the fire, and how lucky the crew were in actually guiding it home. They come from Ken Law's collection, via Pam O'Connor.









Above, a photo taken the next morning with the crew lined up by the Wellington. From left to right is Jack Fox (the Navigator), Gordon Cairns (the 2nd Pilot), Ken Law (the captain), Sam Weller (the Rear Gunner), Jock Briggs (the Wireless Operator-Air Gunner) and Bertie 'Bing' Cosby (Front Gunner).

By the 3rd of May 1942 the crew were once again in action, bombing Hamburg in X3755 'Z', and two nights later raiding Stuttgart in X3465. On the latter trip Sgt Hodsell replaced Sgt Briggs.

The next few days included a lot of daytime local flying practice, as usually occurred between raids. One notable practice on the 9th of May 1942 was formation and fighter co-operation. This was obviously training the crews with daylight raids in mind, as night bombing was done in streams spaced out by minutes rather than formation to avoid collision.

Between the 18th and 22nd of May, Ken underwent a Blind Approach course at Mildenhall, before returning to No. 150 Squadron at Snaith and continuing practice flying.

On the 30th of May, Ken and his crew bombed Cologne in a 1000 bomber raid, in Wellington III X3762, coded 'Y'.

Two nights later on June 1st, the crew of 'Y' joined in another thousand bomber raid, this time on Essen, and then on the 3rd of June 1942 another 1000 aircraft raid on Bremen. The RAF was really hammering the Germans now.

A further raid was made by Ken and his crew on Essen on the 5th of June, so they were bombing every two nights at this time.

On the 7th of June the crew went Gardening on the Dutch Coast - 'Gardening' being the RAF code for dropping anti-shipping mines from the air into the sea.

On the 16th they returned once more to bomb Essen, and on both nights of the 19th and then the 20th of June they bombed Emden. This was followed by a third trip to Emden on the 22nd, and then they bombed Bremen three times on the nights of the 25th, 27th and 29th of June 1942.

The 29th of June 1942 proved to be Ken's last raid. It was his 35th, totaling 195 hours, 35 minutes of operational flying. A well deserved leave break was had, and then on the 14th of July 1942 he was posted to No. 15 OTU at Hampstead Norris, where it's likely he was simply having a refresher and being checked for suitability as an instructor. This period where he was flying Wellington Ic's lasted till just the 5th of August 1942.

Then it was off to No 3 Flying Instructors School, at Castle Combe in the Cotswolds. From the 11th of August till the 6th of September 1942, Ken  was being trained in the skills of instructing student pilots and crews. He was flying Airspeed Oxfords here till the 28th of August 1942.  

Meanwhile on the very day he began this course, it was gazetted that the April fire incident, and other work as captain of his aircraft, saw to it that Ken was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal . The citation read:

“Sergeant Law possesses commendable courage and he has a fine record of achievement won by exceptional fearlessness in the face of danger. In April, 1942, when in combat with enemy aircraft over the North Sea Sergeant Law's aircraft was seriously damaged and set on fire.

By skill and coolness he evaded the attacker, and enabled his crew to get the fire under control. He flew the aircraft back to base and made a perfect landing in the dark with the wheels retracted. Thus, by his calculated handling of his aircraft, both he and his crew escaped from a most perilous situation.

On another occasion he demonstrated fine airmanship when flying his damaged aircraft back to base in very difficult circumstances. ”

Ken returned to No. 15 OTU at Hampstead Norris on the 28th of August, and embarked upon the new and often dangerous challenge as an instructor, training crews for aerial combat in Wellington bombers. No. 15 OTU moved to Harwell on the 26th of September, and Ken moved with the unit, via Chipping Norton.

Now, as an instructor in 'C' Flight of 15 OTU, Ken's days and nights were filled with flying such uneventful trips as 'circuits and landings', 'conversions', 'dual x country' (cross country), 'N.F.T.' (night flying tests) and the likes. Occasional more interesting flights included such trips as on the 23rd of September when Ken, Sgt Ford and crew did a 'dual cross country' with 'Night Fighter and Searchlight Co-operation'.

On the 8th of October 1942 Ken and Warrant Officer Heney and crew had to land their aircraft at Litchfield after taking off from that base when his aircraft suffered engine failure.

On the 27th of October Ken transferred to 'F' Flight of the OTU. This doesn't seem to have altered the types of flying duties he was performing, except there was more night flying and less daytime work. He was also flying in Avro Ansons a fair bit as well as the Wellington.

A great thrill it must have been on the 24th of November 1942, because Ken went to London to receive his DFM. The investiture was at Buckingham Palace, and the medal was personally presented to him by HM King George VI.

A note in the Independent newspaper on the 16th of December 1942 says,

"Latest information of Kenneth Law states that he had completed 'five and a half hundred' hours of flying in England up to the end of September. Included in these hours were 35 raids on enemy territory. Flight-Sergeant Law is now doing operational instruction work in different parts of England. He flies a Wellington bomber."

Ken continued as a 15 OTU instructor till the end of December 1942, and from the 1st of January 1943 he was posted to "F" Flight of No 24 OTU at Honeybourne, where he continued to instruct. Now he was flying the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk V, a less successful bomber than the Wellington. Most of his instruction work here included flying gunners for air firing and cine gun exercises. There was also some navigational work such as cross countries, and bombing exercises. This unit moved to Long Marston on the 26th of February.

On the 13th of March 1943 as Ken was taking off in Whitley V AD680 "P", with Sgt Evans aboard for initial dual flying, the starboard tyre burst, and they ended up crash landing at Honeybourne. Ken was not badly hurt and back in the air on the 19th. He continued instructing through 1943 and well into 1944.


The Cambridge newspaper reported on the 24th of January 1944 that Ken had now been commissioned to the rank of Flying Officer. The promotion was made on the 15th of November 1943, according to a letter his parents had received and passed onto the newspaper to quote.

That article also states that while flying as an instructor he'd had three narrow escapes.

"On one occasion he was about to land when a tyre blew out and he had to make the rest of the landing on one wheel which he accomplished without damage to the machine or injury to the crew. On another occasion he was instructing when his pupil made a faulty landing. Flying Officer Law did well to save the plane and crew again, though he was slightly injured."

The last flight listed in the logbook his daughter has a copy of was on the 30th of March 1944. Possibly he began a second logbook after this, or it may have been his last flight with the RAF.

Either way, on the 8th of July 1944 Ken got his last UK posting. He transferred to No 12 Personnel Repatriation Unit  Padgate, to await the journey home to New Zealand.

He remained at Padgate till the 25th of July 1944, before boarding a ship to New Zealand, and it was reported in the Waikato Independent on the 29th of September 1944 that Ken had returned home to Cambridge:

"The Flying Officer is among the many airmen of Cambridge, who among service and sacrifice, have done so much for their country and for the present good name of Cambridge.

He arrived at Frankton this morning by the Wellington Express and received a joyous welcome from his parents. Flying Officer Law has been away about four years, going through Canada to England where he has been for about three and a-half years.

He has a fine record as an operational airman and his decoration was for distinguished conduct while flying. Prior to leaving England on furlough Flying Officer Law had been instructing for a considerable period.

His brother, Sgt-Pilot Donald Newsham Law, was killed in England some three years ago during operations with a Spitfire Squadron. The other brother, LAC Eric Stuart Law, is at present in Christchurch taking his third course in flying.

We join with his parents, the many friends and the people of Cambridge, in extending a hearty welcome home to a distinguished son of Cambridge."

Ken attended a welcome home dance in December 1944, and was released that same month from the RNZAF having served his country admirably.

Details of Death: Ken died at Te Miro, Cambridge, on the 25th of February 1958, aged just 41, from a heart attack
Buried at: Hautapu Cemetery, Cambridge (RSA Cemetery Plot: Plot 8 Row A)

Connection with Cambridge: Ken Law lived in the Cambridge district before, during and after the war.

Waikato Independent reports that mention Ken Law:
Farewelled with Wallet 26 April 1941
“A Shaky Trip” 10 July 1942
Awarded DFM 17 Aug 1942
Citation and Photo 24 Aug 1942
DFM from King George VI 9 Dec 1942
Expanded Citation 16 Dec 1942
Another Award 1 march 1943
Promoted to Flying Officer (Photo) 24 Jan 1944
Returns home 29 Sept 1944
Welcome home 13 Dec 1944


During my research I noticed Ken Law's spelling of crew names often changed. Bertie Cosby was sometimes spelled Crosby, Sam Weller sometimes as Wheller, etc. I have endeavoured to try to a) find the correct spelling, and b) discover the fate of the other airmen in this story. The latter is sad in that most never survived the war. If you look at the course list on page three for Ken's Canada course, I have linked the names of all those who were killed to their Commonwealth War Graves Commission webpage. Around 2/3rds were killed.

Furthermore, of the men that Ken saved the night he miraculously brought the burning Wellington home, at least three were later killed - Cairns, Weller and Cosby. A number of airmen by the name of John Fox were also killed and perhaps one was the Sgt Jack Fox aboard that Wellington that night. I have been unable to account for the fate of Jock Briggs and assume he survived.

Click the links on the names below to see more:

Crew Position Known as Fate
Kenneth Oscar Law
Charles Gordon Cairns
John Fox
Bertie Harry Cosby
Harold Weller
2nd Pilot
Front Gunner
Rear Gunner

'Bing' and 'Sam' died together. See here

Lest We Forget


Thanks to Pam O'Connor, Natalie Bayer and the late Ivan Lindsey for their assistance with information on this page, as well as the usual good help of Eris Parker and the team at the Cambridge Museum

Home Airmen Roll of Honour