Kenneth Oscar LAW DFM
Serial Number: NZ41340
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment:19th of January 1941
Date of Demob: 28th of December 1944
Rank Achieved: Flying Officer
Flying Hours: 1385 hours
Operational Sorties: 35 at least
Date of Birth: 17th of October 1916, at Inglewood in Taranaki, NZ
Personal Details: Ken was the son of Albert John Law and Ivy Juanita Law, of Princes Street, Cambridge. He was the brother of fellow Cambridge airmen Don Law and Eric Law. Ken was educated at Bulls Primary School in the Manawatu, and New Plymouth Boys High School. When his family moved to Cambridge from Bulls, Ken came too. Before joining the RNZAF, he was learning farming in the Cambridge district.
A keen sportsman, Ken was involved in athletics, rugby, swimming and followed the Waikato Hunt. He also enjoyed playing golf.
Ken was married to Gwen (nee Brunskill) and had two children, Pam and Donald. His daughter Pam, now Pam O'Connor, has kindly assisted with much information for this page.
A Note: Ken Law was one of Cambridge's more distinguished bomber pilots, who was followed fairly keenly by the local press. He also took an extensive amount of photographs, many of which he sent home to his then girlfriend and later wife Gwen Brunskill. These photos and more information is currently (late June 2006) being added to the page, so keep checking back for new additions over the next month or so.
There are a number of photos on here which are an amazing look at the social history of our airmen at war - if they do not all load first time on your computer, click the refresh button in your browser, or right-click on the individual photo and hit 'Show Picture' in the pop-down menu that appears.
Service Details: Ken first joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force on the 19th of January 1941, at RNZAF Station Levin for basic training. He arrived here with another Cambridge local, Lloyd Kelly, who had been in the RNZAF since 1939 but had remustered to the trade of pilot and joined the same initial course as Ken. Another local who was already at Levin doing his basic training was Alan Feisst. Alan was a few weeks ahead of Ken, and would also be ahead of him when they both moved onto No. 4 EFTS for flying training, but would eventually go to Canada together and train on the same SFTS course. Lloyd however dropped back to a later flying course at Whenuapai's EFTS, so this is the only time the two served together it seems.
Above, a photo of Ken Law (left) and Lloyd Kelly (right) relaxing in a hut at Levin in January 1941. Note the standard RNZAF 'bedpack' behind Lloyd, which is a special way sheets and blankets are folded for inspection to this day in the RNZAF. The mattress has also been folded back revealing the sprung bed, very comfortable at the time compared with Army palliasses. Also note the canvas walls of the hut. The lower walls and floor were wooden, the upper walls and roof were canvas - nice in summer but not in winter. Ken appears to be reading a manual of some sort. I wonder if Ken and Lloyd were hut mates, or whether Lloyd was just visiting. Photo: Ken Law collection, via Pam O'Connor
Above: This photo shows Flight 4A, and I assume it was taken at RNZAF Station Levin, because it appears that Lloyd Kelly is squatting next to Ken Law in the front row, third and second from right respectively. A blow up below rom the same photo:
Above: This appears to be the only other photo Ken took while at Levin. This is his PT, or Physical Training, class group. It appears that Lloyd Kelly is the man fifth from left in the back row. Photo: Ken Law collection, via Pam O'Connor
After initial training at Levin, where the basics of military life and drill instruction were learned, both men were posted to RNZAF Station Whenuapai. Arriving on the 3rd of March 1941 they joined a course at No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School there to commence flying training on DH82 Tiger Moths.
Ken's training saw him paired up with several different instructors, which was unusual as airman pilots usually stuck with just one all the way through a course. They included Flying Officer J.D. Paterson OBE, Fling Officer Greig, Pilot Officer Cochrane, Pilot Officer Grimsdale, and Cambridge's own Pilot Officer Bryan Oliver.
Above: A photo taken by Ken Law of the aircraft of No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School, all lined up outside the hangar at RNZAF Station Whenuapai. Sadly not a very clear photo but none the less historic. Photo: Ken Law collection, via Pam O'Connor
Above: de Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth NZ797, with what is quite probably Ken in control, as his logbook lists several flights in this machine, and perhaps he had a friend photograph him in the air. Photo: Ken Law collection, via Pam O'Connor
Ken went solo on the 20th of March 1941 after instruction by Bryan Oliver, being tested for solo flying by Flight Lieutenant Hudson, He was tested again on the 30th of March by Flight Lieutenant K.G. Smith for his 20 Hour Test, and then on the 8th of April by the same instructor for his 40 hour Test. After 25.25 hours flying on the Tiger Moths, and 5.30 hours in the Link Trainer simulator, Ken was signed off on the 11th of April 1941 by Flt Lt Smith and by Squadron Leader John Seabrook (a WWI pilot and now Chief Flying Instructor at No. 4 EFTS) as having passed his elementary flying training.
He was now proficient enough to move on from this school to the next training level. Like many airman pilots who'd achieved this level of instruction, Ken was selected to be transported by ship to Canada where his training would continue under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
But before shipping out from New Zealand, Ken was allowed his Final Leave. He wasn't the only Cambridge boy to be shipping out though, he and fellow newly trained Cambridge airmen LAC Alan Feisst, plus Sgt James Ritchie who'd trained as a pilot to Wings level in NZ, and LAC Tom Peak who was training to be an Air Gunner were all going on to or through Canada. So all four returned to Cambridge from their respective training depots for Final Leave and an official farewell from the town.
The farewell function took place on the 24th of April 1941 in the Cambridge Town Hall's Council Chamber. It was officiated over by the Cambridge Borough Mayor, Mr Edgar James, who was reported to have said of these young men, "We are proud of these lads and the other New Zealand airmen who have gone ahead of them to do such great work overseas."
The four airmen were each presented with wallets from the Cambridge branch of the Patriotic Committee. It was reported in the Waikato Independent newspaper on the 26th of April 1941:
"The attendance was one of the largest that had gathered at such a function, said Mr James, but it was only a fraction of the people of the district who would have liked to be present. On behalf of the people of Cambridge he wished the guests of honour the best of luck and a safe return to Cambridge."
On the 29th of April 1941, the four Cambridge lads and their comrades from all around the Dominion left Auckland aboard the ship 'Awatea' bound for Canada. Jim Ritchie would carry on straight to England, whilst the other three went on to complete their training in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
Ken Law's wonderful photo collection allows us a rare opportunity to see a route travelled by thousands of Kiwi airmen on their way to Canada and beyond, across the Pacific route to Vancouver, and then across the Rocky Mountains and great plains of Canada by train.
The Awatea stopped at Suva in Fiji when crossing the Pacific. Ken did take a photo from the ship of Suva, but it's blurred sadly, and thus I won't put it on this page. However he also photographed these Fijian crew members aboard the Awatea. I'm not sure if they were permanent crew for the voyage or just local harbour pilot staff. The airman remains as yet unidentified. Photo: Ken Law collection, via Pam O'Connor
On board the Awatea, en route for Canada, Ken poses with course mate and friend 'Bill' Latta. I believe this is Selwyn Latta who was an RNZAF pilot with a service number just one digit before Ken's (NZ41339), and Bill must have been his nickname. Selwyn Latta went on to serve with No. 489 (NZ) Squadron, and was sadly killed on the
9th of April 1943 flying a Handley Page Hampden Mk I. See here
Photo: Ken Law collection, via Pam O'Connor
Another photo of Selwyn 'Bill' Latta with an unknown airman aboard the ship. You cannot see the rank of the other airman, but I note his cap, tucked into his belt, does not have the Airman Pilot white flash like Bill's does. This denoted the airman was still training, so this unknown chap may well have been qualified already.
Photo: Ken Law collection, via Pam O'Connor
Go To Page Two - Canada
Thanks to Pam O'Connor, Natalie Bayer and 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