Service Number: NZ411866
RNZAF Trade: Pilot U/T, then Observer U/T, then Air Gunner
Date of Enlistment: March 1941
Rank Achieved: Flying Officer
Flying Hours: 515 hours (67 as Pilot, 448 as an Air Gunner)
Operational Sorties: 37 ops
Date of Birth: 27th of September 1917 in Dacca, East Bengal, India
Personal Details: Mick was the son of Captain David Dillon and Mrs Jane Dillon of Roto-o-Rangi. The family came to New Zealand when he was very young, and he was educated at Cambridge District High School. There he gained his Intermediate Certificate. Mick was keen on all sports and actively enjoyed both tennis and rugby.
Coming from a military family, Mick's two brothers and his sister also served in the New Zealand Armed Forces, and his father was an officer in the Cambridge Home Guard. Before RNZAF service he worked on his father's Roto-o-Rangi farm.
Service Details Mick Dillon volunteered for service in the RNZAF on the 23rd of December 1939, but it was not till the 23rd of March 1941 before he was actually taken in and enlisted at RNZAF Levin.
After initial training at Levin, he was posted to No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School at Harewood, Christchurch, to train as a pilot on Tiger Moths. He completed this phase of training satisfactorily, and then was posted to Canada for the next step.
Before embarking he spent Final Leave in Cambridge, and had a farewell dance put on in his honour, along with other young servicemen. This report on his farewell from Cambridge following his training was published in the Waikato Independent on the 14th of July 1941.
AIRMEN AND SAILOR
GATHERING AT TOWN HALL
Five Cambridge airmen and one sailor were honoured at the dance arranged by the Cambridge Inter-Zone Patriotic Committee, and held in the Town Hall on Saturday evening.
They were Pilot-Officer C.O. Hooker, Leading Aircraftmen R.N.H. Jones, L.G. Kelly * and M.F. Dillon, Mr K.C. Ward who is joining the Fleet Air Arm, and Mr J.C. Wilson, who is entering the Navy.
On behalf of the district the Mayor, Mr Edgar James, extended to the guests his sincere appreciation of what they were about to undertake. "We cannot all go as they are going," he said, "but we must measure up to the standard by sacrifice, and prove ourselves worthy of these men."
Mr R. Newcombe, president of the Returned Soldiers' Association, wished the guests of honour the best of luck and every success.
Wallets were presented by the Mayoress, Mrs Edgar James, and Pilot Officer C.O. Hooker returned thanks on behalf of the guests.
Members of the Returned Soldiers' Association were in attendance and formed a guard of honour during the presentation ceremony.
* This and also the newspaper from the 11th of July 1941 noted the name L.G. Kelly. This was in fact Clarence Lloyd Kelly, who was known as Lloyd.
The same farewell was reported on in The New Zealand Observer dated the 23rd of July 1941, under the social page Waikato Doings. It read;
DANCE: A dance was staged recently for several lads in training for the Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. It was a truly successful affair, with presentations to each. An energetic committee was responsible for the evening's entertainment, and included Mrs R.J. Neely, Mrs G.C. Vosper,Mrs Edgar James Mayoress), Mrs W. McLennan, Heather Pierce and Alison Mills, who was over from Hamilton and looked attractive in a frock of black ring velvet.
Mick embarked on the 22nd of July 1941 aboard the Dominion Monarch for Canada. He did his advanced training at No. 6 Service Flying Training School at Dunneville, on Course No. 36. After a period of flying here, for some reason his training was discontinued. He had flown 67 hours as a pilot. After being taken off his flying training course he was sent to Trenton, where he was remustered into the trade of Observer.
He set off for No. 6 Air Observer's School at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan he completed around two months training in this trade, but then returned to Trenton and again remustered, this time to Air Gunner.
Mick began a course at No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View, Ontario. He finished the course on the 11th of May 1942, on which date he was awarded his Air Gunner's brevet and promoted to Sergeant.
On the 31st of May 1942 he set off from Canada, bound for the United Kingdom. Once there he spent a brief respite at No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, Bournemouth, before a posting to No. 7 Air Gunner's School at Stormy Down, Glamorganshire. There he underwent a short course, onboard Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley bombers. From there it was onto No. 11 Operational Training Unit at Bassingbourn, Hertfordshire and at Oakley in Bucks, where he carried out air exercises in Wellington bombers.
In November 1942 he went onto No. 196 Squadron who were operating Wellington bombers. He conducted a full tour, becoming a member of a crew that bombed targets such as Cologne, Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg, Essen, Stuttgart, Mannheim, and Dusseldorf (all in Germany). Also they bombed the U-boat pens at St. Nazaire on the French coast, and conducted mine-laying missions at Lorient and at Brest.
He was promoted to the rank of Flight Sergeant on the 15th of May 1943. On the 16th of June he gained a commission, promoting him to the rank of Pilot Officer.
After the tour was complete Mick had been on 29 raids, and he proceeded on the 17th of July 1943 to No. 83 Operational Training Unit at Peplow, Shropshire, where he took up instructional duties while on 'rest'. In September 1943 he moved to the Central Gunnery School at Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, and continued to instruct in gunnery. In November he returned to No. 83 OTU at Peplow, from where in early January he was involved in carrying out a six-hour sea search. He was now a Flying Officer.
On the 2nd of February 1944 Mick went back onto 'ops' when he was posted to No. 103 Squadron at Elsham Woods, Lincolnshire. From here he carried out an additional 7 raids in Avro Lancasters on targets including Berlin, Essen and Nuremberg, and a mine-laying operation at Gdynia Bay.
He was killed on his 37nd operational mission
From The Waikato Independent dated the 26th of May 1944
F.O. MICHAEL DILLON
Advice has been received by Captain and Mrs D. Dillon, of Roto-o-rangi, that their son, Flying-Officer Michael Dillon, is missing on air operations. Flying-Officer M. Dillon, who was aged 26, was born in India and came to New Zealand with his parents when a child. He was educated at the Roto-o-Rangi Primary School and the Cambridge High School.
Always keenly interested in all forms of sport, Flying Officer M. Dillon was one of the founders of the Roto-o-rangi Tennis Club, being secretary and president at different times, and he was also a member of the local football team for some years. Prior to joining the Ar Force, he worked on his father's farm at Roto-o-rangi.
Flying-Officer Dillon left New Zealand for Canada in 1941 to continue his training as a pilot and from there he went to England where he took part in many operational flights over enemy territory, during the course of which he was promoted to Pilot-Officer and then to Flying Officer.
Captain and Mrs Dillon have a son, Pte. J.H. Dillon, in the Middle East, another son, Staff-Sergeant R. Dillon, being invalided home about six months ago and who is at present in the Records Office, Army Headquarters, Wellington. Their only daughter is Sergeant Helen Dillon of the W.A.A.C.
Details of Death: On Easter Monday, the 10th of April 1944, Mick Dillon and his crew set off on a mission to raid the railway yards at Aulnoye-Aymeries, France (by 147 aircraft, 8 were lost). His 103 Squadron Lancaster BIII JB732 (Coded S) took off from RAF Elsham Wood, Lincolnshire at off 23:10hrs and when returning, at an altitude of 10, 000 feet, it was hit by flak or possibly a rocket projectile, and crashed in flames near Meharicourt, 33km east-southeast of Amiens. Four RAF crew members baled out successfully.
However Mick stayed in the burning aircraft while the rest of the crew baled out. Mick went down with the plane. The navigator and air bomber survived the jump and evaded capture. Mick and the two air gunners died. They are buried at Meharicourt. Mick was aged 26 when he was killed.
Some five months later, Mick's parents received a letter posted airmail from Britain. It was written by Flying Officer A.W. Drage, of Tonbridge, Kent in England. Portions of this letter were published in the Waikato Times on the 1st of November 1944. The article included these extracts:
"I was the navigator of your son's crew and have just returned to this country after hiding in France for five months... Though 'Mick', as we knew him, had only been with us a few weeks we had appreciated his good-natured friendliness to us all; his unfailing good humour, the skill and experience which he commanded; his enthusiasm for the work we were doing; the way which he was able to take each raid as just the job for the day without any excitement and his complete coolness over Germany."
F/O Drage had also described the circumstances in how the aircraft was brought down and what occurred. He said the crew had previously had no trouble in their dozen trips over Germany, and yet this was meant to be to a relatively soft target in France. He described how soon after they'd left the target area following the dropping of their bombs, the aircraft was hit by heavy flak. He said they had been flying much lower than usual for the bomb run to achieve accuracy because they'd wanted to spare the French population below. The aircraft caught fire, and the Captain ordered everyone to bail out. He had heard Mick acknowledge this order, with the words, "O.K. John."
Within 45 to 50 seconds the other members of the crew had bailed out, but he feels something must have happened to Mick because he never left the machine.
Buried at: Mick is buried at the British Plot. Grave 28 Meharicourt Communal Cemetery
Connection with Cambridge: Mick was formerly a resident of Cambridge, New Zealand prewar
For Your Tomorrow by Errol Martyn
AIR 118/62 /b RNZAF biographies of deceased personnel 1939-45 Vol 3 Co - Dy
Cambridge Museum records via Eris Parker
The Waikato Independent newspaper dated:
12th of March 1941 - Training at Levin in RNZAF as airman pilot
14th of July 1941 - Farewelled with Wallet
13th of September 1943 - Promoted to Flying Officer overseas
26th of May 1944 - Missing
1st of November 1944 - Letter from one of his crew