Oswald William SUCKLING
Known to all as ‘Bill'
Serial Number: NZ404567
RNZAF Trade: Observer
Date of Enlistment: 24th November 1940
Rank Achieved: Pilot Officer
Flying Hours: 293 hours
Operational Sorties: 10 Ops
Date of Birth: 26th of November 1915, at Wellington
Personal Details: Bill was the son of Mr
Phillip Willway Suckling and Daisy Emma Beatrice Suckling, of Pukekura, Cambridge. He was educated at Gisborne High School and Wellington College, where he passed the matriculation examination. He was keen on rugby, tennis, golf, polo and boxing.
On completing his education in 1933, he joined his father in farming at their Pukekura sheep station called "Glenfern", just outside of Cambridge. He was working there when he applied to join the RNZAF in November 1939.
The newspaper reports on the 2nd of November 1942 that Bill Suckling “was one of the most likeable of young men, and was very popular. He was secretary of the Polo Club for two or three years, and was previously a member of the United Football Club. He was keenly-interested in horses and all healthy athletics.”
Service Details: As one of the first men to join up at the Cambridge Post Office, Bill was accepted into the RNZAF on the 24th of November 1940, beginning his training at the Initial Training Wing, RNZAF Levin.
The Air Force hadn't been his first choice, but he was not allowed to join NZ Army because he was a farmer so he went into the RNZAF.
In late January 1941 Bill and his mate and fellow RNZAF trainee Martyn Byrne, also from Cambridge, were given an official farewell by the people of the town. See the report here.
On the 30th of January 1941, having completed initial training at Levin, Bill and Martin sailed for Canada onboard R.M.S. Aorangi to complete their course as Observers, or Navigators as the trade was also known. They arrived at No. 4 Air Observer School at London, Ontario and became members of Course No. 27.
On the 12th of May 1941 Bill proceeded to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at Jarvis, Ontario, for the next phase of training. This course was completed on the 23rd of June 1941, and Bill received his Air Observer badge, or brevet. He was promoted to Sergeant also, and a month later he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer.
Meanwhile on the 24th of June he had proceeded to No. 1 Advanced Navigation School at Rivers, Ontario. This course was completed on the 27th of July 1941, and then Bill made his way to No. 1 "M" Depot, Debert, Nova Scotia, to await embarkation on a troopship, for Britain.
He arrived safely in England and reported on the 18th of August 1941 at No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, Bournemouth. From here on the 23rd of August he proceeded to No. 23 Operational Training Unit at Pershore, Worcestershire, where he joined a crew and completed his training on Vickers Wellington bombers.
On the 6th of October 1941, Bill was posted with his crew to No. 150 Squadron, RAF on Wellington bombers. They were based at Snaith in Yorkshire, and Bill soon got into operational flying against the enemy. He took part in raids against the following German cities - Mannheim (twice); Kiel, Hamburg; Cologne; Dusseldorf; and Munster. He also made raids on the French city of Brest twice. His final raid was on Essen in Germany.
The local newspaper, the Waikato Independent reports he flew 12 operations, but official records show only ten missions were flown before Bill was tragically killed.
Details of Death: Bill took off in No. 150 Squadron Vickers Wellington IC, coded DV447, between 1915-2045hrs from RAF Snaith, in Yorkshire. He and his crew were taking part in a raid on Essen, Germany, in which 187 aircraft took part (6 were lost).
Their Wellington was brought down near Gescher, 17km north of Essen. All six crew were killed. Bill was aged 26
Buried at: All six crew were buried at Gescher Cemetery, but were later re-interred to Reichswald Forest, 5km west of Kleve
Connection with Cambridge: Bill had lived at Pukekura, Cambridge, between 1933 and 1940
Note: Details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn.