Phillip James PENTELOW
Serial Number: NZ403024
RNZAF Trade: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (becoming a Mid Upper Gunner)
Date of Enlistment:1940
Rank Achieved: Flying Officer
Flying Hours: 44 hours as Air Gunner
Operational Sorties: 32 Ops
Date of Birth: 5th of November 1913, at Opunake
Personal Details: Phillip was the fourth son of John William and Emma Caroline Pentelow, who lived at Monavale, Cambridge, and he was the husband of Marion Florence Pentelow, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
He was educated at Koru School, where he passed the Proficiency examination.
He was a senior rugby player and he also enjoyed playing cricket and tennis. After school Phillip worked as a bridgeman for New Zealand Railways. He applied to serve in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in September 1939.
Service Details: Phillip enlisted for aircrew training at the Ground Training School, RNZAF Levin, on the 1st of September 1940. Following initial training there, he was selected to be trained as an Air Gunner, and embarked on the Awatea at Auckland to travel to Canada on the 5th of November 1940 for training under the EATS.
Shortly after arriving in Canada, Phillip was posted to No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary, Alberta on the 21st of November 1940. There he trained as a Wireless Operator, before moving onto the other area of his trade on the 26th of April 1941, when he was posted to No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at MacDonald, Manitoba.
He passed this course and was awarded his WAG brevet on the 26th of May 1941. He was also promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He proceeded on the 8th of June 1941 to No. 1 "M" Depot, Debert, Nova Scotia to await embarkation on a troopship to England.
Phillip arrived on the 16th of July 1941 and was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Area at Bournemouth. On the 28th of that month he was posted onto a course with No. 1 Signals School at Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
Following his training there, he was posted on the 25th of November 1941 to No. 42 Operational Training Unit, at Andover in Hampshire. He crewed up there and completed his operational training in Bristol Blenheim light bombers. Phillip was promoted to Flight Sergeant on the 1st of April 1943.
On the 23rd of April 1943, Phillip and his fellow crew members were posted to No. 21 Squadron at Feltwell in Norfolk. As the gunner in Blenheims and Lockheed Ventura bombers, Phillip took part in 25 operational sorties with this squadron. They included two separate attacks on Ijumuiden, Holland; attacking the docks at Rotterdam, and bombing the radio works at Eindhoven, both again in Holland. Also raids on Abbeville (three times), Coutrai, Boulogne, Dunkirk, St. Brieux three times, and Brest (all in France); Zeebrugge in Belgium; and three air-sea rescue flights over the English Channel.
Following this active period, Phillip was posted to No. 1482 Flight, at West Raynham, Norfolk, for a short period of air firing refresher courses. He then embarked for Canada, having been posted to No. 31 Bomber and Gunnery School at Picton, Ontario where he was to become an instructor. Whilst there he was promoted and commissioned to the rank of Pilot Officer on the 22nd of March 1944. He was promoted once again on the 22nd of September 1944 to Flying Officer.
He instructed at the school till the 3rd of November 1944, at which point he returned to the UK.
On the 30th of January 1945 Phillip was posted to the Pathfinders Navigational Training Unit at Warboys in Huntingdonshire. Following training here he took up a position with No, 35 Squadron at Graveley, Huntingdon, where he became a member of a Lancaster bomber crew, employed as Pathfinders for the bombers.
With this crew he took part in a further seven raids, this time going ahead of the main bomber force and dropping flares on the following targets to mark them for the bombers - Chemnitz (twice), Dortmund, Duisberg, Essen, Mainz and Mannheim. It was while on the second raid to Chemnitz that Phillip was to be killed.
Details of Death: On Monday the 5th of March 1945, Phillip took off from RAF Graveley, Huntingdonshire in a No. 35 Squadron Avro Lancaster III, coded ME333/S at 1728hrs. The bomber, captained by Sqn Ldr F. Watson, DFC, RAF, was part of 8 Pathfinder Force, and their purpose this night was to raid Chemnitz, Germany. A total of 760 aircraft took part, 40 were lost.
Phillip's bomber never returned. It was believed to have been brought down in the target area. All aboard the aircraft were killed. Phillip was aged 31.
Commemorated at: The seven crew are buried in a collective grave in Chemnitz. However the Russian occupying power after the war would not allow the bodies to be exhumed by Allied research and enquiry teams to confirm their identities and inter them in the west, so the crew are commemorated on Panel 285 of the Runnymede Memorial.
Connection with Cambridge: Phillip was from Monavale, Cambridge
Note: Details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn.