Ross Walter CUTHBERT

Serial Number: NZ424059
RNZAF Trade: Pilot U/T, then Air Bomber
Date of Enlistment: 1942
Rank Achieved:
Flight Sergeant
Flying Hours: 280 hrs (11 as a Pilot, 269 hrs as an Air Bomber)
Operational Sorties: 4 ops completed

Date of Birth: 7th of November 1923, at Hamilton
Personal Details: The only son of Walter and Nora Cuthbert (late of the Central Hotel, Cambridge), Ross was educated at Sacred Heart College in Auckland where he attained University Entrance. He then furthered his education with night classes at Hamilton Technical College.

He was keen on golf, tennis, athletics, boxing and football. He had been a member of the First XI team at Sacred Heart.

On applying to join the RNZAF, on the 13th of April 1942, Ross was employed with the Department of Labour in Hamilton. He also served for seven months in the Hamilton Air Training Corp prior to going into the RNZAF.

Service Details: Ross enlisted at RNZAF Station Levin on the 31st of May 1942, where he was employed for around five months on station ground duties. This was most probably in an Aerodrome Defence Squadron.

He was then posted to Rotorua to commence work at the Initial Training Wing as an Airman Pilot. On completing this course satisfactorily, he was posted to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School at RNZAF Taieri. However, during instruction there on Tiger Moths, his flying training was terminated, and he was posted to RNZAF Rongotai in Wellington in January 1943.

For whatever reason, being a pilot had not suited Ross, and he was remustered to a new trade. He returned to Rotorua to begin again training as an Air Observer. He then embarked for Canada on the 17th of May 1943.

Once in Canada he began a course at No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School in Lethbridge, Alberta. This was followed by further training at No. 2 Air Observer's School in Edmonton, Alberta. He passed this and was awarded his air bomber's brevet on the 29th of October 1943, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

He embarked for England from No. 1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia on the 24th of November 1943. He arrived and was sent to No. 12 (RNZAF) Personnel Reception Centre at Padgate, where he was held till being posted on the 14th of March 1944 to No. 9 (Observer) Advanced Flying Flight. When he was at this unit, at Penrhos and at Llandwrog, Caernvonshire, he carried out several air exercises in Avro Ansons.

On the 16th of April he proceeded to No. 26 Operational Training Unit at Little Horwood in Buckinghamshire, and then at Wing, in Bedfordshire, where he began training on Wellington bombers. Ross was promoted to Flight Sergeant on the 24th of April 1944.

On finishing this course he and his crew proceeded to No. 1651 Conversion Unit at Wratting Common, in Cambridgeshire. There he converted onto the Short Stirling heavy bomber. Then his final phase of training was onto No. 3 Lancaster Finishing School at Feltwell in Norfolk. This school got Ross and his fellow crew members proficient with the Avro Lancaster bomber.

On the 5th of October 1944 Ross was posted to No. 115 Squadron at Witchford, Cambridgeshire. He flew with the squadron from this base on four operational flights, the targets being Cap Gris Nez, Calais twice and West Cappel, in France.

Details of Death: On Thursday the 5th of October 1944, Ross set out on a raid on Saarbrucken Germany (by 531 Lancasters and 20 Mosquitoes – 3 lost). He took off from RAF Witchford, Cambridgeshire, in Avro Lancaster I PD344 (coded M) of No 115 Squadron at 17:15hrs.

The Lancaster is believed to have collided with a No. 75 (NZ) Squadron Lancaster III (ND904/B) about 85km northwest of the target area. Both Lancs crashed at Wolsfeld. Both crews of seven were buried at Wolsfeld New Church Cemetery, near Trier, but later re-interred. Ross was aged 20

Buried at: Plot 8.G.2. in Rheinberg War Cemetery, 12 km south of Wesel.

Connection with Cambridge: Ross was formerly a resident of Cambridge, New Zealand prewar when his parents owned a local hotel there.

Notes: Note: Details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn. See more details on these highly recommended books here


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