03rd October 1943 485 Squadron Spitfire LF.IX JK769 W/O 2. Wipiti DFM
Operation: Ramrod 258
Date: 03rd October 1943 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 485 Squadron (motto: Ka whawhai tonu - 'We will fight on'). 11 Group
Type: Spitfire LF.IX
Base: RAF Biggin Hill, Kent
Location: English Channel off France
Pilot: W/O 2. Bert Sam Wipiti DFM. NZ/41388 RNZAF Age 21. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 13:35 hours to escort 88 Squadron Bostons that were returning from a raid on the power station at Distré in France.
Before the squadron were able to rendezvous with the Bostons they became engaged with enemy fighters off Cayeuz-sur-Mer.
W/O. Wipiti had just shot down one enemy aircraft when he was also shot down and crashed in the channel.
The squadron lost 3 aircraft during this operation the others:
Spitfire LF.IX MH490 flown by Fl/Lt. James Edward Mortimer NZ/412259 RNZAF who baled out and evaded capture and returned to his unit 11 months later.
Spitfire LF.IX MH351 flown by Sgt. Neville Ernest Frehner NZ/415409 RNZAF who ditched following engine failure near the English coast and quickly picked up by a Walrus some 11 miles off Dungeness.
Burial and other personal details:
W/O.2. Bert Sam Wipiti DFM. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 198. Born on the 16th January 1922 at New Plymouth. Worked as a refrigeration engineer for E.B. Paterson of New Plymouth prior to service. Enlisted on the 18th January 1941 at Levin. Trained with 2 EFTS and awarded his pilots badge on the 24th May 1941, promoted to sergeant on the 05th July 1941. Embarked for Singapore on the 22nd July 1941 and joined 243 squadron flying the Buffalo. Thought he was responsible for the first enemy aircraft to be shot down by his squadron. He was awarded the DFM for his service in Singapore. Evacuated to India on the 21st March 1942. Served with 21, 453, 5 and 67 squadrons flying mixture of aircraft including the Buffal, Mohawk and the Hurricane. Embarked for England in June. He joined 485 squadron 13th August 1943 from 53 Operational Training Unit. Son of Motu Tamihana and Ngamata Paenga (née Lowrie) of Lower Mangoret, New Plymouth, New Zealand. Credited with 3 enemy aircraft destroyed and sharing 3 others. (Some publications write it was 5 enemy aircraft destroyed) It is known he completed 26 operational sorties with 485 squadron but unknown his total number with the other units.
DFM Citation: 'Sergeant Wipiti carried out a large number of operational flights against the enemy and displayed outstanding courage and determination whilst engaging large formations of enemy aircraft. He set a fine example to all'.
After the war, his parents were presented with their son's DFM by the Governor-General of New Zealand, Sir Cyril Newall, in a ceremony at Government House in Wellington.
The road to the east of New Plymouth Airport was named after him.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Ian Banks, Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, AWMM, other sources as quoted below: