31 Squadron RNZAF Avenger TBF-IC Fl/Sgt. Murray Scofield Aitchison
Date: 01st July 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 31 Squadron RNZAF (motto: Kia Mataara - 'Watch')
Type: Avenger TBF-IC
Base: Piva Bomber Strip, Bougainville, Solomon Islands
Location: near Tobera Airfield, Keravat
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Murray Scofield Aitchison NZ/426088 RNZAF Age 29. Safe
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Rex Tawheta Mathieson NZ/4213267 RNZAF Age 20. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Albert Frederick Walker NZ/425184 RNZAF Age 34. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
History of aircraft:
Arrived in New Zealand on "Dalfonn".
Assembled by No.1 Aircraft Depot, Hobsonville and BOC 25 October 1943 with Unit 36, Hobsonville. To No.30 Squadron, Gisborne. Departed from Gisborne on ferry flight to Espiritu Santos on the 24th January 1944. To No.31 Squadron. Crashed near Tobera Airfield on 01 July 1944. Written off books at Bougainville.
Taking off at 08:20-25 hrs from Piva Bomber Strip to strike against flak positions at Tobera airfield on New Britain.
After completing their bomb run they were hit by flak at 10:05 hrs in the bomb bay. They were then hit a second time which blew away part of the starboard wing. The aircraft went down almost vertically in a slow right spin near the field.
The pilot ordered the crew to bale out only to be thrown out himself seconds later when they were hit for the third time.
A full description of what happened next to the pilot see the MiD citation below. The bodies of the other two crew members were recovered from the wreckage in late 1948 - arly 1949 and buried together in the Port Moresby War Cemetery.
Above L-R: Fl/Sgt. Albert Walker, Fl/Sgt. Murray Aitchison and Fl/Sgt. Rex Mathieson (courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)
Fl/Sgt. Rex Tawheta Mathieson. Port Moresby War Cemetery (Bomana). Joint grave C8. A. 11-12. Born on the 29th of October 1923 at New Plymouth. Worked as a labourer for Love Construction Company in Wellington. Enlisted at Ashburton on the 24th of October 1942. Embarked for Canada on the 31st May 1943Navigator badge and promoted to sergeant on the 10th December 1943. Returned to New Zealand on the 17th of December 1943. Joined 31 squadron on the 07th February 1944 and carried to 25 operational sorties. Moved to South Pacific with the squadron on the 23rd of May 1944. Son of Thomas Berga (43437 WW1 New Zealand Field Artillery) and Are Are (Also known as Nora Laura Mathieson (née Ruakere - died 1972). Married on the 18th December 1919, of New Plymouth, New Zealand.
Fl/Sgt. Albert Frederick Walker. Port Moresby War Cemetery (Bomana). Joint grave C8. A. 11-12. Born on the 28th March 1910 atTe Aroha, Waikato. Worked as a sheet metal worker for D. Henry and Company Ltd in Auckland. Served for 3 years in territorial army. Enlisted at Hobsonville on the 30th of May 1942. Embarked for Canada on the 02nd October 1942. Air gunner badge and promoted to sergeant on the 26th July 1943. Returned to New Zealand on the 18th of January 1944 after a period as staff wireless operator. Joined 31 squadron on the 04th February 1944 and carried out 25 operational sorties. Moved to South Pacific with the squadron on the 23rd of May 1944. Son of Frederick Angus Stanley and Marie Walker (née Guilding) and husband of Mabel Annie Walker (née Wrigley) of Pt. Chevalier, Auckland, New Zealand.
P/O. Murray Scofield Aitchison NZ/426088 RNZAF. Born on the 01st November 1914. Worked as an agricultural contractor. Enlisted on the 13th of May 1942 age 27. Husband of Alice May Aitchison of Woodside, West Taieri, New Zealand. Died 30 September 1999 Age 84. Buried at West Tairei Cemetery, Woodside, Taieri Valley, Otago, New Zealand.
MiD Citation 10th August 1944:
'Blown out of his aircraft when it suffered three hits from heavy anti-aircraft fire while in an aiming dive upon a strongly defended enemy airfield, this pilot, after parachuting to the ground, escaped from Japanese-held territory as a result of his own initiative and determination, and by his brave conduct in the face of grave difficulties, set a fine example. Fl/Sgt. Aitchison landed within one mile of a Japanese aerodrome, but by travelling carefully, husbanding his strength, making the maximum use of cover and putting to best advantage the few facilities at his disposal, he succeeded after two days and one night in reaching a river, down which he floated in his rubber dinghy. This journey, made by night down a swift-flowing river, was hazardous in the extreme, as the pilot was tipped from his frail craft on several occasions, and faced the imminent danger of detection by enemy patrols. He reached the sea and then paddled, on and off, for three nights and two days, against adverse currents, and was finally picked up by an Allied gunboat. Fl/Sgt. Aitchison's escape from enemy territory followed a tour of duty marked by exceptional determination and devotion to duty'.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, other sources as quoted below: