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Name: Frank Gatland

Serial: Short Stirling R9194

Featured in a Wings Over New Zealand Podcast Episode 158 'Escape: the best sport ever!'

.Arthur Gatland is a pilot. His father Frank Gatland DFM mid was also a pilot. Frank joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1941 and following his flying training he became a Short Stirling captain with No. 214 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command . Following several operations with the squadron, including a very low level attack he made on Genoa, Italy, in October 1942 that earned him the Distinguished Flying Medal, his luck ran out.

He and his crew were shot down/collided with a fighter over France on the night of 28/29 November 1942. Frank survived the parachute jump and he set off on foot in an attempt to evade capture. After covering many miles he was eventually taken prisoner and placed into Stalag VIIIB POW camp. He was not there long before he was planning an escape, the first of many to come. Including the initial evasion, Frank would be officially credited with five escapes by war’s end. He was a genuine thorn in the side to the Germans, continually planning and scheming ways to get away and try to get back to Britain and safety. He loved every minute of it!

In later years Frank wrote his memoirs of his wartime experiences, both as a bomber pilot and as an evader, escaper and a POW. Now, ten years after Frank’s death, his son Arthur has published those memoirs as a book, entitled “Escape – The Best Sport Ever!”

In this episode of the WONZ Show Arthur talks about his father and about the book which is now available. And he also talks about his own flying career. He too served in the Air Force, flying Hawker Harriers and Hunters with the Royal Air Force in the 1970s. Later returning home he joined Air New Zealand and flew Fokker Friendships, Boeing 737s, Boeing 767s, Boeing 777s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and today he runs the 777 and 787 simulator. Arthur is also a very accomplished glider pilot and is often seen displaying in a glider at airshows around New Zealand.

Name : Frank J. Howell
Born : 25th January 1912
Died : 9th May 1948
Service Number : 39612

Awards :
Distinguished Flying Cross

F/Lt Frank Howell, DFC*, was born at Golders Green in London on 25th January 1912. Frank Howell took a short service commission in the Royal Air Force. He trained at AST Antsy 1st March - 30th April 1937, moving on to No 3 FTS at Grantham from 1st May - 7th August 37. On 3rd May 37 he was made Acting Pilot Officer. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesTraining was completed at South Cerney from 24th August - 26th November 37, whereupon he was posted to No 25 (F) Squadron at Hawkinge, flying Hawker Demon aircraft on 3rd December 37. He became a Pilot Officer on 1st March 1938. His next posting was to No 80 Sqdn flying Gloster Gladiators at Ismailia from 27th March 1938, during which time he was attached to No 4 FTS at Abu Sueir from 13th June - 25th September 38. No 80 Sqdn moved to Amiriya on 24th September 1938, returning to Ismailia on 9th October 38. On 16th January 1939, they again moved to Helwan, where they remained until Frank was posted back to the UK on 28th August 1939. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesHe was stationed at the Uxbridge depot from the 29th August 1939 until being posted to 609 (West Riding) Squadron at Drem on 14th November 1939. On 1st September 39 his promotion to Flying Officer had taken place, and it was with this rank that he joined the squadron. From Drem, Frank followed the movements of the squadron, going to Kinloss from 5th December 1939 - 12th January 1940, whereupon they returned to Drem until 19th May 40. From Drem, the Squadron moved south to Northolt, where they stayed until moving to Middle Wallop in Hampshire on the 4th July 40, finally heading to Warmwell in Dorset on 29th November 40. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesFrank Howell force landed Spitfire N3203 on 30th May 40 at Martlesham (with no damage) due to foul weather. His first combat came the next day, 31st May 40, while flying an offensive patrol at 15,000ft over Dunkirk in Spitfire N3024. He attacked a Junkers Ju88 with Joe Dawson, which is believed to have crashed, and, in conjunction with John Dundas, attacked a Heinkel He111, setting fire to the starboard engine. Both were claimed as 'Damaged Probable'. The following day 1Jun40, again over Dunkirk, he attacked another He111, seeing no result, before attacking 3 more and setting the starboard engine alight on one of them - claiming one 'Damaged' and one 'Damaged Probable'. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesThis was also the day, 1Jun40, he became 'A' Flight Commander. He was amongst the party that escorted Winston Churchill to France and back on 11th and 13th June 40. On 12th July 40, Red Section, consisting of Flt-Lt Frank Howell in R6691, Fg-Off Paul Edge in R6636 and Plt-Off Johnny Curchin R6634 shot down a Heinkel 111 (later only credited with a 'Probable'). On 18th July 40, whilst flying Spitfire R6634, he shared in the destruction of a Junkers Ju88 of 1/KG54, engaging it 5 miles off Swanage. His aircraft was hit in the glycol tank by return fire and he baled out uninjured, landing 4 miles south of Poole at 15.15 hours and being picked up by the Royal Navy. Paul Edge was also shot down, and the aircraft was finally shot down by Alan Feary. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesHe was scrambled on 13th August 40 in R6691 and flying at 18,000ft saw "50 plus Ju87's with Escort". He promptly shot down 2 of them. On August 15th 1940, in his own words: "Middle Wallop attacked again by 12 Ju88's. Took off as a salvo hit hangar and chased a Ju88 to Warmwell, and shot it down in flames". On the 25th August 1940, flying X4104 he damaged two Messerschmitt 110's in head on attacks. He was credited on this day with 1 Bf110 'Destroyed' in X4234. On the 3rd September 1940 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesOn 7th September 1940, whilst patrolling Northolt - Brooklands at 20,000ft in R6691, he encountered a large formation of Messerschmitt 110's. Having shot one down, he then spotted a large formation of Ju88's and attacked one, setting its engine on fire, before attacking another, on which he observed no result - although the cine-gun film shows a fire starting. He was also shot at by another Spitfire during this engagement. He was credited with one Bf110 Destroyed, and 2 Ju88's Probably Destroyed. Patrolling Brooklands at 20,000ft in R6691 on 15th September 1940, he took 2 snap shots at a formation of Dornier Do17's with escort, with no visible result. During his second patrol that day, over Hastings, he shot down 1 Dornier Do17 out of a formation of 18. On 7th October 1940, he force landed Spitfire X4472 at Shaftesbury after combat with Messerschmitt Bf 109's over Yeovil. He had been hit in the oil tank, but had shot down a Bf110. On 21st October 1940, in conjunction with Sydney Hill, he shared in the destruction of a Ju88 which had been machine-gunning Old Sarum. This was 609 Squadrons 100th Kill. 4 Days later, on the 25th October 1940, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. rom 609, Frank was posted to Filton on 23rd February 1941 to form and command 118 Squadron on Spitfires. Whilst with 118, Howell claimed the squadron's first victory, a Heinkel He111 on the night of July 7th. He also claimed a 'Probable' Bf109 and shared another on October 13th. 118 subsequently moved to Colerne, Warmwell and Ibsley, from where Frank was posted on 23rd October 1941, joining HMS Prince of Wales and heading out to the Far East theatre of war. During his command of 118 Sqn as an actinbg Squadron Leader, Frank won a bar to his DFC. "The King has approved the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:- Bat to DFC: Acting/Sq Ldr. F. J. Howell, D.F.C. 118 Sq. This officer has displayed fine qualities as a fighter pilot, combined with outstanding leadership and talents for organisation. He has played a large part in raising and maintaining a high standard of efficiency in his squadron, which had distinguished itself. He has destroyed at least ten enemy aircraft and possibly a further seven." His promotion to Squadron Leader came through on 1st December. Joining 243 Sqdn on 6th December, which was reforming at Kallang with Brewster Buffalos, he was almost immediately posted a few days later to Headquarters Fighter Command in Singapore. He was on the Prince of Wales when it was sunk on 10th December, and was taken prisoner by Japanese forces on 16th February 1942 whilst trying to reach Sumatra - being held at Muntok, Palembane, Singapore, Changi, until 15th August 1945. Frank returned to the UK, arriving back at Cosford on 24th October. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesFrom 18th March - 9th April 1946, Frank Howell was posted to No. 110 Refresher Unit at Wittering, before moving on to No 17 SFTS at Coleby Grange until 24th May. On 17th August he was sent to HQ Fighter Command until 30th June 1947, becoming Squadron Leader again on 15th November, before a posting to No 1 Squadron at Tangmere on IF Course 5th -23rd January 1948. He was subsequently posted to take over as Commanding Officer of No 54 Squadron at Odiham on 12th January, which was equipped with De Havilland Vampire's. 1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesOn 9th May 1948, Frank Howell was making a cine film of his squadron's aircraft, when the wingtip of one of them struck him, severing his jugular vein. Squadron Leader Frank Howell, DFC, bled to death before he could be treated.


Frank won a bar to his DFC. "The King has approved the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:- Bat to DFC: Acting/Sq Ldr. F. J. Howell, D.F.C. 118 Sq. This officer has displayed fine qualities as a fighter pilot, combined with outstanding leadership and talents for organisation. He has played a large part in raising and maintaining a high standard of efficiency in his squadron, which had distinguished itself. He has destroyed at least ten enemy aircraft and possibly a further seven."

LM158 Lancaster

Date: 1944-06-13


Type: Avro Lancaster I

Owner/operator: 90 Squadron Royal Air Force

Registration: LM158

C/n / msn: WP-P

Fatalities: Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 7

Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)

Location: Eerbeek, 10 km WSW Zutphen - PH.gif Netherlands

Phase: Combat

Nature: Military

Departure airport: RAF Tuddenham

Destination airport: Gelsenkirchen


Took off from RAF Tuddenham at 23:31. Crashed in the area known as Soerense Zand near Eerbeek(Gelderland), 10 km SW from Zutphen. Those who died were laid to rest on 15 June in Brummen (Hal) General Cemetery.


Fg Off A C Elliott RCAF (KIA)

Sgt D C Kibble (KIA)

Fg Off A Allan RCAF (KIA)

Fg Off P C Hoffos RCAF (POW)

Flt Sgt K C Walker RAAF (KIA)

Sgt D M Willmott RCAF (KIA)

Sgt E R Cocker (KIA)

Aubrey Charles Kirk Lancaster ND756

From Trevor Grant (ex Canterbury and London Irish Rugby Clubs) in New Zealand:

My Uncle Jim (Aubrey was always known to us as Jim), Mum's brother, was in a bomber squadron in England. He tried for the army and the navy back here when war broke out, but he was only 16 and tiny, so they wouldn't take him. He then tried the Air Force which was pretty fledgling back then, but managed to get through. They went and trained in Canada before moving on to England. I don't know what squadron, but he was tail-gunner and radio operator In Lancaster bombers. He was real good with radios, etc, and after the war worked the rest of his days till retirement with the P&T (Postal and Telegraph), later to become Telecom.

Somewhere around '43 or '44, he was shot down, managed to get out of his rear turret, and parachuted safely to ground near the France/Belgium border (actually near Millery, France: Aircrew Remembered Editor). He stayed for a little while hidden in a little town, but because of his ability with radio, they sent him up into the mountains in France with the Maquis. He stayed with them for the rest of the war, organising supplies with the SOE, etc and went on a number of sabotage missions and the like. Of course, because of this work, the Allied authorities couldn't acknowledge that he was still alive, so Mum and her family had to go through the rest of the war only being told that he was MIA. Pretty devastating times. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre, and a couple of other honours.

He was known to all as Jim or Jimmy throughout his life, although to his flying mates he was always called 'Winkie.' A little bloke, probably 5' 3-4" tops, with a great sense of fun. He used to come to our birthday parties when we were young, then our family got much bigger and he got married himself and had 4 kids. Some of them had a trip to France and met a couple of old folks who were children when he was hidden in their village. They attended the annual ceremony the citizens held to pay tribute to the Aircrew, both the dead and the survivors, who had crashed near their village.

Mum's and Jim's cousin, a real down-to-earth bloke name of Edgar Sanders (Sandy) was equally notable during the war. He was in Africa, initially with the NZEF or some such regiment, and then got seconded to the LRDG.

After doing plenty there (and they were pretty special) he was selected with a few others to join PPA (Popski's Private Army) an even more rag-tag elite group operating behind enemy lines in the desert. Pretty amazing war histories of a couple of cousins. I wonder how our generation would react in desperate times.

Loriga Crash SAAF 1944-02-22

Loriga is a remote place high up in the Serra da Estrela. In the cemetery are the graves of six airmen. They were the crew of a Hudson bomber of the South African Air Force and their two R.A.F. passengers, and were killed on 22nd February, 1944 when their aircraft failed to clear the 1820 metres eastern wall of the Serra da Estrela at the Penta da Gato. When the headstones had been erected on the graves a service of dedication was held, conducted by the chaplain of the English Church at Oporto. It was attended by members of the British Embassy, Lisbon, a considerable party of British war veterans and almost the whole population of Loriga.


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