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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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102 Squadron Crest
16.12.1937 No. 102 Squadron Handley Page Hayford K5183 P/O. T.A. Bunting

Operation: Training

Date: 16th December 1937 (Thursday)

Unit: No. 102 Squadron

Type: Handley Page Heyford III

Serial: K5183

Base: RAF Honington, Suffolk

Location: At base, RAF Honington

Pilot: P/O. Thomas Arthur Bunting RAF Age 23. Killed

Pilot 2/Nav: P/O. Basil Gaston Lancelot Betbeder RAF - Injured (1)

Obs: P/O. Laurence Herbert McFarlane 39545 Age 22. RAF (later RNZAF) - Slightly Injured (2)

Air/Bmr/Gnr: LAC I. Ernest Marrows 522870 RAF - Slightly Injured (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: LAC 1 C.A.F. Kettle RAF - safe


Accident due to an error in judgement on part of the pilot in that he miscalculated the height of aircraft from ground and failed, when attempting to land, to flatten out in time.”

Thomas Arthur Bunting, (known as Arthur to his family) the eldest son of Thomas Gordon Bunting and Jessie Amelia Bunting, dec. late of Auckland NZ, was born at Ngapara, Otago, New Zealand on 28 May 1914.  The family moved to their farm at Wendonside, Southland, NZ in 1917 where he started school at Wendonside Primary School.  He was sent to boarding school at Waitaki Boys High School, Oamaru in 1929 and 1930.  In 1930 he was joined by his younger brother Wilfrid.

He played Rugby and cricket and he was a Cadet in the Otago Regiment in 1929 and 1930. From 1931 to 1935 he worked as a farmer for his father at Wendonside. He learned to fly at the Canterbury Aero Club where he obtained an A Licence.

At the end of 1935 or beginning of 1936 he left NZ (apparently against his parents’ wishes) for England to join the RAF.

He entered the RAF in February 1936 on a Short Service Commission and commenced his courses of instruction at C.T.S Hatfield 9 Mar 1936 to 4 May 1936 and No 8 F.T.S, Montrose 16 May 1936 to 24 December 1936. It was noted in a report that he was an average pilot, keen and capable and did well at ground subjects. He passed with 74.8%.

On 25 December 1936 he was posted to No 102 B Squadron, Finningley, near Doncaster. On 4 May 1936 his rank was Acting Pilot (on probation), on 6 August 1936 he was authorised to wear a Flying Badge (Wings) and by 4 March 1937 he was confirmed as a Pilot Officer with effect from 9 March 1937

Squadron 102 B was relocated to Honnington on the 7th July 1937. At Honington he flew a Handley Page Heyford 3, a heavy bomber biplane and the last of its kind in RAF biplanes. This model had an open cockpit for 2 pilots and a gunner and up to 2 gunners in the rear.  The bombs were carried in the lower wings.

He was killed on the Honington Aerodrome in Handley Page Heyford 3, No K5183 at 21.20 hrs.They had been doing a Long Distance Night Bombing Exercise. A Commission of Enquiry was held at Honington on the Saturday, 18th December 1937 and the official verdict was “killed in a flying accident at Honington Aerodrome on 16 Dec 1937. Pilot. Heyford K5183. Accident due to an error in judgement on part of the pilot in that he miscalculated the height of aircraft from ground and failed, when attempting to land, to flatten out in time.” He sustained fatal head injuries.

At the time of his death, he had a total of 182 hours flying time and 55 hours on Type.

(1) Although injured P/O. Betbeder died just two days later from his injuries.
(2) Although P/O. Mcfarlane survived this he sadly lost his life whilst with 58 Squadron. Acting as 2nd pilot on Whitley V N1461 attacking the Scharnhorst at Kiel when they were brought down over the target.Tragically the family were to lose another 3 sons during the war. 24 year old LAC. Francis Maurice NZ/391840 RNZAF. Killed on the 15th June 1940 flying a Oxford I NZ279 with No 1 Flying Training School when the aircraft crashed during a steep turn over Akaroa town - both crew lost. 23 year old Fl/Lt.John Osbourne NZ/402881 RNZAF Killed 17th December 1943 whilst with 16 Squadron flying P-40N Warhawk NZ3175/65 over Rabaul, New Guinea, 23 year old 2nd Lt. Donald Forrester 2475 New Zealand Engineers - killed on 3rd December 1941 in Egypt.
(3) LAC I. later Sgt. Ernest Marrows was later to lose his life on 21/22nd May 1940 as Observer with 226 Squadron Fairey Battle K9176 crashed at St-Pierre-d-Autile.

Burial details:

The webmaster visited his grave and others at Honington in 2014. Full resolution photograph available to relatives.

A cross has also been laid on the grave as shown. 

Burial details:

P/O. Thomas Arthur Bunting. All Saints Church Cemetery, Honington. Son of Thomas Gordon Bunting and Jessie Amelia Bunting, deceased, late of Auckland, New Zealand.

Information supplied by Dianne Kaye (née Bunting) of Perth Western Australia, niece of Thomas Arthur Bunting on 28 January 2015. References: Frank Bunting, RAF Museum, Hendon, Suffolk County Council, RAF Personnel Management Agency, Honington Church and Bunting family and letters from T.A. Bunting himself. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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