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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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1 EFTS Tiger Moth II NZ796 P/O. Geoffrey Thomas Coldham

Operation: Emergency scheme

Date: 11th June 1942 (Thursday)

Unit: No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School

Type: Tiger Moth II

Serial: NZ769

Code: -

Base: RNZAF Taieri

Location: Gore, New Zealand

Pilot: P/O. Geoffrey Thomas Coldham NZ/412657 RNZAF Age 23. Seriously injured


On an Emergency Precautions Scheme co-operation was carrying out a dummy air raid attack.

At 10:40 hrs flying over Gore collided with cables across Main Street. The aircraft crashed onto the road at the intersection with Irk Street, bounced, and then skidded along 100 yards to strike a mail car driven by Mr Bert N. Smith. The aircraft finally came to rest in Mersey Street when it struck a parked truck in which sat the driver Mr. Bryan Windle escaped injury by jumping out.

The driver of the mail car, Mr. B.N. Smith, a mail carrier, had a very lucky escape from injury. The driver had no possible chance of avoiding a collision, and the plane struck the front of the vehicle on the driver's side and bounced over the top.

Considering the crowds it was fortunate that many more people were not injured.

Others were not so fortunate:

June McKenzie, a shop assistant suffered serious head injuries, John Leslie Anderson, a railway engine driver had bad scalp wounds, and Leonard Frank Shave, a shop assistant who received scalp wounds and concussion were standing just south of Irk Street. Ronald Hill also a shop assistant suffered a broken keg and shock when he was hit by the wing of the aircraft. Members of the various medical and ambulance units were quickly on the scene and gave first aid to the injured.

Great presence of mind was shown by Constable Edward William Fibbes (shown left), who was on duty at the time, in removing the sole occupant of the plane, P/O. Coldham, of Auckland, from the wreck. The prompt action of Constable Fibbes earned the highest commendation of those who saw the incident.

The pilot was transferred to a place of safety but was gravely injured, and steps were immediately taken to render first aid. The injured man was placed in an emergency ambulance, but he succumbed before reaching the hospital.

Dr. J.M. Watters said he had examined Coldham at the scene of the crash. He was suffering from fractures of the upper and lower jaws and of the base of the skull. In his opinion death was due to injury to the brain accompanying the fracture of the base of the skull. Coldham was deeply unconscious when the witness examined him.

Burial details:

Buried on the 16th of June 1942. A guard of honour was formed at the funeral, by about 500 pupils of the Mount Albert Grammar School. The boys lined the street at the residence in Tawera Road, Green Lane, as the coffin, draped with the Air Force flag, was carried out by a pilot crew of the RNZAF. The Rev. F.I. Parsons conducted the burial at Waikaraka. Also present were representatives of the Old Boys' Association, headed by the president, Mr. D. Sumner, and the staff of the Mount Albert Grammar School, where P/O. Coldham's father is a master.

P/O. Geoffrey Thomas Coldham. Waikaraka Cemetery. Extn. 1, Grave 229A. Born on the 24th of October 1921 in Auckland.

Educated at Mt. Albert Grammar School and Auckland University College. A survey cadet for E.V Blake Survey and Civil Engineers in Auckland. Enlisted in Levin as a pilot under training on the 04th May 1941. With No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School on the 15th June 1941. No. 2 Flying Training School on the 26th July 1941. The pilot badge was awarded on the 06th September 1941 and commissioned on the 18th of October 1941.With Flying Instructor School on the 17th November 1941. As an instructor with No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School on the 12th of January 1942. With No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School as an instructor on the 09th February flying the Tiger Moth.

Son of George Stewart Coldham (died 08th July 1972, age 79), and of Hilda Dorothy Coldham (née Bicker - died 21st October 1971, age 76), brother of Richard, Madeline and Raymond of 4 Tawera Road, Greenlane, Auckland, New Zealand.

Note: Some websites report that the Tiger Moth carried a passenger, AC.2. Douglas Lionel Forward NZ/414047 RNZAF. Although he died on the same day he had been seriously injured on the 15th of December 1941 when he was run over by a fire tender at the flare path. Lionel Forward was later admitted to the Palmerston North Public Hospital. He died on the 11th of June 1942 following surgery on his injuries.

Above L-R: Rear; Wilfred James Hannah NZ/412683 - killed 06th November 1942, J.H Malcom, Ian Cameron Hutcheson NZ/412694 - killed 27th August 1944, W.A Hardham, H.H Wilson.
Centre; Norman Mathew Langlands NZ/412702 - killed 02nd August 1942, J.A Hendry, P.A Bull, Godfrey Simon Harcourt NZ/412684 - killed 11th January 1944, Geoffrey Thomas Coldham NZ/412657 - killed 11th June 1942, David George West NZ/412772 - killed 23rd February 1942, Kenneth Charles Bacon NZ/412644 - died 27th November 2004.
Front; V. Moran, Byron Court Lumsden NZ/412705 - died 02nd September 2002, H.P Jensen, Geoffrey Stanton Lloyd NZ/411972 - killed 26th December 1942, D.S Beauchamp, Stanley George Culliford NZ/412659 - died 29th December 2001, R.K Monk, Stanley Hearne Gunn NZ/412680 - killed 27th June 1942. (Courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot, thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Star Newspaper, 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:

KTY 09-08-2022

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