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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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69 crest
69 Squadron Baltimore II AG806 Fl/Sgt. Spence Grainger Cottrell

Operation: Anti-submarine Patrol

Date: 21st April 1943 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 69 Squadron (motto - 'With vigilance we serve'). 248 Wing, Malta Air Command

Type: Baltimore II

Serial: AG806

Code: MJ-?

Base: Luqa, Malta

Location: Mediterranean Sea

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Spence Grainger Cottrell NZ/412208 RNZAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed

Obs: Fl/Sgt. Elvet Waters 929630 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O II. Reginald Frank Charles Porter R/71428 RCAF Age 25. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ernest Howard Lankshear NZ/411077 Age 25. Missing - believed killed


Taking off at 10:00 hrs. on an anti-submarine patrol.

Th crew transmitter an SOS signal reporting engine trouble some 70 miles west of Malta. Nothing further was heard, no trace of the crew or aircraft found.

Burial and personal details:

Fl/Sgt. Spence Grainger Cottrell. Malta Memorial. Panel 12. Column 7. Born on the 11th April 2021 in Napier. Educated at Waipukura and Napier High School, Victoria University College. A clerk for Transport Department at Wellington. Enlisted at Levin on the 13th April 1941 as a pilot under training. With No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School 25th May 1941. No. 2 Service Flying Training School on the 05th July 1941. Pilot badge awarded 16th August 1941 and promoted to sergeant on the 27th September 1941.

Embarked for England on the 25th October 1941. No 3 Personnel Reception Centre 29th November 1941. No. 3 School of General reconnaissance 20th December 1941. No. 5 Coastal Operational Training Unit on the 18th March 1942 flying the Beaufort. With Flying Training Unit 30th June 1942. No. 10 Aircraft Delivery Unit in August 1942. Flew a Beaufort to Egypt via Gibraltar and Malta between 12-018th August 1942. 201 Group 01st September 1942. Middle East Training School on the 06th September 1942 on the Beaufort. Joined 47 squadron on the 21st September 1942 flying the Beaufort and carried out 2 operational sorties. Joined 203 squadron on the 19th January and carried out 11 operational sorties. Joined 69 squadron on the 16th April 1943 and carried out 1 operational sortie. A total of 410 flying hours logged and on his 17th operational sortie.

Son of Horace Spence Cottrell (died 20th October 1960, age 73) and Violet May Cottrell (née Grainger - born on the 17th May 1887 - married 23 February 1915 - died 28th May 1971, age 84 - May Cottrell a writer, poet and spiritualist published more than 1,000 articles in 13 countries), brother of Dorothy, of Napier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand (see below for further details).

Fl/Sgt. Elvet Waters. Malta Memorial. Panel 7. Column 2. Son of Evan David and Gwladys Waters, of Cwmavon, Glamorgan, Wales.

W/O II. Reginald Frank Charles Porter. Malta Memorial. Panel 10. Column 2. Born in Walthamstow, England. Educated at St. John;s Technical High School, Enlisted un October 1940. Trained at Mount Viewm Ontario. From Teulon, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Parent and wife details not currently available. Are you able to assist?

Porter Bay in Reindeer Lake was named after W/O II. Porter in 1995.

Fl/Sgt. Ernest Howard Lankshear. Malta Memorial. Panel 12. Column 7. Born on the 30th July 1917 in Fielding. Educated at Colyton Primary School and Fielding Agricultural High School. A carpenter/builder for H.H. Beazley building contractors in Lower Hutt. A member of the Middle District Aero Club. Enlisted at Levin as an air gunner under training on the 16th February 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 17th April 1941. No. 3 Wireless School, Winnipeg, Manitoba 19th April 1941. With No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School, Paulson, Manitoba on the 01st September 1941. Promoted to sergeant on the 29th September 1941 and awarded air gunner / wireless operator badge.

Embarked for England on the 03rd November 1941. With No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre 14th November 1941. With No. Coastal Operational Training Unit on the 19th March 1942. With Flying Training Unit 30th June 1942. No. 10 Aircraft Delivery Unit in August 1942. Crewed a Beaufort to Egypt via Gibraltar and Malta between 29th July 27th August 1942. 201 Group 01st September 1942. Middle East Training School on the 06th September 1942 on the Beaufort. Joined 47 squadron on the 03rd January 1943 flying the Beaufort. Joined 203 squadron on the 19th January 1943 and carried out 8 operational sorties. Joined 69 squadron on the 16th April 1943 and carried out 1 operational sortie. A total of 229 flying hours logged and on his 14th operational sortie.

Son of George Henry (born 16th December 1876 - died 30th April1961, age 84) and Kathleen Lankshear (née Crenfeldt, died 30th July 1984, age 89), of Colyton, Wellington, New Zealand. Brother of Phyllis May, Kathleen Mavis, Joyce and Ivan Noel (born 30th January 1929 - died 31st October 1993, age 64). Engaged to Edith Richardson at time of enlistment.

Above L-R: Rear; Hitchins, Olliver, McKenzie, Laing, Lowe, Lonsdale, Ramsden, Hill, Goodwin, Patience, O'Connor, Manglesen, Franklin.
3rd row; Breeze, Chapman, Bryan, Dunlop, Alexander, Nordstrand, De Tourret, Bailey, Whittle, Cook, Corlett, Firth, Findlay, Balls.
2nd row; Beetham, Beauchamp, Haywood, Cottrell, Coom, Monk, Thompson, Barton, Carver, Loader, Stanley, Forbes, Brown, Philp.

Front; Button, Boeson, McIlraith, Capstick, Archer, Baker, King, Ingram, McKinley, Pearce, Mingins, Eason, Greenstreet, Gellatly. (Courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

George and Violet Cottrell:

Keen members of the New Zealand Native Bird Protection Society, May and Horace Cottrell made an intensive study of the gannets on the rocky promontory, Cape Kidnappers. A lecture illustrated with Horace's hand-coloured lantern slides proved so popular that they were invited by the American Chautauqua Association to tour New Zealand in 1923. The lecture was given 99 times.

Above: Portrait of Horace and Violet May Cottrell with their daughter Dorothy and son, Spence Grainger Cottrell, pictured at the entrance of their house. (Courtesy Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust,)

Poems flowed abundantly from May's pen: mostly brief verses on pertinent topics and often from a feminist perspective. With titles such as 'Mothers' (so-called) holidays' and 'Sport & hobby "widows" ', they found ready acceptance in women's magazines. In 1930 a romantic epic poem appeared in an English shipping publication, the Blue Peter.

Right:Violet May Cottrell

The story was based on a little-known legend surrounding Pania, daughter of the sea people, and the reef that lies beyond the Napier breakwater. Widespread local interest was to result in the commissioning of a bronze statue of Pania, which from its completion in 1954 became a city icon, and the subject of a stamp issued for the provincial centennial in 1958.

Left: Bronze statue Pania of the Reef is a physical marker of Cottrell's work.

The Cottrells lost their business in the 1931 earthquake. Horace subsequently joined the Daily Telegraph in Napier and Waipukurau and then the Land and Income Tax Department in Wellington. Here, May worked at the Rehabilitation Board during the war and published little, although she had joined the New Zealand Women Writers' and Artists' Society in 1939. A miniature carved Māori patu was presented to the society by the Cottrells and awarded annually for a composition with a Māori motif. They returned to Napier in 1947. Throughout the 1950s May produced many stories, radio plays, poems and articles featuring New Zealand scenic attractions, bird life and Māori. The destruction and rebirth of Napier following the earthquake inspired a historical pageant and song, as well as numerous other articles publicising the city.

May Cottrell published more than 1,000 articles in 13 countries. Described by her daughter as 'quiet in herself' and 'a deep thinker', May was encouraged to write by her husband, who marketed her articles with such skill that rejection slips were virtually unknown. Predeceased by Horace in 1960, May died at Napier on 28 May 1971, survived by her daughter, Dorothy. Her son had been killed on active service with the RNZAF in 1942.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew, thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, New Zealand Cenotaph, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 1998, other sources as quoted be

KTY 30-09-2022

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