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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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2 SFTS Harvard II NZ920 F/O. Robert William Douglas Cowper

Operation: Training

Date: 26th May 1942 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 2 Service Flying Training School (ITS)

Type: Harvard II

Serial: NZ920

Code: -

Base: RNZAF Woodbourne


Pilot (Inst): F/O. Robert William Douglas Cowper NZ/39903 RNZAF Age 24 Killed

Pilot (U/T): LAC. Derek Thomas Lippitt NZ/42421 RNZAF Age 20. Killed


On a duel instruction/instrument trying exercise they were coming in to land at 09:45 hrs when another Harvard NZ923, flown by LAC Ronald Charles Cecil Nairn NZ/42499 (1) saw NZ920 rapidly approaching him from the port quarter.

He was unable to take avoiding action and they collided with him. NZ920 crashed near the Delta landing ground and caught fire killing the two crew.

LAC Nairn was commended for his excellent handling and safe landing of his aircraft which was seriously damaged.

It is thought that as NZ920 was flying into the sun the glare may have obscured the crew's view of LAC Nairn's aircraft which had camouflaged markings.

Burial details:

F/O. Robert William Douglas Cowper. Aramoho Cemetery. Grave F. 13. 825. Born on the 02nd October 1918 in Wanganui. Educated at the Wanganui Collegiate. A clerk for the Banko of NSW in Wanganui. A reserve pilot with the Wairarapa and Ruahine Aero Club in December 1938. 'A' licence was gained on the 29th March 1939. Enlisted at Levin as a pilot under training on the 26th of October 1939.

With No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School 20th November 1940. No. 2 Flying Training School 28th December 1940. Pilot badge awarded 27th March 1940. Commissioned 04th May 1940. Flying Instructor School 18th June 1940. With No. 1 Flying Training School as instructor 14th August 1940 flying the Gordon. No. 3 Service Flying Training School in late December flying the Hind and Harvard. Joined No. 2 Service Flying Training School 07th March 1942 flying the Harvard.

Son of Arthur Edwin (died 1927) and Clara Alice Luxford Cowper (née Roulston - died 1965), of Wanganui, New Zealand.

LAC. Derek Thomas Lippitt. Wellington Crematorium (Karori). 10. A1. Brick wall. Born on the 03rd March 1922 in Wellington. Architectural cadet for Public Works Department in Wellington. Enlisted at Levin as a pilot under training on the 11th of January 1942.

With No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School on the 08th March 1942. No. 2 Service Flying Training School on the 02nd May 1942 for training on the Harvard.

Son of Charles Francis Lippitt (died 17th January 1953, age 62), and of Annie Elizabeth Maud Lippitt (née Spackman - died 21st March 1957, age 64), of Wallaceville, Upper Hutt, New Zealand.

L-R: Rear; Trappitt, Paterson, Gibbons, R.W Gray, Bullen, Sladen, Green, O'Donnell, Rogers, Blair.

3rd row; Nairn, Manz, McMaster, Coppersmith, Orbell, Polsen, Dobbs, Avery, Doel, A.G Stanley, Hogan, Blake.

2nd row; Mawley, Speedy, Smart, Hanna, Highet, Laurie, Angud, Law, Mulligan, Sinclair, Burt.

Front; H.K Anderson, M.C Stanley, Currin, Robertson, F Thomson, Weston, Ferrier, Lowe, Lippitt, Earl. (Courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand

(1) Ronald Charles Cecil Nairn NZ/42499 - Born 15th November 1922 in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Enlisted on 11th January 1942. To the reserves 28th October 1845. Rejoined 03rd February 1947 until 01st September 1961. To the reserves until 11th January 1967. Retired as a wing commander AFC. DFM.

Officer commanding the Command and Staff School, Royal New Zealand Air Force station, Whenuapai, is resigning his commission to take up permanent residence in the United States. He has secured a fellowship at Yale University where he will specialise in Asian affairs. Wing Commander Nairn had three tours of duty as a fighter pilot in the Pacific with 14 and 15 squadron. Credited with destroying three Japanese aircraft. On the 20th November 1943, he baled out of his Kittyhawk near Rendova, rescued from his dingy by a USN destroyer.

He served in Japan during the occupation. On 21st January 1948 in Japan, his Corsair was flipped upside down whilst landing after being caught in the slipstream of another aircraft.

He was a flight commander in the No. 14 (Fighter) Squadron, the first to be equipped with Vampire jets. Involved in in three mid-air collisions, twice baling out (no ejection seats fitted) and landed his last one for which he was commended for his airmanship.

In 1953 Wing Commander Nairn went to the Royal Australian Air Force Staff College. For three years he was a planning officer at the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation’s permanent military planning office in Bangkok. He took up his present post in April 1960.

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 Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, Friends of Karori Cemetery Cemetery, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 07-08-2022

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