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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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Utility Flight Hudson III NZ201 Fl/Lt. Robert Henderson Lamason

Operation: Transport Flight

Date: 23rd April 1945 (Monday)

Unit: Utility Flight

Type: Hudson III

Serial: NZ201

Code: -

Base: RNZAF Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

Location: RNZAF Piva North Airfield, Bougainville Island

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Robert Henderson Lamason NZ/413433 RNZAF Age 30. Killed

Obs: F/O. Wilfred Cleland Hall NZ/4212752 RNZAF Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Peter Ronald Doody NZ/413253 RNZAF Age 23. Minor injuries

Passenger: LAC. John Arthur Medhurst NZ/4215534 RNZAF Age 20. Serious injuries

Passenger: LAC. LAC. R.C McAinch - Minor injuries - no detailis


Taking off at 07:00 hrs and at about 20 feet on final approach to Piva North at 09:24 hrs, in clear conditions just after full flap was lowered, suddenly zoomed to about 80 feet at an angle of between 45 and 75 at top of the zoom the Hudson's port wing dipped steeply and the aircraft dived wing-down to crash on the runway edge it then fell onto its back, the rear fuselage breaking off behind the cabin door and the forward part of the cabin bursting into flames.

The captain and navigator died in the crash, while one of the two passengers died of his injuries later that day. Two others survived; wireless operator W/O. Peter Ronald Doody NZ/413253, with moderate injuries, and passenger carpenter LAC. R.C McAinch, who sustained only minor injuries on being thrown clear as the fuselage broke in two.

On duty at the time was medical officer Fl/Lt. Basil Marmaduke de Lambert. He hurriedly wrapped himself in a blanket and, with complete disregard for his own safety, walked into the flames where he found one of the injured men lying beside the wreckage encircled by fire. With the aid of an asbestos-suited fireman he transferred the injured man to a stretcher and carried him to safety. For his courageous and gallant action de Lambert was in 1946 awarded the George Medal.

Above: Piva North Airfield (courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

Citation George Medal 05th March 1946:

'The highest qualities of self-sacrifice and complete disregard of his own safety were shown by Flight Lieutenant de Lambert when he deliberately entered an area of flames to reach an airman who, though gravely injured, appeared to be still alive following the crash of a transport aircraft of the RNZAF at Bougainville on 23rd April, 1945. On duty as strip Medical Officer, Flight Lieutenant de Lambert hurried to the scene of the crash, and found a man, encircled by flames from the blazing aircraft, lying beside the wreckage. Without delay he wrapped himself in a blanket, walked deliberately into the flames, and, with the aid of an airman wearing an asbestos suit, transferred the injured man to a stretcher and carried him to a safe area. The Medical Officer suffered first-degree burns to both forearms, but on arrival at hospital with the airman, he refused treatment in view of the more urgent needs of the crash victim. Flight Lieutenant de Lambert's conduct throughout was courageous and gallant in the extreme'.

Hudson III NZ201 history:

MSN 3825. (Previously V9240 when it was British Purchasing Mission contracts). Shipped to New Zealand on the 'MV Limerick'. BOC Unit 1 Hobsonville on the 18th September 1941 and assembled at No.1 Aircraft Depot Hobsonville. To No.1 GR Squadron Whenuapai. To No.4 Squadron Nausori, Fiji on the 09th December 1941. To No.2 BR Squadron Ohakea November 1943. To Utility Flight Guadalcanal.

Above: Funeral for the three killed (courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

Above L-R: Fl/Lt. Robert Lamason, Fl/Lt. Robert Lamason and LAC. John Medhurst

Burial and other details:

The three were buried in the Torokina Australian War Cemetery, but later reinterred at Bourail.

Fl/Lt. Robert Henderson Lamason. Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery. Grave 5.13. Born at Rotorua on 13th November, 1914. Educated at Brooklyn School. Enlisted in June 1941. First solo on the 05th August 1941. Pilot badge awarded in November 1941. A total of 1844 flying hours logged with 575 on the Hudson. At the time he was on his third South Pacific tour. Son of Robert Osmond Lamason (died 27th November 1943, age 67) and of Flora Lamason (nee Wilkinson - died 01st November 1955, age 82) Husband of Joy Grace Lamason (née Stenberg - died 16th February 2012, age 96), of Wellington City, New Zealand.

F/O. Wilfred Cleland Hall. Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery. Grave 30. Born at Napier on the 04th November 1920. Educated at the Napier Boys' High School. Employed as a clerk by the Stevenson Trading Co. Ltd., Napier. Enlisted in June, 1942. Trained in Manitoba, Canada. Awarded his air observer badge and promoted to Sergeant on the 29th October 1943. Promoted to Flight Sergeant on the 29th April 1944. Commissioned in September 1944. Promoted to Flying Officer on the 15th March 1945. A total of 762 flying hours logged an on his second South Pacific tour. Known to have completed 68 operational sorties on his first tour. Son of Eric Cleland Hall and Adele Hall (née Miller), of 108 Chaucer Road, Napier, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. His brother Brian Eric Hall NZ/4213975 RNZAF also lost his life on the 25th August 1943 - more details here.

LAC. John Arthur Medhurst. Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery. Grave 31. Born at Auckland on the 07th January 1925. Educated at the Dargaville and Whangarei High Schools, Enlisted on the on the 27th May 1942, Had left New Zealand only three days earlier, was beginning his second South Pacific tour, having been posted to Field Headquarters at Piva for postal duties. His previous tour was undertaken on Norfolk Island as a radio operator. Son of Samuel Robert (died 19th December 1961, age 61) and Rowena Blanche Medhurst (died 23rd May 1977, age 74) of 1 Awa Street, Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand.

Fl/Lt. Basil Marmaduke de Lambert GM. NZ/22071. Born in Queenstown, Otago, New Zealand on the 6th July 1920. NZ Army (RAMC) December 1942, RNZAF from the 09th September 1943 to 11th January 1946. Died Dunedin, 11th September 1994. Son of Richard de Lambert (died 20th January 1949, age 67) and Louise Wingate (née Middleton - died 15th August 1968) de Lambert. Brother of John Richard de Lambert B.E (died 27th November 1990, age 77) and Robert Middleton de Lambert M.B CH.B (died 1996, age 79. Husband of Suzanne Vernon (née Rout, later Murray - died 2012, age 90) married 1943 (to 1976) in New Zealand

W/O. Peter Ronald Doody died 29th December 1965, age 43. Buried Waikumete Cemetery and Crematorium. Service Persons Area K, Row 4, Plot 84

LAC. R.C McAinch no further details, are you able to assist?

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with 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, National Archive.

Other pages that may interest you:

Pages regarding accident losses
Pages detailing RNZAF losses

Other sources as quoted below:

KTY 02-09-2023

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