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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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3 Squadron RNZAF Ventura PV-I NZ4570 Fl/Lt. Francis James Rolston

Operation: Transit flight

Date: 08th August 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 3 Squadron RNZAF

Type: Ventura PV-I

Serial: NZ4570

Code: -

Base: Pallikulo Airfield, New Hebrides

Location: Malekula Island

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Francis James Rolston NZ/39939 RNZAF Age 25. Killed

Nav: P/O. Norman Nelson Usherwood NZ/404004 RNZAF Age 30. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Alexander Mcinnes NZ/414884 RNZAF Age 26. Killed

Fl/Mechanic: LAC. Peter William Crees NZ/43831 RNZAF Age 21. Killed


Took off from Vila on State Island during the afternoon on a return trip to Pallikulo Airfield after delivering spare parts for a Corsair bu failed to arrive.

Searches were undertaken for the following two days but no trace could be found.

Six weeks passed before they received information from natives that it had crashed in the southern part of Malekula Island. It appeared that they flew into a hill in poor visibility and exploded. All the crew were recovered and buried at the scene of the crash.

It was later reported that it could have been unserviceable radar equipment was a contributory factor and the erratically behaviour of the artificial horizon gauges may have been a further contributory cause.

Burial details:

Although the crew are remembered on the Bourail Memorial they were buried at the crash site on Malekula Island.

Fl/Lt. Francis James Rolston. Bourail Memorial. Panel 3. Born on the 21st October 1918 at Levin. A farmer on his fathers farm at Ihakara. A member of the Middle District Aero Club and trained as a pilot for the RNZAF reserve. Enlisted as a pilot under training on the 26th of October 1939. Pilot badge was awarded on the 28th April 1940 and commissioned on the 28th May 1940. Joined 3 squadron on the 21st March 1944 and left for the Pacific on the 18th May 1944. A total of 1949 soo hours logged with 175 on the Ventura and on his third South Pacific tour. He was the officer commanding 'B; Flight.

Son of James Henry (died 03rd March 1977, age 85) and Annie Mary Rolston (née MacDonald - died 22nd August 1991, age 94), of Levin, Wellington, New Zealand. Husband of Jean Elizabeth Rolston (née Lancaster), of Levin and father of a son, Peter.

P/O. Norman Nelson Usherwood. Bourail Memorial. Panel 5. Born on the 08th July 1914 in Dunedin. Educated at Waitaki Boys High School. A works foreman for A. Murdock and Company. Enlisted as a pilot under training at Levin on the 27th October 1941 but pilot training terminated in November 1940. Trained in Canada as a navigator Badge awarded on the 15th September 1941. Seriously injured in a fall whilst on leave on the 25th October 1941 and hospitalised for a month. Joined 3 squadron on the 08th March 1944. Awarded commission on the 01st April 1944. Left for the Pacific on the 18th May 1944. A total pf 1042 flying hours logged.

Son of Albert Edward Usherwood (died 08th April 1928, age 56) and of Susie Charlotte Usherwood (née Nelson - died 12th July 1949, age 72), of Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. Husband of Esma Weir Usherwood (née Thompson - died 1992, age 75), of Dunedin, New Zealand and father of Ian Arthur.

F/O. Alexander Mcinnes. Bourail Memorial. Panel 4. Born on there 31st May 1918 in Otahuhu. Educated at Maramarua School. A freezer worker for Auckland Farmers Freezing Company. Enlisted at Levin on the 31st August 1941. Trained in Canada and awarded his W/Op/Air/Gnr licence on the 22nd June 1941 and promoted to sergeant. Awarded his commission on the 22nd June 1942. Joined 3 squadron in March 1944 and left for the Pacific on the 18th May 1944. A total of 955 flying hours logged and on his second South Pacific tour.

Son of Alexander and Violet Ruth McInnes. Husband of Betty McInnes (née Sewell), of Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand, father of a son.

LAC. Peter William Crees. Bourail Memorial. Panel 8. Born on the 14th June 1923 in Swindon, Wiltshire, England, moving to New Zealand in 1928. Educated at Seddon Technical College in Auckland. A apprentice motor mechanic for T.S Sampson. Served 3 years in the territorial army. Enlisted at Levin on the 09th January 1943 as aircraft hand. R-emusterd as a flight mechanic on the 05th July 1943. To the Pacific at base depot workshops on the 24th February 1944.

Son of William Hugh (died 18th August 1953, age 62) and Winifred Caoline Crees (née Dyke - died 07th May 1958, age 79), half sister, Winifred Betty Crees (later Stanners - died 25th September 2021, age 92) of Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.

Above L-R: Rear; Andrew Jack Cowlrick NZ/39902 ✞, AH Stubbings, Sexton Ivan Baird NZ/39897, Edward Preston Wells 58786, David William Metherell NZ/39927 ✞, Francis James Rolston NZ/39939 ✞, Douglas Owen Stanley NZ/39944 ✞.
Front; Edward Walter Gillies Churches NZ/239900 ✞, John Gordon Pattison NZ/39931, Tancred Eric Cooper NZ/39901 ✞, Jack Ward Edwards NZ/39908 ✞, Arthur James Falconer NZ/39910 ✞, Alfred William Doel NZ/39907 ✞, William Arthur Middleton NZ/39928 ✞. (Courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot 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, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 09-11-2022

KTY 11-07-2024 Details and photo added LAC Crees

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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