joined 75 Squadron at RAF Feltwell in 1940 as a
One night in December that year he and 5 other
crew set off from England to bomb a target at
in the heart of Germany's Rhur industrial
district. Pilot Officer CF Scott of Timaru
captained the Wellington bomber.
Prior to World War 2 the NZ
Government ordered 30 Vickers Wellington bombers
to re-equip the RNZAF.
RNZAF crews were sent to England to train and
take delivery of the aircraft before ferrying
to New Zealand. At the outbreak of war the
Government offered the aircraft and crews to the
They became the nucleus of No 75 (NZ) Squadron
RAF that was to serve with distinction throughout
the whole war.
Hugh English of Hastings
belonged to the world's most exclusive
club - for those who have fallen from
aircraft without a parachute and lived to tell
the tale. He joined 75 Squadron at RAF Feltwell
as a Sergeant Navigator. One night in December
that year he and 5 other crew set off from
bomb a target at Mannhein in the heart of
Germany's Rhur industrial district. Pilot Officer
of Timaru captained the Wellington bomber.
The aircraft was badly shot
up on the homeward leg. With a motor gone, Pilot
Officer Scott was peering
through the rain-swept darkness looking for a
place to put his aircraft down. Steadily losing
height, the aircraft flew
back across Germany and into occupied France. The
captain warned his crew to prepare to bale out.
Before Hugh had the
opportunity to strap on his parachute the
Wellington staggered across a mountainous ridge,
mushed into trees on the summit, and
flew on. The upward jerk of the bomber when it
hit the trees on the
mountain-top shot Hugh English right up through
the navigator's perspex astrodome.
He felt a terrible shock,
and an agonising pain in his legs, and then he
was turning over in the blackness of the night.
Although conscious of the receding drone of the
aircraft's engines Hugh did not remember landing
in a haystack,
but that is where he fell. He recalled hearing
German voices, hands lifting him on to a
stretcher, the white walls
of a hospital and the voices of French nurses.
The Germans had taken him to one of their
in Rouen, France. He spent many weeks there
before entering a prison camp.
The Germans treated Sergeant
English with great respect.
This was a man, they said, who had fallen from an
aircraft without a parachute.
Subsequent computations showed he had fallen
1500ft, - and by a million-to-one chance had
in a haystack in the valley below.
And what of the aircraft?
Nursing it down through the wet blackness, Pilot
Officer Scott brought the
Wellington in for a crash landing. All the crew
survived. Scott made off into the rain-sodden
and the following day was found by the French
underground and made an incredible
through Spain to fly again.