PREFACE: During World
War 2 one in two hundred of New Zealand's
population (about 8000 servicemen) suffered loss
of liberty and deprivations through being held in
captivity as prisoners of war (PoW's).
About 500 of these were airmen.
Geneva Convention required that PoW's assessed by
a mixed medical commission as seriously ill or
wounded should be repatriated back to their own
country, invariably via a neutral country.
Each commission consisted of three medical
officers, two from a neutral country (one of whom
and one from the detaining power.Decisions were
by a majority. The Convention also stipulated
repatriated personnel were not to be subsequently
employed in any combatant role.
Overall, about 11,000
New Zealanders served as aircrew in
Britain's Royal Air Force in its various
theatres of operation,
and more than one in three were killed.
Around 6000 of these flew with Bomber
Command, and 1850 died.
Many other aircrew were
injured or became PoW's.
Two Hawkes Bay aircrew that suffered both
these fates were
Warrant Officers David
Allen and Hugh
They were injured when shot down on
separate Bomber Command
operations over enemy territory and ended
up as Kreigies
(the name Allied prisoners used to
and derived from Kriegsgefangene, the
German term for PoW's).
David Allen, Ian
Walker, Hugh English,
Air Secretary Barrow, AVM Isitt.
Later in the war
David and Hugh were assessed under the Geneva
Convention as qualifying for repatriation on
medical grounds. After release from captivity
they eventually embarked on the Hospital Ship MV
Oranje, arriving in Wellington on 14 December
1943. The next day David Allen, Hugh English and
Ian Walker of Auckland (who had all been promoted
to the rank of Warrant Officer while in
captivity) were welcomed back by the Chief of Air
Staff for the RNZAF, Air Vice-Marshall LM Isitt.
They were the first three New Zealand overseas
air personnel to be repatriated back to New
Zealand from German hands.
David joined the
RNZAF on 9 April 1940, having the written
consent of his widowed mother, being
under 21 years of age at the time.
Character references were supplied by his
employer and by the Mayor of Napier, Mr
Training School near Levin he was posted
Air Gunner's & Air Observer's School
at RNZAF Ohakea as an
LAC Air Gunner Under Training.
This included seven hours air-to-air
firing from the open rear cockpit
of large single-engined Vickers Vincent
His first three flights were in Vincent
This aircraft survives today, under
restoration, north of Auckland.
NZ311 under restoration.
End of May
1940 - awarded his Air Gunners brevet,
promoted to Sergeant and posted to the
RAF. On 1 June he sailed off to England,
arriving at the Aircrew Reception Centre
at RAF Uxbridge on 21 July 1940
during the dark days of the Battle of
Britain. Then to No 15 Operational
at RAF Harwell, Oxfordshire. During
August he flew about 30 hours learning to
become a rear gunner on Vickers
Wellington night bombers.
6th September - posted to 149 Squadron at
RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.
Rear Gunner's 'Office' - cleaning the
guns on the rear turret of a Wellington
Allen's first operation against the enemy
18th. Sep 1940 to Flushing in Holland.
Further operations on Wellingtons to
targets in Germany
and France, including 8 hour sorties to
Berlin and back,
continued until June 1941.
July 1941 - transferred to
No 7 Squadron at RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire,
and converted onto
the RAF's first four-engined bomber...the Short
first (and last) operation in a Stirling (N6035)
was to Berlin on 27 July 1941.
The aircraft was hit by enemy fire and ended up
limping over Holland at 800 ft with two motors
and all gun turrets out of action. David
parachuted from the aircraft but after landing,
the Germans smartly gathered up the crew and took
them into captivity.
David was subsequently admitted to the Caterpillar
- an organisation
with exclusive membership for aircrew who
have parachuted from disabled
aircraft. The badge symbolises a silkworm
whose threads created the silk from
which parachutes were made (until
substituted with nylon late in the war).
to Mrs Allen
after his capture the Germans telegraphed
advice of David's prisoner-of-war status
to the Red Cross in Geneva. It is likely
the Red Cross then informed the British
and ultimately notice was given to his
mother in Napier as next of kin.
Later she received notice from the RAF's
Central Depository that they now held
her son's personal effects in safe
custody. During his time in Germany David
transferred to several camps, including
Stalags IIIE, IIID, VIIIB, and Stalag
New Zealand and
Australian airmen PoW's at Stalag IIIE.
David Allen second from right in front
He also spent time
during 1942 in a Military hospital in
having his wounds tended and being
While there was sketched by an artist.
Being in Berlin he
experienced at close hand the heavy pasting that
the shattered city received from bombing.
He observed that his experience of the raids
lived up to all he subsequently read of them.
Despite German endeavours to keep news from the
prisoners he observed, the Reich was being
considerably rocked by the RAF. Speaking
later of camp life David said that it was made
tolerable only through
the good offices of the Red Cross organisation,
whose parcels were a veritable Godsend.
PHOTOS OF STALAG-LIFE
In April 1943 he was
transferred to a hospital attached to Stalag
where PoW's awaiting repatriation were assembled.
Eventually, in late 1943, David and a group of
other sick and wounded PoW's travelled south by
train to Marseilles,
in German-occupied France. From there they went
by sea to a most hospitable reception at
in neutral Spain. A freighter then took them
across the Mediterranean to Alexandria in Egypt,
where they boarded the Oranje on 24 Nov 1943 for
the long journey back to New Zealand.
discharge from the RNZAF in 1945, David
was active on the
Committee of the Napier Ex-PoW
Association. Looking after the welfare
of members was an important function of