Special link to past

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
Lancaster Bomber

WAR MEMORIES: A Lancaster bomber at Motat

Lancaster Bomber
JESS ETHERIDGE
SPECIAL MEETING: Wally Halliwell of Mairangi Bay and England’s Diana Shaw at Motat.

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Diana Shaw was only six months old when her father Edward Ainsleigh Thomas died during World War II.

But a chance meeting with a North Shore man has provided an emotional link to her past.

Mr Thomas, a Welshman in his mid-20s, was a policeman, keen rugby player and coroner's officer but voluntarily signed up for battle.

"War broke out, he stayed as a policeman because they didn't have to sign up.

"But in the end I think a lot of those policemen thought ‘it's no good, we've got to go fly these planes'," Mrs Shaw, 68, says.

The Lancaster he was piloting went missing over the ocean between Frederikshavn, Denmark and Norway, on December 31, 1944.

The aircraft was never recovered and there were no survivors.

Talking about her father's death is still hard as she has many unanswered questions.

"You grow up your whole life not knowing, but I was lucky enough, I had a mum who could tell me things," Mrs Shaw says.

Her son Matt lives in New Zealand and arranged for his mum, who still lives in England, to meet Mairangi Bay's Wally Halliwell.

The 91-year-old was a crewman on a Lancaster bomber and worked on engines during the war.

Mr Halliwell has loved aircraft since he built wooden model airplanes as a young boy and worked with planes for 10 years from the age of 18, both during and after the war.

Coping with the loss of several crews during wartime is still difficult, he says.

But meeting Mrs Shaw and others connected through the war and sharing personal stories is one of his best experiences, he says.

"You meet lovely people," he says.

They met at the Museum of Transport and Technology, known as Motat, where Mr Halliwell has volunteered for 20 years, during Mrs Shaw's visit to New Zealand.

"I'm so chuffed I've met him," Mrs Shaw says.

Mr Halliwell took her inside Motat's Lancaster bomber for a closer look.

"She's wonderful," Mrs Shaw says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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