Ex-air force chief dies

The man regarded as the “father of the air force” has died in Lower Hutt, at the age of 91.

Sir Richard Bolt joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in 1942 and trained as a pilot, before serving with RAF Bomber Command during World War II. He was in the Pathfinder Force, and flew 37 Halifax and Lancaster bomber missions.

He took command of the RNZAF as Chief of Air Staff in 1974, and became Chief of Defence Staff in 1976. He retired in 1980.

Chief of the Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley said Bolt’s decades of service at every level had established him as a cornerstone of the modern air force.

“The status of ‘father of the air force’ was richly deserved. He had an outstanding career, culminating in the highest possible appointments,” he said.

“He was an airman, and a leader of airmen and women, who has been a role model to us all. We are all deeply saddened at his passing, and we offer our most sincere condolences to his family,” he said.

Bolt stayed in close contact with the RNZAF after retirement.

He was actively engaged with the Bomber Command Association, Brevet Club and Royal New Zealand Air Force Association.

In 2012 Bolt travelled to London to see the Queen unveil of a Bomber Command memorial.

‘‘That was a recognition, belatedly, that meant a great deal to me,’’ he later told The Dominion Post.

The same year he spoke of ‘‘our moments of excitement, flak and night fighters."

‘‘On my first raid we got 50 holes in the aircraft. We had the odd engine knocked out by our own bombs. We had an incident where an incendiary bomb (from another British bomber) lodged in a petrol tank and it did not ignite. There was always a bit of luck in it.

‘‘We were all scared as hell over the target area. After dropping the bombs you used all the tactics you could to get out of the light and get home as quick as we could. It was not a relaxing business. I can't remember worrying about being killed. It was a case of well, if it happens, it happens."

Bolt’s funeral will take place with full military honours at St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington on Friday.

The Dominion Post