Lancaster crewman fought for all of us (audio)

00:17, Apr 23 2012
EMOTIONAL: Lancaster bomber pilot Arthur Humphries sheds a tear while the Last Post is played during an Anzac Day service in Invercargill in 2006.

For many veterans, the memories of war are still fresh in their minds.

Arthur Humphries is one of those men. From the look in his eyes, 1944 is a year he will never forget and it hurts to remember. The Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot officer had the nose of his plane shot off over Duisburg, Germany.

Without any instruments or navigational equipment, Mr Humphries landed the Lancaster bomber and saved his crew. For that and other efforts he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

LOOKING BACK: Former air force pilot Arthur Humphries touches his medals during an Anzac Day service.

"I can't tell you what it's like to be in a burning aircraft, the only thing to do is get out. I can't describe those things to people that don't understand."

Mr Humphries was born at Mataura and educated at Tutarau School before leaving to work on his father's farm.

But his education was not over yet.

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After deciding to join the Air Force at 18, he had to complete 21 weeks of correspondence assignments. "There was a real threat of the country being invaded the thought of my sister working in a brothel for the Germans or the Japanese and my mother scrubbing floors, in other words slaves that they would have been made.

"So we volunteered to go overseas and stop it."

Following the completion of his exams, he was sent to Rotorua and then to Canada and all up did two years training.

He was placed in a crew of seven and remained with that team for the rest of his service. Despite what he saw overseas, he would still recommend the military to young men and women.

"Go for it, it's one of the best trainings you'll ever get, and those services are very well trained."

For him, Anzac Day is a day of importance, a time to remember friends and comrades.

"For me it has a personal meaning. Three of that crew are buried in Germany simply because we got shot down. Anzac Day means a lot to me."

Young people needed to know about Anzac Day and what had happened overseas, he said.

However, the problem was they had never been in those situations so could never understand fully.

"War is something we have to put up with if we want to maintain our freedom and there's no such a price for freedom and you fight to preserve it."

ARTHUR Humphries was a young man living in Tuturau when he decided to join the Air Force at 18 and a half years old to fight in World War Two.

Many of his friends wanted to go to war but most joined the Army. He completed training in Rotorua and Canada before being stationed in England. He completed numerous campaigns in enemy territory including Kiel and Stettin.

His plane was damaged while flying over Duisburg but he managed to guide the plane to safety without any equipment. He was made a prisoner of war for a short time towards the end of the war. As the Americans advanced, the group was shifted around, towards Poland.

He came back to New Zealand in 1946, and found it hard to adjust to peacetime.

He now lives in Longwood Lifestyle Village in Riverton. He and his wife Doreen have 3 children and 7 grandchildren.

The Southland Times