Taranaki pilot Cliff Emeny was a young man not afraid to take risks. Hunger for adventure took the 19-year old to England, where he was stationed at the outbreak of World War II.
He joined the fray as a seaman gunner, and over a decade, had the unique distinction of serving in the merchant navy, the army and the air force.
Even more unique was Cliff receiving three airmen’s wings; as an air gunner, radar observer and finally pilot. Author Tom Woods wrote of this outstanding achievement in the Cliff Emeny biography, “The Three Wings”.
Cliff Emeny, NZ 40204 - born 11 January, 1920. 1937 joined Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles. 1939 worked his passage to England on the “Port Caroline”. 1940 posted to 264 Squadron, Duxford, England, on Defiant night fighters. Promoted to Sergeant. 1941 commissioned as Pilot Officer. 1942 awarded Pilot’s Wings. 1943 posted to No. 60 OTU, Grantham, England for conversion to Blenheim Bombers. Soon after, he completed a Mosquito Fighter-Bomber conversion, and was posted to Burma.
1944 Emeny led a flight of six Mosquitos in a dawn raid on Meiktila, an enemy-held airfield, and was shot down. He was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in the infamous Rangoon prison, where he was subject to harsh, cruel treatment.
28 April 1945 allied prisoners took control of the prison after the Japanese pulled out of Rangoon. Emeny was in the first patrol that ventured out of prison. A day later he led a party north to take over Mingaladon Airfield.
May 1945 British forces arrive. Emeny flies to Calcutta, weighing just six stone 10 pounds.
Cliff Emeny and wife Joan, herself a Returned Service Woman, raised a family of six children, and spent their retirement years in Taranaki.
On Father’s Day 2000, Cliff took his final flight, in a Vampire Jet owned and piloted by son Brett, for a flight around the mountain. Cliff took the controls for much of the flight. It was a somewhat symbolic flight because the Vampire was de Havilland’s successor to the Mosquito Fighter-Bomber, so Cliff felt very much at home in the cockpit. A month later, he passed away.
Cliff Emeny’s legacy as an outstanding airman lives on with his sons. Brett flies helicopters for ‘Helicopter Services’, his own business based in Taranaki. As well as the Vampire Jet, he also owns a YAK 52, both of which are stationed at New Plymouth airport.
Brett’s brother, Craig Emeny owns and operates Air Chathams, with a fleet of Convair aircraft. Craig is based in the Chatham Islands.
Well known Taranaki farmer and identity Harold Newton had an amazing flying career.
Decorated for his outstanding feats as a night fighter pilot, where he shot down two German Dornier 217 aircraft and damaged a third, Harold was awarded one of flying’s highest awards, the Distinguished Flying Cross [DFC].
This feat was achieved during harold Newton’s first mission in a Beaufighter,
an RAF fighter bomber. the DFC was presented to him by King George VI.
Harold Newton, NZ404449. When World War Two broke out, Harold joined the RNZAF, and went on to fly Wellington Bombers, Mosquito Fighter Bombers, and the Beaufighter.
After the war he continued to fly for the RAF’s Berlin Air Command, flying food and supplies to starving Germans in Russian-held Berlin.
The Distinguished Flying Cross wasn’t Harold Newton’s only claim to an amazing flying achievement. In 1947 he bought a small American Ercoupe Monoplane and flew it from Belgium all the way home to New Zealand, something celebrated in the press and radio all over the country.
The 19,000 kilometre journey took 3 weeks. “I just wanted to get home again. I’d flown right through the war, so I knew I had the skills to fly that distance”.
Harold landed on a beach at Lord Howe island to tighten a loose engine cowling screw, before pressing on to New Zealand. As he approached Bell Block, he was flying in cloud and rain. “I couldn’t locate the beacon and I was getting increasingly concerned I might be near the White Cliffs. I wanted to make land - not hit it. So I turned round on a reciprocal track and headed out to sea again, eventually located the beacon at Whenuapai, and headed for there”.
Harold Newton returned to the 1880ha family farm at Kaipikari near Urenui, to continue developing and breaking-in the hill country property. He loved machinery, having bought his first tractor at the age of 16 to go contracting.
Well into his eighties, Harold was still operating large bulldozers and tractors. It was this passion that sadly cost the 86 year old his life in a tractor accident on the farm in 2003.
Harold’s faithful dog, Bert, stayed at Harold’s side until help arrived, and in another remarkable twist, Harold’s son Matt flew the TET Rescue Helicopter to the farm to collect his father, even though he knew who the accident victim was. The Newton family still owns and operates the Kaipikari farm.
Ian Herbert was another remarkable World War Two pilot from Taranaki. Born in Inglewood in 1923, he was orphaned at the age of six, and was raised by relatives in Uruti.
He attended Mount Messenger School, worked on family farms, became a herd tester, volunteered for the Air force in 1941, then worked in the Kakaramea Dairy factory awaiting call up.
Ian gained his wings at Woodbourne air force base in Marlborough, and went on to become a Lancaster bomber pilot, who flew his crew of 7 on night raids between England and Germany.
F/L Herbert initially flew for 630 Squadron, then moved to 227 Sq., where he commanded Lancaster U “Uncle”.
On the night of December 4, 1944 Ian Herbert lifted his fully laden Lancaster bomber, the stalwart of British Bomber Command, off from RAF Balderton in Nottinghamshire. It was a Mark 1 Lancaster, serial number LM259 of 227 Squadron, on a night bombing mission deep into Germany.
Near the target – Heilbronn – the big bomber was attacked by a German Me110 nightfighter, and raked by canonfire which killed one crew member.
Despite two engines on fire, Herbert kept the crippled bomber steady enough for his crew to safely bail out into a dark enemy sky. He then exited the Lancaster himself.
After hiding in barns, fighting frostbite in the freezing cold, he evaded capture for three weeks, before being found by Polish farm workers. Soon after, he was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war.
Herbert was liberated from Stalag Luft 1 POW Camp, and returned to England in May 1945.
Some years after the war, a remarkable encounter: Ian Herbert met Peter Spoden, the German fighter pilot who shot him down, and the two became friends. Furthermore, their respective grandaughters met in Frankfurt 57 years after the two airmen encountered each other as enemies over Germany.
One of the great ironies of war was romance amidst the brutality of combat. Ian Herbert, the dashing young airman from New Zealand, met Ruth Bowman, the beautiful English nurse from Carlisle, Cumbria. “I knew he was the one in an instant” she recalls. They were married in March 1946.
In 1947, after a stint in India as a transport pilot on DC3s, the debonair Taranaki boy brought his bride back to New Zealand.
They raised their family at Tarurutangi, inland from Bell Block where the family farms to this day.
Ian Herbert died in July 2006. He and Ruth were together for 60 years. Ruth still lives on the farm, not far from here.
Airspresso is grateful to the Herbert family for the use of Ian’s dress uniform, flying helmet and flying history, and are privileged to display the personal items of a great local airman. Standish Ian Douglas Herbert, Flight Lieutenant RNZAF, WW2.
14 February 1923 - 24 July 2006
Jim Hickey was born in Opunake in 1923, the only one of ten children to go off to war. The poor Irish family had only just bought their first basic steel-wheeled tractor, when Jim was consigned to Ashburton, learning to fly Tiger Moths. The technology of flight amazed him.
In February 1943 Hickey was posted to Woodbourne,to begin training as a fighter pilot on the T6 Harvard, a mono-winged aluminium aircraft - for him another quantum leap in technology.
Later that year, Jim was posted overseas to join the war effort, sailing on the ‘Monarch of Bermuda’ to San Francisco. From there it was a train ride across the USA to New York, onto the ‘Queen Mary’ and across the Alantic to Scotland, then another train ride through England to Brighton and hove.
He recalls: “The English country roads were wall to wall with trucks, tanks and equipment, lining the hedgrows and hidden under trees ready for the D-Day invasion.. thousands of them. Nobody knew what was going on”. Now in England, Hickey converted to twin engined Ansons and Oxfords as a staff pilot.
January 1945 posted to the far east as a fighter pilot. Converted on to Mark V Spitfires at Petahtiqva, Israel. “The power of the things was unbelievable”. April Posted to 681 RAF Photographic Reconnaissance (PR) Squadron, Alipore, Calcutta, India. Then he was posted to Mingaladon Airfield, Rangoon, Burma.
He photographed the infamous Burma-Siam Railway, where many allied prisoners of war perished from disease, starvation and harsh treatment.
July 30 now flying the Mark X1X High Altitude Spitfire, Jim Hickey was one of just a handful of allied pilots to fly above 45,000 feet. In contrast, low level photographic sweeps were done at a mere 100 feet, at around 400 miles per hour (700kph).
September 1945 Hickey was cleared for ‘early release on compassionate grounds’ by Colin Papps, a fellow Kiwi and CO of 681 Squadron. Jim’s father had died during the war, and he was finally able to return to the family farm in Opunake.
He returned to New Zealand on a tea boat, with a group of wounded servicemen and nurses. The trip took six weeks. When the boat arrived in Auckland, there was a Watersiders’ strike, and the boat had to anchor off for a few days.
“It made you realise how little you were worth”. On the 13th December 1998 at Auckland’s Ardmore Airport, Jim went for a flight in a Tiger Moth NZ841 during which he took the controls, the very biplane he had last flown on December 31, 1942. Jim Hickey NZ427205.
Airport Drive Bell Block PO BOX 8182 New Plymouth TEL/FAX +64 6 755 0720 +64 6 755 0720
© Copyright 2009 Macfarlanes Group Ltd