GEORGE Allan (Sandy)
NZ403441 & 70064, Squadron Leader, Royal New Zealand Air Force
Distinguished Flying Cross (4 August 1942): 115 Squadron RAF (Wellington). Pilot Officer GEORGE is an outstanding captain. He has at all times endeavoured to reach his allotted target and press home his attack. On a recent occasion his aircraft was damaged by anti-aircraft fire whilst over Essen. The main fuel feed pipe was fractured and although temporary repairs were carried out by various members of his crew, fuel was being lost at a rate of a gallon per minute. Despite this, Pilot Officer GEORGE skilfully and determinedly flew the aircraft to this country and landed safely although his fuel was practically exhausted. This officer has participated in raids on Stettin, Bremen, Poissy, Rostock, Warnemunde, amongst many other important enemy targets. His leadership and courage have been outstanding. Distinguished Flying Medal (31 Oct 1941): 115 Squadron RAF (Wellington). One night in October 1941, this airman was the pilot of an aircraft detailed to attack Duisburg. On the outward journey, shortly after passing over Zuider Zee, both engines of his aircraft commenced to lose power and the aircraft would not maintain height. In spite of this, Sergeant GEORGE resolutely continued his flight to the target area, where subjected to most accurate and intense anti- aircraft fire and unable to take complete avoiding action he released a very heavy bomb. Although his aircraft was gradually losing height and in spite of being further handicapped by an unserviceable radio transmitter Sergeant GEORGE skilfully flew back to this country and made a safe landing. Throughout, this pilot displayed outstanding coolness, courage and determination. On a previous occasion Sergeant GEORGE carried his mission through to a successful conclusion in conditions of great difficulty.
Distinguished Flying Cross
Distinguished Flying Medal
Aircrew Europe Star
Battle of Britain
War Service Medal 1939-45
New Zealand War Service Medal
New Zealand Defence Service Medal
Born 7 April 1918 Hawera, New Zealand
Died 22 September 2014 Hawera, New Zealand
Buried Manaia Burial, RSA, Plot 262
Courtesy Stuff.co.nz & Taranaki Daily News
The picture couldn't possibly tell the story. It's a black-and-white photo at Allan George's Manaia home. It shows two young men, both in uniform, standing in front of a plane. By the look of the aircraft and the uniform, it is reasonable to assume it is World War II. And even though Mr George is 90 now, it is easy to pick him out. But the picture only hints of the danger, the friendships and the reckless disregard. It doesn't tell of events so painful they bring tears more than 60 years later. And it doesn't tell of two medals the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) and the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) awarded for bravery. Mr George, a pilot, received the DFC after "an episode" when his Wellington bomber got "awfully shot up" dropping bombs over the Ruhr. "My poor old rear gunner got his bum shot away. Screaming his head off, we had to pull him out of the rear turret, blood from hell to breakfast." First a fuel pipe was severed then a fighter plane came in and shot the motor out. "It was a miracle we never blew up, because the plane flooded with fuel." Petrol was gushing everywhere, so an Englishman, Viv Broad, the wireless operator, bandaged up the pipe and contained the petrol. The Wellington was struggling on one motor and losing height. "The crew said `can we bail out?' I said `hell no'." It wasn't a good idea to bail out over the target. The searchlights would shine on the parachutes and the German gunners would shoot the parachutes down. Mr George told his crew to hang on until they reached the coast. Once there, they still had a bit of height, so limped across the sea and crash-landed at an airfield just inside England. By the time the rear gunner got out of hospital, he had been replaced, so the gunner joined another crew. He was shot down over Hamburg. Altogether, Mr George flew 73 operations, 21 as a Pathfinder.
The Pathfinders were the elite. They were the top pilots and navigators from the RAF's Bomber Command. Each one had to have completed at least one tour of operations a tour equalled 30 bombing missions. And they had to volunteer. By 1943, Bomber Command was huge, so there were plenty to fly the missions. However, the difficulty, because of the European weather, was to find the target, he says. "At this time, scientists had developed decent radio aids, which allowed us to become more precise. And it was realised that those of us who had done a tour of operations ... were very experienced men." The Pathfinders flew Mosquitoes and flew ahead of the bombers. Each Mosquito carried a pilot, a navigator, flares to indicate the targets to the following bombers, and one 4000lb bomb. They had to prove, with a photo, that they had hit the target. There was some delinquency, Mr George says blokes who were LMF (lack of moral fibre) and didn't go over the target, dropping flares and bombs anywhere. "It was equivalent to a soldier going over the top. You knew you had to go through that barrier of flak. There would be hundreds of bombers flying behind the Pathfinders, so they had to hit the target on time, otherwise it increased the risk of collisions. "It was equivalent to rush hour in Auckland." There was an 80% fatality rate for the bombing missions. For the Pathfinders, it was 90%. That was the butcher's bill that had to be paid every night, he says. For the extra danger, Pathfinders got extra rank.
Mr George was in 139 Squadron, which was unique, because there were 16 nationalities among the aircrew. "They were a remarkable gang of burglars." The squadron's purpose was to bomb Berlin. It was the most difficult target of the war, being the most defended target in Germany. Hitler boasted that no bomb would fall on Berlin, Mr George says. In March and April 1945, the RAF hit the city night after night after night. "The idea was we had to do nothing but bomb Berlin for 50 nights in a row." They stopped at 36 because the butcher's bill was too high and the RAF needed to build up reserves. Aircrew worked two nights on, one night off. Hitler surrounded Berlin with searchlights and moved in the fighter jets. "The jets were at 40,000ft. We were at 30,000ft. They came down on us and picked us off." Hitler was so upset at the Pathfinders' success at highlighting the targets that he ordered that any Pathfinder shot down was to be killed. The last time Bomber Command attacked Berlin was April 20, 1945. "There were thousands of Russian guns all the way from the Baltic Coast, down as far as you could see to the south, and that barrage kept going until the second of May and Berlin surrendered. "April 20 was the only night there were no fighters or no flak at us. Everything on the ground was aimed at the Russians." The butcher's bill for Bomber Command aircrew in World War II was 55,000. There were also 20,000 wounded and 12,000 taken prisoner. "We never thought of more than today." It was said that airmen were only concerned with wine, women and song, he says. "We didn't give a monkey's stuff for anything." They did some stupid things, got up to all sorts of mischief, were a wild bunch. "Every night we used to say `well, I hope it's quick'." There wasn't much lingering. "We'd stop a hit from flak and, with our load, would blow up. It was instant. You'd just vaporise." One thing they used to say was they didn't want to know when their last raid would be. But on May 2, they were called to a meeting. "They said, `well, boys, there's one target left Kiel. You've got to go. Get home tonight and you are through the war.' That was ..." Mr George stops, his voice breaking. He gets his hanky out and wipes his eyes. "... the most terrible parade of the lot. You can understand I never go there. It's too upsetting." He stops for a bit. "I can't talk about it. We always used to say we didn't want to know which was the last raid. You get home tonight, you're through the war. You could've heard a pin drop. I don't go there."
He has recorded his last flight in his logbook, as he recorded all his flights. In neat, precise handwriting. "May 2, 1945. Last of European war. Very good raid. "The fighters were up and they had a bit of a mix up with us." Berlin surrendered the same day. After the trip to Kiel, every aeroplane in the Royal Air Force was grounded. "They opened the bar and we got drunk." The bar stayed open all night and the next morning, there was a huge parade. The airmen were still drunk. "When the old parson said, We'll bow our head and give thanks to the Almighty, most of us fell over."
The logbook is one of Mr George's most prized possessions. Inside it is a piece of cloth covered in writing in English and in Russian and a Union Jack. It is called a blood chit. Mr George carried it in his raids over Berlin. "It guarantees a reward for not taking a life ... so if we were damaged, we could land behind Russian lines instead of the long flight home. The Russians, of course, would shoot anything. They were the most ill-disciplined bastards in the world." It was a long way from the farm in Manaia where Mr George had grown up. He volunteered when the call went out for air crew in 1940 and went to the RNZAF aircrew training school in Levin, then to New Plymouth at Bell Block. It's not where the airport is now, he says, it was across the road.
At the time it was the biggest corrugated iron building in the world. It burnt down later. Mr George learned to fly for two months, then went to Ohakea and learned to fly twin-engine aircraft before going to England for more training. First he went to Lossiemouth in the Moray Firth for a conversion course on Wellington bombers, then to 115 Squadron in Norfolk and straight into operations over Germany. By this time, it was 1941. He got his first medal, the DFM, for flying a Wellington bomber especially fitted with a Rolls Royce motor. "They brought out this big bomb, 4000 pounder, and they made a special plane to carry it and I was the pilot who flew it." He dropped it on Hamburg. Both his medals were presented to him by King George VI at receptions at Buckingham Palace. On one of the visits to the palace, he remembers getting an urgent call of nature. "We had all had a pretty heavy night on the booze. In a long line waiting to be introduced to the King, I said to one of the stately ushers, Mate, where's the toilet?" The footman looked at him with disdain. "We were just uncouth pig-islanders." In the end, Mr George said to him, "Mate, I want to piss." He followed the footman up and down the corridors until they got to the toilet. "Well, you wouldn't believe it. It was on a dais. It had armrests. Having used it, being polite and a well-trained boy, where's the chain? There was no flush. There was a bloody great lever. You got hold of it and pulled it. "I went back and told the other pilots in the line, Hey, go to the toilet it's a bloody beaut. They all went."
As well as flying bombers, Mr George had a stint as a flying instructor and at one point he was posted back to New Zealand for a couple of months "to sort out a discipline school at Delta [just out of Woodbourne] which had mutinied, but they never used the word mutinied. They had gone on strike. I came back from England and sorted it out. I went straight back to England and went on Pathfinders." He wasn't brave, he says, he was doing what he had to do. And he wasn't scared there wasn't time. He was too busy thinking about what he was doing, flying the plane, looking for searchlights, looking for the target, dodging the flak, dodging the fighter jets. "I've had lumps of shrapnel just miss me, been shot at, had a fighter take me on over Berlin and miss ... "A piece of flak was buried in behind my head I must have been leaning forward, or it would have cut my head off. "I always say to this day I never worry about not getting Lotto. I've had all the luck in the world."
- Taranaki Daily News