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Sq/Ldr. Mortimer Tuke Vanderpump DFC, DFC(US). NZ40994/130335

Also known as Van and Mort. Born in Auckland on the 14th May 1920 Served in RNZAF 09th April 1940 to 16th April 1946, Reserve to 02nd April 1955, killed 01st April 1955

Commanding Officer of 19 Squadron, May to July 1944. Commanding Officer of 24 Squadron, September 1944 to January 1945. On leaving the air force in 1946 he was appointed CFI at the Hawkes Bay and East Coast Aero Club at Bridge Pa, Hawkes Bay.

In 1950, he purchased Auster Autocrat ZK-AUO and formed Napier City Air Service, working as a charter operator. Finding this financially unsuccessful he then joined the aerial topdressing industry with a Tiger Moth ZK-AZP which was obtained from Air Contracts Ltd. in mid-1952.

ZK-BGN replaced the Tiger, and was fairly quickly repainted in Vanair advertising and named 'Susie' after his daughter.(Informain courtesy Jeremy Vanderpump July 2022)

Cessna 180 N3672C arrived in the country in 1954 to become ZK-BGN at New Plymouth in September of that year. After assembly and fit-out by Rural Aviation, it moved to Hastings in November 1954 to become the property of Vanair Ltd. being registered as such on 20Jan1955.

Just five months later, ZK-BGN crashed at Putorino, northern Hawkes Bay, while working and Mortimer Vanderpump was killed at just 34 years old. It is believed that the crash was caused by the engine or propeller failure. Either the crankshaft broke or the propeller shed a blade in flight and the crash occurred when Van was trying to carry out the subsequent forced landing.

Substantial parts of ZK-BGN were incorporated into a rebuild by Rural at New Plymouth which became ZK-BWK in 1960. (information courtesy Peter Lewis)

Brigadier-General Ray L. Owens, presenting the DFC (USA) to F/O. Mortimer Tuke Vanderpump.

Citation Distinguished Flying Cross (US) 17th September 1943:

Whilst with 16 squadron RNZAF (Kittyhawk)

Mortimer Tuke Vanderpump, Flying Officer Royal New Zealand Air Force, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.

On September 3, 1943, while returning from a raid on an enemy airdrome, one of the heavy bombers experienced engine trouble and was lagging about a mile and a half behind the formation. In response to a call for assistance from the disabled bomber Flying Officer Vanderpump and his wingman, fell back and were so successful in their protective manoeuvres that approximately ten attacking Japanese fighters were driven off and the heavy bomber returned to its base without further incident. Flying Officer Vanderpump's outstanding flying ability and determination to attack the enemy contributed greatly to the safe return of a friendly bomber and render his actions in keeping with the highest traditions of the Allied Air Forces.

Official History records that Fl/Lt. Vanderpump and Fl/Sgt. John Emmett Miller was the first member of the RNZAF in the South Pacific to be awarded a 'Spot' (i.e. immediate) award of the DFC (US).

Citation Distinguished Flying Cross (Imm) (15th February 1944):

Whilst with 16 squadron RNZAF (Kittyhawk)

On the 17th December 1943, Flight Lieutenant Vanderpump took part in a fighter sweep over Rabaul, an operation that involved flying a single-engine fighter aircraft over two hundred and forty miles of the open sea, and on arrival engaging superior numbers of enemy aircraft over hostile territory. Disregarding the odds, he led the subsection in an attack on a force of eight Zeros over their airfield at a height of a few hundred feet. In this attack, he destroyed a Zero. He then observed the other member of his subsection be under close attack by one of several Zeros. Flight Lieutenant Vanderpump out-manoeuvred and shot down the attacking Zero. He then found himself the target of eight enemy aircraft and was forced down to ground level. He fought them off while he looked for his fellow pilot, who is believed to have been shot down during this episode. Failing to see him and having exhausted his ammunition he broke for home but found the enemy formation between him and his base. Under attack the whole time his aircraft was hit three times and considerably damaged. He was only able to escape from his unfavourable situation by a feat of skilful and audacious airmanship which involved flying over the broken country at tree-top height and over the heavily defended base at Rabaul at roof-top level. He was under attack until he was well out to sea on his return but eventually succeeded in bringing his damaged aircraft back over the great distance to base. Flight Lieutenant Vanderpump's efforts to save his comrade on this occasion showed great determination and utter disregard for his safety, as well as exceptional flying ability. During his three tours of 275 operational flying hours and ninety-two missions against the enemy. Flight Viinderpump's devotion to duty has been of the highest order.

As a Flight Commander, his fearless determination to attack the enemy regardless of the odds, his unfailing cheerfulness and his ability as a fighter pilot has been outstanding example to his fellow pilots.

Member of the 'Goldfish Club'.

On the 25th December 1944, his Corsair was hit by flak over Ataliklikun. He ditched in the sea and was rescued by a Dumbo aircraft. Credited with the destruction of two Japanese aircraft while with 16 squadron RNZAF, he completed 129 missions during five tours in the Pacific - one tour with 15 squadron and two with 16 squadron (all on Kittyhawks), then one each with 19 and 24 squadron RNZAF (both Corsair). In 1945 Sq/Ldr. Vanderpump visited RAF units in Burma to study close-support tactics and undertook a further 11 sorties, with 79 squadron (Thunderbolt). C/0. 19 squadron RNZAF May-July 1944. C/O. 24 squadron RNZAF September 1944-January 1945. Kaa while aerial top-dressing at Putorino in Cessna 180 ZK-BGN, 2 Apr 1955.

Above: W/Cdr. Richard Webb NZ/391853, Sq/Ldr. Jesse Julius de Willimoff NZ/413038 and Sq/Ldr. Mortimer Tuke Vanderpump NZ/40994 at Ardmore Airport, Auckland, 10th October 1945.

L-R: Rear; A. A McClean, Sefton Douglas Lisle Hood NZ/40975 killed 18th January 1943, Mortimer Tuke Vanderpump NZ/409994 killed 02nd April 1955, Frederick Norman Rhys Thomas NZ/40993 - Later DFC 21st December, 194 Sq/Ldr, Dennis Trevelyan Herrick NZ/40974 killed 30th June 1941, Donald Frederick Streeter NZ/401033 killed 24th July 1941.
Front; William Henry Russell NZ/40987 killed 28th February 1945, David Cameron Stewart NZ/40990 killed 13th May 1944, Raymond John Newton NZ.40984 killed 01st January 1945, J.McL Pearson, Frank Warrington John Oakden NZ/401028 died 27th December 1974. (courtesy Air Force Museum New Zealand

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Peter Lewis, Wings Over New Zealand, and the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, 'For Such Deeds' Gp. Cpt. C.M Hanson, Air Force Museum of New Zealand, Wigram, Whites Aviation, Alexander Turnbull Library, Jeremy Vanderpump, other sources as quoted below:

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KTY 03-02-2022


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