17.01.1944 No 2 Squadron RNZAF PV-I Ventura NZ4520 Fl/Lt. Wood
Operation: Ferry Flight
Date: 17th January 1944 (Monday)
Unit: No. 2 Squadron RNZAF (motto: Whakatopa Kia Mate - 'We Swoop to Kill')
Type: PV-I Ventura
Base: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Location: Coral Sea off Vanuatu (New Hebrides)
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Peter Ritchey Wood NZ/401798 RNZAF Age 27. Missing - believed killed
Nav: P/O. Francis Stephen Baird NZ/4212743 RNZAF Age 33. Missing - believed killed (note)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Robert James Carter DFM NZ/41570 RNZAF Age 29. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Beeby Murray NZ/431091 RNZAF Age 19. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Brian John Vesty NZ/414532 RNZAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed
Cpl. (Fitter HE) Edward Stanley Ayrey NZ/40636 RNZAF Age 24. Missing - believed killed
LAC. (Fitter/Armourer) Raymond John Goff NZ/4210468 RNZAF Age 19. Missing - believed killed
AC1. (Flight Mechanic) Norman Lindsay Hewett NZ/425053 RNZAF Age 20. Missing - believed killed
AC1. (Flight Mechanic) John Ignatius O'dwyer NZ/432728 RNZAF Age 20. Missing - believed killed
AC1. (Flight Rigger) Thomas George Savage NZ/4214902 RNZAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
On a Ferry Flight Guadalcanal to Espiritu Santo when on approaching the island an American Hellcat pilot saw NZ4520 flyings very low at 200 ft 5-10 miles North West of Cape Queiros with an engine streaming smoke.
The conditions at the time had been described as very heavy rain. The time of the observation was 14:45 hrs - the aircraft crashed into the Coral Sea shortly afterwards. None of the crew or passengers survived.
It is thought that the pilot may have overlooked changing the fuel taks whilst flying blind in the atrocious weather conditions.
Note: The brother of P/O. Francis Baird, 25 year old, Fl/Lt. Angus Bruce Baird was missing - believed killed on the 30th June 1941. Further details can be read here.
Fl/Lt. Peter Ritchey Wood. Bourail Memorial. Panel 3. Born on the 28th April 1916 at Hastings, the son of Morris Edwin and Clare Lenore Wood (née Ritchey), of Paraparaumu Beach, Wellington, New Zealand and husband of Mary Betty Wood (née Macassey), of Wellington City. Prior to service worked as a stock agent for the New Zealand Loan and Management Agency Company. A total of 1,600 flyings hours logged with 95 solo on the Ventura. Completed over 11 operational sorties.
P/O. Francis Stephen Baird. Bourail Memorial. Panel 5. Born on the 02nd July 1910 at Wyndham, the son of James Henderson Baird and Millicent Baird, husband of Myra Garfield Baird, of Fendalton, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. Prior to service worked as a surveyor with the Caribbean Petroleum Company.
Fl/Sgt. Robert James Carter DFM. Bourail Memorial. Panel 6. Born on the 22nd May 1914 at Taumanunui, the son of Robert Pearce Carter and of Julia Ann Carter (née Kerr), of Taumarunui, Auckland, New Zealand. Worked as a drapers assistant for Sayers and Ward Ltd. Previously served with 75 and 115 Squadron's DFM awarded as recognition of his air gunner skills as a rear gunner.
Sgt. Thomas Beeby Murray. Bourail Memorial. Panel 8. Born on the 17th April 1924 at Waikari, the son of William Michael and Gwendolyn Annie Murray, of Uruti Taranaki, New Zealand. A student prior to service.
Fl/Sgt. Brian John Vesty. Bourail Memorial. Panel 7. Born on the 16th November 1920 at Tikokino, the son of John and Ella Vesty (née Mann), of Waipukurau, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. Worked as in a hotel for his father at Kai Iwi prior to service.
Cpl. Edward Stanley Ayrey. Bourail Memorial. Panel 8. Born on the 12th May 1919 at Fielding, the son of Samuel and Ann Ayrey, of Morrinsville, Auckland, New Zealand. Worked prior to service as a mechanic for H.F. McConnell.
LAC. Raymond John Goff. Bourail Memorial. Panel 8. Born on the 03rd March 1924 at Auckland, the son of Eugene Stanley Goff, and of Jessie Blanche Evelyn Goff (née Warne), of Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand. Apprentice fitter for NZR Workshops before joining the RNZAF on the 04th September 1942.
AC1. Norman Lindsay Hewett. Bourail Memorial. Panel 9. Born on the 17th July 1923 at Waikari, the son of William Norman and Maggie Robina Hewett, of Hawarden, Canterbury, New Zealand. A machine mechanic for Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company before joining the RNZAF on the 27th May 1942.
AC1. John Ignatius O'dwyer. Bourail Memorial. Panel 9. Born on the 03rd July 1923 at Matamata, the son of Thomas Ignatius and Kathleen O'Dwyer (née Reddy), of Motumote Southland, New Zealand. A student before going to the RNZAF on the 27th June 1943.
AC1. Thomas George Savage. Bourail Memorial. Panel 9. Born on the 09th (05th?) July 1921 at Carterton, the son of George Savage and of Annie Reeves Savage (née Wilkinson), of Carterton, Wellington, New Zealand. Worked as an apprentice plumber for J. Moughan in Napier prior to service.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, also thanks to Peter Hewett for photo of his relative, other sources as quoted below: