Operation: Formation Flypast
Date: 15th October 1953 (Thursday)
Unit: No. RNZAF Station Wigram, New Zealand
Type: De Havilland Devon ST.I
Serial: NZ1811 / NZ1810
Code: Not known
Base: RNZAF Station Wigram
Location: Halswell, south of Wigram, New Zealand
Crew - NZ1811:
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Erling William Ziesler 70147 RNZAF Age 30. Killed
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Sholto Russell Duncan MiD. AM (US). 130323 TAF Age 41. Killed
Engine Fitter: AC1. William Henry Sharman 76121 RNZAF Age 33. Killed
Radio Mechanic: AC2. Russell Woodcock 75331 RNZAF Age 20. Killed
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Edwin Pattison Booth Ebbett AFC. 70098 RNZAF Age 39. Killed
Airframe Assistant: AC1. Brian James Keogh 920969 TAF Age 21. Killed
Engine Assistant: AC1. Eric Melrose 920454 TAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
The 1953 London to Christchurch air race, the 'Last Great Air Race' was 12,300 miles (19,800 km) long, from London Heathrow to Christchurch International Airport in New Zealand and took place in October 1953 after Christchurch took the decision to declare their airport as International in 1950. (Wikipedia)
These two aircraft were leading a formation for a fly past at the award ceremony for 'Last Great Air Race' when at 15.47 hrs, at around 1200 ft the wing of NZ1810 struck that of NZ1811 and the formation broke up.
The two aircraft then fell out of control and dived into the ground - killing all 7 crew members. It is described as the largest ever loss of life in a single accident of the RNZAF over New Zealand.
Crash photographs courtesy of Archives New Zealand.
There are several street and avenues named after some of the crew. Halswell Residents Association have been trying for years to have a memorial erected to the crew, we understand they have succeeded and this will be unveiled at the crash site on the 15th October 2018.
The memorial unveiling did indeed take place and with thanks to Ian Martyn from Medals Reunited New Zealand photographs are now shown:
Bench and memorial plaque photo courtesy Don Simms.
Fl/Lt. Erling William Ziesler. Born on the 14th May 1923 in Timaru, Mid Canterbury, the son of Erling and Daisy Frances Ziesler (née Dailey), husband of Florence Eileane Ziesler (née Hoadley). Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch, Canterbury. Serving with Central Flying school at Wigram. Flew two tours with 16 Squadron. A total 2859 solo flying hours with 119 on the Devon.
On the 14th October 2018 a small remembrance parade was made on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the tragedy. A contingent from 23 Squadron ATC Nelson in attendance. (courtesy Tim Cuff - freelance photographer)
Above as described with Sq/Ldr. Duncan's grave nearest the camera (courtesy Diane and Brian Ramsay)
Sq/Ldr. Sholto Russell Duncan MiD. AM (US). Born on the 19th April 1912 in Nelson, the son of Henry Richard and Eugenie Duncan (née Hayter), Nelson, husband of Sheila Ursula Duncan (née Philpott). Wakapuaka Cemetery (RSA Section), Nelson. He had completed four tours in the South Pacific theatre during WW2 - Two with 15 Squadron, one with 20 Squadron as C/O and one with 1 Group HQ on Guadalcanal.
AC1. William Henry Sharman. Born on the 21st March 1920 in West Ham, England, the son of George Fredrick and Harriet Sharman (née Flood), Stratford, England, husband of Aircraftwoman Muriel Sharman (née Hepplewhite - WAAF) Riccarton, Christchurch. Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch, Canterbury.
AC2. Russell Woodcock. Born on the 30th January 1933 in Murchison, Westland, the son of William and Laura May Woodcock (née Norris), Murchison Cemetery.
Fl/Lt. Edwin Pattison Booth Ebbett AFC. Born on the 14th April 1914 in Nelson, the son of Edwin and Margaret Ebbett (née Waters), husband of Lilian Charlotte Ebbett (née Woods). St. Anne Churchyard, Pleasant Valley, Geraldine, South Canterbury. Completed a tour in the South Pacific Theatre with 6 Squadron. 3770 solo flying hours with 306 on the Devon.
AC1. Brian James Keogh. Born on the 24th September 1932 in Naseby, Central Otago, the son of James William and Elsie Keogh (née Withington). Fairfax Cemetery, Milton, Clutha, Otago. Undergoing his three weeks annual CMT training - due to finish the following day!
AC1. Eric Melrose. Born on the 12th May 1932 in Dunedin, Otago, the son of Gavin Emslie and Evelyn Douglas Melrose. Anderson’s Bay Cemetery, Dunedin. Undergoing his three weeks annual CMT training - due to finish the following day!
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, also to Medals Reunited New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Wings Over New Zealand Aviation Forum.