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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. C Chrystall


Colin Chrystall was born at Foxton, New Zealand on 21st November 1916 and educated at Foxton High School. After leaving, he took up farming alongside his father.

Unsuccessful in attempts to obtain an RAF short service commission, Chrystall sailed for England in the RMS Rangitata on 7th April 1938.

In July he joined the RAF as an Airman u/t Wireless Operator and passed out in April 1939. He remustered as a Wireless Operator (Air) on 1st May, was posted to 23 Squadron at Wittering and flew his first operation on 20th September.

Chrystall went to No. 1 Air Armament School for a gunnery course on 7th October and passed out with the rank of LAC. He returned to 23 Squadron and began North Sea patrols. On the 29th his Blenheim had engine failure and the crew baled out. The aircraft crashed at Ravensfleet, near Gainsborough.



In March 1940 Chrystall applied for pilot training, attended a selection board in May and was accepted for training at some future date. In late May he joined 235 Squadron at Bircham Newton and was promoted to Sergeant. The squadron flew patrols over Dunkirk and operated in support of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. When Chrystall was posted away for pilot training on 10th May 1941, he had flown 133 operational sorties, involving 450 flying hours.

After completing ITW, Chrystall went to 9 EFTS Ansty, where he was commissioned in August and received a Mention in Despatches (gazetted 24th September 1941) for services with 235 Squadron. He was posted to 8 FTS Montrose on 1st November. Chrystall completed the course on 15th April 1942 and then went to 59 OTU Crosby-on-Eden to convert to Spitfires.

He joined 485 (NZ) Squadron in June 1942 and flew his first operational sortie as pilot on 3rd July. He destroyed a Fw190 over Dieppe on 19th August. In mid-September Chrystall was posted away for service in the Middle East, arriving at El Ballah for a course on Hurricanes on 23rd November after which he joined 123 Squadron at Mehrabad, Persia.


His brother, Sgt. Donald Chrystall, was killed on 7th November 1942 serving with 15 Squadron RNZAF in Tonga, Fiji Islands. His ex-USAAF P-40E Kittyhawk stalled in a steep turn and crashed. He lies in Suva Military Cemetery.


In April 1943 the squadron returned to Egypt. In July Chrystall went to 322 Wing Training Flight at Sorman and on 10th August he flew a Spitfire to Lentini, Sicily to join 243 Squadron at Pachino.

In February 1944 he was posted to 206 Group as a test pilot but soon rejoined 243, then in Egypt. In April 1944 it moved to Corsica and then to the Italian mainland.

On 6th June 1944 Chrystall was leading his section in a low-level attack on enemy transport east of Cencina. His propeller was damaged by flak and he made a forced-landing behind enemy lines. With the help of peasants, he avoided capture for two weeks. On his way to a pick-up point on the coast, Chrystall was skirting a German gun emplacement when he stepped on a mine and lost the lower half of his right leg. German soldiers treated him well and after hospital treatment he was sent to Stalag XIIID in Germany. He was repatriated to the UK in September 1944.

After a further operation, Chrystall was fitted with an artificial limb. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 15th January 1945).

He transferred to the RNZAF on 1st July 1945 and returned to New Zealand in June 1946, being released on 20th July.

Chrystall became a successful farmer. On 28th July 1961 he and a contractor were at the bottom of a ten feet deep hole when the sides caved in. Both men were killed.

Chrystall was buried in Foxton Cemetery.



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