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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. W T Fletcher


Walter Thomas Fletcher was born in Wairoa, New Zealand on 14th October 1917 and educated at Tauranga District High School. After leaving he trained as an electrician.

In late September 1939 Fletcher volunteered for aircrew duties. He went to the Ground Training School at Weraroa on 11th February 1940 as a trainee air gunner. In March he moved to the Air Observers School at Ohakea for a Lewis gunnery course and air experience. He sailed for the UK in the RMS Rangitiki on 26th April.



Fletcher was posted to 5 OTU Aston Down on 17th July and joined 23 Squadron at Ford on 21st September as an air gunner on Blenheims. After the Battle of Britain the squadron began night intruder operations against airfields in France. On the night of 9th April 1941 Fletcher's Blenheim bombed a column of enemy vehicles at Bolbec near Le Havre.

In late April he was in a Blenheim approaching the French coast on the way home when a four-engined bomber was sighted flying on the same course. It was identified as a Fw200 Condor and was probably on its way to attack Allied shipping in the Atlantic. Closing in, the Blenheim opened fire and the first bursts hit the Condor's bomb load and it exploded with a blinding flash, filling the air with debris and throwing the Blenheim about. After landing, the crew found a piece of armour plate, nearly three feet square, sticking out of the leading edge of one wing.

On the night of 3rd May, in a Havoc, Fletcher fired on and damaged a Ju88 and a He111.

In March 1942 he was posted to 116 Squadron, flying in Lysanders on radar calibration duties. In May Fletcher went to 1653 Conversion Unit at Polebrook for crewing-up and conversion to Liberators. After a spell in the Air Crew Pool at Snaith, Fletcher's crew flew a Liberator to the Middle East to join 160 Squadron at Aqir, Palestine in September. The squadron was combined with 159 Squadron in mid-January 1943 to form 178 Squadron.

Fletcher left Egypt in mid-March, flew down to Freetown and sailed for the UK on the 27th. After leave, he was posted to 11 OTU Bassingbourn as a Warrant Officer instructor.

In mid-May 1944 he joined 282 Squadron on ASR duties, serving with it until November. He elected to take his discharge from the RNZAF in London on 5th April 1945.

Fletcher later returned to live in New Zealand.

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