The Airmen's Stories - P/O M J Herrick
Michael James Herrick was born in Hastings, New Zealand on 5th May 1921, the son of William Edward and Gertrude Isabella Grant.
He was educated at Wanganui Collegiate School. While there he obtained his 'A' Flying Licence at the Hawke's Bay and East Coast Aero Club at Hastings. In late 1938 Herrick successfully applied for a cadetship at the RAF College Cranwell. He sailed for the UK on the RMS Rangitiki on 9th March 1939.
Herrick began the course on 27th April but with the outbreak of war it was condensed. He was granted a permanent commission on 7th March 1940 and ten days later joined 25 Squadron at North Weald.
Early on 5th September Herrick, flying with Sgt. JS Pugh as his gunner, destroyed two He111s, the second breaking up after a burst at less than thirty yards.
Early on the 14th Herrick destroyed another and he was awarded the DFC (gazetted 24th September 1940). He may have destroyed another enemy aircraft in December 1940.
He damaged a Ju88 at night on 9th May 1941 and destroyed another on 22nd June.
Herrick was posted away from 25 squadron in October 1941 and arrived back in New Zealand on 23rd December, on attachment to the RNZAF. On 10th January 1942 he went to 2 FTS Woodbourne as an instructor, moved to 3 FTS Ohakea in March and on 25th June was posted to 15 Squadron at Whenuapai as a Flight Commander. It had no aircraft, its promised Kittyhawks having been diverted to the Middle East.
In early October the squadron was posted to Tonga and took over P-40s and equipment of the 68th Pursuit Squadron, USAAF at Fuamotu. The squadron moved to Santo in February 1943 and then to Fiji on 20th March. Five days later the CO was killed and Herrick took command.
He destroyed a Rufe on 6th May. On 26th May 15 Squadron flew to Guadalcanal and began operations. Herrick destroyed a Zero fighter on 7th June, shared a Val dive bomber and damaged another on 1st October and shared a Zeke fighter on 27th October. His attachment finished, Herrick sailed from Auckland on 14th January 1944, in charge of 300 aircrew trainees bound for Canada.
He left them at Edmonton and continued to the UK. He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 10th February 1944).
Herrick joined 302 Squadron at Lasham as 'B' Flight Commander. A Polish fighter-bomber unit equipped with Mosquitos, the squadron was then carrying out mostly night operations but in May 1944 it began 'Day Rangers', which were operations flown as free-lance intrusions over enemy territory, with the primary aim of wearing out the enemy fighter force.
On 16th June Herrick took off on his first such operation in Mosquito FB VI NS913. He flew in company with W/Cdr. JRD Braham. They seperated at the Jutland coast and Herrick went towards Aalborg airfield. He was intercepted and shot down by Lt. Spreckels of JG1.
Herrick and his navigator, F/O AM Turski, baled out but were too low. Herrick fell into the sea. His body was washed up on 4th July and buried two days later in the Military Cemetery at Fredrikshavn.
Nine days later Spreckels shot down Braham, who was captured.
Herrick was posthumously awarded the US Air Medal in July 1944 and it was presented to his parents in Wellington on 14th June 1945.
Herrick was one of six brothers serving with Allied forces, three of whom were killed.
Brian Henry Herrick, also a Battle of Britain Clasp holder, was lost on 24th November 1940.
Another brother, P/O DT Herrick, was shot down attacking shipping in Blenheim V6087 PZ-O of 53 Squadron on 26th June 1941.
He was rescued by the Germans and taken to the German Naval Hospital at Lorient. He died aged 29 on the 30th June and was buried in Lorient (Kerentrech) Communal Cemetery.
His crewmembers Sgt. GFW Gahagan and Sgt. GL Wells were reported Missing.
MJ Herrick's portrait was made by Eric Kennington in 1941 (below).
Above image courtesy of New Zealand National Collection of War Art.