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The Airmen's Stories - F/O V B de la Perelle


Victor Breton de la Perelle was born on 7th May 1919 at Winton, Southland, on the South Island of New Zealand. He was educated at Southland Boys High School.

In October 1938 he learned to fly at the Otago Aero Club and in November joined the RNZAF on a short service commission. Awarded his wings on 19th April 1939, he completed his training and left for the UK in the Tamaroa on 14th July. On the voyage he developed pneumonia and was grounded. He was posted to RAF Uxbridge for administrative duties and later went to RAF Padgate.



Once again fit for flying, de la Perelle went to 9 FTS for a refresher course and arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 9th September 1940 to convert to Hurricanes. He was posted to 245 Squadron at Aldergrove on the 28th.

He went to 258 Squadron on 25th November 1940 and was made a Flight Commander in mid-August 1941. The squadron was posted overseas in October and on the 30th the pilots, minus their aircraft, went to Abbotsinch and sailed in HMS Athene for Gibraltar, where they spent five weeks before sailing again. They finally reached Takoradi on 1st January 1942.

The pilots were flown to Port Sudan and there embarked on the carrier HMS Indomitable. After sailing south for nearly three weeks they flew Hurricanes off on 28th January to Kemajoran, Java, moving on to Palembang, Sumatra after refuelling. The same afternoon de la Perelle led his flight to Seletar airfield, Singapore to face the Japanese.

After a few days the order came to withdraw and the serviceable remnants of 258 Squadron returned to Palembang. De la Perelle temporarily commanded the airfield in mid-February until a Japanese invasion drove 258 away to Java, leaving six pilots behind to help reform a very much-depleted 605 Squadron at Tjillitan.

On 21st February 1942 de la Perelle was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader and appointed Liaison Officer with the Dutch Air Force in Java. The situation deteriorated rapidly as he went into the hills with RAF and Dutch personnel, moving from one tea plantation to the next. On 20th March they were forced to surrender and were sent to prison in Batavia, with de la Perelle in charge, he being the only senior officer left.

De la Perelle was moved to Amboina, where he remained until September 1944, when he went to Bandung in Java. He was released from a prison camp in Jakarta on 17th September 1945. The first aircraft to arrive was a New Zealand one and the first person off was a nurse, who accepted the surrender of the Japanese. She was carrying 400 cigarettes for de la Perelle from his brother.

Flown back to New Zealand via Singapore and Australia, de la Perelle spent three months recuperating before returning to the UK and rejoining the RAF in February 1946. After a refresher course he was given command of 165 Squadron at Duxford.

De la Perelle continued to serve in the RAF, retiring in 1958 as a Squadron Leader. In the Korean War he was seconded to the USAF and was awarded the Bronze Star (US) for secret work carried out in Korea.

After retirement, de la Perelle lived in England and was Company Secretary for a company in Cambridge. He died there on 11th June 1983.



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