Currin Family

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Probably a family connection even if it is a bit remote

The EW Win Real Estate company mentioned was owned by Joy Surrell's (married my mothers brother, Bob)  father who was a Smith and her sister Paddy Smith used to visit us.

Not sure of the Brightwater and Wakefield bakeries and which ones they were.

Heroic pilot was 'a hard case'

Relative comes forward after reading Mail story

Last updated 12:11 19/04/2012
Dudley Walker
REMEMBERING: Dudley Walker, 91, of Richmond, the brother-in-law of Tom Wilkinson, the heroic pilot of a bomber that was on a mission over Germany when it was shot down on in 1943, near Schwanheim.

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Downed Kiwi died to save German village

Downed pilot Tom Wilkinson who guided his flaming World War II bomber away from a German village and saved its inhabitants, was a "hard case" who loved to drive his V8 car at speed around Nelson.

Those are strong recollections of his Richmond brother-in-law Dudley Walker, 91, who married Mr Wilkinson's sister Peggy in 1942.

Ernest Stanley Wilkinson, named Tom by his grandfather, E W Winn, is to be remembered at a special ceremony in Germany next month for his heroic deed in September 1943 when he steered his burning plane away from the village of Schwanheim.

Mr Wilkinson was killed in the crash, but his navigator Gordon Simes, also from Nelson, survived. His son Will Simes, of Marahau, will attend the ceremony in Schwanheim next month.

He and his sister Nola Muller, of Stoke, said in yesterday's Nelson Mail that they wanted to locate any of Mr Wilkinson's relatives to let them know about the ceremony. They had tried to find out as much as they could about him, but the trail had gone cold.

Mr Walker's sister Beryl Springer called the Mail yesterday with the good news there was still a strong living connection.

Mr Walker, who was a gunner in the NZ division 5th field regiment, was 16 when he first met Mr Wilkinson, who was a few years older. They were introduced through Peggy.

"He was a real hard case. He had a 1933 or '34 V8 motor car, which not many people had back then. He roared around the place and rolled it a couple of times.

"He was a good fellow  we got on well. He drove trucks with Nelson produce to the West Coast. He'd leave here in the evening and drive all night."

Mr Walker said Tom and his sister went to college in town. Because the family lived a fair way from Nelson, Tom went to live with his grandparents in Richmond. His grandfather, who was a Richmond land agent, set him up in his own trucking business.

Mr Walker remembered Mr Wilkinson was "not terribly excited" about going to war, but there was no way he was going into the infantry.

"He applied to the air force and had to go back to night school at college to get more education.

"He wanted to be a pilot. It was a fatal mistake," said Mr Walker, but he is pleased Mr Wilkinson is to be honoured.

Mr Wilkinson was one of four killed of the seven crew in the Stirling bomber. He and Mr Simes belonged to RNZAF 75 Squadron. The crash survivors were held as prisoners of war.

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In April last year remnants of the crashed plane were unearthed, which has stirred the residents of Schwanheim, in a district of Frankfurt, to honour the memory of how Mr Wilkinson saved the village.

Mr Walker does not recall hearing about his death, but remembers he got a letter full of news from "one guy to another", just before he died.

"I was overseas with the army, in the Middle East and Italy, where I was wounded. That ended my time in the war."

Mr Walker returned to New Zealand in 1945, to Peggy, who he had married just before he left for war, and to a son he had never met.

"My eldest son John was born in May 1943."

He recalled that when Mr Wilkinson left for war he had a girlfriend, Margaret Smith, who married later, and who has since died.

Mr Walker returned after the war to life in the family bakery business in Wakefield and Brightwater, before settling on a job in Auckland with the New Zealand Herald, where he worked for many years in production. Will Simes and his wife Jenny leave for Europe on May 12, and plan to attend the ceremony in Germany on May 13.


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