Seventy-six years after his final wartime bombing raid the adventures of a Waikaia identity have been told.
A Tour of Duty, written by historian Doug Wing, of Wendon, tells the story of Lancaster bomber pilot Flight Lieutenant Walter “Wattie” Stirling.
Fl Lt Stirling took part in 38 bombing raids over Germany with his crew.
He was well-known in the Waikaia area, Mr Wing said.
“Wattie was one of those characters who was able to talk about his war memories and the antics they got up to and would regale people with his little stories and was quite entertaining.
“Over the years I was intrigued with the odd story I heard and so I went to the family and I said this is a story that should be told.”
Mr Wing was not able to interview Fl Lt Stirling about his experiences, as he died in 2005, but there was plenty of material including letters and photographs to draw on.
He had also talked to Fl Lt Stirling’s son Charles and the mid upper gunner of the crew, Jock Adamson, who immigrated to New Zealand after the war.
When Mr Wing started his research in 2019 he had no idea it would turn into a book.
Fl Lt Stirling was about 29 when he began his tour of duty after completing his training in Canada and a stint instructing pilots.
The rest of the crew were in their early 20s and referred to him as the “old man”.
Included in the book are copies of the maps which Fl Lt Stirling drew during the bombing raid briefing sessions.
Even though the maps contained a precise flight path, Fl Lt Stirling was known to “cut the corner to save fuel”.
“The navigator was so precise with his abilities they could cut the corner and then line up on the right flight path. when it came time to fly home they had a bit of spare fuel on board.”
He was also known as the “mad Kiwi” because of his flying antics.
While other pilots dived to dodge search lights, Fl Lt Stirling would climb higher.
“His idea was the gunners couldn’t adjust their aim both sideways and upwards at the same rate,” Mr Wing said.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945.
It was fitting timing for the book to be released as Fl Lt Stirling’s last combat flight was April 10, 1945.
As an historian it had been “extremely satisfying” to write the book, and it was the 14th he had either written with others or by himself.
“The only way we understand the here and now is to go back and understand what has gone before.”
Switzers Museum chairwoman Mairi Dickson said the book about a well-known member of the community would be a valuable resource for the museum.
“He was a character,” Mrs Dickson said.
“He was loved by one and all because he would have this cheeky little smile when he would be telling you something.”