1944 via Aliastar Pearce
|Pilot Pilot Officer Geoffrey Haughton Cray, 4213648 (MIA / KIA) Napier, NZ
Gunner F/SGT Frank Desmond Bell, 413244
(MIA / KIA) Woolston, NZ
MIA April 17, 1944
was called up for territorial training in June 1940. Geoff went to Australia for five months with
a special force. However when one of his brothers went to Canada
under the Empire Air Training Scheme he became interested in the
Air Force. Geoffs borther, Wireless Operator air gunner
Trevor Haughton Cray was kill in action as a crew member aboard a Wellington bomber, lost during the night of July
29, 1942 over Schleswig Germany. Geoff
gained his flying badge on August 30, 1943 and was commissioned
as Pilot Officer on October 23. On November 1, Cray was posted
to 25 Squadron, Seagrove for training as a pilot on torpedo
dive bombers. Next moved with the Squadron to Espiritu
Santo on February 1, 1944. After further training he went on to Guadalcanal and Piva
Airfield on Bougainville,
where he flew combat missions against Vunapopo, Rabaul, Lakunai Airfield, Vunakanau Airfield, Talili Bay and Buka.
Built by Douglas in El Segundo, California. Constructors Number 5526. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) bureau number 36898. Disassembled and shipped across the Pacific to New Zealand.
On February 24, 1944 assigned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as Douglas Dauntless serial number NZ5050. Reassembled by 25 Servicing Unit. This aircraft was ferried from Espiritu Santo to Piva North Airfield on Bougainville. On March 24, 1944 assigned to 25 Squadron. Nicknamed "Prune's Progrss". On the right side of the cockpit was the 25 Squadron motif, a diving bird with their motto "Kia Kaha" (Māori: "Stay Strong").
On April 17, 1944 took off from Piva
Airfield on an eleven SBD strike mission against Lakunai Airfield. Over the target, the formation experienced heavy anti-aircraft fire. This bomber failed to return and both crew members were reported as Missing In Action (MIA).
Both crew were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Both are memorialized on the Bourail Memorial on panel 5.
Alisdair Pearce (nephew):
"My own belief that the plane that was referenced in the NZ Operations Room Log is not No.5050 after all (this new thinking is based on information sourced from a US intelligence report which came in after my NZ report was sourced. It states that a Dumbo did fly the area as stated in the Ops Room Log (25 Squadron), but unlike the NZ report, the U. S. report states that they did pick up a crew from TBF Avenger 25541 piloted by Lt Lee - which leads me to believe that the plane that went down in the water was never in fact No. 5050 to begin with). Source: U. S. COMAIRSOLS STRIKE COMMAND SBD INTELLGENCE and TBF INTELLIGENCE for Strike 17 April 1944. There is a possibility this aircraft actually crashed near Tobera Airfield in a ravine from interviews with former squadron mates."
25 Squadron Operations Room Log: April 17, 1944:
"SBD Operations advised that all aircraft
had returned from strike with the exception of one of ours 5050. SBD operations
asked AACS to signal Green
Island and enquire whether 5050 had landed there. Flight control
were asked whether any information had been received regarding 5050.
They said that this aircraft had not landed at Green Island and that
a Dumbo had searched for two hours in the vicinity of a position given
to them by a Major Todd without result. An aircraft gave this position
over the radio intending to make a water landing."
COMAIRSOLS STRIKE COMMAND SBD INTELLGENCE and TBF INTELLIGENCE for Strike 17 April 1944
CWGC - Geoffrey Haughton Cray
Frank Desmond Bell
ADF Serials / NZ Serials - Douglas Dauntless NZ5050
Kiwi Aircraft Images - Douglas Dauntless NZ5050
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May 3, 2016