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NZ41997 Pilot Office Frederick (Eric) Burns Richardson – Royal New Zealand Air Force

Frederick (Eric) Burns Richardson[i] was born in Bambalapitiya, Ceylon on 16th January 1921[ii] the eldest son of
Emily Margaret (nee Wait) and Frederick Richardson. Known as Eric he was a baby  when the family moved from Ceylon
to Wellington, New Zealand. In 1925 Frederick (Fred) is listed as a tea importer, Vogeltown, Wellington. In 1926 Eric was enrolled at the Mornington School and his brother John Pierson Richardson was born.

The Richardson family moved out to Tawa Flat in 1928 when Fred and Emily took up the lease of the Tawa Flat store and Fred also became the Post Master for the district. Eric was enrolled at Tawa Flat School and then went to secondary school at Wellington College. Eric spent five years at Wellington College leaving just short of his 16th birthday.[iii] Eric served four years in the Cadet Corp while at college. 

Eric joined, as a clerk, the Land and Income Tax Department in Wellington in 1937 and also the Territorial Army serving for three years with the 3rd and 5th Batteries of the New Zealand Artillery.[iv]


                                                                               On 27th February 1940 Eric’s permission was given for the 19 year old to
                                                                               apply to join the Royal Air Force or the Royal New Zealand Air force.  On
                                                                               8th December 1940 Eric signed his enlistment papers for the RNZAF and on
                                                                               9th February 1941 left Tawa for the Ground Training School Levin where he                                                                                       joined as NZ41997 Airman Pilot Richardson[v]. Elementary flying training was                                                                                   undertaken in Harewood, Christchurch and on 25th May 1941 he sailed for                                                                                       Canada and training under the Empire Air Training Scheme. In Canada on
                                                                               1st September 1941 leading Air Craftsman (LAC) was awarded his ‘wings’ and                                                                                     promoted to Sergeant and then commissioned as Pilot Officer effective the                                                                                       same date.
                                 
                                                                              Pilot Officer F B Richardson (possibly Canada Sept 1941)                                                                                                    
                                                                              Pilot Officer Richardson was shipped out of Nova Scotia, Canada on 15th                                                                                            September 1941 to England where he arrived on 1st October 1941. By 17th                                                                                        November 1941 he had been posted to the No 12 Operational Training Unit –                                                                                    6th Group  at Chipping Warden, Oxfordshire. This was a training unit for night bombing and trained new air crew prior to them becoming operational.  The training aircraft in 1941 were the Vickers Wellington bombers.   

On 14th February 1942 Wellington bomber R1027, 12th Operational Training Unit,  with a crew of six took off for a cross country training, practice bombing and photography mission. The pilot was another New Zealander NZ404944 Pilot Officer John Reginald Reenberg with
PO Richardson as the second pilot of the Wellington bomber. On returning to the air field at Chipping Warden
PO Reenberg was given permission to land but was warned to exercise care due to hazy conditions. PO Reenberg selected to ‘go around’ for another attempt at landing but when opening the throttles for power the starboard wind dropped
caused by the ‘throttles opened too quickly causing the starboard engine to choke and cut out.’ The plane swung to the right and struck a tree and crashed to the ground bursting into flames.

Of the crew only a Sergeant Farrow survived the other five crew were killed.

NZ404944 Pilot Officer John Reginald Reenberg  - RNZAF
NZ41997 Pilot Officer Frederick Burns Richardson - RNZAF
R/78077 Flight Sergeant Wilbert Lome Sinclair - Royal Canadian Air Force
1063676 Sergeant Gilbert Noel Duke - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
1360278 Sergeant Wilfred Walsh – Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Reenberg, Richardson and Sinclair are buried in the Brookwood Military
Cemetery.

Eric’s father as the Postmaster of Tawa had delivered the ‘Official Telegrams’
to families in Tawa Flat but on 18th February 1942 the telegram was for the
Richardson family.

Deeply regret to learn that your son Pilot Officer Frederick Burns Richardson
has been killed in an aircraft accident. The Prime Minister desires me to
convey to you on behalf of the Government his deepest sympathy with you
in your great loss.
                                                                                   F Jones, Minister of Defence.

Frederick (Eric) Burns Richardson is commemorated on the Wellington College
Roll of Honour, at the Tawa RSA, Tawa Community War Memorial and his
name will be inscribed on the Porirua Memorial wall. 

Notes
NZ404944 Pilot Officer J R Reenberg was commissioned at the same times as NZ41997 Pilot Officer F B Richardson

References
NZ Post Office Directories 1920 – 1930
NZDF Archives
Paperspast Online
NZ Wargraves Project
Less Tawa Forgets
For Your Tomorrows: Errol W Martyn
Military Aircraft Crashes SW Midlands 1942
NZ Wargraves project

Photos
Pilot Officer Frederick (Eric) Burns Richardson : NZ Wargraves Project 
Pilot Officer F B Richardson's grave, Brookwood Military Cemetery; NZ Wargraves Project
Air crew from the 75th (New Zealand) Squadron in front of Vickers Wellington bomber: Alexander Turnbull Library

[i] Pilot Officer Richardson, 20th February 1942, Evening Post
[ii] NZDF Archives: NZ41997 Pilot Officer Frederick Burns Richardson
[iii] Lest Tawa Forgets; Pilot Officer F B Richardon
[iv] NZDF Archives NZ41997 Pilot Officer Frederick Burns Richardson
[v] Biographies: For your Tomorrow
 
New Zealand Air Crew  75th Squadron with Vickers Wellington bomber