Service Number: NZ405244
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: December 1940
Rank Achieved: Flight Sergeant
Flying Hours: Not known, no log book survived
Operational Sorties: Unknown
Date of Birth: 29th of December 1919, at Cambridge
Personal Details: The son of Robert Herbert and Jeannie Mary Feisst, of Flume Road, Fencourt, Cambridge. Alan was educated at Goodwood Primary School and Hamilton Technical College, where he passed the Senior Free Place examination.
He left school at the age of 15 and worked on his father’s farm at Fencourt, before taking a job in a bush saw mill at Waotu. From here he worked in several saw mills in both the North and South Islands. When he applied to enlist as aircrew he noted his current employment on that date, the 23rd of January 1940, as being at the Government timber treating plant in Rotorua.
He was a keen deer stalker and first class shot. Alan’s brother, Raymond Feisst was also on active service
Service Details: Alan joined the RNZAF on the 22nd of December 1940 when he began the Initial Training Wing course at RNZAF Levin. Following this he became one of the first RNZAF pilots to go through the Elementary Flying Training School at Whenuapai in Auckland, starting there on the 9th of February 1941. He learned to fly in DH82 Tiger Moth trainers on this station. He was then ready to travel to Canada to complete his training.
But before shipping out, Alan and fellow newly trained Cambridge airmen Sgt James Ritchie, LAC Ken Law and LAC Tom Peak returned to Cambridge for an official farewell. This function took place on the 24th of April 1941 in the Cambridge Town Hall's Council Chamber. This was officiated over by the Mayor, Mr Edgar James, who was reported to have said of these young men, "We are proud of these lads and the other New Zealand airmen who have gone ahead of them to do such great work overseas."
The four airmen were presented with wallets from the Cambridge branch of the Patriotic Committee. It was reported in the Waikato Independent newspaper on the 26th of April 1941,
"The attendance was one of the largest that had gathered at such a function, said Mr James, but it was only a fraction of the people of the district who would have liked to be present. On behalf of the people of Cambridge he wished the guests of honour the best of luck and a safe return to Cambridge."
On the 29th of April 1941, the four Cambridge lads and their comrades left Auckland aboard the ship 'Awatea' bound for Canada. Jim Ritchie would carry on to England, whilst the other three went on to complete their training in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
Alan arrived at No. 12 Service Flying Training School at Brandon, Manitoba on the 17th of May 1941 to begin advanced training. Alan gained his wings there and was promoted to Sergeant on the 8th of August 1941.
On the 14th of August he made his was to No. 1 "Y" Depot at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he embarked on a troopship for Britain. On arrival on British soil on the 15th of September 1941, he was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth, where he spent a month unengaged in work, before his next posting. This came on the 14th of October when he joined No. 11 Operational Training Unit at Bassingbourn in Hertfordshire.
At the OTU he crewed up and they trained together in Wellington bombers. Alan then flew to the Middle East in May 1942, but was slightly injured in a raid, and later sat for six weeks in Malta while the runway was repaired before he returned to the UK.
On the 1st of July 1942 Alan was promoted to the rank of Flight Sergeant.
On the 23rd of July 1942 Alan was posted to No. 1652 Conversion Unit at Marston Moor, Yorkshire where he and his crew converted to Consolidated Liberators, a heavy four-engined American bomber type.
Alan joined No. 159 Squadron, and he was to operate Liberators with the squadron in India. On the transit journey Alan's aircraft was lost and he and his crew perished in the crash. Little more seems to be recorded of his operational career in the Middle East because it seems his log book was destroyed in the crash.
Details of Death: On Wednesday 30th of December 1942, Alan was piloting Consolidated Liberator II AL520 on a ferry flight from England to Karachi, in India.
The bomber was part of No 159 Squadron RAF, based at Salbani, India. He took off from Palestine and in cloud over Transjordan the aircraft flew into a hill near El Qutem (the approximate position is 3218N:3637E), near the Syrian border, east-northeast of Amman. Sadly all eight crew members, four of whom were New Zealanders, were killed. Alan Feisst was aged 23
Buried at: Alan and her crew were buried at the crash site. They were however commemorated on the Alamein Memorial due to inaccessibility of their graves, then in 1950’s they were shifted to a collective grave Q. 126-127.at Damascus, Syria.
Connection with Cambridge: Alan was born in, lived at and enlisted from Cambridge, New Zealand
For Your Tomorrow by Errol Martyn
AIR 118/62 /b RNZAF biographies of deceased personnel 1939-45 Vol 4 Ea - Gw
Cambridge Museum records via Eris Parker
The Waikato Independent newspaper dated:
18th of December 1940 - Joining RNZAF
Thanks to Ivan Lindsey for his assistance with information on this page, as well as the usual good help of Eris Parker and the team at the Cambridge Museum