RNZAF Trade: Flight Rigger
Date of Enlistment: 23rd of October 1939
Rank Achieved: Leading Aircraftsman
Flying Hours: nil
Operational Sorties: nil
Date of Birth: Frank was born on the 5th of August 1915, at Esher in England
Personal Details: Frank was the son of Mr and Mrs Frederick William and Minnie Edwards of Leamington. He attended Cambridge High School, followed by further education at Hamilton Technical High School.
Upon completing his schooling in 1929, Frank became an apprentice motor mechanic at Wilkinson & Co, a garage in Cambridge. On finishing the apprenticeship he continued to work at Wilkinsons'. He applied for service in the RNZAF on the 25th of September 1939, just after the outbreak of war, and may have been one of the several mechanics at Wilkinson's who'd already pledged their service to the RNZAF should a war break out.
Frank was reported at the time of his death to have been "well known throughout the district, where he was widely popular with all sections of the community. He was a prominent member of the Manchester Unity Lodge, having been a past Grand Master and one of the youngest members to have gone through the Lodge offices.
He was farewelled from Cambridge on the 20th of October 1939 from his workplace at Messrs Wilkinson & Co., where Mr A. Wilkinson had expressed regret at Frank's departure, and spoke of his afficiency and planning manner. These comments reinforced by Mr. G.E. Haydon. At the leaving party, Frank was presented on behalf of the firm with a leather encased toilet set, and a fountain pen and pencil. and presented with a wallet when he joined the RNZAF
Service Details: Frank Edwards left Cambridge on the 23rd of October 1939 for RNZAF Station Hobsonville. Upon enlistment he was posted to the Railway Workshops at Otahuhu in Auckland on the 16th of November 1939, where he underwent trade training as a Flight Rigger.
Following this training he served at RNZAF Station Hobsonville and later at a station in Blenheim (probably RNZAF Station Woodbourne or Omaka).
On the 2nd of July 1941 Frank embarked with a team headed for Singapore. The purpose was to train with No. 205 Squadron at Seletar, Singapore, in the maintaining of their Short Singapore III flying boats. Four of these aircraft were to be handed over to the RNZAF, and between October and December 1941 they were eventually ferried down to Fiji by their crews to form the new No. 5 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron.
However the intervention of the Japanese starting an all-out war in the Pacific, and attacks being made on British bases in Singapore, saw the remaining RNZAF groundcrew, including Frank, being attached to No. 205 Sqn RAF indefinitely. They valiantly assisted in the attempted defence of Singapore, but Frank was sadly killed in an air raid. Following his death the remaining RNZAF personnel made their escape from Singapore as it was being over-run, and they eventually made it back to New Zealand in mid-1942.
Details of Death: On Saturday the 17th of January 1942 , Frank was caught in a Japanese air raid on Seletar, Singapore, where he was serving as a rigger attached to No. 205 Squadron, RAF. Frank had been servicing Consolidated Catalina I .
At about 11:00hrs two enemy fighters strafed the Catalinas of No. 205 Squadron RAF and Catalinas of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Naval Air Force moored at Seletar. Two Catalinas, Z2151 (Coded Y) of the RAF Squadron and Y.54 of the RNEINAF burst into flames and sank, while two others were badly damaged. Frank was one of two airmen aboard ‘Y.54' of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Naval Air Force who were killed during the attack. His body was later recovered and buried in the Bidadari cemetery, but later re-interred. He was aged 26.
Frank was the first overseas RNZAF casualty for Cambridge, and one of the earliest RNZAF casualties in the Pacific campaign.
Buried at: Frank was later reburied in Plot: 37. B. 1, Kranji War Cemetery.
Connection with Cambridge: Frank was formerly a resident of Cambridge, New Zealand prewar
For Your Tomorrow Volumes 1 and III by Errol Martyn
The Golden Age of New Zealand Flying Boats by Paul Harrison, Brian Lockstone and Andy Anderson
Conversation with Wally Ingham regarding the Singapore Ferry Flight ground crew
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:
24th of October 1939
26th of January 1942