Service Number: NZ41532
RNZAF Trade: Air Observer u/t, then Photographer
Date of Enlistment: 19th of January 1941
Date of Demob: Unknown
Rank Achieved: Unknown
Flying Hours: Unknown hours
Date of Birth: Born 8th of July 1901, at Pukerimu, Cambridge
Personal Details: Robert Caley was the son of the late Mr and Mrs R. Caley of Pukerimu. It seems he may have gone to school in the Cambridge district, but upon leaving school he was sheep-farming in Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay region before joining the RNZAF.
Service Details: Robert joined the RNZAF in January 1941 with the intention of traing as an Air Observer. It seems he must have put his age down somewhat in order to join up, as his RNZAF records show his birthdate as 8th of July 1908, meaning he was supposedly 32 when he joined. However the Births, Deaths and Marriages office record his actual birthdate as 8th of July 1901, and he was therefore 39 on entering the Air Force, rather an older age for an aircrew trainee.
He was transported to Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme, embarking for the journey aboard the RMS Awatea on the 18th of June 1941, along with another Cambridge airman, Bill Stuart. There he began training at No. 6 Air Observers School at Prince Albert.
During his time in Canada Robert was one of a handful who were training in that country who were allowed to make a 1941 Christmas broadcast for New Zealand radio to send their greetings to family and friends back home. This recording is held in the New Zealand Sound Archives.
However Robert did not graduate from his Air Observer's course for some reason. Instead he was returned to New Zealand around the 2nd of September 1942 and was posted to RNZAF Station Woodbourne, where he remustered the trade of Photographer with a drop in rank from LAC back to Aircraftman First Class.
On the 21st of November 1942, Robert was engaged in a photo reconnaissance flight in an army co-op exercise in the rear seat of No. 21 (Army Co-operation) Squadron Hawker Hind, NZ1544. His pilot was fellow Cambridge airman Harold Souter. They were flying low to observe troop movements on the ground when their aircraft collided with unseen power lines at Pohangina, at 10:30hrs. The aircraft crashed and caught fire, and both men were injured. The Hind was written off.
Died: Robert Caley died at Atiamuri on the 2nd of August 1981, aged 80, and was cremated
Connection with Cambridge: Robert Caley was born and bred in the Cambridge district
Thanks to: Errol Martyn for his assistance with information on Robert Caley