Serial Number: NZ415728
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 19th of October 1941
Date of Demob: 22nd of July 1944 (To Reserve)
Rank Achieved: Flying Officer
Flying Hours: ?? hours
Operational Sorties: ?? ops
Date of Birth: 11th of August 1922, at Auckland
Personal Details: Rob was the son of Major and Mrs Robert Sharp Alford of Taotaoroa, near Cambridge. Before the war he'd been a farmhand. Robin was married to Jocelyn (nee Tonks) and they had three children
Service Details: Rob entered the RNZAF as an Airman Pilot (Under Training) at RNZAF Station Levin on the 19th of October 1941. He trained as a bomber pilot within New Zealand so probably trained at Wigram and Norwood on Airspeed Oxfords.
Rob was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on the 24th of April 1942. He went on to fly Lockheed Hudson and later Lockheed Ventura bombers on at least two operational tours in the Pacific.
No 3 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron
Rob was posted to No. 3 (GR) Squadron at Whenuapai in late 1942 and he was assigned to the crew of Sgt Ian Page. Rob was among the first crews of No. 3 (GR) Squadron to fly north from New Zealand to the Pacific war zone. They took off at around 7.30am on the 2nd of October 1942, heading for Plaines des Gaiacs, New Caledonia. Afetr a two week stay there they proceeded to Pallikulo, Espirito Santo from where the squadrons first operational patrols began, and by early December 1942 the squadron was stationed at the hotspot island of Guadalcanal, performing very important reconnaissance missions under US command.
Rob's crew that he left New Zealand with was thus:
Captain Sgt Ian Page (NZ413465)
2nd Pilot P/O Rob Alford (NZ415728)
Observer Sgt John Kirk (NZ41560)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sgt
Gordon Adie (NZ539037)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Acting-Sgt Ronald Radford (NZ414414)
Rob's last flight with Ian Page and crew was on the 14th of December 1942, and he then was switched to the crew of B Flight Commander, Flight Lieutenant Bob Watson.
Following a tour of ops with No. 3 (GR) Squadron Rob returned to New Zealand, and following a rest on leave it seems he was posted to RNZAF Station Hobsonville.
No. 1 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron
On the 7th of May 1943 Rob was posted from Hobsonville back to Whenuapai and joined No. 1 (BR) Squadron. Here he would fly the more powerful and better armed Lockheed Ventura, and as an experienced combat pilot he was now give his own command as captain.
His crew when the squadron proceeded to the Pacific war zone consisted of:
Captain F/O Rob Alford (NZ415728)
Observer W/O R.J.F. Reid (NZ412739)
Wireless Operator F/O Albert McClelland (NZ412985)
Air Gunner F/Sgt Lomond "Jock" Leaf (NZ421980)
Air Gunner Sgt Acton Whiting (NZ4213314)
The crew was assigned their own aeroplane, Ventura NZ4507, and they left New Zealand bound for Guadalcanal via Norfolk Island and Tontouta, New Caledonia, and Espiritu Santo, arriving at their destination on the 25th of October 1943.
He was involved in a well publicised event, as detailed in the following clippings from the Waikato Independent newspaper.
Details of Death: Rob Alford died on the 31st of May 1984, apparentlly at Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, aged 61
Cremated at: Pyes Pa Cemetery
Connection with Cambridge: Rob had lived in the Cambridge district for many years before joining the RNZAF, and his family were well known in the area. His father, Major Alford was the commander of the Cambridge Home Guard Battalion during the war from 1941 to 1943.
Report from the Waikato Independent, 14th of January 1944
Among The Zeros
Flying Officer R. Alford
On December 27 an NZEF war correspondent radioed a despatch which included the story of New Zealand's fighters' score of 12 Japanese planes over Rabaul. The report referred to fighter sweeps on Christmas Eve and it further stated: - “In the late afternoon Venturas on patrol were interrupted by a swarm of Zeros and of nine which attacked two Venturas two were destroyed and three others damaged.
Both Venturas got home, but one was riddled with 21 holes and the rudder shot away. The other was damaged. In spite of the punishment taken by the planes the crews returned “all smiles” from this successful engagement.” To Cambridge readers greater interest attaches to this portion of the report for the reason that the pilot of one of the planes was Flying Officer Robin Alford of Taotaoroa (Cambridge) and the other was piloted by Flying Officer Alford's mate, Flying Officer Dick Trayes.
The above report needs correcting in that Rob's mate was in fact Vic Trayes, not Dick. This following report was taken from the Waikato Independent, dated the 26th of January 1944
A GRIM FIGHT
Two Against Twelve
Cambridge Pilot's Escape
In a fierce running battle over the southern sea approach to Rabaul, two Ventura bombers of the RNZAF outfought a dozen Zeros and made good their escape after shooting two of the enemy into the sea and probably destroying three more and damaging another two. Both the New Zealand aircraft were damaged, but landed safely at their base.
An official account of the battle describes it as a grim dogfight. One of the Venturas was captained and piloted by Pilot Officer D.F. Ayson (New Plymouth). This plane shot down two Japanese fighters for certain and so damaged another three as to make them possible losses. The aircraft received 21 hits.
The report further states: - The other Ventura was jumped by three Zeros from above. Two of the enemy pressed the attack home, causing damage to the bomber's port motor and cutting tail trim and rudder control cables. The attackers scored numerous hits throughout the plane, but tracer was seen going into two Zeros and smoke was seen coming from the cowl of one. The Ventura started taking evasive action. As soon as it had levelled out it got into cloud and jettisoned the bombs. It continued cloud hopping for quarter of an hour, then set a course for home. The crew of this aircraft were Flying Officer R.J. Alford (Cambridge) captain, Flying Officer A.W. McClelland (North Canterbury), wireless operator. Flight Sergeant R.J.F. Reid (Auckland) Flight Sergeant J.O. Leaf (Auckland), as fire controller in the astro hatch, and Sergeant Whiting, turret gunner.
Waikato Independent reports that mention Rob Alford
Farewelled with Wallet 1 May 1942
Taotaoroa gave him a suitcase 8 May 1942
Among the Zeros 14 Jan 1944
Two Against Twelve 26 Jan 1944
Welcome Home 9 Aug 1944