WONZ 173 – Hugh Findlater

Guests: Hugh Graham Findlater, NZ416969, RNZAF Pilot, WWII

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 19th of January 2018

Released: 26th of January 2018

Duration: 51 minutes 7 seconds

Hugh Findlater joined the RNZAF in 1941, and spent a period as an ACH (AMD), or Aircraft Hand (Aircraft Maintenance Duties), at RNZAF Station Taieri while he awaited his flying training course. He was selected for an ab initio course at No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School on de Havilland Tiger Moths in July 1942, and on completing that successfully he embarked for Canada.

In Canada Hugh trained initially at No. 3 Service Flying Training School at Calgary, flying the Cessna Cranes, and then he elected to go onto medium bombers so was sent next to No. 34 Operational Training Unit at Pennfield Ridge in Nova Scotia. There he was training on Lockheed Venturas, and this is where he also formed a crew.

Onto England next and Hugh was posted to No. 13 Operational Training Unit at Finmere, near Bicester, where he converted to the North American B-25 Mitchell.

And following his training he was posted to operations with No. 180 Squadron RAF, based at Dunsfold in Surrey. This squadron, flying B-25 Mitchells,  was bombing German targets in occupied France including railway marshalling yards and V1 flying bomb sites leading up to, during and after the D-Day invasion of France. They were bombing by day and by night.

Following six months operational flying with No. 180 Squadron, Hugh was due to go on rest, and he asked to go to a transport unit. He was posted to No. 83 Group Communications Squadron, which was flying smaller transport and communications aircraft all around the front line areas. These included Austers, Avro Ansons, Percival Proctors, and even some captured German Fieseler Storch and Messerschmitt Bf108 types. Taking VIP’s and generals around all the forward areas of the front lines, landing in paddocks and anywhere he could, Hugh got an amazing first hand view of the Allied advance across the continent. He remained with this unit till the war’s end.

When the war ended, rather than wait for a ship home to New Zealand, Hugh volunteered to go onto another RAF Transport Command squadron, this time flying the Avro York with No. 242 Squadron. He continued flying with this unit till September 1946, then did a short stint at No. 1510 Beam Approach Beacon System Flight on Ansons and Oxfords through the October, and then gained his commercial licence, before returning to New Zealand.

Following his demob from the RNZAF, Hugh managed to get a position as a pilot with National Airways Corporation, New Zealand’s internal airline, in June 1947 and flew with them till retirement at age 55. During that period he flew as a co-pilot on Lockheed Electras, Lockheed Lodestars, and Douglas DC-3’s, then gained command on the de Havilland DH89 Dominies, de Havilland Herons, Douglas Dakotas, Fokker Friendships, Vickers Viscounts and finally the Boeing 737’s.

When his compulsory retirement age of 55 years old came around Hugh was not yet ready to stop flying, so he next moved to the Guinness Peat airline Air Tara. He was now flying Boeing 737’s around Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

Hugh Findlater on the 19th of January 2018 (Photo: Dave Homewood)

Below photos: Photos of No. 180 Squadron RAF North American B-25 Mitchells from Hugh’s collection
Hugh’s captured Fieseler Storch

Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal and Air Vice Marshal Harry Broadhurst in Hugh’s Storch

Note: The Don Taylor we talked about was indeed Cambridge’s Don Taylor. More on him here

1 comment to WONZ 173 – Hugh Findlater

  • Shirley Davis (Findlater)

    Way to go Uncle Hugh.

    Thrilled to see you looking so great in 2018. Must be all that Tiger’s Milk Aunty Dawn fed you!!! Bill, Phil and I have always been so proud of you and your flying history. We stayed at the Cherry Tree Inn when we were last in Dunedin and I remembered you staying there when you flew in to Dunedin. Bill and I spent some time with my step family in Reefton in 2015 and flew in via Aussie so didn’t hit the North Island.
    Just wanted you to know how special it was to see you and the planes you flew on WONZ. Lots of Love

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