William Upton HEWETT
Known as Bill

Serial Number: NZ404363
RNZAF Trade: Observer
Date of Enlistment: 1940
Rank Achieved: Pilot Officer
Flying Hours: hours
Operational Sorties:

Date of Birth: 29th of August 1912, at Palmerston North
Personal Details: Bill was the second son of Charles Robert and Jane Eleanor Hewitt of Roto-o-Rangi. He was named after his mother's father, William Upton Slack. Bill's elder brother Basil went overseas in the NZ Army during the war, returning to New Zealand post-war. He had three sisters too, Mildred, Audrey and Cynthia.

Basil Hewett was the first of the family to move to Cambridge in 1922. He bought a farm near Cambridge, and in 1925 the rest of the family joined him there from Rotorua. He was keen on sport, especially tennis and golf. In 1937 he was the Senior Champion of the Cambridge Gold Club.

At this time Bill was still at boarding school, at Wanganui Collegiate. When he finished school he went full time farming with Basil, until he joined the RNZAF. Not long before the war the two brothers bought a farm nine miles from Tauranga. They ploughed it up and planted the land all in eucalyptus trees. Soon after both went into the services, and while they were away a fire devastated the crop of trees. Fires were often started by workmen on the roadsides. The farm's neighbour replanted the land in pine trees, which were doing well when Basil returned to New Zealand.

Bill took a cinefilm camera with him to Canada and he filmed much of his training. He sent the films back to his family in New Zealand so they could understand the experiences he was having.

Service Details: Bill Hewett applied for the RNZAF in October 1939, and he was called up to join over a year later on the 24th of November 1940, at the Initial Training Wing, Levin.

Following his ground training Bill was posted to RNZAF Station Whenuapai for instruction as a pilot with No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School. He completed the course, on Tiger Moths, and then was then shipped to Canada aboard the R.M.S. Awatea, departing on the 27th of February 1941.

Upon arrival in Canada he first continued his service flying training at No. 6 SFTS, Dunnville, near Toronto, in Ontario. However, a t the conclusion of his training when the final flying tests were to be sat, Bill became very ill with the flu and was unable to complete his pilots course. As a consequence his flying training was terminated.

Undeterred he opted to instead remuster to another aircrew trade and took on the role of Air Observer. To complete his training in this new trade he spent time at No. 4 Air Observer's School, in London, Ontario. Then in September 1941 he proceeded to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at Jarvis, Ontario. He was finally awarded his Air Observer's badge on the 8th of November 1941. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

The following day he proceeded toNo. 2 Air Navigation School at Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick, for a course on avanced navigation. At the completion of this course, on the 9th of December, Bill was commissioned to the rank of Pilot Officer.

On the 15th of December 1941 Bill boarded the SS Yngaren from No. 1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was destined to go to the RAF in Britain, but sadly he never made it that far.

Details of Death: Following completion of his training in Canada, and passing through No. 1 "Y" Depot, RCAF, Bill boarded SS Yngaren at Halifax Nova Scotia, on the 2nd of January 1942. The Swedish motor ship he was aboard was bound for Hull with six passengers.

On Monday the12th of January 1942, the convoy was scattered in bad weather, and the Yngaren was attacked at 0400 on the 12th by German U-Boat U43.

The Yingaren sank 600 miles west of Ireland. It was the only ship sunk in convoy HX168. Only two crew survived and all the Airmen died. German records time the ship sinking at 0802hrs at position ĎAL1938'. Aged 29

Commemorated at: Those killed, including Bill, are commemorated on the Ottawa Memorial.

Connection with Cambridge: Bill had lived in Cambridge for several years before joining the RNZAF, and he had joined up from Cambridge

Note: Details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn. See more details on these highly recommended books here. Other information was supplied by Bill Hewett's sister Cynthis Hewett, who has since passed away

 

 

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