Episode 132 – Ron Reid

Guest: Ron Reid
(Warrant Officer Ronald James Reid NZ402821, RNZAF Pilot – 30/01/1918 to 02/03/2014)

Hosts: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 25th of November 2010

Released: 26th of January 2017

Duration:  59 minutes 37 seconds

In this episode Dave Homewood interviewed the late WWII Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot Ron Reid, at his home in Tauranga in 2010. Ron was originally from Wellington, and he and his best mate Brian Baber joined the RNZAF together in 1940 as Air Gunners, following in the footsteps of Brian’s brother Jimmy (who was later killed in action).

While on their Initial Training Wing course at RNZAF Station Wereroa, at Levin, Ron and Brian both found themselves re-selected for pilot training, and they remustered to become Airmen Pilots Under Training.

They proceeded to No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School at RNZAF Station New Plymouth, where they learned to fly on de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moths, before being posted for intermediate and advanced training on Hawker Hinds at No. 3 Service Flying Training School, at RNZAF Station Ohakea.

Upon completing their training in New Zealand, Brian and Ron were both sent to Singapore. On arrival in hat country they were posted to Kluang in Malaya where they  completed a conversion course on CAC Wirraway advanced trainers in preparation to join a fighter squadron.

Brian was ultimately posted to join No. 243 Squadron RAF, flying the Brewster Buffalo fighters.  However, on his arrival at another Buffalo squadron – No. 488 Squadron RNZAF – Ron was told they had too many pilots and he wasn’t needed.

So Ron was instead posted to No. 36 Squadron RAF at Seletar, where he began flying the Vickers Vildebeest, a large single engined biplane bomber and torpedo aircraft.

When the Japanese Empire entered the war and began to attack Singapore and Malaya, the Vildebeests of No. 36 and 100 Squadrons both worked very hard by night bombing the approaching Japanese Army up the peninsula. But then the enemy decided to make another blow by landing a further force at Endau, in Malaya, cutting off some of the Allied Army. When the invasion fleet was spotted, every available RAF aircraft was put into the air to attack them. Vildebeests, Buffaloes, Lockheed Hudsons and Fairey Albacores were sent to attack the Japanese ships. It was not a success.

Just before the fall of Singapore the surviving members of No. 36 Squadron escaped in the last two surviving Albacores and flying across to Java. They continued operations against the Japanese as they began to land in Java, and during this time Ron and his crew attacked a Japanese cruiser, with little effect.

Soon all was lost and Ron and many others were captured.  Following quite some time in various prison camps in Java, he was shipped to Sumatra and put to work on a project to build a 200 km railway line through the jungle between the towns of Pakan Baroe and Moeara. He did this till the war finally ended. He had the key role as front spiker in the railway gang.

Quick Links:

•  The Battle of Endau on Wikipedia

•  The Sumatra Death Railway


Ron Reid in WWII (left) and during the 2010 interview

A No. 36 Squadron RAF Vickers Vildebeest as flown by Ron Reid (Don Mackenzie collection)

A photo of Ron Reid (left) and his good mate Brian Baber, two young RNZAF pilots newly arrived in Singapore and enjoying life in 1941, before war would come to that country (Brian Baber collection)

The music heard in this episode is a royalty free piece from here

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