This “Post War” page covers my Grandfather John J. Caulton re-joining the RAF for a further year after the war, his post war life including meeting various friends later in life along with meeting the German Ace who had shot him down during the war.
Chapter 13 – To England
So we took off in this DC3 from Paris to get back to London. I was sitting by the window watching all the oil come out of the engine, I was thinking gee-whiz, I hope it keeps going, I hope it’s not short of oil at this stage.
Once we landed in London this bloody customs officer told me to empty out my homemade pack. I knew there was only dirty clothes in there and all the crummy bits of shaving gear that I had acquired, so I looked at him in the eyes and said, Do you really want me to empty my dirty clothes out for everyone to see? I stood over him, I said I have been a prisoner of war for a year, I said you know what you can do, you can make me or you can put a cross on that form there… right now. (on the customs form). He got very flustered and embarrassed, he was only about 20 and he marked my card as inspected and let me pass on.
Above: Newspaper article stating J.J Caulton as “Safe in the U.K, previously reported prisoners of war”.
I went from there to an Air Force station, they received all the “movements” of prisoners of war and told me Brighton was receiving the Air Force personnel, so I trained down there to a hotel. We filled in the necessary paperwork to get all our gear that had been in storage since I was shot down and they fed us for a couple of days.
Above: Grand Hotel that we stayed at.
My personal gear arrived, and I had a new set of my old clothes to wear. Collar and tie and a decent shirt and the rest of it. I was still technically in the Air Force and from there I had six weeks leave before I was meant to go on a boat home (to New Zealand).
Above: List of my Personal Effects. Some had been previously sent to me while I was a P.O.W.
I didn’t know what I was going to do when I was back home – I thought well I’ll try and stay on here in the Air Force.
The second night I was back I was having dinner in a hotel in Bournemouth, I got a slap on the back and it was Geoffrey Page (my old Commanding Officer). I hadn’t seen him since the day I was shot down, so over a year. He was with his sister, for his or her birthday.
He said he was going to have some sick leave and have his tonsils out, and what was I going to do for the next six weeks? I said I don’t know. Geoffrey said, “we’ll count the pubs in southern England, what does that sound like?” He had a car, a very nice MG sports car (and a sports Jag, a closed in very early one) and there’s a lot of pubs in southern England. We did our best but I don’t think we ever made it anywhere near. So then in that trip round he said “what are you going to do when you get home to New Zealand?” I said “I’m buggered if I know – I haven’t got any thoughts and no trades and I’ve been thinking. I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I stayed on in the Air Force. I’ve enjoyed it so far apart from the year I had away in Germany.”
I said to Geoffrey, “what about my knee”, as I thought my knee was a problem, he said he was still in and look at him! (badly scarred from burns). Geoffrey said “I’ll see what I can do”.
One night we came back to East Grinstead where Geoffrey had spent a lot of time recovering from his burns and we had nowhere to put our heads, so Geoffrey said we’ll go to the hospital – we’ll get one there, because he’d been a long time patient there and he knew all the nurses and they all knew him well, and it was like a Club really, East Grinstead Hospital, it really was, and Dr McIndoe who was in charge there was a very open minded fellow and personal friend of Geoffrey’s. McIndoe was a New Zealand Air Force doctor, a pioneering plastic surgeon who had carried out Geoffrey’s burn surgery after he was shot down in the Battle of Britain – he was one of McIndoe’s first patients, badly burned hands – and they became very good friends.
So we put our heads down in the hospital for the night and that was okay, and in one of the succeeding nights – and I can’t remember – we were invited to McIndoe’s for dinner which we went to at his home.
So we went to a meal at McIndoe’s this one night and Geoffrey said “what can you do for Johnny, he’s thinking of going back into the Air Force”. Well McIndoe was quite high up in the Airforce world, he had looked after a lot of Airforce men, he was an honorary Air Commodore, he never wore a uniform, but he mixed with all the heads because he was such a well-known and respected person. McIndoe also had his own rehab Air Force unit where they got people jobs while they were healing.
McIndoe asked me “do you have any wounds? Or problems?” I said “only my knee injury and it’s healed.” He said “well let me have a look”. So in his lounge I had to pull the leg of my trousers up and show him. The next moment he said “I’ll see you in the hospital tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock”. The next morning I had to go to East Grinstead Hospital, was admitted and got into bed – nothing wrong with me, not a bloody thing – and he came and did his rounds, he had a look at my knee there, sent me off for an x-ray and from there I was given a warrant to go up to London to see the Chief Orthopaedic of the RAF.
I got number one treatment all the way. Just by knowing McIndoe. The surgeon had a look at my knee and said another operation is another injury, what’s the story? I said “I was thinking of making the Air Force a career and I’m going to get married”. He had a bit of a hum and a har about that and then said, I’m going to recommend you go back into flying for a year and to be reviewed after that, how’s that?” I said “well that’s nigh on perfect – thank you very much.”
I couldn’t believe it. I still had a bit of a job to get a job, I had to get my flying category back.
I had to go back up to London to near Regent Street to go through peeing in a bottle and blowing up the mercury and all those things. Spent a whole day there being examined, tested and all the rest of it, then I got around to the Chief Medical Officer of the unit there, I knocked on this door, he was a Squadron Leader, and I was asked to come in. Here was this Australian Officer sitting in the chair, I could tell as they wore a different colour navy blue to us.
I can still see that bastard sitting there and he kept me waiting standing at attention as you were supposed to do. I had come in, saluted and stood at attention waiting to be put “at ease” and he just sat there just tapping his desk with a pencil, looking at me and then looking at the papers in front of him, cause all your papers follow you around like a dog tag really. Then he snarled out, “and who gave you permission to admit yourself to East Grinstead Hospital?” I thought you’re a shit to do this to me, so I stood over his table a little bit and said, “a friend”, he said “what do you mean by a friend!” I said “Mr McIndoe.” That’s when I leaned on his table and he said, “how is Mac?” I said “he’s very well thank you.” That broke the ice, I was then asked to sit down, I didn’t enlighten him how well I knew McIndoe as I’d only met him 3 or 4 times, no more. McIndoe’s name, that was an “electric” name over there amongst the Airforce, he was with the heads of heads throughout the land.
He then said “do you want your category back”, I said “yes, I did”, and he had no room to move. That was very satisfying. He was one rank above me, so he could have given me the works, but you have to stand up for yourself, I got a lot of pleasure out of that.
He said “well what category do you want?” I said “I don’t know, how many can I have?” He said “here’s the book.” The only one I could remember was A1B, which was fit for all duties, flying as well as ground duties. Covers the lot so you are number 1 health. I looked further down the list and found one that said, Fit to fly, not fit to march, I said “I’ll have that one!”
I bloody hell hated marching. I had enough of that in Germany. And that’s the one I finished in the Air Force with, and it got me off the Victory Parade, ’cause I didn’t want to walk around bloody London for eleven miles.
So with his permission I picked my own category, and he dare not shy off as he didn’t know how well I knew McIndoe. Life goes on, little incidences of what you know and who you know.
Above: Archibald McIndoe (with glasses) joins his patients at the Whitehall (Credit: Archives of the Museum at the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead).
New Zealand-born plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe was ground-breaking in his field. McIndoe was civilian consultant in plastic surgery to the RAF and his improvement on treatments to casualties disfigured by horrific burns received in combat transformed reconstructive surgery procedures. He was knighted for his work in 1948 and died in 1960. His patients were a tight-knit group dubbed The Guinea Pig Club. (For more info see the book “The Guinea Pig Club: Archibald McIndoe and the RAF in WW2” by military medical historian Dr Emily Mayhew).
Chapter 14 – Flying Again
So I stayed another year in the Air Force and went back to flying on 287 Squadron.
287 Squadron (Army co-op) RAF station Bradwell Bay.
Above: 287 Squadron Crest, motto “Practice makes perfect”
The role of No. 287 Squadron in WW2 was to provide target towing and to carry out attack simulations during World War II. After mid 1945 it became a defensive Squadron. The Squadron was disbanded on 15 June 1946.
Above and below: New identity card May 1945
Above: 287 Squadron pilots in front of a Tempest – 1945/46.
J.J Caulton to the RH side of the intake.
Above: Entire 287 Squadron and Tempest – 1945/46.
J.J Caulton to the RH side of the intake.
Above: Snow on the ground and a few laughs, J.J Caulton pulling a pilot to get him in the cockpit of the Mk 16 Spitfire.
I was a Flight Lieutenant at this stage, I flew Tempests and Spitfires again, and very – shall we say – unhelpful sort of duties, really – was flying courses for anti-aircraft over London or over to the Isle of Sheppey. You know – you fly back and forwards ten miles and nearly go to sleep under the canopy on a hot day. One fellow did, he used to take books up to read, fell asleep, crashed and died. We also did the odd exercise with the Army to keep them on the ready.
The idea was to show that England was still protecting the empire, show a presence.
Above: Example of typical mundane post war duties.
Above: From August 1945 to June 1946 287 Squadron also operated Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XVI. (Pilot unknown, Bradwell Bay).
Above: Spitfire “Pilot Notes – Handbook”
Below home 8mm film footage is of J. J Caulton’s and an unknown friend going out for a flight in Jan 1st 1945 at Bradwell Bay. They are flying Mark 16 and a Mark 9 Spitfires.
Above: From November 1944 June 1946, 287 Squadron also operated Hawker Tempest Mk.V (Pilot unknown, Bradwell Bay).
Above: 287 Squadron Tempest getting ready to taxi. Note the fog/haze in the background. 1945/46.
Above: Another group photo, 287 Squadron Pilots, J.J Caulton standing on ground – 1945/46.
I married Marie, she came from Ipswich. She was in headquarters at Martelsham and worked for the Station Commander when we were there, and that’s how we met, as you do.
Above: Wedding invitation of Marie Porter and John Caulton, 4th Sep 1945.
Above: John and Marie of their wedding day 4th Sep 1945.
Above: John and Marie centre on their wedding day. John’s former Squadron Leader Alan Geoffrey Page on the LH side as John’s best man.
Above: Full wedding party. John and Virtue Fowles (Parents of Robert Fowles who was killed in training) pictured on the left of John Caulton, back row.
The below home 8mm film Footage is of John J. Caulton his wife Marie showing the parents of Bobby (Robert) Fowles around the airfield at RAF Station “Bradwell Bay” 1945/46.
Bobby Fowles (RAF # 141522) was a close friend of J.J Caulton’s who was Killed during “camera gunning” training in a Spitfire on the 14 April 1943, aged 20
His parents, John and Virtue were shown around the airfield so they could see what life would have been like for their son and the type of aircraft he had flown.
Above: Newspaper report detailing the wedding.
The old boy that was our Station Commander when I was in 132 Sqn was a First World War pilot. And you know – houses were hard to get. They’d either been bashed up or they were filled up. We were down at Maidstone in a place called West Hamlet – it was the aerodrome about four miles from Maidstone, or a bit longer. And we were just house hunting, going and door knocking on a weekend. I was flying from there. Marie was on a station up at Martelsham still, and anyway, the long and short of it was it was Sunday and lunch time, and we went to this little pub called ‘The Bull’ and I looked across and there was a man that I had seen before. He’d interviewed me for my commission. And I said to her “there’s your old boss over there – Wilkie”, and sure enough she recognised him too and confirmed it was him. He was on his own and then he got up to leave, and I got up and I introduced myself to him and I said “my wife used to be in your office.” Oh, God – he was tickled pink. He lived nearby, his wife was away, and he’d come out to the pub for his Sunday lunch. And when I told him we were looking for … “oh”, he said “you can have my gardener’s cottage.” I said “well, what about the gardener – where’s he?” And … “oh, never mind about him.” And I said “I couldn’t do that.” Well, he said “leave it with me”. And he got this lady just across the road from his place, and she was only there occasionally. And we shared her cottage, with her. It was a six hundred-year-old!
It was perfect really, and old Wilkie loaned us his Morris 8 to go up to London and you know – things like that. He was still working – I don’t know what he was working at in those days. But he was a very … lovely old gentleman, you know – one of the old gentlemen.
So, it was a nice little coming together, and he couldn’t do enough. And of course, the gardener supplied us with vegetables.
Above: John and Marie on Honeymoon in Ireland.
I’d decided that the Air Force was running backwards. There was not a lot of future – you could see that things were drying up, plus the serviceability of aircraft was quite a worry. I had an engine stop on take-off with me. I’d just got the wheels up and got them down again, and ran out of runway and broke the prop. A few months later I then had an engine pack up on landing.
Two were killed while I was there. One fellow was killed flying, he was the one that went to sleep. The other fellow went down the end and turned over in a Tempest … you know, serviceability had gone because the chaps had had five years with cold hands an hour before dawn, and they’d had a gutsful. And they didn’t care if they did get reprimanded or court martialled even – it didn’t worry them. So it became dangerous plus the fact I could see no future. So we decided to come home, I’d got to get started and I was going to get a pub.
Above: J.J Caulton’s total Airforce flying hours 798.20 at 14th May 1946
Chapter 15 – Back to New Zealand
Marie and I came home by ship. The ship broke down all the way the other side of Panama. We berthed in there for two days, tried to fix it. They got it semi fixed and we went into the locks and into the lakes, and we parked it there again for about four days and they still worked on the motors.
Above: The “Rangitikei” passenger liner.
The interesting thing there was some of the crew got off and were swimming in the lake. We watched this, and of course all the showers and baths on the ship were salt water, – it was a very old fashioned ship, it had, had a hell of a life. I said to this fellow that – we sort of got together – from Wellington. I said, “do you want a swim?” And he said “oh, not a bad idea”. So, we went down to the well deck, climbed down the ladder and by this time the crew had got out so we were down there alone. Someone leaned over the side – “did you know there were some crocodiles or alligators seen?” Oh, shit! Trying to get up a rope ladder the same time as someone else in a hurry!
A few days later they pulled anchor and we went out into the Pacific and at 10 o’clock we turned around and went back into Colon, on the Pacific side, and we stayed there a fortnight while they tried to repair this jolly ship. And I must say that the Americans opened everything up for all the passengers. All the Clubs, and there were some quite smart clubs there – everything, the doors were thrown open. … you had to pay of course. But they flew in… or supplied … a lot of children on board coming out here. One girl got off and married a Yank there who was coming out here as her fiancé – she married a policeman.
So, we used the beaches, and they were shark proof beaches that we went out to, and we did little tours round about.
An interesting part of it was we called in at Curacao, and the Captain was a very jovial older man on his last trip really. And we were only in there for – I think a day, not much more – Curacao. And we were all given a time to be back on board – very hot, extremely hot. Marie nearly fainted there. We went into one shop and you know, it was air conditioned … came out and it was like a blast furnace. Anyway, we got back on board and then the ship started off again and got out to the heads of the harbour, and there was a signal went out that there were two girls off the ship left behind, and they were on their way out in a boat – and I can’t remember the size or the shape of the boat. And the Captain turned round they came alongside, climbed the ladder and picked them up. That wouldn’t happen very often.
So then we came straight on from Curacao after it was fixed to Wellington.
Chapter 16 – Hawkes Bay, Rush Munro’s
So that was the end of the trip, and my Dad was in Wellington and my step-brother was there, and then we came through to living in Marton – Dad had the pub there, the White Hart.
Had a holiday round the country and showed Marie around and came back to Hastings. We went to the races here which was foreign to me because I disliked horses all my life. Dad had horses, but I just couldn’t bear a horse. In Wanstead I used to have to ride them or I would walk, ’til I got a push bike, you know, so … no they didn’t like me – they either bit me or bucked me off or …
Above: John left the RAF but was still officially with the RNZAF until his return to New Zealand where he was transferred to a “Reserve”.
Then I worked for my Dad for a while at the Pub. I worked there with George Gray. I ran the weekends there.
Then we got a State house there after a bit of a struggle. I had a bit of trouble with my step-mother … and – made life a bit difficult. And getting a State house wasn’t easy because half came to returned servicemen and half went to ordinary civvy requirements. And I remember George Denbow who was the RSA secretary, he knew what was going on and he had a bit of sympathy for us and he was right across from the pub. Marton was a small place – everyone knew everyone else’s business as they do. And I found out there were about six houses coming free, and you had to go before a Board to even have a chance. And I had to go to Wanganui for that. Oh, there was none available, that’s right – there was none available, I was told there was none available. I said “well I know of six”, and I had them written down, and I said “I’d like that one.” And it had four bedrooms, quite a big one. I got a half unit in the finish because I knew that when I went out, old George would be my secretary in the room, still probably telling things that I wasn’t going to speak of. So, we got a half unit and we moved in in time for my daughter (Jill) to be born.
Above: John and Marie in their first house together in N.Z.
Then of course I needed a job. I was looking for a pub to buy all round the district and couldn’t get one and they were an awful high price. I potentially picked one out at Wanganui which I thought would be great, but it never happened and another one just out of Palmerston. So – any of them were out of my league really, and then I heard that the Havelock pub here, the old two-storey one, McDuff’s hotel.
Bloody awful old pub really anyway, I’m glad I didn’t get it. I’d be woken up and it wasn’t a place for kids to be brought up in.
It was a wooden two-storey with a veranda all the way around, but I wanted to get something of my own and I was prepared to have a go. Because I’d come back with a trade that wasn’t commercial because I was on singles (engine aircraft) instead of twins as a pilot, the only other trade I knew was bartending.
McDuff’s, he was the fellow that was sick when I came across, and his wife said she wanted to get out of it. I said “well, I could be interested, will you let me know when your husband is ready to sell.” He was in hospital – he had TB I understand, and he came out cured. Of course, I arrived back here on the day he came out of hospital. “I don’t want to sell” he said, so that was the end of that.
I had often thought … in fact in one camp I was in, Moosburg, where the Yanks mainly talked of food.
They were talking about steaks, ice-cream and women, in about that order, because there were none. I said “you fellows wouldn’t know what ice cream is unless you had a Rush Munro ice cream from Hastings you wouldn’t know what you were talking about.” And ‘course that didn’t mean a thing to anyone. And that thought passed through my mind and I had thought of it in between.
I thought that day – I’m never going to get into a pub. I’ll go up and see old Rush. So I drove straight across in my little Morris 8 open top, and arrived there and he was in the garden. The shop was shut. He was closed a bit of the time – he’d been ill, and during the war he was short of sugar and he couldn’t make a lot of his products for a while, so his business had run down a fair bit.
Above: Rush Munro’s Ice Cream parlour and garden, c. 1930. Frederick Rush-Munro on far LH side.
Anyway, he was out in the garden. It had a Japanese style garden with a goldfish pond and lanterns, not that Japanese but different from what was around at the time, and I thought oh, God – here we go. Shall I leave the gate open, so I can get a quick exit? So I turned round and shut it, and I went through and I introduced myself in the garden… and he was doing a bit of hoeing … and told him my story and I said, you know “would you consider selling?” and he said “No.” It was quite an emphatic no. He was a bit straightforward.
I said “well, do you think in the future you will?” And eventually it got around to stating he was going to stay there five years, and I said, “all right, well if in five years – would you hold it for me?” And he said, “go and start your own”. And I said “no, I wouldn’t know how to”, and I said, “what’s more, this has got such a name”.
And I said, “I’ve often thought about it” I’ve always thought of this place, riding to work I used to get an ice cream (when he worked at Kelts). When I was in the prison camp I used to talk about this great ice cream, all these things came up, and all the rest of it – which I used to. So he finally said “all right”, he’d let me know when he was ready to sell.
Old Rush was a little bit different. Well he had a bit of a short fuse, you know. And he … but he had a wonderful heart really, I’ve got to say … you know, we had one little upset. But he had a lot of upsets with people – he wouldn’t suffer fools at any stage.
If he had trouble with any of the hoodlums of the day in the shop, he would yell at them to get out and never come back, and close the doors. Of course they would come back eventually as there was nowhere else to go.
In the meantime I had another thought of a business of my own which was a taxi business in Marton which never came off anyway, and that was what I had in mind – that I would work at that until he came available. Then a couple of years later old Rush took ill, and I heard he was ill. And when he came out of hospital he came and saw me at the Whiteheart Pub where I was working to see if I was still interested, which I was.
I then came over to see him and his wife, and of course she wasn’t making the ice cream, the place was closed. And he had undulant fever which you used to get from milk, and they told him – you know, if he wanted to live he’d better get out of that and give it up.
And I remember sitting in their bedroom, and it was like a game of tennis because she was on one side and he was up the other of course. We talked of this and that, and then it came to “well, you say”, you know. He’d say to her “you say… whether we sell or not. She said “no – you say”. And I was in the middle. Eventually he said “okay, he’d sell”.
So I went up to the solicitor, old Mr Gifford – Dick Gifford. He drew up the arrangements, and then I had to look for the money. I had saved all the time I was away (at war). All that I had saved and put aside – those days used to incur 25% exchange. And the number of times I nearly gave that away because I thought if I die I’ll never get to use it, and I could be having a better time than what I’m having. Instead of walking back I’d sooner be getting a taxi and all that sort of carry on. We weren’t getting paid a hell of a lot. I thought it was a lot, but I think it was 2/6 a day I allocated to my account, and it built up. But then it wasn’t building up enough to buy Rush Munros.
I’d went to see the Rehab fellow in Napier. I didn’t want to tell anyone about Rush-Munro’s in case someone slipped in ahead of me, and this fellow in Napier at the Rehab said, “where is it?” And I said “well – I’d rather not say”. And he said, “you’ve got no show of getting any money if you don’t tell me.” It was at that stage, and I said “well, this has got to be strictly, you know – quiet”, I said “it’s Rush Munros.” “Oh,” he said “that’s a two-man place. That’s a rehab place for two people.” I said, “to hell with that,” I said “I found the bloody place, I’m not sharing it with anyone else, I don’t want a partner. I want to know how much money …”
“Oh, well” he said, “you’re going to have to fight, you know.” ‘Cause I hadn’t got any loans at this stage.
I remember going back to Marton, and I went and saw the Mayor of Marton, Tom Barton. A very nice, thorough gentleman. And I said to him “how much money can I get from Rehab?” You know, for a business. Oh – He said, “what is it?” And I said, “well it’s a place in Hastings”. I think I gave him some indication – oh, I think I said it was an ice cream place in Hastings. “Oh” he said, “there’s a place over there – there’s a big grape vine down the garden.” I let him go on for a little while … I said, “that’s the place”. He said, “don’t worry about the money,” he said, “get it”. He said, “worry about the money afterwards.” And you know, it makes sense when you think about it.
And there I was struggling – I’d say about four figures, but you know – it wasn’t enough to buy Rush Munros. And anyway, we needed a home. Eventually I got the house and the business on Rehab, but Len Grey … Len was a great friend of mine and became my accountant, he was great … he roused around looking for places to get finance from and … yeah, we got enough together and bought it. This was around 1948.
The business came with a house. It was novel, he made it novel and I kept it that way. The main shop was still a temporary building that was built in 1931 after the Hawkes Bay earthquake.
Above: The house that came with the shop later had to be moved back to allow the factory size to be increased. In this photo it has been moved back and is being painted.
This house remained until 2019 when it was demolished.
Then I had to learn the business of course – I knew nothing about it. And then when I got the business I had forgotten all about the stock which was £500, so I had to go along to Gifford and get a promissory note for that. Then when I took the money back to him – when I got that money, about six or eight months later when I had £500 to go and pay him, he wouldn’t accept any interest. No – and when he said no, he didn’t muck about, you know, his eyes stood out and he started to wind up a bit. I remember going to “Harvey’s” (department store) and getting one of those Westminster chime doorbells for his new home and … oh, God, it was like giving him gold.
Rush-Munro did a lot for Hastings that no one ever knew about. For instance, the nurses always got ice cream at Christmas time; the orphans always got it too. I think the Fire Brigade looked after the orphans here at that time. And no, he never made public that – the high school – he used to close every year and go to the High School and give all the funds for the High School.
Above: One of John’s early Rush-Munro Ice Cream tub lids
Rush stayed on with me for three months to teach me how to run the place. And of course, I had all the confectionery to make as well.
He was taught by his parents and his parents were taught by a German confectioner in London apparently. That’s how they came… but he had changed a lot of the recipes. I had his old recipes and he had altered them to suit.
We made some for the Queen Mother you know. Yeah, we were asked to make some. That’s another story – better go on the record I suppose. A Mr Hudson came in, that was from Greenhill when … he came to me one day and he said – he was a little bit superior – “oh, we’re having an important visitor”. I knew the Queen Mother was going to Greenhill – I’d heard on the grapevine of course. “We want some of your chocolates.” I said “well” I said, “I’m very sorry but I don’t make chocolates between Christmas and Easter.” I said “it’s too hot.” And oh God, the wall fell down, you know – the snow melted – all in one. Then he had to tell me who it was, you see. He said, “well it’s the Queen Mother”, and he was at a loss what to say next. I said “well … oh well, for a special customer like that … a special person like that” I said “we’ll make them for you.” Then … ‘course I had to make all the centres of he chocolates, and Mrs Cunningham who used to work for Rush came back and she did a wonderful job. We had just ordinary gold boxes, 2lb gold boxes, two of those, and two 1lb boxes, one for Mrs Hudson and one for the Queen Mother, and one for the Ladies in Waiting and one for the other lady that came with them, the dresser I think.
And of course she had some passionfruit ice cream. I had … and I lost … I don’t know who ever got it … the special pass to get out to Greenhill – it was as tight as a drum out there.
Mrs Hudson was very nice – she was a nice woman, she took me round and showed me round the house. It wasn’t – it must have been a bit of a shock to the Queen Mother – it was a bit old fashioned. It wasn’t a palace but it was tidy and clean.
Above: Greenhill Lodge 1900’s
Above: Gladys and Dick Hudson with the Queen Mother (centre) on the veranda of Greenhill Lodge during her stay in 1958.
At the time there was nothing to equate with our ice cream. A company “Bluemoon” tried hard but maybe it was the extra cream we used, I don’t know what it was, we had a name and it just went on and on and on. There was plenty of work, it wasn’t a 40hr week, but I didn’t mind it, you knew you were making something that people appreciated and enjoyed.
It was a wonderful business really, I never had to advertise once. I only ever have two bad debts, one for 7 and 6 and another for 6 shillings, it was all a cash business so I never went without. It was interesting, it was hard work, I would have to say I would have been the first shop in Hastings, if not the country, to have no smoking in the late 50’s. I had 3 signs up, and they had to make up their mind, they either wanted an ice-cream or they wanted a smoke, take your pick, as simple as that. It caused a bit of a rupture every now and again.
There was nothing scientific about it, it was all in taste, had all the fruits, chocolate and malted milk and coffee and things like that. It was gratifying, satisfying for me. In those days I was one of the only shops opened on the weekends from Saturday afternoon, so there were plenty of customers really.
I kept the place keen, washed it out, bleached the cleaning cloths, not hard stuff, but I did it and people noticed, little things like that, it was part of the deal I suppose.
No big deal really if you had the recipe, I was just lucky enough I picked Mr Rush Munro, and he came from England as a boy, his parents were taught how to make confectionary. I used to make confectionary in the winter time, fudge toffees, chocolates, the full treatment. Then I had to give it up (the confectionary) as I couldn’t cope with both. Everything was made there, you wouldn’t get away with that nowadays. I had around 40 years there, I used to serve on the weekends too because it was so busy, you never got to talk to them, they were just up to buy their ice-cream and then on to the next person. Marie used to come in to empty the till draw on a Sunday and it was absolutely chocker with money. I would empty about 80 3 1/2 gallon tins, every weekend. It did have its problems, occasionally the refrigeration broke down, well I had no other another anyway and I didn’t mind the work so there it was, it was there for the taking. And when you saw people enjoying something it was quite amusing really. Rush, during the war, had reduced down to about 5 flavours, when I took over. He didn’t have any room for anymore, I had to put extra fridges in when I got the place. The town was getting bigger and it seems silly to say but it was a special place to come to. People used to come from overseas because they had heard about it, it became part of their journey for their holiday times. I started feijoa ice-cream, Rush had a couple of trees growing on the corner of the drive, before he left to retire. They were only little tiny feijoas, I made a small batch and asked Rush what he thought, he said “that’s great.” They were quite a new fruit here.
There were little secret parts of it, my maple walnut, I used to make the maple which was better than the real maple that you buy. It was just a re-constitution, that’s the only one I used that wasn’t natural. There were other secrets, the girls would have seen me make it but they wouldn’t have known. It was an unusual business really.
In the relatively small town of Hastings, New Zealand, John had at least 4 friends that were P.O.W’s in Stalag 3 in Germany at the same time. Malcolm or “Mac” Sutherland was in the Hospital with John, before Mac was repatriated home due to having a leg amputated. (See “War Years 2” for more details on their meeting.)
Above: May 1964 newspaper article reads:
“Of more than just a passing interest to this group of Hastings men pictured above was the screening last night of the film “The Great Escape”. They were all prisoners of war in Stalag Luft III, Germany, where one of the largest mass escapes was engineered during the war and during which some 76 men escaped. The men from Left: Ivan Collet, Peter Marshall, John R (Ross) Falls, John Caulton and Mac Sutherland.
Above: “Mac” Sutherland whilst with 485 squadron before being shot down with 3 other Spitfires on 22nd August 1943 flying Spitfire IX EN634. After the war later returned to live in New Zealand. Mac passed away on 14th May 1969 aged 49.
Above: Left Jack Chase (Swaziland) and Ivan Collet (N.Z). Photo taken in Stalag 1 before transfer to Stalag 3. Ivan returned to Hastings after the war where he ran “Bunkers” Toy shop.
Ivan Henry Collett passed away on 7th July 1988 at Havelock North.
Chapter 17 – Finding Jabs
A friend of mine, her husband was Mac Sutherland who I knew and that ended up in a prison camp too. She said there’s a book in the Library with you in it. She told me more about it so I went and got it. I read it and saw the photo of my Spitfire and myself in it. I took the book back and later went to get it out again but it was gone. So I wrote to the War Museum in England and had them send me out a copy, which they did.
Twenty six years later and then I saw the photographs that had been taken the day I was shot down for the first time.
Above: Some of the photos seen by John for the first time since he was shot down in 1944.
In the book it stated his name, being Hans Joachim Jabs. He was interviewed about the Battle of Britain which he had flown in himself. And he had about a two or three liner only about when he was interviewed, and the main thing that he said was that he always wore… when he was flying against England – ’cause it was flying against England, you know, it wasn’t the Battle of Britain as such, called by the Germans, he always wore a clean white shirt in case he got shot down. So that was all there was, so I then I knew it had been written since the war and I realised then he was still alive… it was a strange feeling.
Above: photo of a young Jabs came from a propaganda magazine from 1941.
I couldn’t tell people that these things happened, otherwise I had no proof. I remember telling a fellow once and he said “that’s a load of bull” so I never ever told anyone again because they would have said just that.
My eldest daughter Jill was going on this big OE trip to England, I told her the story. I said “see if you can find this fellow”. Well she couldn’t find him in Germany because they passed through in a hurry and all the rest of it. She said to my brother-in-law, and I don’t know why I didn’t ask him before, he was in RAF security. She said “how can I find this fellow for Dad?” She told him the story, his name … he picked up the phone, rang the German Embassy – said “yes, he comes from Ludenscheid, but you can’t have his address until he’s okayed it.” And that’s the way it stayed. So then he okayed it through the Embassy back to me, and I wrote to him and told him, you know – what had happened to my life and he was tickled pink that I’d survived and I had three kids and all the rest of it. All went in the local paper of course in Germany… which I’ve got a reproduction.
Above: Caulton family at Daughter Jill’s 21st. (1968)
Above: Jab’s reply to John’s first letter in 1970.
So then we decided about a year later that we’d go on holiday and we’d go to Europe. My wife Marie, my younger daughter Anne-Marie and I went to Europe in 1972.
It was on that same trip that we then went up the Rhine and I could recommend that to anyone, we went right up to Switzerland on that. Saw my mate up there, Geoffrey (Geoffrey Page) – he was my best man. Had time with him and then on the way back, got a car and drove back from there to Ludenscheid to meet Jabs for the first time since 1944. We stayed with them and they couldn’t have been nicer. You know, it was a great friendship in a way – he was such a decent fellow because the day that he came to see me. He was a thorough gentleman that day – he was decent, and everything was good about him. You know, he hadn’t given the Nazi salute – he didn’t to me that day, but of course it became mandatory after the attempt on Hitler’s life. He saluted me the right way, and ‘course he only did it once. Jabs’ crew were there with him, and a political officer who had a camera. I said “well, is it an American camera?” You know – to this officer. Oh no, he was very aggrieved with that “we German’s make the best cameras in the world.” I upset him a little bit – he wasn’t a terribly pleasant sort of a fellow, he was a young fellow. Later on Jabs told me in our conversations and our jokes and all the past happenings, he said, “I wasn’t supposed to come out and see you that day.” He said “I was told not to” he said. And I guess it was this fellow, political officer I don’t know, he didn’t qualify that, but he said I was told not to go out. He said “well I shot him down and I’m going out to see what he looks like.” And it was as simple as that.
Above: Caulton and Jabs first post war meeting 1972
Above: Jabs and Caulton last meeting 28 years prior.One of the photos Jabs sent to John in 1972.
So it was quite novel really, and so every time we went to England, we went to see Marie’s Mum of course, and we’d go to Europe and have time with them and stayed with them.
Jabs himself was imprisoned after the war for about a year until the powers to be had worked out who was good or bad, war crimes and the like. There was an opportunity to be let out if you could produce food – Jabs was let out because he heard that if you could produce food, he could get out of prison camp because they were short of food. So he said “I’m a fisherman”, and so they let him out. And then Jabs said to me “I never fished except off the wharf”. And the British authorities who had him imprisoned up in southern Denmark … in that area … came round and said “where’s the fish?” And then he said “I had to buy fish and set up a fish shop”. So having got to the fish story he had to become a fish seller, and Ruth, his wife, she said “oh, the smell” she said “it was terrible.”
So that was the life. And then because the West – the Americans didn’t want West Germany to go communist they poured money in, and he then started making in a small way I think, insulating things for electric fences and he developed into all things … drinking cups and agricultural machines and vats and the lot for his company “Lister”. He was a really efficient sort of a fellow but a decent bloke, you know. Well, I mean we had some pretty unfortunate fellows in New Zealand – we had plenty of nice fellows too, but he was one out of the box in my book, you know, because I suppose we had that relationship. He was decent to me, and subsequently he looked forward to our visit.
Above: John and Marie on one of their many trips aboard.
Fortunately we had a number of trips because we had decided that you know – in our working life, when the kids had been educated and had jobs we decided to close the place (Rush Munro’s). Only way to do it. You couldn’t have someone make the ice cream otherwise the story went out and the withdrawal went with it – the goodwill – whatever it might have been. So we just closed. I think it wasn’t the first time … the first time was 3 months, we closed … one was three and a half months. I used to put a sign up over the winter, and I had one or two compliments that were usual.
One lady came along one time when we were about to close over the winter, and she said – one Monday morning she came along and she said “Mr Caulton, would you mind telling me when you are going to close this year?” And I said “well” I said “good question” I said “We hadn’t decided” … ’cause you had to get staff placed somewhere else. All those things. I said “why do you ask, though?” And she said “well my son’s an accountant in Switzerland, and he won’t come home if you’re going to be closed when he gets home.” So that’s one of the nicest compliments I think I’ve ever had.
On this first trip to Germany in 1972 we stopped off for two days in LA as you did because it was always a stop over and we did all the touristy things. We went out you know, to Disneyland. Now, there’s two or three places we went there, and one of them is the Chinese theatre, and I can’t think of the name of it – where all the film star hand prints are in concrete. I wasn’t particularly interested – Marie and my daughter Anne-Marie were there and they were going round looking at the hand prints and I went across the road to take a picture of them. While I’m taking the picture I looked in the view finder, and there’s a bearded man leading Marie away by the arm. And I thought ‘sheet – you know, I’ve heard of some strange places, but this is a bit different. I hurried back and I couldn’t find them – they weren’t in the forecourt. And what had happened was… yes, well I eventually found them in an alley way. And that was the film crew chief that had the beard… had led Marie away because she was being photographed from the two way glass of the ticket box. She was being interviewed by Betty Jo as it turned out on the Petticoat Junction films. Betty Jo was the broken down blonde. And she said to Marie – she had a foolscap of questions and answers. She said “I’m getting married and my fiancé wants me to sign all these, what would you do?” to Marie. And Marie said “well,” and she looked at her sideways, and said “I wouldn’t sign any of them – wouldn’t sign that … wouldn’t sign that.” So she wasn’t being very co-operative, not knowing that she was being photographed for this interview. And he took her out of circulation. They were down with their big truck, down this alleyway when I found them. And I thought “oh, God!” And I said to him “what did you do that for?” I said – and I didn’t know what had happened. Anyway they just got a dollar each – signed dollar – for their performance. And we got talking, and he said “where are you from?” And I said “I’m from New Zealand”. “Oh” he said “I was out in New Zealand last year.” I said “really? Whereabouts?” ‘Oh” he said “a place called Hastings”. He said “I did the gannets – went out and photographed the gannets. He said “what do you do?” and I said “I make ice cream.” He said “oh,” he said “there’s a place there,” he said “it’s got a fish pond in the front with a lot of gold fish in it. Oh, God” – this is as true bill as I sat here. He said “that’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had,” – oh, he went into raptures. I let him go on. I got my wallet out. I said “you’re not going to believe this” and I showed him my card. I said “that’s my place.” He said “well, bugger me,” you know, he couldn’t believe it. And I couldn’t believe that I’d struck a fellow that went into raptures about my ice cream.
In 1975 John and his wife Marie made a second trip to Europe, this time visiting the area where as a 24 year old, he crashed his Spitfire into the farm paddocks of rural Arnhem in Holland. (See “War Years 2” page for full story)
He recognised the area, although the hut he was taken to had disappeared.
And he met up with another face from the past, the Dutch farm worker who helped him from the wrecked aircraft still lived there, and the two enjoyed a remarkable reunion.
Above: John and Marie with the Dutch boy, now man, wearing the red and white striped shirt.
Above: John and Marie outside the farm house of the Dutch-boy that helped him from his crashed aircraft. This was the boy’s family house in 1944 in which he still remained in 1975 when John visited.
Above: John Caulton next to the canal he crossed back on the 29th April 1944 after being shot down, the paddock in the background is where his Spitfire had come to rest. (1975)
Above: Dr John Everall (132 Squadron) tastes Rush Munro’s ice cream in John’s factory. Dr Everall travelled from the U.K to visit John Caution in 1978. Dr Everall passed away in 1997.
Above: Dr John Everall (with hat) whilst with 132 Squadron.
Above: The official magazine of the Airshow featuring Alan Geoffrey Page’s Spitfire bearing his initials on the cover.
Above: Line up of famous fighter pilots at the Airshow. Bex, Switzerland 1980.
I attended a three day flying and social event at Bex, Switzerland arranged by my good friend Geoffrey Page, who was my Commanding Officer in 1944.
There were a number of prominent ex-servicemen there signing prints of aircraft etc.
Above: Postcard signed by J.J Caulton of 132 Squadron and Major Hans Joachim Jabs Commodore of the NJG 1, Night Fighters.
I purchased a R.A.F Association embossed pewter tankard and asked the elite and famous to inscribe their names on it with my Swiss Army knife. Their names are as follows:
Above: Signed pewter tankard
Johnnie Johnson (Air Vice Marshal) C.B, C.B.E, D.S.O and bar. D.F.C and bar.
Alan Geoffrey Page (Wing Commander) O.B.E, D.S.O and Bar, Order of Orange Nassau and original member of Sir Archibald McIndoe’s Guinea Pig Club. (Centre with map)
Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris (Air Chief Marshal) G.C.B, O.B.E and D.S.O.
Jeffrey Kindersley Quill, (Flying Officer) O.B.E, A.F.C, the famous test pilot of the Spitfire.
Pierre Clostermann (Commandant) D.S.O, D.F.C and member of the French National Assembly.
Sir Augustus Walker (Air Chief Marshal) G.C.B, C.B.E, D.S.O, D.F.C, A.F.C. While working as station commander at RAF Syerston he rushed in a fire truck from the control tower to a taxiing Lancaster bomber when he saw it was on fire. He then tried to remove incendiary bombs from under the bomb bay in the hope that he could prevent a 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) bomb from exploding, but it detonated and he lost his right arm as a result.
Adolf G. Galland (German Luftwaffe General) Ace who flew 705 combat missions, fought on the Western Front and in the Defence of the Reich. On four occasions, he survived being shot down, and he was credited with 104 aerial victories.
Peter Thorne (Air Commodore) OBE, AFC & Two Bars was a fighter pilot and post-war test pilot in the Royal Air Force.
Hans Joachim Jabs (Lieutenant Colonel) Surviving the Battle of Britain, he later became one of the most successful pilots in the night fighter force. The skill sets for the two operations were completely different. Through 510 combat missions he was credited with 50 victories, 31 of them achieved at night. (Also shot down John Caulton, and was shot down by A.G Page on the same day)
Above: S/L Alan Geoffrey Page and Major Hans Joachim Jabs at Munich, telling the story about the ham Geoffrey had sent him to replace the one lost in 1944.
Jabs was a night fighter, he shouldn’t have been out during the day when we met in 1944. It turned out he and his crew had visited a nearby airfield to get their guns sighted in, but really it was an excuse to get booze and a black market ham. After I was shot down my C/O Geoffrey Page followed Jabs in to land at Deelen and shot Jab’s ME 110 up, it caught fire and Jabs and his crew had to escape the “rolling” aircraft and take cover in a ditch. The crew survived but the ham and booze went up with the plane.
In 1985 a feature newspaper article was run on Rush Munro’s and the following year the business was sold. John and Marie retired to Havelock North, N.Z
Above: The late John Smith’s collection in Nelson N.Z. John Caulton regularly hunted out aircraft that may be of interest to him or his ex-Squadron leader Allan Geoffrey Page who dealt in warbird sales.
In this photo is a complete Mosquito that has only flown 19hrs, Hudson fuselage and Kittyhawk wings amongst others.
Above: Caulton and Jabs third meeting 1988. In this photo holding their “trigger thumbs” together which could have killed one another in 1944.
On the same trip to see Jabs again we were staying in a hotel by the Airport in Frankfurt. I was just watching a crowd come into the lobby, I was waiting for a bus. In this crowd there was a group of Thai air crew and I knew that Nicky (Varanand) who I’d flown with in the war had worked for Thai Airlines. There was a young fellow in his twenties at the back and I asked him if he knew Nicky. He said I don’t know him but I know his name, I’ll ask the boss. He made his way to the front of the line and, the head pilot said, yes I know him and he’s just checked in here. He said Nicky had just gone to bed, I said how is he, is he still a wee chubby guy? He said he’s had a stroke and he’s in a wheel chair. He was on his last trip around meeting staff and officials of the airline. We met up with Nicky and his third wife the next day, after talking for a while I said what happened to that lovely gold cigarette case you had (because it was a bit of a joke really as he wasn’t the best pilot at that stage and every time he came into land, everyone would rush out and “get on their marks” to go get his gold case if he crashed. He said no I had it stolen 2 months ago. He was living in California at that stage. Another chance meeting, and if you don’t ask, the answers not there really.
In 1943 he was in 132 squadron, he was being educated in England when the war broke out, Japs came into the war and he couldn’t get back to Siam.
Above: John Caulton and Nicky Varanand both flew with 132 Squadron. (This photo taken in Frankfurt 1988)
Above: a pre and post war photo of Nicky Varanand
Prince Varananda (Born Varananda Dhavaj) although he was the only son of a senior Thai Prince, he was disqualified from succession to the throne because his mother was not Prince Chudadhut’s formal wife.
Following the death of his father, the Prince was raised by his uncle joining the monarch in virtual exile in England. He enlisted in the RAF on February 24, 1942 under the name Nicky Varanand, was commissioned in 1943, and served as pilot in the Normandy campaign during and survived the war.
After the war, Prince Varananda set up the first private airline in Thailand and named it Air Siam in 1965. The airline was quite a success, winning important routes over Thailand’s national airline. The airline closed down in 1976 from the pressure from the decree issued by the Thai government of having only one airline representing Thailand, and pressured the closure of Air Siam in 1976, as well as mounting high debts. With his love of flying, the Prince then became a pilot for Thai International Airlines.
Prince Varananda relocated to England for a while, before returning to Thailand in late 1980’s due to illness. The Prince died on 14 September 1990 at his sister’s home. He was 68 years old.
F/Lt Ronald Walter King, NZ405286. On a delivery flight from England to Malta on 16/17 Feb 1942, the Wellington IC AD591 that he was piloting strayed off course and was hit by flak, force-landing near Castlelvetrano airfield. One of the six crew was killed and the remaining five were taken prisoner. Ron spent the next four years in Stalag 3, at one time he sewed escape uniforms for the “Great Escape” by using twine from care-packages as cotton thread and blankets as coat material.
I was over at my neighbours. They had a friend up from Nelson. We got talking and it happened that he said he had been a POW in Stalag 3. Talking a bit more it ended up that he was the fellow that rushed into the little hospital room I was in and handed me a homemade tin mug that had what looked like water in it, but was hard, distilled liquor. He was Ronald King a New Zealander from Nelson, funny I had to go all the way to Germany to meet him even. He said “we’ll be home for Christmas”. Well that didn’t work out either.
Above: Ron King back row third from the left with moustache. Stalag 3, North Compound.
Above: Ex-RAF TB863. Registered in New Zealand as ZK-XVI and part of the Tim Wallis/Alpine Fighter Collection, it first flew in New Zealand on 25th Jan 1989 at the hands of Stephen Grey in “Bare Metal” finish. TB863’s life in New Zealand has not been without its events. The aircraft was successfully displayed at Auckland, but on the flight south to Wanaka had fuel problems. The aircraft made a forced landing in a paddock neighbouring the Waipukurau Aerodrome. SAFE Air at Woodbourne carried out repairs, and the aircraft returned to the air on 7th April 1990.
Above: John .J Caulton heard of the forced landing and travelled out to Waipukurau to take a look. He managed to persuade the recovery team to let him take a seat in the cockpit which was his first in 45 years.
Above: Me, the author of this website, John’s Grandson John! Aged 14.
This fellow came out to New Zealand from the States. Someone had told him that they thought I had gone to Hawkes Bay. He booked into a motel in Napier and phoned me. I answered the phone and he said “Does POW mean anything to you?” I said yes it did and he told me who he was. He came to our house and we talked, he reminded me of a lot of American names that I had forgotten, as I was in an American camp for a large part. His face had healed, being young at the time would of helped, you heal a lot better.
His name was Art Foreman, he was American. We had met in Obermassfeld, the hospital in Germany where I was in before settling in Stalag 3. He had been in a Bomber and was burnt.
He gave me a copy of the Christmas dinner list we had in Sagan made out of a Red Cross parcel.
Above: Copy of a Xmas dinner menu at Stalag 3, made by the prisoners from Red-Cross packages.
Above: J.J Caulton survives another crash landing, this time at hands of another driver crossing the centreline. J.J Caulton was knocked out in the crash and received seat belt bruising. His Grandson John driving the car was also injured. Again not wanting to make a fuss, J.J Caulton went home after the crash rather than the hospital. (1990)
Above: John at “Warbirds over Wanaka” in the 90’s.
Above: John and Joss (Jocelyn LECLERCQ) a French WW2 historian.
Some years later in the 1990’s a young French historian came out to Wanaka and met with me from my story that was displayed at the Wanaka Warbird Museum. I told him about one of my old Squadron Leaders Collorado Mansfeld and also loaned him some photographs. He sent me back the photos and along with them he included a history of Mansfeld, who had been born in Paris.
Above: Squadron Leaders Count F.F Colloredo-Mansfeld –D.F.C & Bar. KIA 14th Jan 1944 Age 33
Mansfeld was an Austrian Count, and this historian Joss told me the fact that after being shot down and crashing into the sea, his body must have come to the top of the surface at some stage. Joss gave me the plot in Boulogne-Sur-Mer Cemetery in France where Mansfeld was finally buried. (See “War Years 1” page for more info on Colorado Mansfeld).
Above: Marie and John at their home in Havelock North N.Z. Sadly Marie passed away in 19th Nov 2000.
Above: 485 Squadron and Fighter Pilot reunion in Napier, 2006.
Guest of honour is the Patron of the No 485 Squadron Association Sir Tim Wallis. Sir Tim is famous for, among other things, forming the Fighter Pilot Museum at Wanaka. Organiser Max Collett began calling the chaps together for a group photograph with special guest, Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshall John Hamilton. John J. Caulton back row with blue shirt, who was not with 485 Squadron but attended.
My old room mate “Smithy” got shot down while I was a POW. He had left 132 Squadron and gone over to 453 the Australian Squadron.
The Germans were on one side of a river and the Canadian army on the other, and he got hit by ground fire. I wasn’t there of course, I was in Germany (POW). He spoke over the RT so he was still alive and said he had to put it down, he tried to land on the river bank, but he hadn’t dispensed with the hood, and if he had done that he would have got out. If he wasn’t dead when he hit the ground, the water flipped the aircraft on its back and he couldn’t get out, he would have drowned. It was quite sad really to go that way. He had about 7 aircraft to his credit, which one was German, all the rest were Spitfires. Anyway, they found his body in his aircraft a few years back. (Nov 2010).
Above: Fl/Lt. Henry Lacy Smith AUS/411539 RAAF Killed in action 11 June 1944 flying Spitfire Mk IX, aged 27.
Squadron ORB reports: Reported by F/O D.S Murray. During a patrol of 3 aircraft with F/Lt Smith as section leader, W/O Scott as N.2 and F/O Murray as No.3. They were patrolling the beach in the area of Ouistreham at around 20:05 hrs. The section were flying West to East at between 1500-2000ft when over the Rebehome area 20mm flak came up in the front of the aircraft from a wood. No.3 observed a strike on the section leader (Smith’s) aircraft in the belly well forward either in the engine or just in front of the long range tank.
Above: John J. Caulton and Henry Lacy Smith (Detling 1944)
Newspaper article from November 2010
For 66 years, the remains of a brave Spitfire pilot and his plane lay on a river bed off Normandy in France.
The pilot, identified as Flight Lieutenant Henry ‘Lacy’ Smith, 27, from Sydney, was buried with full military honours in France in April.
Now a team of experts in Melbourne are doing their best to preserve what is left of his plane.
The Spitfire MJ789 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on June 11, 1944 in the battle that followed D-Day.
It crashed into the River Orne, near Caen, in northern France during the Battle of Normandy, one of the largest battles of WWII.
Smith and his aircraft were deemed missing in action until they were found last November in the Orne Estuary by local museum curators.
The aircraft remains were shipped to Australia in September where experts at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook in Melbourne are removing the dirt, slime and foreign matter.
Despite its history, the plane – which has two bullet holes in its right wing from where it was pounded with anti-aircraft fire – is in good condition.
“It looks fairly good for something that’s been laid in the salt water since 1944,” museum director David Gardner said.
“It’ll be conserved in its current form and the way we put it on display will tell the story of the RAAF’s contribution to the war effort in Europe.
“It will also add to the fact that we are actively looking for those that are declared missing during the conflict.”
The conservation effort will involve cleaning the aircraft, then hoisting it into a tank of fresh water for between six and eight months to desalinate it before it is preserved for the long term.
“We’ve got to get rid of the salt so we can stop the corrosion and corrosion’s the biggest killer,” Mr Gardner said.
Smith was from No 453 Squadron, the first Australian squadron to go into action on D-Day – June 6, 1944 – providing tactical support for the troops landing on the Normandy beach head.
He was buried with full military honours at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Ranville, Normandy, in April.
Gary Walsh, a registrar at the museum who is working on the preservation, said he felt fortunate to work on the project.
“It’s a very poignant moment for me,” he said.
“There were some brave people involved with this and unfortunately this person lost his life defending his country.
“It’s a sacred thing from our perspective too.”
Staff hope to have the plane on display in the next six to eight months.
Above: Henry “Lacy” Smith’s Spitfire is removed from the River Caen, France. (Credit: Australian Embassy in France)
Above: The preservation team flushes out the fuel cell with fresh water
(Credit: Commonwealth of Australia)
Above: Spitfire PV270 visited Napier on Saturday 19th June 2012.
Amongst those getting up close to PV270 were six former Spitfire/Seafire pilots from Hawkes Bay. Photo: Credit: Napier Mail
Sean Perrett RNZAF PV270 pilot on the day
David Fail flew Spitfires at 58 OTU, Grangemouth. He then went on to fly Typhoons with 486(NZ) Sqn.
John Caulton flew with 132 Sqn. He was shot down on a daytime low level flight over Holland in April 1944 by a Luftwaffe Night Fighter ace. He was captured and a few hours later met the German pilot Hans-Joachim Jabs. John then became a POW but he and Achim were to meet many times after the war and become the best of friends.
Max Collett 485(NZ) Sqn. Max joined in late 1943 and was with the Sqn all through its trek across the Continent and eventually into Germany as part of the Occupation Forces.
Charles Bowley is an Aussie who has lived in NZ since 1948. Originally he flew Kittyhawks with 75 Sqn RAAF in New Guinea – in fact he several times flew, on operations, the P 40N that is based at Ardmore. In early 1945 he responded to a call for volunteers, dropped rank and transferred to the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve (Fleet Air Arm) as a Sub Lt. He flew Seafires with 801 Sqn FAA on HMS Implacable.
Geoff White (Flt\Lt G G White DFC) flew with 611 Sqn at Biggin Hill in 1943.Then he went to Malta and flew with 126 Sqn. During this time he shot shown several a/c before being invalided back to UK with illness.
Tony Armstrong flew Seafires with 887 Sqn FAA on HMS Indefatigable.
Above: John outside the newly restored Wanstead Hotel where he lived as a boy.
Above: Outside the same Wanstead Pub 1931. Older brother Henry, Father Ernest and John. On John’s first day of school on the way to St Patrick’s, Silverstream.
Above: John J. Caulton and his Grandson John Caulton. (Website author)
In early 2015 my Grandfathers heart started to fail. His memory of the war was still clear and as he had no diary of his wartime experiences. I started to interview him and record his memories for my two sons who didn’t have a chance to hear all of his memories and also as he was so keen to share them, being that they played a big part in his life.
John Jeremy Caulton passed away on his wedding anniversary the 4th Sep 2015 at 94 years of age. This was just a few weeks short of his 95th birthday at his home in Havelock North.
Above: John J. Caulton’s house after his passing. His proudly displayed New Zealand flag at half mast.
Above: John and Marie’s final resting place, both having proudly serviced their countries.
Above: French Navy frigate FNS Prairial
News article below from the visit. 20th November 2015.
The Prairial, a French Naval Ship, spent four days at its Hawke’s Bay mooring while its 92 crew members re stocked the 93.5 metre long frigate and honoured three Hawke’s Bay war veterans.
Commander Alexis Huberdeau said the ship travelled from French Polynesia to Queen Charlotte Sound where it participated in the Southern Katipo exercise.
The two weeks of defence drills were hosted by the New Zealand Navy and designed to improve cooperation between the navies.
However on its way home the Prairial was playing a diplomatic role.
On Friday it hosted cocktail party on the ship’s deck where the French ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler presented legion of honour medals to three Hawke’s Bay World War Two veterans.
Flying officer Maxwell Amner Collett was one of the recipients.
He enlisted in 1942 and flew as an offensive fighter, including fighting the invasion of the Normandy beaches on D-Day.
Families of flight lieutenants Eric Brunton and John Caulton collected medals on their behalf, as both have passed away.
Brunton enlisted in 1941 and trained as a bomber pilot before becoming part of a tactical air team.
Caulton enlisted in July 1941 and flew as an offensive fighter until he was shot down over Holland in April 1944.
He became a prisoner of war before he was freed and returned to New Zealand in 1946.
Article Credit: Stuff.co.nz
Above: John J Caulton’s French Legion d’honneur medal accepted on the 20th November 2015 by his Grandson (John had sadly passed away in Sep 2015, just two months prior)
Above: John J. Caultons other WW2 medals.
In Aug 2016, I (John’s Grandson) contacted the company “Lister” of Germany that Hans Joachim Jabs started as I knew his son Uwe was still involved with the company. I was excited to find that Uwe Jabs and his wife were travelling to N.Z in 2017 by cruise ship and arranged a meeting.
Above: The cruise ship “Europa” that Uwe Jabs travelled from Australia to N.Z on.
Above: John’s grandson John (Website author) and Uwe Jabs, son of Major Hans Joachim Jabs, meeting for the first time in Picton N.Z Feb 2017.
2020 on wards…
Recording the history of my Grandfather, his friends and their experiences is happily an on- going project with relatives and historians contacting me regularly and also further research of my own to carry out.
Old photos and letters in cupboards and drawers may not mean much individually but put them in a story and they take life, meaning and help remember these brave men and women that gave so much for us.
If you have any photos or information that relates to my Grandfather’s stories or his friends please get in touch using the “contact us” page. Or if you have any of your own family’s untold stories, I hope this inspires you to get them together and compile them into a story for future generations.
Above: A poem keep by my Grandfather that he must have related to.
Thank you for visiting my website, it will continue to be updated as new information comes to hand, best regards.
John Caulton (Grandson)