We had been warned. We should not have been surprised when our bed sheets were torn from the clothes line and distributed down the gorse covered hillside behind our rented house in Karori, a windswept suburb of Wellington, capital city of New Zealand, in 1971, not long after we moved there.
In 1966 the New Zealand National Film Unit produced a documentary called “Toehold on a Harbour”, which, not without typical kiwi irony, will give you a fair idea of what we were up against, including the wind problem and the near perpendicular housing sprawl. (Stay with this film, it really does the job, even though we moved to Wellington five years after the film was released).
The man in the Dargaville pub turned out to be Keith Bracey, presenter of the local TV regional news magazine programme Town and Around, produced daily by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation station Northern Television, formerly AKTV2, Auckland. I’m not sure why I had been invited to the Northern Wairoa hotel, and I was a bit embarrassed anyway because we didn’t have a TV then and I hardly knew who Keith Bracey was. I had also never quite got used to New Zealand beer or the “six o’clock swill”, i.e. drinking to excess with colleagues in public. To a deadline. Or at all, really.
Well Keith turned out to be an affable kind of guy, happy to spend NZBC expenses on the locals, presumably on the pretext of boosting viewing figures, even though at the time there was only one TV channel in the country. I remember little of the conversation, except talking about my fall from grace at Dargaville High and the probability of going back to the UK. Keith had a different idea; why not come and work in TV? Continue reading →
The connection between RAF Dambusters Squadron 617 and Woodhall Spa is well known around here, and is nowhere more evident than in the Petwood Hotel, where in 1942 Dambuster crew, including Canadian, New Zealand, Australian and British Air Force personnel, were stationed. The Squadron Bar, virtually untouched since it served as the officers’ mess, remains a magnet for historians and anyone who, like me, as a boy, was thrilled by the Dambusters film when it came out in 1955.
I am now struck by the tenacity and dedication of those who keep the Dambusters reality alive, as evidenced not just by frequent guests and visitors, but also by numerous posts on social media and, in particular by the Dambusters Blog, written by Charles Foster, nephew of Dambuster pilot David Maltby. As well as logging fascinating biographical notes and reproducing numerous old photographs, the blog features some intriguing current stories, such as an unusual take on Barnes Wallace, the inventor of the famous bouncing bomb: Continue reading →