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Sgt Johnny William Rae "Woofer" Culpan
RNZAF 149 Squadron
from:Milford, Auckland, NZMy Dad, Johnny Cuplan, flew in Wellington Bombers. He was posted to No. 20 O.T.U. Lossiemouth from 24/4/1941 to 22/5/1941. From there he was posted to 149 Squadron at RAF Mildenhall from 4/6/1941 until his Wellington IC serial X9704 code OJ-B took off from RAF Mildenhall at 2329 on 18/19.08.41 on Ops to Duisburg and was shot down by a night fighter which fatally wounded P/O Mendoza and crashed at Haelen (Limbourgh) 5km NW of Roermond Holland. Sadly two of dad's crew did not survive : 82988 P.O. (Air Gnr) Michael Isaac Archibald Mendoza of Chailey, Sussex and 89386 P.O. John Christian Lynn of Haslemere, Surrey. The rest of the crew were taken P.O.W. : J/3755 P/O R.R. Henderson RCAF, POW No. 3728 Stalag Luft L3 Sagan and Belaria; 922752 Sgt C.G. Jones POW No. 23612 Stalag 357; 1250142 Sgt K.K. Sterrett POW No. 23613
Just prior to leaving NZ, Johnny, like all young airmen training to go to War, was doing his best to get his flying hours up. Sent up solo by an instructor to do just so, he was seen by another instructor barnstorming a garden party in Christchurch. Hence Johnny had the somewhat dubious title of being the first pilot in NZ considered for a court marshall, but due to the dior need for as many pilots as possible he was put to work in the kitchens peeling potatoes, told that the best he could hope for was to be made a Sgt.
Johnny (P.O.W. 23615) was a POW in Stalag Luft 1 Barth, Stalag Luft L3 Sagan, Belaria Stalag Luft L6 Heyderkrug. A very keen and capable rugby player, he was the NZ Rugby Skipper at Heyderkrug. Many of days were taken up with kicking a rugby ball within the compound. Kicking it very carefully, as if it did happen to land outside the compound everyone was sent back to their huts and one person chosen to retrieve the ball under the eagle eye of an armed guard. Being mindful of this, Johnny developed a very effective chip kick which he used effectively time and time again against oponents. One such oponent, a South African P.O.W. took note of this chip kick and asked Johnny to teach him the art of the chip kick and spent much of his time with Johnny honing his kicking skills. On return to NZ, Johnny and a few of his POW mates were seated in Eden Park watching the BOKS play the All Blacks. It was a low scoring game and 80 minutes was just about up - the score was equal.....when a penalty was given to the BOKS. The kick was spot on and the BOKs won much to the chagrin of the NZ rugby mad crowd. Yes, the BOK who kicked the penalty was the South African POW Johnny had taught to kick in camp....and that day Johnny was never allowed to forget, thanks to his POW mates, that he was the reason The All Blacks had lost
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