New Zealand Bomber Command Association



A Teenager’s Remarkable Return to Base

Pilot Office Peter Buck
(Credit: Buck Family Collection)

What were you doing as nineteen-year-old? On the night of 26 April 1943, young New Zealander Peter Buck of 75 (NZ) Sq. was fighting to bring his stricken Short Stirling back from Duisburg, Germany.

That night, eight aircraft from 75 Sq. were detailed to join the attack on Duisburg. Amongst them was the crew, skippered by Pilot Officer Peter Buck from Whanganui, then just 19 years old.

As his bomb aimer, Philip Sadler, was later to recall, “It always struck me odd that my pilot was a young man of only 19 who couldn’t drive a car but could fly a four-engined bomber and its crew to Berlin and back.”

Buck’s Stirling was attacked by an unseen fighter when about thirty miles north of the target. The rudder and tail of the aircraft were severely damaged, and the rear gunner, Brian Rogers, was mortally wounded, while his Canadian navigator, Pilot Officer John Symons was wounded in the hand.

During the attack, the incendiary bombs carried as part of the bomb load were set on fire – all the incendiaries and bombs on board had to be quickly jettisoned.

Buck succeeded in evading the attacker and tried to set course for base. However, the damaged bomber had become difficult to control. Buck was later quoted as saying, “Without rudder control it was difficult to turn the aircraft and we seemed to be in a righthand spiral for hours.”

It took all the strength of Buck and his second pilot, who was on a familiarisation trip, to hold the aircraft, but eventually they were headed for England.

Shortly after the starboard outer engine failed, its oil pipes having been cut during the attack, and the Stirling began to lose height. All moveable equipment was jettisoned to try and maintain height Despite the problems with the Stirling’s controls, Buck completed a successful emergency landing on three-engines.

Both Buck and John Symons were awarded the DFC.

Buck later served with 487 Sqn RNZAF (Mosquito) and then from May 1943 to Nov 1944 as an instructor at 1665 and 1660 HCUs and 11 OTU RAF. Post-war he joined the National Airways Corporation (NAC) ferrying their first Fokker Friendship from Amsterdam to New Zealand in 1960 and later jointly delivered NAC’s first Boeing 737. On retirement, then from Air New Zealand, he had completed 16,341 flying hours.

75 (NZ) Squadron RAF Flight Commander S/L Dick Broadbent (left) and visiting NZ fighter ace W/C Bill “Hawkeye” Wells inspecting the damage to the rear turret of P/O Peter Buck’s Stirling BF517 AA-O, in which Sgt Brian Rogers was mortally wounded on the night of 26/27th April 1943.
(Credit – NZ Bomber Command Association archives, Dick Broadbent collection)

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