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RNZAF photos prompt memory of bomber down

Gisborne fishing and hunting identity Alain Jorion believes a RNZAF Grumman Avenger which went missing from Darton Field during World War 2 lies in the sea off Tatapouri.

Mr Jorion contacted the Herald after reading an article published on March 31 featuring Tairawhiti Museum photographs of wartime RNZAF personnel and their families which asked if readers could identify anyone.

The article repeated previously published generic references (from other sources) to a Darton Field-based RNZAF aircraft which went missing during the war with speculation that it may have been shot down by a Japanese submarine.

Mr Jorion said an elderly friend claimed to have found an RNZAF aircraft “out from Tatapouri a bit” while diving with friends from a Tatapouri-based diving club in the years immediately after the end of World War 2.

The friend later worked as a professional diver off Australian oil rigs.

Mr Jorion said he could not be specific about the location, but it was somewhere between the area which is now Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve and the location of the former Tatapouri hotel.

There had been no further reports of the aircraft, said Mr Jorion.

“The mystery of the found plane still exists.

“It's probably the one that disappeared, possibly shot down by an enemy submarine.”

The Herald, researching after Mr Jorion's approach, could only find specific references to Grumman Avenger NZ 2548, which, according to www.adf-serials.com.au/nz-serials/nzavenger.htm. landed in the sea after engine failure during an operational training flight on March 15, 1944, and was “written off at Gisborne”.

The Avenger was of 31 Squadron which replaced 30 Squadron at Darton Field.

The museum has not been contacted by anyone to identify any of the RNZAF personnel in the collection of photographs.

The photographs can be viewed at https://collection.tairawhitimuseum.org.nz/highlights/airforce/objects

Touchdown: . A Grumman Avenger bomber lands at Wings over Wairarapa. These were the planes airmen of 31 Squadron flew when they were based at Darton Field during World War 2. One was lost at sea after engine failure in March 1944 and could be off the coast at Tatapouri. Wairarapa Times Age picture