Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 41, September 1997

By C W Malcolm

Joseph Parry may have been regarded by his school mates, as one has described him as "just a regular kid who did not attract much attention" but as his Standard Four teacher in 1925 at the Paeroa School, I had another view.

Joe was academically bright, coming high in a class of 49, and later showed promise in his chosen career of banking. His character, too, was marked by his determination to be a credit to the memory of his father, Captain Ernest Parry, who had been killed in the First World War.

Alas! came the Second World War and Joe joined the Air Force. On 28 September 1941 as Sergeant-Pilot of a Wellington Bomber with its crew of six, Joe took part in a long distance bombing mission to Genoa in Northern Italy. Mission accomplished, they began the long haul back to base at Waterbeach in the south-east of England. After some ten hours flying, they lost direction through bad weather. An emergency radio call did little to help.

Until this year, mystery has surrounded the disappearance of Joe Parry and his plane. A recent series of articles by Jack Leigh in the New Zealand Herald has at last brought to light facts which have done much to dispel the awful uncertainty surrounding that fatal night.

As they were seriously running short of fuel, it became obvious that soon the crew must bale out before the bomber crashed. They must have been unknowingly over the North Sea for the bodies of three of the crew were washed up on the Dutch shore, found there by the Germans who buried them and reported to the Red Cross.

But what of the plane and the bodies of Joe and his remaining two crew members which have never been found? Jack Leigh's first article has brought answers from two Dutch residents in Auckland who, as children back in Holland, witnessed a tragic scene.

The Wellington, obviously with Joe Parry still at the controls, changed course inland over the Dutch coast. One of the children saw it crash in an enormous plume of mud in the soft ground. The land-owner erected a cross inscribed: "Died for their country, 29/9/1941" and for years the villagers of nearby Landsmeer north of Amsterdam, placed flowers on the spot. It was not until 3 October 1996 after the authorities had permitted a full excavation of the site that the Dutch confirmed that the aircraft was Joe Parry's Wellington T2879 of 99 Squadron.

Apparently piloting his plane till the last possible moment and his crew returning the German fire, Joe and his mates took to their parachutes, for the girl witness, remembering her mother's distress at the sight, tells how the Germans shot the descending airmen.

War's wicked waste of splendid young lives ought never to be forgotten nor the heroism of men like 26 year old Joseph Parry of Paeroa. As Jack Leigh wrote in a concluding sentence, "It seems Paeroa is the town where heroes are born".