Gerry was posted out of 75(NZ Squadron on the 5th of May 1945, just as the war was about to end.
He had been told that he was being posted to Germany on a flying control job while the Allied prisoners of war were being flown back to England (Operation Exodus). They were to be set up with a portable R/T set and mechanics to maintain it. However this fell through, the authorities deciding that Dominion personnel were not to be used.
Gerry was instead posted to Air Crew Allocation Centre (ACAC), RAF Catterick, Yorkshire, as had Jack Pauling, effectively to get ready to go home to New Zealand.
This ruined Gerry’s plans to be Best Man at Johnny Wood’s wedding, although several of the others in the crew were able to attend. Jim Hooper did the honours as Best Man.
On 7 May Gerry recorded in his diary:
Took Betty to the camp show. Peace will be declared tomorrow at 3 PM. by Winston Churchill. The boys had flares going until about 2 AM.
8 May, V.E. Day:
Left Ely on 3.40 for Leeds. Flags all along the line. Big celebrations in Leeds where I arrived at 8.45. People just about going crazy at the sight of the street lights which are very nice to see although they seem out of place.
And 9 May:
Stayed in the Y.M.C.A. last night after joining in with the folks of Leeds in a mighty peace celebration.
Got up at 9 & went down town for breakfast. Caught the 11.30 train for Catterick, passing through York on the way. There are thousands of flags in every town although it’s hard to realize that the war is over. Reached Catterick at 2.20 & caught the transport to the camp.
The Catterick ACAC was a processing centre for repatriation and evaluating the airmen’s potential for retention by the air force, or reintegration into civilian life. During his first week there Gerry was subjected to a medical, intelligence test and interviews in front of the Central Trade Test Board – the Board summary makes for interesting reading!:
On 18 May he got leave and caught the train to Leeds and Wellingborough to spend another week with the Buckleys.
His time with them sounds idyllic after life on Base – sleep-ins, big breakfasts, plenty of socialising at the local pubs and the Conservative Club, dancing, gardening, watching cricket, rowing and playing skittles.
Monday 28 May 1945.
Crawled out of bed at 8 & had a very nice breakfast. Caught the 9.57 train for London.
Arrived London at noon & went round to the club & met quite a few of the boys. Went to a couple of pubs with Brownie & Bob & later to Covent Gardens dance. Pretty fair time & took a blonde Joan home. In bed by 12.30. Staying at the Chevron Club in Knightsbridge.
Tuesday 29 May 1945.
Slept until ten & went up to the club. Went to Air Ministry & they informed me that I am to be in Brighton to await a boat by June 6th.
Collected 4 airletters & two parcels. Sent the parcels to Buckleys. Went to the Leicester Sq. Theatre to “The Pirate & The Princess”. Met Joan at 8 & saw her until 9.30. In bed early 12.
Gerry and Jack Pauling met up for lunch with Doug Williamson after he had made it back to England and “put a few away” at the New Zealand Club. They were surprised to find that he somehow felt that he had let the crew down:
Wednesday 30 May 1945.
Slept pretty well this morning & didn’t get up until 10. Had lunch at the Club and met Jock and Jack. Jock was very shy & backward as he seems to think that we all think him a pretty poor specimen for bailing out on our last trip. He was free for three days & a prisoner for five.
Took Joan out after putting a few away with Jock & Jack. In bed by midnight after having a bath.
He spent another five days of his leave with the Buckleys in Wellingborough, his last chance to see them before shipping off to New Zealand, to catch up with local friends, watch some cricket, and visit the local pubs one last time.
The Buckleys lived at 46A Hatton Park Road, Wellingborough. It would be great to re-establish contact with the Buckley family, who seem to have treated Gerry like a long-lost son.
Monday 4 June 1945.
Stayed around the house this morning except for a trip down town to get my travel warrant altered at the police station.
Went to the pictures in the evening with Mrs Buckley. Packed my gear before retiring so as to make sure I catch the 9.57 in the morning for London.
Gerry received his promotion to the rank of Warrant Officer (W/O) effective 22 May. This was the usual promotion received by a non-commissioned officer on completion of a full tour of operations. He had flown 440 hours in total; 198 hours operational.
Gerry was transferred to No 12 PDRC, the (RNZAF) Personnel Despatch & Reception Centre at Brighton on 6 June, awaiting return to New Zealand. That meant 3 weeks at the Grand Hotel, basically filling in time, sleeping, eating, drinking, sunbathing, dancing, and waiting for a ship to take them home.
Gerry returned to New Zealand on the Cunard liner, “Mauritania II”, which they boarded in Liverpool on the 2nd of July.
Tuesday 3 July 1945.
Breakfast was up to first class line this morning. I’ve never eaten so well since I left home. Walked the decks all day.
Gangplank up at 5.40 & two Aussies arrived under the escort of a Navy boy. After an attempt to climb up the ships side with the aid of a rope they finally slid down a rope & through an open door.
Both were as drunk as hell.
Saw the last of England at approx 8 PM.
The Mauritania was carrying 1400 repatriated prisoners of war, over a hundred Air Force men, and about 50 wives and children of NZ servicemen. And a surprise:
Wednesday 4 July 1945.
Woke up this morning to find it still calm but very windy.
Still eating superbly & being well looked after.
Ran through fog all day.
Played cards most of the time.
A stowaway has been found.
It’s a woman that an Aussie soldier brought aboard in an oversize kit bag.
The Mauritania steamed for New Zealand, via the Panama Canal and Honolulu. The trip took four weeks, and time dragged with the heat and monotonous routine, there being little to do but read and play cards. The lady stowaway was dropped at Balbao, and several of the boys on board managed to get themselves left behind in Honolulu.
Gerry had spent 2 years and 173 days overseas, and finally sailed into Wellington Harbour on the 4th of August 1945. He wrote in his diary:
Saw land at 1000 hrs presume that it’s around Masterton. Pretty cold & windy on deck. Docked in Wellington at 6 with rain pouring down in gusting wind. Peter Fraser* shook hands with me at tea. Found Doug’s boat** in but he was up town.
Left on the train at 9 for Auckland.
* Peter Fraser, Prime Minister of New Zealand;
** Gerry’s brother Doug served in the Merchant Navy, 2nd Officer on a coastal trader, the Holmglen.
And the following day:
Great receptions given at all stations up the line. Arrived in Auck. at 2.30 and met by David, Dad, Jean and Margaret. Lindsay drove us from the wharf. Kate & Harry, Nora and Cec arrived at night.
Gerry’s sister Jean: “The only time I saw my father cry was when we went to meet Gerry on his return. He said, “Son, I thought you wouldn’t come back,” and his tears fell onto the footpath.”
Gerry was given 49 days leave, starting Mon. 6th of August.
Sister Jean says that Gerry found his home village of Greenhithe too small, too quiet and extremely boring after the life he had been living in England. The weather obviously wasn’t helping, and his diary tails off and ends after another ten days of entries talking about it “still raining” …
His brother Bill, serving in the Army in Italy and waiting for a ship back to New Zealand, wrote in his diary: “Letter from Jean – Gerry arrived home on the 5th of August. They say he is thin and not settling into the family circles very well. Oh boy, why don’t people realise what he has been through – how many changes he has seen and what life has been forced at breakneck speed into his soul in such a short time.”
Gerry was “de-mobbed” on 8 December 1945.
Gerry and brother Dick both worked at Cambridge Clothing Company (men’s suitmakers) in Auckland after the war, as did brother Bill, no doubt helping to shape their dress sense … Gerry apparently was a whizz with the sewing machine, a skill he put to use later in life when he ran his own leatherware business.
It wasn’t until Gerry bought himself a car that he was able to get about and enjoy the dance halls around Auckland’s North Shore.
Apparently, he met Marion through his sister Rosemary – they would make up a foursome to go local dances with (Rosemary’s future husband) Ivan and Marion, who both lived in the same street.
Gerry and Marion married on 20th of March, 1948.
They had two sons, Philip and Bruce.
They lived in Greenhithe where Gerry built a new house for the family, just along Churchhouse Road from the old family home.
Top photo: Gerry and Marion in 1964
– Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey.
He worked as a sales representative for a while, then set up his own leatherware manufacturing business, and later he and Marion ran a wool shop.
Gerald “Gerry” Newey passed away in 1977, Greenhithe, Auckland, aged 56.