The Airmen's Stories - P/O E R Edmunds
Eric Ralph Edmunds was born in Wellington on 5th March 1920 and attended Palmerston North Boys High School.
In April 1939 Edmunds sailed for the UK in the RMS Rimutaka, having been accepted provisionally for an RAF short service commission. He began his initial flying training at 19 E&RFTS Gatwick on 8th August 1939 and later went to 18 EFTS Fair Oaks.
After two weeks at 3 ITW Hastings, he was posted to 3 FTS South Cerney for further training. Edmunds was on No. 30 Course, which began on 23rd October 1939.
He was transferred from No. 30 to No. 31 Course. In February 1940 he went to Porthcawl for a dive-bombing and gunnery course on Hawker Harts. Edmunds completed No. 31 Course on 19th May 1940 and he joined 245 Squadron at Drem the next day.
He served with it until early October, when he was posted to 615 Squadron at Prestwick. The squadron went south to Northolt on 9th October and three days later Edmunds was flying as weaver when he was attacked by a Me109. With his engine damaged by a cannon shell, he made a forced-landing at Chiddingfold.
On 29th October, having been separated from the squadron in an earlier action, Edmunds met three Me109's at 29000 feet over the Channel, mid-way between England and France. A cannon shell exploded inside his cockpit, severely wounding him and causing him to be drenched in hot coolant fluid.
As the Hurricane, V6785, went down towards the English coast, he lost consciousness but came to in time to make a crash-landing in the Romney Marsh area. Edmunds was taken to Shorncliffe Field Dressing Station with a fractured skull and other head injuries, shell fragments in the lungs, back, head and legs and also a bullet in the right leg, which he believed came from a Me109 firing at him whilst he was unconscious.
Edmunds did not rejoin 615 but in February 1941 he went to 258 Squadron at Jurby, recently reformed and with a large number of New Zealand pilots. He was posted away to CFS Upavon in April for an instructors course, after which he went to 8 FTS Montrose to instruct.
At the end of July 1941 Edmunds sailed for South Africa, where he instructed at 24 and 22 Air Schools until posted to the Middle East in March 1942. He joined 213 Squadron in the Western Desert.
On 12th June he set off on a ground-strafing flight. He was attacked by a Me109, which he managed to shake off. The German then climbed and attacked a nearby Kittyhawk from below. The pilot baled out and Edmunds circled him protectively but soon decided he was dead. He then went down to attack a column of German vehicles. On his second run he was hit by ground fire, crash-landed and was captured.
Edmunds was handed over to the Italians two days later. He was in Italian PoW camps for a year, moved to Germany in 1943 and ended up in Stalag Luft 3.
He was liberated on 2nd May 1945.
After leave, Edmunds went on a refresher course to Wittering and was then posted to 9 PDC Regents Park as an Admin Officer. He declined a permanent commission and transferred into the RNZAF.
He arrived back in New Zealand on 22nd October 1946 and was released from the RNZAF soon afterwards.
He died on 11th February 2009.