NZ39907 F/L Alfred William Doel, RNZAF
RNZAF Memorial Cross/Log Book Group
The stunning casualty group of seven to F/L Alfred William Doel, who was shot down whilst captain of a 12 Squadron Lancaster during a bombing raid on Düsseldorf. In addition to the Memorial Cross and campaign medals, the group comes with an original framed photo of F/L Doel and his flying log book. Doel flew several missions with 75 (NZ) Squadron and flew pioneering flights to test the Oboe radar bombing system with 109 Squadron in 1942.
Alfred was the son of a former Cambridge policeman, Alfred Doel Snr, and Karin Elida Doel, who by World War Two had moved to Taihape. Alfred was educated at Auckland Grammar School, Cambridge District High School and Hamilton High School. Whilst at Cambridge District High School, he passed his University Entrance exam, and he represented the school at tennis. He later played hockey for St. Luke's Senior Hockey team.
After finishing school Alfred went on to study at Warwick Tutorial College in Auckland for his Accountancy Professional qualification. Before the war he was working as a clerk with Fairburn Wright Ltd. of Auckland.
Alfred applied to enlist in the Civil Reserve of Pilots in September 1938. Then in March 1939 he applied for a Short Service Commission in the Royal Air Force, but as no further appointments were being made at that time he then applied to join the RNZAF. He enlisted at the Ground Training School, RNZAF Station Levin, on the 26th of October 1939.
After completing his initial training Alfred was posted to No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School at RNZAF Station Bell Block, where he completed a course learning to fly on de Havilland Moths.
He then progressed to No. 2 Flying Training School at RNZAF Station Woodbourne on the 15th of January 1940 where he would have flown Vildebeest and Vincents on this more advanced training course. He was awarded his Flying Badge, or Wings, on the 23rd of April 1940. On the 28th of May 1940, Alfred was commissioned with the rank of Pilot Officer.
Alfred embarked on the Rangitata on the 7th of June 1940 headed for the United Kingdom. He arrived there late in July 1940 and was posted to No. 7 Operational Training Unit at Hawarden in Wales. He was given a brief course there on Miles masters and Supermarine Spitfires, and on the 12th of August he proceeded to No. 15 OTU at Harwell in Berkshire, where he crewed up and completed his training on Wellington aircraft.
On completion of this OTU course in October 1940, Alfred was posted with his crew to No. 37 Squadron at Feltwell in Norfolk. As second pilot on a Wellington with this squadron, Alfred flew five operational missions over Europe, bombing the German ships 'Gneisnau' which was berthed at Kiel and the 'Bismarck' which was berthed at Hamburg, and also bombing the cities of Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Berlin.
On the 19th of November 1940, No. 37 Squadron moved to the Middle East and Alfred went with them. He flew down as second pilot on a Wellington and they made their way via Malta, Kabrit, Fuka and Fayid till they reached their destination, an advanced landing ground in the Western Desert. The arrival date was the 8th of December 1940.
From this base, and from the nearby satellite strip at Fuka, Alfred carried out 11 ops, bombing targets including the Nazi-held airfields at Benina and El Adam, Maritza aerodrome on Rhodes Island, and enemy installations at Tobruk, Benghazi, Bardia, and Derna, in Libya.
On one of these raids whilst attacking an aerodrome at Berca, near Benghazi, the Wellington bomber he was second-pilot aboard crashed into the desert and caught fire. All the members of the crew escaped the aircraft wreck safely, and after walking for eight hours they were picked up by an army truck and returned to their unit.
During the next three months Alfred carried out seven more ops from various bases in the Western Desert, the targets including Derna in Libya; Katavia on Rhodes Island; Durrazo in Albania; troop concentrations at Veles in Yugoslavia; marshalling yards at Sofia in Bulgaria; and dropping supplies to Greek troops on the front lines.
On the 28th of May 1941 Alfred was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer. Then in July 1941 he returned to the UK, where he was posted to the Central Gunnery School at Castle Kennedy in Wigtownshire, for non-flying duties. With this unit which later moved to Chelveston, Northamptonshire, he was able to carry out some local flying exercises in Wellington bombers.
On the 1st of March 1942 Alfred was rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, and with the promotion he was posted on the same day to No. 75 (NZ) Squadron at Feltwell. With this New Zealand squadron he carried out nine operational sorties as captain of a Wellington bomber.
On the 30th of April Alfred was posted to No. 109 Squadron at Stradishall in Suffolk, where he carried out five 'special duties' ops. This squadron was a special unit, set up to use the OBOE beam system for bombing targets. It was the squadron that pioneered the Pathfinder system. It is recorded that Alfred made five 'special duty operational flights' with this squadron. Four were made to cities in occupied territory, these being Domburg in Holland (twice); Paris in France; and Cologne in Germany. The fifth was to the Scilly Islands, which was of course friendly.
After these raids Alfred was taken off ops and he proceeded to No. 11 Operational Training Unit at Bassingbourn in Hertfordshire on the 9th of August 1942. Ten days later he moved to No. 3 Flying Instructor's School at Hullavington, Wiltshire, to undergo training in how to teach his skills to others. On the 18th of September 1942 he returned to No. 11 OTU at Bassingbourn, now as a qualified instructor.
With this school at Bassingbourn, and later at Westcott, Buckinghamshire, Alfred instructed crews on Wellington bombers for many months, before eventually crewing up himself again in preparation of his upcoming second tour of ops. This came on the 5th of May 1943 when he was posted to No. 1662 Conversion Unit at Blyton, Lincs, for conversion with his crew to Handley Page Halifax bombers. Later in the same month with that unit he converted again to Avro Lancasters, and on completing this course satisfactorily in early June 1943, Alfred and his crew were posted to No. 12 Squadron at Wickenby, Lincs.
On the 12th of June 1943 Alfred was captaining a Lancaster III bomber, DV157 (coded Z,) of No 12 Squadron, RAF. He took off at 23:22hrs on the 11th of June 1943 from Wickenby, Lincolnshire, on a mission to raid Düsseldorf, Germany. The raid included 783 Allied aircraft, of which 42 were lost.Over the target Alfred's bomber was badly damaged by flak, and while returning over the Netherlands it began to lose height rapidly. Near Amsterdam, Alfred ordered the crew to bail out as the bomber descended through 1500ft amidst a hail of light flak. However only the RAF Sgt Wireless Operator got out, and he was taken prisoner. It was he who was able to tell of the demise of the aircraft.The Lancaster is presumed to have crashed into the sea west of Ijmuiden at 02:50hrs. Alfred Doel's body was never found. He was 25 years oldBuried at: Alfred and those of the crew who died are commemorated on Panel 197 of the Runnymede Memorial.
The Memorial Cross is correctly pantograph engraved NZ39907 F/S A.W. DOEL. Groups to aircraft captains with significant operational service like this that include the Flying Log Book seldom come on to the market, so this is a rare opportunity.