Flying Officer

William Vincent Fitzgerald

Additional Information: 

Son of Harold Edward and Frances Edith Fitzgerald, of Rotorua, Auckland, New Zealand.

  • CWGC

Biographical Notes:

Tension and excitement in equal measure must have gripped the young Rotorua airman, Flying Officer William Fitzgerald, speeding at night across the dark waters of the English channel at low level into enemy territory with a crew on its first operation.

The 22-year-old didn't know it was to be his last.

In 1942, RNZAF recruit Fitzgerald had embarked for overseas with 1300 other New Zealand troops aboard the converted liner Orcades.

In Canada where much wartime air force training was based, Fitzgerald graduated from observer school in Ontario in September.

He transferred to 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron RAF in England, and after more training was ready for his first mission. 

On 27 May 1943, the Stirling bomber with its seven-man crew, including another Kiwi, 21-year-old Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Mathias from Auckland, took off from RAF Downham Market airfield in Norfolk for the Frisian Islands off the European coast to lay mines.


The bomber was under command of pilot 23-year-old Flight Sergeant William Mills. The islands, today a popular holiday destination, lay close to the convoy lanes from Germany.

The squadron's Operations Record Book for the night simply notes: “Three crews were briefed for operations tonight. Operation summary: The effort was mining. Aircraft U was missing. The remaining two crew reported having successfully planted 22,500 lbs [more than ten tonnes] of seeds in the allotted positions.” (RAF slang referred to mines as seeds and vegetables).

Fitzgrald's parents in Rotorua were not able to be told what happened to the rookie crew and the aircraft lost without trace – possibly a night fighter had shot it down.

Fitzgerald is commemorated on the panels of the Runnymede Memorial beside more than 20,000 air force casualties with no known grave. He is commemorated on the websites of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the New Zealand War Graves Trust, where there is a photo of his name on the memorial.

His name is also recorded on the Rotorua Citizens War Memorial Roll of Honour. [Terry Snow - NZWGT]

Public Contributions:

There are no public contributions written for this casualty

Personal Tributes:


Service Number: 
William Vincent Fitzgerald
Flying Officer
Date of Birth:
30 November 1920
Place of Birth:
Rotorua, Poverty Bay, New Zealand
Date of Enlistment:
24 January 1942
Marital Status:
Occupation on Enlistment:
Electric Supply Authority/Government Tourist Bureau, Rotorua
Royal New Zealand Air Force, 218 Squadron

Casualty Details

Cause of Death:
Killed on air operations
Date of Death:
27 May 1943
Day of Death:
Age at Death: 

Embarkation Details

Text in italics supplied by Cenotaph Online, Auckland War Memorial Museum


Cemetery Reference: 
Panel 197.
Cemetery Location: 
United Kingdom
William Vincent Fitzgerald
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