Lieutenant (A) Charles Renall WINTRINGHAM - RNZVR

John Dickson writes:

Charlie WINTRINGHAM died peacefully on 28th April 2003 in Hawke's Bay Hospital near his home in Napier, New Zealand.  He was 85 years old and had enjoyed good health until the last 2 or 3 years of his life.

Before the War Charlie served as a trooper in the New Zealand Territorial Army, but as there seemed little prospect of 'action', he volunteered for service in the Army, RNZAF and then the Fleet Air Arm as things seemed to be moving faster.  He confessed that at the time he'd never heard of our Service.  Attendance at night school was required before he could meet the academic requirement, but eventually he was called before the Navy Interview Board in Wellington.

Leaving home in October 1941 in the Sterling Castle, he found himself at St. Vincent.  Selected to join an early 'Towers draft', his pilot training was carried out in the USA courtesy of the USN.  By the end of 1942 Wings and commission had come along and he would have expected an early passage back to the UK to join a squadron.  But his stay in the USA was extended for several months, as plans were afoot to form a RN Air Squadron equipped with American built dive-bombers.  At this stage Charlie had already got nine different types in his Log Book.

To his dismay these plans were aborted and he found himself back in the UK and appointed to 822 Squadron, based at Tain.  As the Squadron was equipped with BARRACUDA's, he considered this a bit of a 'come down'.  This appointment did not last long as he was sent as a dive-bombing instructor to Easthaven and to Arbroath.  There was a difference of opinion as in his 'American-trained' eyes our dive-bombing techniques were merely glide bombing and nothing like the methods used so successfully by the Americans at Midway.

Several more types were added to his Log Book, including FULMARS's, SPITFIRE's and SWORDFISH.  Over the Yorkshire Dales, on 4th March 1944, his SWORDFISH suffered carburettor icing and he force landed ending upside down in a ditch.  The pilot at least suffered no damage!

There followed a spell at Machrihanish until on 1st June, he was sent to Stretton to join 812, then reforming with BARRACUDA's under Cedric COXON.   After work up the Squadron joined HMS. Vengeance in January 1945.  Shortly before sailing for the Mediterranean and the Far East, in March he survived another 'prang' when the flaps malfunctioned on the final approach and he ended up in the sea just astern of the Carrier.  Apart from a good soaking neither pilot or observer came to any harm.

Having been away from home for more than three years, Charlie was detached from the Squadron while at Hal Far, and was ordered to return to New Zealand for three months leave.  As things were at last looking up and with the prospect of some action, Charlie had no wish to go and asked to remain.  However he was persuaded not to incur 'their Lordships' displeasure and proceeded to 'hitch-hike' back to New Zealand.

On his way back from leave to rejoin the BPF, and hopefully 812, in Sydney he was stopped en-route by bells ringing to announce the end of the Pacific War.  In short order he was back home and discharged from service by the New Zealand Government who made it clear that funds did not exist to retain superfluous Service personnel.

During his leave Charlie had met and become engaged to Betty and they were soon to be married.  She survives him together with their son Michael and three grandchildren.

Reproduced with the kind permission of John Dickson and the Fleet Air Arm Officer's Association Newsletter.