15 October 1953: The worst RNZAF air accident in New Zealand

A crash at Wigram in 1953 remains the worst RNZAF crash in New Zealand history, killing seven men.

Two Royal New Zealand Air Force De Havilland Devons, the NZ1811 and NZ1810 from RNZAF Station Wigram, collided over Wigram Aerodrome. They had been part of the  last section of a 27 aircraft flypast over Harewood International Airport (as Christchurch airport was then called) marking the 1953 London to Christchurch Air Race Prize Giving Ceremony.

De Havilland Dove ZK-AQV aircraft, location unidentified.
De Havilland Dove ZK-AQV aircraft, location unidentified. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-12933-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23036102.
The Dove is the civilian version of the Devon

When the formation broke up as the aircraft prepared to land back at Wigram, NZ1811 was struck on the wing by its “No. 2”, NZ1810.  Both aircraft immediately lost control and plunged to the ground in a paddock at nearby Halswell, killing all aboard. This is still the highest loss of life incurred by the Royal New Zealand Air Force in a single New Zealand accident. They were:

Squadron Leader: Sholto R Duncan

Pilots: Flight Lieutenants Ebbett and Flight Lieutenant Ziesler.

Crewmen: Brian J Keogh, Eric Melrose, William Sharman, Russell Woodcock.

Now this terrible accident has been commemorated in Wigram by naming two of the new streets Edwin Ebbett Place and Erling Ziesler Lane

To read the original account in The Press of 16 October 1953 p. 10, you can visit the Central Library Manchester Street, and see the pages in microfilm – ask one of our lovely staff for assistance if you haven’t used microfilm before.

Following the 75th Anniversary of Wigram Air Base on 25 August 1992, it was closed on 14 September 1995.

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