Robert Stanley Chisholm (1914 – 1941)

born 14 December 1914, died 13 June 1941


Robert (Bob) Stanley Chisholm was born on 14 December 1914.  He was the youngest child of George Stanley (Stan) and Amy (nee Clarke) Chisholm.

With his older siblings, Joyce (b 1909) and Alan (b 1911) Bob grew up enjoying the beach and rock pools of Island Bay, near Wellington, NZ. With its close-knit community Island Bay was an idyllic place for the young family. The bay was home to a fishing community of Italian immigrants and several farms scattered across the suburb with the sheltered Bay an ideal spot for a life centred around the Bay and its waters. All three children attended the small Island Bay Primary School.

Island Bay

Source: Postcards: The Constable Collection. Wellington City Libraries

In the Chisholm Cameos, Audrey Barney, describes Bob as a keen sportsman, taking part in athletics, tennis and badminton, with hockey as his primary sport. He matriculated from  Wellington College and went on to undertake a Bachelor of Commerce at Victoria University College. Unfortunately, due to the family’s financial circumstances, he was only able to complete the first year before leaving and taking a job with chain store of J R McKenzie rising to the position of Assistant Manager before enlisting.

As well as his athletic prowess Bob was a member of the Canterbury Aero Club and gained his pilot’s licence in 1938. While undertaking this pilot training in 1937/38, he was signed to the Civil Reserve for pilots. Consequently, with the outbreak of the Second World War, he was called up for the RNZAF and granted a temporary commission as Acting Pilot Officer. Within a month he was at the Flying School at Taieri Aerodrome followed by further training at Wigram Station before receiving his Flying Badge on completion.

Britain urgently needed pilots and all these early trainees with the RNZAF were sent a letter from the British government inviting them to volunteer for service with the Royal Air Force. On the 23 March 1940 he embarked on the “Akaroa” for England arriving in early May 1940. After a month’s training on bombers, he was posted to No 103 Squadron at Newton, Nottinghamshire as the second pilot on Fairey Battle bombers. During the Second World War, No 103 Squadron made short-range day and night bombing attacks with Fairey Battles (including assaults on the Meuse bridges and the “invasion ports”). He undertook a conversion course in April 1941 to gain promotion from Pilot Officer to Flying Officer. By March 1941 he was flying Vickers Wellingtons that were used for longer-range attacks. These are his operational flights from September 1940 to 2 June 1941:

07-Sep-40 – Calais – Battle – P2306 – P/O RS Chisholm
21-Sep-40 – Boulogne – Battle – L5038 – P/O RS Chisholm
03-Mar-41 – Cologne – Wellington – R1395 – P/O RS Chisholm – Hit by flak
09-Apr-41 – Kiel – Wellington – T2996 – P/O RS Chisholm – Arrived 45 mins late over target due to WT failure at the base.
15-Apr-41 – Kiel – Wellington – T2996 – P/O RS Chisholm17-Apr-41 – Berlin – Wellington – T2996 – P/O RS Chisholm
24-Apr-41 – Kiel – Wellington – T2996 – P/O RS Chisholm30-Apr-41 – Kiel – Wellington – T2996 – P/O RS Chisholm
03-May-41 – Cologne – Wellington – R1217 – P/O RS Chisholm – On return single engined enemy aircraft flew across bows starboard to port within 20 to 30 ft
05-May-41 – Mannheim – Wellington – R1217 – P/O RS Chisholm
15-May-41 – Hannover – Wellington – T2996 – P/O RS Chisholm
02-Jun-41 – Duisburg – Wellington – T2996 – P/O RS Chisholm


vickers wellington.jpg

A Vickers Wellington


His last operation flight with 103 Squadron was against Osnabruck in Germany on the night of 12/13 June 1941. The aircraft failed to return to base, and the crew were reported missing. Much later information was received through the International Red Cross Committee that the plane had been shot down and all the crew presumed killed on that night.

Research undertaken post-war verified that the crash occurred on the outward journey when Bob’s plane was shot down over Zwaagdijk by a Bf. 110 flown by Ofw. Hans Rasper and Uffz. Erich Schreiber of the 4/NJG1 (night fighter squadron), operating from Bergen. Although it was burning fiercely, witnesses reported that he held the plane in the air long enough to skim over the roof of the farmhouse where the Langendijk family lived in Wevershoof, Zeeland, Holland. The plane buried itself so deeply in the swampy ground that at the time only one body, that of the tail gunner, could be retrieved and he was buried in the Bergen Municipal Cemetery. After the war, the Municipal authorities at Wevershoof erected a memorial for the remaining five members of the crew in a field beside the site.

In 1960, the plane was carefully raised, and the remains of Bob and the crew were recovered and formally buried at the Jonkerbos Commonwealth War Cemetery at  Nijmegen.

The buckled propeller remains as a memorial at the crash site, and in a place of honour in the foyer of Wevershoof Town Hall, photographs of the six aircrew are displayed. The aircrew:


F/O Robert Stanley Chisholm RAFVR – 26 – 103 Sqn – on of George Stanley Chisholm, and of Amy Sarah Chisholm (nee Clark), of Wellington, New Zealand – Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands

P/O Arthur Vernon John Hardcastle RAFVR – 22 – 103 Sqn – Son of Mr. A. Hardcastle, and of Mrs M. Hardcastle, of Skelbrooke, Yorkshire – Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands

F/O William Clifford Taffender RAFVR – 25 – 103 Sqn – Son of William Henry and Fanny Taffender, of Boscombe, Hampshire – Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands

F/S Alan Greensides RAFVR – 31 – 103 Sqn – Son of Walter Burgess Greensides and Clementina Greensides; husband of Dorothy Greensides, of Beverley, Yorkshire – Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands

Sgt Albert George Burbridge RAFVR – 21 – 103 Sqn – Son of Harry and Eileen Mary Burbridge, of Doncaster, Yorkshire – Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands

F/S John Knox Emslie Horniman RAFVR – 22 – 103 Sqn – Son of John Eric Horniman, and of Mary Knox Horniman, of Westminster, London – Bergen General Cemetery, Netherlands.

I think Churchill’s words say it all:

The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world except in the abodes of the guilty goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unweakened by their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.  All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aims their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often at serious loss, with deliberate, careful precision, and inflict shattering blows. Winston Churchill.



Many thanks to Audrey Barney and her research and writing of the Chisholm Cameos. I have drawn heavily on her work to complete this story of Bob Chisholm