Tuesday, 15 January 2019

NZ41998 Flight Sergeant Henry Sutherland Rodger 1912-5/10/1942.

Henry Rodger's story is a difficult and tantalising one.  What little I can find about his service includes this, from an Amazon review of a history of his service Squadron, No. 148, RAF:

"A loose flight of Wellington bombers on the island of Malta formed the next incarnation of 148 Squadron in December 1940. Forced to withdraw to Egypt in March 1941, its Wellingtons flew bombing operations against Axis forces in the Western Desert. In early 1942 the Squadron achieved the dubious, and possibly unique, distinction of having all its NCO aircrew flying operationally whilst on charges of insubordination, with five of them ultimately being court-martialed."

Henry flew in Vickers Wellington bombers over North Africa, operating out of Egypt, on a number of formal and informal airfields (used either as bases or "topping up" stops for range-extending fuel) as the tide of battle flowed.  His plane was lost during a raid on Tobruk, which had by that stage been captured by Rommel's forces after a seige lasting 241 days.  Wellington Squadrons of the RAF's Desert Air Force were then making night raids against enemy shipping convoys using Tobruk as a supply port.

Alamein Memorial - image from NZ War Graves Project.

Henry was posted as missing from October, 1942, until the following June, when he was reported as dead, although that was only "officially presumed" dead.  As far as I can make out, his remains were not found.  It is possible that they wait somewhere in the Sahara or under the waters of the Mediterranean.

Also tantalising about Henry's life is that his mother, made a widow the year after his birth, seems to have returned to her maiden name and bestowed that upon her son.  I do not know how common that was back then.

Tapanui Cemetery.

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