Stanley George Culliford

WAR HERO BORN IN NAPIER

 

Poland bestowed military and civilan honours on a New Zealand pilot for bravery during World War 2.

  

   Outstanding World War 2 pilot and scholar Goerge Culliford, who died in Auckland last month, was born and raised in Hawke's Bay. Dr Culliford, decorated in 1944 with Poland's highest military honour for valour, the VIRTUTI MILITARI, was born in Napier on March 18 1920 , and was raised in southern Hawke's Bay where his parents ran a drapery business at Norsewood. He left the area to go to Scots College, Wellington, in the 1930's and after a career in tertiary education, disrupted only by the war years, he and wife June retired to Orewa, north of Auckland. He died on December 29.

 

   Dr Culliford entered Victoria University in 1937 , but with the onset of war, trained as a pilot and headed for Europe in 1940. At 22, he was recognised by the Polish for his bravery flying a top-secret mission into German-occupied Poland and bringing back plans of Hilter's V2 rocket.  The RNZAF pilot was part of the RAF's transport command squadron, which specialised in drops and collections behind enemy lines.

 

   Dr Culliford's big opportunity came with a six hour flight from Brindisi, Italy, in and unarmed twin engined Dakota, on July 25 ,1944. The assignment was to pick up 5 Polish VIPs and to stack-loads of V2 components and technical drawings, seized by Polish underground fighters. The operation code-named MOTYL  (meaning Butterfly), was a priority for the British Prime Minister Winston Churchchill anxious for its completion.

 

    Dr Culliford, who in 1977 retired as assistant principal of Victoria University and ended his pease time career in tertiary education, told the New Zealand Herald in 1989 how MOTYL almost ended in catastrophe, when the Dakota's undercarriage became stuck in the mud. He Unloaded the plane and stuffed planks of wood under the wheels to gain traction, but the wheels wouldn't move. With dawn fast approaching and fearing he would have to burn the plane to prevent it falling into enemy hands, he made what he said " was one last attempt at taking off", and succeeded. He returned to Brindisi and then Britain, with the drawings and parts giving the RAF valuable information about the V2, though not preventing the rain of more than 1300 rockets on London.

 

    One of only two New Zealanders to recieve the Polish medal, he also received the New Zealand's DSO. In 1968 he was futher recognised by the Polish with the Polonia Restituta, and in 1974 returned to Poland with his wife for a reunion with the Polish underground fighters. After the war he returned to Victoria University in 1946 to complete an MA with first-class honours, then claimed teaching qualifications, studing for a PhD at the University of London while on a postgraduate travelling scholarship. Becoming a lecturer and administrator, he also wrote two New Zealand scouting histories, as well as published works on shakespeare's text and 17th century English colonial historian William Strachey.