The Bill Evans Story

This section is devoted to short stories of our club's members. It consists mainly of excerps of the lives of members, both past and present, which make interesting reading.

We hope you will enjoy this page and we encourage people to submit similar stories of people whom they know and have known in the past for us all to share.

Click on the individual photo's below to get enlargement and description.

The following stories support the pictures.

Bill Evans - The one that got away.

                                     By George Warcup

I met Bill when we came to Waikanae and joined the bowling club. He was a skip and I regularly played with him in triples galas. Bill was a widower and lived just around the corner from us in Sylvan Avenue. He must have been well past eighty when I knew him.


During the time that we played bowls together I came to know the small, gruff, wiry man quite well and gradually a bit at a time Bill’s story came out.


Before World War II Bill was an officer in an RAF and flew Blenheim Bombers. When the war broke out his squadron was sent to France to support the British Expeditionary Force.


The RAF High Command had great confidence in the Bristol Blenheim, believing that they would always reach their target as long as, for mutual protection, they maintained formation. Consequently, it was made clear to all aircrew that to break formation under any circumstances would be to display a lack of moral fiber and result in a court martial for the offending pilot.


As it turned out, for the three man crews of the Blenheim’s, these tactics were a recipe for disaster.


Bill flew the Bristol Blenheim in 1940. When this aircraft first came into service in 1934, with a top speed of 266 mph, they were faster than any fighter aircraft in service with the RAF and were at that time a state-of-the-art bomber. In addition to their speed the Blenheim’s defensive armament  consisted of one forward firing .303 inch machine gun mounted in the wing and another in a dorsal turret on top of the fuselage capable of firing in any direction except directly behind or below the aircraft. These shortcomings were discounted on account of the supposed speed advantage and the tactic of keeping formation.


From the start of the war the Blenhiem’s encountered the Messerschmitt BF 109 fighter, the German answer to the British bombers. Fast, with a top speed of 385 mph and highly maneuverable, the BF109 was armed with two synchronized 13mm machine guns mounted on the cowling on top of the engine firing through the propeller arc and a 20 mm cannon firing large explosive projectiles, similar but smaller than those used by anti-aircraft artillery, at a rate of some 600 rounds per minute through the centre of the propeller nose cone.


The Blenheims were completely out-classed, with operations over Germany often resulting in nearly 100 per cent casualties. On one occasion the sole surviving pilot, while facing court martial for returning too soon, was shot down and killed before the court could be convened.


Fifty years later Bill was still understandably bitter at the unbending attitude of the RAF High Command.


During the battle for France Bill's Squadron, while deployed to attack the advancing Germans, encountered Messerschmitt fighters and his aircraft was badly damaged. Disobeying orders, Bill broke formation and headed for home, only to crash land in France short of the airfield. Worse for wear, Bill was bandaged up and placed in an ambulance to join in the chaotic retreat preceding the fall of France.


Cut off from the British Expeditionary Force that was falling back on Dunkirk, they headed south in the direction of the channel port of Le Havre until the ambulance ran out of petrol. Bill completed the journey on foot just in time to avoid capture and was evacuated by the Royal Navy.


Bill spent the rest of the war in Canada training airmen under the Empire Training Scheme. While in Canada he was joined by his fiancée, where they were married and where their daughter was born.


After the war Bill and his family emigrated to New Zealand where he was employed by the Civil Aviation Department.


During the time I knew Bill, his daughter Monica, a librarian, was then living in England and decided to pay him a visit. Unknown to her father, Monica had been researching his war records and was able to discover the time and the location where he had his brush with death.


Further to this discovery she was able to access the Luftwaffe records and discovered which of their units was operating in the same area at the same time as her father. She was then able to find the names of the Messerschmitt pilots involved. Next she searched the German telephone directory to discover that one of these men had miraculously survived the war and was still alive.


Bill rang the German officer’s number from Waikanae to discover that the man spoke English and they had a long talk.  He said he well remembered that day in France, telling Bill that on the occasion he shot down three Blenheims, one escaped. He said to Bill “You must have been the one that got away”. What an amazing telephone discussion that must have been.


Bill made arrangements to visit his one-time adversary but died on 22 November 1998, before he could make the journey.


Bill Evans must have left a bequest to the Waikanae Beach Bowling Club, for his name is affixed to the seat near the north east corner of "C" green. 

Story and pictures by George Warcup

Bill Evans picture courtesy of Janet Suter

Posted May 2012