Newspaper Article 1999 – Former fighter pilot led a full life

Former fighter pilot led a full life


Former World War 2 fighter pilot John Palmer packed more into his 81 years than the average man.

From Te Aratipi Station, Maraetotara, until his retirement when he moved to Havelock North, Mr Palmer died on July 30 after a short illness.

Son Selby said his father was a man of integrity, a hard worker who had high expectations of others but more of himself, who loved the out-doors and the company of his mates.

His funeral on Monday was attended by more than 500 people, indicative of his many interests and achievements, both personally and within the Hawke’s Bay community.

Born in Hastings. Mr Palmer was educated at Hereworth School, Havelock North.

He then attended Wanganui Collegiate where he became head prefect and captain of the first XV.

Even when he was 80, sport was still a priority in his life. He played tennis six days a week right up until his death.

But probably of most significance were his experiences during the war.

Flying with the famous 485 Spit- fire Squadron for the Royal New Zealand Air Force in South England and over France and Germany, Mr Palmer became a flight lieutenant.

During his posting he was shot down twice by German aircraft, the first time landing in the English Channel where he was rescued by the navy, and the second over France where he was captured by the Germans and spent three years in prison camp.

He was in the same camp as “The Great Escape” and was involved in the famous “Wooden Horse” escape attempt.

After the war, Mr Palmer returned to Te Aratipi, where he had grown up, and took over from his father.

He married his wife Fay and had three children – his son Selby and two daughters Anne and Jenny.

It was then his interests within the community took off.

Mr Palmer was a Hawke’s Bay county councillor in the 1950s and 60s, a justice of the peace and chairman of the Hereworth School Board.

In the 70s he was president of the Angus Cattle Association.

In the 80s Mr Palmer became chairman of Waiapu House and was a counsellor for Lifeline Support. He was also an active member of St Luke’s Church in Havelock North.

He is survived by his children and 10 grandchildren

Photo caption – JOHN PALMER

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Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

5 August 1999


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Anne, Jenny Palmer
  • Fay Palmer
  • John Palmer
  • Selby Palmer

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