Decorated pilot Noel Sutherland dies
When Noel Sutherland was awarded France’s highest military honour in 2015 at the age of 94, he took it as a message of “thanks” from a generation grateful for peace.
The former flying officer who flew Stirling bombers in the war spent most of his life in Hawke’s Bay. He died last week at the age of 96.
Sutherland, who spent most of his life in Hawke’s Bay, was born in Palmerston, Otago. He joined the air force in the early 1940s, trained in Canada and joined No 190 Squadron, which dropped paratroopers and supply containers full of ammunition, fuel, explosives and weapons to support French resistance fighters.
His son Roger said his father never spoke of his war experiences, until the last five years of his life.
“The crew was very loyal and kept in contact with each other, but he didn’t talk to us about what they had endured until much later on,” Roger said.
“I just think that’s what they did. They must have gone through some pretty awful stuff and probably felt it was best to keep it to themselves,” he said.
Sutherland was one of eight New Zealand veterans to be awarded France’s highest military honour, the Legion of Honour, in 2015.
France’s ambassador to New Zealand, Florence Jeanblanc-Risler awarded the medal to the men who played a significant role in the liberation of occupied France in World War 11.
The honour was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and seeks to reward both distinguished military and civilian services rendered to France.
After being given the award Sutherland said he was intrigued as to why he had received it when so many others deserved it but never received it.
“The Legion I regard as a very high honour. I regard myself lucky to be able to have recognition for the trips that I did all over France. It seems this generation is really giving thanks for the peace,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, I share this with the families of the rest of the crew.”
The war ended while Sutherland was on final leave and he arrived home for Christmas 1945.
He worked in soil conservation and lived in Hawke’s Bay for many years before moving to Auckland to retire and be close to his family. He spent his last years in the Summerset at Karaka retirement village.
Sutherland is survived by two children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life was held in Papakura, Auckland, last Friday.
A memorial service will be held in Havelock North at a later date.
Photo captions –
Flying officer Noel Sutherland during World War ll.
Former flying officer Noel Sutherland receives the Legion of Honour, from France’s ambassador to New Zealand, Florence Jeanblanc-Risler.
PHOTO: DAVID MACKAY