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This past year has been a very busy one for me with a great majority of my time wasted due to an ‘out of control’ Government Department,.... but that’s another story!

As a consequence of that, I had completely forgotten that I had photographed the entire file on NZ5517 while I was at the National Archives a couple of years ago. It wasn’t until I had an enquiry from a member of LandSAR for more information, that I remembered I had it!

After going over it, I will now attempt to reconstruct the final fateful flight of Brian Barstow and NZ5517:


Many of the following facts given in these files are mainly those presented (or recorded) at the subsequent Court of Inquiry (first sitting 16-11-44, second 14-12-44) and are abbreviated as follows: (Note at times the differing stories!)


* Deviated from the Flight Plan at Stephens Island as they were ahead of schedule, to overfly the Formation Leader’s hometown of Westport.  Reynolds considered this would put them on their original ETA at Christchurch.


*”Vee” Formation was made up of Reynolds NZ5502 at front, Barstow on right (No 2) NZ5517, Reeve (No 3) NZ5521 and Sheppard (No 4) NZ5522 on left


*Reynolds: Arrived overhead Westport at 10.40 am, 11th November, 1944


*Reynolds: Circled town for 5 minutes and set course for Christchurch


*Corsair flown by Reynolds, broke away and performed aerobatics during that period


*Reeves: Over Westport scattered cloud 2000’ to 3000’ base - 10/10 cloud over the mountains.


*Reynolds: Commenced climbing on course of 120°M to avoid cloud coming up from the SW


*Sheppard: “At Westport we broke formation and after circling for a few minutes we set forth for Christchurch in close formation. Approx 5 minutes later, we commenced climbing into cloud whereupon the leader gave us a course of 120° to steer. After no more than one minute, my motor started running roughly.”


*Reeve: “We broke formation, circled Westport, and then joining up into close formation flew on a course of 120° given to us by the leader. Still steering 120° we commenced climbing into the cloud.”


*Independant Observer: “On leaving the coast for Christchurch a visit was made to Denniston,...... it appeared as though a similar “display’ was being indulged in there. Shortly after the aircraft disappeared over the hills at the back of Denniston....”


*Entered scattered cloud base at 3000’


*Reeves: Estimated 7000’ when heard Sheppard says his engine was running rough.


Sheppard: “At about 5000’ my engine commenced to run roughly”


*Reeves: Reynolds gave Sheppard a course of  300°M to return to Westport


*Before Sheppard turned away, he could see Barstow’s aircraft and he appeared to be flying “quite normally”


*Sheppard: “Although visibility was still on an average of 50 yards, I went onto instruments as a precaution. After about a minute in a gradual dive, I came into the clear above a gorge at 3000’. I then returned to Westport and landed”


*Sheppard: Heard Reynolds transmitting to Barstow while he was still airborne returning to Westport, but heard no reply from Barstow.









UPDATE 2nd January 2014


This has been a very tedious and the most difficult article to write to date, as there is so much information  that ‘overlaps’ itself. Consequently, I’ve found great difficulty in attempting to portray what I’m trying to say.

If you find something that doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t add up, etc., please feel free to contact me and I’ll attempt to make it clearer - hence sections of this update may change from time to time....

It may appear at times like I contradict myself as you get further into the article, but that is purely because it is written not knowing what the outcome will be. The purpose is not for me to be right, but to provide you enough information for you the reader to have enough info to make up your own mind. It also may appear at times that I am challenging Reynolds’, Reeve’s, and Sheppard’s characters and good names, but I would like to make it very clear that this is not my intention. All I’m trying to do is find out what happened to Brian Barstow and NZ5517 and put an end to this most tragic mystery!

May the facts speak for themselves....

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