Extracted from "A Biography of My Pop"

By Mason P Tilly - July 2011


After dreaming of the many flying adventures of ‘Boggles’ and hearing stories from his older brother, Pop got the chance to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1947. He was recruited in one of the first intakes after WW2 and trained initially as a telegraphic.

He became a career air force officer – spending 5 months short of thirty years in the RNZAF. He reached a number of milestones over the years. He had no real war stories (although some of his mates and colleagues did go to Vietnam – and returned very different people). The nearest he got to any fighting front was in the 1950’s, when he was stationed in Singapore. He carried out bombing runs in the Sunderland flying boats, over the jungle where Malay communists were hiding. He was awarded the Malay Medal for this.

In becoming a man, Mickey, the teenager, became known as ‘Red’ or ‘Big Red’. Whilst he was based in Fiji, he became known as ‘Ratu Dum Dum’ (translated into Chief Big Red!). When his own children grew up, they would give him heaps about this name!

In the late 1950’s Pop received a very special recognition medal from the New Zealand Air Force – he was presented with the Air Force Medal. This medal is no longer available and was one of the highest forms of recognition within the RNZAF. Pop got it for his work done with the Sunderland sea plan. The Air Force Medal (AFM) was instituted in 1918 at the same time as the Air Force Cross. It was awarded to non commissioned officers  and men of the Air Force for displaying courage and devotion to duty while flying on operations which were not active against any enemy. Only a small number of AFMs were ever awarded to New Zealanders.He was also awarded the Air Force Operational Services Medal along with the General Service Medal – Malay, from the Malaysian Government. In 1949 Pop received his ‘Wings’ upon completion of his air crew training. He was presented these by the Chief of Air Staff.

In 1956 he had the honour of being the flag bearer for the ‘trooping of the colours’. This was the presentation of the Queen’s Colours after the formation of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.