The following is from the Daily Telegraph, August 2004 "Squadron Leader Jim Verran had a remakable career as a bomber pilot in World War II, during which he was seriously wounded twice and suffered terrible burns. Born at Waipawa, in Hawkes Bay, on December 9, 1915, James Victor Verran was educated at Palmerston North Boys High School and spent five years with a law firm. He missed out on an RNZAF commission in 1939 and so travelled to London and joined the RAF. By July 1940 Verran was flying Whitley V bombers with No. 102 Squadron, completing 35 operations, attacking targets across France and Germany as well as raiding Milan - the first direct raid on Italy. In a collision with another Lancaster in 1943, his left femur and jaw were broken, his right arm was paralysed and he suffered serious wounds to his face and head. Once recovered, he was promoted to squadron leader. In August 1944, his plane was attacked by a Messerschmitt Me 110, leaving him with third-degree burns. He bailed out over Denmark, and too ill to escape to Sweden, surrendered to a German military hospital. Verran said he owed his life to a German doctor who conducted skin grafts. He ended the war a POW. Verran was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1941 and a Bar in 1945. Back in England, he had more skin grafts and spent a year recuperating. He later became deputy to the Director of Civil Aviation on Cyprus and helped to establish civil aviation in Somalia. From 1966 to 1974, he oversaw the development of Nadi Airport, Fiji. A warm and generous man, Verran retired to Bexhill in England, where he grew roses and tinkered with cars."
Squadron Leader Jim Verran, who has died aged 88, had a remarkable career as a bomber pilot in the Second World War during which he was seriously wounded twice and suffered terrible burns.A New Zealander of Cornish and Scottish stock, Verran had been disappointed to miss out on a commission in 1939, when the RNZAF recruiting drive had proved so successful that the lists were closed before the letter "V" had been reached. With a dozen New Zealanders of like mind, he travelled to London via Panama in a Royal Mail steamer and presented himself for interview at the Air Ministry where he was accepted into the RAF.By July 1940 he was flying Whitley V bombers with No 102 Squadron, completing 35 operations, attacking targets across France and Germany as well as raiding Milan - the first direct raid on Italy.In January 1943, Verran began a second tour of active service with No 9 Squadron, flying Lancasters from Waddington. Returning from a raid on Berlin on March 2, he was about to land when another Lancaster came out of low cloud.The ensuing collision left Verran's Lancaster scattered in pieces across a ploughed field. His left femur was broken, his right arm was paralysed, his jaw broken, and there were serious wounds to his face and head, which were the result of him being thrown through his perspex canopy.Three of his crew died, though the navigator survived despite having part of his brain protruding from his skull. The crew of the other Lancaster was incinerated.Verran's left leg was encased with plaster up to his waist; his jaw was wired up. He developed a lung infection and had part of a rib removed so that the pleura could drain; he was then given cotton wool soaked in Eau de Cologne to overcome the smell of the septic fluid.After eight weeks, Verran was moved to the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead, where his jaw and teeth were worked on, and he became friends with the surgeon, Archibald McIndoe, a fellow New Zealander, whose patients became known as the "Guinea Pigs". Verran greatly admired McIndoe, even handing him his instruments in theatre.Once recovered from his injuries, Verran was promoted squadron leader and posted to No 83, a Pathfinder squadron operating from Wyton, Huntingdonshire. At night the Lancasters did blind marking of targets; by day they attacked V-weapons sites.On August 27 1944, Verran took off for Konigsberg with a load of markers and a 4,000 lb "cookie"; on the way home he was attacked by a Me 110. The rear-gunner destroyed the German plane, but was himself killed along with four other crew members. With the aircraft on fire, Verran escaped through the front hatch. Trapped in the slipstream, he was carried up through the open bomb doors and held against the roof of the bomb bay while the aircraft burned.Eventually the Lancaster pitched and Verran fell free. He prised open his burnt eyelids, pulled the ripcord of his parachute and landed near Hogsholt, in Denmark. A local doctor advised him that he had third-degree burns and was in no condition to escape to Sweden, so he was surrendered to a German military hospital.Verran said that he owed his life to a German doctor who conducted skin grafts though, as he recalled, "these were no joke, because they were short of anaesthetic, and had only paper bandages. With an instrument like a crochet hook, he dug into my thighs, pulling up the skin and cutting off a circle to be placed on a burn area".Verran ended the war a PoW in Stalag IXC. On the journey there he was spat on by a German officer, but during an air raid at Hamburg he was sent underground along with a group of schoolgirls playing ring-a-roses. "That was bloody hard to take," he recalled, "realising these were the people we were bombing."James Victor Verran was born in Waipawa at Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, on December 9 1915. His father ran a team of wagons and Clydesdales for road construction. Young Jim was educated at Palmerston North Boys High School. He subsequently spent five years with a law firm before working for Dominion Motors at Auckland.After joining the RAF, Verran trained as a pilot and and was posted to No 10 OTU at Abingdon, where he had his first experience of Whitleys, for which he retained a particular affection.
Between tours Verran did a stint as an instructor at No 22 OTU, flying Wellingtons before converting to Lancasters. In April 1945 he was freed by American troops who presented him with a drop-head Mercedes coupe they had liberated from its Nazi oppressors.Back in England he underwent further skin grafts and spent a year recuperating on a farm near Bridport, owned by the father of an RAF colleague killed over Stettin. Afterwards Verran expected that he would join Transport Command. But, annoyed by the insensitivity of a "sprog interviewer", he went instead to the Overseas Airfields branch of the Ministry of Aviation.Verran became deputy to the Director of Civil Aviation on Cyprus and later helped establish a civil aviation structure in Somalia. From 1966 to 1974, he was seconded to Fiji as Controller of Transport and Civil Aviation, overseeing the development of Nadi airport, then the largest airport complex in the south-west Pacific.A warm and generous man, Verran brought out the best in the Fijians. He showed skill as a fisherman and sailor and later, as Director of Civil Aviation in the Cayman Islands, he took up scuba diving, though by then he was in his sixties.
Verran retired to Bexhill, where he grew roses and tinkered with cars. He was awarded a DFC in 1941, a Bar in 1945 and was also mentioned in dispatches.Jim Verran, who died on July 25, married, in 1949, Anne Warboys; they had a son.