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Gordon Thomson Woodroofe

Sergeant-Pilot Gordon Thompson Woodroofe, of Matamata, missing on operations. Image kindly provided by Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19410924-34-24. Image has no known copyright restrictions.

Sergeant-Pilot Gordon Thompson Woodroofe, of Matamata, missing on operations. Image kindly provided …


  • Title
  • Forenames
    Gordon Thomson AWMM
  • Surname
    Woodroofe AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
    Woody AWMM
  • Service number
    WWII NZ402233 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
  • Waka
  • Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
    1 November 1920 AWMM Te ArohaWaikato AWMM
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
  • Relationship status


Wars and conflicts

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Military decorations

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  • Medals and Awards
    Military Medal (MM) AWMM
    31 August 1945 AWMM
    "On 12th September 1941, Warrant Officer Woodroofe and six members of his crew were picked up by Danish fishing vessel about an hour after their Wellington aircraft has been forced down in the North Sea. The next day they were landed at Esbjerg, Denmark, where they were taken to a German airfield and held there before being sent via Hamburg, to a prison camp. When at Esbjerg two unsuccessful attempts to escape were made by him. During the following year Warrant Officer Woodroofe suffered from loss of memory. In may, 1943, he was attached to a working party at Jagerndorf and billeted in a factory. One night, after fixing a false bolt to the door of his room, he made a pretence of entering his room, replaced the real bolts, shut the door and escaped. He stole a civilian coat before leaving the factory and dyed his socks with dubbin. It was a bright moonlight night and he at once made for some woods. The next week as spent in walking in a south-west direction. He then stole a bicycle and rode to Hlinsko. Here he was stopped by two members of the Gestapo, who after questioning him and examining a false identity card, which he had made, let him pass. He was subsequently stopped at Krems and asked to produce his papers and again he was allowed to pass but, when nearing St. Viet in Austria, he had a puncture in one of his tyres and had to pump it up. While doing so a policeman came out and demanded to see his papers. On explaining that he was a French Prisoner of War, the policeman re-entered the Guest House and returned with a Frenchman. Warrant Officer Woodroofe immediately told the Frenchman of his real identity and asked for assistance. The policeman was not accommodating, however, and he was taken to a camp at Landeck where he was placed in solitary confinement. During August 1944, he was transferred to a Germany and while working at Ziegenhals he and other prisoners escaped from their working party. Warrant Officer Woodroofe set out for Wismar, having been informed that this was a safe town from which it would be possible to board a Swedish vessel. After much travelling he reached Wismar, where he made contact with a Frenchman who escorted him to the wharves. Warrant Officer Woodroofe boarded the first ship he saw flying a Swedish flag. He spoke to a rating and enlisted his help, as the captain of the boat was drunk and unable to see him. This rating hid him in a small room beneath the crew's cabin and when the Gestapo boarded the boat to make their routine search they were met by the rating who bartering some soap with them. The ship sailed and when the captain knew of Warrant Officer Woodroofe's presence he was treated very well. He arrived at Stockholm on the 30th August and reported to the British Legation the next day. " By Such Deeds, p. 526 AWMM

Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment


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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes

Last known rank

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  • Last rank

Biographical information

Biographical information

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    • 'In August 1944 a NZ warrant officer (Woodroofe) made a successful escape to Sweden. He had exchanged identities with an Australian private at Stalag Luft III in July 1942 and had been returned to Lamsdorf with a party of orderlies. After several unsuccessful attempts, he made his final break from an Arbeitskommando at Olbersdorf on 17 August 1944 and travelled by train to Wismar. He hid aboard a Swedish ship and reached Stockholm at the end of the month. W/O G. T. Woodroofe, RNZAF, awarded MM for his escape.' (Source: Mason, W.W. Prisoners of War. p. 406.)

      In September 1941, the crew took off from an advanced air field in England and successfully bombed Turin. On their return flight to France they flew into a severe electrical storm. Lightning destroyed the radio and compass, with no navigational aids, The crew were forced to ditch in the middle of the north sea between Yorkshire and Denmark, having run out of fuel, they crew belly-flopped into the ocean and spent about half an hour in the water before being picked up by the Danish fishing vessel. The 'Alice' skippered by Lars Peter Larson saw us ditch and came over and picked them up and took the crew to Denmark and a Prisoner of War camp (Goldfish Club).

      The New Zealand Air Force Museum holds the escape clothing from Gordon Woodroofe's escape from the German POW camp. AWMM
    • Gordon wrote and published a book about his escape from the prisoner of war camp and titled it GeTaWay. Public - Christine Helen - Child - 25 April 2017 - Family records and unsold copies of the book in the family's possession.
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About death

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  • Death
    24 July 2000 AWMM
    OrewaHibiscus Coast AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name

Roll of Honour

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Related Serviceperson



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  • External links
  • Documents
    • Mason, W.W. (1954) Prisoners of war. Wellington, N.Z.: Department of Internal Affairs, War History Branch. AWMM
      p.406. AWMM
    • Woodrooffe, G.T. (1998). GeTaWay. Riverside Publications: Orewa, New Zealand. AWMM
    • Goldfish Club, New Zealand Branch. The Goldfish Club: Roll of Honour 1954 - 2003. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS-2004/32. AWMM
    • Hanson, C. (2001). By such deeds: honours and awards in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1923-1999. Christchurch, N.Z.: Volplane Press. AWMM
      p.525-6 AWMM


Command item
Command item
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DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
25 April 2017Christine HelenBradbury, NSW, AustraliaChild

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