Son of Lindsay Robert Brownlow Horrocks, and Minnie Robina Horrocks, of Parnell, Auckland
Attended King's College from 1935 -39; being a member of School House and played for the 1939 First XV.
Dean Rainsford Horrocks was a good swimmer, tennis player and in the Kings College First fifteen in 1939. He was very handsome with dark black hair and a widow's peak. He had many gilrfriends and was unofficially engaged to be married to the daughter of an Army brigadier. He had completed one year architecture at Auckland University and was employed by one of Auckland's leading architects, Mr Horace L. Massey.
He was one of four brothers, all commissioned, who saw active service overseas in WWII, while one sister was a Sergeant in the 9th Coast Regiment, RNZA, in charge of the radar unit tracking Japanese and Germa submarines off the coast of NZ.
Six months in the RNZAF, awarded wings and commissioned immediately as a pilot officer at age 19.
He was commissioned as a pilot in the RNZAF early in the war & served in Malaya and Singapore flying Wildebeeste aircraft which were outdated and no match for the Japanese Zero fighters, up to the evacuation.
He escaped from Singapore on a Royal Navy cruiser as the Japanese Army entered Singapore. Escaped again on a merchant navy ship from the Indonesia jungle as the Japanese landed in Java.
After escaping from both Singapore and Java he returned to New Zealand on 15 March 1942, nine days after his 20th birthday. Following training at No. 10 Bomber Operational Training School, he went to General Reconnaisance School, being posted to No. 2 G.R. Squadron in July 1942 piloting Hudson Bomber aircraft.
On 29 September 1942, having been promoted to Flying Officer, he was taking part in an air firing exercise, with a sergeant-pilot as co-pilot, a warrant officer Air Gunner and four sergeants as air crew with instructions to fly almost at sea level for training purposes. They were training in this area to gain experience as an aircrew which would later carry out the function of patrolling for enemy submarines in the Cook Strait area. Flying low over Tasman Bay , they were about to come off patrol, but the propellers caught a high wave.
At 1530 hours Flying Officer Horrocks issued a May Day call to base, lifted the aircraft to maximum height and warned all crew to prepare to ditch. He belly-landed the plane and all crew got out safely on the wings of the aircraft. Unfortunately the Warrant Officer Rear Gunner forgot to release the rubber dinghy and when he did so, it inflated and jammed and could not be used. A Harvard training aircraft about to land at Nelson Airport heard the May Day call and was over the ditched aircraft within 10 minutes and reported the exact position and all seven crew visible on the wings. Nearly an hour later, RNZAF Nelson got a plane to drop a rubber dinghy and life jackets. By this time the aircraft had sunk. Two hours after the ditching two men rowing from Motueka picked up a Warrant Officer, who was the sole survivor. Flying Officer Horrocks died whilst being transferred to a launch sent out by the Harbourmaster from Nelson. Because the accident occurred in NZ coastal waters a Coroners Inquiry was held, but not released until 30 years later under the Official Secrets Act.
The Coroner, while conceding pilot error had contributed to the accident was critical of the actions that the RNZAF took in saving their own men. The RNZAF were criticised for failing to check the life jackets for leakages, stating that life jackets ought to be yellow , not green as they were at the time, that the dinghy release mechanisms should be modified for easier use, that the "Flight Commander should satisfy himself that all life saving waist coats in his charge are in a serviceable condition", a "Safety Equipment Officer should be appointed", adequate training for dinghy drill must be provided and that "dinghies, Mae Wests (life jackets) ,high speed launches etc. and the organising of the civil facilities of this nature in the neighbouring district" were recommended. In other words the RNZAF failed to save the lives of 6 of the 7 aircrew because (a) the dinghy release was inadequate (b) Mae Wests were not tested regularly and were unserviceable (c) No organisation of neighbouring civilian high speed launches existed (d) the lifejackets were green instead of yellow. When the RNZAF squadrons moved to Guadacanal later in 1943, sea rescues were common , aircrew rescued largely by U.S. Airforce Catalina flying boats. A digital copy of the Findings of the Court of Inquiry of the RNZAF is attached to this record.
Remembered on the Takapuna War Memorial, The Strand, Takapuna.
Brother of Robert (Bob) Horrocks (25200), Peter Horrocks (64904), John Horrocks (428519), and James Horrocks (NZ203260).
Attended Kings College, Auckland (Source: RNZAF Biographies (R17845611)) AWMM