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Collections Stories

New to the Collection

Frank Cardwell collection

29 September 2020

We were thrilled to receive recently the personal collection of Pilot Officer Frank Cardwell, who served as a Navigator with RAF Bomber Command in World War Two. The collection, which was generously donated by his family, includes uniform items and insignia, personal effects, service documents, souvenirs, personal papers and photographs.

Studio portrait of Frank Cardwell, wearing his Service Dress uniform. Image: Air Force Museum of New Zealand

Pilot Officer Frank Cardwell served as a Navigator with RAF Bomber Command in World War Two. His first operational posting in July 1944 was with No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, flying Lancasters. In November 1944 he joined No. 617 Squadron RAF, famous for its ‘Dambuster’ raids in 1943 and attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944. Frank took part in the Squadron’s last Tirpitz raid on 12 November 1944, when the ship was finally sunk.

Medal group awarded to Pilot Officer Frank Cardwell. Consists of the 1939-1945 Star with Bomber Command clasp; the Arctic Star; the France and Germany Star; the Defence Medal; the War Medal 1939-1945; the New Zealand War Service Medal, and the Bomber Command medallion. The Arctic Star is the only example currently in the Air Force Museum collection.

Three standout items in the collection are Frank’s medal group, which includes the Artic Star awarded for serving on the Arctic Convoys north of the Arctic Circle (the only example of this medal in the Air Force Museum collection), the brown leather toy dog that went with him on flights as a good luck charm, and his Navigator’s log book which notably features an entry on the Tirpitz raid.

Toy dog used as a good luck charm by Frank Cardwell.
Page from Frank Cardwell’s log book.
Page from Frank Cardwell’s log book.

After returning to New Zealand in July 1945, Frank remained connected to Bomber Command, with a long involvement in groups such as No. 44 Squadron and No. 617 Squadron Associations. He passed away in 2014, aged 94.

Frank’s 617 Squadron crew after the raid on Tirpitz November 12 1944, Woodhall Spa. Image: Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

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