From the New Zealand Herald. - Lest we forget one more hero goes to his rest.

Jim Sheddan, last commanding officer of 486 (NZ) Squadron and one of the great characters of the wartime RNZAF has died at the age of 92.

Close friend Peter Wheeler said today the veteran fighter pilot died yesterday in a Whangaparaoa hospice, north of Auckland, two weeks after being taken ill.

Sheddan, awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in May 1945, was given command of 486 that month in the last stages of the war, and led the squadron until it was disbanded later in the year.

Johnnie Johnson, the RAF's top-scoring fighter pilot of the war and a man who knew the New Zealander well, called Sheddan a "prickly pear" and Johnny Iremonger, an earlier commanding officer of 486, wrote that Sheddan "enjoyed off-duty life to the full".

Ill-discipline, drinking episodes, scrapes and sheer cussedness spelled trouble for Sheddan in his early years.

He joined the RNZAF in April 1941, learned to fly in New Zealand and after more training in England joined 485 (NZ) Squadron, flying Spitfires, in October 1942.

Sheddan had an unhappy time at 485, admitting in his 1993 book Tempest Pilot, his story of his wartime years, that he was a "problem child" and that "keeping out of trouble was not one of my strong points".

He and the squadron parted company in January 1943 and for the next five months Sheddan flew Typhoons on delivery flights around Britain. He enjoyed the aircraft and volunteered to join 486 Squadron, operating Typhoons at Tangmere on England's south coast under Des Scott, one of New Zealand's wartime air greats.

Scott was aware of Sheddan's troubled background but took him at face value, giving him the chance to make good.

With Scott's understanding and leadership, Sheddan smartened up and prospered, turning into a top-class pilot, eventually rewarded with command of the squadron.

Sheddan was lucky to escape with his life on October 3, 1943 when his engine seized after his Typhoon was hit by flak coming out of France.

He successfully ditched the fighter, skilfully planing the tail along the calm water until its speed slowed.

Few pilots survived ditching a heavy Typhoon but Sheddan did.

He then spent a difficult 19 hours in his dinghy in freezing conditions until rescued by an RAF amphibian Walrus the next day while his squadron circled protectively overhead.

But his troubles were still not over.

By the time he was picked up the Channel had become rough and heaving seas tore off one of the Walrus' floats, preventing it from taking off.

For an hour Sheddan and a Walrus crew member lay on one wing, gripping its leading edge, to balance the loss of the heavy float.

The pilot slowly taxied the little aircraft toward England before an Air Sea Rescue boat hauled them all aboard.

In mid-1944 the squadron exchanged its Typhoons for the bigger and more powerful Tempests and then took on the German V1s, the flying bombs or doodlebugs, that began falling on the southeast and London in June 1944.

Sheddan played a full role in the battle against what the pilots called "Divers" and shot down seven V1s and shared another.

486 flew to the Continent to operate in the autumn after the flying bombs ceased to rain down, their bases in the Pas des Calais in France over-run by Allied Forces.

By the time the war ended Sheddan was credited with destroying 5-1/2 German aircraft.

Sheddan, born Cornelius James in March 1918, came from a large family that farmed outside Waimate in South Canterbury. Alex, an older brother, a bomb aimer in the RNZAF, was killed on his first operation, his Lancaster shot down over Holland just before Christmas 1943.
Sheddan is survived by two sons.


Dyan