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Royal New Zealand Air Force

rnzaf in the south pacific area, july-december 1944

rnzaf in the south pacific area, july-december 1944

The moves forward of the RNZAF in the South-West Pacific in the second half of 1944, and the consequent lengthening of the lines of communication, inevitably resulted in an expansion of the base organisation in the rear area. Operational activities were reduced to garrison duties and routine defensive patrols against an ever-diminishing possibility of attack. At the same time, the administrative services provided by the bases in the South Pacific continued to play an essential part in the maintenance of units in the northern Solomons and Bismarcks.

Since the headquarters of No. 1 (Islands) Group had moved up at the beginning of the year. Guadalcanal had replaced Santo as the administrative centre of the area. Group Headquarters was responsible for the administrative control of RNZAF formations in the Pacific, from Fiji to the Bismarcks, while Station Headquarters on Guadalcanal administered the units on the island, as well as No. 6 (Flying Boat) Squadron at Halavo Bay on Florida Island. Squadrons in transit to or from the forward area came under its control, and units permanently stationed there included two servicing units. The various works flights and radar units in the area also depended upon it.

Domestically, the latter half of 1944 was a period of considerable activity. Camps and buildings which had been built a year or eighteen months before had rapidly deteriorated in the tropical climate, and much construction work was necessary in the repair of old accommodation and the provision of new.

To provide a leave centre for the men serving on Guadalcanal, a rest camp, known as Camp Tui, was established on the site originally occupied by No. 62 (Radar) Squadron, on the beach between Lunga and Koli Point. It was maintained jointly by the RNZAF and the National Patriotic Fund Board, and men qualified for a three-days' stay every four months. From the time it opened, in August 1944, until it closed in June 1945, 3571 officers and men passed through it.

Operations from Guadalcanal were carried out during the period by No. 6 Squadron, by bomber-reconnaissance squadrons, and by page 276 fighter squadrons which paused there to complete their training on the way to the forward area. The Catalinas of No. 6 Squadron were used mainly on searches for suspected submarines which, when sighted, invariably proved to be whales, or on searches for missing aircraft and on special flights to pick up sick or injured from ships and outlying islands and bring them to the American Base Hospital at Tulagi.

In the first half of 1944, except during a short period in February, there were no New Zealand bomber-reconnaissance aircraft operating from Guadalcanal. In July, however, No. 3 Squadron moved up from Santo, and remained for a month before going farther north. No. 1 relieved it in August, and was in turn relieved at the end of October by No. 2. Operations for all three squadrons were similar. They carried out regular dawn and dusk patrols over the seas around Guadalcanal and anti-submarine sweeps over the main Allied shipping routes in the area, as well as a number of special searches for reported submarines and missing aircraft.

Normally there were always two fighter squadrons at Guadalcanal en route to the northern Solomons. Each stayed, on an average, three weeks, and while there helped to provide dawn and dusk patrols over the island and kept aircraft at readiness throughout the day to take off and intercept any strangers that were reported.

Besides their operational commitments, all squadrons trained for the work they would be doing when they went forward. The training comprised air tactics, gunnery and bombing practices, and practical courses on survival in the jungle.