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New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol. I)

CHAPTER 1 — The Royal Air Force and Early New Zealand Representation

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The Royal Air Force and Early New Zealand Representation

FOLLOWING the achievement of the Wright brothers in flying the first power-driven machine in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, France led the way in the diverse experiments that took place in Europe. Britain, cautious in accepting new ideas, lagged behind and it was not until June 1908 that the first flight over English soil was made by A. V. Roe at Brooklands. However, between that time and 1912 when the British Government took a hand in the building up of an air service, many private organisations began, and with this birth of British aviation the names of men like Butler, Rolls, Sopwith, de Havilland and the Short brothers will always be associated. Their experiments in frail and unsteady machines make a story which is an epic in itself. In fact, the national air service was built up out of the mass of material offered by the skill and intelligence of such men.

For some time, however, the question of whether the new force should be a separate branch of the armed services was the subject of much controversy, and although the Royal Flying Corps was first formed as a separate arm in 1912 with naval and military wings, naval tradition proved too strong and soon led to the establishment of the Royal Naval Air Service. The Royal Flying Corps then became a distinct military body. It was partly because of this dual development that, during the early years of the First World War, the air services were the subject of much confusion and delay in the matters of equipment and supply. The Royal Flying Corps in particular had to pay heavily in losses of both men and machines and it was only the untiring efforts of men like Viscount Trenchard,1 who took command in France at the end of 1915, that carried the force through very difficult times. Previously, as commandant at Farnborough, Trenchard had ‘not only produced more

1 Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount H. M. Trenchard, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO, Legion of Honour (Fr), Order of St. Anne (Rus), Order of Leopold (Bel), Distinguished Service Medal (US), Order of St. Stanislas (Rus), Croix de Guerre (Bel), Order of the Crown of Italy, Order of the Sacred Treasure of Japan; England; born 3 Feb 1873; joined Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1893; seconded RFC 1912 and RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; commanded first Wing of RFC, France, 1914; appointed to command RFC, France, 1915; founded Independent Force in France, 1918; first Chief of Air Staff, RAF, 1918–29.

page 2 squadrons than had been thought possible at the start, but he instilled into them that high spirit which persisted throughout the war and has been handed on as a tradition to this day’.1 But at the end of 1916 the Germans were well on the way to mastery of the air over the Western Front, and this fact, together with the subsequent bombing of London in daylight, aroused such general misgivings about the state of British air power that the government of the time was forced to appoint a committee of inquiry. This was presided over by General Smuts, and in the now famous report which was submitted to Lloyd George’s cabinet in August 1917, he declared:

The time is rapidly approaching when the subordination of the air service can no longer be justified. It can be used as an independent means of war operations …. As far as can at present be foreseen there is no limit to the scale of its future independent war use. And the day may not be far off when aerial operations with their devastation of enemy lands and the destruction of industrial and populous centres on a vast scale, may become the principal operations of war to which the older forms of military and naval operations may become secondary and subordinate.

About the same time Winston Churchill, with similar foresight, advocated ‘not merely an ancillary service to the special operations of the Army and Navy but an independent arm co-operating in the general plan’.

Nevertheless there was still opposition to any change from both the Admiralty and the War Office so that it was not until April 1918 that the Royal Air Force was formed as an independent service, absorbing both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Then, before the newly instituted force could show its paces, the war came to an end. A period of economy and retrenchment followed in which the young air force was cut down and little effort made to keep it up to date in equipment; indeed for a long time its few surviving pilots went on flying obsolete aircraft left over from the war. Even the principle of an independent service was continually opposed and was only maintained largely through the tenacity and courage of Trenchard, who had now become the first Chief of Air Staff. Indeed, throughout the period between the wars, when the British people were gripped by a strange mixture of idealism and pacifism, Trenchard was to remain a stalwart advocate of a strong and separate air force.

Fortunately, the RAF quickly justified its continued existence by providing an economical means of controlling certain vital areas of the Empire. It was found that aircraft possessed the great advantage of being able to visit the scene of incipient unrest within a few hours of the receipt of news, whereas the organisation of a

1 History of the Air Ministry, C. G. Grey (Allen and Unwin).

page 3 military expedition took time, during which the trouble might spread. A strong air contingent in the Middle East and a somewhat smaller force in India soon became a cheap substitute for part of the military garrison in those areas, while in Iraq the main control was actually transferred from the Army to the Air Force. The modest operations which followed went far to maintain the continuity of the air weapon in British hands and, in the Middle East, to familiarise personnel with a theatre of war which was later to prove vital. Many men who served in these regions found compensations for the hardships they endured; there were frequent changes of scene, different types of flying activity and encounters with fresh people. For those who, as T. E. Lawrence wrote, ‘flew with their minds and imagination’, it was the most interesting part of their service career.

At the same time the air routes linking various parts of the Empire were being developed. Although these were eventually taken over by commercial firms, it was the Royal Air Force which blazed the trails by making the initial flights, reconnoitring territory, deciding upon landing grounds and then covering each route as a service exercise before handing it over. The flights across wide tracts of uncivilised and strange country, often under conditions of extreme heat and discomfort, demanded qualities of resource and endurance, and there is little doubt that such arduous and adventurous operations furnished the best possible experience and training to be found in peacetime. Other long-distance flights, apart from those connected with Imperial communications, were also made during the years between the wars. Records were deliberately sought since they provided opportunities for testing aircraft and maintaining a high standard of aviation. The Schneider Trophy was won outright, Everest was conquered from the air, while speed and height records were also established by Royal Air Force pilots.

But the force, as a whole, remained lamentably weak. Although in 1923 it had been decided that Britain should not be left in a condition of inferiority in air strength to any country within bombing range, this principle was never applied. In fact, never in all the years from 1923 to 1939 was Britain other than in a position of inferiority in the air to some power within striking distance of her shores. So slowly did expansion proceed that when the ill-fated Disarmament Conference opened in 1932 Britain was a fifth-rate air power. The two sterile years that followed, during which the debate dragged on and Britain’s rearmament was halted, were indeed ‘years that the locusts ate’.1 In October 1933 the

1 ‘The years that the locust hath eaten’ (Joel, ii, 25). Sir Thomas Inskip used this phrase to describe the period 1931–35.—Quoted in Churchill, The Second World War (Cassell), Vol. I, page 52.

page 4 Germans had walked out of the conference, and from that moment the expansion of the Luftwaffe proceeded apace, for in spite of the Treaty of Versailles Germany had begun to create an air force even before Hitler came to power. By March 1935 Hitler felt sufficiently secure to proclaim to the world the rebirth of the German Air Force and to appoint Goering as its Commander-in-Chief, a post which that flamboyant personality retained throughout the war.1
With the failure of the Disarmament Conference and the shipwreck of all the hopes founded upon it, Britain reluctantly renewed the expansion of her armed forces and, in particular, of the Royal Air Force. But while this expansion proceeded somewhat slowly at first, its progress was guided by sound principles. Britain might possibly have overtaken Germany’s lead had she been prepared to sacrifice quality to quantity, and the temptation to do so was very strong in those days. But wise decisions were taken which were to create a force superior in quality to that of Germany —first to build a defence capable of inflicting crippling losses on the enemy’s air force should it cross the British coast, and second, to create a striking force with a hitting power at least as great as Germany’s. Although only the first of these objectives was barely attained by the time the first serious encounters came, by taking the longer view and planning the production of the four-engined bomber, Britain was eventually able to achieve the second objective. If in the pre-war years one race was lost, another was won, and the RAF secured a lead in technical efficiency which it retained, with few exceptions, throughout the conflict. This was particularly true in the field of radar where the work of Sir Robert Watson-Watt and his team, begun in 1935, was to prove of the greatest value. Further, the decision to introduce the eight-gun Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, with all the attendant delays in design and production involved, was a courageous one. The British Commonwealth owes a great debt not only to the designers of these aircraft, Sidney Camm and the late R. J. Mitchell respectively, but also to those who, in their foresight, strenuously advocated this powerful armament. But it was not only in machines that Britain sought quality rather than quantity. The same principle was also applied in the selection and

1 Goering had commanded a squadron in Richthofen’s Fighter Geschwader (Wing) in the war of 1914–18; he had met Hitler in Munich in 1922 and then became the first leader of the Nazi Storm Troops, playing a prominent part as such in Hitler’s abortive Putsch of 1923. When in 1933 Hitler came to power he thus saw in Goering his perfect collaborator and a man with enough of the glory of the old Richthofen days to appeal to the popular imagination. Hitler therefore showered appointments on him, giving him four posts in the Government—amongst which was one of Special Commissioner for Aviation. In April 1933, when the Commissariat became the Air Ministry, Goering found himself as Air Minister.

page 5 training of the men to fly and maintain them. In fact, the rigorous and thorough system of selection and training developed by the RAF was to prove our salvation in the grim struggle that lay ahead.

An important feature of the expansion which took place during the late thirties was the large programme of aerodrome and factory construction. In eastern England there began the building of the chain of air bases from which the four-engined bombers were later to batter the German Reich, while in other areas the construction of new airfields for fighter and reconnaissance squadrons was commenced. Names later familiar to New Zealand airmen now began to appear in the lists of the new stations under construction. At the same time the industrial centres of Britain began the changeover from peace to war, with all the complicated planning and readjustment this involved.

By 1938, however, although these measures for the expansion of the Royal Air Force were steadily gaining momentum, its equipment was still very much in the transitional stage, with obsolescent types of aircraft predominating and replacements not yet available in any quantity. The Munich crisis, which came in September of that year, was both a lucky escape and an incentive to further effort. Nevertheless, even after a further year of respite and accelerated progress with the various expansion schemes, the strength of the Royal Air Force was still inadequate for the tasks which faced it.

Fighter Command1 was probably in the strongest position with sixteen squadrons of Hurricanes and ten of Spitfires, supported by eight Blenheim, four Gladiator and two Lysander squadrons. But it had virtually no reserves of fighter pilots. Furthermore Spitfires and Hurricanes were being produced only at the rate of two a day. A system for the control of fighter aircraft in the air was being developed, under which the whole of Britain would eventually be divided into groups and these in turn into sectors. This organisation was closely linked with the ground defence and the air-raid warning systems. Its efficiency, however, depended on accurate and timely information regarding the movements of hostile aircraft being passed by the Observer Corps and radiolocation posts to Group and Command headquarters. But the chain of radiolocation stations was far from complete and communications not fully developed, while sectors were short of equipment and satellite landing grounds inadequate.

1 The three operational commands, Bomber, Fighter and Coastal, had been created in 1936, when the former ‘Air Defence of Great Britain’ was abolished. A training command was established at the same time; it was subsequently subdivided into two commands for flying training and technical training. In 1938 three further commands were established—Maintenance, Balloon and Reserve.

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At the end of August 1939, the fighter squadrons were deployed in three main operational groups covering roughly south-eastern, southern, and eastern England respectively. The first of these, No. 11 Group, was primarily responsible for the defence of London, while the others, Nos. 10 and 12 Groups, covered the vital areas of Southampton and the Tyne. However this left large regions unprotected, and it was not until late in 1940 that fighter cover could be provided over most of the British Isles. Meanwhile Fighter Command had the additional tasks of protecting East Coast convoys and the naval base at Scapa; it was also committed to provide support for the British Army in France.

Bomber Command possessed some thirty-five squadrons but many of them were not yet fully trained for operations. Furthermore ten of these squadrons were equipped with obsolescent Battles and a further ten with Blenheims. Only five had Wellingtons, and the rest of the force was made up of Whitley and Hampden squadrons in approximately equal numbers. None of the characteristic four-engined bombers which were to play so great a part in the strategic air offensive were yet available. In fact, the production of Stirlings and Halifaxes did not begin in earnest until the early months of 1939 while the Lancaster was, as yet, unknown.1 The bomber force was divided into six operational groups, located along the eastern side of England in areas designed to suit the range of their aircraft and the purpose for which they were to be used. Each group had training squadrons to the west of it. On 2 September 1939 however, No. 1 Group, the largest, comprising approximately 160 aircraft, was transferred to France, leaving only just over 350 aircraft available for operations from bases in the United Kingdom. But even this small force could not be maintained at a high rate of serviceability, while the size and surface of many of its airfields were not suitable for the aircraft they had to accom- modate. In fact, during the first winter of the war, many of the grass aerodromes could not be used at all for considerable periods. Altogether throughout the first two years of its operations, problems of supply, both of aircraft and aerodromes and their equipment, and of men to service and maintain them, were seriously to affect the efficiency of Bomber Command.

In August 1939 Coastal Command, with an operational strength of fewer than 180 aircraft, was in an even less enviable position since it was called upon to operate with maximum intensity from the outbreak of hostilities. Its aircraft were distributed among 16

1 Thus during the early period of the war the term ‘heavy bomber’ was used to describe Wellington, Whitley, and Hampden aircraft. Later, with the introduction of four-engined bombers, the former aircraft were classified as ‘medium bombers’.

page 7 squadrons organised in three groups on a geographical basis. Their headquarters were situated, along with those of the Royal Navy, in Area Combined Headquarters at Plymouth, Chatham and Rosyth.1 The main strength of the Command lay in its nine squadrons of Ansons, versatile and reliable aircraft, but limited in range and performance. Only one squadron had new American-built Hudsons, and only one squadron, equipped with the Vildebeeste—an aircraft which rather belied its name—could carry torpedoes. Furthermore the flying boat situation was serious since only two squadrons had Sunderlands, the remainder being equipped with an assortment of seaplanes of indifferent performance. The role assigned to the Command in the event of war was a strenuous one and this meagre collection of aircraft was scarcely equal to the many tasks entrusted to it.2 In fact it soon became necessary to enlist the aid of training aircraft and, during the autumn months of 1939, when the enemy’s submarine campaign began to cause considerable alarm, ‘scarecrow’ patrols were flown by Tiger Moths. These training aircraft were quite unarmed and carried no bombs. On sighting an enemy submarine they carried out a mock attack, hoping thereby to force the vessel to submerge and so restrict its activities.
Altogether, on the outbreak of war, the Royal Air Force numbered in its first-line strength barely 1800 aircraft, including 400 overseas, and many of these were obsolescent types. The German Luftwaffe, on the other hand, possessed some 4160 machines, almost all of modern design with speeds and performance at least equal to similar types in Britain.3 Its main strength lay in bomber aircraft specially designed for close support of ground forces, together with a large number of transport planes which were to be employed for the same purpose. The Germans also had a considerable force of fighter aircraft, but these too were mainly designed to provide protection for bomber formations in short-range operations

1 Later, in October 1940, when the U-boat threat in the Western Approaches began to assume serious proportions, a fourth Area Combined Headquarters was established at Liverpool. This system of operational control, fixed in 1938, provided a working arrangement for the co-ordination of the air effort of Coastal Command with that of the Royal Navy. Liaison officers were stationed at the Admiralty and at Coastal Command Headquarters in London, while at the Area Combined Headquarters the local naval staffs shared an operations room with the air staffs of the Coastal Command Group. Once initial difficulties had been overcome, this organisation worked well and contributed largely to the successful conduct of operations in the Battle of the Atlantic.

2 In the final war plans Coastal Command had been given the following tasks:


Assistance to the Home Fleet in the detection and prevention of enemy vessels escaping from the North Sea to the Atlantic.


Provision of anti-submarine patrols.


Air searches over home waters to afford reconnaissance for the Home Fleet.


Provision of an air striking force for attacks on enemy warships.

3 Details of the principal British and German operational aircraft are given in Appendix IV.

page 8 ahead of the ground forces. In fact, long-range aircraft were not developed by the Germans to any extent because of their avowed intention of winning the war by a series of lightning strokes carried out by their air and ground forces working in close collaboration. However, judged by the standards of that time, the German Air Force was a powerful and efficient weapon. In the immediate pre-war years it had found opportunities to test the performance of its aircraft and to discover and remedy defects. The extensive Lufthansa service,1 army manoeuvres, air displays and international competitions all served this purpose well. Finally, the Spanish Civil War gave the Luftwaffe the chance of testing its new machines under actual war conditions, when useful experience was gained and valuable lessons learned. Their application was to follow swiftly in the overwhelming of a large part of Europe after a few months of the war.

The Royal Air Force, on the other hand, was only at the beginning of its expansion and lacked much of this experience. Nevertheless it was splendidly trained and designed for operational employment in accordance with a sound strategic doctrine. In 1940 it was just strong enough to hold the fort against the Luftwaffe and then, in the following years, to push it back and keep it back from the heart of the Empire’s war effort. Eventually, gathering strength and stretching its wings over land and sea in company with powerful allies, it made possible those naval and military operations which brought about the complete collapse of the enemy.

The men who served with the Royal Air Force came from every corner of the world. They were the pick of their nations’ young manhood—a gallant company who made courage and devotion the rule rather than the exception. While life in the air service had it trials and was commonly short, few would have changed their lot. The wide fields of the air were their battleground where speed and movement gave exhilaration and a sense of high adventure. Yet their work involved oft-repeated periods of intense strain when every moment might bring some fresh trial of quickness of brain or steadiness of nerve. And if to the onlooker they often appeared casual, it should be remembered that this was but a cloak to hide their true feelings—a protective shell which fortified an inward resolution. These men who fought in the air overcame more than their enemies. They and those who worked for them on the ground grappled successfully with many technical problems

1 The Deutsche Lufthansa was a heavily government-subsidised company which controlled all German airlines with the exception of one operating to Russia. It was formed in 1926, and although its aircraft were ‘civilian’, they were designed with a view to rapid conversion for military purposes.

page 9 and perfected a vast array of scientific devices which had a decisive influence on the war in the air. By their valour and steadfast devotion to duty they added lustre to the tradition of their service— a tradition which had been fashioned and welded in the First World War and in the years between. This they did in the storm of anti-aircraft fire, in the flash of combat and in long flight over the desert, the tropic jungle, and the lonely wastes of the sea.

* * * * *

Airmen from the Dominion of New Zealand were associated with the Royal Air Force from its inception in 1918. Even before that time New Zealanders were flying with the squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, sharing their hardships and difficulties in flying comparatively primitive machines. During the First World War 500 New Zealanders saw service in one or other of these units. On the cessation of hostilities in November 1918, the majority of these men returned to their own country, but a few remained in England to continue service with the Royal Air Force and several achieved further distinction before the Second World War began. In this respect the careers of Carr, Coningham and Park are of particular interest.

Air Marshal Sir Roderick Carr1 had left New Zealand in 1914 as a trooper with 6 Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles. But he was keen to fly and a year later joined the Royal Naval Air Service, with which he saw three years of active operations over France. Then he transferred to the Royal Air Force and in 1919 went with a squadron to Russia, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services there. In 1921, he joined Shackleton’s last expedition to the Antarctic as pilot of the plane carried by the Quest. On his return to England he rejoined the RAF and for the next few years served with various units in the United Kingdom. In May 1927 Carr set a world record for the longest non-stop flight by flying a Hawker Horsley service biplane from Cranwell in Lincolnshire to the Persian Gulf—a distance of 3400 miles—in just under 35 hours. After commanding a bomber squadron in England for a short period, he went to the Middle East until 1934, then returned to serve as Senior Air Officer in HMS Eagle, one of the

1 Air Marshal Sir Roderick Carr, KBE, CB, DFC, AFC, Orders of St. Stanislas and St. Anne (Rus), Croix de Guerre (Fr); RAF (retd); England; born NZ 31 Aug 1891; 1 NZEF, 1914; transferred RNAS 1915 and RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1926; served in France, 1939–40, with Advanced Air Striking Force; AOC Northern Ireland, 1940–41; AOC No. 4 Group, Bomber Command, 1941–44; DCAS, Supreme HQ, Allied Expeditionary Force, 1945; AOC Base Air Forces, SE Asia, 1945; AOC-in-C, India, 1946.

page 10 first aircraft carriers. Command of a Flying Training School in England followed until war began, when he was sent to France in charge of a section of the Advanced Air Striking Force. He was later appointed Air Officer Commanding No. 4 Group, Bomber Command, a post he was to hold for the greater part of the war.

Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham,1 although born in Brisbane, was educated in Wellington and wished to be known as a New Zealander. He was, in fact, very proud of his nickname ‘Maori’ which somehow became corrupted to ‘Mary’. Two days after the outbreak of war in 1914, Coningham enlisted in the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, but after service in the Middle East was invalided home in 1916 with typhoid. On regaining his health he travelled to England at his own expense and within a week of his arrival had entered the Royal Flying Corps. Following a short period of training he joined a squadron in France, and before being wounded in July 1917 had gained the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order for his exploits as a fighter pilot. On his recovery Coningham returned to France as a squadron commander and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1919 he was appointed to a permanent commission in the RAF, and after serving for four years on home establishments, went to Iraq to command a squadron engaged in restoring and maintaining order in this newly mandated territory. Later, while on staff duties in Egypt, he blazed the trail for the ferry route across Africa which was afterwards used for supplying aircraft to the Middle East and India. This was in October 1925 when, in command of a flight of three De Havillands, Coningham made the double journey from Cairo to Kano, in Nigeria. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in the following year and returned to England to serve at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, and the Central Flying School before being posted to Khartoum in 1932. Three years later he was back in England at Coastal Area Head- quarters, and was one of the first staff officers in Coastal Command on its formation in 1936. A few months before the Second World War began Coningham was appointed Air Officer Commanding No. 4 Group, Bomber Command. He was later to return to the Middle East and play an outstanding part in the conduct of air operations in that theatre; subsequently he was to command the Second Tactical Air Force in Europe.

1 Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, KCB, KBE, DSO, MC, DFC, AFC, Legion of Honour (Fr), Distinguished Service Medal (US), Order of Leopold (Bel), Croix de Guerre with Palm (Bel); born Brisbane, 19 Jan 1895; 1 NZEF, 1914–16; entered RFC 1916; permanent commission RAF 1919; AOC No. 4 Group, Bomber Command, 1939–41; AOC Western Desert, 1941–43; AOC 1st TAF, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, 1943–44; AOC-in-C 2nd TAF, invasion of NW Europe and Germany, 1944–45; lost when air liner crashed during Atlantic crossing, Jan 1948.

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Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park1 showed a taste for adventure early in life by going to sea in one of the vessels of the Union Steamship Company. Then, early in August 1914, he enlisted in the New Zealand Field Artillery and saw active service as a bombardier in Egypt. He also took part in the original landing at Gallipoli and remained on the Peninsula until the final evacuation. He then served for some time in France, through the first Battle of the Somme, until he was wounded a second time, invalided to England, and declared fit for home service only. Undaunted, Park joined the Royal Flying Corps and returned as a fighter pilot to France, where deeds of outstanding gallantry during 1917 won him the Military Cross and bar. He had ‘accounted for nine enemy aircraft, three of which were completely destroyed and six driven down out of control’. Sir Keith was himself shot down twice, once by anti-aircraft fire and once in combat, but he continued flying and the last months of the war saw him commanding the squadron in which he had already served both as a pilot and as flight com- mander. By this time his battle honours had been increased by the awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. He had also been mentioned in despatches. In the years which followed he saw service in Iraq and Egypt, returning to England in 1926 to command first a fighter squadron and then the fighter station at Northolt, during which time he organised the flying programmes for the air pageants at Hendon in 1929 and 1930. Shortly afterwards he became Commanding Officer of the Oxford University Air Squadron for two years and received the unusual distinction of the honorary degree of Master of Arts for his services. After a term as Air Attaché at Buenos Aires Park returned to England, and the outbreak of the Second World War found him serving as Chief of Staff to Lord Dowding,2 who was AOC-in-C Fighter Command. Then began a second period of distinguished war service, the highlights of which were to be his command of No. 11 Fighter Group during the Battle of Britain, and his brilliant conduct of air operations from Malta during 1942.

1 Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith R. Park, GCB, KBE, MC and bar, DFC, Croix de Guerre (Fr), Legion of Merit (US); RAF (retd); Auckland; born Thames, 15 Jun 1892; in First World War served Egypt, Gallipoli and France with NZ Field Artillery, 1914–15, and Royal Field Artillery, 1915–16; seconded RFC 1917; permanent commission RAF 1919; SASO, HQ Fighter Command, 1938–40; commanded No. 11 Fighter Group during Battle of Britain; AOC No. 23 Training Group, 1941; AOC RAF Egypt, 1942; AOC RAF Malta, 1942–43; AOC-in-C Middle East, 1944–45; Allied Air C-in-C SE Asia, 1945–46.

2 Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, GCB, GCVO, CMG; RAF (retd); England; born Moffat, Dumfries, 24 Apr 1882; joined Royal Artillery 1898; RFC 1914; seconded RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; AOC-in-C Fighter Command, 1936–40; on special duty (under Minister of Aircraft Production) in USA, 1940–41; Principal Air ADC to HM the King, 1937–43; retired Jul 1942.

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Among other New Zealanders who remained with the Royal Air Force between the wars were Air Vice-Marshals MacLean,1 Maynard,2 and Russell.3 MacLean, after distinguished service with the Royal Fusiliers and the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War, which included command of a wing in France, served with the RAF in India and then in the Middle East, where he was in charge of air bases in Iraq, Egypt, and at Aden. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War he was appointed AOC No. 2 Group, Bomber Command. Maynard, who had begun his flying career in 1915 with the Royal Naval Air Service, flew with units in Britain, in the Middle East and Iraq before returning to command the University of London Air Squadron in 1935. In January 1940 he was appointed from Air Ministry to Malta, where as Air Officer Commanding he achieved notable success in organising the air defence of the island in the initial stages, when few people had any faith that Malta could hold out against sustained attack. Russell had joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 and won distinction in France before being taken prisoner in the following year. Between the wars he served in the United Kingdom and in Iraq, and then commanded the squadron stationed at Aden. Subsequently he served with Fighter Command in Britain and as Air Officer Commanding a group in the Middle East.

Such men were the pioneers of the Dominion’s contribution to the work of the Royal Air Force, a contribution which was to grow in strength during the years between the wars until, by 1939, there were several hundred New Zealanders serving among its units. Aviation in New Zealand had developed slowly and because of this, from the early twenties, individuals and small groups of young men who were eager to fly had begun to make their way to England to join the RAF. Some paid their passages, others worked their way as deck hands, as stewards, as ships’ writers and even in the stokehold. On their arrival in England many were accepted for service immediately but others, for various reasons, had to wait months before they could satisfy the high standard required. Very

1 Air Vice-Marshal C. T. MacLean, CB, DSO, MC, Legion of Honour (Fr); England; born Greymouth, 18 Oct 1886; served with Royal Fusiliers, 1914–15; seconded RFC 1915; permanent commission RAF 1919; AOC No. 2 Bomber Group, 1938–40; AOC No. 23 Training Group, 1940; retired Dec 1940.

2 Air Vice-Marshal F. H. M. Maynard, CB, AFC, Legion of Merit (US); England; born Waiuku, 1 May 1893; served with RN Divisional Engineers, 1914–15; transferred RNAS 1915; RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; AOC RAF, Mediterranean, 1940–41; Air Officer in Charge of Administration, Coastal Command, 1941–44; AOC No. 19 Group, Coastal Command, 1944–45.

3 Air Vice-Marshal H. B. Russell, CB, DFC, AFC; RAF; born Hastings, 6 May 1895; commissioned Royal Field Artillery, 1914; seconded RFC 1915 and RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; SASO, No. 21 Training Group, 1939–40; SASO, No. 2 RAF Component, France, 1940; served with Fighter Command, 1940–41; AOC No. 215 Group, Middle East, 1942–43; AOC No. 70 Group, United Kingdom, 1943–45; Air Officer i/c Administration HQ FTC, 1946–49.

page 13 few accepted the first or even a second refusal. Rather than return to New Zealand they took odd jobs or eked out their savings until they could appear successfully before a selection board. Several who eventually found they could not be accepted as aircrew joined for training in ground duties. One youth who had made his own way to England at the age of 17, worked as a labourer on a farm and then as a handyman in a London hotel while pressing his application for entry into the RAF. He subsequently became an outstanding bomber pilot and navigator, winning the Distinguished Service Order as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross and bar.

During the years which followed many of these men served in remote parts of the world where air power, because of its mobility, was proving invaluable in keeping the peace. In Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and in the Aden Protectorate, they became painfully familiar with scorching heat and blinding sandstorms as they successfully carried out the policy of ‘control without occupation’, which was economical in both manpower and equipment. This was particularly the case on the north-west frontier of India, where the warlike tribes who inhabited the wildest of country had always been difficult to control.

One of those who served in this region was Air Vice-Marshal McKee.1 He had joined the Royal Air Force in 1926 and, after training in Egypt, spent five years in India with his squadron, mainly on the North-West Frontier during the time of the Afghanistan rebellion and the Waziristan rising. Afterwards he flew as a test pilot in Lahore and finally as commander of a communications flight at Delhi, before returning to England as an instructor. After being mentioned in despatches in 1931, McKee was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1939 for his services during this period. Air Commodores Barnett2 and McGregor3 were among those who served

1 Air Vice-Marshal A. McKee, CB, CBE, DSO, DFC, AFC; RAF; born Oxford, Canterbury, 10 Jan 1902; joined RAF 1926; permanent commission 1936; commanded No. 9 Sqdn 1940; Wing Commander, Training, No. 3 Bomber Group, 1941; commanded RAF Station, Marham, 1941–42; RAF Station, Downham Market, 1942–43; Base Commander, Mildenhall, 1943–45; AOC No. 205 Group, Italy, 1945; SASO HQ Mediterranean and Middle East, 1946–47; Commandant RAF Flying College, Manby, 1949–51; AOC No. 21 Group, Flying Training Command, 1951–.

2 Air Commodore D. H. F. Barnett, CBE, DFC; RAF; born Dunedin, 11 Feb 1906; Cambridge University Air Squadron 1926–29; permanent commission RAF 1929; commanded No. 40 Sqdn 1940; RAF Station, Swanton Morley, 1942–43; Air Staff Strategic Bombing duties, Bomber Command, 1944; SASO (Org), Bomber Command, 1945; commanded Air HQ, Mauripur, India, 1947; Director of Operations, Air Ministry, 1949–.

3 Air Commodore H. D. McGregor, CBE, DSO, Legion of Merit (US); RAF; born Wairoa, 15 Feb 1910; joined RAF 1928; permanent commission 1932; commanded Nos. 33 and 213 Squadrons, 1939–40; RAF Station, Ballyhalbert, 1941; RAF Station, Tangmere, 1942–43; Group Captain, Operations, Mediterranean Air Command, 1943–44; Allied Deputy Director of Operations, Intelligence Plans, North Africa and Italy, 1944; AOC Levant, 1945–46; Planning Staff, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Washington, 1949–50; AOC 2nd Tactical Air Force, Germany.

page 14 in the Middle East. Barnett, who had joined the Cambridge University Air Squadron in 1926 and been granted a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force three years later, commanded a bomber squadron at Shaibah in Iraq. During the disturbances in Palestine in the late thirties McGregor led the only fighter squadron there at the time. It was equipped with Gladiators, and small detachments stationed at strategic points had the difficult task of assisting the ground forces to round up the armed bands of tribesmen who were roaming the countryside destroying property and communications. As these marauders left their villages on the approach of army units, it was only the unexpected arrival of aircraft, usually at dawn, that enabled them to be trapped. Messages would be dropped to the encircled village or area telling the inhabitants that they would be unharmed so long as they did not try to get out of the ring before the ground forces arrived to search and investigate. So successful were these tactics that order was completely restored in Palestine by the middle of 1939. For his fine leadership in these operations, McGregor was awarded the DSO.

Somewhat different were the experiences of Wing Commander A. H. Marsack,1 who was employed as an Intelligence officer in the Aden Protectorate during the late thirties. In the course of his duties he was often called upon to investigate incidents with the local tribal chiefs, but by exercising initiative and tact he was usually successful in bringing about a peaceful solution to the difficult problems that arose. On one occasion, however, when a certain tribe defied government orders, he organised air action and, after being under fire from the rebels for two days, eventually effected the occupation of their village with a small band of irregulars. He was awarded the MBE in June 1938, and a few months later was mentioned in despatches for further work in this region. His brother, Group Captain D. H. Marsack,2 who was engaged on similar duties in Palestine about the same time, was mentioned in despatches in 1937. Both continued to do valuable work as Intelligence officers in the Middle East in the years which followed.

Others who saw early service with the Royal Air Force returned to New Zealand to assist in the building up of the Dominion’s own

1 Wing Commander A. H. Marsack, MBE; born Parnell, Auckland, 6 Oct 1906; joined RAF 1930; permanent commission 1936; Special Intelligence, Middle East, 1939–44.

2 Group Captain D. H. Marsack; born Parnell, Auckland, 26 Feb 1909; joined RAF 1930; permanent commission 1936; Intell and Admin duties, Middle East, 1939–45.

page 15 air force. Air Commodore Findlay,1 who had flown with the Royal Flying Corps and then with the Royal Air Force, and Air Commodore Wallingford,2 who had also been with the RAF in the First World War, were among the first officers appointed on the creation of the New Zealand Air Force. In 1938 Findlay went back to England to command a coastal squadron and in the same year Wallingford was appointed New Zealand Air Liaison Officer in London. Air Commodore Olson3 joined the Royal Air Force in 1926, served with a squadron in Egypt and on the North-West Frontier, then returned to New Zealand to become an instructor at Wigram. Air Commodore Kay,4 who had enlisted in the Royal Air Force about the same time, specialised in meteorology and navigation and then became an instructor in New Zealand. However, before returning to the New Zealand Air Force, he flew from England to Australia in 1930, took part in the Melbourne Centenary race four years later, and afterwards flew the Tasman Sea. Subsequently both Kay and Olson were to serve with and command No. 75 New Zealand Squadron during the war. Kay, in fact, was one of the original members of the unit. This coming and going between Britain and New Zealand continued on a small scale throughout the early thirties and eventually led to the development of a regular system of interchange of officers, particularly in the technical branches.
During the period of increased technical development in Britain before the war, several New Zealanders were among those who won distinction as test pilots. Flight Lieutenant Piper,5 who joined Short Bros. in 1934, continued in this work and subsequently became chief test pilot. By the end of the war he had flown and tested 77 different types of machines, including the Mayo composite aircraft, the original splitting tests of which were carried out in 1938. It

1 Air Commodore J. L. Findlay, CBE, MC, Legion of Honour (Fr), Legion of Merit (US); RNZAF; born Wellington, 6 Oct 1895; served East Surrey Regiment, 1914–16; served in RFC and RAF; joined NZ Air Force, 1923; commanded No. 48 Sqdn, 1938–40; RAF Station, Hooton Park, 1940–41; SASO, Air Department, 1941; AOC Central Group, 1942–43; Head of NZ Joint Staff Mission, Washington, 1943–.

2 Air Commodore S. Wallingford, CB, CBE, Legion of Merit (US); Wellington; born Hythe, Kent, 12 Jul 1898; served Rifle Brigade and RAF 1916–20; NZ Air Force, 1922–24; RAF 1924–29; NZPAF 1929–36; NZ Liaison Officer, London, 1938–40; Air Force Member for Personnel, 1941–42; AOC No. 1 (Islands) Group, 1943–44; Air Force Member for Supply, 1944–46; Air Force Member for Personnel, 1948–52.

3 Air Commodore E. G. Olson, DSO; born New Plymouth, 27 Feb 1906; joined RAF 1926; appointed RNZAF 1935; commanded No. 75 (NZ) Sqdn, 1942; commanded RAF Station, Oakington, 1942–43; AOC RNZAF HQ, London, 1944–45; died 15 May 1945.

4 Air Commodore, C. E. Kay, CBE, DFC; RNZAF; London; born Auckland, 25 Jun 1902; entered RAF 1926; appointed RNZAF 1935; commanded No. 75 (NZ) Sqdn, 1940–41; Air Staff, No. 8 Bomber Group, 1942; commanded RNZAF Station, New Plymouth, 1943; Ohakea, 1943–44; Wigram, 1944–45; Air Force Member for Supply, 1947–51; AOC RNZAF HQ, London, 1951–.

5 Flight Lieutenant H. L. Piper; England; born Duvauchelle, Akaroa, 2 Apr 1899; served RAF 1927–33; test pilot Short Bros., 1934; Short and Harland Ltd., 1938–46; chief test pilot 1946–48.

page 16 was a unique type of flying, this business of taking into the air a machine which had never been flown before. It demanded certain rare qualities, the chances of ultimate survival were slender and, like all other test pilots, Piper had many narrow escapes. Before joining Short Bros. he had served with the Royal Air Force on a short-service commission which he obtained in 1927, and it was during this period that he made the notable flight to Australia with Kay, then a flying officer, as his co-pilot and navigator. Their machine, a Desoutter monoplane, was purchased with money obtained from the sale of Piper’s farm in New Zealand. Petrol supplies had to be organised before the flight started as there was then no comfortable chain of prepared airfields. Eventually, on 9 February 1930, they set off and after many adventures, which included forced landings in the desert and on the beach near Akyab, in Burma, they reached Sydney on 3 April.
Group Captain A. E. Clouston,1 after obtaining a short-service commission in 1930, first served as a fighter pilot, winning renown for his skill in aerobatics, which were a feature of the air displays in England at that time. Then in 1935 he accepted a post as a test pilot at Farnborough, where he carried out tests on new aircraft and the devices that were being fitted to them. He also flew aircraft in ice-forming conditions, on many occasions with his machine completely iced up. ‘He has continued to fly,’ says an official report, ‘with three to four inches of ice piled high on the front of the windscreen, with large chunks of ice coming through the engine nacelle and striking the fuselage, and has generally carried the experiments to the limits under which he could retain any sort of control over the aircraft’. By accepting the high risks involved in these test flights he furnished valuable data for the scientists, as also did his later work which led to the standardisation of the balloon cable. This involved flying into a cable in an aircraft specially fitted with a steel-netted cockpit to protect the pilot from the wire which was frequently lashed round the aircraft by the propeller. In 1936 Clouston turned his attention to long-distance flying and air races. His many exploits during the next few years included remarkable and record-breaking flights to Cape Town, Sydney, and New Zealand.2 At the beginning of the war he was recalled from the Reserve to continue his work as a test pilot and

1 Group Captain A. E. Clouston, DSO, DFC, AFC and bar; RAF; born Motueka, 7 Apr 1908; joined RAF 1930; test pilot, Experimental Section, Royal Aircraft Establishment, 1939–40; served with Directorate of Armament Development, MAP, 1940–41; commanded No. 1422 Flight, 1941–43; No. 224 Sqdn, 1943–44; RAF Station, Langham, 1944–45; BAFO Communication Wing, 1945–47; RNZAF Station, Ohakea, 1947–49; RAF Station, Leeming, 1950; Commandant Empire Test Pilots’ School, 1950–.

2 The flight to New Zealand was made in March 1938, in a De Havilland Comet, the time taken being 4 days 8 hours.

page 17 was later closely connected with experimental work on the Turbinlite searchlight as an aid to the interception of enemy night raiders. His work was recognised by the award of the Air Force Cross in 1938 and a bar to this decoration in 1942. He afterwards served with distinction in Coastal Command.

Group Captain Isherwood1 was also engaged in the testing of new aircraft during the pre-war years. He had joined the Royal Air Force in 1930 and, after training in Egypt, served for four years on the North-West Frontier and then with a fighter squadron in Eritrea before returning to England in 1936. Early in that year he joined the staff of the experimental station at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk, where he later commanded one of the flights of the performance testing section. This section carried out the development flights of the Hurricane, Spitfire, Beaufighter and Typhoon, fighter aircraft that afterwards proved so successful in operations against the enemy. In the King’s Birthday honours for 1940 Isherwood received the Air Force Cross. He was later to lead a fighter wing in Northern Russia and serve with distinction in South-East Asia.

Another New Zealander who flew as a test pilot in the early thirties was Wing Commander Moir,2 who had joined the RAF in 1926. Before taking up experimental flying he had served with a bomber squadron and then as an instructor at the Central Flying School. Group Captains Grindell3 and Gordon,4 both of whom entered the RAF in the early nineteen-thirties, and Wing Commander Hooper5 were among those who did valuable work as flying instructors during the period of expansion before the war.

1 Group Captain H. N. G. Isherwood, DFC, AFC, Order of Lenin (USSR); born Petone, 13 Jul 1905; served with NZ Mounted Rifles, 1924–30; joined RAF 1930; permanent commission 1936; flying duties, Aeronautical and Armament Experimental Establishment, 1936–41; Sector Commander, No. 9 Fighter Group, 1941; Controller, HQ No. 9 Fighter Group, 1941; commanded No. 151 Hurricane Wing in Russia, 1941; commanded RAF Stations, Church Stanton, Valley and Woodvale, 1942–44; RAF Station, Mauripur, India, 1944–45; commanded No. 342 Wing, SE Asia, 1945; killed in aircraft accident, 24 Apr 1950.

2 Wing Commander J. F. Moir, AFC and bar; born Christchurch, 13 Aug 1902; served RAF 1926–35; recalled Sep 1939; commanded No. 8 EFTS, 1939–41; No. 10 Flying Instructors’ School, 1941–45.

3 Group Captain G. J. Grindell, DFC, AFC and bar; born Geraldine, 20 Aug 1910; joined RAF 1932; permanent commission 1938; flying duties, No. 5 FTS, 1939–40; Air Staff, HQ Flying Training Command, 1940–42; commanded No. 487 (NZ) Sqdn, 1942–43; RAF Station, Fiskerton, 1943–44; SASO, RAF Mission to Australia and New Zealand, 1944–46.

4 Group Captain D. McC. Gordon, OBE, AFC; born Waverley, Patea, 7 Apr 1905; joined RAF 1930; permanent commission 1936; CFI, No. 7 FTS, 1938–40; commanded an Initial Training School, Canada, 1940–41; control duties, HQ No. 18 Group, 1941–42; commanded No. 119 Sqdn, 1942–43; RAF Stations, Invergordon, Castle Archdale and Lagens, Azores, 1943–46.

5 Wing Commander W. E. Hooper, AFC; born Pihama, Waimate Plains, 17 Jul 1906; served RAF 1930–37; recalled Sep 1939; CFI, No. 8 EFTS, 1940–41; commanded No. 26 EFTS, 1941–45; No. 25 (Pilot) EFTS, 1945; killed in civil flying accident, Oct 1950.

page 18 Gordon had previously flown with one of the pioneer flying boat squadrons, while Grindell had served with a fighter squadron at Aden and Hooper with a bomber squadron in Iraq before being posted to instructional duties.

In the pre-war years several New Zealanders engaged in civil flying after a period of early service with the Royal Air Force. Wing Commander Stead1 started the Stockholm service for British Continental Airways while Captain Glover,2 who had worked his passage to England in 1930 to serve with the RAF, later joined Imperial Airways and was one of the original pilots on the Durban and Singapore routes. Both these men rejoined the Royal Air Force in 1940 to fly Sunderlands. Stead was posted in turn to the Shetlands, Iceland, the Mediterranean and West Africa, before becoming chief instructor at the flying boat training centre in Scotland. Glover flew with a squadron in the Mediterranean and later returned to British Overseas Airways to fly on the ‘Horseshoe’ route from Durban to Calcutta, Cairo, Lagos, Mombasa and Mada- gascar. Two other pilots eventually found their way to the Pacific. Captain Burgess,3 after serving with the Royal Air Force for five years, joined Imperial Airways and in 1937 made the Australian and New Zealand survey flight in the flying boat Centaurus. He subsequently became chief pilot for Tasman Empire Airways. Captain Craig4 was with the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom and India until he joined Imperial Airways in 1937. Subsequently he transferred to Tasman Empire Airways, and in 1941 was attached to the RNZAF to command the first New Zealand flying boat squadron in the Pacific.

During the early thirties the number of men making their own way to Britain had increased considerably until, by the end of 1935, approximately a hundred New Zealanders were serving with the Royal Air Force, most of them as pilots. Several youths had also reached Halton under an apprentice scheme, while a few fortunate ones were nominated as cadets to the RAF College at Cranwell. Then, in 1936, at the request of the British Government, a start was made with the selection in New Zealand of candidates to serve

1 Wing Commander G. G. Stead, DFC; England; born Hastings, 8 Sep 1911; served RAF 1930–34; recalled RAF 1940; flying duties No. 204 Sqdn, 1940–41; CFI, No. 4 OTU, Coastal Command, 1942; on loan to RNZAF, 1942–43; seconded BOAC, 1943–45; appointed Senior Captain BOAC 1945.

2 Squadron Leader H. L. M. Glover; England; born Dunedin, 2 Feb 1907; served RAF 1930–37; recalled RAF Nov 1940; released for duty with BOAC, 1942; appointed Senior Captain BOAC, 1943.

3 Captain J. W. Burgess; born Dunedin, 15 Aug 1908; served RAF 1931–35; chief pilot Tasman Empire Airways, 1939–43; served with BOAC as Senior Captain, 1943–51.

4 Captain W. J. Craig; England; born Wanganui, 25 Jun 1910; served RAF 1932–37; joined Imperial Airways 1937; later transferred BOAC; seconded Tasman Empire Airways 1939; attached RNZAF 1941; appointed Senior Captain BOAC, 1942.

page 19 as pilots in the Royal Air Force. As soon as volunteers were accepted they went to England for training, the first group arriving in July 1937. Thereafter parties of from twelve to twenty sailed at approximately monthly intervals for the next two years, the total number sent being 241. Shortly afterwards this scheme was supplemented by another under which men were given their preliminary training as pilots in New Zealand and sent to the Royal Air Force as ‘trained cadets’.1 Training began at Wigram in June 1937, and the first seven pilots left for England in the following April. Altogether 133 men were sent to England under this arrangement, the last of them arriving early in 1940.

By that time a much larger training scheme had commenced. In April 1939, as a result of the visit of an Air Mission from the United Kingdom, New Zealand offered, in the event of war, to train a thousand pilots each year for the Royal Air Force. In the following month, however, at the request of the United Kingdom, this proposal was modified to the provision of 650 pilots and the same number of navigators and air gunners each year. In addition the Dominion also agreed to train maintenance personnel. This plan was put into operation in September 1939, but it was soon replaced by the Empire Air Training Scheme, based on the agreement signed in Ottawa during November of that year—one of the most inspired and fruitful decisions of the war. The large majority of New Zealand airmen who served with the RAF during the Second World War were, in fact, trained under this latter scheme.2 But while those who went to Britain under the pre-war arrangements were members of the Royal Air Force, those who began their training later remained members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and during their service overseas were regarded as ‘attached’ to the RAF. For all practical purposes, however, they were also members of the Royal Air Force since they were maintained, clothed, accommodated and paid equivalent rates of pay by the British Government.

The outbreak of war found New Zealand, along with other parts of the Empire, largely unprepared for full participation in the struggle. Nevertheless in the air the Dominion was able to make an immediate contribution since, by September 1939, there were already 550 New Zealanders serving in the Royal Air Force, the largest number from any part of the Commonwealth outside the British Isles. Many were still completing their training but approximately

1 The pilots were enlisted into the RAF under a short-service commission scheme, and the United Kingdom paid the New Zealand Government £1550 for each pilot trained in the Dominion.

2 Details of the origin and development of the Empire Air Training Scheme are given in Chapter 10.

page 20 200 were serving with operational units in the United Kingdom, with a few others scattered among the squadrons in the Middle East, in India, and in the Far East. While most of these men were engaged in flying duties as pilots, individuals were also to be found serving in almost every section of the Royal Air Force, as administrative and medical officers, in the technical and equipment branches and in other ground duties. This ubiquity was, in fact, to be a feature of the Dominion’s participation throughout the war.1 At the same time, in addition to a small number of men engaged in training for maintenance duties and a few officers on interchange, there was in England a group of 20 New Zealanders who had been got together to fly home the first of 30 Wellington aircraft previously ordered by the New Zealand Government. When war came these men were placed at the disposal of the Royal Air Force. Shortly afterwards they formed the nucleus of No. 75 New Zealand Squadron, the first Commonwealth squadron to be formed in Bomber Command.

Thus, in the early difficult months, the Dominion was represented in the Royal Air Force by this band of pioneers. Barely half were to survive the war. Many, in fact, were either killed or made prisoners of war during the first year of the conflict, when British airmen faced heavy odds in the air battles over Belgium and France, in the Battle of Britain, and in the early bombing raids over Germany. Those who remained continued to give of their experience and render sterling service as leaders, as commanders of various units and as specialists in many fields. The contribution they began and the comradeship they established were to provide a fine example for those who came later.

The flow of men from the Dominion was to increase rapidly as the Empire Training Scheme began to bear fruit. By the end of 1943, in spite of a heavy commitment in the Pacific, New Zealand had sent 3400 aircrew direct to Great Britain and a further 4300 mainly through Canada. While the main contribution continued to be flying personnel, a significant number of New Zealanders were also trained in the Dominion and Canada for various ground duties with the Royal Air Force, as fitters, armourers, wireless operators and radar mechanics. As the war progressed they became scattered throughout the various operational and maintenance units in Britain, the Middle East, and South-East Asia. But in a struggle where technical skill and scientific knowledge were of supreme importance

1 From the outset New Zealand adopted a generous attitude with regard to the disposal of the men she trained and provided. Early in 1940 the Dominion Government informed Britain that ‘they wished to emphasise that the formation of New Zealand squadrons was not desired where this may affect adversely the efficiency of the Royal Air Force, nor did they wish to restrict the posting of New Zealand personnel serving with either Royal Air Force or New Zealand Squadrons’.

page 21 in securing and maintaining air superiority, these men made a contribution which it is difficult to overestimate. Indeed without the patient and enduring effort of the ground crews, often working under conditions of extreme physical discomfort, the victories in the air would not have been won. The men who flew the machines they serviced would be the first to affirm this.

In the New Zealand contingent with the Royal Air Force there was to be a significant contribution from the Maori people, whose representatives flew in each of the principal theatres of war. Flying Officer Pohe,1 who arrived in May 1941, was the first Maori pilot to reach the United Kingdom. He was posted to a bomber squadron and had the distinction of being the first of his race to bomb Germany. He also dropped parachutists in the famous raid on Bruneval. Pohe failed to return from a mission to Hanover on the night of 22 September 1943, and was taken prisoner. He took part in the famous escape from Luft III towards the end of March 1944 and was one of the fifty Allied airmen who were afterwards shot by the Germans. Among Maori fighter pilots, Flight Lieutenant Wetere2 flew with distinction in Hurricanes and later in Typhoons. In two tours of operations he made many attacks against German airfields, military installations, transport and shipping. Warrant Officer Wipiti3 shared in the destruction of the first Japanese aircraft shot down over Singapore in December 1941. He later lost his life while flying with a New Zealand fighter squadron in Britain. In the Middle East Flight Lieutenant Bennett,4 brother of Lieutenant-Colonel C. M. Bennett, DSO, commander of the Maori Battalion in 1942–43, served in the Desert Air Force and was also prominent in ground strafing attacks over Italy.

A small group of New Zealand girls was to serve with Britain’s WAAF and with the Air Transport Auxiliary. Miss Trevor Hunter, who joined the Wellington Aero Club in 1931 at the age of 16 and qualified as a pilot shortly afterwards, was with the Air Transport Auxiliary in the United Kingdom for four years, flying new aircraft from the factories to the operational units. Miss Betty Black, one of the earliest New Zealand women pilots, who flew with the Southland Aero Club, also served with the Air Transport Auxiliary for a long period.

1 Flying Officer P. P. Pohe; born Wanganui, 10 Dec 1914; farmer; joined RNZAF Sep 1940; prisoner of war 22 Sep 1943; shot after attempting to escape from Stalag Luft III, 25 Mar 1944.

2 Flight Lieutenant J. H. Wetere, DFC; Wellington; born Hoe-o-Tainui, 16 Aug 1918; civil servant; joined RNZAF Nov 1940.

3 Warrant Officer B. S. Wipiti, DFM; born New Plymouth, 16 Jan 1922; refrigerator serviceman; joined RNZAF Jan 1941; killed on air operations, 3 Oct 1943.

4 Flight Lieutenant E. T. K. Bennett; Dunedin; born Hastings, 16 Mar 1920; labourer; joined RNZAF Mar 1941.

page 22

Administration of Dominion personnel with the Royal Air Force came largely under the Air Ministry, but at the beginning of 1938 New Zealand had established a liaison office in London which, in June 1942, was expanded to an air headquarters under Air Commodore Isitt.1 This organisation, besides dealing with the more personal problems of New Zealand airmen serving in Britain, acted as a useful link between the Air Ministry in London and Air Department in Wellington. Throughout the war the New Zealand High Commissioner in London, Mr. W. J. Jordan, and his staff were keenly interested in the activities of New Zealand airmen and their welfare. Frequent visits by Mr. Jordan to units in which New Zealanders were serving did much to maintain high morale.

Altogether just under 11,000 men from the Dominion saw service with the RAF in the Second World War, and although seven squadrons were identified with New Zealand, the large majority of these airmen—over 90 per cent—became scattered throughout units in the United Kingdom and in various parts of the world. Many saw service in the Middle East, in South-East Asia, in East and West Africa, as well as in Canada and South Africa. They won many honours but they also suffered heavy casualties. No fewer than 3290 lost their lives, while a further 580 became prisoners of war. In all, their service was such that the people of the Dominion could read with justifiable pride the Air Council’s message at the end of hostilities paying tribute to ‘the illustrious part which New Zealand airmen had played’ and ‘the honour they had brought to their country and to the Royal Air Force by their gallant service in all theatres of war’.

1 Air Vice-Marshal Sir Leonard Isitt, KBE, Legion of Merit (US); Wellington; born Christchurch, 27 Jul 1891; NZ Rifle Brigade 1915–16; RFC and RAF 1916–19; joined NZPAF 1919; DCAS, RNZAF, 1943; CAS, RNZAF, 1943–46.