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

CHAPTER 10 — Increasing New Zealand Participation— Formation of Nos. 485,488, and 489 Squadrons

page 207

Increasing New Zealand Participation— Formation of Nos. 485,488, and 489 Squadrons

AT the end of 1940 the Royal Air Force was confronted with a grave shortage of personnel. Fighter Command, whose losses had been heavy, needed strengthening against the reasonable expectation that Germany would resume the daylight attack against Britain in the following spring. Coastal Command’s responsibilities had widened with the passing of the French coast under German control and the growth of the U-boat threat to British sea com- munications. At the same time Bomber Command’s offensive against Germany was limited by the smallness of its first-line strength, while in the Middle East British air power was in urgent need of reinforcement. On all sides the demand for trained aircrew, particularly pilots, was urgent.

Along with the other nations of the Commonwealth, New Zealand was able to make a significant contribution towards meeting this demand, and the second year of war saw a rapid increase in the number of men sent from the Dominion. By September 1941 the total who had reached the Royal Air Force, including those serving at the outbreak of war, was 3230, a figure which represented a threefold increase over the previous year. The large majority of the new arrivals were Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel who had received their initial training in the Dominion, but individual New Zealanders had also enlisted in Britain and in other parts of the Commonwealth. Although aircrew predominated, the total included 350 men trained in New Zealand for duties as wireless operators, radio mechanics and fitter-armourers. Some of these technicians joined the New Zealand squadrons but, as with the aircrew, most became scattered among Royal Air Force units in the United Kingdom and the Middle East and later in India and Burma.

This relatively large contribution at an early stage of the war was the result of the direction of practically the whole air effort in the Dominion to the maximum output of trained men for service overseas and, in spite of limited resources in aircraft and equipment together with a shortage of instructors, the obligations accepted under the Empire Air Training Plan in December 1939 had been exceeded. This was no mean achievement, since it was not until page 208 April 1937 that the Royal New Zealand Air Force had been established as a separate branch of the defence forces of the Dominion. It then had a strength of only 21 officers and 157 airmen. Considerable reorganisation and expansion followed, much of the success of which was due to the work of three Royal Air Force officers who, as Air Vice-Marshals, successively held the appointment of Chief of the Air Staff in New Zealand—Air Marshal Cochrane,1 Air Chief Marshal Saunders,2 and Air Marshal Goddard.3 They were assisted by other Royal Air Force officers in various technical branches. Several New Zealanders who had completed short-service commissions with the Royal Air Force, notably Air Commodores Kay, Olson, and Wallingford and Group Captain Cohen,4 were also prominent among those who had helped to build up the air force in New Zealand during the pre-war years.

It was in June 1937 that New Zealand first began to train men for the RAF. During the next two and a half years 133 pilots were sent to England under various schemes; some of them joined fighter squadrons, others went to Bomber or Coastal Commands, but almost all had reached front-line units when the Battle of Britain began. Meanwhile a much more ambitious venture—the Empire Air Training Plan—had been started. Since this was to prove the main source of New Zealand’s contribution to the Allied air effort, its origin and development deserve brief mention.

The first definite proposals for the Empire Air Training Plan

1 Air Chief Marshal the Hon Sir Ralph Cochrane, GBE, KCB, AFC; RAF (retd); born Cults, Fife, 24 Feb 1895; joined RN 1912; transferred RNAS 1915 and RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; Chief of Air Staff, RNZAF, 1936–39; DDI, Air Ministry, 1939; commanded RAF Station, Abingdon, 1939–40; SASO, No. 6 Bomber Group, 1940; AOC No. 7 Bomber Group, 1940; DFT, Air Ministry, 1940–42; AOC No. 3 Bomber Group, 1942–43; AOC No. 5 Bomber Group, 1943–45; AOC-in-C, RAF Transport Command, 1945–47; AOC Flying Training Command, 1947–50; Vice-Chief of Air Staff, 1950–52.

2 Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh W. L. Saunders, KCB, KBE, MC, DFC, MM, Order of Polonia Restituta (Pol), Legion of Merit (US); RAF; born Johannesburg, 24 Aug 1894; joined South African Army 1914; transferred RFC 1917; RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; Chief of Air Staff RNZAF, 1939–41; AOC No. 11 Fighter Group, RAF, 1942–44; Director-General of Personnel, Air Ministry, 1944–45; AOC Air HQ, Burma, 1945–46; AOC-in-C, Bomber Command, 1947; C-in-C Air Forces, Western Europe, 1951; Air Deputy to Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, 1 Apr 1951–.

3 Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard, KCB, CBE, DSM (US); RAF (retd); born Harrow, Middlesex, 6 Feb 1897; joined RN 1910; transferred RNAS 1916; seconded RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; Senior Air Staff Officer, GHQ BEF, France, 1940; DD Plans, Air Ministry, 1940; Director of Military Co-operation, Air Ministry, 1940–41; Chief of Air Staff and Commander NZ Air Forces, South Pacific, 1941–43; Air Officer i/c Admin, ACSEA, 1943–46; British Joint Services Mission, USA, 1946–48; Air Council Member for Technical Services, and Commandant Empire Flying School, 1948–51.

4 Group Captain R. J. Cohen, CBE, AFC; RNZAF; Wellington; born Feilding, 6 Sep 1908; joined RAF 1928; RNZAF 1935; commanded No. 2 (GR) Sqdn, Nelson, 1940–42; CO Whenuapai, 1942–43; OC NZ Ferry, 1943; CO Hobsonville, 1944; CO Ohakea, 1944–45; served with No. 1 (Islands) Group, 1945; CO Ohakea, 1946; DCAS, RNZAF, 1946–47; attached RAF 1947–49; DCAS, RNZAF, 1950–53.

page 209 were made in London towards the end of September 1939 by Viscount Stanley Bruce, then High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom, in a conversation with Captain H. H. Balfour, the British Under-Secretary of State for Air. They came at a dramatic moment in British history. Poland had just been overrun in a lightning campaign in which the German Air Force had played a major role. Clearly air supremacy was necessary if the British people were to survive. But it seemed that Britain would be unable to train the large numbers of airmen required, for not only were the British Isles too small to provide sufficient airfields but they were also too close to the main theatre of war, and training operations would probably be interrupted by enemy raids. Bruce’s suggestions were simple and direct:

Canada, Australia and New Zealand should pool their resources in aircrew training.1


Elementary training should take place in their own territories and, so far as possible, with equipment, including aircraft, produced by each Dominion.


Pilots from Australia and New Zealand, on completion of their elementary training, should go to Canada for further training on aircraft which he hoped would be produced in Canada but might have to be supplemented from the United Kingdom.


On completion of their training, pilots to proceed to Britain to join the squadrons of their own Dominions.

After discussions in London between the High Commissioners, these proposals were submitted to the Dominions concerned by the British Government, and representatives met at Ottawa towards the end of October to formulate a detailed scheme. Some delay was experienced in reaching agreement owing to the difficulty of apportioning the financial responsibility and the rather natural desire of the Canadian Government to have overall control of the training in Canada. No question arose over the control of training in Australia or New Zealand; in each case men were to be trained in schools belonging to the Dominion and the training was to be run by the Dominion air force concerned, with help from the United Kingdom by the loan of officers and men as required. But Australia and New Zealand, while enthusiastic about the training scheme as a whole, were doubtful about the cost of doing so much advanced training in Canada, and eventually the final plan,

1 South Africa was left out because, at the time, the extent to which she was willing to co-operate was doubtful. Subsequently, however, training schools were established in both South Africa and Rhodesia. During 1941 and 1942 British pupils were also trained in the United States.

page 210 approved in December 1939, provided for each of the Dominions doing some of the advanced training as well as the elementary training for its own contingent. Detailed arrangements were agreed upon for:

The establishment and operation of training organizations in each country.


The number of pilots and aircrew to be recruited and the numbers to be trained by each Dominion.


The operational employment of Dominion aircrew in the Royal Air Force or in Dominion units with it.


The distribution of costs, rates of pay, training syllabus and the provision of aircraft.

The New Zealand training schools were able to reach the full size scheduled for them under the Empire Plan as early as the end of 1940. Subsequently the Dominion’s contribution in flying training was to prove substantial, although her contribution in manpower was to be even greater.

The outbreak of war with Japan in December 1941 was to raise special problems, since a large number of personnel had to be recruited and trained for service with air units in the Pacific or in defence of the Dominion. Nevertheless, New Zealand continued to send her full quota of pupils to Canada for training, even though they had to cross the Pacific in small groups under adverse conditions in all kinds of ships. By the end of the war 2750 aircrew had been trained to advanced standard in New Zealand and sent overseas to serve with the Royal Air Force in Europe, the Middle East, and in South-East Asia. In addition 2900 pilots, 1800 navigators, 500 bomb aimers, and 2700 wireless operators were trained to elementary standard and sent to Canada to continue their training. A further 880 went to serve in various technical ground trades with the Royal Air Force.

One of the most interesting provisions of the Empire Training Plan was Article 15, by which the United Kingdom undertook that,

pupils of Canada, Australia and New Zealand shall, after their training is completed be identified, with their respective Dominions, either by the method of organising Dominion units and formations or in some other way, such methods to be agreed upon with the respective governments concerned. The United Kingdom government will initiate discussions to this end.

For both operational and administrative reasons, New Zealand was reluctant to establish and maintain Royal New Zealand Air Force squadrons in Britain,1 so eventually it was decided that six

1 The Australian Government took a similar view, but Canada was more insistent tha its nationals should serve in Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons.

page 211 units formed in the Royal Air Force should be identified with the Dominion and designated ‘New Zealand Squadrons’. The personnel for the new squadrons were to be found from men already serving in Britain, supplemented by new arrivals. This was, in fact, carrying on the tradition already established by No. 75 New Zealand Squadron which had been formed in Bomber Command shortly after the outbreak of war. Of the new units, three were subsequently formed in Fighter Command, two in Coastal Command, and one in Bomber Command.

The first to be established was No. 485 Fighter Squadron. It began to form on 1 March 1941 at RAF Station Driffield, in York- shire, under Squadron Leader Knight,1 with Flight Lieutenant Brinsden and Flying Officer Martin2 as the first flight commanders. All three already had considerable flying experience. Knight had joined the Royal Air Force after working his way to England as a ship’s writer and during the early part of the war had done valuable work as an instructor. Towards the end of 1940 he went to No. 257 Hurricane Squadron, and subsequently flew as flight commander with a Czech unit before being posted to the New Zealand squadron. Brinsden and Martin had both joined the Royal Air Force in 1937. Brinsden went to No. 19 Fighter Squadron, with which he remained until the end of the Battle of Britain. Martin flew with bomber units until the end of 1940, serving in France with a Fairey Battle squadron during the German advance. Then he transferred to fighters and spent six months on operations flying Hurricanes. There were other experienced pilots among the twenty New Zealanders who joined No. 485 Squadron during the early weeks of its career. One of them, Pilot Officer E. P. Wells, who was to rise to command the squadron within the year, already had three Messerschmitts to his credit along with several more probables. Another was Sergeant Crawford-Compton, 3 who had joined the Royal Air Force as an aircraftsman. He was subsequently to become one of the Dominion’s outstanding fighter pilots. While most of the squadron’s ground staff were supplied by the Royal Air Force, there were, even in the early stages, several armourers and wireless mechanics from New Zealand.

1 Group Captain M. W. B. Knight, DFC, Legion of Merit (US); RAF; born Dannevirke, 8 Jul 1916; joined RAF 1935; commanded No. 485 (NZ) Sqdn, 1941; Operations Staff, HQ NWAAF, 1943; Planning Staff, HQ MAAF, 1944; commanded RAF Stations, Ismailia and Ramat David, 1945.

2 Flight Lieutenant J. C. Martin; born Timaru, 6 May 1914; joined RAF 1937; killed on air operations, 27 Aug 1941.

3 Wing Commander W. V. Crawford-Compton, DSO and bar, DFC and bar, Silver Star (US), Legion of Honour and Croix de Guerre with Palm (Fr); RAF; born Invercargill, 2 Mar 1916; joined RAF Oct 1939; commanded No. 64 Sqdn, 1942; Wing Leader, Hornchurch, 1943; Wing Leader, No. 145 Wing, 2nd TAF, 1944; Planning Staff, No. 11 Fighter Group, 1945; Air Attache, Oslo, 1950-.

page 212

The first weeks were devoted to intensive training and practice flying in rather worn Spitfires. Then, on 13 April, with 14 pilots fully operational by day, the unit began to fly convoy patrols off the East Coast. But apart from occasional ‘scrambles’ which failed to produce any notable incident, the next few weeks passed quietly. On the 21st the squadron moved to a new base at Leconfield, a few miles from Driffield, and throughout the next month protective convoy patrols were continued. Several pilots also flew sorties by night against the German raiders.

The first engagements with the enemy came on the evening of 2 June, when four pilots intercepted Junkers 88s attacking a convoy off the Yorkshire coast. In the first three encounters the enemy aircraft escaped into cloud after the initial shots had been exchanged, but in one combat Knight scored hits which eventually caused the enemy machine to crash into the sea near the convoy. Its destruction was confirmed by the crew of one of the escort vessels. Three weeks later the squadron began to take part in the larger offensive operations being flown by Fighter Command over the fringe of the Continent, and before long had won a high reputation for operational efficiency. Meanwhile, considerable interest had been taken by the people of New Zealand in the formation of this first Dominion fighter squadron and the sum of £126,000 sterling was raised by public subscription to provide aircraft for the new unit. In 1942, when No. 485 Squadron was re-equipped with an improved type of Spitfire, the aircraft were named after the provinces, giving an added New Zealand character to the unit. Pilots flying these machines subsequently accounted for more than twenty enemy aircraft. Altogether, by the end of the war, the squadron was to be credited by Fighter Command with the destruction of 58 enemy machines.

No. 489 Squadron was the next of the new units in the Royal Air Force to be identified with the Dominion. It began to form on 12 August 1941 at Leuchars airfield in Scotland, a Royal Air Force Coastal Command station, the intention being to employ the squadron in the campaign against the enemy’s communications in the North Sea and along the Norwegian coast. The formation of the squadron began quietly with the arrival of a few officers at Leuchars early in the month. Among them were Wing Commander Brown,1 an experienced English pilot, who was to command the

1 Group Captain J. A. S. Brown; born Alverstoke, Hampshire, 30 Oct 1911; joined RAF 1930; permanent commission 1936; commanded No. 489 (NZ) Sqdn, 1941–42; No. 152 Wing, 1943; No. 9 OTU, 1943–45; RAF Station, Gander, 1945.

page 213 new unit, and Squadron Leaders Sandeman,1 of Glasgow, and Evans,2 a Londoner, the first flight commanders. During the next weeks more officers and men, some of whom had already flown with Coastal Command, were posted to the squadron. Among the early arrivals were Flight Lieutenant Dinsdale, who was later to command the squadron, and Pilot Officers Hartshorn3 and Richardson,4 both of whom were soon to distinguish themselves in operations against the enemy. Gradually the squadron began to take shape. A few Beaufort aircraft arrived and training commenced. At first this training was confined almost entirely to the pilots, but later crews began to form and practise the tactics which they would soon employ in real earnest. Bombs were dropped on a dummy ship in a field and dummy torpedoes were launched against targets off the coast. There were long flights over land and sea so that the members of each crew could learn to work together as a team. Meanwhile New Zealanders continued to join the squadron singly and in groups until, by December 1941, the proportion was sufficient to give the unit a definite New Zealand character. Unfortunately, completion of operational training was hindered by the shortage of torpedo-bomber aircraft, which led to re-equipment first with Blenheims and then, in March 1942, with Hampdens. By that time the squadron had moved to Thorney Island in the south of England, and it was from this airfield that the squadron began operating over the Bay of Biscay early in May on anti-submarine patrols. A few months later the squadron returned to Scotland to take up the role for which it was originally intended and in which it subsequently served with distinction—searching for and attacking enemy shipping along the Norwegian coast and in the North Sea.
About the middle of 1941, with the increasing threat of Japanese aggression in the Far East, both Australia and New Zealand were asked to aid Britain in reinforcing the air defences of Malaya. Therefore the third New Zealand unit to be established in the Royal Air Force, No. 488 Squadron, was formed at Singapore in October of that year.5 Most of the aircrew were direct from the

1 Wing Commander B. J. Sandeman; born Glasgow, 18 Aug 1915; joined RAF 1935; CGI, No. 4 SFTS, Iraq, 1939–41; commanded No. 1 Torpedo Refresher School, 1943; RAF Station, Sumburgh, 1943–44; CI, No. 5 OTU, 1944–45.

2 Wing Commander G. H. D Evans, DSO, DFC; born Poplar, London, 29 May 1917; Cranwell Cadet; permanent commission RAF 1937; commanded No. 415 Sqdn, 1943.

3 Squadron Leader R. G. Hartshorn; England; born Hastings, 13 Dec 1919; bank officer; joined RNZAF May 1940.

4 Flight Lieutenant J. J. Richardson, DFC; Oamaru; born Toowoomba, Australia, 12 Jan 1915; marine engineer officer; joined RNZAF Dec 1940; p.w. 18 Jan 1943.

5 A proportion of the aircrew trained in New Zealand under the Empire Plan was already being sent to RAF squadrons forming in Malaya. In addition, New Zealand sent an airfield construction unit which did valuable work before the Japanese attack began.

page 214 Dominion’s flying training schools, but the squadron commander, Squadron Leader W. G. Clouston, and the two flight commanders, Flight Lieutenants J. N. Mackenzie and Hutcheson,1 came from Britain where they had already had considerable experience in operations with the Royal Air Force. Although equipped with obsolescent aircraft and not fully operational when the Japanese assault began, the unit gave a good account of itself in the defence of Singapore and the protection of shipping in the approaches to the port during January 1942. Withdrawal was ordered at the end of that month and the squadron’s personnel eventually returned to New Zealand by way of Java and Australia. The unit was then disbanded and most of its surviving members absorbed into squadrons in New Zealand. However, a second No. 488 Squadron began to form at Church Fenton in Yorkshire on 25 June 1942, as a night fighter unit equipped with Beaufighters. Wing Commander Trousdale was appointed to command the squadron, and Squadron Leaders Rabone and Gard’ner were his first flight commanders. All three were experienced pilots, having joined the Royal Air Force early in 1939. Trousdale, who had been prominent in the air fighting over France and during the Battle of Britain, won distinction as a night fighter pilot with Defiants and in a Canadian Beaufighter squadron. On joining No. 488 Squadron he was credited with the destruction of eight enemy aircraft, five of them at night. Rabone had flown Fairey Battle aircraft based in France from the outbreak of war, and in May 1940 he took part in the famous raids on the bridges over which the Germans were advancing. Later he transferred to fighters and, flying Hurricanes and Defiants, achieved success both in daylight and at night. By the time he joined the New Zealand squadron, Rabone held a remarkable record in having baled out safely on no fewer than six occasions. Gard’ner served with No. 141 Squadron from the early days of the war until October 1941, flying Blenheim night fighters and later Defiants. He then joined the Beaufighter squadron with which Trousdale was flight commander. Among the New Zealand aircrew to join No. 488 Squadron during the first months of its career were Flying Officers Davison2 and McChesney and Pilot Officers Cutfield3 and Gunn,4 all of whom already had experience of night fighter patrols. McChesney and Gunn had both been credited with the destruction of enemy aircraft, while another early arrival, Flight Lieutenant

1 Squadron Leader J. R. Hutcheson, DFC; Wellington; born Wellington, 18 Mar 1912; salesman; joined RNZAF Oct 1939.

2 Squadron Leader F. W. Davison; England; born Timaru, 2 Aug 1921; watchmaker and jeweller; joined RNZAF Feb 1941.

3 Flight Lieutenant A. S. Cutfield; Auckland; born Cambridge, 24 May 1916; clerk; joined RNZAF Mar 1940.

4 Flight Lieutenant J. A. Gunn; born Gisborne, 12 Feb 1920; motor mechanic; joined RNZAF Aug 1940; killed on air operations, 15 Sep 1943.

page 215 Ball,1 had completed two tours of bomber operations, the second with No. 75 Squadron. At the end of October, by which time the squadron had moved to Ayr in Scotland to begin the second stage of its training, 21 New Zealand aircrew were serving with it, all but three being pilots.

The formation of the new squadron was not without its difficulties, since there was an acute shortage of trained maintenance staff which affected aircraft serviceability and delayed training. As far as possible the crews were kept occupied by practice flights in which they used their AI equipment and in exercises in co-operation with searchlights and anti-aircraft batteries. The monotony of this training was relieved for some crews by occasional operational flights, the first of which was flown on 2 October by Flight Lieutenant McKinnon,2 with McChesney as his navigator-radio operator. This sortie was an attempt to intercept an enemy aircraft reported to be in the vicinity of Ayr, but no sighting was made. On the 13th B Flight under Rabone was detached to Drem, near Edinburgh, to operate against the German weather reconnaissance aircraft which made periodical flights over the North Sea; but as these machines usually kept well out to sea, the few sorties flown proved fruitless. On 21 November Rabone piloted a Beaufighter on an air-sea rescue search, during which he succeeded in finding the wreckage of the missing aircraft and was able to direct rescue ships to it. An early misfortune occurred on the night of 5 December when two aircraft of A Flight collided at the conclusion of an exercise, the four aircrew—McKinnon and McChesney in one aircraft, and Flying Officer Peacocke3 and his English navigator-radio operator in the other—being killed. Towards the end of the year the squadron was re-equipped with new Beaufighters fitted with improved AI equipment, and crews continued their training with added zest knowing the squadron would soon turn to the offensive. Subsequently No. 488 Squadron was to achieve considerable success in operations over enemy territory, particularly on intruder missions. In 1944, after the invasion of the Continent, the squadron was one of the units to move across the Channel in support of the advancing Allied armies, and in the last months of the war flew from an advanced base in Holland.

Two further New Zealand squadrons were to be established in the Royal Air Force during 1942. In March No. 486 Fighter Squadron formed at Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire, while No. 487

1 Flight Lieutenant E. C. Ball; born Kinsdale, Ireland, 28 Mar 1912; shepherd; joined RNZAF Mar 1940; killed on air operations, 9 Oct 1943.

2 Flight Lieutenant A. C. McKinnon; born Leamington, Waikato, 27 Jan 1917; clerk; joined RNZAF Mar 1940; killed in flying accident, 6 Dec 1942.

3 Flying Officer R. J. B. Peacocke; born Auckland, 12 Apr 1916; clerk; joined RNZAF Aug 1940; killed in flying accident, 6 Dec 1942.

page 216 Squadron began training as a light bomber unit at Feltwell, Norfolk, in August. Both units were to win distinction, No. 486 in the shooting down of flying bombs launched against southern England in the middle of 1944, and No. 487 Squadron in its sorties over the Continent with the Tactical Air Force. The last of the New Zealand squadrons, No. 490, was formed in West Africa early in 1943 and was to do valuable work in convoy protection and anti-submarine patrols in that area.1

But meanwhile, and even after the formation of these units, the large majority of New Zealanders were to be found in Royal Air Force squadrons. Indeed the Dominion squadrons, particularly those with Bomber and Coastal Commands, did not achieve a full complement of New Zealanders. They were, in fact, a token of a more widespread contribution, an arrangement which had certain advantages. Those who lived and flew with men from other parts of the Commonwealth acquired a broader outlook and understanding which they would probably not have attained had the members of their units been drawn from one country alone.

* * * * *

While most of the New Zealanders in the United Kingdom during 1941 were with operational units of Bomber, Fighter or Coastal Commands, there was a significant number engaged in various other duties which contributed much to the growing British strength in the air. In Flying Training Command Air Vice-Marshal Park was in command of No. 23 Group throughout the year; Wing Commander Moir continued in command of the flying training school at Reading, where his chief flying instructor was Squadron Leader Hooper; Wing Commander Grindell, who had served in a similar post, was now at Headquarters Flying Training Command; several other New Zealanders who had specialised in armament duties were on the staff of Royal Air Force gunnery schools, among them Wing Commanders Fear2 and Goodhart,3 the latter born in Australia but educated in New Zealand. Flight Lieutenants R. M.

1 An account of the early work of these units is given in later chapters.

2 Group Captain A. H. Fear; born Masterton, 21 Sep 1908; permanent commission RAF 1932; commanded No. 27 Sqdn, India, 1939–40; RAF Station, Pembrey, 1941–42; No. 4 AGS, 1943–44.

3 Group Captain J. Goodhart; born Perth, Australia, 21 Mar 1908; joined RAF 1931; permanent commission 1936; Air Staff armament duties, No. 1 Bomber Group, 1938–39; HQ Bomber Command, 1940–41, and Air Ministry, 1941–43; Ordnance Board, Ministry of Supply, 1943–44; killed on active service by enemy action, 21 Jan 1944.

page 217 Mackenzie,1 Maddox,2 and Morrish3 were prominent among those doing valuable work as instructors at flying training schools in Britain.

New Zealanders were now also associated with air training in various parts of the Commonwealth, most of them men who had joined the Royal Air Force before the war and completed tours of operational duty in the United Kingdom. Wing Commander Seavill4 served in Canada from early in 1940, while Wing Commander D. McC. Gordon commanded a flying training school there during the same year. Others who followed in 1941 included Wing Commander McDonald5 and Squadron Leaders Hunt6 and Turner.7

Among those who went to South Africa8 were Wing Commander Lee,9 who had served with the Royal Air Force in Iraq during the middle thirties, Wing Commander Anderson,10 who had been a chief flying instructor in the United Kingdom, and Wing Commander McWhannell11 and Squadron Leader Bray,12 both of whom

1 Wing Commander R. M. Mackenzie, DSO, DFC, AFC; RAF; born Tai Tapu, 8 Sep 1916; joined RAF 1937; transferred RNZAF Jan 1944; commanded No. 227 Sqdn, Middle East, 1943; Training Staff, HQ RAF, Middle East, 1944; transferred RAF 1947.

2 Wing Commander R. G. Maddox, AFC; Auckland; born Dunedin, 24 Jul 1913; joined RAF 1937; transferred RNZAF Jan 1944; commanded No. 99 Sqdn, India, 1943–44.

3 Wing Commander D. W. Morrish, AFC; Miranda, NSW; born Takaka, Nelson, 25 Nov 1910; served RAF 1930–35; recalled Sep 1939; transferred RNZAF Jan 1944; commanded No. 51 Group Pool, Flying Training Command, 1942; CFI, No. 15 EFTS, 1942–43; CI, No. 29 EFTS, 1943–44; CFI, No. 21 EFTS, 1944.

4 Wing Commander F. C. Seavill; born Parnell, Auckland, 17 Jun 1910; joined RAF 1930; Admin Staff duties, HQ Flying Training Command, 1938–40; Air Staff duties, Canada, 1940–42; commanded No. 487 (NZ) Sqdn, 1942; killed on air operations, 6 Dec 1942.

5 Wing Commander G. E. McDonald; born Wainui, 29 Dec 1910; joined RAF 1932; Armament duties, No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School, 1940–41; No. 31 Bombing and Gunnery School, Canada, 1941–42; HQ Army Co-operation Command, 1942; commanded No. 4 Sqdn, 1942–43; killed on air operations, 28 Apr 1943.

6 Squadron Leader L. L. Hunt; born Wellington, 6 Aug 1913; joined RAF 1935.

7 Squadron Leader W. C. Turner; Vancouver; born Ashburton, 30 Apr 1915; joined RAF Feb 1938; transferred RNZAF Jun 1944.

8 The Empire Air Training Scheme was extended to South Africa towards the end of 1940. The first flying training school in Rhodesia was opened in May of that year.

9 Group Captain D. P. Lee; born Auckland, 15 Nov 1907; joined RAF 1931; Staff duties, HQ No. 6 Bomber Group, 1939–40; Asst to Director of Personnel, SAAF, 1940–43; Liaison duties, SAAF, 1943–45.

10 Group Captain L. H. Anderson; born Lower Hutt, 5 Aug 1910; joined RAF 1930; permanent commission 1936; commanded No. 217 Sqdn, 1940; commanded No. 1 EFTS, South Africa, 1941; CFI, No. 4 SFTS, South Africa, 1941–42; commanded Wings in Middle East, 1942–43; SASO, No. 201 Group, Middle East, 1943; commanded No. 247 Wing, Middle East, 1943–44; RAF Station, Berka, 1944; No. 4 Combined Air Observation, Navigation and Bombing School, South Africa, 1944–45.

11 Group Captain P. A. McWhannell, OBE; born Wellington, 5 Jun 1910; joined RAF 1933; permanent commission 1939; commanded No. 4 Combined Air Observation, Navigation and Bombing School, South Africa, 1941–44; SASO, No. 25 Group, 1944–45.

12 Wing Commander J. W. H. Bray, OBE; RNZAF; London; born Waimate, 7Apr 1913; entered RAF 1936; transferred RNZAF 1939; Instructor, Navigation School, South Africa, 1941; commanded No. 3 (GR) Sqdn, RNZAF, 1942; RNZAF Station, New Plymouth, 1942–44; Lauthala Bay, 1944; No. 5 (Flying Boat) Sqdn, 1944–45; Lauthala Bay, 1945–47.

page 218 had specialised in navigation before the war. Flight Lieutenant Watts1 was with the training organisation in Rhodesia as a flying instructor from its earliest stages.

During 1941 a small group of New Zealand airmen flew with the units training in the United Kingdom for close co-operation with the Army, establishing a basis upon which the Second Tactical Air Force was later to be built. Wing Commander Donkin2 was a squadron commander. In experimental work in Britain, Wing Commander A. E. Clouston was testing the Turbinlite searchlight for night fighters, while Squadron Leader Nicholls3 was a test pilot in the experimental station at Boscombe Down. Two New Zea- landers, R. McIntyre4 and H. L. Piper, were also making a significant contribution as members of aircraft firms, McIntyre as a designer with Hawker’s and Piper as a test pilot with Short and Harland Ltd.

Of the relatively large group of doctors now serving with the Royal Air Force, Group Captain Macintosh,5 formerly professor of anaesthetics at Oxford University, Wing Commanders Grace, 6 Skeet7 and Stewart,8 and Squadron Leaders Bellringer,9 Gauvain,10

1 Wing Commander J. E. Watts, AFC; born Gisborne, 4 Dec 1918; joined RAF Aug 1938; Flying Instructor, Rhodesia and South Africa, 1941–42; Deputy CI, No. 29 OTU, 1943 and CI, 1944.

2 Group Captain P. L. Donkin, CBE, DSO; born Invercargill, 19 Jun 1913; Cranwell Cadet; permanent commission RAF 1933; commanded No. 225 Sqdn, 1939–40; No. 4 Sqdn, 1940; No. 239 Sqdn, 1940–42; No. 33 Wing, 1942–43; No. 35 Wing 1943–44; Member of RAF Delegation, USA, to Pacific and India, 1944; CI, School of Air Support, 1944–45.

3 Group Captain C.W.K. Nicholls, DSO, OBE; RAF; born Palmerston North, 7 Oct 1913; joined RAF 1934; test pilot, Aeronautical and Armament Experimental Establishment; 1940–41; commanded Handling Sqdn, Empire Central Flying School, Hullavington, 1942–43; commanded Operational Training Wing, Ohakea, 1943–44; NZ Fighter Wing, Bougainville, 1944; SASO, Northern Group, 1944; SASO, No. 46 Group, Transport Command, 1945–46; commanded No. 24 Commonwealth Sqdn, 1946–48; Air Attache, Nanking, 1948–49.

4 R. McIntyre; born Glasgow, 18 Jun 1900; designer with Hawker Aircraft Ltd., 1925–42; Chief Designer, Scottish Aviation Ltd., 1942–45.

5 Air Commodore R. R. Macintosh, Order of Liberty (Nor); born Timaru, 17 Oct 1897; Professor of Anaesthetics, Oxford University; joined RAF Oct 1941; Consultant in Anaesthetics, CME, 1941–45.

6 Wing Commander R. F. T. Grace; born Taupo, 14 Dec 1895; served RAF 1924–31; recalled Aug 1939; medical duties, RAF Hospital, Ely, 1940–41; Specialist in Neuro-Psychiatry, RAF Hospital, Torquay, 1942–43; commanded RAF Hospital, Littleport, 1943; neuro-psychiatrist, Officers’ Hospital, Blackpool, 1943–45.

7 Group Captain J. G. Skeet; born New Plymouth, 20 Apr 1889; served in Australian Army Medical Corps in First World War; transferred RAF 1919 and served until 1934; rejoined RAF Oct 1939; medical duties, RAF Hospital, Torquay, 1941–42; SMO, Reykjavik, Iceland, 1942; commanded Rehabilitation Unit, No. 28 Group, 1943; SMO, RAF Station, Kirkham, 1945.

8 Wing Commander J. G. Stewart, MC; born Invercargill, 7 Aug 1890; joined RAF Sep 1940; President, SMEC, 1941; President, No. 10 CMB, CME, 1941; SMO, No. 11 Fighter Group, 1941–42; SMO, Nos. 224 and 225 Groups, India, 1943; SMO, Base HQ, Bombay, 1943–45.

9 Wing Commander H. E. Bellringer; born New Plymouth, 3 Dec 1906; joined RAF 1935; permanent commission 1940; MO, No. 1 FTS, 1939–41; medical duties, RAF Station, Blackpool, 1941; President, No. 8 ACMB, CME, 1942; SMO, No 7 PRC, 1942–43; DPMO, AHQ, West Africa, 1944–45.

10 Squadron Leader J. H. P. Gauvain; born Waiuku, 29 Aug 1915; joined RAF Sep 1939; medical duties, RAF Station, Martlesham Heath, 1939–40; RAF Station, Cardington, 1940; HQ No. 3 Bomber Group, 1941; MO, RAF Station, Aqir, Middle East, 1943–44; FPMO, HQ No. 203 Group, Middle East, 1944; killed in flying accident, 14 Aug 1944.

page 219 MacGibbon1 and Willcox,2 were among those who held senior posts. New Zealanders were also to be found serving in the engineering and equipment branches, in photographic interpre- tation, and in various staff appointments. Wing Commander Wall,3 who now held a senior post in the equipment branch at Air Ministry, had entered the Royal Air Force as a Cranwell cadet and subsequently served in India and Iraq. It was while flying on operations on the North-West Frontier that he lost the sight of one eye and was forced to undertake ground duties. Wing Commander R. G. R. Buckley,4 who also had long pre-war experience in the Royal Air Force, and Squadron Leader Mason5 went with the Royal Air Force Mission to Russia in October 1941.

Two months earlier, when a Royal Air Force wing of two Hurricane squadrons had been sent to Russia, Wing Commander Isherwood was selected to command the unit. Isherwood had joined the Royal Air Force in 1930 and, after service in India and the Middle East, flew as a test pilot in the United Kingdom. The main purpose in despatching the Hurricanes to Russia was to demonstrate their performance and to give instruction in mainten- ance, as these machines were now being supplied to the Russian Air Force by Britain. The wing was also to assist in defending the vital Arctic port of Murmansk which was threatened by the German advance from Finland. Isherwood encountered many difficulties but, during the two months the wing remained in Russia, both purposes were achieved. By the middle of October instruction in flying and maintaining the Hurricanes had been completed and the last aircraft handed over. Meanwhile, under difficult conditions and at times in severe weather, patrols had been flown by British pilots escorting Russian bombers to their targets and intercepting German raiders. In all, they claimed 15 enemy aircraft for the loss of only one pilot.

1 Wing Commander G. B. MacGibbon; born Hawera, 30 Oct 1908; joined RAF 1936; permanent commission 1939; medical duties, No. 8 CMB, 1939–41; Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, No. 8 ACMB, 1941; SMO, No. 114 Wing, West Africa, 1944; SMO, No. 44 Group, Transport Command, 1945.

2 Wing Commander H. L. Willcox; born Invercargill, 7 Nov 1907; joined RAF 1935; permanent commission 1938; Staff duties, DGMS, Air Ministry, 1940–42; SMO, No. 153 Wing, 1942; SMO, No. 17 Group, 1942; DPMO, AHQ, North Africa, 1943–44; DPMO, HQ Med, ME, 1944; DPMO, HQ Coastal Command, 1945.

3 Group Captain A. Wall, OBE; born Christchurch, 11 Jan 1908; Cranwell Cadet 1926–28; permanent commission RAF 1928; equipment duties DGE, Air Ministry, 1941–43; Group Captain, Equipment Staff, RAF Staff College, 1943–44; D of Policy, Air Ministry, 1944–45.

4 Wing Commander R. G. R. Buckley; born Wanganui, 4 Apr 1909; permanent commission RAF 1934; served with RAF Mission to Russia, 1941–42; engineering duties, No. 82 OTU, 1943–44.

5 Group Captain R. H. Mason, OBE; born Weybridge, Surrey, 10 Sep 1918; joined RAF Sep 1938; served with RAF Mission to Russia on Port Equipment Staff, 1941–43; Staff duty, Admin Plans, India, SEAC and ACSEA, 1943–45.

page 220

The Dominion was also represented in the small band of British pilots who flew American-built aircraft to the United Kingdom during 1941. The organisation of an Atlantic ferry service had been commenced early in the previous year when aircraft were desperately needed in Britain to supplement home production, then still in the early stages of expansion. At this time Hudson aircraft were being bought in the United States for Coastal Command, but under the system of’cash and carry’ the machines were taking up valuable shipping space. Further, they were liable to loss at sea, and there was a lapse of three months between their test flights in America and their delivery to squadrons in the United Kingdom. By flying them across the Atlantic, shipping space would be released and the delivery time reduced to a matter of days. Eventually, with the assistance of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, an organisation for ferrying machines to the United Kingdom was established in August 1940 and volunteers for aircrew recruited from both sides of the Atlantic. British Overseas Airways supplied experienced pilots, such as Captain Bennett,1 who was later to command the Pathfinder Force in Bomber Command. Bennett led the first delivery flight of seven Hudsons which reached Northern Ireland on the morning of 11 November. A similar flight completed the crossing three weeks later and thereafter deliveries became more frequent until, by the end of 1941, over 750 aircraft had been flown to the United Kingdom. To deal with this rapid expansion Royal Air Force Ferry Command was formed in July of that year under Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill,2 with headquarters at Dorval near Montreal. It continued a service which was to deliver many thousands of aircraft to the United Kingdom and carry large quantities of urgent and valuable freight and many passengers across the Atlantic.

Among the pilots employed on the Atlantic Ferry in the very early stages were Flight Lieutenant L. E. Clark, one of the pioneers of photographic reconnaissance, and Flying Officer Patterson,3 who had been with Coastal Command from the outset. Both men were

1 Air Vice-Marshal D. C. T. Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO, Order of Alexander Nevsky (USSR); England; born Toowoomba, Australia, 14 Sep 1910; served RAF 1931–35 and transferred RAAF 1935; Atlantic Ferry, 1940–41; rejoined RAF Sep 1941; commanded No. 77 Sqdn, 1941; No. 10 Sqdn, 1942; AOC No. 8 Pathfinder Group, Bomber Command, 1943–45.

2 Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill, GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO, Order of St. Vladimir (Rus), Order of St. Saveur (Gr), Order of Orange Nassau (Hol), Legion of Merit (US), Order of St. Olav (Nor), Order of Polonia Restituta (Pol); RAF (retd); England; born Morar, India, 1 Sep 1880; joined RN 1913; seconded RNAS 1914 and RAF 1918; permanent commission RAF 1919; AOC-in-C, Coastal Command, 1937–41; AOC-in-C, RAF Ferry Command, 1941–43; AOC-in-C, RAF Transport Command, 1943–45.

3 Squadron Leader I. C. Patterson, DSO; Auckland; born Auckland, 19 Aug 1917; joined RAF Mar 1939; transferred RNZAF Dec 1943; Atlantic Ferry, 1940–41; Operations staff, Azores, 1943–44.

page 221 captains in the first party to fly Fortress aircraft across the Atlantic. Early in 1941 Flight Lieutenant Max,1 from Bomber Command, made three delivery flights within four months when the crews still had to make the return journey by sea. Flight Lieutenant Brass2 was among those who pioneered the South Atlantic route by which aircraft were flown from the United States to the Middle East. Later, with the increased flow of aircraft from the United States, it was decided to reinforce Ferry Command with graduates from the training schools in Canada, and New Zealand airmen were among those selected. During 1942 Pilot Officer Clarke3and Sergeant Irwin4flew as pilots, Pilot Officer Henderson 5 as navigator, and Sergeants Pinfold,6Thorburn7and Webb8as wireless operators. However, as the shortage of ferry crews per- sisted, some of the airmen newly trained in Canada under the Empire Plan, who were about to join operational units in Britain, were called upon to fly new aircraft across the Atlantic instead of travelling by sea. Many New Zealanders flew the Atlantic under this scheme.
This somewhat daring improvisation soon proved itself and became an essential part of the ferry service. These ‘one trippers’, as they were called, even made the crossing during the northern winter, when many experts considered the idea impracticable. The difficulties they overcame are best illustrated by the recorded experiences of one crew. After a ferry training course at Dorval, they were given a Hudson to deliver to Britain. The weather was bad, and shortly after take-off one of the engines iced up. No sooner was this put right than the other engine iced up; after that an oil pipe burst. By then they were nearly half-way across the Atlantic, flying blind on one engine in heavy cloud and rain. Eventually fuel began to run short so the pilot brought the aircraft down low in case he should have to ‘ditch’. When daylight came

1 Wing Commander R. D. Max, DSO, DFC; RAF; born Brightwater, Nelson, 23 Nov 1918; joined RAF Aug 1938; transferred RNZAF Dec 1943; served on Atlantic Ferry, 1941; Flying Instructor, No. 11 OTU, 1941–42 and Deputy CI, 1943; commanded No. 75 (NZ) Sqdn, 1943–44; transferred RAF Mar 1947.

2 Wing Commander D. M. Brass, DSO; born Otautau, 1 Dec 1916; joined RAF 1937; served on Atlantic Ferry, 1941; Instructor, No. 3 School of GR, 1941–42; commanded No. 612 Sqdn, 1943–44; CI, No. 3 School of GR, 1945.

3 Flight Lieutenant W. P. N. Clarke, AFC; Auckland; born Dunedin, 5 Nov 1921; farm hand; joined RNZAF Sep 1941.

4 Flight Lieutenant K. Irwin; Dargaville; born Te Kopuru, 7 Sep 1920; farmer; joined RNZAF Sep 1941.

5 Flight Lieutenant J. A. Henderson; Hamilton; born Oamaru, 31 Mar 1909; surveyor; joined RNZAF Feb 1941.

6 Flight Lieutenant M. E. Pinfold; Montreal, Canada; born Pahiatua, 22 Sep 1921; farmer; joined RNZAF May 1941.

7 Flight Lieutenant R. H. Thorburn; Palmerston North; born Palmerston North, 26 May 1920; carpenter; joined RNZAF Jan 1941.

8 Flight Lieutenant R. P. Webb, AFC; Montreal; born Taihape, 2 Dec 1920; labourer; joined RNZAF Mar 1941.

page 222 he flew just above the sea in an effort to get clear of the cloud and haze, but in vain. The Hudson struggled on, and the crew were finally preparing to land in the sea when they caught sight of a blur of coastline through the cloud. It was the coast of Northern Ireland. The last few minutes were the worst of the flight as the crew felt sure that the petrol would give out before they reached land, but they were just able to reach the coast and make a forced landing in a field before this happened.

The expansion of the Atlantic Ferry was rapid. Additional bases were established, notably at Prestwick airport, in Ayrshire, which became the terminal for a steady flow of machines from Canada and the United States. Plans for the delivery of medium and light bombers resulted in surveys to seek new bases, culminating in the selection of a site close to the outlet of the Goose River in Labrador, which was destined to become one of the largest air bases in the world. Simultaneously ferry work and air transport in and from the United Kingdom were increasing, and New Zealanders were among those who delivered machines within the British Isles and flew reinforcement aircraft, passengers, and freight to the overseas theatres. The pioneering efforts in this field formed the basis upon which RAF Transport Command was later established.

Among the many eventful ferrying flights from the United Kingdom in the early war years, one mission in June 1940 holds special interest for the Dominion. At that time Hurricane fighters were urgently needed in the Middle East, and Pilot Officer Carter, 1 then flying with the ferry organisation, was selected to make a trial flight to see whether the Hurricanes, if fitted with extra fuel tanks, could be flown out and time saved. Carter left England the day after the capitulation of France; the Italians had already declared war and were occupying islands along his route. Refuelling at one French outpost had to be carried out at the point of a revolver, but the flight to Malta and then on to Cairo was completed successfully.

During the second year of war New Zealanders also began to share in the work of the special meteorological flights and of the air-sea rescue squadrons. There was nothing very spectacular about these missions. The aim of the ‘met’ flights was simply to provide regular and accurate information, but it should be remembered that to achieve this purpose, and thus help the operations of the front-line squadrons and the other services, bad weather flying was experienced to the full by the crews of these units. On a wild winter’s day it was sometimes only the ‘met’ aircraft which took off to face storm and gale over the North Sea or the Atlantic. Their

1 Flight Lieutenant R. W. H. Carter, AFC; England; born Opotiki, 22 Apr 1915; joined RAF Sep 1939; transferred RNZAF Jan 1944; test pilot, glider towing, 1941–45.

page 223 work was now of particular value since almost all other sources of weather information had been lost: ships in the Atlantic could not risk sending their reports by wireless for fear of betraying their position to the U-boat packs, while information from weather stations on the Continent was no longer available. The aircraft of Coastal Command helped to fill the gap, but as most of their patrols were flown near sea level, important information concerning the weather at higher altitudes was lacking. Therefore, during 1941, special units were formed to fly regular weather sorties in specific areas and at higher altitudes. Flight Lieutenant Heaphy,1who had been with Coastal Command from the outbreak of war, was prominent in these duties during the early stages and was later commended for his work in command of one of the meteorological flights. By 1942 New Zealanders were flying weather patrols with each of the special units based in Cornwall, Scotland, and Iceland.

The work of the air-sea rescue squadrons had developed from the efforts of a few pioneers during the Battle of Britain when amphibian Walruses—one of them flown by ‘Digger’ Aitken— 2 and a few Lysanders co-operating with naval launches had rescued pilots from the Channel. The success achieved was so encouraging that early in 1941 an organisation was formed to co-ordinate and control all available means of rescuing ‘ditched’ crews.

At the same time various devices were under development for dropping help from the air to airmen in distress. RAF Station Thornaby produced the Thornaby bag, a strengthened parachute bag buoyed with floats and containing food, drink, cigarettes and first-aid equipment. Then RAF Station Bircham Newton provided the Bircham barrel, which was followed by the Lindholme dinghy; all proved their value in saving lives. By the end of the year specially trained units equipped with the faithful Anson and the longer range Hudson were available for searches over the North Sea, the Channel, and the Atlantic approaches. Flying Officers Hender3 and Stephenson4 were among those who navigated aircraft of these units in successful searches during 1942, when altogether over a thousand airmen were found and saved from the waters round the British Isles.

1 Squadron Leader W. D. Heaphy, AFC; born Greymouth, 23 Aug 1916; joined RAF Jun 1939; transferred RNZAF Jan 1944; died (effects of war service) 26 Mar 1949.

2 R. F. Aitken, then a flight lieutenant. It was while stationed at Gosport as an instructor in June 1940 that Aitken conceived the idea of employing amphibian aircraft to retrieve pilots from the sea; the suggestion meeting with the approval of his senior officers, he ‘scrounged a Walrus from the Fleet Air Arm’ and began operations in the Channel off the Isle of Wight. Sometimes a German Heinkel float plane landed nearby on a similar mission, and the two aircraft, watching each other suspiciously, would remain floating placidly on the sea until air battles started above. In the few months he was engaged on this air-sea rescue work Aitken picked up 35 British and German airmen.

3 Squadron Leader W. C. K. Hender; Auckland; born Lyttelton, 20 Mar 1910; farmer; joined RNZAF May 1941.

4 Flight Lieutenant K. Stephenson; Wellington; born Blyth, Northumberland, 16 Apr 1920; clerk; joined RNZAF Feb 1941.