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Royal New Zealand Air Force



Practical work in the training of pilots during the war years was done by private enterprise in two flying schools, one the New Zealand Flying School at Kohimarama on the Auckland Harbour, and the other the Canterbury Aviation Company at Sockburn. The former owed its existence to two motor engineers, Leo and Vivian Walsh, who had been experimenting with the building of aeroplanes since 1910. The Canterbury Aviation Company was formed as a result of the efforts of Henry Wigram.

The Walsh brothers had at first tried to build a land plane, but after a series of unhappy experiences had decided to try their hand at a flying boat. It was still under construction when war broke out and was finally launched at Bastion Point, Auckland, on New Year's Day, 1915. After a number of successful trials they considered that they could use it to train pilots. Leo Walsh approached the Government for assistance, but nothing except moral support was forthcoming. However, a signal was sent to the Imperial Government asking whether New Zealand trained pilots would be acceptable to the RFC, and what qualifications they would require. The Imperial Government replied that all suitable candidates qualifying for the Royal Aero Club's certificate in New Zealand would be accepted for commissions in the RFC. page 5 First-class fares to England would be paid, and a refund of £75 towards the cost of training would be made to each candidate when he arrived in England. Pay would commence as for second-lieutenants in the RFC from the date of embarkation in New Zealand. The Home Government asked that as many candidates as possible should be sent immediately. The Royal Aero Club agreed to issue certificates to candidates qualifying at the school, and suggested that the qualifying flights should be witnessed by military officers appointed by the New Zealand Government.

The negotiations with the Imperial Government occupied most of the year 1915, and in the meantime applications for training were so numerous that the Walshs formed a limited liability company to finance the purchase of two more aircraft. In addition they built another themselves, so that by early in 1916 they had a flight of four. The staff of the school at this time comprised:

L. A. Walsh Managing Director
R. A. Dexter Director
V. C. Walsh Chief Pilot and Superintendent
Austin Walsh Secretary
R. J. Johnson Works Manager
M. Matthews Flying Instructors
R. Going Flying Instructors
G. B. Bolt Flying Instructors
Twelve general mechanics

The first course of three pilots, K. L. Caldwell, G. Callendar and B. Dawson, was trained in 1915 on the original Walsh flying boat. Later courses were increased to twelve, and in 1918 to twenty-five. At the beginning of that year the rate of output was twenty-five each six months, but later additions to the number of aircraft made it possible to reduce the length of the course to three months. By the end of the war 110 pupils had been trained by the school. Of these sixty-eight received commissions in the RFC or the RAF, and eight of them won the Distinguished Flying Cross.