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Royal New Zealand Air Force



During 1943 the number of RNZAF units in the forward area increased steadily as has already been mentioned, and more increases were planned for 1944. This, together with the additional ancillary supply and maintenance organisations which were necessary to maintain the squadrons, involved an increasing amount of administrative work. At the same time, the changing strategic situation following the occupation of New Georgia in August made it desirable that Group Headquarters should eventually move farther forward. Much of the administrative work at Santo was becoming more appropriate to a base organisation than a forward group headquarters. It was therefore decided to form a base depot at Santo and maintain the Group Headquarters on as mobile a basis as possible so that it could be moved when required. The Group Headquarters was to consist of an adequate air staff and a minimum number of specialist staff officers to co-ordinate the requirements of forward squadrons and to act as a link between the AOC and the base organisation.

On 1 November 1943 Base Depot, Espiritu Santo, was formed. It took over the functions of RNZAF Station, Santo, and also assumed the following responsibilities of Group Headquarters:


Air, surface, and mechanical transport


Supply, maintenance, and works


Equipment, technical and non-technical


Medical services


Personnel matters, other than those concerning officers and aircrew which remained under the administration of the Senior Personnel Staff Officer.

page 170

The re-allocation of duties following the establishment of Base Depot resulted in a number of postings from Group Headquarters to the base strength. At the end of November the strength of Group Headquarters had fallen to 17 officers and 60 other ranks.

Wing Commander Rawnsley,1 who had been in command of RNZAF Station, Santo, was posted at the end of October to command RNZAF Station, Guadalcanal, and Wing Commander Tancred2 was appointed Officer Commanding Base Depot. At the end of November Air Commodore Wallingford relinquished command of No. 1 (Islands) Group and was succeeded by Air Commodore Buckley.

At its inception the Base Depot comprised the following units:

No. 4 Repair Depot

No. 14 Squadron

No. 3 Squadron, which had recently returned from Guadalcanal.

Nos. 1 and 12 Servicing Units

No. 6 Flying Boat Squadron, located at Segond Channel

Base Depot Headquarters, which included No. 2 RNZAF Hospital.

The total strength of these units amounted to 1196 men. Group Headquarters was also located at the Base Depot, as was a transit camp which was independent of the Base.

1 Wg Cdr I. E. Rawnsley, MBE; Wellington; born Wellington, 14 Jan 1898; company director.

2 Wg Cdr H. L. Tancred, AFC; Blenheim; born Kingaroy, Queensland, 30 Dec 1908; civil airways pilot.