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Royal New Zealand Air Force



Although it was desirable that the Group Headquarters should be in touch as closely as possible with the forward squadrons, its location was so closely related to that of COMAIRSOPAC that it was not possible to make a move until the higher command also moved forward. It had been intended to move the headquarters forward in November, but owing to lack of accommodation at Guadalcanal the move was delayed until January 1944. Between the 5th and 7th of the month the entire personnel of the headquarters was carried by C47 aircraft running a shuttle service from Santo to Guadalcanal. There a camp was occupied which had been prepared near the existing RNZAF station under the direction of Squadron Leader Grace.3

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The camp was not yet fully completed, but, allowing for this, all ranks found it moderately comfortable. Its completion was delayed by bad weather, and it was some weeks after the Group moved into it before it was entirely satisfactory. The splitting up of functions between Group Headquarters and Base Depot, and the subsequent move of the group to Guadalcanal, gave rise to certain administrative difficulties. Differences of opinion as to the respective responsibilities of the operational and base organisations took some time to settle. The base administration tended to become out of touch with operational requirements, and it was not until several reallocations of functions had been tried that the organisation settled down to run smoothly.

The need for the development of the Group Headquarters, and indeed for much of the administrative organisation in the South Pacific, was at times questioned by people who regarded it as a waste of manpower. The opinion was expressed that it would have been more economical if New Zealand squadrons had been formed and worked entirely under United States administration, becoming in effect American units.

Such criticism failed to take account of the practical difficulties which would have been involved, even had the Americans wanted us to take such a course, as well as the effect on morale both in the Air Force and in New Zealand as a whole. Technical difficulties could doubtless have been overcome, and if all administrative services had been provided by the Americans there would have been a saving in New Zealand manpower. But the South Pacific war vitally concerned New Zealand, and national sentiment would not have permitted men to be sent to fight under a foreign flag, no matter how close and friendly was the feeling between the Allies.

That being the case, it became necessary to evolve our own administration in the Pacific, co-ordinated and controlled by one headquarters. The difficulties caused by the vast distances between different units, and at times between sections of the same unit, have already been referred to. They were heightened by the fluid nature of the war. As the operational zone moved northwards new bases had to be established and the role of old ones changed.

The detailed planning of all changes dictated by higher policy, as well as the maintenance of supply and personnel services, was the responsibility of the Group Headquarters. Policy was often changed at short notice, making necessary sudden and drastic changes in planning. Shortages of shipping space delayed the execution of projected moves sometimes for weeks, and in turn upset other plans already made. By executing the policy of the American command on the one hand and co-ordinating the administration of the lower formations on the other, the headquarters page 172 performed an essential function in maintaining the effectiveness and efficiency of RNZAF units in the area.

3 Sqn Ldr W. J. E. V. Grace, m.i.d.; Lower Hutt; born Palmerston North, 4 Dec 1900; civil engineer.