Royal New Zealand Air Force
sources of manpower, 1943–44
sources of manpower, 1943–44
The manning problems which had emerged by 1942—the lowered educational standard of recruits and consequent need for more training, and the high percentage of men in ground trades unfit for overseas service—became progressively more severe as the war went on, and it was apparent that the Air Force's expansion had out-stripped the resources of manpower of the right quality. To these problems was added another: the difficulty of obtaining men at all in competition with the Army and civilian industry.
It had been planned to form twenty operational squadrons for service in New Zealand and overseas, of which it was thought that seventeen or eighteen would form in 1943. In fact, only nine came into being that year, and another eight in 1944. On the assumption that the larger number would be formed, it was necessary to find enough fit men to man them. It was not possible to obtain the numbers required from civilian sources as not enough men were due for call-up during the year. Consequently arrangements were made to transfer suitable men from the Army for Air Force training. Volunteers were called for from Army units in New Zealand and New Caledonia, and between April and September 1943, 5331 men transferred. In addition, unmarried reservists between the ages of 20 and 35 were made available to the Air Force when they were called up. Besides these two sources, there were also the usual enlistments from civil life, including ATC cadets as they became of age. A further small source of recruits was tapped early in 1944 when men awaiting call-up by the Royal New Zealand Navy were enlisted in the RNZAF. Thus, by that time, every available source of manpower had been drawn on.
In March 1944 the expansion of the RNZAF necessary to meet commitments in the Pacific area had been completed, and it was decided that no further building up of the non-flying trades was page 289 needed. Recruiting thenceforth was to be limited to a rate sufficient to compensate for discharges and releases to essential industry. Men unfit for overseas service, and men with large families, were to be discharged as they were replaced by newly trained personnel. The overall strength remained more or less stable until September, when the rate of discharges was increased.
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In order to fulfil New Zealand's operational commitments, a total of 1000 aircrew and 7500 ground staff was required in the Pacific to man the proposed twenty squadrons. With regard to ground staff, the policy was to allow one tour in the Pacific to two in New Zealand, replacing men overseas when they had served twelve months in the area. Thus, in order to operate the rotation scheme, some twenty to twenty-one thousand fit men were needed. After deducting the 11,000 who could not be posted overseas, the RNZAF was sevral thousand short of the required number. This deficiency was never entirely eliminated, and resulted in many men having to serve considerably more than a year at a time in the tropics.
In an effort to improve the position recruiting of non-flying personnel, which had been reduced to 150 a month, was stepped up in August 1944 to 500, and the number of discharges of unfit men was increased at the same time. In the three months September to November, 5000 men were released.
During the latter part of the year recruits were harder than ever to obtain. The Army urgently wanted more men, and competition between the services was extremely keen. There appears to have been no co-ordinating authority to consider the relative needs of the services and allocate the available manpower accordingly. Eventually, in November, the Army and the Air Force reached an agreement and decided that, of the 500 men reaching 20 years of page 290 age each month, the former should get 200 and the latter 300.
A possible additional cause of the difficulty the RNZAF had in obtaining recruits in late 1944 is that many men did not believe that the service needed more personnel. Earlier in the year wide publicity had been given by the press to claims that the RNZAF was overstaffed and that personnel were not fully employed, and consequently recruits were disinclined to believe that they were really wanted.
The staffing position had been under examination, both by the RNZAF Inspector of Administration and by the Defence Forces Personnel Committee, for some time before the press campaign began. The committee, a civilian body which had been formed to investigate all service establishments and advise on economies in manpower, carried out a number of examinations of RNZAF stations in New Zealand and the Pacific. Where it considered that economies should be made, it recommended accordingly.
Public criticism of the Air Force's manning policy was so severe, and its effect on morale within the service so marked, that it should have been countered at the time. As no satisfactory, authoritative statement was issued to refute the charges, people continued to believe them and the RNZAF fell badly in public esteem. On some stations and in some trades, manpower was not used to the best advantage and there was room for improvement; but in general the position was not nearly as bad as the public was led to believe.
A certain discrepancy between available manpower and immediate needs at the time was inevitable. The RNZAF had been expanding its Pacific strength as rapidly as possible to meet its commitments, and was in the process of levelling off. There was necessarily a slight time-lag between the achievement of full strength and a review of that strength to see if it was too great or too small for the job in hand.
Greater experience and closer supervision of establishments might have resulted in a more accurate assessment of manning needs; but in a force which had grown from 750 to 34,000, excluding those in Canada and the RAF, in under five years, there were bound to be some loose ends which needed tying up. Practically none of the staff officers responsible for administering it had had long experience of service organisation. What they learned, they learned during the stress of war; and their task was made no easier by the fact that they were working to a policy which might be changed at any time to conform to altered requirements of the American Command under which the RNZAF served.