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Royal New Zealand Air Force


The war in the Pacific and the building up of our forces there had far-reaching effects on the role and composition of the Air Force at home. During 1942, as has been noted in Chapter 9, the RNZAF's chief pre-occupation, apart from flying training, was with the obtaining of aircraft and weapons to resist invasion, and with the preparation of operational bases within the country. By 1943 the RNZAF had been included in the American South Pacific Command and supplies of aircraft and equipment were assured; at the same time, the threat of invasion had receded and the emphasis turned from home defence towards the formation, training, and equipping of squadrons for service overseas.

Whereas in the first three years of the war the training organisa tion had been designed to produce aircrew trained to the initial, elementary, or advanced stages of flying, it had now become necessary, in order to man the squadrons in the Pacific, to bring them up to fully operational standards.

Fighter and bomber operational training units had been formed in 1942, the former at Ohakea and the latter at Levin. Early in 1943 No. 1 (Bomber) OTU, which had moved from Levin to New Plymouth, was transferred to Ohakea, where it remained with No. 2 (Fighter) OTU until 1945. In January 1943 the fighter squadrons already formed were fully manned and No. 2 OTU was reconstituted as an air fighting and gunnery training school to raise the standard of pilots already trained. Later in the year the formation of new squadrons and the need to replace tour-expired pilots created a fresh demand and the unit reverted to a full-scale OTU. In October the intake, which had originally been twenty-four and then twelve in each course, was increased to thirty and the length of the course cut from eight weeks to six in order to increase the output. The 1944 programme, involving the formation of more fighter squadrons, still further increased the demand for pilots and a second fighter school, known as No. 4 OTU, was formed at Ardmore in March of that year. Its location there was not entirely satisfactory from a training aspect and in June it was moved to Ohakea.

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In May a Fighter Gunnery School was formed at Gisborne to improve the general standard of fixed gunnery and to provide instructors for the fighter OTUs. It was designed to train twelve pilots in each course of four weeks, and the trainees were ex-operational pilots or experienced instructors from the flying training organisation. The school was transferred to Ardmore when accommodation became available there after No. 4 OTU moved out. The change in the role of fighter squadrons in the Pacific in 1944 from air combat to ground attack reduced the need for gunnery training, and the function of the school was altered. It was renamed the Fighter Leaders' School and undertook the operational and administrative training of squadron and flight commanders and section leaders. It was finally disbanded in September 1945.

The last of the fighter squadrons to be formed under the 1944–45 programme was assembled in March 1945, and thereafter fighter training was limited to providing replacements for tour-expired pilots. The two fighter OTUs continued to operate, though with reduced outputs, until the end of the war, when they were closed down.

The bomber OTU at Ohakea continued to form and train crews for the bomber-reconnaissance squadrons until June 1945 when, following a decision to reduce the number of bomber-reconnaissance squadrons and increase the air transport organisation, it was transformed into a transport OTU to train crews on Dakotas. It functioned in its new role until September when it was finally disbanded.

Crews for the two flying-boat squadrons which were formed during 1943–44 were trained at Hobsonville and Lauthala Bay. Pilots were given a preliminary course on Walrus amphibians at Hobsonville and then were sent to Lauthala Bay, where crews were made up and did their operational training on Catalinas. Until February 1944 crew training at Lauthala Bay was done within the squadrons stationed there, but in that month No. 3 (Flying Boat) OTU was formed and took over the work. The unit was disbanded in September 1945.