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Royal New Zealand Air Force


page 21


Between 1928 and 1930 plans were laid for the formation of a properly constituted Territorial Air Force to replace the diminishing body of ex-RAF pilots which had existed since 1923. The formation of the new force was gazetted in August 1930. It consisted of a wing of four squadrons, under the command of Wing Commander Caldwell,1 with a squadron headquarters in each of the four main cities.2

An officer of the Permanent Air Force was posted to each squadron as adjutant, and the initial strength of the wing was sixty-six officers. Of these, sixty were members of the old Territorial Air Force, and six were newly-commissioned pilots who had been trained in aero clubs. The practice of appointing aero club pilots to commissions was thus established, and it was expected that they would form the bulk of officer recruits in the future.

Pilots were expected to do a fortnight's refresher course each year at Wigram or Hobsonville, and an additional six hours' flying during the course of the year, but during the depth of the depression this programme had to be drastically curtailed. The weakness of the wing lay in the fact that it possessed no aircraft or general training equipment of its own, nor any ground staff. The responsibility for training members lay on the Permanent Air Force,

1 Air Cdre K. L. Caldwell, CBE, MC, DFC and bar, m.i.d., Croix de Guerre (Belg); Auckland; born Wellington, 16 Oct 1895; sheep farmer; RFC 1916–18; comd NZAF (Territorial) 1919–37; NZALO, India, 1945; AOC RNZAF HQ, London, 1945.

2 OC Territorial Wing NZAF, Wg Cdr K. L. Caldwell, MC, DFC.

No. 1

(Army Co-operation) Squadron: Auckland and Hawke's Bay Provinces

Headquarters: Auckland OC, Sqn Ldr J. Seabrook, AFC
‘A’ Flight (Auckland)Flt Lt J. D. Hewitt
‘B’ Flight (Hamilton)Flt Lt F. S. Gordon, DFC
‘C’ Flight (Napier)Flt Lt T. W. White
No. 2

(Bomber) Squadron: Wellington and Taranaki Provinces

Headquarters: Wellington OC, Sqn Ldr M. C. McGregor, DFC
‘A’ Flight (New Plymouth)Fg Off I. H. N. Keith (acting)
‘B’ Flight (Wanganui)Flt Lt S. A. Gibbons
‘C’ Flight (Wellington)Flt Lt G. L. Stedman
No. 3

(Bomber) Squadron: Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Westland

Headquarters: Christchurch OC, Sqn Ldr N. E. Chandler
‘A’ Flight (Blenheim)Flt Lt D. C. Inglis
‘B’ Flight (Christchurch)Flt Lt W. L. Harrison
‘C’ Flight (Timaru)Flt Lt K. W. J. Hall
No. 4

(Army Co-operation) Squadron: Otago and Southland

Headquarters: Dunedin OC, Sqn Ldr P. K. Fowler
‘A’ Flight (Oamaru)(Flight commanders were not appointed until the following year.)
‘B’ Flight (Dunedin)
‘C’ Flight (Invercargill)
Officers not allotted to units were posted to the nearest flight to their place of residence.

page 22 which itself had insufficient personnel and equipment to carry out the commitment. Consequently, for the next few years the Territorial Air Force remained very much a paper organisation.

During the depression the development of the Air Force was severely handicapped by the lack of money. In the year 1931–32 expenditure on both military and civil aviation was cut down to £28,280, which was approximately half the amount which had been spent in each of the two previous years. The following year expenditure was again reduced, and Major-General W. L. H. Sinclair- Burgess, Officer Commanding the New Zealand Military Forces, reported that it was definitely below the amount necessary to maintain the minimum organisation and equipment capable of carrying out air force duties under service conditions. In 1931 only twenty-six officers attended the refresher courses at Wigram. Development work on the base at Hobsonville, which was considered to have been sufficiently completed for immediate purposes, was stopped.

Shortages of aircraft and personnel were serious. Machines were deteriorating to the point of unserviceability, and the staff was insufficient to maintain them. An increase in the number of airmen at both Wigram and Hobsonville became urgent, for the future value of the four Territorial squadrons depended upon the provision of an adequate nucleus of permanent personnel and equipment. Although the seaplane base at Hobsonville was practically completed in 1930, no machine equipment, essential for the maintenance of aircraft and engines, was installed for another two years. Wigram also needed further development to make it an effective air force station. The worst feature of the situation was that both men and equipment were insufficient to form even the smallest effective air force unit. The strength of the Permanent Air Force in 1933 was nine officers and forty-four other ranks. These were barely enough for the maintenance of the Permanent Air Force bases at Wigram and Hobsonville and for the administrative and inspectional demands of civil aviation.

Nevertheless, some progress was made during the period. In 1931 several aircraft which had been previously ordered were added to the Air Force.1 At the end of the year Sir Henry Wigram

1 At the end of 1931 the NZPAF had the following aircraft strength:


At Hobsonville

  • 1 Fairey IIIF (equipped with floats and undercarriage)

  • 1 Saunders Roe ‘Cutty Sark’ flying boat.

  • 3 DH Moths (including 1 seaplane)


At Wigram—

  • 3 Gloster Grebes (obsolete)

  • 5 Bristol Fighters (obsolete)

  • 4 Hawker Tomtits (trainers)

  • 3 DH Moths (trainers)

  • 1 Puss Moth (trainer)

  • 1 DH50 (4-seater passenger aircraft)

page 23 added to his previous gifts by presenting 81 acres, formerly occupied by the Canterbury Park Trotting Club, to the Government for use as an extension to Wigram Aerodrome.

Early in 1934 His Majesty the King granted permission to the New Zealand Permanent Air Force to change its name to the Royal New Zealand Air Force.