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Royal New Zealand Air Force

repatriation from the south pacific

repatriation from the south pacific

As soon as operation ceased, preparations were made to repatriate the men serving in the South and South-West Pacific. Shipping was still scarce and, although the Union Steam Ship Company's Wahine was chartered and made three trips to the Islands, bringing back about 2000 men, the major part of the work was borne by the two transport squadrons, assisted by Catalinas of No. 5 Squadron and the four aircraft of the Sunderland transport flight.

During September and October stations in the South-West Pacific Area progressively closed down as quickly as circumstances permitted. The fighter and bomber-reconnaissance squadrons flew their aircraft back to New Zealand, where most of them were disbanded. page 314 The last to leave the forward area was No. 24 Squadron, which was stationed at Bougainville until the end of October. No. 6 (Flying Boat) Squadron was disbanded overseas at the end of August, and No. 5 Squadron was withdrawn from Santo to Fiji.

In allocating priorities for repatriation a system of points was worked out, based on length of service overseas, marital status, number of children, and other factors affecting the eligibility of personnel for release from the service. Men who were due for repatriation in any case were given first priority, followed by others in their turn. For those who were low on the priority list, the period of waiting passed slowly. The stimulus of war was gone, and the men were impatient to return home. To keep up morale and help to make the time pass, sporting activities were greatly extended. Swimming and yachting were popular recreations, and most units had cricket teams which played a series of keenly contested matches. In addition, classes were organised in a wide variety of subjects to enable men to study and prepare themselves for rehabilitation when they arrived home.

By using every available aircraft of the transport organisation, repatriation proceeded fairly rapidly, and by the end of the year the only men left in the South-West Pacific Area were small rear parties on Los Negros and Bougainville in charge of the stores and equipment awaiting shipping. In the South Pacific, a detached flight of No. 5 Squadron was at Segond Channel, and rear parties were engaged in closing down the stations at Guadalcanal and Santo. All these parties were administered from Lauthala Bay.

A flying-boat servicing party was stationed at île Nou in New Caledonia to attend to transient aircraft, and at Norfolk Island there was an air-sea rescue flight, a servicing unit for transport aircraft, and a radar unit.

All told, the number of personnel remaining in the Pacific, including those in Fiji, fell from over 7000 at the end of August 1945 to just over 700 at the end of December.