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Royal New Zealand Air Force



At home in the last four months of 1945 and the early part of 1946, the major task of the Air Force was the return of men as quickly as possible to civilian life. The machinery for this was already in existence. Since the middle of 1944 substantial numbers had already been released from the service, and towards the end of that year, when the end of the European war was in sight, preparations had been made in Air Headquarters to set up an organisation capable of handling general demobilisation. As a result of this, it page 315 was decided in May 1945 to establish non-effective pools in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to undertake the discharge of men from the service. The pools, each of which was designed to handle a hundred men daily, started to operate in July, by which time a steady flow of men from the European theatre was arriving in New Zealand for discharge.

The detailed plans for final demobilisation were put into operation on 11 August when it was clear that the Japanese were about to surrender. As a result, the release organisation was in full swing within a day or two after the end of the war. Men returning from overseas were posted to one or other of the non-effective pools, where they were medically examined and where all the necessary accounting and documentary action was taken for their release. To relieve the pressure on the pools, release organisations were set up on a number of New Zealand stations, and a large proportion of men serving in New Zealand were discharged by their home units.

The factor which determined the rate at which personnel could be discharged was the availability of medical boards, and especially of X-ray units. All personnel had to be thoroughly examined before returning to civilian life, and this, in the first few weeks after the war, caused a bottleleneck. The difficulty was eased by setting up several systems of medical boards. Where possible, personnel were examined on their home stations. Others had their examinations at the non-effective pools, where service and civilian medical boards operated. Others, again, appeared before civilian boards which were established in eight of the main towns throughout New Zealand.

Releases were granted according to a priority system based on length of service and other factors. The general system of priorities was overridden in certain instances, following a direction by the Prime Minister that men in a number of essential industries were to be given first priority. At the same time, personnel in some air force trades could be given no priority, as they were needed to carry on the machinery of demobilisation and to maintain the continuing functions of the Air Force. Those particularly affected were men in the equipment, clerical, and accounting trades.

A total of 1642 men and women was released from the servic in August 1945, and in the next four months the figures were 8215, 3503, 4328 and 3268 respectively. The year ended with the strength of the RNZAF at 12,228 men and women. Of these, 9899 were in New Zealand and the rest overseas in the Pacific or awaiting repatriation from the United Kingdom. Discharges continued at a fairly high rate until the end of March 1946, by page 316 which time 26,929 personnel had been released since VJ Day, and the greater part of the work of demobilisation had been completed. A number of men anxious for release still remained in the service performing essential duties. In July, however, it was decided that all those who wanted their release should be demobilised, even if they had no priority and were doing essential work. This was effected, and 15 July 1946 marked the end of purely wartime service. Thereafter, all those remaining were personnel who had volunteered for engagements of up to two years in the Interim Air Force, or who hoped to make the service their permanent career.