Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Royal New Zealand Air Force



The recommendation concerning the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a separate service was put into effect on 1 April 1937. On that date the Air Force Act 1937 was passed, authorising the formation of the RNZAF as a separate branch of the defence forces of the Dominion.1 The Air Department Act was passed at the same time, instituting a separate Department of State to administer the service. The Air Department was responsible for the administration of both service and civil aviation.

Wing Commander Cochrane was asked to stay in New Zealand and develop the Air Force as he had planned it. Air Ministry agreed to extend his tour of duty. He consulted Wing Commander Wilkes and Wing Commander Isitt, then the two most senior officers of the RNZAF, to make sure that they had no objection to a newcomer stepping in over their heads, and accepted the offer. When the RNZAF was established on 1 April 1937 he became its first Chief of Air Staff, in the rank of Group Captain.

The new Air Department was modelled in miniature on the lines of the British Air Ministry. The Air Board consisted of the Minister of Defence, the Hon. F. Jones, chairman; the Chief of Air Staff, Group Captain Cochrane; the Air Force Member for Personnel,

1 The strength of the RNZAF at this time was 24 officers and 156 other ranks, plus 74 officers on the Reserve.

page 28 Wing Commander Isitt; the Air Force Member for Supply, Squadron Leader Nevill;1 and Mr T. A. Barrow2 was appointed Air Secretary. The Board was responsible for advising the Government on Air Force matters, and for the administration of the service.

A separate branch was formed within the Department, under the direction of Wing Commander Wilkes as Controller of Civil Aviation, to deal with civil flying. Where matters were under discussion involving co-ordination between civil and service aviation, the Controller of Civil Aviation sat as a member of the Air Board. This organisation enabled a pooling of such resources as were required by both branches of the Department—civil meteorological service, wireless and navigation aids, aerodromes and emergency landing fields, etc.

To provide a core of experienced officers in building up the new RNZAF, several RAF officers were sent to New Zealand on loan during 1937–39, and RNZAF officers were attached to the RAF in exchange, in order to gain additional experience. Details of the exchange scheme had been worked out in 1926 during the Imperial Conference, when Squadron Leader Isitt had met Sir Philip Game, then Air Force Member for Personnel in the RAF. Although the plan had lain dormant for more than ten years, its existence greatly facilitated the machinery of interchange.

In addition, a number of New Zealanders serving with the RAF were selected for specialist courses in signals, navigation and armament, and then were transferred to the RNZAF and returned to New Zealand.

1 AVM Sir Arthur de T. Nevill, KBE, CB, Legion of Merit (US); Wellington; born Dunedin, 29 Apr 1899; Royal Military College of Australia, 1916–19; RNZA 1919–20; held various staff and regimental appointments in NZ, 1921–30; transferred to NZPAF 1930; NZLO Air Ministry 1923–35; AMS 1937–42; AOC RNZAF HQ London, 1942–43; VCAS 1944–46; CAS 1946–51.

2 T. A. Barrow, JP; Wellington; born Dobson, 16 Jul 1897; civil servant; Air Secretary 1937–53.