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Royal New Zealand Air Force



When war broke out, although the projected peacetime expansion of the RNZAF was far from complete, appreciable progress had been made. The building programme for No. 1 Flying Training School at Wigram was nearly finished, and that for No. 2 Flying Training School at Blenheim was approximately half completed. The building programme for the new operational station at Ohakea was approximately three-quarters completed, and at Whenuapai the aerodrome had been prepared and construction of buildings commenced. Hobsonville was in the process of expansion and the work was half done. At Taieri, which was to house the fourth Territorial squadron, the construction of buildings had just begun.

The Vickers Wellington aircraft which had been ordered for the two permanent bomber squadrons were being collected at Marham in England, where a number of RNZAF officers, under the command of Squadron Leader Buckley,1 were under training preparatory to page 39 flying the aircraft to New Zealand. A stock of bombs and ammunition had been built up in the Dominion and was sufficient for twelve months' operations.

The Territorial squadrons at Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch had been established and were in various stages of training. A civil reserve existed of pilots who had been trained by the aero clubs to the elementary stage, and a civil reserve of ground staff comprising the register of skilled tradesmen and others who had volunteered to join the RNZAF in case of war. The railway workshops scheme for training flight mechanics and flight riggers was progressing satisfactorily, and training had started at the Hutt Workshops.

The aircraft available comprised the obsolescent service-type machines of the Territorial squadrons, and others in use at the Flying Training School at Wigram, a number of multi-engined commercial types which could be taken over, and approximately sixty elementary training machines belonging to aero clubs.

The strength of the RNZAF at the outbreak of war, exclusive of reserves, was:

Regular Air Force 91 officers, 665 airmen
Territorial Air Force 79 officers, 325 airmen

The Headquarters organisation which had been developed over the past two and a half years comprised the Chief of Air Staff, Group Captain Saunders, who had succeeded Group Captain Cochrane in March 1939; the Air Force Member for Personnel, Group Captain Isitt; the Air Force Member for Supply, Wing Commander Nevill; and the Air Secretary, Mr Barrow. Group Captain Wilkes was Controller of Civil Aviation.

1 Air Cdre M. W. Buckley, CBE, m.i.d., Legion of Merit (US); Wellington; born Seacliff, 3 Aug 1895; sheep farmer; RNAS and RFC 1916–20; NZAF 1923–26; joined NZPAF 1926; attached RAF on exchange, 1937–41; commanded No. 75 (NZ) Sqn, RAF, 1940–41, and RAF Station, Feltwell, 1941; AOC Northern Group, 1942–43, and No. 1 (Islands) Group, 1943–44; DCAS 1945; AOC RNZAF HQ, London, 1946–50.