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Royal New Zealand Air Force



The first necessity for carrying out the training plan was a flying instructors' school. This was formed at the Auckland Aero Club's aerodrome at Mangere on 10 September under the command of Squadron Leader D. M. Allan, Chief Instructor of the Auckland Aero Club. In the two months immediately before the war Wing Commander Hodson2 and Squadron Leader Calder,3 Commanding Officer and Chief Flying Instructor at Wigram, had visited all aero clubs in New Zealand and tested all their flying instructors. As a result a number of instructors had been given refresher courses at the Auckland Aero Club to bring their methods up to date so that the Civil Reserve and Air Force training carried out by the clubs should be improved. The first course at the new flying instructors'

2 Air Cdre G. S. Hodson, CBE, AFC; RAF; born England, 2 May 1899; attached RNZAF on loan, 1938–43.

3 Air Cdre M. F. Calder, CBE; RNZAF; born Temuka, 28 Aug 1907; RAF 1931–39; RNZAF 1939—; D of Training 1942–43; D of Postings and Personal Services 1944–45; AMP 1945–47 and 1952–53; AOC RNZAF HQ, London, Jan 1954—.

page 44 school was a further refresher course for aero club instructors. The next two courses were composed of experienced aero club pilots, and thereafter the majority of trainees were ex-pupils of the flying training schools.

Trainees did approximately a hundred hours' flying in their course, of which ten hours were dual instruction with a staff instructor. For the remainder of the time pupils flew in pairs practising their ‘patter’ upon one another. All phases of flying were practised, including aerobatics, instrument flying and night flying. After the third or fourth course lectures were introduced covering airmanship, the art of instructing, etc.

The first Elementary Flying Training School to open was No. 1 EFTS at Taieri, on the Dunedin Aero Club's aerodrome. Although it had been planned to build a station to house the Dunedin Territorial Squadron, work had not begun when war broke out, and the station was constructed by the Public Works Department and ready for use six weeks after work commenced.

Squadron Leader Stedman was appointed Commanding Officer with Flying Officer Burbidge1 as Chief Flying Instructor. The flying squadron was divided into two flights with eight Tiger Moths each, and at first operated from No. 1 hangar, which was the only one completed when the school opened. Maintenance staff for the first fortnight consisted of Flying Officer Temple2 and Sergeant Simpson,3 with eighteen airmen who were entirely untrained and most of whom had hardly seen an aircraft before. Only Temple and Simpson were capable of doing the daily inspections on the aircraft and certifying them fit to fly. In the first three days and nights of the school's operation Simpson had only six hours' sleep.

The first course of sixteen acting pilot officers arrived on the opening day, and at the last minute a further sixteen Civil Reserve pilots were posted to the school for a short refresher course before going to Wigram. The majority of them were partially trained aero club pilots who, but for the outbreak of war, would have gone direct to Wigram to train for short-service commissions with the RAF.

No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School was formed at Bell Block, New Plymouth, in November. The building of the station had started on 9 September and the RNZAF took it over in the middle of October. Flight Lieutenant Upham4 was appointed Commanding Officer, and the staff arrived in the third week of November. The original instructors were all ex-aero club pilots who

1 Sqn Ldr A. W. Burbidge; Christchurch; born England, 20 Jan 1897; engineer and flying instructor.

2 Wg Cdr W. Temple; Wellington; born Scotland, 21 Feb 1902; engineer.

3 Sqn Ldr J. J. Simpson; Lower Hutt; born Auckland, 22 Aug 1912; engineer.

4 Wg Cdr A. C. Upham, DFC; Taupo; born England, 19 Apr 1887; civil pilot.

page 45 had done a course at Mangere, and most of them had been members of the Western Federated Clubs. Unlike Taieri, New Plymouth did not at first have Tiger Moth aircraft but used an assortment of light machines which had been taken over from the aero clubs.

The last flying training school to begin operations before the end of the year was No. 2 FTS at Woodbourne. Work on the station to make it into a training school had been begun early in 1939, and by December was nearly enough completed to allow the school to be opened. Wing Commander Caldwell was appointed Commanding Officer and Squadron Leader Nicholl1 Chief Flying Instructor. The first course of eighteen airmen pilots arrived on 28 December.

The operational station at Ohakea was nearly completed when war broke out, and on 18 September the station was formed with Flight Lieutenant Gedge2 as Commanding Officer. Its main function was to train observers and air-gunners, but for the first few weeks of its existence it acted also as a Recruit Training Depot. The first course of recruits arrived on the 20th. After a month's training in drill and Air Force discipline they were posted to other stations. Observer and air-gunner training started on 20 November, after the pupils had been at Ohakea for a month doing a recruit training course.

In order to man the flying training schools a large increase in technical and administrative staff was necessary. A number of tradesmen registered in the Civil Reserve were enlisted and posted to stations after a short disciplinary course. It was also necessary to form a second Technical Training Depot in addition to the one already operating at Hobsonville. This depot was formed at Wigram in September to train wireless operators, wireless electrical mechanics, instrument makers and repairers, armourers and fitter armourers. Later Wigram was to become the home of an Electrical and Wireless School,3 but in the first few months of the war the work of the school was carried out at Canterbury University College. Early in 1940 trained technical personnel became available from the courses held in the railway workshops.

1 Gp Capt B. S. Nicholl; RNZAF; born Christchurch, 5 Dec 1906; journalist; D of Flying Training 1947–48; D of Reserves 1951; D of Postings and Personal Services 1951–52; CO Wigram 1952–54.

2 Wg Cdr E. G. Gedge, MC; England; born England, 5 Aug 1895; secretary.

3 Two classes of wireless operators had been trained at Wigram in 1938, and a dozen of the men were in England when war started, having been sent over to fly out with the Wellingtons. A third class was in training when war began. They had used one of the old wooden hangars as a school.

Training on a wartime basis started in October 1939. Owing to lack of space at Wigram, it was carried out at the School of Engineering, Canterbury University College. Personnel were accommodated at Rolleston House (students' quarters).

Initial numbers under training were 60 (two classes of wireless operators and one of wireless electrical mechanics). In December two more classes of wireless operators started training, making the total strength 100. In January 1940 the school returned to Wigram, where premises had been built for it.

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An Administrative Training School was formed at Wigram in October to train stores accounting clerks, pay accounting clerks, general duties clerks, and equipment assistants.

An Initial Training School was formed at Rongotai as a recruiting centre for pilots, observers, and air-gunners, and a course of thirty acting pilot officers began training on 20 September. A month later the Initial Training School moved to Levin, where the Government Training Farm at Weraroa had been taken over for the purpose. The first course of airmen pilots, observers, and air-gunners started training there on 20 October.

Early in November it was decided to delay the development of Palmerston North and Harewood as flying training schools pending the result of discussions in Canada on an Empire Air Training Scheme.