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Royal New Zealand Air Force



In May 1942 a large surplus of trained aircrew had built up in the United Kingdom. To take advantage of this it was decided that all schools operating under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan should lengthen their flying training courses to twelve weeks page 61 in each stage in order to raise the standard of flying. This had the effect of reducing New Zealand's commitments to 730 fully trained pilots for the RAF, 450 EFTS trained pilots for Canada, and a total of 1391 initially trained observers and air-gunners, also for Canada.

A statistical survey taken at this period showed that the number of men in New Zealand educationally suited for aircrew training was 5800 of whom 4000 had volunteered for pilot training. On the basis of the figures quoted above, only 1200 were likely to be called up within the next year. Taking into account the new potential aircrew in the ATC, there were likely to be 3400 potential pilots awaiting training by April 1943 and 2500 by April 1944. After that the numbers were likely to increase owing to the increased output from the ATC. In October 1942 flying courses were again reduced to eight weeks in each stage, which had the effect of increasing New Zealand's commitments.

Operational requirements in the latter part of September 1943 greatly reduced the number of fully-trained single-engine pilots available for despatch to the RAF, and Air Ministry was informed that the total output of single-engine pilots from RNZAF schools for the next few months would be required in New Zealand. At this stage the RNZAF was maintaining five fighter squadrons and planning for an expansion to twelve. Elementary flying training schools were instructed to send their best pupils to No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Blenheim for further training on single-engined aircraft for the Pacific.

By the end of 1943 the period of rapid expansion of the RAF was over. Supplies of aircrew had caught up with the demand and there were adequate reserves, both fully trained and under training. In February 1944 the Supervisory Board of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan decided that the output of trained aircrew should be gradually reduced by 40 per cent. It was anticipated that New Zealand and Australia would continue to meet their present commitments until March 1945, after which any deficiencies would be made up by trainees from the United Kingdom. New Zealand, however, pointed out that in view of manpower difficulties she might find it necessary to reconsider her commitments before then.

By June 1944 a serious bottleneck had occurred in the disposal of pilots and a large backlog had accumulated in the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand. In Canada, at the beginning of July, there were 400 New Zealand pilots awaiting training who, it was estimated, would not be absorbed before December. It was therefore decided that no more were required in Canada until May page 62 1945, and that after that only fifty every four weeks would be needed. Commitments for other categories of aircrew were to remain unchanged. The backlog in Canada was employed on non-flying duties while awaiting absorption into training, and the July draft from New Zealand was held for further training at home.

To cope with the surplus of trained and partially trained pilots in New Zealand who were not required for Canada or for immediate operational training, an aircrew pool was formed at Hobsonville in August 1944, with a maximum capacity of twenty officers and forty NCOs.

It was estimated that by December some 800 New Zealand pilots would have completed training, including the backlog in Canada and the United Kingdom, and there would still be 400 in Canada who would have completed their training by March 1945. After earmarking as many as possible for the Pacific theatre, there remained sufficient to cover the commitments for the European war, and it was decided that no more should be sent to Canada and that none should be sent to the United Kingdom after December 1944.

In October 1944, after discussions between the British and Canadian Governments, it was decided that the Commonwealth Training Plan should be terminated at the end of March 1945. Accordingly, throughout the latter part of 1944 and early 1945, schools in Canada were progressively closed. In October there were 14,000 aircrew in various stages of training in Canada and it was considered that they would be sufficient to meet all future requirements. Sixteen hundred of these were New Zealanders, and the RNZAF was able to absorb only small numbers as they graduated. Air Ministry was prepared to accept the balance, but the New Zealand Government did not want to allow them to proceed to the United Kingdom unless there was some assurance that they would eventually be employed on operations.

The rapid reduction in overseas commitments and the prospect of the repatriation of many trained and partially trained pilots from Canada resulted in a marked reduction in the training organisation required in New Zealand. The Elementary Flying Training Schools at Taieri and Ashburton were closed in October. Multi-engined flying training ceased at Wigram in stages between August and November, since there were sufficient reserves of pilots available to man the bomber-reconnaissance squadrons in the Pacific. Single-engined flying training was transferred to Wigram from No. 2 SFTS at Woodbourne, which was then closed down. The Central Flying School, where instructors were trained, was moved from Tauranga, where it had been since 1941, to Woodbourne, and Tauranga was page 63 then closed as a station. The pre-flying training schools at Delta were closed and the Elementary Training Wing and Initial Training Wing moved from there to Taieri in December.

Thus by the end of the year flying training was carried out on a reduced scale sufficient to meet the requirements of operational squadrons in the Pacific as follows: pre-flying training at Taieri, elementary flying training at Harewood, and service flying training (single-engined only) at Wigram. In addition a Grading School was formed at Taieri in which, after a six-weeks' course in the Elementary Training Wing, pupils were given twelve hours of flying instruction to discover their aptitude as aircrew before entering ITW.

With the closing down of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and the cessation of the demand for pilots in the United Kingdom, the RNZAF now had to train only enough men to fill the requirements of its operational squadrons in the Pacific. This involved the output, every six weeks, of 44 single-engine pilots, 16 multi-engine pilots, 12 navigators, 20 to 24 air-gunners and a few second pilots.

There were already enough single-engine pilots under training to provide the required output without further recruiting until February 1945. There were 123 multi-engine pilots in the Reserve who would supply all requirements, including the forty second pilots, until September 1945. Navigators could be provided from pilot wastage at ITW and the Grading School until April, as could air-gunners. A demand for wireless operator/air-gunners could be filled until September by personnel repatriated from Canada. Consequently, recruiting for aircrew was temporarily discontinued and the Grading School and Initial Training Wing operated for a period at reduced strength. The remaining flying training schools on the other hand, owing to the need to absorb trainees from Canada, continued working at full strength.