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Royal New Zealand Air Force



Between October 1944 and April 1945 approximately 1100 men returned from Canada. Some of these had not yet started their aircrew training, but the majority had graduated under the Commonwealth Training Plan. Their absorption into the RNZAF was a major problem in the early months of 1945. Although the war in Europe was obviously drawing to a close, the end of the Pacific war was not yet in sight, and it was necessary to retain most of the men as reserves. Temporary employment had to be found for them, and they were formed into sections on stations known as page 64 Aircrew Reserve Flights. They were employed as far as possible on duties connected with flying, the handling of aircraft and airfield control. In addition they had a weekly minimum of five hours' physical training and five hours' lectures on subjects connected with flying duties. Generally speaking, the lot of these men who had been brought back from overseas was not happy. They had spent many months in Canada, where, owing to the surplus of aircrew, many of them had done little or no flying, and now they were back in New Zealand doing odd jobs and feeling that they were not really needed.

In June 1945 it was decided to reduce training commitments further. The war in Europe had ended and a tentative date had been assumed for the end of the war against Japan. With the existing reserves of aircrew trained and under training, it was considered that no further recruiting would be necessary. It was planned that training commitments should be progressively reduced until October 1946, after which token training would be carried on at the rate of thirty-seven aircrew of all categories every six weeks. In accordance with this policy the Grading School and Initial Training Wing closed down in July, as did the EFTS at Harewood, and at the same time training was curtailed at the SFTS at Wigram. Thus, when the end of the war came, sooner than most people expected, the flying training organisation was well on the way towards being completely closed down. When hostilities ceased the SFTS at Wigram, the only school at which flying training was still carried out, closed down, and in the immediate post-war period flying training was restricted to refresher courses.

During the war some 2743 pilots were fully trained in New Zealand and sent overseas to serve with the RAF in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. Another 1521 who completed their training in New Zealand were retained in the country, either as instructors or staff pilots or to man the operational squadrons which were formed in the latter half of the war. In 1940, before the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was fully developed, New Zealand also trained 183 observers and 395 air-gunners for the RAF. From 1943 onwards the training of wireless operator/air-gunners and navigators was also carried on in New Zealand for Pacific operations.

In addition some 2910 pilots were trained to elementary standard and sent to Canada to continue their training under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and more than 2700 wireless operator/air-gunners, 1800 navigators, and 500 bomb aimers passed through the Initial Training Wing and then went to Canada.



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Of the 131,000 trainees who graduated in Canada under the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, New Zealanders formed 5.3 per cent. The majority of them, when they completed training, were posted to the United Kingdom for service with the Royal Air Force. Some were retained in Canada as instructors, and a few who failed to complete their courses were remustered to ground trades. From the end of 1944 a large number, some of whom had completed their training and some who had not yet started it, returned to New Zealand as a result of the closing down of the Plan.