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Royal New Zealand Air Force

CHAPTER 5 — The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

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The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

THE German successes in Poland in the first weeks of the war convinced the British War Cabinet that air supremacy was necessary if Britain was to have any chance of survival. It was decided that a greatly enlarged air force must be built up which would have to carry out continuous and heavy operations. It was anticipated that wastage would be high and that no fewer than 20,000 pilots and 30,000 other aircrew would be needed annually to maintain the required force.

Britain would be unable to train nearly the numbers required. The country was too small to accommodate all the necessary aerodromes, which would take up valuable land needed for agriculture. Also, it was too close to the main theatre of war, and training would probably be interrupted by enemy raids.

It was therefore proposed to form fifty flying training schools, of which twenty-five would be for advanced training, in other parts of the Empire. The obvious country for the location of the main part of the training scheme was Canada.1 She had unlimited space for the development of aerodromes and had considerable industrial potential which could be turned to the manufacture of aircraft and other equipment. In addition, she was close to the resources of the United States. Canada was therefore suggested as the advanced training ground, while elementary schools were to be established in each Dominion according to its capacity.

Towards the end of September the scheme was proposed to the New Zealand Government, and it was decided that air missions from Britain, Australia, and New Zealand should go to Canada in October to discuss it. The New Zealand mission comprised the Chief of the Air Staff, Group Captain Saunders, and the Air Secretary, Mr Barrow. Discussions were held with a committee of the Canadian Cabinet comprising the Minister of Finance, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Transport, and the Minister of Pensions.

1 Pre-war planning had provided for a large expansion of training throughout the Empire, and after the Munich crisis of 1938 Air Ministry had proposed to establish RAF schools in Canada; but various factors had prevented anything being done before the war started.

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When the New Zealand mission arrived in Ottawa it was informed by the United Kingdom mission that proposals had already been submitted to the Canadian and Australian missions as a basis for discussion. They involved the training in the Dominions of 11,050 pilots and 17,940 observers and air-gunners per annum.1 Canada was to provide a total of 18,148 men annually, Australia 15,132, and New Zealand 4550. The cost of training was to be shared among the three Dominions on a basis of Canada 48 per cent, Australia 40 per cent, and New Zealand 12 per cent.

The suggested allotment of trainees to the three Dominions worked out at a ratio of 12, 10 and 3 for Canada, Australia, and New Zealand respectively. On a population basis, however, the correct ratio would have been 14, 9 and 2, and the New Zealand delegation pointed out that on that basis New Zealand should provide a total of only approximately 3000 trainees per annum. As New Zealand was also providing a division for service overseas it was unlikely that, even with a considerable reduction in the standard of recruits, she could maintain a figure of more than 3200.

The delegation also pointed out that if all advanced training was carried out in Canada the training facilities already existing or nearing completion in New Zealand as a result of the RNZAF expansion programme would not be fully used. Moreover, the estimated cost of training in Canada was high compared with that in New Zealand. It was therefore suggested that to make the best use of the facilities available in New Zealand as many pilots as possible should be fully trained there.

The agreement finally reached between the United Kingdom and the New Zealand Government was that New Zealand should provide 880 fully trained pilots per annum for service in the Royal Air Force; 520 pilots trained to elementary standard, whose advanced training would be carried out in Canada; and 546 observers and 936 air-gunners, trained only to the initial stage, who also would be sent to Canada for further training.

After finishing their training in Canada the men were to be sent to serve with the RAF, with the proviso that the RCAF might retain a limited number to fill vacancies in home defence and training establishments. The British Government undertook that all aircrew from the Dominions should be identified with their respective countries, either by organising Dominion units or in some other way.

Altogether seven squadrons with New Zealand identity were later formed in the RAF and manned very largely by New Zealanders, but in addition there was New Zealand representation in almost every unit which served during the war.

1 This represented five-ninths of the total of 20,000 pilots and 30,000 aircrew required The remaining four-ninths were to be trained in the United Kingdom.

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New Zealand's contribution to the cost of training in Canada was assessed as 8.08 per cent of the whole, on a basis of the relative numbers to be trained there. The amount was 28,603,000 dollars, which was to be spread over a period of three and a half years.

Under this agreement New Zealand's commitments had increased considerably beyond the 650 fully trained pilots and 650 observers and air-gunners which the RNZAF had planned to train annually for the RAF under the War Training Organisation. While now only initial ground training was required for the observers and air-gunners since their flying training would be carried out in Canada, their number had more than doubled. The number of fully trained pilots to be provided had been increased by a third, and in addition elementary flying training was required for another 520 pilots. It was now necessary to set up an organisation capable of accepting for training every four weeks 144 pilots for elementary flying training, 80 pilots for advanced training, and 42 observers and 72 wireless operator/air-gunners for initial training.

To do this the flying training schools already in existence or planned had to be expanded and a fourth EFTS was necessary. The Air Gunners' and Observers' School at Ohakea would no longer be needed and it was decided to put the third SFTS there instead of at Harewood. The third EFTS was to form at Harewood instead of Palmerston North, and the fourth EFTS at Whenuapai.

The first draft of 72 wireless operator/air-gunners was scheduled to leave for Canada under the new scheme in October 1940, the first 42 observers in November, and the first 40 pilots in March 1941. These dates were largely dependent on the supply of aircraft and equipment from the United Kingdom for training.

Throughout 1940 training was carried on at as large a scale as possible with the resources available. The limiting factors were shortages of instructors, aircraft and other equipment. At the same time, work on the construction of the new schools was pushed ahead. Harewood opened as a station in May under the command of Wing Commander Sir Robert Clark-Hall,1 and in August the EFTS started training with an intake of thirty pupil pilots.

The training of observers and air-gunners at Ohakea was continued until aircraft were available to form the Flying Training School. The last course of air-gunners passed out in September

1 Air Mshl Sir Robert Clark-Hall, KBE, CMG, DSO; RAF (retd); Christchurch; born London, 1883; appointed Sub-Lieut RN 1902; qualified as a pilot, 1911; commanded converted aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal at Dardanelles, 1915–16; commanded No. 1 Wing, France, 1917–18; permanent commission RAF 1919; AOC Egyptian Group 1924; AOC RAF Mediterranean 1925–29; Director of Equipment, Air Ministry, 1929–31; AOC Coastal Area 1931–34; retired 1934 at own request and settled in NZ; volunteered to serve in RNZAF on outbreak of war, and appointed to temporary commission in rank of Wing Commander; commanded RNZAF Harewood, 1940–43; AOC Southern Group 1943–44; AOC No. 1 (Islands) Group 1944–45; retired 1946.

page 53 and the last course of observers in December. The Flying Training School started to form in October and was in full operation by the end of the year. The fourth EFTS was formed at Whenuapai in December.

In May 1940, as a result of the German successes in Europe, Air Ministry asked New Zealand to prepare to increase the output of aircrews. The New Zealand Government replied that it was already taking steps and that the full development of the training organisation could be completed by December instead of in February of the following year. It was not possible, though, to increase the output of pilots before the end of the year.

In September the New Zealand War Cabinet approved proposals made by the British Government for the speeding up of training still further. These comprised a reduction in the length of each stage of flying training from eight weeks to six, and an increase of 25 per cent in the number of pupils in the flying schools without increasing the numbers of instructors or aircraft. These measures had already been adopted in the training organisation in Britain, and had been proposed to Canada and Australia. An increase of 60 per cent in the output of pilots was hoped for.

To provide for the greater number of pupils going through, accommodation at the Initial Training Wing had to be more than doubled and a slight increase in accommodation was necessary at the flying schools.

The intake into the Initial Training Wing was increased in November. It had been proposed to form a second ITW at Rongotai, but the idea was abandoned and additional accommodation built at Levin. The Elementary Training Schools felt the effect in December and the Service Flying Training Schools six weeks later. The first courses to be reduced to six weeks were those starting in various stages of training in January 1941.

To take some of the load of ground training off the flying schools the pilots' course at ITW was lengthened from four weeks to six, beginning with the course starting in December. At the same time, the ITW course for observers was lengthened to eight weeks to raise the standard of their initial training before they went to Canada.

As a result of these changes the output of fully trained pilots was increased to a total of approximately 1480 a year, while that of partially trained pilots to be sent to Canada increased to approximately 850 a year.

In January 1941 the British Government asked New Zealand to adopt what was known as the ‘Third Revise’ and reduce the length of courses to five weeks as had been done by the RAF. The proposal page 54 was rejected for two main reasons. First, the greater percentage of instructors was inexperienced, having only recently graduated from the Flying Instructors' School, and it was felt that they could not cope successfully with the training of pupils if courses were shortened still further. Second, aircraft and spare parts were still short of requirements and the problems of keeping machines serviceable would be intensified. Maintenance personnel had as much as they could do already to keep sufficient machines in the air.

Training was carried on throughout 1941 on the basis of a six-weeks' course. At first an attempt was made to give each pupil fifty hours' flying in each stage of his training, flying seven days a week if necessary to do it. This was found to be impossible owing to maintenance difficulties and lack of spares. Consequently from March onward pupils were trained to the standard reached by an average pupil in forty-five hours. Inevitably this policy resulted in a lower standard of training. Pupils were forced to assimilate knowledge in a shorter time than previously and had less opportunity to practise what they were taught. The wastage rate increased, as it was not possible to give extra attention to backward pupils and those who found difficulty in learning had, perforce, to have their flying training terminated. Fatigue became marked in both instructors and pupils, and medical examination showed that by the end of his flying training the average pupil's physical condition had deteriorated considerably. As a result of these factors there was a rise in the accident rate in all stages of flying training.

A request in October that New Zealand should increase the number of pilots sent to Canada by 15 per cent had to be refused on account of manpower difficulties.

Commitments for observers, which had remained unchanged since the beginning of the Commonwealth Plan, were increased in September when the RCAF, at the request of Air Ministry, asked New Zealand to increase the numbers sent to Canada by 130 a year. The first draft under the new commitment left New Zealand at the beginning of 1942.

At the end of 1941 Air Ministry reviewed pilot requirements in relation to training capacity. The training of aircrews was catching up with the production of aircraft, which had not come up to expectations. Much of the British aircraft industry's output in 1941, too, had been diverted to Russia, while operational casualties among aircrew had been fewer than expected. It was now possible, therefore, to spend more time in training and so raise the standard of flying, with particular emphasis on navigation, night flying, and instrument flying.

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New Zealand agreed that courses should be extended, and in February 1942 they were again lengthened to eight weeks. The flying times for pupils were increased again to sixty hours in each stage of training. The annual output under the new schedule was approximately 1170 fully trained pilots and 676 partially trained.

The rapid expansion of the flying training organisation in 1940–41 had necessitated a corresponding increase in the training of technical personnel. At the beginning of the war No. 1 Technical Training School had been formed at Hobsonville and No. 2 TTS at Wigram, while other tradesmen were trained in the railway workshops. Recruits were enlisted and given a month's course of drill and discipline at the Recruit Training Depot which formed at Ohakea and subsequently moved to Levin. From the Recruit Training School trainees were posted to one of the Technical Training Schools. In November 1939 a Central Trade Test Board was instituted to examine airmen at the end of their technical training courses. Prior to this, trade testing had been handled by the Senior Technical Training Officer at Air Department. The formation of the board was made necessary by the large numbers of men passing out from the schools.

In August 1940 a third Technical Training School was formed at Rongotai, and the railway workshops training scheme was allowed to lapse. This had the effect of eliminating the duplication of equipment in the four railway workshops, facilitating the handling of the greatly increased number of trainees and providing a service environment for the men while they were under instruction.

The Recruit Training Depot for airmen in ground trades was moved in July from Levin to Hobsonville owing to the increased demand at Weraroa for accommodation for future aircrew trainees.

Early enlistments into technical trades had included many men, some of them members of the Civil Reserve, who were already well qualified and required little training to adapt them to the needs of their respective Air Force trades. As the war progressed, however, the supply of these men rapidly diminished and with later recruits more intensive training was needed to bring them up to the required standard.

In 1939, when the Pacific Defence Conference met in Wellington, New Zealand had agreed, when all her own requirements were met, to train technical men for service with the Royal Air Force. The need for personnel in New Zealand to man the training schemes prevented the sending of many technicians to the United Kingdom, but throughout 1940 and 1941 a number were sent comprising mainly radio mechanics, wireless operators, instrument repairers, fitter armourers, fitters, and riggers.

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By the end of 1941 the demand in New Zealand was being met satisfactorily and the RNZAF tentatively undertook to send 350 flight riggers and flight mechanics annually for service with the RAF, beginning in 1942. This, however, was made impossible by the outbreak of war with Japan and the need for more personnel to man operational squadrons in the Pacific.


From 1942 onwards an increasing proportion of recruits for the RNZAF came from the Air Training Corps. The first proposal to form an Air Cadet Corps had come from the Governor-General, Lord Galway, in August 1940. Early in 1941 a review was made of the manpower position in relation to aircrew requirements, and it appeared that by the end of 1942 difficulty would be experienced in obtaining the necessary number of recruits. The formation of a cadet corps appeared to be the solution for future aircrew requirements. Authority was given by War Cabinet in February 1941 to proceed with the formation of an Air Cadet Training Corps, which was to be opened for enlistment to boys between the ages of 16 ½ and 18 years.

The name of the organisation was finally standardised as the Air Training Corps. The first five squadrons were formed in Wellington and Auckland in September, and the following month the first South Island squadron was formed.

The Corps contained three types of units—town units, school units and country units. In March 1942 the age limits were extended. In town units boys of from 16 to 18 years could enrol, and in school units cadets could be accepted provided they reached the age of 15 during the school year. The purpose in the change of ages of entry was to extend the enlistments in the Corps, as it was anticipated that large numbers would be required at a later date. In some town and country areas, owing to the small numbers of applicants, it was not possible to form units and in these areas cadets were enrolled and trained by correspondence courses. By April 1942, 140 cadets had applied for service with the RNZAF and the first 100 were mobilised in June.


The spread of the war to the Pacific and the consequent development of the RNZAF as an operational service resulted, from early 1942 onward, in progressively increasing demands on the training organisation for fully trained aircrew for duty in the Pacific. Before this it had been necessary to retain in New Zealand only page 57 sufficient pilots to meet the demand for instructors and staff pilots in the training schools and for manning the three bomber-reconnaissance squadrons. During 1942, however, pilots passing out from SFTSs were required to man the two operational squadrons which were formed in March of that year. At the same time, in view of the importance of the Commonwealth Training Plan to the war effort as a whole, New Zealand endeavoured to keep up its agreed quota to the scheme to the fullest extent possible.

Up to 1942 the administration of flying training had been the responsibility of the Director of Flying Training, in the staff of the Chief of Air Staff. With the entry of Japan into the war, and the prospect of increased operational commitments, this responsibility was passed to the Air Member for Personnel, on whose staff a Director of Training was established. This had the effect of reducing the burden on the Air Staff, and at the same time, as all aspects of training then came under one Director, it produced much better co-ordination.

An extensive reorganisation of the flying training schools was necessary to meet the Japanese threat. It was decided to concentrate training as far as possible in the South Island in order to leave the North free for operational squadrons of the RNZAF and for the accommodation of the American forces which, it was expected, would arrive for operations in the Pacific. In February the Initial Training Wing moved from Levin to Rotorua, leaving Levin free to accommodate the Bomber Operational Training Squadron which formed the following month. At the same time No. 3 SFTS at Ohakea was disbanded and the other two SFTSs at Wigram and Blenheim were increased in size. To facilitate standardisation, Wigram became responsible for only multi-engined training, while at Blenheim training was given to one-third multi-engine pilots and two-thirds single-engine pilots. No. 4 EFTS at Whenuapai was disbanded in March and personnel were absorbed into the other three. No. 2 EFTS at New Plymouth was now the only flying training school left in the North Island. A new station was built at Ashburton and No. 2 EFTS moved there on its completion in October 1942.

The reorganisation did not affect the output of aircrew to Canada for further training, but it resulted in a slight reduction, forty-eight per annum, in the number of pilots fully trained in New Zealand. This, combined with the necessity for retaining a larger number of pilots in New Zealand, had the effect of reducing the output to the RAF.

No major changes had taken place since the beginning of the war in the conditions of enlistment for aircrew beyond some page 58 relaxation in the age limits. Early in 1942, however, two factors became responsible for a new system. The first was a shortage of men in the Army to meet the greatly increased commitments for Home Defence. The second was the reduction in numbers of trainees required under the new Commonwealth Plan schedule.

Aircrew and non-flying reserves for the Air Force at this time totalled about 7500 men who were waiting to be called up into the service. Approximately 5600 of these were single men, many of whom would have gone overseas with the Army had they not been earmarked for the RNZAF. Owing to the reduced intakes into the training organisation, many would not be required for another twelve to eighteen months.

In view of this it was decided that the Army should call up attested recruits and applicants for the Air Force, and that they should undergo Army training until being posted to an Air Force pool prior to entering the Initial Training Wing. The Army was to make available facilities for their educational training and for their selection into aircrew categories, and none of them was to be sent overseas without Air Department's approval.

By the end of 1942 the original system of simple volunteering by civilians had been changed to the more comprehensive method of:


Volunteering by civilians with no military obligations.


Volunteering by civilians drawn in Armed Forces' ballots.


Volunteering by soldiers.


Withdrawals from the Air Training Corps.

This method gave a complete coverage, and every man, whether in civilian life or in the Army, was given an opportunity to volunteer for the RNZAF.

In November 1942 a change was made in the method of aircrew selection. Candidates were no longer asked to state their preferences with regard to the aircrew category they wished to join, but were broadly classified as ‘PNB’ (Pilot, Navigator, Bomber) until the end of their ITW course, and were then selected into categories according to their results.


The system of pre-entry instruction by classes or correspondence, which had been begun in the early months of the war, continued until March 1942. It was then superseded by a course of instruction in Aerodrome Defence Units. These units, whose formation was the result of defence needs, provided an organisation in which aircrew could be grouped prior to beginning their training, and in page 59 which they received their pre-entry education. Correspondence courses and classes were, however, continued for ATC cadets who were unable to join town or school squadrons.

Between the end of May and the beginning of October, Aerodrome Defence Units were formed on some nineteen stations with established strengths of 100, 150 or 200, according to the size of the station. The trainees spent about half their time in general service training, which was a prerequisite of their subsequent aircrew training and at the same time helped to fit them for defending aerodromes against possible attack. The other half was spent in educational training to bring them up to the standard necessary for entry into the Initial Training Wing—or, in the case of electrical and wireless personnel, into the Electrical and Wireless School.

Conditions in ADUs varied considerably according to the geographical layout of the stations and their particular defence needs. The units were housed in hutted camps, in some cases a mile or more from the parent station, as at Tauranga, in others close at hand as at Wigram. On some stations complete days were devoted to purely military training, varied by complete days of educational work. In most cases, however, one half of each day was allotted to each aspect of training. Education accounted for approximately fifteen to twenty hours a week, and the time was divided by the Senior Education Officer of the unit into periods for instruction in mathematics, physics, elementary navigation and signals.

In order to standardise educational training recruits for different categories were, as far as possible, grouped on different stations. Electrical and wireless trainees were posted to the ADUs at Wigram and Harewood, prospective wireless operator/air-gunners went to Hobsonville and Ohakea, observers to Omaka and Whenuapai, and pilots to the other ADUs. An exception to this rule was that intakes from the Air Training Corps of all categories were grouped together. After November, when distinction was no longer made in the various categories of aircrew recruits, it became unnecessary to differentiate between them except in the case of electrical and wireless trainees.

By the end of 1942 the course of the war in the Pacific had changed for the better and New Zealand was no longer in immediate danger of attack. The ADUs then became unnecessary as defence forces. However, they provided a useful organisation for educational training and were retained, with the emphasis on their work becoming increasingly educational. In March 1943 their titles were changed and they became known as Ground Training Squadrons.

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In order to make the pre-flying training as progressive as possible, and also to provide employment for the large numbers of men who were thrown up by the Aerodrome Defence Units and awaiting absorption into the flying training organisation proper, the Ground Training Squadrons were classified as Elementary and Advanced squadrons. A trainee normally went through EGTS and AGTS.

It was intended that recruits who had satisfactorily completed their course in the Air Training Corps should be exempted from EGTS; but there was such a bottleneck at the ITW stage, with approximately 2000 trainees waiting to be absorbed, that the majority of ATC cadets had to enter EGTS with the rest and await their turn. This involved some duplication in their training and gave rise to a considerable amount of dissatisfaction among pupils.

The sequence of pre-flying training at the end of March 1943 can be summarised thus. The recruit first entered a Ground Training Depot. From there he went to an Elementary Ground Training Squadron and then to an Advanced Ground Training Squadron. On passing out of the AGTS he went to the Initial Training Wing at Rotorua. His course there was divided into four weeks at Junior ITW and eight weeks at Senior ITW. The final selection into aircrew categories took place at the end of the course.

As all the pre-flying training schools were at different stations, trainees spent much of their time travelling. In some cases they had to cross Cook Strait four times during this stage of their career. In addition to the loss of time involved, this further taxed the country's already overburdened transport system. It therefore became desirable to group the whole of pre-flying training in one area, preferably, in accordance with general training policy, in the South Island. Accordingly the camps which had been built for the Army at Delta, near Blenheim, were taken over for the purpose.

RNZAF Station, Delta, started to form in June 1943, and during the latter part of the year GTD, EGTS, and AGTS were established there, while similar units on other stations closed down. The Initial Training Wing moved from Rotorua to Delta in February 1944, and the grouping of all pre-flying training was then completed.


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.


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.