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Royal New Zealand Air Force



The arrival of new types of aircraft in 1942 necessitated a considerable expansion and reorganisation of the repair and maintenance organisation. The pre-war plans for the Air Force had provided for only one Repair Depot, situated at Hobsonville. In the early stages of the war it was hoped that the depot would carry out all complete overhauls as well as the assembly of aircraft. The expansion of the service to meet the demands of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan however, made it impossible for Hobsonville to cope with all the work. Arrangements were therefore made for Wigram and Blenheim to be independent of the depot except for instrument and specialist repair work, and during 1940 it became increasingly obvious that all the FTSs would have to carry out their own overhauls. By the end of the year all three FTSs had their own engine repair shops and airframe repair shops. The EFTSs also carried out their own complete overhauls for a period until the De Havilland factory at Rongotai was able to undertake the work.

The system of a decentralised maintenance organisation was satisfactory as long as the RNZAF was armed with aircraft of comparatively simple design. The repair facilities necessary for the types of aircraft in use up to the end of 1941 were not very extensive and it was possible for both the EFTSs and the FTSs to carry out their own complete overhauls. When more modern types of aircraft were received, however, the organisation had to be revised, for the more complex equipment of these aircraft demanded a more complex maintenance scheme.

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In April 1942 the policy was changed towards centralisation. At that time the aircraft used in the FTSs were Harvards and Oxfords, although a few of the old Fairey Gordons were still in use. It was decided that all Oxfords should be overhauled at Wigram, which was also responsible for the Gordons. All Harvards were to be overhauled at Woodbourne, and this station was henceforth a repair depot for this work. Ohakea was allotted various commitments, including the inspection and overhaul of aircraft from No. 14 Fighter Squadron at Masterton and of the aircraft of the Bomber Operational Training Unit. These were preliminary steps to further centralisation of the whole repair organisation.

With the prospect of large numbers of operational aircraft being based in the country, it was decided to establish three repair depots to undertake work which had previously been done on stations. The depot at Hobsonville was moved, in the middle of the year, to Hamilton. This was made necessary partly because of the vulnerability of Hobsonville to attack and partly because, with the increasing numbers of aircraft arriving, it was necessary for Hobsonville to become purely an assembly depot. Hamilton was chosen because it was necessary to keep the depot in the Auckland area, as Auckland and Lyttelton were the only two ports in New Zealand where cased or semi-cased aircraft could be unloaded. By July a number of buildings to accommodate the engine repair shop and instrument repair shop had been begun in Hamilton, and the airfield at Rukuhia had been developed so that the airframe repair shop could be established there. The depot was designated No. 1 Repair Depot and began to operate in September. When it was first formed it was responsible for the repair and overhaul of all multi-engined operational aircraft in New Zealand and overseas, except flying boats, and for all single-engined operational aircraft in New Zealand except the P40s stationed at the OTU at Ohakea.

No. 2 Repair Depot was established at Ohakea in June for the purpose of maintaining two general reconnaissance, two army co-operation, and two fighter squadrons.

No. 3 Repair Depot was formed from Wigram units in the same way as Hamilton was formed from Hobsonville units. The airframe repair shop was moved from Wigram to Harewood in December, and the engine repair shop and general engineering section were established in buildings taken over by the Air Force in Christchurch. The unit started operations early in 1943.