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Royal New Zealand Air Force



In 1942 the RNZAF had three major commitments. It had to maintain the existing output of aircrew trainees required for the page 123 British Commonwealth Air Training Plan; to develop an organisation capable of playing its part in the defence of New Zealand; and to prepare to man operational squadrons in the Pacific. To achieve these objects a great increase in numerical strength was necessary and rapid expansion took place during the year. Between the beginning of January and the end of December over 16,000 recruits were enlisted. The strength of the service within New Zealand grew from 10,600 in December 1941 to 22,600 in December 1942. The number of men serving in the Pacific increased from just under 600, which included the two units in Malaya and the personnel in Fiji, to 1850 stationed in Fiji, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides and the Solomons. At the same time a constant flow of men was being sent to Canada and the United Kingdom for training and service with the Royal Air Force.

A large proportion of the increased strength lay necessarily in the skilled technical trades, particularly in the engineering and electrical groups, and a problem which had been apparent in 1941 now became acute. In the first year of the war recruits to the technical trades had been men with some skill in similar occupations in civilian life, and nearly all had been of good average educational standard. By the beginning of 1942 the supply of this type of recruit was exhausted and it became necessary to train men who had no previous knowledge of their subjects, and who, in many cases, had had only a limited education. In later years the policy of pre-entry training for technical personnel was developed and extended.

In 1942 a Preliminary Technical Training School was established at Rongotai and a Radio Selection Pool at Wigram to give basic technical training to men entering the engineering and electrical trades before they entered the Technical Training Schools or the Electrical and Wireless School. The results of this measure were seen in reduced wastage rates in the technical training courses.

Another difficulty developed in 1942 and became progressively more serious as the commitments of the RNZAF in the Pacific grew. While the Air Force had been concerned only with the training of pilots and air crews, it had been limited in its selection of men for ground staff mainly to those who were unfit for overseas service. When it became necessary to send men of all trades to the Pacific great difficulty was found in obtaining sufficient numbers who were medically qualified to go. In some trades unfit men comprised as much as 60 per cent of the total number employed. The trades most affected were in the administrative, clerical and equipment groups, although there were also serious shortages in the technical trades. In an effort to solve the problem the Minister of Defence authorised the enlistment of men fit for service overseas in these trades in June 1942.