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Royal New Zealand Air Force



When war was declared in 1939 New Zealand's communications system was inadequate for defence requirements. The Government had not been prepared before the war to authorise the nucleus of a tele-communications system which could be expanded page 119 in wartime, and the RNZAF had therefore to concentrate on developing wireless and radio communications, obtaining wireless equipment, and training personnel to operate point-to-point and ground-to-air radio services.

At the end of 1941 the RNZAF communications organisation comprised a point-to-point W/T system between Air Force Headquarters and stations, and a land-line service between Headquarters and the Inter-Command W/T Station at Ohakea. Wireless-telegraphy services were operated and maintained by the Air Force, but the land-line service, while operated by the Air Force, was installed and maintained by the Post and Telegraph Department. This department also operated aeradio services, which, besides providing a W/T service for internal commercial air lines, handled the RNZAF traffic as well.

The entry of Japan into the war and the possibility that New Zealand would become an active operational theatre made necessary the immediate expansion of the RNZAF communications organisation. A report on the country's defence needs in October 1941 had recommended a high-grade and extensive communications system throughout the country, involving a network of radio and telecommunications. Squadron Leader Scott,1 who was then Commanding Officer of the Electrical and Wireless School at Wigram, was sent to the United States Island Command, Hawaii, in March 1942 to study the communications system there. On his return the Government authorised the procuring of equipment sufficient to meet the needs of the projected organisation of the RNZAF. This included:


Three Group Headquarters which were to function as bomber and fighter sector controls.


Three sub-sectors for fighter control.


Ten bomber stations.


Ten fighter stations.


Four army co-operation squadrons.


Four air-support controls.


An air-warning radar chain extending from North Cape to the Bluff and including GCI stations for fighter control.


Eighteen VHF D/F stations comprising six triangulation systems for the control of fighter aircraft.


Six H/F D/F stations for long-range navigational purposes.

Part of this organisation was already in existence, but a part, owing to the changed aspect of the war in 1943, was not completed.

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The equipment needed for the plan was ordered, and in August Scott went to Washington to supervise its purchase. Until the arrival of the equipment ordered from the United States, communication facilities were provided by the purchase of amateur and commercial radio sets. Transmitting equipment obtained in this way was modified for Air Force requirements, while receiving equipment was generally delivered direct to stations. Equipment began to arrive from America and Canada early in 1943 and was immediately used to replace the amateur sets. By that time, however, it was clear that the full expansion of the RNZAF, on which basis the signals equipment had been ordered, would not be required. Consequently a reduced programme was approved and the orders for some of the equipment were cancelled.

Besides the expansion of the radio organisation, the RNZAF needed greatly increased long-distance telephone communications in 1942. Most of the lines needed were provided by withdrawing circuits from the civilian toll network, and others were obtained by installing additional lines. Early in 1942 the first direct long-distance telephone lines were obtained from the Post and Telegraph Department to link Air Department with Northern Group Headquarters, Ohakea and Wigram; and by June an RNZAF long-distance network existed with which every station and major unit was connected.

1 Wg Cdr I. A. Scott, OBE; Wellington; born London, 1 Nov 1913; RAF 1932–38; RNZAF 1939–47.