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Royal New Zealand Air Force


page vii


BETWEEN September 1939 and August 1945 rather more than 55,000 New Zealanders joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Of these, over 10,000 were transferred and served with the Royal Air Force, in whose ranks, along with airmen from the other members of the Commonwealth, they were to be found in every theatre of war and in almost every unit. Their story is being told by Wing Commander H. L. Thompson in his history of New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force. Of the other 45,000, nearly 15,000 served overseas at some time or other in the Pacific theatre and the others were engaged in manning the base establishments at home and in training those who were destined for overseas service.

The object of this volume is twofold: to record the development of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in New Zealand from the time of its earliest beginnings; and to give an account of the part New Zealand airmen played, first in the unsuccessful defence of Singapore in 1941–42 and then, in conjunction with the American and Australian forces, in the defeat of the Japanese in the South and South-West Pacific.

In the eyes of the world the Pacific campaigns of 1942–45 were often over-shadowed by the cataclysmic events taking place elsewhere; but it may well be that posterity will see a greater significance than we do now in this, the defeat of the first attempt by a major Asian maritime power to extend its sphere of domination southward. New Zealanders played a small but important and, at times, vital part in the campaigns. I have tried to describe their role against a background of the general conduct of the war in the area.

Much of the material used has been taken from official documents and files; but such sources rarely tell a complete story. I have been fortunate in being able to fill in many gaps with first-hand information, not only on the Pacific campaigns but also on the early formative years of the Air Force, from those who took part in the events described. I have to thank all those who helped in that respect.

My thanks are due also to the staffs of the War History Branch and the RNZAF Historical Records Section for their unfailing co-operation and support. W. A. Glue, as sub-editor, J. D. Pascoe, as illustrations editor, and Miss J. Hornabrook, who compiled the index, have contributed greatly in the production of the book. The maps used are page viii the work of the Cartographic Section of the Lands and Survey Department. I owe a particular debt to J. D. Carmichael, B. G. Clare, F. A. Ponton, and D. J. Rutherford, who did much of the preliminary research work and condensed a vast mass of material into narratives which, while forming the basis for a large part of this history, are in themselves valuable records of the wartime operations and administration of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. I should also like to thank those senior officers, especially Air Vice-Marshal Sir Leonard Isitt, Air Vice-Marshal Sir Arthur Nevill, and Air Commodore S. Wallingford, who read the completed text and offered extremely helpful criticism.

J. M. S. Ross

January 1955