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Royal New Zealand Air Force

establishments in new zealand, august-september 1943

page 283

establishments in new zealand, august-september 1943

The RNZAF reached its peak strength in New Zealand of 30,500 in September 1943. Thereafter, although the strength in overseas theatres continued to increase for some time, home establishments were gradually reduced. At this time Air Force establishments comprised Air Headquarters in Wellington, Northern, Central, and Southern Group Headquarters in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch respectively, and a total of thirty-three stations and depots throughout the country. The Group Headquarters were combined headquarters and housed Navy and Army as well as Air Force staffs. Northern and Central Groups were operational in function, and were equipped with filter rooms and fighter operations rooms, while Southern Group was primarily responsible for training. Northern Group, besides administering stations in New Zealand, also controlled Norfolk Island, where a radar unit and a servicing section catered for transient aircraft.

The most northerly station in New Zealand was Waipapakauri, which had been used since 1941 by aircraft making sea reconnaissances over the northern approaches to New Zealand. During 1942 and the first half of 1943 it had been regularly occupied by No. 7 (GR) Squadron. From June 1943 onwards it was used as an advanced and emergency landing ground for aircraft en route to and from the forward area, for the benefit of which it maintained a servicing section and signals section.

Onerahl, near Whangarei, had been used from August 1942 till the beginning of July 1943 to house No. 20 (Army Co-operation) Squadron. It was then put on a care and maintenance basis, but was still retained as an operational landing ground, with a small staff to provide refuelling facilities.

Whenuapai, the largest station in the Auckland area, administered Nos. 1 (BR) and 15 (F) Squadrons, both of which combined defensive patrols with training for overseas service; No. 40 Squadron and its offshoot, the RNZAF Pacific Ferry; No. 60 (Radar) Squadron; No. 1 RNZAF Hospital, and No. 4 Field Maintenance Unit. Hobsonville, close by, accommodated a Seaplane Training Flight, a Motor Boat Crew Training School, No. 1 Assembly Depot, and a General Engineering Section. Its main function at this time was the assembly of fighter aircraft shipped from the United States. In Auckland itself was No. 1 Personnel Despatch Centre, which was responsible for kitting and documenting personnel on their way overseas.

Immediately to the south of Auckland on the Manukau Harbour were Mangere and Seagrove. The former, which had been taken page 284 over by the RNZAF at the outbreak of war, was used by No. 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Flight and Northern Group Communications Flight. In August 1943 it also housed a Works Survey Flight and an anti-malaria treatment centre, and was used as a holding depot to accommodate personnel in transit to and from the forward area. Seagrove, which had been built in 1942 as a fighter station to augment the defences of Auckland, was occupied during the second half of 1943 by the American Marine Air Group 14. At the end of July No. 25 Squadron, RNZAF, was formed there, using SBD aircraft taken over from the Americans.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Station, Hamilton, had been formed in 1942 to administer several units which were moved to the Waikato from Hobsonville when it appeared that the Auckland area was likely to suffer from enemy attack. In August 1943 it was responsible for No. 1 Stores Depot, No. 1 Repair Depot, and No. 302 Elementary Ground Training Squadron.

Te Awamutu was built in 1942 and was intended as a stores depot for the United States Forces. The American Command decided that the site was too isolated, so the buildings were taken over by the RNZAF and the station was formed, in November 1942 as No. 4 Stores Depot.

Rotorua had become the pre-flying training centre for aircrew when the Initial Training Wing was moved there from Levin early in 1942. Unlike most units, the station was not housed in an Air Force camp, but trainees and staff were quartered in a number of hotels and boarding houses in the town.

Tauranga was occupied by No. 303 EGTS and the Central Flying School, which was responsible for training all flying instructors for the RNZAF.

One other station was added to Northern Group before the end of the year, when Swanson was taken over from the Army for use as an Overseas Training Pool. Personnel were sent to it for course in weapon training and bush warfare before being posted to the Pacific.

All North Island stations outside the Auckland province came within the area of Central Group, which also administered what was known as Air Department Unit, comprising all personnel working at Air Headquarters.

New Plymouth, which had been formed early in the war as an Elementary Flying Training School, was occupied in 1943 by the School of General Reconnaissance, the School of Meteorology, and No. 308 Advanced Ground Training Squadron.

Ohakea accommodated No. 2 (BR) Squadron, which was engaged in anti-submarine and shipping escort patrols, No. 1 (BR) page 285 and No. 2 (Fighter) Operational Training Units, and No. 2 Repair Depot. It was also the headquarters of the RNZAF Band.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Station, Palmerston North, at the beginning of August 1943 was occupied by No. 21 (Army Co-operation) Squadron and No. 309 AGTS, and also administered the RNZAF Medical Stores Depot. The station was closed down shortly afterwards when the two squadrons were disbanded, and the airfield was classified, for Air Force purposes, as ‘for emergency use only’.

The military camp at Linton was taken over in April 1943. No. 3 Ground Training Depot formed there and operated as an RNZAF station until November, when the camp was handed back to the Army. Besides the Ground Training Depot, a cookery school was established there for several months.

Levin, by August 1943, was mainly concerned with administrative training. The units stationed there were the Officers' School of Instruction, Armament Training School, School of Administrative Training, Radio Operators' School (for WAAF and WRNS) and the WAAF Reception Depot.

The only station on the East Coast was Gisborne, where No. 30 (TBF) Squadron was training for overseas service. In August No. 2 Gunnery Training Flight formed there to train air-gunners for Pacific operations. No. 304 EGTS was also stationed there.

Masterton, which in 1942 had been used by No. 14 Squadron when it was first formed, was now occupied only by No. 305 EGTS. The station was reduced to a care and maintenance basis at the beginning of November.

In the Wellington area there were, besides Air Headquarters, three establishments—No. 2 Stores Depot at Mangaroa, No. 2 Personnel Despatch Centre in Wellington, and Rongotai. The last housed a Communications Flight, No. 2 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Flight, the Central Trade Test Board, the Preliminary Technical Training School, and the headquarters of No. 61 (Radar) Squadron.

The RNZAF also maintained an establishment at Waiouru, in the centre of the North Island, where, in conjunction with the Navy and Army, it operated the Services Wireless Telegraphy Station for overseas communications.

Southern Group embraced all stations in the South Island, numbering four in Nelson-Marlborough, five in Canterbury, and one in Otago. One of them, Woodburne, was equipped with a Fighter Operations Room and Filter Room in case fighter operations had to be carried out over the Cook Strait area, and No. 18 (Fighter) Squadron was stationed at Fairhall, a satellite camp. The main page 286 activity of the station was flying training, carried out by No. 2 FTS. Other units were No. 3 Fighter Maintenance Unit, supporting No. 18 Squadron, and No. 310 AGTS. Omaka, which had previously been used by the School of General Reconnaissance, was occupied in August 1943 only by the NCOs' school. The seven Army camps at Delta, 11 miles from Blenheim, were taken over by the Air Force in June 1943. By the end of the year they were to house all the pre-flying activities of aircrew; but in August the station was still forming and only one camp was occupied—by No. 4 Ground Training Depot. Nelson was occupied by the Technical Training School, which had moved there from Rongotai in April, and by the Photographic Training Unit. It continued as the centre of technical training for the RNZAF until the end of 1945.

Wigram, the senior RNZAF station in the country, was primarily a flying training school, and was also the home of the Electrical and Wireless School. Also stationed there at this time were the Beam Approach Training Flight, Southern Group Communications Flight, and No. 312 Electrical and Wireless Training Squadron. The last consisted of recruits undergoing preliminary training before entering the Electrical and Wireless School. Harewood, three miles away, had No. 3 EFTS, No. 3 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Flight, No. 3 Electrical and Wireless Training Squadron, and No. 1 Ground Training Depot. Norwood, which was originally formed as a satellite landing ground for Wigram, had been developed into a small station and was used to accommodate the advanced training section of No. 1 SFTS.

In Christchurch itself there were portions of No. 3 Stores Depot and No. 3 Repair Depot. These were to move respectively to Weedons and Harewood, but full accommodation was not yet ready for them. In South Canterbury Ashburton was occupied by No. 2 EFTS, which had moved there from New Plymouth in 1942, and by No. 306 EGTS. The most southerly station, Taieri, housed No. 1 EFTS, No. 307 EGTS, and a Hudson Storage Flight.