New Zealand

New Zealand


On the outbreak of war in 1939, there were already over 500 New Zealanders serving as aircrew in the Royal Air Force. In addition, and prior to the declaration of war, 20 air crewmen from the Royal New Zealand Air Force had been despatched to England to collect the first six of a number of Wellington bombers that had been ordered prior to hostilities. However, the New Zealand government, realising the need of the United Kingdom, agreed that these crews, together with the aircraft, could remain in the country.

As a result No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron, RAF was formed and went on to serve with distinction throughout the conflict. Some 1,370 New Zealanders were to fly with the squadron, of which 422 were killed in action while on operations. New Zealanders of the squadron would earn 1 Victoria Cross, 6 Distinguished Service Orders, 88 Distinguished Flying Crosses (plus 4 bars), 17 Distinguished Flying Medals and 2 Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, a formidable achievement. Following the war the RAF granted the squadron number permanently to the RNZAF in recognition of their outstanding service.

From 1941 onwards there were so many New Zealanders coming to England to 'do their bit' that it was decided to form a further six RNZAF squadrons within the RAF, comprising 3 Fighter Command squadrons, 2 Coastal Command squadrons and 1 Bomber Command squadron. These were to be known as 'New Zealand' squadrons and were given the numbers 485, 486, 487, 488, 489 and 490 sqn.

It is interesting to note that during the Battle of Britain, 1 in 12 fighter pilots was a New Zealander and that during the period 1939 – 45 approximately 58,000 men and women served in the RNZAF, a higher percentage of population than any other Dominion country. At it's peak, the strength of the RNZAF was 41,595.

In the Pacific theatre of operation during the Japanese offensive of 1941-45, 27 RNZAF squadrons were formed and fought in support of the allied effort, notably at Rabaul, probably it's most important and certainly it's longest lasting campaign.

The RNZAF was also involved in the Battles of Guadacanal, New Georgia & Green Island, to name but a few, living and fighting against a bitter and determined enemy, often in primitive and appalling conditions.

My thanks to the Air Attaché', New Zealand High Commission, London and to the RNZAF Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand for the assistance given regarding the facts contained in this page.