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Royal New Zealand Air Force



With the promise of transport aircraft to be supplied in 1943, preparations were made to form a transport squadron based on page 173 Whenuapai. Squadron Leader Lucas, DFC,1 who had returned to New Zealand after two tours of operations in Europe, was appointed to command it. The first aircraft, a C47, was flown out from the United States by an American delivery crew, and reached Whenuapai towards the end of March. All the C47s were delivered by the end of May, while five of the C60s arrived by sea during June and the rest later in the year. No. 40 Squadron was officially formed on 1 June, its mission being to carry aircrew, ground staff, mail and urgent freight, in that order of priority, between New Zealand and the forward area.

A Pacific ferry flight was formed in April 1943, under the command of Wing Commander R. J. Cohen, to assist in the delivery of aircraft by flying them from America or Hawaii to New Zealand. C47s for the transport squadron and PBYs for the flying-boat squadrons were flown from the west coast of America by New Zealand crews, while PV1s for the bomber-reconnaissance squadrons were generally shipped to Kaneohe in Hawaii, assembled there by the United States Navy, and then flown to New Zealand. In June a small RNZAF detachment was stationed at Kaneohe to help to assemble and test the aircraft before they were picked up by the ferry crews. In September the detachment was withdrawn and the ferry flight absorbed by No. 40 Squadron, which took over its responsibilities.

For the first two months after the formation of No. 40 Squadron in June 1943 its aircraft operated only as and where they were required. The irregular flying hours which resulted made it impossible to plan the maintenance of the aircraft in relation to flying commitments, which meant that at times there were several serviceable planes lying idle, and at others none was available because all were undergoing inspections.

This difficulty was overcome when the squadron obtained its full quota of aircraft and trained crew and was able to start operating on regular schedules. The first schedules to be flown, starting in August, provided two C47s and four C60s from Whenuapai each week. One C47, leaving on Monday, flew the route Whenuapai-Nausori-Santo-Guadalcanal-Santo-Whenuapai, arriving back in New Zealand on Thursday; the other, which left on Friday, flew the same circuit in the opposite direction. Two C60s, departing on Wednesdays and Sundays, operated over the same route with an additional call at Tontouta, New Caledonia. The third C60 carried passengers and freight to Norfolk Island page 174 each Friday, returning the same day. The fourth, which left Whenuapai every Thursday and arrived back the following Monday, carried mail to all RNZAF bases in the South Pacific. At the end of October the schedules were amended to include Ondonga, New Georgia, where the RNZAF fighter wing had recently been established.

1 Wg Cdr F. J. Lucas, DFC and bar; Queenstown; born Dunedin, 18 Aug 1915; RAF 1936–39; transferred RNZAF 1939.