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Royal New Zealand Air Force



It was naturally impossible to transport whole squadrons, including ground staff, to and from New Zealand every three months; nor was it necessary, since the men working on the ground suffered less strain and could remain efficient in the forward area longer than those flying in combat. Consequently, in June 1943 the fighter squadrons already overseas and those forming in New Zealand were organised as flying echelons and maintenance echelons. The former were to move in accordance with the six-weekly rotation plan and the latter to remain stationed in one place and take over the maintenance and servicing of successive flying echelons. The maintenance echelons were divorced entirely from the flying echelons and were renumbered as fighter maintenance units. The engineer officer of the maintenance unit was responsible to the officer commanding the flying echelon—henceforth called the squadron—to which it was temporarily attached for the maintenance of its aircraft; and the maintenance unit as a whole came under the authority of the squadron commander. Whenever a maintenance unit was temporarily unattached to a squadron, it was treated as a lodger unit on the station at which it was based, under the command of the engineer officer, who was given the powers of a subordinate commander.

The principle was extended to bomber-reconnaissance squadrons in August. Up till then Nos. 3 and 9 Squadrons, which were in the forward area, relieved their crews by infiltrating fresh crews from the rear areas. In that month, however, it was decided that, taking all things into consideration, the divorcing of the maintenance units and the flying squadrons was the most efficient way to operate in the tropics. Henceforth bomber-reconnaissance squadrons, like the fighters, moved as complete aircrew units. In October the page 167 fighter and bomber maintenance units were renamed servicing units and were known as such for the rest of the war.

When the dual organisation of squadrons and servicing units was first proposed there were fears that it would break up the team spirit between ground crews and aircrews. Its introduction caused numerous complaints from officers and men, especially in the longer-established bomber-reconnaissance squadrons where they had been working together for a long time and had built up a solid squadron spirit. There is no doubt that at times a rift did develop between aircrew and ground staff, but the effects proved less serious than might have been expected. If squadrons in the forward area failed to combine as closely with the ground staffs as they would have done had they been stationed permanently with them, the effect did not result in any noticeable lowering of morale or efficiency.