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Royal New Zealand Air Force



In 1923 the Government finally decided that it must take more positive steps in regard to service flying and that, if any real page 14 progress was to be achieved, a permanent Air Force must be formed to administer aviation in all its phases. In June the establishment of the following forces was authorised:


The New Zealand Permanent Air Force (to be part of the Permanent Forces)


The New Zealand Air Force (to be part of the Territorial Forces)

The Permanent Air Force was to be composed of regular officers and other ranks, and its primary responsibility was to be the training and administration of the Territorial Air Force. The latter was to consist of ex-RAF officers who had, earlier in the year, been formed into an Air Force Reserve. Provision was also made that, in the future, ab initio trainees could be enlisted.

To accommodate the new Air Force a service aerodrome was needed, and the aerodrome, buildings, and equipment of the Canterbury Aviation Company were bought. The decisions to form an Air Force and to buy the aerodrome were, of course, interdependent, and both were influenced by the efforts of the Hon. Henry Wigram. He had never stopped pressing the Government to do something about aviation, and now, to spur the authorities into positive action, he gave £10,000 towards the purchase price.1 In recognition of the gift, the aerodrome was renamed Wigram.

By the end of 1923 the strength of the Permanent Air Force had more than doubled. Major Wilkes was in command at Defence Headquarters in Wellington, and Captain Isitt commanded the aerodrome at Wigram. To assist him Captain Findlay, MC,2 was appointed as Flying Instructor. Lieutenant Denton was transferred from the Army as full-time equipment officer, and three other ranks were enlisted or transferred for maintenance and equipment duties.3

1 The total price paid to the company was £31,012 15s 3d, made up as follows:

Land£15,651 2s
Buildings£8,911 12s
Aircraft and spares£5,519 16s 9d
Implements£74 1s 4d
Supplies£511 3s 2d

2 Air Cdre J. L. Findlay CBE, MC, AFC, Legion of Honour (Fr), Legion of Merit (US); born Wellington, 6 Oct 1895; East Surrey Regt 1914–17; RFC and RAF 1917–21; NZPAF 1923; attached RAF 1929–30; Commanding Officer, Wigram, 1926–29 and 1930–38; attached RAF on exchange, 1938–41; AOC Central Group 1942–43; Head of Air Staff and Senior Member, NZ Joint Staff Mission, Washington, 1943–54.

3 Sgt W. S. Simpson, Sgt F. W. Sorrell, and Cadet H. H. Smith.