WINGS OVER CAMBRIDGE
CAMBRIDGE'S CONNECTIONS WITH THE WARTIME AIR FORCE

 

 

 


Did You Know...

- More than 600 New Zealanders were serving in the RAF when the war began in 1939

- The RNZAF's P40 Kittyhawk pilots claimed 100 confirmed kills and 14 probable kills in the Pacific campaign. They were the only RNZAF fighter aircraft in the Pacific theatre of operations to claim air to air kills

- During the war, 72 Airspeed Oxfords were destroyed in accidents, and a further 36 were broken up due to deterioration (this is from a total of 299 Oxfords that served in the RNZAF)

- Nearly 150 Corsairs were written off in RNZAF service, 17 of them to enemy action. The Corsair had a tendency to flip on landing

- 7 Catalina flying boats were written off during the war, all due to accidents

- 20 P40 Kittyhawks were lost to enemy action (not a bad ratio when they destroyed 100 enemy aircraft) with a further 76 lost in accidents overseas, and 76 more lost in accidents in New Zealand. By the end of the war only 124 of the 297 P40's were still on charge with the RNZAF

- 42 of the RNZAF's Lockheed PV-1 Ventura bombers were lost in combat and accidents during the war. 74 of the aircraft survived the conflict, only to be melted down after the war. Today only two original RNZAF Venturas remain. One isrestored and on static display at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MoTaT) in Auckland. This is actually one of the RB-34 Lexington versions, which were always called a Ventura in the RNZAF. The remains of the other Ventura, a genuine PV1, still lies where it crash-landed on the grass airstrip at Talasea, New Ireland. Sadly no efforts have been made by the RNZAF to retreive and restore the Ventura, which could be a viable restoration project .

-  During the war more than 500 New Zealand airmen were captured by the Axis forces in Europe.

- The worst month for New Zealand airmen being taken prisoner in Europe was March 1942 when 46 became P.O.W.s. 

- While most of New Zealand's airmen POWs were in German hands, the Italians held about 40, mainly taken in North Africa. 

- A small number of New Zealand airmen serving with RAF squadrons in the Far East were captured by the Japanese during their onslaught on south-east Asia between December 1941 and March 1942. 

- The RNZAF, which mounted a substantial campaign in the South-west Pacific in 194445, had only seven POWs among its casualties. 

- In contrast to their army counterparts, a high proportion (45 per cent) of New Zealand airmen POWs were officers.

- You've probably seen in films and photos that pilots and aircrew liked to wear silk scarves round their necks. Do you know why? It wasn't a fashion statement. When flying the pilots had to constantly be turning their heads from side to side and up and down to watch for enemy fighters, etc., and to watch their instruments. The battledress uniforms were of a scratchy woolen material and this head movement soon caused chaffing against the neck, causing considerable discomfort. So silk scarves became a popular way to stop the chaffing.

The following snippets of information have come from various issues of RNZAF Contact magazine

- The first member of the RNZAF to win an award in the Second World War was Corporal C.B.G. Knight of Christchurch, who was a wireless operator-air gunner in No 75 (NZ) Squadron. He had been an original member of the NZ squadron, having left New Zealand before the war and becoming part of the New Zealand Flight after the RNZAF's Wellingtons were handed over to the RAF. Cpl Knight was later wounded and returned to New Zealand.

- The first ever air raid over Germany was lead by Wing Commander H.I. Dabinett who was from Wanganui, New Zealand. He had been in the RAF before the war and had led an RAF flypast over the Arc de Triumphe in Paris in 1939

- New Zealand pilots took place in the first ever flight made by Allied fighters over Germany, including Pilot Officer O.R. Chapman of Timaru, New Zealand. They flew Mustangs and strafed an enemy camp, a factory, a gasometer and some barges.

- Five of the six Lancaster bombers to bomb the Le Creusot armament factory were piloted by New Zealanders.

- The aerial taxi service of the 2nd Tactical Air Force that played a big part in the invasion of France in 1944 was organised and commanded by New Zealander Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Pannell, DFC, who had previously been a sheepfarmer in Canterbury, N.Z.

- The first New Zealander to win an air award in Burma was Warrant Officer Huon Andrew Chandler of Westport, New Zealand, who was awarded the DFC for taking part in many 'adventurous sorties'.

- The New Zealand Spitfire Squadron, No 485 (NZ) Sqn RAF, was in the first Fighter Wing to fly over the invasion fleet on D-Day, and had the honour of shooting down the first two enemy aircraft, both Junkers 88's, on that day. The first was destroyed by Flying Officer Johnny Houlton DFC, who flew Spitfire ML407 (which still flies today from Duxford, England) and the second was a shared kill between Houlton and three others in the squadron.

- The first Allied bomber to make a landing in Normandy following the Allied invasion was an Avro Lancaster piloted by New Zealander Sqn Ldr N.A. Williamson of Gisborne. The landing was made so that a badly wounded crew member could receive emergency medical treatment

- The first Royal Air Force Wing in Russia was commanded by Wing Commander H.N.G. Ramsbottom-Isherwood, DFC, AFC of Petone, Wellington, New Zealand. "The Russians could not do enough for us," said the Wing Commander. "At first they gave us champagne and vodka at every meal, but we were not used to this fare and cut it out."

- The first photos of German invasion barges that were massing in the occupied English Channel ports after the fall of France were taken by New Zealander Flt Lt W.B. Parker, of Blenheim, New Zealand. However he did not get them back to Britain because two Me109 fighters jumped him and shot down his aircraft. He baled out at 29,000ft with his petrol soaked flying suit on fire, but he survived.

 

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