WONZ 174 – Owen Hicks – Air Electrician

Guest: Owen Rundle Hicks (NZ427777, Corporal, Royal New Zealand Air Force)
24 November 1921 – 7 July 2017

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 13th of May 2014

Released: 2nd of February 2018

Duration: 1 hour 3 minutes 11 seconds

Owen spent time in the Territorial Army in the early war years whilst working as an electrician in his day job. He was mobilised into the Regular Army in December 1941 when Japan entered the war, as a driver in he Army Service Corps. However he was not happy with Army life so applied to switch to the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Air Electrician trade. He was accepted into the RNZAF in 1942.

Within short time he was posted to No. 14 (Fighter) Squadron at Masterton, and following a three month course at Wigram he was posted back to No. 14 Squadron, now at Whenuapai. The squadron was preparing to take their Curtiss P-40K and P-40M Warhawks up to the Pacific.

Owen went up to Tontouta with the squadron and spent six weeks there repairing damaged P-40’s that had endured mishaps on the ill fated ferry flights. He then rejoined the squadron at Espiritu Santo before being posted up to Guadalcanal with No. 15 (Fighter) Squadron who were short of Air Electricians.

When No. 15 Squadron’s tour was over and they left for home they were replaced at Guadalcanal by No. 14 Squadron, so Owen was again part of that unit as he stayed on at No. 1 Fighter Strip, Guadalcanal. Soon the RNZAF changed the way the groundcrews were organised and he was detached from the squadron and became part of the newly formed Servicing Unit. He served with the S.U. till an accident put him in hospital, and once he’d recovered he was then posted to an emergency strip at Segi Point (aka Seghe), on the southern tip of New Georgia.

He eventually returned to Guadalcanal, now based at Henderson Field, the bomber strip, with No. 10 Servicing Unit, who were maintaining Lockheed Venturas.

Eventually returning to Santo he was found to have malaria, and was posed home, spending the rest of the war stationed at RNZAF Station Ardmore, save for a jungle course at RNZAF Swanson.

Owen Hicks during the interview at his home at Ranfurly Veterans Home, Auckland (Photo Dave Homewood)

Owen’s Photo Collection

Owen during his days in the Army, 1941-42

Own with his mother and father

Owen and his class mates at the Electrical & Wireless School at RNZAF Station Wigram. He is top right

Owen on Final Leave before he left for the Pacific

The camp at Fighter Strip No. 1, Guadalcanal, that Owen lived in while working with No’s
15 and 14 Squadrons and No. 1 Servicing Unit.

A strip map showing the Solomon Islands

The daily water ration

A damaged Japanese aircraft

RNZAF Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk fighters escorted by an RNZAF Lockheed Hudson bomber

The Operations Hut at Fighter Strip No. 1, Guadalcanal with RNZAF P-40’s

The Mobile Workshop where electrical repairs were done, and Geoff Fisken DFC of No. 14 Squadron

The Ground Crew

No. 10 Servicing Unit (Venturas) at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal


Above and below, a damaged Ventura

The jungle terrain in 1944

Disembarkation leave, on his return to New Zealand

The 1944-45 RNZAF Station Ardmore Hockey Team, Owen is standing second from left

Owen’s last photo taken in uniform

Owen’s Certificate of Discharge

Owen’s medals

Special thanks to Owen’s son Wally Hicks for his assistance in making this episode.

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