F/O Grimwood was succeeded by F/O Herbert Mountfort, who would remain in charge of the magazine unit till his demob in August 1945.
During almost two years based in Rotorua, the magazine flourished and the Contact team expanded to at least ten people, including those mentioned above and WAAF Corporal Frances Gresham (who in 1945 became Mrs Maurice Conly). According to Contact itself in the December 1945 issue, during this time the magazine "became the faithful companion to thousands of trainees as well as a good friend to many members of the civilian community." It also described the Rotorua days as Contact passing "from the spring to the summer of its life".
The Regular Contributors
As well as many one-off contributors, the magazine established several regular columnists and contributors, some serious, some humorous and some downright bizarre. In some cases the humour of the day has definitely not stood the test of time, particularly the topical stuff, but happily most of it still rings true today.
Some used their real names, like Flying Officer Winton Keay, or Squadron Leader J.A. Sherrett RCAF who contributed articles from Canada's point of view. However most regular contributors seldom got proper billing, the writers instead preferring to use a pseudonym. They include the following:
||Real Identity if Known
Egbert the Erk
Flying Officer "X"
A Headquarters WAAF
Andrew Robertson Grimwood
Kennedy Charles (Ken) Wallace
A C.O. of Contact & regular contributor
Egbert was a comedy character
Worked for the RAF
Sometimes billed as just DAGOC
Formerly with the NZ Woman's Weekly
An RNZAF War Correspondent
RNZAF Official Photographer
An RNZAF Observer
A/P wrote tongue-in-cheek stories
Flight Lieutenant Andrew Robertson Grimwood, known as Robert, wrote under the Maori verion of his name, Ropata Kirimuwutu. He was born on the 8th of January 1907 in Auckland, and died on the 6th of June 2001 in Lower Hutt. After WWII Robert served in J Force.
Flying Officer "X"
The mysterious pen name of Flying Officer "X" was in fact a well known British writer employed by the Royal Air Force especifically to write Air Force related short stories to help to raise morale. He was none other than H.E. Bates, of "The Darling Buds of May" fame. So his stories were not specifically RNZAF related but certainly connected with the many thousands of New Zealanders serving in the RAF, and their families.
Truman Warsop/Geoffrey Bentley
Geoff Bentley wrote his first fictional short story for Contact under his own name, which he described as not that great. He then began to contribute war news and articles through his job as official war correspondent for the RNZAF. He chose the pseudonym Truman Warsop. Truman was his uncle's name, and Warsop his mother's maiden name. Geoff says, "Most of my stories for Contact magazine were not attributed but some did carry an acknowledgment to "RNZAF Official News Service". I don't think I used the nom-de-plume Truman Warsop very often in Contact but mainly in the illustrated weeklies and in the NZRSA Review which I wrote for over several years."
Geoff worked closely with Maurice Conly, both in New Zealand and touring the Pacific together seeking news for Contact and for newspapers through the New Zealand Press Association. On occassions Geoff travelled to Rotorua to help Maurice and the others at Contact to "put the magazine to bed", as they say.
He continues, "I
recall doing an illustrated feature on Brents Hotel in Rotorua serving as a convalescent depot for RNZAF personnel; I spent 3 or 4 weeks there and it was one of the most interesting phases of my Service career. I went there initially with Maurice Conly and we found that his brother Geoff was an "inmate" there, having to recover from a spinal operation for a slipped disc. You'll see the feature in one of the volumes of Contact."
Geoff also recalls who regular contributor IJM was. He says, "IJM was Ian Main, never a war correspondent but a good journalist and a stalwart of the directorate of Public Relations in wartime. Ian was a fine man and we were closely associated in peacetime from 1950 to 1980. Ian was Publicity Director for the NZ National Party after the war and editor of its newspaper "Freedom". Later he became PRO for the NZ Manufacturers Assn and later still was a PR consultant with Hugh Sumpter & Associates at which period I was managing director of Geoff Bentley & Associates, in partnership with my wife Nyra. (1971-1987)."
Egbert The Erk
Max Rogers, who created the classic character Egbert the Erk, was actually a
was a Flight Sergeant who's trade was Clerk GD .
Wendy the WAAF/W.2126
And both the comedy character Wendy the WAAF, and the more serious W. 2126 who wrote Diary of a WAAF, was Doris McLean. She was a real WAAF, who was a Mess Steward based at RNZAF Station Anderson Park in Wellington.
The others who used false names may well have been all regular staff members on the Contact team, or official war correspondents, but we may never know as all the team's records were either given away or destroyed after the war. Many other items would be signed by people claiming to simply be 'A Headquarters WAAF', or 'An A.T.C. Headquarters Training Officer', etc. Anonymity seemed to be the order of the day.
Contact was also renowned for its excellent photographs that depicted, usually in a series, various aspects of RNZAF life and the work that the personnel carried out. It is no surprise to learn, though unaccredited, that most of the photos were taken by a young airman by the name of Leo White, who before the war had been a popular journalist and photographer. Leo spent the first few years of the war as an Army Territorial whilst continuing in his photographic business Stewart & White Ltd.
But wartime shoratges in photographic material had seen Leo White and Frank Stewart's business close, and Leo joined the RNZAF in February 1942 as an RNZAF Official Photographer. Leo built up an enormous archive of photos of the RNZAF in New Zealand and throughout the Pacific. He eventually became a Flying Officer. Leo also wrote the book 'Fighters', about the RNZAF Fighter Wing in the Pacific, during this time.
Leo was transferred to the RNZAF reserve in January 1945, and soon resumed his writing, photography and publishing career. He went on to found White's Aviation magazine (1945 - 1971), New Zealand Flying (1941 - 1951) and White's Aviation Directory (1947-1988). He truly established himself as one of NZ's best aviation photographers and aviation writers. Leo died in 1967.
Another Contact team member whilst at Rotorua was AC1 Sam Jecks, who was a Clerk (General Duties) and looked after administration.
In February 1944 the team moved again, this time to RNZAF Station Rongotai in Wellington, where their offices were set up in the ex-Centennial Exhibition buildings. The Centennial buildings had previously in 1941 been taken over for an RNZAF training centre where the Technical Training School had been situated before moving to Nelson. On the schools departure, de Havilland's aircraft factory had begun using the buildings for their production line of Tiger Moths. The buildings also had other RNZAF units including the Wellington RNZAF Recruitment Office.
This move to Rongotai was however, according to the December 1945 issue, when "the magazine, without knowing it, passed into autumn days". The tide of the war had turned, the Allies were winning, and that ultimate victory that Contact had striven for was well and truly on its way.
In October 1944 now-Sgt Maurice Conly was sent up to the Pacific to cover the war up there for Contact.
A further move for the team was necessitated when RNZAF Station Rongotai closed, and the team moved into an office at 33 Johnston Street, Wellington. Shortly afterwards, the now-Flight Sergeant Michael J. Ruane, editor, was posted to the Air Department, and subsequently to overseas duty.
Contact remained in Johnston Street till after VE Day, and then moved in July 1945 one final time, to another office at 27-29 Panama Street, just two blocks away. It was during this latter part of the war that the magazine had turned its attention mainly to the efforts of the RNZAF in the Pacific, and both Conly and Mountfort made trips into the Pacific to report in words and pictures the war of the Pacific boys.
The earliest issue I possess is from September-October 1941, and that issue was printed by Hutcheson, Bowman & Johnson Ltd., who were printers in Wellington. This was while the Contact office was still situated in Levin. Later whilst the Contact office moved about the country several times, the printing appears to have always been done in the same place from 1942 through to the magazine's demise in 1945. This was the "Morning Post" Printing Office in Rotorua. I'm sure this printer took on the job after the office moved from Levin to Rotorua in January-February 1942.
The monthly distribution had continued to climb from its inception. In April 1942 it reached 9,500 copies. Between May and October 1943 there were successive increases to 11,000 issues in circulation. This increased to 12,000 in April 1944, and 14,000 in May and June of 1944. The circulation peaked in October 1944 when it reached 15,000 copies of that month's issue. From that time on the circulation remained steady at between 13,000 and 14,000 issues. By 1944 its overseas circulation was reaching the Pacific, India, the Middle East, the USA, Canada, Great Britain and even Russia.
All of the distribution, packaging, marketing and even accounting had been handled by the Contact team members themselves, which is a real credit to their dedication. Though originally the running of the magazine had been something of a financial struggle, in its last three years of operation Contact operated in the red. And of course all the profit from sales had gone not to the team, but into the RNZAF Welfare Fund, a total of
They even sold back-issues in bound volumes, as seen here in an advert from the magazine. These volumes meant that the covers were removed from the magazines sadly, to make them more like a book.
Contact was enjoyed by civilians as much as airmen, and the boys of the Air Training Corps were regular readers. It became something of the Reader's Digest of the Air Force, being passed around the crewrooms and mess halls, and then posted on to the boys abroad.
The final issue of the magazine was printed in December 1945, completing a total of eight volumes over four years and ten months. In the September 1952 the magazine was restarted after being adopted by the Royal New Zealand Air Force Association as their official journal, but not for too long a period. However for me it is the wartime ones that hold the most charm and interest.
A final word in that last issue of December 1945, it reads "When, dear reader, in later years you wish to recall some of the grave or gay times you have experienced in the RNZAF or the associations which you have had with the Service, go to "Contact" - it will always be waiting for you."
And this is why I choose to celebrate Contact here on this website. Some may argue that the Contact team contributed little to the war effort. I see it that they not only provided a boost to morale for those at home and a comfort from New Zealand to those abroad, but they have contributed directly to the culture and spirit of the wartime RNZAF. And furthermore, they're recorded that wonderful culture and spirit for future generations, like myself, to tap into.
Contact was revived in 1952, this time as "The Official Organ of the Air Force Association (Inc.)".
Beginning in September 1952 with Volume 1, No. 1 (New Series), the magazine virtually carried on where it had left off in December 1945. Little had changed in style, and many of the original Contact team members were involved in recreating the old magazine.
The Contact offices were now based at 164 The Terrace, Wellington, and the printer was Geo. W. Slade Ltd of Wellington. The cover of the first issue featured an evocative painting by Maurice Conly that commemorated the Battle of Britain, marking the battle's 12th Anniversary. Also making a return to print was Egbert the Erk, reprinted from an earlier wartime issue. The major noticeable difference in the more modern form were mentions and photos of jets and postwar aircraft, plus articles about NZ'ers in the Korean War. Contact continued till at least 1955, but at this time I have no firm date for when it ended. if anyone can supply further details of the 1950's Contacts I'd like to hear. I have the September 1952 issue and will more add details of that issue soon.
Today issues of the magazine are rare, but not impossible to find. They fetch around NZ$15 to $30 apiece on the second hand market, a nice mark up on the 1942-45 price of a shilling. There are collectors around, mostly in New Zealand, with the ambition of completing their collection with every last issue. I am one of these collectors.
I can highly recommend to you the late Maurice Conly's book Send For The Artist, which he wrote with Sqn Ldr Paul Harrison. It was published just before Maurice's death in 1997, and it details his life and his art, from RNZAF to designing most of New Zealand's stamps and coins till his death. The book has been a great resource of information for this webpage.
I hope that the above and the following information will give you a little more insight into this wonderful magazine, which was not just a passing amusement of the 1940's but has gone on to become a wonderful time capsule of the social history of the RNZAF, and a real classic. Here's a few more details of certain items.........