New Zealanders served at one time or another in every unit of the Royal Navy’s fleet Air Arm. New Zealanders also took part in every major battle in which the FAA took part.
Having initially enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, New Zealand officers in the FAA were to see action and serve with distinction in the Indian Ocean with the British Eastern Fleet, in escort convoys to Russia and across the Atlantic Ocean, in operations off the Norwegian Coast, in the defence of Malta, in the North African campaign, Italy, Greece and Crete, off Madagascar, over the English Channel, and off Normandy and Southern France.
New Zealanders were also to comprise a substantial proportion of the British Pacific Fleet, which on some occasions operated closely with and off the aircraft carriers of the United States Pacific Fleet. Several of the carriers from the British Pacific Fleet made visits to New Zealand ports.
Many aircraft types were flown by the New Zealanders in the FAA, including Swordfishes, Walruses, Albacores, Barracudas, Hurricanes, Fireflies, Corsairs, Hellcats and Seafires.
The aircraft carriers from which they operated varied considerably from converted bulk-grain or oil carriers, which had flight decks built over their superstructure, and were known as merchant aircraft carriers, which had flight decks built over their superstructure, and were known as merchant aircraft carriers or MACships, to catapult aircraft merchantman (CAM ships), which could launch defensive fighter aircraft (hot not recover them, the pilot usually having to ditch alongside the vessel when his retaliatory task was over); to the more conventional Escort and Fleet carriers.
The squadrons the New Zealanders served in included: Nos. 700, 800, 803, 806, 807,809,826-831, 834-839, 841, 879, 882, 885, 896, 899, 1771, 1839, and 1840.
A number of aircrew also served in the Seafire squadrons of the shore-based No. 3 Naval Fighter Wing based at Lee-on-Solent in England, which were among the 6,500-odd combat aircraft that played a decisive part in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
In addition to the aircraft carriers of the Pacific Fleet, the other Fleet and Escort carriers on which New Zealanders served included:
- HMS Archer
- HMS Argus
- HMS Attacker
- HMS Audacity
- HMS Avenger
- HMS Battler
- HMS Biter
- HMS Campania
- HMS Eagle
- HMS Emperor
- HMS Empire
- HMS Fencer
- HMS Furious
- HMS Hermes
- HMS Hunter
- HMS Khedive
- HMS MacDermott
- HMS MacAndrew (and other MAC ships)
- HMS Nabob
- HMS Nairana
- HMS Pursuer
- HMS Queen
- HMS Searcher
- HMS Stalker
- HMS Trumpeter
- HMS Unicorn
- HMS Vindex.
FAA Pilots S/LT (A) Rod Thompson RNZNVR & S/LT (A) J. Pollock RNZNVR
in full flying kit beside a Tiger Moth Trainer at RNZAS Elmdon – now Birmingham Airport
Attack on the Tirpitz
One of the more memorable events of World War Two in which New Zealanders in the FAA took part was an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz.
Although damaged by midget submarines in September 1943 and holed up in the Alten Fjord in northern occupied Norway, the battleship was five months later sufficiently repaired to go to sea.
A series of carrier-borne sorties were therefore planned. Within the strongly escorted carrier attack force, which included Victorious, Furious, Emperor, Searcher, Fencer and Pursuer, there were about 60 New Zealanders, including Barracuda aircrew of Nos. 827 and 830 Squadrons and Hellcat pilots of No. 1840 Squadron.
During the series of strikes, which were diving massed attacks from high altitude, the Tirpitz was initially caught by surprise.
Eight direct hits and five probable hits were scored, mostly by 725, 450 and 225-kilogram armour-piercing bombs, before the German smoke screen was set up.
One bomb hit just forward of the bridge and penetrated two decks, but failed to explode. The Tirpitz was left burning fiercely, but was not sunk. (It was sunk 9 months later, with the loss of 900 lives, by 5500-kilogram bombs delivered by RAF Lancasters based in Scotland.)
After the FAA attack, described by Winston Churchill as a ‘most brilliant feat of arms’, Sub- Lieutenant (A) (the ‘A’ stood for ‘Air’) J. D. Herrod of Waiuku, who was senior pilot of No. 827 Squadron aboard HMS Furious and pilot of one of the bombers, and Lieutenant (A) R. J Harrison of Nelson, who led a fighter squadron off HMS Searcher, were both awarded the DSC.
Another New Zealander, Lieutenant Commander Archibald (‘Arch’) Richardson of Gisborne, a Hellcat Pilot of No. 1840 Squadron, was considered for the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross for his part in the attack; but eventually received a Mention-in-Despatches.
He died during his third mission against the Tirpitz when ‘a hail of flak and shell disintegrated his aircraft’.
The 27-year-old Hellcat pilot was very popular aboard Indefatigable, and after the war, when the Fleet Carrier visited New Zealand waters; it made a special visit to the Gisborne area and flew a large formation of its Seafires, Fireflies and Avengers over the town in remembrance of Richardson.
Other awards for gallantry made to the New Zealanders in the FAA during the war included one D.S.O., 37 more DSCs and two bars, one DFC, three MBEs, 47 Mentions-in-Despatches, and two Letters of Commendation.
A disproportionately large number of New Zealanders saw service in the Fleet Air Arm on during World War Two, a number of them on these two carriers, HMS Indomitable, and HMS Victorious.
Many served in the ship-borne fighter squadrons, reportedly making up approximately 50 percent of such aircrew in the final stages of the war. The aircraft in the foreground are Sea Hurricanes; their land equivalents did not have folding wings. (Air Ministry)
For a small country, New Zealand was to have an incredibly large representation in the FAA, making up more than 10 percent of its total aircrew.
This contribution was particularly marked among the big aircraft carriers of the British Pacific Fleet, including HMS Indomitable, Indefatigable, Illustrious, Implacable, Formidable and Victorious, in which the New Zealanders served with distinction.
Their presence was particularly marked among the ship-borne fighter squadrons, and, as the war drew to a close, approximately 50 percent of the aircrew in such units was from New Zealand.
New Zealanders served in all of the 50-odd aircraft carriers commissioned during the war and in all of the Royal Navy Air Stations, including those in the West Indies. Besides those who flew, many New Zealand ratings also served in the carriers as seamen, telegraphists, and radar operators and mechanics.
A small group of New Zealanders selected for FAA training did not even get to England; they were captured en route by a German surface raider in the Tasman Sea.
The German crew made the New Zealanders sign a pledge that they would not enter the war, before off-loading them in December 1940 on Emirau Island, north of New Guinea.
Later rescued, the men were initially forced by the New Zealand Government to keep their pledge, but six months later were given permission to join the RNZAF and fly on operations.
World War Two was to draw over 40,000 New Zealanders into the country’s Air Force. This was a remarkable effort for a country so small and so far removed from the initial conflict.
In fact, New Zealand was to contribute more, per capita, to the British Commonwealth’s training of pilots than either Canada or Australia; providing some 12 percent of the total Commonwealth force to be trained.
Official Navy Office list of those New Zealanders in the Fleet Air Arm
who were killed in action or died while training
ADAMS, David Winton, S/Lt. (A), 9.3.42.
ADAMS, Russet Byers, S/Lt. (A), 1.9.43.
ALEXANDER, James Douglas, Lt. (A), 30.7.45.
ANDERSON, Jasper Murray, S/Lt. (A), 4.4.44.
ANDREWS, Frederick Ernest, C.P.O. (A), 9.6.44.
APPLEBY, William Seddon, S/Lt. (A), 3.2.44.
ARCHIBALD, Arthur Herbert Percy, P.O. (A), 19.7.43.
BATTEN, Frederick Moncrieff, S/Lt. (A), 5.12.44.
BAXTER, Evan John, Lt. (A), 31.7.45.
BENNETT Jock, S/Lt. (A), 10.2.42.
BISMAN, Royden Thomas, S/Lt. (A), 29.6.44,
BLACK, Gordon, S/Lt. (A), 11.11.41.
BLACK, John Ross, S/Lt. (A), 7.7.44
BONIFACE, Douglas Philip Hurlstone, S/Lt. (A), 18.1.44
BOWMAN, Colin Sutherland, Lt., (A), 23.3.44.
BREINGAN, Robert Ian, Lead/Air, 11.10.42.
BROWN, John Atkinson, S/Lt. (A), 10.8.43.
BROWN, MacDonald Cody, S/Lt. (A), 27.3.44.
BROWNE, Barrie Hawtrey, P.O. (A), 8.7,45.
BUSH, Thomas Noel, Lt. (A), 5.12.42.
CAMERON, Stewart Ross, S/Lt. (A), 29.1.44.
CAMPBELL, Kenneth Neil, Lead/Air, 17.4.44
CHETTLE, Richard John, S/Lt. (A), 20.6.43.
CHITTENDEN, John David, S/Lt. (A), 29.6.44
CHURCHILL, Adrian Hugh, Lt. (A), 7.4.45.
COLBECK, Ralph Austin, S/b. (A), 11.11.43.
COOK, George Denys, Mid. (A), 8.4.42.
COOPER, J., S/Lt. (A), 1.10.44
COSSILL, Royce Ivan, S/Lt. (A), 10.2.43.
COWPER, Valentine Henry George, S/Lt. (A), 15.11.42.
CRANWELL, Robert Arthur, S/Lt. (A), 8.5.44.
CULLEY, E.G., Lead/Air, 17.8.1940.
CULPAN, Desmond Keith, S/Lt. (A), 24.11.44.
CURD, Victor Selwyn, Lt. (A), 4.7.44.
DAVIES, Robert Usher, S/Lt. (A), 1.2.43.
DILLNER, Beverley Oscar, S/Lt. (A), 9.2.44.
DILLON, Donald Frederick, S/Lt. (A), 30.3.43.
DOUGLAS, John Mackenzie, S/Lt. (A), 11.12.42.
DO WELL, Avery David, S/Lt. (A), 14.3.43.
DRAKE, James William, S/Lt. (A), 29.8.44.
EATON, Albert Neville. S/Lt. (A), 14.7.43.
EDNEY, Stanley William, Lt. (A), 17.5.44.
ELWOOD, Desmond Nelson, S/b. (A), 1.8.42.
FARRER, Mathew Cameron, Lt. (A), 27.8.45.
FENWICK, Terence Charles Robert, Lt. (A), 19.9.44.
FERGUSON, William George, Lead/Air, 4.3.44.
FLANNAGAN, Francis Patrick Joseph, S/b. (A), 3 0.5 .4 2.
FLINTOFF, Robert Hayward, S/Lt. (A), 12.10.43.
FORBES, Robert’ Wilson Derrick, S/b. (A), 27.7.43.
GALL, Robert John, S/Lt. (A), 14.12.43.
GALLAGHER, Charles Anthony, Lead/Air, 25.2.42,
GAMBRILL, Edward Boys, S/Lt. (A), 4.7.45.
GOODFELLOW, Richard Maclaurin, Lt. (A); 19.10.44.
GRAHAM. David Neil, S/Lt. (A), 24.7.45.
HABERFIELD, John Kerle Tipaho, Lt. (A), 31.7.45.
HAMILTON, Brian Charles, Lead/Air, 25.8.41.
HARRIS, John Douglas Morton, S/Lt. (A), 24.5.43.
HARRISON, William, S/Lt. (A), 19.9.42.
HAWKEN Harold Tolmie, Lt. (A), 13.8.43.
HAYWARD, Leslie Frank, S/Lt. (A), 1.5.44.
HERROLD, John Dean, S/Lt. (A), 26.4.44.
HEWETSON, Edward De Aulton, S/Lt. (A), 11.7.44.
HOOSON, William Clive, S/Lt. (A), 2.1.42.
HORNBY, John Samuel, S/b. (A), 10.10.48.
HOSKIN, Redge Dennis, S/Lt. (A), 18.11.43.
HOUSTON, John David, S/Lt. (A), 25.10.42.
HOWDEN, David Anthony, S/Lt. (A), 13.3.42.
INGLE, Ewan Seymour, Lead/Air, 19.8.41.
JAMIESON, Raymond, S/Lt. (A), 15.11.43.
JENKINS, Donald Andrew, Lt. (A), 26.5.44.
JOHNSON, Lloyd Harding, S/Lt. (A), 3.2.43.
KNOWLES, Pat Thomas, S/Lt. (A), 16.11.44.
LATTER, Meliss Stuart, Lt. (A), 15.1-1.42.
LAWSON, Robert Arthur, S/Lt. (A), 15.6.43.
LEE, Allen Stephen, S/Lt. (A), 16.4.44.
LIBEAU, Clutha Campbell, S/Lt. (A), 21.8.45.
LUNN, Douglas Vernon, S/b. (A), 10.8.43.
MCALEESE, Daniel, S/U. (A), 13.4.45.
McBRIDE, Robert Nesbitt, S/Lt. (A), 17.11.43.
McBRIDE, Thomas Chalmers Glen, S/Lt. (A), 10.8.45.,
McCABE, Robert Douglas, S/Lt. (A), 25.5.44.
McCRACKEN, Alan Cairnhill, S/Lt. (A), 15.5.43.
McKAY, Inn Alexander, S/Lt. (A), 22.11.43.
MCLEOD. Gordon Edward, S/Lt. (A), 23.6.45.
McLEAN, Denis Beresford, S/Lt. (A), 11.8.42.
McMILLAN, Rex, S/Lt. (A), 22.4.42.
McDONALD, James Ninian, S/Lt. (A), 14.6.43.
MacKAY, Henry Alexander, Lt. (A), 24.6.44.
MacLEOD, Norman Ian, S/Lt. (A), 13.1.45.
MAFFEY, Leslie Walden Ellyett, Lt. ‘(A), 22.2.45.
MARKS, Frank Ernest, S/Lt. (A), 23.1.45.
MARSHALL, John Esmond, S/Lt. (A), 13.2.44.
MARTIN, Alastair Edgar, S/Lt. (A), 5.5.44.
MEDHURST, Peter Thurston, Lt. (A), 1.10.42.
MEIKLEJOHN, Arnott Roy, S/Lt. (A), 6.5.42.
MITCHELL. Lawrence Edmund, S/Lt. (A), 10.12.41.
MORRISON, Hugh, Lt. (A), 4.5,45,
MORRISON, John Craig, Lt. (A), 28.5.44.
MURPHY, Duncan Bryce, Lead/Air, 20.9.43.
NURSE, John Hugh, S/Lt. (A), 19.11.43.
OLDS, David Leonard, S/Lt. (A), 21.8.44.
PARKER, Godfrey Hudson, S/Lt. (A), 5.7.44.
PATERSON, Gray Duncan, S/Lt. (A), 30.6.44,
PATERSON, Robert Murray, Lead/Air, 26.2.42.
PATTERSON, Brian Arthur, Lead/Air, 13.5.42.
PATTERSON Jack Campbell, S/Lt. (A), 5.3.43.
PEARCE, Arthur Leslie, S/Lt. (A), 27.1.45.
PEERS, Richard George, S/Lt. (A), 15.12.44.
PENNINGTON, Frank Athol Joseph, Lt/Cdr. (A), 24.4.44.
PEPPERELL, Jack Radford, S/Lt. (A), 1.5.42.
PICKARD, John Allnutt, S/Lt. (A), 26.6.42.
PRATT, Ernest Frank, S/Lt. (A), 19.1.43.
RAINES, Andrew Todd, S/Lt. (A), 23.9.42.
REEVES, John Henry, S/Lt. (A), 1.5.43.
REID. Francis Graham, S/Lt. (A), 12.3.44.
RICHARDS, Owen Grawden, S/Lt. (A), 14.3.43.
RICHARDSON, Archibald, Lt/Cdr. (A), 24.8.44,
ROBERTS, Kenneth Sutherland, S/Lt. (A), 7.6.44
RYALLS, Grant, Lead/Air, 26.7.41.
SANDILANDS, George Victor, Lt. (A), 8.5.46.
SHADBOLT, Frederick John, Lead/Air, 17.1 1.44
SHARP, Alan, S/Lt. (A), 19.8.44,
SHAW, Raymond Martin, Lt. (A), 26.10,44.
SHERRIFF, Ernest Charles, S/b. (A), 15.3.45.
SIME, Bruce, Lt. (A), 25.3.45,
SIMMONDS, Douglas, S/Lt. (A), 23.9.41.
SMALL, William Henry Hagar, S/Lt. (A), 6,12.43._
SPENCER, Charles Douglas, S/b. (A), 11.10.44.
STARK, Winston Vernon, S/b. (A), 7.3.43.
STREET, Arthur Robert, Lt. (A), 27.6.43.
TAIT, Douglas Haig, S/b. (A), 10.10.42.
TAYLOR, John Charles, S/Lt. (A), 10.4.45.
TAYLOR, Stuart Crouch, S/Lt (A), 18.9.44.
THOMPSON, Arthur George, S/Lt (A), 14.1.43.
THOMSON, Alexander Neilson, S/Lt. (A), 22.4 42.
THOMSON, Percy Donald. S/Lt. (A), 7.6.44.
TUCKER, Donald, P.O. (A), 29.12.41.
URLICH, Joseph John, S/Lt. (A), 9.9.43.
VOYSEY, Russel Lawrence, S/b. (A), 7.11.45.
WALLACE, John David, S/Lt. (A), 1.12.43.
WARNER, Desmond Harold, S/Lt. (A), 1.2.43,
WARNER, William Francis, S/Lt. (A), 12,11.42.
WAUGH, James Alexander, S/Lt. (A), 11.6.44,
WEATHERALL, Louis Frank, S/Lt. (A), 26.4.44.
WEBB, Douglas, S/Lt. (A), 11.5.44,
WEBB, John Fenner, Lt. (A), 29.1.45.
WEBBER, Alexander David Richmond, S/Lt., (A).15.11.42.
WILLIAMS. Maurice Walton, S/Lt. (A), 28.5.44.
WILSON, Ian Lewis Ruxton, S/b. (A), 1.5.44.
WILSON, Rex Samuel, S/Lt. (A), 2.8.45.
WIREN, Lonsdale Hollis, Lt., (A), 4.6.43,
WOODWARD, Clive Eustace, S/Lt. (A). 24.8.44