Though the beginning of the Royal New Zealand Air force (RNZAF) was traced to 1913, it was officially proclaimed an independent service within the defence forces of New Zealand on 1st April 1937. The Imperial fleet committee in London gave out a Bleriot monoplane to New Zealand that same year. After it was named Britannia, It was flown shortly in New Zealand and was finally placed under storage as against the wish of the officials who hoped the nucleus of the flying corps would be formed by it. It was sent back and received by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) Of England during the outbreak of the 1914 war.
During the First World War, hundreds of ambitious young Kiwis joined Australian and British air services since there were no military flying corps in New Zealand. The Australian Flying Corps (AFC), The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), The Royal Air force (RAF) and The RFC had over 800 New Zealanders that served under them. Over 70 of them lost their lives while a massive half of them flew dangerous missions over the Middle East and European battlefields.
The first Airforce in New Zealand (NZPAF) was established in 1923, they were made up of 11 full time staff that carried out training and administrative duties. They had great support from a territorial unit of over a 100 part-time volunteers of which most were ex First World War Pilots. For over a decade, the activities of the NZPAF were restricted by minimal funding thus they struggled for recognition and ability to purchase new equipments. The increase for defence spending commenced in the mid 1930s due to war threats in Europe and improving economic position. New aircrafts and aerodromes were purchased and funds for personnel were also increased.
More concentration was laid on New Zealand’s defence by the Labour Government that was elected in 1935 and NZPAF was consequently renamed to Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF). After RAF’s Wing Commander R.A Cochrane reviewed the requirements of the country’s air defence in 1936, the Airforce Act 1937 was passed by the Government which was based on Cochrane’s recommendation. The RNZAF was then established as an independent arm of the military services and was equaled with the status of the Navy and Army.
The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 met an underprepared RNZAF despite the improvement it had achieved. A full scale recruitment drive was launched by the then 750 full time personnel and was backed by 404 territorials. New recruits in their thousands were redirected into the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), their training was completed in Canada before they were aligned with Europe’s RAF and the Mediterranean. South East Asia and the Pacific experienced RNZAF operations which were carried out against the Japanese forces. The disastrous Malayan Campaign involved about 400 RNZAF personnel and RAF Squadrons that flew in Burma also had New Zealand’s pilots as crew members.