Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF)
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) was formed in 1934.
Under the terms of the British Commonwealth Air Training
Plan (BCATP) agreement, New Zealand contributed $48 million
to the Plan, or a little over eight percent of its total cost.
In total, 6,992
RNZAF aircrew trained in Canada.
This accounted for approximately one third of New Zealanders
trained, as their homeland itself had four
Elementary Flying Training Schools
Service Flying Training Schools.
New Zealanders trained
as pilots, navigators, navigator/bombers, navigator/wireless
operators, wireless operators, wireless/operator air gunners,
air bombers and air gunners. For the most part, as with
Australian trainees, elementary flying was completed at
home. New Zealanders came to Canada to complete advanced
At the time, overseas travel was rare for most New
Zealanders. RNZAF veteran
Athol C. Saywell comments that, "Today, young people travel
the world in thousands. In the 1930s I could count on one
hand all I knew who had been overseas. So, Canada was a
wonderful experience for us all and it was a foolish person
who did not take advantage of it all."
For those who wound up going to Canada to train, they first
had to embark upon a long journey at sea. For security,
were not told where they would be landing. They tended to disembark at
ports in California, after which they would take a train
up the coast to Canada; then, for those going to Alberta
(or beyond), a train heading east.
Alberta, if it was winter, the New Zealanders found themselves
in a climate far more frigid than the one they left in the
southern hemisphere (where it would have been summer when
they left). Fortunately, they were issued snow boots and
RCAF winter caps and gloves upon arrival. For some, the
cold was difficult to get used to, and they chose simply to stay
inside. RNZAF recruit John K. Aitken did get out to see the sights
in Calgary, although he did feel like something was missing:
"There was quite a good zoo where we saw coyotes and squirrels
and I suppose many other North American animals too. There
were also concrete replicas of Dinosaurs, of which there
were a lot of their bones discovered in the area. Some were
so large that you could walk upright right underneath them.
Also there were lots of waterways we could explore by canoe.
In general though, we did not have much contact with the
local population, as far as I know, none of us ever got
to see the inside of a Canadian home."
RNZAF recruit Colin Clark’s contrasting conclusion was that "The Canadian people
were wonderfully hospitable and seemed to have a special
affinity with us 'Newzies'. Perhaps it stemmed from our
common heritage of forebears who had sought a new life in
a new land." This view was no doubt influenced by the generous efforts
of one of his Canadian acquaintances: "My first and most
memorable instructor at No. 3 SFTS was F/O [Flight
Officer] Don Patterson,
who unfortunately was posted to the UK halfway through our
course. Don was a Calgarian whose father had a law practice
there. They were very hospitable and welcomed me into their
home on several occasions. Don was a great guy, a fine pilot
and a very competent instructor."
generosity was not a universal Canadian trait, as even Clark
found out. "There was one gentleman, however, who did not
share that tolerance and did his best to level the score.
He was a particularly officious sergeant of the military
police who seemed to have a grudge against us (perhaps I
do him a disfavour: maybe that was his attitude to all
One evening he made a surprise inspection of our barrack
and found several airmen playing poker. The stakes were
on the table. Gambling was against the rules and, with obvious
satisfaction, he put the offenders on charge." And no doubt
certain waiters were a little chilly before the Newzies
learned certain Canadian customs. Explains Clark, "We soon
discovered that unless the waiter was given a reasonably
generous tip with the first glass, subsequent drinks were
not forthcoming. Tipping was a definite no-no in New Zealand
at that time; it was considered to be denigrating the receiver."