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Royal New Zealand Air Force

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 three Elementary Flying Training Schools and two 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 training.

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, the recruits 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.

In 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."

This 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 mankind). 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."

Martin Lord

Martin Lord

Frozen Kiwi

Frozen Kiwi