Post by Dave Homewood on Mar 31, 2019 23:26:51 GMT 12
What was the "W.T.A.G. Flight" at Ohakea in May 1943? Was that a flight for Wireless Telegraphist and Air Gunners, within No. 1 (Bomber) Operational Training Unit, perhaps? Or did the acronym stand for something else?
Sgt J.D. Stuart NZ42539 was apparently posted to this flight as a Staff Pilot on the 10th of May 1943.
Quite right Dave, that was the Wireless Telegraphy & Air Gunner (Training) Flight, which must have existed as early as about October 1942 (when it was located at Levin, moved along with the "Operational Training Squadron" of which it was a part), to New Plymouth in mid-October, then to Ohakea in early January 1943. It was administratively separated from 1 BOTU but remained at Ohakea in February 1944 when it was re-designated as the Gunnery Training School, equipped at time with about 8 Hudsons, plus some Harvards and perhaps the odd Vincent/Vildebeest, also about ten Oxfords, so was a reasonably sized unit. Originally the W/T & A/G Flight only operated about 12 Oxfords, along with a gaggle of Gordon drogue towers, but Vincents replaced the latter aircraft in about mid-1943. The Oxfords were withdrawn about April/May 1944, but the school continued to function with a steady output until being closed down about August/September 1945. From about the date of its redesignation (Feb 1944), the code letter group allocated to the unit was changed from 1 OTU's "ZX" to their own "HQ" (formerly used by 14 Sqdn). In later stages of war (from about October 1944 perhaps) it also had a small fleet of about five elderly P-40Es, also marked up with "HQ" codes; these replaced the Harvards formerly used as "attackers". Main job of the WT&A/G Flight (later GTS) was the aerial training of "straight" Air gunners (but NOT WOAGs) for Hudson/Ventura and Catalina squadrons, as well as the A/G training of Navigators and Flight Engineers, again for Hudson/Ventura and Catalina squadrons. Pretty well all WOAGs used by NZ and Pacific-based squadrons were Canadian-trained, apart from a small number who had trained in 1939/40 at Ohakea or with the "T" squadrons pre-war who had been wireless operators cross trained as A/Gs, or A/Gs cross-trained as W/Oprs. From memory, the course sizes going through this unit (W/T & A/G Flight, later GTS) was roughly about 16 to 24, but there were two kinds of courses for much of the war. The straight A/G courses were numbered sequentially from No. 1 onwards, while the (combined) Navigator and F/Eng courses were quite separate courses distinguished by having the suffix "A" added (as No. 1A), and I think were a little shorter in duration. It might come as a surprise to many that navigators and flight engineers were also trained air gunners, but this was the case in the wartime RNZAF, and possibly in many other air forces and naval air forces. Generally the A/G course (flying stage) was about 4 to 6 weeks in duration. However cross-trained aircrew such as these men had to choose which flying badge to wear, but navigators normally chose the navigator badge, as did flight engineers (the F/Eng badge that is) as only one flying badge could be worn according to the regulations prevailing at the time (and probably still does). David D
No. 1 BOTU originally just undertook pilot refresher training (almost all these men were, I think, those pilots returned from Singapore/Malaya/Dutch East Indies etc, who had undertaken little or no flying before they were withdrawn to New Zealand, and were therefore decidedly "rusty"). From later 1942 1 OTU also seemed to carry out refresher courses for A/Gs or W/Opr A/Gs returned from Canada, or even some from UK, who had been returned to help build up the RNZAF GR units, including flying boat squadrons. When Hudsons were introduced at 1 BOTU about mid-1942 there were many pilot conversion courses (usually pilots who had only flown Oxfords, Vincents, or single engine aircraft) to bring them up to the required standard, although they would also require a course at the School of GR before they were considered acceptable for posting to squadrons. Many of these pilots were from existing GR squadrons, but only accustomed to the primitive Vincent type. Crew training courses started a little after that, when an entire crew had to be assembled; these crews initially comprised 2 pilots, one observer, two W/Opr A/Gs (or occasionally straight A/Gs).
The courses being run by 1 BOTU over the period early 1944 to early 1945 were Nos. 13 to 21, with pilot conversion taking 4 weeks, followed by crew training (another 6 weeks). Courses overlapped by 4 weeks (2 weeks at each end of course), so always two courses underway at any given time. Each course comprised about six crews of five men each (by this time one each pilot, nav, WOAG, plus two straight A/Gs), although, if necessary, course size could be increased or decreased to make good losses, or in case of a glut building up. Pilots usually came from a course at the School of GR (New Plymouth) or were second pilots who had completed a tour of operations with 4 Squadron in Fiji. The navs and air gunners were generally straight from their gunnery course with GTS. The WOAGs were mostly ex Canada, or ex RAF Middle East, or may have completed a first Pacific tour as a 2nd W/Opr.
The Gunnery Training School courses during this same time were Nos. 10 to 18 (and Nos. 10A to 18A). The straight A/G courses (without "A" suffix) were by this time of eight weeks duration (all ex Delta) and numbered about 26 men per course. The Navigator, plus Flight Engineer and "tradesman" air gunner courses (with "A" suffix) were just 4 weeks in duration, with approximately ten to twelve from each category, to make total per course about 20 - 24; this number reduced later to about five from each category to make total per course about 15. Duration for the straight A/G courses was increased to ten weeks from late 1944, then reduced again to 8 weeks from January 1945 (course probably extended to prevent a glut further down the line). The "A" suffix (shorter) courses likewise were increased from four to 6 weeks in late 1944, then reverted to 4 weeks in January 1945. There were always two straight A/G courses (overlapping by 50%) and one "A" suffix course underway at any given time (with 2 week gap between end of one and beginning of next course).
As for your question about possibility of other "Flights" within the organisation; Well I think once the W/T & A/G Flight was split off, there were still two main Flights (A and B) which probably covered Pilot Conversion (with staff pilots) and the Crew Training Flight (with probably some Nav, W/Opr and A/G instructors for advice), also much classroom work and theory, etc. There was also a Drogue Towing or Utility Flight, with (originally) Gordons then Vincents, then Harvards. The GTS also had Harvards and Kittyhawks. However I am not entirely certain of the internal organisation of either 1 BOTU, or the GTS, and it is possible that most maintenance (certainly the major stuff) was undertaken by the Station Workshops. Hope this gives you a few ideas Dave.