I'm hoping someone might help me on a little touched upon subject, were RNZAF aircrew destined for service in the SW Pacific given courses in E&E?? Any idea where these courses were carried out & what equipment was issued in NZ before being rotated to the combat theatre??
Post by Dave Homewood on Dec 27, 2018 0:17:48 GMT 12
Most who were heading to the Pacific went through a jungle survival course at RNZAF Station Swanson that involved going into the thick bush of the Waitakere Ranges. Trevor Pearce wrote about his Swanson training in his memoirs which you can read on my site in this chapter: www.cambridgeairforce.org.nz/Trevor_Pearce_Chapter_12.htm
When No. 30 Squadron was about to head to the Pacific they did their course in bush near Gisborne, and I expect that No. 31 Squadron may have done the same thing when they were preparing to leave a few months later. Wally Ingham wrote about the No. 30 Squadron training in his books The Avengers, and We Also Served.
There was also a special school in Espiritu Santo (now Vanuatu) where tropical survival was taught, mainly to aircrew. This involved identifying edible plants (and poisonous ones), snakes, various techniques of collecting fresh water and the like. It was meant to complement the courses already undertaken in NZ. There was an article about this tropical school published in the August 1945 issue of the wartime Contact magazine (under title "Base Depot Training Pool"), and there is also an article on the Swanson school in the June 1944 issue ("Preparation for Jungle Warfare"). Both articles are heavily illustrated. The Base Depot Training Pool article includes the following paragraph: "The Base Depot Training Pool located at Santos has as its chief object the making of all who pass through its hands, fit and resourceful to meet any emergency. It aims to continue the work done at Swanson but to apply it to actual jungle conditions. Here we find frequent intakes of men engaged on intensive ten-day courses." When aircrew training recommenced in New Zealand from 1948 onwards, various "escape and evasion" course were always an integral part of their training, although there was not much in the way of "tropical elements". However I think when RNZAF units were serving in Malaya in the 1950s a certain amount of survival training was given for the benefit of aircrew, and some senior groundstaff were also permitted to undertake advanced survival courses, including an American-run course in the Philippines, although I think this was in the 1960s. David D
Dave, Not aware of the RNZAF using "Little Malaya", which I think was mainly intended for Army training. That was where Auster NZ1703 came to a sticky end of course. The RNZAF escape and evasion exercisee seem to have usually taken place close to Christchurch I think (when Wigram was active with flying training), but I will have to check up on this subject further. David D
I see that the RNZAF at Wigram used Lake Sumner for escape & evasion exercises, although originally they seemed to call it "bushcraft" and "fieldcraft" so may not have been so elaborate in the early days. From what I can make of available records, Lake Sumner was used between about 1953 and 1958, and once again in 1965. These exercises (only a few days in duration) were undertaken, at least in the early days, whilst the aircraft were at Birdlings Flat, as armament training was undertaken from this field at almost the same time. Later armament training took place at Ohakea on specially equipped Harvards.
A little further investigation shows that West Melton (which was already a rifle range) became the centre for most escape & evasion training from about 1958 onwards, and was still in use as late as 1991. Birdlings Flat itself may also have been used briefly before West Melton was finally adopted. The nature of these exercises probably varied quite a bit over the years.
Prior to the introduction of the "Red Owl" series of deployment exercises in 1969 (name soon changed to Wise Owl), student pilots did not often operate away from their home airfield. However it is not thought that any type of 'evasion and/or escape' activity ever took place on these later adventures, and I believe that any survival training was carried out quite separately. David D
Dave, That was where Auster NZ1703 came to a sticky end of course. David D
I was part of a team that went in and pulled what was left of that airframe out of the scrub in about 89, I think; I still have a small piece of it here on display! Got photos if anyone's interested....
The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
Post by Dave Homewood on Dec 29, 2018 19:40:59 GMT 12
Actually trainee aircrew did do special bush craft courses when I was at Wigram, I went on one as an instructor in 1992. We all go on a Navy ship at Lyttleton ad sailed around the Banks Peninsular to the southern side. The aircrew trainees were a mix of officer cadets and three female Mess Stewards who were all remustering as Air Stewards. They were all put into a MS10 life raft and spent the night there tied on behind the ship as if they'd crashed sort of scenario. The sea was rough and cold too. Lucky bastards had it easy, they just had to lie in their raft and sleep. We staff had to do shifts through the night in the freezing cold watching them to make sure they did not come adrift. My shift was about 1am to 3am. Then i had to go to a cabin and sleep on the metal floor as the boat tossed around. I was glad to get off that tin can boat and onto dry land, then the students set up a camp and they had no food, and had to fend for themselves making fire and other bush craft. It was mid winter and freezing. We staff were billeted in an old farm house and even with the fire roaring in the living room the bedrooms were not very warm so I pitied the students in the tents!
We did various things with the students including going with the when they tried to catch a wild goat to slaughter, with the farmer's blessing. We never got near the goats though. I recall we did some orienteering stuff and also we were signalling between teams with a heliograph. On my team was one of the signallers who had come with us and set up Comms for the camp so between us we managed to do a bit of Morse with the students o the other side of the valley. The final day of the week long camp two Iroquois came in and brought some live chooks that the students had to slaughter, pluck, cook and eat. They were very keen by then and did so with gusto. Then the choppers took most of us back to Wigram as the sailors were gone by now, and the others went in trucks. That was a great exercise, there were about ten staff. Two of us were S&S, there was a PTI officer running a lot of the survival course stuff and I think a PTI Corporal too. And a medic, at least one Comms guy, at least one driver I think and a chef or two. Maybe others. Plus the ten or so students. It was brilliant fun. I cannot recall if there was actual escape and evasion stuff done, but it's possible because the PTI's took the students on several jaunts that we were not needed on.I know this course ran at least two more times after that before Flying Training moved to Ohakea and we all left. Not sure if it continued there with the officer school after that. I also don't recall if the officer cadets were with the Officer school (Knives and Forks school?) or with PTS.
As a telegraphist I was dispatched to Little Malaya in 1966 to provide the HF comms link back to Wigram for one of the aircrew survival courses. The most memorable thing for me in that exercise was the "hairy' ride in a short wheel base landrover as we went cross-country to the camp site, down a very steep slope on wet grass with the MT driver telling me "its okay"
Post by Dave Homewood on Mar 30, 2019 14:28:44 GMT 12
I just came across this in the NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 5 MAY 1944
AIR FORCE PERSONNEL
TRAINING NEAR AUCKLAND
Designed to fit all Air Force personnel physically, mentally and tactically for duty in forward Pacific areas, an illusive course now in full operation at R.N.Z.A.F. station near Auckland is proving popular as well as a military success. The course is only of 10 days duration, but in that time the men receive sufficient training to enable them to defend themselves both against the Japanese if attacked and against the more insidious enemy of tropic disease. Its value was proved when the enemy attacked a New Zealand airstrip at Bougainville some weeks ago. The syllabus comprises instruction in basic weapons, physical training, hygiene and sanitation. The weapons in which instruction is given are the rifle, bayonet, machine-gun and Sten machine-carbine, grenades and pistols, the last being reserved for officers and other aircrew who alone are armed with that weapon.
Unarmed Combat and Bushcraft Other subjects included are unarmed combat, bushcraft and land navigation by compass for all personnel, and emergency drill for aircrew who may have the misfortune to come down on the water. In addition all personnel taking the course are taught to swim, city baths being used for this instruction, in which some remarkable results have been achieved in a very short time.
At all stages the practical work is supplemented by lectures and, where possible, by instructional films. A number of the instructors are men experienced in Pacific warfare. Courses overlap at the station, which passes through about 700 men each month, and a short visit gave a very clear indication of the nature of the training. Beginning with modern physical training in which it was impossible to simulate performance of the exercise, course proceeded through all the phases to a final cross-country hike to a west coast beach, involving about 15 miles' travel through difficult country.
Jungle Fighting The camp is set in wooded, hill country, ideally fitted for giving instruction in jungle training. Personnel are trained in the essentials of fighting in the bush including the use of cover and dealing with assaults at close range. Physical fitness is insensibly acquired as the course proceeds and the final toning up of the system for the hard conditions of the forward areas is imparted by the daily drill.
Mental alertness against the dangers of inefficient or inadequate hygiene and sanitation is inculcated by lectures given by the station medical officer. Malaria, dysentery and other tropic diseases are naturally of paramount importance, but experience has taught that strict personal hygiene must be insisted upon. Proper care of the feet, of particular value in humid climates, has been found to have been insufficiently taught hitherto. A most interesting series of exhibits of emergency sanitation equipment, mostly made from waste material, is used for practical demonstrations.
Other Special Subjects Special subjects in which training is also given include anti-gas measures, in which the trainees are put through a gas chamber and made fully conversant with the virtues and use of their respirators. The jungle course includes odd angles like tree-climbing, recognition of edible fruits and plants and bivouac building. Aircrews are taught how to make emergency lifebelts by the inflation of shirts or trousers, as well as being given a short swim in full operational dress, in the stream which flows through the station.
The station itself was taken over from the Army. It is compact in lay-out and ideally situated for its present purposes. Accommodation and messing arrangements are adequate, but in no sense luxurious. A concert is given once a week in the Y.M.C.A. building and the Army Education and Welfare Service handles a travelling library. Outstanding features were the general neatness of the station and the well-being of the trainees No Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel destined for Pacific service are excluded from this course, regardless of rank or age. Its value has been evident not only in the resulting greater efficiency reported from the battle areas, but in the high spirits of the men themselves.
Post by Dave Homewood on Mar 25, 2021 17:01:28 GMT 12
From the PRESS, 8 JUNE 1945
TRAINING R.N.Z.A.F. PERSONNEL
SPECIAL SCHOOL AT SWANSON
PREPARATION FOR ALL EMERGENCIES
(R.NZ.A.F. Official News Service.) WELLINGTON, June 6.
A week or so ago, a call was made on Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel at Bougainville to be armed and ready in case a Japanese counter-attack was successful. One of the reasons for the Royal New Zealand Air Force station Swanson, near Auckland, is to train men for such eventualities. But Swanson also has other purposes.
The keynote of all training at Swanson is physical fitness. No jungle training school in the tropics can make men physically fit. Experience has conclusively proved that men must be fit before they go there, otherwise they are easy prey for all kinds of tropical diseases. Swanson is an overseas training pool. Men are available to be sent overseas at a moment’s notice.
Swanson was selected because it was the only available place in New Zealand that provided conditions that in any way resembled those encountered in the Pacific. As an embarkation point it is close to the port depot in Auckland and the transport squadrons at Whenuapai, as well as the Sunderland transport flight at Mechanics Bay.
It has been stated that gallons of petrol are being wasted weekly to transport men to a West Coast beach for grenade throwing. The fact is that the men are not transported to the beach. They are marched there in the course of their training. One "quad" truck goes with the party to carry ammunition and to provide a link with headquarters should that be necessary.
It has also been stated that petrol is being wasted transporting men to the Auckland tepid baths when the train service could be used. The reason is that the baths are used at a time when the least possible inconvenience will be caused to civilians. Train services do not happen to coincide with that period The cost of teaching airmen to swim can be measured in shillings and pence.
Surprising as it may seem, about 30 or 40 men in every 200 cannot swim. Swanson teaches them because they will sail and fly over thousands of miles of water where swimming may be an essential survival factor, and because swimming is useful for physical fitness.
In the light of the mass of experience that has been gained, it has been found that the retention of Swanson is essential. The men who are put through its training syllabus are graded fit for overseas service before their training starts. They are sent overseas really fit, and what is more, capable of defending their airfields against any enemy encroachment. That threat once arose at Bougainville, and it is likely to arise elsewhere. If the men were not trained, if they were massacred by an enemy attack, then there would be real and justifiable grounds for criticism.
NEW ZEALAND AIRMEN UNDERGO SPECIAL TRAINING FOR COMBAT SERVICE IN THE PACIFIC. —TOP: Royal New Zealand Air Force trainees at Swanson are given thorough instruction in pistol shooting to fit them for the campaign in the Pacific. This is part of a special course designed to suit the needs of warfare against the Japanese being undergone by the men of the R.N.Z.A.F. BOTTOM; The morning and afternoon tea breaks at Swanson are just as popular as they are anywhere else in the R.N.Z.A.F. PRESS, 8 JUNE 1945
Some photos of the Air Force undergoing training at Swanson...
Airmen wearing gas capes. RNZAF Weapons Training School, Swanson.(PR2745) Group of airmen wear full anti-gas equipment while using a decontaminating spray. RNZAF Weapons Training School, Swanson.(PR2752)
Group at Sten gun practice. RNZAF Weapons Training School, Swanson.(PR2757)
Two airmen leap over a ditch with rifles at the RNZAF Weapons Training School, Swanson.(PR2741)
Group of airmen wade through a stream with their rifles held clear of the water. RNZAF Weapons Training School, Swanson.(PR2768)
Group of airmen at target practice on the rifle range. RNZAF Weapons Training School, Swanson.(PR6163) (Air Force Museum collection)