Unidentified photos of RNZAF personnel & families ~ can you help?
'Was an ancestor of yours based at Darton Field, Gisborne in the Second World War? Can you help us put names to faces of 183 photographs of unidentified RNZAF personnel and their families? See the photo set on our new online collection database below - use the comments function if you have any information to share or contact us directly!
Tairawhiti Museum has released 148 images of unknown men, women and children apparently linked to Darton Field and is asking if anyone can help to identify any of the people. Many Kiwis of the World War 2 generation came to Gisborne with Darton Field (now Gisborne Airport) serving as a RNZAF airfield and training airbase. Museum photography curator Dudley Meadows said the museum has held plate negatives of the images since the 1990s after they were found by a contractor preparing the Gladstone Road-Cobden Street intersection for the new KFC fast food restaurant. The site, 315 Gladstone Road, was once the location of Harold J Dunstan's photographic business and it is assumed the air force personnel were from Darton Field. Nearly 1000 RNZAF personnel were stationed at Darton Field at the time of its peak use in 1943.'
That is a great collection of "intimate" portraits ngirl5, very valuable. Seems that hardly any officers photographed, so practically all NCOs (including many aircrew, mostly "WAG" and "AG" badges, a very few observers and even fewer pilot) or ordinary "erks" and WAAFs, and the odd "significant" other, including youngsters. Although quite a few of the negatives are damaged (broken, or otherwise damaged by various agencies) it is very noticeable that there are large numbers of images which show the same person several times over in some cases, which is a good thing (particularly if some are damaged, at least there might be one good one). My advice would be to get some keen volunteer to match up the duplicates of individuals (some appear with and without headwear, or in different poses), which will cut down the numbers quite a bit.
Remember that Gisborne was primarily an operational station (aircraft flown from here were, firstly Vincents/Vildebeests, then Hudsons, then Hudsons and Venturas, also Kittyhawks and Harvards when the Fighter Gunnery School was in residence from May till July 1944. Also Hudsons of No. 2 Gunnery Training Flight were in residence for about a month, August 1943 to convert air gunners only experienced with manually operated guns, to powered gun turrets (marking the improvement in the RNZAF's front line fleet of aircraft from the days of the Vincents, Hinds, etc, to the Avenger, Hudson and Ventura.)
There was also an ADU (Aerodrome Defence Unit, later renamed as a squadron) at Gisborne from about mid-1942 to about mid/late 1943, which would have numbered several hundred bods at any one time, mostly engaged in swotting up their maths and physics, as they swotted over their exams whilst converting from pure "groundies" to trainee aircrew. Even when no operational squadron was located at Gisborne, Gisborne was often used as an "advanced" airfield for Hudsons or Venturas from Ohakea or Whenuapai when (suspected) submarines were thought to be operating of the stretch of coastline from east Cape down to Cook Strait. This was of course to save fuel, time and fatigue when intensive operations were called for.
Wow thank you so much David, that's brilliant : ) Awesome to know : ) I'd love to copy your info to the Gisborne Aviation Preservation thread, or if you would like to post it yourself please do. GAPS has alot of information but not online at this stage (though they are putting together a new site so that could happen). I'm keen to collect whatever I come across and have it all there in the thread in one place. rnzaf.proboards.com/thread/17968/gisborne-aviation-preservation?page=9&scrollTo=294880
ngirl5, By all means pass my thoughts on to those at the Museum with my best wishes. I have done some "identifications" of individuals in photographs in my time, but usually I do have some limited information about the place, sometimes the date, and perhaps even the unit concerned - without AT LEAST one of these, preferably two, it is likely to be a very long, and not necessarily successful search!
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 7, 2021 14:30:44 GMT 12
What a shame all the guys who were so active in the No. 30 Squadron and Servicing Unit Association are no longer around. ten years ago they'd have easily have confirmed which guys were members of their lot or with No. 8 (GR) Squadron.
True Dave. It's a shame in many ways isn't it. I still wish immensely that those generations were still with us <3<3<3 I have no idea how these things work but would the RNZAF possibly have these photos somewhere in their records? I guess it depends if they were ever sent there from the photographer or if they stayed put there.
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 7, 2021 17:41:20 GMT 12
I would doubt that the Air Force Museum's archives have any copies of these, they would have been taken by a local studio and the individuals would have purchased the shots, I'd think. the studio would probably have had names on the negatives originally but it seems they have been lost.
One of the Air Gunners appears to be pretty well known. This was F/Sgt G E ("Red") Hannah, DFM. A photo of him appeared published in Chris Rudge's "Air To Air" book. He was a member of the D F (Don) Ayson crew, the one which claimed 3 Zekes shot down on 24th December (Christmas Eve) 1943. If you have this book, look up his photo, then see how fast you can find him in the Museum's images - shouldn't take long, he is VERY distinctive!! His photo probably taken in 1943, perhaps when he was there being converted from manually operated guns to turret-mounted guns in August 1943 with No. 2 Gunnery Training Flight. David D
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 7, 2021 20:28:51 GMT 12
Red Hannah was with No. 20 Squadron on Hinds, and when that unit was disbanded in 1943 the Air Gunners all got posted to Gisborne to do the Gunnery Training Flight course there on Hudsons, as they'd not operated turrets before. Then most of them were posted onto No. 1 (GR) Squadron on the Venturas.
Thanks heaps David & Dave(id ) Interesting and great to know. I don't have "Air to Air" David, but I will definitely look it up. If you can divulge a clue for Red, I'll pass it on to the museum : ) I'm wondering if they realise most of the people at Darton Field weren't from Gisborne. You would imagine they would know this being a museum, and perhaps they do but I can't see them getting too many bites only releasing the photos here in Gis. You would think (in my total noobness to this) that they would need to publicise them nationwide.