MURALS AT THE MUSEUM OF TRANSPORT AND TECHNOLOGY, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND. 

THESE WERE COMMISIONED AS PART OF A DISPLAY TO COMMEMORATE NEW ZEALANDERS WHO FLEW FOR THE BRITISH FLEET AIR ARM DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR.

In World War II 1070 New Zealanders joined the Fleet Air Arm, the air branch of the British Navy.  This was a far larger number than from any other British Commonwealth country apart from Britain itself.  Most served as pilots, others as observers and there were a number of air gunners and non-flying air engineering officers.  At the end of the war one in ten aircrew were New Zealanders.  In the aircraft carriers of the British Pacific Fleet operating agains Japan in 1945 New Zealanders made up a quarter of the operational crew.

New Zealanders in the Fleet Air Arm served in every theatre of war: the British Isles, and Europe, the Atlantic and the Arctic, the Mediterranean and North Africa, the Indian Ocean and South East Asia, the Pacific and Japan war zones.  They took part in naval operations all over the globe from Norway to Madagasca, from the icy North Atlantic to the vast Pacific.
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Swordfish ARCTIC CONVOYS

A depiction of a Swordfish torpedo bomber landing on a carrier in snow and gale force winds.  These aircraft, among others, were used for defense of the Arctic Conoys to Murmansk.  When working up the mural I talked to men who actually flew the planes, and when I expressed doubt that they were able to land on in such weather, I was reassured that they did indeed do so.

Aircraft carriers were crucial in the protection of convoys to Russia, carrier aircraft causing heavy losses to German aircraft opeerating from Norway, but the danger from U-boats was ever-present and aircraft flew off and on to the pitching decks in freezing weather and often in the dark.

It was demanding and dangerous flying, particularlyfor those in the open cockpits of Swordfish, which could fly when all other aircraft were grounded.  In the long night of the Arctic, spray, snow and rain froze on the ships.

The Fairy Swordfish was the most numerous of the Fleet Air Arm aircraft and was highly acclaimed.  It was a bi-plane, old fashioned and slow, but highly suitable for flying off the decks of ships.  It was Swordfish from the British carrier Ark Royal which crippled the Bismark.
Atlantic


ATLANTIC CONVOYS

The chief threats to Atlantic convoys were U-boats and long range Condor aircraft.  The Fleet Air arm played a crucial role in extending the cover of escorting naval ships to defend the convoys and to detect, attack and drive off or destroy the threatening U-boats or aircraft.


The Fleet Air Arm flew in all kinds of atrocious weather from the tiny pitching decks of small escort carriers and the even smaller flight decks built on grain ships and tankers known as MAC ships (merchant aircraft carriers).  Flying long searches over the endless ocean, maintaining radio silence and navigating back to that tiny speck took great skill and stamina.
Carrier






THE PALEMBANG RAID

Aircraft fly off British Pacific Fleet carriers to form up 100 kmwest of the island of Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), for one of the BPF strikes against the extensive oil installations at Palembang on 24 and 29 January 1945.
raid PALEMBANG

Despite enemy fighters operating from a ring of airfields around Palembang, numerous  anti-aircraft batteries, and a fence of cables from defensive barrage balloons the Avenger squadrons successfully carry out their precision bombig attacks - diving at 6 second intervals to release their bombs at 500 metres (1650ft.) with dramatic and lasting results.  Escorting Corsair and Hellcat fighters engage in dogfights with Japanese fighters which had eluded the fighter sweeps of airfields.


Avenger JZ361 pictured, of 489 Squadron from Victorious was piloted by a New Zealander from Te Aroha with an English crew of observer and telegraphist-air gunner.  His TAG, who now lives in Auckland, is credited with shooting down of an attacking Tojo.
Leaving Auckland


R.M.S. RIMUTAKA LEAVING AUCKLAND


The Rimutaka sailed with a draft of New Zealanders off to join the Britsh Navy for flying training with the Fleet Air Arm.

The Rangitane had taken the first draft in July 1940 but in November was intercepted by a German surface raider, the passengers and crew taken off and the ship was sunk.
Gates THE GATES OF ST. VINCENT.

St. Vincent was a training establishment where Fleet Air Arm entrants underwent three months naval training before flying training in Britain or North America.
Malta
A FULMAR LANDING ON H.M.S. VICTORIOUS

As the fleet carrierH.M.S
Victorious leaves the Grand Harbour, Valetta at Malta, a Fulma twoseat fighter, guided by the batsman, lands on.  Whilst Victorious was in port the squadrons were based at the airfield at R.N.A.S. Halfar.
Ceylon

CEYLON

A scene at R.N.A.S.Katukurunda on the south west coast of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).  In the background Barracuda bombers are parked in the roofed disperal bays for maintenance work, re-fuelling and re-arming by the naval aircraft technicians.  Elephants were used to tow aircraft.

Messroom

A WARDROOM AT AN AIR BASE
Airfield

AN AIR BASE IN SOUTHERN ENGLAND