The fascinating and little-known story of New Zealand’s daring military aviation pioneers
During the Great War, 1914–1918, New Zealanders were keen participants in the new field of military aviation. Close to 850 men, and a small number of women, from the Empire’s southernmost dominion sought positions in the British and Australian air services.
Drawing on extensive archival material, historian Dr Adam Claasen explores New Zealand’s reluctance to embrace military aviation, the challenges facing the establishment of local flying schools and the journey undertaken by the New Zealanders from their antipodean farms and towns to the battlefields of the Great War. In spite of their modest numbers the New Zealanders’ wartime experiences were incredibly varied. Across the conflict, New Zealand aviators could be found flying above the sands of the Middle East and Mesopotamia, the grey waters of the North Sea , the jungles of East Africa, the sprawling metropolis of London and the rolling hills of northern France and Belgium. Flying the open cockpit wood-and-wire biplanes of the Great War, New Zealanders undertook reconnaissance sorties, carried out bombing raids, photographed enemy entrenchments, defended England from German airships, strafed artillery emplacements and engaged enemy fighters. By the time the war ended many had been killed, others highly decorated, some elevated to ‘ace’ status and a handful occupied positions of considerable command. This book tells their unique and extraordinary untold story.
‘It’s a wonderful book — one that risks inducing a Peter Jackson-sized enthusiasm for the biplane era’ — Russell Baillie, NZ Listener
‘It's an extraordinary work of scholarship’ — Joan Mackenzie, Whitcoulls