New Zealand’s War Role by Air

The First World War was the earliest conflict to involve the use of aircraft. New Zealand began to develop aeroplanes for warfare early on. Their experiments aided the air force of Britain in creating moreadvanced flying machines as the war raged.

In 1913, a monoplane was given to New Zealand by London’s Imperial Air Fleet Committee. It was hoped that this would be the beginning of a flying corps within the country. The plane was named Britannia. However, the nation was not ready to develop a flight based military branch. Britannia was put into storage until it was reused to engage the enemy when war finally broke out.

Since New Zealand did not have a flying corps of its own, citizens from the country were sent to the air forces of Australia and Britain. Kiwis served alongside their Commonwealth brothers in many engagements. At least 800 men from New Zealand became part of various flying corps. These included the Australian Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force.

Despite being at its earliest stages, aerial combat played a pivotal role in this war. It was also useful for reconnaissance missions. Photographers were able to take pictures of enemy territory from the air. This intelligence helped to win crucial battles.

Later on in the war, machine guns were fitted onto planes. These created fighter planes for the first time. The flying corps that New Zealanders served with, engaged in dogfight battles using these aircraft.

Eventually, the trench warfare fought on the ground would slow down to a stalemate. It fell to the war in the air to help achieve a decisive victory. As a result, different types of warplane were created. New Zealanders helped by serving alongside these. The kinds of airplane that were developed included ground attack, night bombers and night fighters.


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