RNZAF Life in the Pacific

On this page I hope to present an average slice of life in the Pacific for an RNZAF airman

Pacific RNZAF Stations

The Royal New Zealand Air Force operated from many airfields in the Forward Area of the South-West Pacific campaign. Most were rather makeshift affairs, having been carved out of the jungle to create a clearing which would be paved with either crushed coral to form an airstrip, or in some cases bedecked with Marsden Matting, a construction of steel planks with drainage holes that bolted together to form a flat steel runway.

The buildings were also usually makeshift, often merely constructed from tentage. The following photos show various aspects of the places where thousands of RNZAF personnel once lived, worked and fought in the Pacific.

Apologies for the poor quality of some of these photos. They come from personal collections and are very old.


Above: The Runway Control Tower at an RNZAF aerodrome in the Pacific - Photo: Roy Paton


This photo taken at the end of the war when various Japanese aircraft had been surrendered to the RNZAF shows a typical dispersal and maintenance area, this time at the RNZAF's base at Jacquinot Bay. Note the RNZAF Ventura in the background, and in the foreground are a surrendered Japanese Dinah (left) and Kate. Photo: Roy Paton


An engine change in the Pacific. The radial engine is probably from a TBF1-C Avenger. Photo: Roy Paton


This building must have been either a Mess or Stores building, at RNZAF Station Jacquinot Bay. The caption Roy Paton had added in his album simply said "Tinned Food Only". Photo: Roy Paton





No. 30 Squadron aircrews, who flew Grumman TBF-1C Avengers as dive bombers against the Japanese. Photo: Roy Paton


No. 30 Servicing Unit armourers, who worked with No. 30 Squadron's Avengers. Obviously kept from a magazine by Roy Paton, the names of those in the photo are seen below the picture. Photo: Roy Paton


No. 2 Servicing Unit, which absorbed many ex-No. 30 Servicing Unit personnel when No. 30 Squadron returned to New Zealand. Below is a close up of the sign from the photo above. Photo: Roy Paton




Camp Waitemata - one of the tented sites where RNZAF personnel lived and worked. Photo: Roy Paton


An RNZAF camp in the Pacific, probably on the island of Espiritu Santo. Photo: The late Cliff Morriss Collection, via Mrs Joan Epps


RNZAF airmen in the 'chow line' at a Pacific mess. Photo: The late Cliff Morriss Collection, via Mrs Joan Epps


An RNZAF Parade in the islands. Photo: The late Cliff Morriss Collection, via Mrs Joan Epps


Airmen at either Santos or Guadalcanal. Cliff Morriss is third from left and Harold Salter is second from left. Does anyone know the identity of the others? They are possibly also from No. 15 Sqn RNZAF. Photo: The late Cliff Morriss Collection, via Mrs Joan Epps (thanks to Margaret Gunter for identifying Harold Salter)


A group of RNZAF Pacific airmen. Probably all groundcrew, they may have been members of No. 15 (Fighter) Squadron or perhaps wireless operators. We may never know. Cambridge's Cliff Morriss is on the left hand end of the 2nd row. This is likely to have been taken in one of the outdoor cinemas set up at many Pacific stations for entertaining the troops. Photo: The late Cliff Morriss Collection, via Mrs Joan Epps


RNZAF airmen in the usual dress of the day, shorts and boots. Does anybody recognise these men?
Photo: The late Cliff Morriss Collection, via Mrs Joan Epps

Brian Skipper has written in to say he believes the airman standing third from the right of this photo is his father, Ivan (Jim) Skipper, Ground Radio Operator, NZ414936


Four to a tent. Tent mates, including Cambridge's Jim Ross, second from left, in the Forward Area. Note how open the accommodation tents were to allow ventilation, and sadly also bad weather and unwelcome guests such as snakes and rats. Photo: The Jim Ross Collection , via Shirley Ross


Roy Paton (left) with three mates on Roy's 20th birthday. Photo: The late Roy Paton


This photo from Fiji, further back from the immediate front lines, shows the type of buildings the RNZAF had in that country. Phil White is fifth from the right, standing, in this group. Photo: The Phil White Collection, via Julia White


Perhaps some less luxurious accommodation in this photo, also in Fiji. Or perhaps hiding some equipment? Photo: The Phil White Collection, via Julia White


Of course war was not the only worry in the Pacific. Weather also caused much damage. Here one of the Fijian huts has suffered from a hurricane, probably the same one that destroyed several RNZAF communications aircraft in 1942. Photo: The Phil White Collection, via Julia White


The war must go on! Despite the high wind of the hurricane, the sentry keeps his post. Photo: The Phil White Collection, via Julia White


Entertainment and Recreation

On the Station

The YMCA building at Camp Hinemoa, one of the few established recreational facilities that would have been found on an RNZAF Pacific Station. Photo: Roy Paton


Cliff Morriss (2nd from the left) and his mates who apparently took part in a swimming competition. Note in the background is a Catalina with what appears to be RAAF markings. Photo: The late Cliff Morriss Collection, via Mrs Joan Epps


The men learned to make their own entertainment. Cambridge man Phil White (2nd from left) joined an RNZAF Dance Band in Fiji, and later he also played with the band while stationed in Tonga. Here the band plays in what looks like a Sergeants' Mess judging by the chevrons on the wall. Photo: Phil White Collection, via Julia White


The occasional celebrity visitor boosted morale no end. Here Gracie Fields visits RNZAF airmen and other servicemen in about 1945. Roy Paton says she gave a concert and even sang them a few ribald songs that she wouldn't have sung in front of a normal audience. Roy was able to meet Gracie, and her husband Monty Banks. Photo: Roy Paton


Mail from home was always a welcome boost. Here Phil White of Cambridge (central in photo with mail in hand) receives a letter during a Fiji mail call. Photo: Phil White Collection, via Julia White

Spiritual Needs

Religion was important to many during the war, and it is also strong in the Pacific. Above is a photo of St George's Church of England in the New Hebrides. Photo: Roy Paton


The interior of a church at Torokina that was built by US Seabees. Photo: Roy Paton

Escapism Entertainment

An outdoor picture theatre for entertaining troops. Photo: Roy Paton


Another outdoor cinema, this time on a much smaller scale. Photo: Roy Paton

Out and About

Sightseeing on the Torokina River. Photo: Roy Paton


An Airman dives into a tropical swimming hole. Swimming was a popular pastime for the men in the Pacific. Photo: Roy Paton


Airmen relax in the Pacific jungle near a stream. Photo: Roy Paton


Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville. Photo: Roy Paton



The Rabaul Market Day, another local attraction. Photo: Roy Paton


Another shot of the Market Day. Photo: Roy Paton



More sight-seeing. This time Jim Ross and friends have taken a raft and checked out a destroyed Japanese 'Pete' floatplane, at the ex-Japanese floatplane base in Rekata Bay on Santa Christabel Island. Photo: The Jim Ross Collection, via Shirley Ross


Another shot at the same beach, but a different aircraft. These aircraft became popular practice targets for RNZAF Corsair pilots who would strafe them while returning from missions elsewhere. Photo: The Jim Ross Collection, via Shirley Ross




An RNZAF rugby team which included Roy Paton (front row, right) that beat an opposing team from the Australian Infantry. Photo: Roy Paton


A published photo of the game mentioned above. Roy has marked a few people on it, including himself in the halfback's position. The pitch looks a little rough! Photo: Roy Paton


The RNZAF North Island Cricket Team. Roy Paton is standing on the right. Photo: Roy Paton


The big match, North Island versus South Island . Played right on Piva airstrip, the South Island team were the victors. Photo: Roy Paton


Spoils For The Victorious RNZAF


Sight-seeing at a captured ex-Japanese Foxhole. Photo: Roy Paton


This is the Japanese E13A1A "Jake" reconnaissance seaplane which was captured at Rabaul in September 1945. It passed into RNZAF possession and was flown to RNZAF Station Jacquinot Bay, where a month later it sank at its moorings. The remains are probably still there. Photo: Roy Paton


This is the Japanese carrier-borne B5N2 "Kate" bomber which was also captured at Rabaul in September 1945. It too passed into RNZAF possession and was flown to Jacquinot Bay, but as no shipping space could be found to return it and two Zero's also captured to New Zealand, the three aircraft passed into RAAF ownership. They were left at Jacquinot Bay and according to 'Aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force' by David Duxbury, Ross Ewing and Ross Macpherson (Heinemann, 1987) were still there as late as 1972, along with the Dinah seen below and at the top of this page. Photo: Roy Paton


This is the Japanese Ki-46-II 'Dinah' reconnaissance bomber that also passed to the RNZAF after being captured at Rabaul. It was left at Jacquinot Bay by the RNZAF, and may still be there rotting away. Photo: Roy Paton