RNZAF Marlborough Region


Note: The insert shows the greater Marlborough region to incorporate the RNZAF convalescent home in the Sounds

RNZAF Station Woodbourne

This was a permanent RNZAF operational and flying training station throughout WWII

Runways - Grass Field 1200 x 1260 x 1690 x 1300yds (A Class Airfield)

Meaning of Station Name - This station was named after the original Woodbourne Farm (see below)


Royal New Zealand Air Force


6km west of Blenheim

Civilian flying originally began in this location at Woodbourne Farm, owned by the Walsh family. This land is located over the back of the current airfield. When the Fokker Tri-motor 'Southern Cross' visited New Zealand it required a longer airfield than Woodbourne Farm or Omaka could provide, so a new airstrip was established on the Fairhall brothers' farm nextdoor to Woodbourne Farm. It was this location that later became RNZAF Station Woodbourne, and the original Woodbourne Farm then became known as RNZAF Fairhall in WWII. So basically the two locations seem to have swapped names over time.

After being a military and civil landing ground for some years, RNZAF Station Woodbourne was established for the Air Force just before the war, and was designed as an operational station as well as a flying training facility. The station was operational, hosting No. 2 General Reconnaissance Squadron, from September 1939 till March 1940. When that squadron disbanded and moved north to Auckland to combine with 1GR and 3GR, becoming the New Zealand General Reconnaissance Squadron, the station then became purely a training facility. It performed this task throughout the rest of the war.

Opened September 1939
The station remains open today as a combined military and civil airfield


Squadron Leader Ron Sinclair (Sept 1939 - March 1940 whilst commanding No. 2 GR Squadron)
Group Captain Keith Caldwell (whilst in charge of No. 2 SFTS)

Today though outwardly Woodbourne looks largely unchanged since the war, in RNZAF terms it is a mere shadow of its former self. Most of the base has been civilianised by various Government cutbacks. What does remain there are the various ground training schools of the RNZAF and all new entrants begin their careers on the base. What was once No 1 Repair Depot, probably the best aviation maintenance facility in the country, has now been contracted out to civilians. The station is also the regional airport with many regular flights from various airlines

  No. 2 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron  

Flying Blackburn Baffins. No. 2 Squadron was posted to Woodbourne very early in the war in 1939, having transferred to the station from Rongotai where this squadron had been a Territorial unit. It remained operational at this station till March 1940 when the squadron disbanded, and half the personnel and all the aircraft joined the New Zealand General Reconnaissance Squadron based at RNZAF Station Whenuapai. The Squadron's duties while at Woodbourne were to cover the shipping lanes of Cook Strait and to protect Wellington from attack.


  No. 2 Service Flying Training School  

This SFTS was the last flying school to be established in 1939. Wing Commander Keith Caldwell was appointed Commanding Officer and Squadron Leader Nicholl became the first Chief Flying Instructor. The first course of eighteen airmen pilots arrived on the 28th of December 1940.

Flying initially Vickers Vildebeest and Vincent bombers as advanced trainers, from 1941 the North American Harvard single-engined trainers began to take over the role, releasing the the biplanes for General Reconnaissance duties. The majority of the Harvards in the wartime RNZAF were on charge at this station, and it was the main advanced flying training school for single seat training.

There were two levels of training within the SFTS system, and they were two distinct courses at different squadrons within the school. The No. 2 SFTS Initial Training Squadron, or ITS, was the period where trainees converted from the basic aircraft they'd learned on (Moths, Tiger Moths, etc) to more the powerful aircraft. They furthered their aeronautical training. At the No. 2 SFTS Advanced Training Squadron, or ATS, more advanced flying techniques such as formation flying were taught. For a more detailed account of the activities of this school I highly recommend the book 'Beckoning Skies' by the late Bryan E. Young.


  No. 12 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron  

This was a FAFAI unit, an auxiliary emergency squadron which was attached to the parent unit of No. 2 (GR) Squadron. They flew Vincents armed with guns and bombs, but apart from training this squadron would only have become operational in the event of an invasion, so was not called upon thankfully. This unit existed at Woodbourne from January to June 1942 during the period where Japanese invasion was thought imminent

  No. 22 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron  

This was also a FAFAI unit, as with No. 12 Sqn above, and was attached to the parent unit of No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Woodbourne. They flew Oxfords armed with guns and bombs, but apart from training this squadron would only have become operational in the event of an invasion, so was not called upon thankfully. The crews were made up from No. 2 SFTS instructors and staff. This unit existed at Woodbourne from January to June 1942 during the period where Japanese invasion was thought imminent

  No. 31 (Fighter Bomber) Squadron  

This was also a FAFAI unit, as with the two above, and was attached to the parent unit of No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Woodbourne from July 1942. They flew Harvards armed with guns and bombs, but apart from training this squadron would only have become operational in the event of an invasion, so was not called upon thankfully. The crews were made up from No. 2 SFTS instructors and staff. In July 1942 when the squadron was attached to Woodbourne it had 12 + 6 Harvards on strength, and 15 pilots in the squadron


  No. 32 (Fighter Bomber) Squadron  

This was also a FAFAI unit, as with those above, and was attached to the parent unit of No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Woodbourne. They flew Harvards which would have been armed with guns and bombs, but apart from training this squadron would only have become operational in the event of an invasion, so was not called upon thankfully. The crews were made up from No. 2 SFTS instructors and staff. This unit existed at Woodbourne from January 1942 till the 5th of April 1943. In July 1942 the squadron had 12 + 6 Harvards on strength and 15 pilots


  No. 16 (Fighter) Squadron  

This unit was based at nearby RNZAF Station Fairhall, which was initially a satellite grass airfield to Woodbourne. The squadron's Harvards and Kittyhawks also reportedly operated from Woodbourne but may never have been permanently based there. Can anyone confirm this?

  No. 18 (Fighter) Squadron  

This squadron was formed in June 1943 at Woodbourne and then stationed at nearby RNZAF Fairhall, taking over No. 16 Squadron's aircraft when their personnel had moved to the Pacific. See Fairhall below

  Central Flying School  

This school must have moved from RNZAF Station Tauranga to Woodbourne late in 1944, before moving to Wigram in late 1945

  Dental Unit  

A Dental Unit was established at RNZAF Station Woodbourne in April 1940, one of the first three RNZAF Dental Sections (the others being at Levin and Ohakea)


  Aerodrome Defence Unit  

Further details of thus ADU are not yet known but they were equipped with 40mm Bofors Guns


  No. 3 Field Maintenance Unit  

Details unknown as yet but was present on the station in July 1943


  No. 4 Repair Depot  

Set up in April 1942 to overhaul the No. 2 SFTS Harvards


  Combined Schools  

Schools of Officer and NCO's Instruction, Armament and Administrative Training. Present at Woodbourne during July 1945

  School of Cookery  

Present at Woodbourne during July 1945

  No. 2 Aircraft Storage Unit  

Established near the end of the war to store surplus aircraft, and many Harvards and Oxfords among other types went into storage with this unit.



Official Website for RNZAF Woodbourne - Click Here

Sources include:
Defending New Zealand Volume II by Peter Cooke
Royal New Zealand Air Force by JMS Ross
New Zealand Dental Services by Major T. V. Anson
Conversation 10th April 2007 with Graham Orphan


Above: RNZAF Station Woodbourne, near Blenheim. This is a composite of three photos that were taken by webmaster Dave Homewood in the Autumn or Winter 1989 whilst he was based at Woodbourne. They show No's 2, 3 and 4 Hangars as viewed from the eastern edge of the airfield. The runway would be to the left of the picture.

RNZAF Station Omaka

Permanent RNZAF flying training and ground training station throughout WWII

Runways - Grass Field 940 x 1040 x 780 x 1150yds (B/C Class Airfield)

Meaning of Airfield Name - Omaka is Maori for 'place of the stream' (maka being South Island Maori for manga, or stream)


Royal New Zealand Air Force


Just south-west of Blenheim

Prewar, RNZAF Station Omaka had been a busy and historic aerodrome, acting as a regional airport and home to the Marlborough Aero Club - who are still there and now own the airfield. In 1938 and possibly early 1939, No. 2 Squadron Territorial Air Force (based at Rongotai, Wellington) used the airfield as an away airfield for exercises.

From almost the war's beginning the RNZAF moved in. Initially used as a satellite to nearby RNZAF Station Woodbourne, where No. 2 Squadron had moved to, as well as training aircraft such as Vincents and later Harvards from Woodbourne's No. 2 SFTS. Things changed in February 1941 when Omaka was upgraded to become an operational station. The large hangar that still stands there today (now known as the BP Hangar) was completed in February 1941.

No. 2 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron, now based at RNZAF Station Nelson, moved a Detached Flight of its Vincents and Vildebeests into Omaka at this time. Their purpose was to both cover the eastern approaches to Cook Strait against enemy attacks on shipping, etc., and also to continue its training of aircrews in General Reconnaissance work. Whilst an operational squadron, No. 2 GR Squadron was also the operational training unit for crews of all the GR squadrons at this time.

Later that year this Flight was expanded, and disassociated with No. 2 Squadron, to become the School of General Reconnaissance. Many more Vincents and Vildebeests joined the school because they had been replaced on the operational squadrons by now with Lockheed Hudsons. These large biplane bombers were eventually replaced with more modern Avro Anson twin-engined monoplanes.

In 1943 RNZAF Station Omaka also became the brief home of the NCO's School, where newly promoted airmen learned the skills of NCO life.

New recruits who had previously been trained in the Air Training Corps also were inducted into the RNZAF on this station through a system designed to fast track them through initial training, and not double up on the previous training the ATC had provided.

By late 1943 the station was beginning to be wound down significantly, especially after the School of General Reconnaissance had shifted to Bell Block in New Plymouth, and from 1944 till the end of the war became merely a satellite storage depot for nearby RNZAF Station Woodbourne.

Opened late 1939, upgraded to an operational station in February 1941


Closed as an operational station in April 1944, but remained as a storage depot till the end of, or perhaps after, the war


Unknown at this stage

Today Omaka remains a thriving regional aerodrome for Marlborough, where general aviation continues to flourish as it did before the war. The Marlborough Aero Club owns the airfield and enjoys continued use of the aerodrome.

It is also home to a wonderful collection of historic aircraft, including real and replica World War One fighters, and some World War Two aircraft too. Owners of aircraft based on this airfield include well-known WWI enthusiast and restorer Stuart Tantrum, the very famous film maker Peter Jackson, and restoration expert Mike Nicholls.

The aerodrome holds a large bi-annual airshow, Classic Fighters, at Easter during the odd years to compliment the famous Warbirds Over Wanaka shows in the even years.

A new national Aviation Heritage Centre has been established recently on the aerodrome which opened on the 9th of December 2006, and is already a major tourist attraction. This museum is outstanding in its detail and in its amazing collection of authentic WWI items, many of which belonged to dozens of the famous aces. Focusing at this stage on World War one aviation, plans are in place for the AHC to expand over time to include between-the-wars aviation, World War Two, and postwar aerial history.

Many of the former RNZAF buildings remain on site, some being used by the local Iwi as a Marae, and others by local businesses. The main RNZAF hangar is still on site. There are even a couple of Moth Sheds from the prewar aero club days, and the Marlborough Aero Club clubhouse is still in place where it has stood for 75 years, and still in use. During WWII it became the Omaka Officers' Mess.


  No. 2 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron Detachment  

A Flight of Vickers Vincent and Vildebeest flew rom Omaka as a detachment of the Nelson-based No. 2 (GR) Squadron. This unit was established to patrol the eastern approaches of Cook Strait against raiders and submarines. The detachment was set up at Omaka in February 1941, and another role filled by the unit was the training of General Reconnaissance crews, which they'd already been doing whilst at Nelson. This detachment was later divided from the squadron, and became the School of General Reconnaissance. See below.


  The School of General Reconnaissance  

Originally flying Vickers Vincent and Vildebeest aircraft inherited from the detachment of No. 2 (GR) Squadron, this school was formed in late 1941. The squadron had run the training of crews for its own and other GR squadrons since early 1941. With several new GR squadrons being formed the need arose for a larger, separate school, so the School of General Reconnaissance was formed.

More modern aircraft arrived from July 1942 for the school when 14 Avro Anson twin-engined light bombers were delivered to the school to train pilots in the skills of General Reconnaissance flying and fighting. The school was based at Omaka till about September 1943, at which point a second batch of nine more Ansons had arrived, the school had expanded to train new navigators as well, and the unit moved to RNZAF Bell Block at New Plymouth


  Initial Training Wing  

The training of ex-Air Training Corp cadets began to be carried out here in 1942, and continued through 1943. They were trained with a more fast-track system to get them into flying training, because the ATC should already have given them a good grounding in Air Force knowledge, practices and skills that needn't be repeated in their training.

This was not always the case however. One ex-Airman that I have talked with who went through this scheme said he actually only ever went to one ATC parade, and then never went back. So he had little prior ATC skill but was still fast tracked!


  NCO's School  

With the departure of the School of General Reconnaissance from RNZAF Station Omaka to New Plymouth, a new school took its place. The NCO's School was established here to train airmen who were being promoted to an NCO rank in the duties and etiquette of those ranks. However this was a short-lived posting, the school only being at Omaka through August 1943, before moving on again to RNZAF Station Levin. The similar Officer's School of Instruction replaced this school at the end of August 1943.


  Officers' School of Instruction  

This school rained new officers in the duties and etiquettes of being an officer. The school moved to Omaka in late August 1943 from RNZAF Station Levin - where a lack of accommodation had forced the school out, and returned to Levin when Omaka closed in April 1944



The Omaka 'Classic Fighters' website - Click Here

The Aviation Heritage Centre website - Click Here

The Marlborough Aero Club website - Click Here

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2004 

Above: Former RNZAF Station Omaka, near Blenheim. Centre of shot is a former Safe Air Bristol Freighter.

Photo Copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: The main WWII hangar at Omaka, now the home to Aeromotive and the Marlborough Aero Club. This was and remains the largest building in the old station area of the airfield

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: Looking from the western side of the main hangar towards the north, this building across the road was the M/T Section (or Motor Transport Section) where the station's vehicles were maintained

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: The same M/T building on the left of shot, looking north-east across the old station. Most of the buildings here are now part of the Omaka Marae

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: The back of (or northern side) of the old M/T Section building, looking still very original apart from the addition of the roller door at the far end, which was probably originally a wooden garage door like the other three nearer to the camera.

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: Looking from that M/T building towards the east of the station. The far off buildings appear to be part of an old H-block which has had one section removed, and was probably for accommodating airmen I'd imagine. I don't know the wartime purpose of the closer building to the left of the photo.

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: Looking from the same spot but towards the north, and the Marae. The taller building of which you can see the peak behind the smaller house was the NCO's quarters during the war.

 Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007

Above: This was an H-Block during the war but one wing on the left hand side of the photo (ie two dormitories) has been removed. Perhaps there was a fire at some point? So the section closest to camera would have been the ablutions block (toilet, showers, laundry) and the far side the other two dorms.

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: The main hangar is seen on the right of shot (note the northern end has been re-clad at some point since the war). The orange roofed hut was apparently a lecture room during the School of General Reconnaissance days, and the larger building behind it was the Accounts section. The small old building to the left of shot was the watch office. I'm unsure what the tiny hut in the foreground was for. The white structure to the far left is temporary, a tent that was part of the 2007 Classic Fighters airshow.

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: The H-block barracks from the other side

Photo copyright Dave Homewood 2007 

Above: The back of the historic Marlborough Aero Club clubhouse, which was commandeered as the Omaka Officers' Mess in WWII

Aerial Photos of Omaka
The following aerial shots of Omaka aerodrome have kindly been contributed to the site by well known aviation photographer Alex Mitchell. To go to Alex's excellent Warbirds Over New Zealand website and see his latest NZ aviation photos and more, click the photos or here

Omaka - Copyright Alex Mitchell

Omaka - Copyright Alex Mittchell 

The brown crops around the runways are grapevines. Note the closeness of Omaka aerodrome to Blenheim

RNZAF Station Delta


RNZAF ground training station with seven camps with runway making up "The Delta"

Runway - 1000 x 560yds (B Class Airfield) Auxiliary Landing Ground in use for training, and also an Auxiliary Operational Base

Meaning of Station Name - RNZAF Station Delta sat on land that was in between the delta of the Wairau, Omaka and Waihopai rivers


Royal New Zealand Air Force


West of Blenheim, just west of Renwick on State Highway 6 (note: Renwick was then known as Renwicktown)

RNZAF Station Delta, or "The Delta" as it was known, was a collection of seven RNZAF camps, established over an area at the delta point where the Wairau and Waihopai Rivers meet on one side, and the Omaka river passes on the other. The site had been chosen by and developed under the guidance of Flying Officer Arthur Bradshaw, of the Aerodrome Services Branch of Air Headquarters. It included a runway and several camps where new airmen would undergo initial training.

The Delta was by no means the most popular of stations to be posted to, mainly due to the poor standard of food dished up to airmen there, and the primitive living conditions. It was damp and cold in winter, and seemingly remote. However many men were to pass through the Delta on their way to bigger and better things.

The Delta became a centralised point for several pre-flying training schools which moved in from other stations. There were seven camps at the Delta, each with a specific purpose.

RNZAF Station Delta's Seven Camps

Ashford CampThis was the RNZAF Hospital and WAAF Wing

Bedford CampThe RNZAF Medical section [decompression chamber]

Cheshire CampInitial training & recreation

Dorset CampAircrew candidates at Elementary Ground Training School

Evesham Camp Headquarters Wing & RNZAF Stores

Fareham CampElementary Training Wing [and Gunnery training]

Guernsey CampSenior Training prior Wings Course. Also an RNZAF Dental School

RNZAF Station Delta opened in June 1943. The Delta camps had apparently initially been built for the Army but transferred to the RNZAF at this time. I have yet to see any evidence of the New Zealand Army using the site before the RNZAF moved in, and as the land was selected by an RNZAF Officer for RNZAF usage, I wonder if this information was correct.

Most of Delta closed in October 1944 when RNZAF intakes had slowed down to a much lesser level than earlier in the war


As there were seven schools and several units, this gets a little confusing:

Overall “Station Masters” who commanded the entire complex were:
Squadron Leader McGregor-Turnbull - from the 7th of June 1943 till 3rd of November 1943
Wing Commander FA Swoffer MBE - 3rd of November 1943 till ?
Wing Commander SL Gilkison
Wing Commander Ian E Rawnsley MBE

CO “Ashford Wing”
(Opened 24 Oct 43 – Closed 01 Dec 44)
Sister KS Williams commanded the RNZAF Hospital for the whole period

CO “Bedford Wing”
(Opened 01 Jul 43 – Closed Sep 44)
Not listed. Bedford seemed to house a number of “medical units”, so could have also come under the command of Sister KS Williams

CO “Cheshire Wing”
(Opened 01 Jul 43 – Closed Sep 44)
Flying Officer WR Caton - from the 1st of July 1943 till November 1943
Wing Commander EG Gedge MC - from November 1943 till April 1944
Squadron leader A. George DFC DFM - from April 1944 till June 1944
Flying Officer J. Baker - from June 1944 till ?
Squadron Leader WB Cowan DFC – from ? till Cheshire Wing closed (Sep 44)

CO “Dorset Wing”
(Opened Sep 43 – Closed 26 Apr 44)
Officer Commanding Elementary Ground Training School
Squadron Leader Sidney Wiltshire GC from September 1943 till January 1944
Squadron Leader A. George - from January 1944 till closure of 26th of April 1944

CO “Evesham Wing”
(Opened Aug 43 – Closed 31 Jan 45)
Squadron Leader McGregor-Turnbull - from August 1943 till 1st of May 1944
Squadron Leader C Weinstein - from 1st of May 1944 till ?
Squadron Leader LW Garrard - from ? till Evesham Wing closed 31st of January 1945

CO “Fareham Wing”
(Opened 16 Oct 43 – Closed 11 Nov 44)
Squadron Leader Clare
Squadron Leader WB Cowan DFC
Squadron Leader J Joll DFC DFM - from September 1944 till ?
Squadron Leader HH Blackwell

CO “Guernsey Wing”
(Opened Feb 44 – Closed 16 Dec 44)
Wing Commander VGH Gee RAF - in early February 1944
Squadron Leader JT Davison GM - from 15th of February 1944 till September 1944
Squadron Leader J Joll DFC DFM - from September 1944 till ?
Squadron Leader MD Nairn – from ? till Guernsey wing closed on 16th of December 1944

Today I guess this land reverted to farm land at the end of the war, and is probably still a farm or vineyards today. Can anyone please confirm what's at the site now?

It is interesting to note that the Base Institute (ie the hall) at RNZAF Station Woodbourne was in recent years renamed the Delta Lounge, paying homage to the former wartime neighbouring station.


GTD (standing for Ground Training Depot?)
Established at the Delta in late 1943. Closed October 1944. Within the structure of the GTD were the
Elementary Ground Training Squadron an the Advanced Ground Training Squadron

Initial Training Wing
The Initial Training Wing moved to The Delta from RNZAF Station Rotorua in February 1944 and the grouping of all pre-flying training was then completed. When the Delta was closed in October 1944, the ITW was moved down to RNZAF Station Taieri.


The Delta Map  

Above: This map created by Dave Homewood is based on an old map kindly supplied by John Skeen. The village of Renwick, then known as Renwicktown, would be just right of the map.


Above: A map I have photographed from the book Tiger Country Volume II, by Ramon K. Trollope, of the Delta which was reproduced from the 1946 publication Air Pilot, Department of Civil Aviation. It shows the area a little better than my map.


Aerial Photos - RNZAF Station Delta Camps

Warrant Officer Sean Strang, RNZAF, has kindly supplied the following photographs of three of the Delta Camps from the air.

Delta Camp C


Delta Camp D


Delta Camp G

RNZAF Fairhall

An RNZAF operational fighter airfield

Runways - unknown

Meaning of Name: This airfield seems to have gotten its name from the nextdoor farm, which had been owned by the Fairhall brothers. Their farm had been taken over to become RNZAF Station Woodbourne, which took its name from Woodbourne Farm. Woodbourne Farm was the site where RNZAF Fairhall was located, so in essence the two locations swapped names while under RNZAF care


Royal New Zealand Air Force


West of Blenheim, directly south of and neighbouring to RNZAF Station Woodbourne

Originally known as Woodbourne Farm, and owned by the Walsh family, this airfield became active prewar with light aircraft using it.

At the outbreak of war it apparently became a satellite airfield for RNZAF Station Woodbourne's flying training school, and was named RNZAF Fairhall.

In 1942 the airfield became home to the newly formed No. 16 Squadron, with their Harvards and P40E Kittyhawk fighters in 1942. Taking over the Walsh family's homestead to become the officer's mess, also various other buildings and small hangars were erected on the site.

The squadron's role was to train for operational flying in the Pacific, whilst providing defence for the Wellington and Marlborough regions.

When the personnel of No. 16 Squadron moved up to the Espiritu Santo in the Pacific in June 1943, their aircraft were taken over by the newly formed No. 18 Squadron, who took over the same role.

At the end of the war, many Airspeed Oxfords were stored at Fairhall and remained there till they were sold for scrap or disposal

After the war the land and homestead returned to the Walsh family. I'm told that at some stage after the war, a hardboard panel that had been tacked onto their home's front door was removed to reveal signatures of all the pilots who'd been based at Fairhall scratched into the woodwork. This amazing artifact is apparently still preserved in the homestead today.


It is currently unknown when this airfield opened, but it became operational in August 1942


The wartime station commanders of Fairhall are unknown but I assume it would have been the fighter squadron commanders based there during its operational period, who were:

Squadron Leader A. N. Jones (C.O. at Fairhall from August 1942 till May 1943 when he was replaced as No. 16 Squadron C.O.)

Squadron Leader Jack Sandford Nelson m.i.d. (C.O. at Fairhall from May 1943 – June 1943 when No. 16 Squadron moved to Espiritu Santo.) (from Wellington; born 28th of June 1912; metal merchant)

Squadron Leader John Anderson Oldfield DFC (C.O. at Fairhall from June 1943 – June 1943 when No. 18 Squadron moved to Espiritu Santo.) (from Wellington; born Wellington, 10 May 1919; solicitor)

Today I understand the land where RNZAF Station Fairhall was situated has reverted to farm land, and remains in the ownership of the Walsh family who owned it prewar. The Walsh homestead remains there, as does one of the Fairhall hangars which has been preserved.


  No. 16 (Fighter) Squadron, RNZAF  

This squadron formed at RNZAF Station Ohakea in June 1942, and moved to RNZAF Station Fairhall in August 1942. The squadron flew Harvards initially and then P40E Kittyhawks in the defence of Wellington and the shipping lanes of Cook Strait. The squadron remained at Fairhall till June 1943 (apart from a detachment to Tophouse during February-March 1943), at which point the personnel moved up to Espiritu Santo in the Pacific

  No. 18 (Fighter) Squadron, RNZAF  

This squadron was formed in June 1943 at RNZAF Station Woodbourne and stationed at RNZAF Fairhall immediately afterwards, taking over No. 16 Squadron's aircraft when their personnel had moved to the Pacific. The squadron remained on the base for three months, carrying out the same role of defence as its predecessor, and preparing for service in the Pacific. They were to move up to Santo in September 1943.

RNZAF Wairau Valley

Unknown purpose

Runway Details - unknown

Meaning of Name - obviously the name was taken from the Wairau River which passes through Marlborough. Wairau means many waters


Royal New Zealand Air Force (?)


Somewhere around the west of Blenheim

No history of RNZAF usage of this site is yet known. All I know is it was marked on a map in the RNZAF Museum of RNZAF sites in WWII

It is as yet unknown when this site opened or closed under RNZAF usage


It is as yet unknown who commanded this site under RNZAF usage

It is as yet unknown what this site is used for today


No units are known to have been posted to this location 

Thanks to Graham Orphan of Blenheim for information on Fairhall

Dillons Point

RNZAF Landing Ground (Reserve)

Runway Details - no runway on site, just a flat grass paddock

Meaning of 'Airfield' Name - it was situated at Dillons Point, Blenheim


Royal New Zealand Air Force (Reserve)


North-East of Blenheim

This site was not an actual RNZAF airfield. However prewar it had been used as a landing strip by various aircraft. Two photos of such an aerial visit of an Avro 504K to Blenheim can be seen in the foyer of the of the Aviation Historic Centre at Omaka (high on the wall to your right as you enter the main door).

The field was chosen in 1942 by Flying Officer Arthur Bradshaw, of the Aerodrome Services Branch of Air Headquarters, to become an RNZAF airfield. It was approved as such by HQ, but was held in reserve. It is apparent that no actual development of the airfield was made at that time, and it remained farmland. However it is worth mentioning here for it's 'almost ran' status as an RNZAF site.

Approved for use in 1942, however it was never been officially used as an airfield


As this airfield was in reserve, there were no actual station commanders

I assume it remains to rural farmland


No units were posted to this 'airfield'


Thanks to Graham Orphan of Blenheim for information on this reserve airfield site

RNZAF Grassmere

RNZAF bombing and gunnery range with airstrip prewar, and through WWII

Runway Details - unknown

Meaning of Airfield and Site Name - Taken from Lake Grassmere where it was situated


Royal New Zealand Air Force


South-east of Blenheim

Robert E. Montgomery of Blenheim has very kindly supplied this potted history of RNZAF Lake Grassmere:

"Constructed in 1938 as a landing field for the Wellington Territorial Squadron to carry out bombing practice on the Lake, with their Blackburn Baffin aircraft.

With the outbreak of War and the establishment of No. 2 Flying Training School at Woodbourne the airfield and bombing ranges became a busy place, administered by the Station's Armament Section.

During 1941 the area was designated a Satellite Airfield of Woodbourne, and several buildings were erected.  Of the groundcrew, one or two airmen lived on site at Grassmere but most came out from Woodbourne by truck each day. 

Trainee pilots and instructors would fly out from Woodbourne, usually for the morning or afternoon.  Little (if any) night-time use was made of the ranges, and even at the height of wartime training, the airfield and ranges at Grassmere was basically a week-day operation.

Practice bombs were dropped on targets set up on the lake, with results calculated from bearings taken from several observation posts on nearby hills.  

Student pilots fired at sleeve targets towed behind an all-yellow Vincent in designated gunnery ranges over Clifford Bay.  In addition to aircraft (mostly Harvards) of No.2 SFTS, the ranges were used by Kittyhawks of the Fighter Squadrons based at Fairhall (Woodbourne).  A bomb was also dropped on the lake by a visiting B-17 Fortress.

There were several fatalities at or near Lake Grassmere, and at least one major ground accident in which a Harvard and Vincent were written off, though with only minor injuries to those involved.

Use of the bombing and gunnery ranges ceased with the closure of No.2 SFTS in November, though these were still designated as such in 1947. 

Post-war, the Marlborough Aero Club made limited use of the airfield in the early post-war years.  What was probably the last accident at Lake Grassmere involved a Hudson of the Central Flying School, Woodbourne, which made a wheels-up landing on the mudflats through "inappropriate manipulation of the throttles."  It was subsequently winched to the airfield, repaired and flown back to Woodbourne. 

Since that time, Lake Grassmere has seen dramatic development and expansion of the solar salt industry, first begun there on an experimental basis in 1942.  The South Island Main Trunk Railway passes over Lake Grassmere on a causeway, as it  did throughout the war years. Public Works Dept Overseer for setting out the airfield in 1938 was Mr Allan Montgomery (my grandfather). Armament Officer at Woodbourne 1943-44 was Flt Lt W.R.J. (Bill) Montgomery (my Uncle); Grassmere was a major part of his "parish". Hope this is of interest.  My good wishes for success in your project. Regards, Robert."

Additional information to Robert's excellent piece above, here are the details of the collision mentioned. Vickers Vincent NZ344 collided with North American Harvard NZ972 when the Vincent was on take off from the Lake Grassmere airstrip. this occurred on the 11th of March 1944. The Vincent and the Harvard were both destroyed and were both written off the books at RNZAF Woodbourne on the 15th of April 1944 as reduced to spares.

Opened in 1938


Under the jurisdiction of the Commanding Officer of RNZAF Station Woodbourne from 1941

Today - see Robert's piece above


No permanent units though a couple of airmen were permanently posted (or rotated) at the location

Sources for RNZAF Lake Grassmere:
Above mentioned email from Robert E. Montgomery


RNZAF Emergency Landing Ground

Runway Details: unknown

Meaning of Airfield Name: Named after the settlement of Clarence where it is located. This field was also sometimes known as Clarence River.


Royal New Zealand Air Force (?)


South of Blenheim on Kaikoura Coast

Also known as Clarence River, this airstrip was seldom used by RNZAF or Civil aviation during WWII, if ever. I am unsure when this airfield was established, but it must have had both a grass airstrip and a fuel reservoir of some sort.

Smaller aircraft such as the Tiger Moth were known to refuel at the airfield when flying between Woodbourne and Christchurch or Ashburton.

This airfield was a factor in an incident detailed in volume two of 'Tiger Country' by Ramon K. Trollope when one of two Tiger Moth pilots flying from Woodbourne to Ashburton thought he was short on fuel and would not make it to Clarence. Instead the pilot, Pilot Officer E.J. Omundsen, landed NZ664 in a field at nearby Kekerengu, 13 miles away from the Clarence River strip.

Whilst he endeavoured to open the fuel tank to check the level the other pilot, Flying Offer G.L. Parker circled, confused. Parker thought Omundsen had confused this paddock, on the "Winterholme" estate of Commander T.S. Critchley, for Clarence, and he was trying to signal to his colleague where the airfield actually was when the whole affair was spotted from above.

An RNZAF DH89B Dominie had happened upon the scene and the passengers, staff officers, thought the whole thing looked suspicious. It wasn't Omundsen found he did have sufficient fuel and the gauge was tricking him, so he took off and the two Tigers carried on to refuel at Clarence. But the officers started an inquiry when they arrived at Wigram, and the whole matter had to be explained. Luckily an eyewitness on the ground saw the whole thing and cleared Omundsen's name.

Clarence was not continuously active during the war, there were no permanent staff there as far as I am aware. Although, I don't know who administered refuelling. Perhaps it was done from a road tanker to order when aircraft were expected?

Other than these refueling stops it would largely have been an emergency airfield for pilots who ran into bad weather or mechanical trouble.

I do not know when this airfield opened or closed


Unknown who was in charge

The usage of this land nowadays is also unknown


No permanent units were stationed here

RNZAF Curious Cove


RNZAF Medical Convalescent Home

Runway details - None known

Meaning of Site Name - Named after the location, which is Curious Cove in the Marlborough Sounds


Royal New Zealand Air Force


On the eastern side of Queen Charlotte Sound

No 2 Convalescent Depot, RNZAF, was established at Curious Cove in the Marlborough Sounds, where sick or injured airmen were able to recover in a tranquil environment.

It was originally administered by the Delta from April 1944. However on the 1st of November 1944, control passed to RNZAF Woodbourne, who were responsible for the unit until it closed in April 1945.

The camp was situated on the west point of East Bay, near Dieffenbach, known as “Curious Cove”.

Source – The Delta, Military Camp – RNZAF Station by Robert E Montgomery (via Sean Strang)

This depot opened in April 1944, and closed a year later in April 1945


Unknown who was in charge but probably the senior Medical Officer at Delta, then Woodbourne during those stations' administration of the depot I'd guess

Today the former RNZAF camp at Curious Cove is apparently the Kiwi Ranch Christian Camp.


No. 2 Convalescent Depot