Guest: Ron Hildreth
Hosts: Dave Homewood
Recorded: December 2011
Duration: 1 hour 5 minutes 59 seconds
In this episode Dave Homewood interviews Ron Hildreth of Hamilton, who joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in September 1942, and trained as a Rigger. Following his course at RNZAF Station Rongotai he was posted to No. 16 (Fighter) Squadron at RNZAF Fairhall, the small satellite fighter base right next to RNZAF Station Woodbourne, west of Blenheim in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. The unit was flying North American Harvards and Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawks.
Following six months there, Ron and the other groundcrew members of No. 16 Squadron were posted to the Pacific, as part of No. 4 Servicing Unit. The unit was initially servicing P-40’s, and by mid-1944 their fighters were replaced by Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsairs.
He spent a brief amount of time at Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal, before the unit headed into the front lines at Torokina, on the island of Bougainville in the Solomons chain. Ron also spent time attached to the RNZAF Station at Green Island before returning to Torokina.
Upon completing his year long tour in the Pacific, Ron returned to New Zealand to undergo his senior trade training course at Nelson, and was then posted to No. 1 Repair Depot at Hamilton.
When the war ended Ron returned to his pre-war job of cabinet making, but a few years later he was taken on by TEAL, or Tasman Empire Airways Ltd., at Wellington, servicing the Short Sandringham flying boats. He then took up employment with de Havilland (New Zealand) Ltd at Rongotai and worked on Beavers, Devons, Rapides and other types of aeroplanes there. All the time while he was with TEAL and de Havillands Ron was also an active member of the Territorial Air Force’s No. 2 (Wellington) Squadron, which was also based at Rongotai, Wellington. He serviced de Havilland Tiger Moths, North American Harvards and North American P-51D Mustangs in the TAF. Ron then spent a few years working with NAC, or National Airways Corporation, again based at Rongotai, before returning to what was now called Hawker de Havillands.
In 1966 Ron and his family moved north to Hamilton where he began working for Air Parts (NZ) Ltd, building the Fu24 Fletcher topdressers at Hamilton Airport. This was the beginning of a long period working at the airport in the various companies that were merged and eventually became what is today Pacific Aerospace Corporation Ltd.
RNZAF Training Days
RNZAF Station Fairhall Days – With No. 16 (Fighter) Squadron RNZAF
Pacific Days – with No. 4 Servicing Unit RNZAF
RNZAF Station Nelson Days
de Havilland New Zealand Ltd. Days – at Rongotai
Territorial Air Force Days – with No. 2 (Wellington) Squadron
Air Force Band Days
Hamilton Airport Days