Episode 159 – The Curtiss P-40 in RNZAF Service – Part One

Sub-Series: The Duxbury Files

Guest: David Duxbury

Host: Dave Homewood

Archive Voices: Geoff Fisken, Noel Hanna, Joe McVicar and Owen Hicks

Recorded: 3rd of August 2017

Released: 1st of September 2017

Duration: 2 hours 18 seconds

Aviation historian David Duxbury once again joins Dave Homewood on the WONZ Show for another in The Duxbury Files series. Together they look at the history of the Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk and Warhawk fighter series which served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force as its front line fighter from April 1942 till June 1944, and then as an important second line fighter till the end of WWII and the last of the type finally retired from RNZAF service in 1946.

The RNZAF operated 297 P-40’s in total, equipping No’s 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 (Fighter) Squadrons, plus No. 2 and No. 4 Operational Training Units, and with smaller numbers serving with the Central Flying School of the RNZAF, the Fighter Gunnery School, the Electrical & Wireless School, and the Corsair Conversion Unit.

The RNZAF operated P-40E’s, P-40K’s, P-40M’s and P-40N’s, plus for a short time one Packard Merlin engined P-40L that was mistakenly sent to New Zealand.

The RNZAF Fighter Wing saw air to air combat in the Solomon Islands, particularly in the defence of Guadalcanal. They also escorted RNZAF, USAAF, US Navy and USMC heavy, medium and dive bombers to targets as far away as Rabaul. The RNZAF Fighter Wing P-40 pilots acquired a fantastic reputation for providing the best escort for the bombers, always staying in close to protect them and seemingly not losing any of the bombers to enemy aircraft. The Fighter Wing pilots shot down 100 Japanese aircraft in aerial combat in the Pacific, with a loss rate of only a fifth of that amount of their own fighters to enemy action.

In this episode David and Dave delve deep into the history of the Kittyhawk in RNZAF service, looking at as many aspects of the type as possible, and unearthing some information not widely known to fans of the RNZAF P-40’s. They also answer questions that were sent in by WONZ Show listeners.

This is Part One, there is definitely more to come following this episode so stay tuned once you’ve listened to this one.

Recommended Further Reading
Some recommended books about the P-40 squadrons or by pilots who flew in them

•  Air To Air – by Chris Rudge

•  Too Young To Die – by Bryan Cox

•  Kittyhawks And Coconuts – by Keith Mulligan

•  The Blue Arena – by Bob Spurdle

•  Tiger Moths And Butterflies – by Peter Norman

•  Wings Over The Pacific – by Alex Horn

•  RNZAF: The First Decade – by Charles Darby

•  RNZAF: A Short History – by Geoffrey Bentley

•  Portrait of an Air Force – – by Geoffrey Bentley and Maurice Conly

 

Quick Links:

•  The RNZAF Curtiss P-40’s on adf.serials

•  The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk on Wikipedia

•  The Royal New Zealand Air Force by S/Ldr J.M.S. Ross

•  The Air Force Museum of New Zealand

•  The Museum of Transport and Technology

•  Classic Flyers NZ Museum

P-40E’s of No. 14 Squadron RNZAF in 1942. Closest to the camera is NZ3008
HQ-B “Umslopogaas”, with NZ3035 HQ-Q in the centre,and NZ3007 HQ-A
“Magnolia Mufflewort” furthest from the camera. The photo was taken by Leo White
and is Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official. This particular print comes
from the collection of the late Graeme Ronayne.


A lovely portrait of No. 14 Squadron P-40E NZ3008 “Umslopogaas”. The photo was
taken by Leo White and is Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official. This particular
print comes from the collection of the late Bill Edhouse


A look at the top of No. 14 Squadron’s P-40E NZ3035. The photo was taken by
Leo White and is Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official. This particular print
comes from the collection of the late Dave Howlett


Flying officer Peter Gifford of No. 14 (Fighter) Squadron RNZAF in his Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk NZ3007.  The photo was taken by Leo White and is Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official.


No. 14 Squadron RNZAF P-40E’s lined up in front of the squadron’s Harvards at RNZAF
Station Whenuapai in February 1943. The photo is Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official.


A No. 15 Squadron RNZAF P-40E NZ3040 over the sea off the coast of New Zealand. This is
an Air Force Museum of New Zealand photo


A P-40E at Woodbourne in 1942. From the collection of the late Noel Hanna


P-40E’s and Harvards lined up at No. 2 Operational Training Unit, at RNZAF Station
Ohakea. From the collection of the late Noel Hanna


Curtiss P-40N Warhawks and Lockheed Hudsons during a stopover at RNZAF
StationWaipapakauri during a ferry flight. The Supermarine Walrus NZ154 seen
left was probably performing Air Sea Rescue duties just in case. The photo  is
Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official. This particular print comes from the
collection of Brendon Deere.


Six Curtiss P-40K Kittyhawks escorted by an RNZAF Lockheed Hudson during a Pacific
ferry flight. The photo is taken from a second Hudson escort. The photo is Air Force
Museum of New Zealand Official. This particular print comes from the collection
of the late Bill Edhouse.


The four pilots who came down on the beach near Noumea.
Left to right are F/O Keith Macdonald, F/O Pat Morpeth, F/O Ralph Karsten
and Sgt Noel Hanna. The photo was kindly supplied by the late Noel Hanna


One of the ex-Tonga P-40E’s, NZ3094, seen here under maintenance at Espiritu Santo.
This aircraft still exists today and flies with Ross Pay’s collection in Australia. The photo
is Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official, via John Saunders.


No. 14 Squadron P-40K’s at Kukum Field, Guadalcanal.  From the collection of the
late Noel Hanna


Pilots of No. 14 (Fighter) Squadron at Kukum, Guadalcanal, Solomon islands, during their
first tour of duty. From the collection of the late Noel Hanna


Pilots of No. 14 (Fighter) Squadron at Guadalcanal, Solomon islands, during their second
tour of duty. From the collection of the late Noel Hanna


Pilots with P-40N NZ3134/L “Leslie” on No. 4 Servicing Unit at Torokina.
Photo from Ron Hildreth’s collection


P-40N’s of No. 4 Servicing Unit at Torokina, with NZ3220/G “Gloria Lyons” in the foreground, and NZ3126/C further down the row. Photo from Ron Hildreth’s collection


Some rough looking P-40’s from the late Bill Edhouse’s collection, location unknown but possibly the Fighter Gunnery School at RNZAF Station Gisborne.


RNZAF Curtiss P-40N’s on Ondonga. From the collection of the late Noel Arnott


RNZAF Curtiss P-40N ’56’ (probably NZ3256) under maintenance on Ondonga.
From the collection of the late Noel Arnott


Flight Lieutenant John Day of No. 16 (Fighter) Squadron, at Espiritu Santo, 1943.
Leo White image


RNZAF P-40’s at Kukum Field, Guadalcanal


P-40N NZ3220 ‘Gloria Lyons’ of No. 4 Servicing Unit at Torokina


A US Navy shot of an RNZAF P-40 taking off from the runway at Torokina,
Bougainville. To the right are USAAF Bell P-39 Aircobras that were based there
as well as No. 2 Servicing Unit RNZAF and No. 4 Servicing Unit RNZAF, both with
P-40’s, and later to re-equip in mid-1944 with Corsairs

5 comments to Episode 159 – The Curtiss P-40 in RNZAF Service – Part One

  • Les Billcliff

    Dave,
    Referring to the photo of 15 Sqdn at Whenuapai,
    I note on the print I have, it is annotated “14 Sqdn Kittyhawks, Whenuapai, Feb 1943” and this is an original Whites photo.
    Also interesting the photo of the Kittyhawks at Waipapakauri, showing the Walrus NZ154. I just scanned a photo of this Walrus and have been trying to figure out where it was taken – I now have the answer!

    • Dave Homewood

      Hmmm, No. 14 Squadron moved from Masterton to Whenuapai as a ‘lodger unit’ on the 13th of February 1943, where they merged with No. 18 Squadron to bolster their numbers, and it was not till the 24th of March 1943 that they got orders to prepare for overseas deployment and began to immediately re-equip with P-40K’s and P-40M’s. So that means they had their P-40E’s at Whenuapai, so I think you’re right, this is most probably No. 14 Squadron. At that time No. 15 Squadron would have been settled in at Seagrove. Cheers, Les. I’ll amend the caption.

  • Les Billcliff

    Ok Dave – the print has Leo’s own handwriting on the back – not hard to miss his scrawl.

  • Art Hyde

    My father was a Leading Aircraft Airframe fitter with the RNZAF 14th Sqradon who did the first tour to Guadalcanal in WW2. I have an excellent Squadron photo from my father collection of the full contingent posing in front of a P40 at Henderson Airfield circ 1943. Would anyone like a copy?

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