Author(s): Margaret McClure
This book marks the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It traces the broad sweep of the air force from the early twentieth century to the first decade of the 21st, and extends beyond the romance of early military aviation and the drama of World War Two to describe the diversity of roles it has undertaken in recent decades. This account begins in 1909 with the gift of a Bl riot plane to New Zealand in response to the first awareness of the potential of military air power. Early experiments in flying were followed by a rush of young New Zealanders to the dangerous adventure of flying over the battlefields of Europe in World War One. Then came the formation of an independent Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1937. Two years later, inexperienced and unprepared, the air force galvanised itself to train thousands of aircrew for the war in Europe. The difficult days of peace brought further radical changes for the RNZAF: dismantling wartime aircraft, demobilising most of its personnel, and forging a postwar identity. The air force's most turbulent years came in the 1980s and 1990s, when governments cut ANZUS ties with the United States, reduced the number of bases and personnel, decided to focus on peacekeeping, and killed off the air combat force. From 2001 the 'war on terror' reintroduced a global outlook, along with hectic deployments and leaps in technology, paralleled by the stress of cutbacks in personnel.
Margaret McClure is a public historian who has written this book for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the RNZAF. Her first book, The Story of Birkenhead in 1988 was joint winner of the J.M Sherrard Award for Regional History. Since then she has published widely in the fields of social history and the history of government policy. Her major publications include A Civilised Community: A History of Social Security in New Zealand (Auckland University Press, 1998) and The Wonder Country: Making Tourism in New Zealand, (Auckland University Press, 2004).