Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Battle of Britain to be marked in Rotorua

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A World War II plaque in Fenton Park rose gardens. Fenton Park was the site of an airfield during the war. Photo / Ben Fraser
A World War II plaque in Fenton Park rose gardens. Fenton Park was the site of an airfield during the war. Photo / Ben Fraser

Rotorua will remember the contribution of its airmen and women with a special church service and ceremony to mark the Battle of Britain and Air Forces Commemoration day.

Rotorua Air Force Association president Jim Comber said the church service on Sunday would be followed by a parade to the cenotaph at Ohinemutu's Muruika war cemetery.

Mr Comber said many people would not know that Rotorua was home to an airforce base in the 1940s during World War II and that the suburb of Fenton Park was the original airfield.

"There is a plaque in the rose garden acknowledging the airfield being used by the RNZAF as a training base and the surrounding streets are named after famous pilots who performed heroic deeds during the war.

"As a result of the war spreading to the Pacific the RNZAF operational service was continually expanding and as a result of this it progressively increased the demands on the training organisation.

"From early 1942 it was vitally important to provide fully trained aircrew for duty in the Pacific.

World War II plaque in Fenton Park rose gardens. 14 September 2016 Rotorua Daily Post Photograph by Ben Fraser
World War II plaque in Fenton Park rose gardens. 14 September 2016 Rotorua Daily Post Photograph by Ben Fraser


"As a consequence an extensive reorganisation of the flying training schools was necessary to meet the Japanese threat and it was decided to concentrate the Elementary Flying Training Schools (EFTS) as far as possible in the South Island in order to leave the north free for operational squadrons."

He said the RNZAF Station Rotorua was set up alongside Fenton St in February 1942 and in August that year the initial training wing from RNZAF Station Levin was moved to Rotorua.

"Now living in Rotorua and a member of the Air Force Association, Mr Reg Wellington joined the RNZAF in 1943 as a trainee pilot.

"His first posting on joining the RNZAF was Delta Camp in Marlborough where he undertook his basic training.

"Reg was then posted to RNZAF Station Rotorua to the initial training wing where he studied the theory of flight, navigation and airmanship."

Mr Wellington said he recalled arriving in Rotorua on the train and being taken to a tented camp site near the old Fire Station, now Pak'nSave.

After his training, Mr Wellington was posted to an operational squadron as a fighter pilot in the Pacific theatre for active duty and flew regular sorties from a number of airfield bases in the Pacific until the end of the war.

"We salute men like Reg who bravely served, and also those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country during this very troubling period of our history," Mr Comber said.

"Rotorua played its part in the war effort training our young airmen.

"It also provided medical treatment at our convalescent hospitals to hundreds of injured servicemen and was a wonderful environment for the injured to get well and fully recuperate before settling back into normal life again."

What: Battle of Britain and Air Forces Commemoration day
When: Sunday, 9am
Where: St Faith's Church, Ohinemutu

- Rotorua Daily Post

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