No. 1 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War

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No.1 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron, RNZAF, flew a mix of maritime reconnaissance and bombing missions from bases on Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Green Island and Emirau, searching for submarines and attacking the Japanese bases on Bougainville and at Rabaul and Kavieng.

No.1 Squadron, RNZAF, was descended from a number of Territorial Squadrons. The Wellington General Reconnaissance Squadron had been formed in 1938 and was equipped with the Blackburn Baffin. A second squadron was formed at Christchurch, also in 1938 and a third in Auckland, both also equipped with the Baffin. These squadrons all became fully operational at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

In March 1940 the three squadrons were merged to form the New Zealand General Reconnaissance Squadron, and early in 1941 this squadron was renumbered as No.1 General Reconnaissance Squadron. It was based at Whenuapai, Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand. The newly numbered squadron began life operating the Baffin, but those aircraft were removed from service during 1941.

During 1940 the squadron's main role was to hunt for German commerce raiders, and in particular the Orion, which appeared twice in New Zealand waters during the year (August and November). On both occasions the aged aircraft in use lacked the range required to catch the German raider.


Before the Japanese entry into the war No.1 Squadron had been operating the Vickers Vincent. A number of Lockheed Hudsons had arrived by December 1941. By 20 February 1942 the squadron had eight Hudsons in the front line and four in reserve.

In the summer of 1942 Rear Admiral McCain, US Commander Air, South Pacific, asked New Zealand to provide six Vickers Vincents to provide anti-submarine cover around New Caledonia. The RNZAF decided to send Lockheed Hudsons instead, as they were felt to be more suitable for operations over water. No.4 Squadron, RNZAF, sent two aircraft, which went operational on 19 July 1942. Nos.1 and 2 Squadrons RNZAF also sent aircraft, and the combined detachments formed a new No.9 Squadron.


For most of 1943 No.1 Squadron remained at Whenuapai, where it flew defensive patrols and also acted as a training unit for men about to go overseas. On 23 October 1943 No.1 Squadron relieved No.3 Squadron on Guadalcanal. The squadron inherited four daily search patrols, but early in November two of these patrols were cancelled. The squadron continued to fly the other two missions until 6 February 1944, using aircraft based on Guadalcanal.

From November all of the squadron's other missions were flown from Munda on New Georgia. During November the squadron's base remained at Guadalcanal and Munda was used as a staging base but a detachment moved to Munda in late November. Munda was used for special duties (such as message drops), for search missions and for the regular bombing and strafing missions on Bougainville and New Ireland.

Later in their tour of duty the squadron added 'survivor patrols' to its roster, flying behind the strike forces heading to and from Rabaul and searching for any downed airmen. Catalina air-sea rescue aircraft could then be directed to the right spot. During these patrols the squadron's Venturas were often attacked by Japanese fighters, but managed to hold their own on a surprisingly regular basis.


During February 1944 the squadron focused on a new patrol pattern over the seas west of Munda. The squadron was replaced by No.2 Squadron on 17 February and returned to New Zealand.

In August 1944 the squadron moved to Guadalcanal, replacing No.3 Squadron, RNZAF. It flew a mix of dusk and dawn patrols, anti-submarine sweeps over the main shipping lanes and searches for possible submarines and missed Allied aircraft. In October it was replaced by No.2 Squadron.

On 29 October 1944 No.1 Squadron flew onto Green Island, between Bougainville and Rabaul. It took most of the next month for the squadron to become operational, and it didn't fly its first mission until 21 November. At this date the island was occupied by a mix of New Zealand and American units. One squadron of Navy PBJ Mitchell bombers had been flying a daily weather flight and shipping count mission over Rabaul, and on 21 November No.1 Squadron took over that role. A single aircraft left Green Island at 6am, performed a meteorological survey of the area between there and Rabaul and looked for any possible targets for air strikes.

Early in December the squadron added 'night heckles' to its role, taking part in a series of night nuisance raids over Rabaul. This was the beginning of a period in which the squadron focuses on bombing missions, although it also took part in air-sea rescue missions, shipping escorts, supply drops and even photographic reconnaissance missions. The squadron flew a mix of medium altitude bombing missions over Rabaul and low level attacks on New Ireland. The squadron's time on Green Island ended on 5 January 1945.


In March 1945 No.1 Squadron replaced No.3 Squadron on Guadalcanal. The squadron flew dawn and dusk anti-submarine patrols and shipping escort missions without making any contact with the enemy.

In May 1945 No.1 Squadron replaced No.9 Squadron on Emirau. This placed it just to the north-west of the Japanese base at Kavieng. The squadron had several duties. It was to search for Japanese shipping to the north of Emirau, fly patrols around the coast of New Ireland and take part in attacks on suitable targets. On several occasions it operated alongside American aircraft on Emirau and aircraft from Green Island to attack Rabaul. No.1 Squadron was replaced by No.4 Squadron in June 1945.

After this last tour the squadron returned to New Zealand where it was disbanded.

to 1941: Blackburn Baffin, Vickers Vincent, Vickers Vildebeeste
1941-43: Lockheed Hudson
1943-45: Lockheed Ventura

March 1940-October 1943: Whenuapai, Auckland, New Zealand
   July 1942: Detachment to New Caledonia
October-November 1943: Guadalcanal
November 1943-February 1944: Munda, New Georgia (see text for details)

February-June- 1944: New Zealand

August-October 1944: Guadalcanal
29 October 1944-5 January 1945: Green Island

March-May 1945: Guadalcanal
May-June 1945: Emirau



How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 May 2013), No. 1 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War ,

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