21 May 1915 – New Zealand Government rules out further gift aircraft

The New Zealand Minister for Defence, James Allen has turned down a request for funds to pay for new aircraft. The request came from Evelyn Wrench, the Honorary Secretary and Organiser of the Overseas Club in London, who manages the Overseas Aircraft Fund. James Allen The fund exists to allow governments and citizens throughout the British Empire to contribute funds to pay for new aircraft and receive recognition on the aircraft. A few aircraft had already arrived in France and more are expected.

The scheme is approved by the Army Council and endorsed by Lewis Harcourt, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Mr Wrench, included a pamphlet was included which pointed out that ‘In view of the superhuman efforts which Germany is making to establish a mastery of the air’ and ‘the official German statement that the Yarmouth raid is only the precursor of many such exploits, every Aeroplane which we can provide will be needed’. Wrench’s ‘appeal to the people of New Zealand’ to provide £2250 for a ‘Vickers Gun Biplane’, to be ‘definitely associated with the Dominion and the fact that it has been contributed by the residents of New Zealand would be painted on the machine’ was considered by Cabinet in May.

The Minister’s reply was that his colleagues ‘cannot see their way to take any action in view of the tremendous demands that are being made upon the country during this war time’.

The New Zealand government had already donated a Bleriot XI aircraft (2854) which had arrived at the front on 7 February 1915 – It was subsequently wrecked on 1 May when the pilot Sgt WTJ McCudden attempted to turn with insufficient flying speed (He and his observer 2Lt NH Read were unhurt). However this aeroplane – Britannia – had originally been donated to the New Zealand Government in 1913 by the Imperial Air Fleet Committee – a group of UK businessmen with a vision of the potential of military aviation. The plane was flown in January 1914, but then put into storage unused until being sent back to Britain in October 1914.

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