New Zealand Air Force 50th Anniversary Acknowledged – 14th June 1978

On Main South Road (demanding the attention of all that drive by) stands a memorial, acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the formation of the New Zealand Air Force. It was erected on 14 June 1978.

The foundation of today’s New Zealand Air Force was laid in 1917 by Henry Francis Wigram’s Canterbury Aviation Company. In 1908 he had approached the government about the great need to introduce aviation to New Zealand – for air defence in case of war and also for commercial use. Believing that New Zealand was too remote from the world for planes to be of any use, Henry was met with a wave of non-interest.

Undeterred, Henry purchased land in Sockburn and opened his own flying school – The Canterbury Aviation Company. Three Cauldron Biplanes were purchased from England and by 1919, the company owned 10 planes and 182 pilots had been trained. It was then that Henry offered his school to the government. Unbelievably it would take another six years and £10,000 from Henry to get the government to take over for defence purposes.

*image courtesy of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum –

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