Wigram Airbase Timeline

Created from information originally supplied by the New Zealand Defence Force.

Pupils  - photo taken from CNZAC booklet
Pupils at work in the repairing shop
1916, 22 August
Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Co. Ltd formed
1916, 27 October
Flying field land purchased at Sockburn. 40 pupils enrolled by end of December.
1917, February 1
Instructor Cecil M Hill killed in air crash while performing aerobatics at Riccarton Racecourse display.
1921, January 31
First scheduled airmail and passenger service in NZ commenced. Christchurch-Ashburton-Timaru route. Service ceased April 1921.
1923, April
Government accepts Henry Wigram’s offer of the land and buildings.
1923, 14 May
Sockburn renamed Wigram Aerodrome.
1923, June 21
Aerodrome facilities formally taken on by Government. A week earlier (June 14) the Government created New Zealand Permanent Air Force and New Zealand Air Force (the latter was part of the Territorial Force). NZPAF was based at Wigram, carrying out refresher training and civil flying.
Hangars - photo taken from CNZAC booklet
Hangars and School Buildings from above the aerodrome. (The first aerial photograph taken in Canterbury). 17th January, 1918.
1927 November
First training course (not refresher course – i.e. these were new recruits).
1928, 11 September
Southern Cross flown by Charles Kingsford Smith lands at Wigram after 1660-mile (2671km) flight from Sydney.
1932
Henry Wigram donates additional land.
1934, February
NZPAF becomes Royal New Zealand Air Force
1934 - 1935
Two military hangars built. More building work carried out over next couple of years, including accommodation.
1935
No. 1 Bomber Reconnaissance Flight formed (RNZAF’s first Operational Unit)
1937, April 1
RNZAF established as a separate service. 55 acres of land purchased; more accommodation built.
1938
New hangar built (now part of Museum building).
1938, August
Lots of building in 1938-9 including Stores (still standing) and more hangars, as the RNZAF expands in preparation for war.
1941, 28 June
70 WAAFs enlisted. Many WAAFs served at Wigram. At first, they weren’t allowed to be accommodated on station.
1941, 11 December
Defence works begin on station in preparation for a potential Japanese invasion.
16 August, 1942
Wigram chapel holds first service.
1943
Station strength is 2575.
1944
200 additional acres obtained for station, between old airfield and Middle Lincoln Road.
1946, 18 April
Air Force’s first jet fighter, a Gloster Meteor, touches down after a flight from Woodbourne.
1949, February 26
First Lady Wigram motor race held. Morrie Proctor of Wellington prevailed.
1953, October 15
Air collision between 2 RNZAF Devon De Havillands results in the death of 7 servicemen.
1958, 7-8 May
Barrack Block No. 5 destroyed by fire.
1967, 5 November
Celebrations for 50th year of flying at Wigram held.
1979
New accommodation blocks built to replace war-time barracks.
1987, 1 April
Museum opens. Collection had been built up since the mid-70s.
1995, September
Base has formal closure parade.
2009, March
Wigram closes to commercial air traffic.
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