World War II photos offer treasure trove

An Australian researcher is enlisting the public's help to identify photos of Kiwi airmen at work and play during World War II, that were retrieved from a military rubbish tip.

The collection of more than 100 photographs are of the Royal New Zealand Air Force No 6 Flying Boat Squadron in the Solomon Islands.

In one photograph, more than 200 men line the wing of one of the giant Catalina flying boats that were affectionately known as "Dumbos".

The photos were rescued from the rubbish by Flight Lieutenant Alastair "Scotty" Scott, his daughter Jenny said.

"They were all lying out on a rubbish tip. Rather than leave them, he scavenged them."

Ms Scott, now an archivist in Adelaide, has put them on photo-sharing website Flickr.

"Do they sit at the bottom of my cupboard doing nothing or do I get them out there?" Ms Scott said.

"The men in these photos are largely unidentified but there must be many hundreds of their children and grandchildren in New Zealand who would like a wartime photo of their father or grandfather."

Among the pictures is a little-known shot of a young Sir Edmund Hillary, who was then a navigator, helping to launch a small boat named the "Jolly Roger".

"They were trying to keep themselves occupied," Ms Scott said.

Michael Davies served as a flight engineer with RNZAF 6 Squadron  the "flying boat" squadron  and was one of the hundreds of men who posed on the wings of the Catalina.

The photo now hangs above his bed in his Taradale home.

His experience in the Solomon Islands led to a lifelong love of "Dumbos".

He is one of the owners of the only Catalina in New Zealand.

Dr Davies said he had some incredible experiences in the Solomon Islands.

"One of the things that was wonderful was to look out and there was a cloud and the sun was behind it, and the silhouette of the aircraft and two complete rainbows going right round."

Other memories were of the high humidity and the need to wear long sleeves because of the risk of malaria from mosquitoes.

He said the accommodation on the islands "wasn't too bad" and the men were well fed.

"We weren't in the actual line of fire so we didn't have any great traumatic experiences on land."

Instead, as a flight engineer he played a part in air-sea rescues in which more than 80 personnel were saved from various ditched aircraft.

Now a retired doctor, he said the research into the squadron was great.

"I only wish I could put a name to some of these faces in the photos because we're all getting older and not many of us will survive much longer."

See the full set of photos here.


The No 6 Flying Boat Squadron formed in February 1942.

* Its Catalina flying boats were known as "90-knot wonders"  they took off, flew and landed, all at 90 knots.

* Its main job was hunting Japanese boats and submarines.

* Despite their nickname of "Dumbos", the flying boats had machineguns and depth charges.

* A new No 6 Squadron formed in 2005 giving helicopter support to the navy.


If you recognise someone, contact Jenny Scott at

The Dominion Post