Sir Henry Wigram, like the Walsh brothers before him, decided to establish a flying school with a view to training pilots for the Royal Flying Corps and promoting aviation for local defence. The Government of the day was not prepared to do this, although it had no objection to its being undertaken by private enterprise. Thus on the 22nd of August 1916, the meeting at which the company may be said to have been established, was held. The provisional Board of Directors held the first General Meeting of the company on the 7th December 1916, where amongst other matters they set up committees to order aeroplanes and construct manufacturing and repairing facilities. it also set about defining the relationship of the school to the Defence Department, and to obtain recognition by the War Office and the Royal Flying Corps.

One of the first decisions of the Board of Directors of the Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Company was to take over the contract for the purchase of two Caudron-Anzani 45hp aeroplanes from the British Caudron Company, that Sir Henry Wigram had made privately in mid- 1916. They also ordered another aircraft, this time a 60hp Caudron. After many delays caused by the war in Europe the first aircraft arrived. Fortunately, that aircraft was the last ordered — the 60hp dual-controlled model. This aircraft was flown for the first time by the Company’s instructor, Mr C M Hill, on the 7th May 1917. However, after a few flights it developed structural weakness in its engine and had to have extensive repairs.

After the early trial flights the Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Company started operating on the 19th June 1917. On that date there was only one aeroplane available, the 60hp dual-controlled machine, in which the company instructor, Mr C M Hill, took up, in succession, the Chairman of the Company, Sir Henry Wigram, his wife, and the six pupils then in residence. The first six students who graduated from the school on the 27th August 1917 were: E A F Wilding, H N Walker, J E Stevens, C J McFadden, L A Limbrick and E J Orr.

Reference: The First Hundred Pilots Sir Henry Wigram
Sir Henry Wigram C M Noble
History of New Zealand Aviation Ross Ewing and Ross MacPherson

A commemorative envelope and stamp were issued for the 75th anniversary of the first passenger flight by a Caudron aircraft at Sockburn, 19th June, 1917.


Commemorative envelope and stamp

There was an enclosure in the envelope.

Wings Caudron

Wings went at the top of the enclosure

Caudron at the bottom

The special cover is signed by Wing Commander I E Rawnsley, MBE, who on the 27 January 1918 was the 29th pilot of the first one hundred pilots to take his certificate. Because the signatory of his cover has failing eyesight, he was unable to sign every cover. The RNZAF Museum thanks Wing Commander I E Rawnsley for his permission to photoprint his signature on the special cover from the original held by the RNZAF Museum.

Ivan Rawnsley

Ivan (Jack) Rawnsley in the rear seat of the 60hp Caudron. Note the size of the control column.