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David Daniel and the 14 Squadron

Victoria Passau, Online Cenotaph & Enquiry Service Manager

In 1943, amidst the turmoil of World War II, a young New Zealander named David Daniel embarked on a journey that would profoundly shape his life. At seventeen, he joined the Air Training Corps (ATC), No. 13 Squadron in Napier. Reflecting on this decision, David noted "it seemed to start where the School Cadet corps left off, except the uniform was better."

David's initiation into military life was marked by learning how to use a link trainer and flying in a Tiger Moth. "The heady experience of flying as a passenger, buckled into the bulky parachute in the open cockpit of a Tiger Moth," he recounted, was a pivotal moment that ignited his ambition to pursue a career in the Air Force.

PR2164 Tiger Moth NZ756 making a low pass over the air field. Believed to be flying from No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School, RNZAF Station, Harewood. RNZAF Official - Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

PR2164 Tiger Moth NZ756 making a low pass over the air field. Believed to be flying from No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School, RNZAF Station, Harewood. RNZAF Official - Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

No known copyright restrictions. ‘PR2164’

Alongside his military training  were the anticipated talks from returning Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) pilots and air gunners. These sessions provided insights into the realities of aerial warfare during World War II. David vividly remembered these talks, noting, "Talks by local...pilots and Air Gunners on leave from the Pacific theatre, were eagerly looked forward to."

As the war progressed, David's aspiration to join the aircrew faced a setback due to a medical condition. "Perhaps my 'Lazy eye' would let me down? It did," he recalled, remembering the moment his dreams of becoming a pilot were ended. However, undeterred by this disappointment, he redirected his ambitions towards serving on ground duties.

David's journey through the recruitment process was a testament to the anxieties and uncertainties faced by many young men of the era. He described this period of waiting as one filled with anticipation and a looming fear of conscription into the Army if his application for ground duties was not accepted in time. "I haunted our letterbox for weeks looking for a brown Government OHMS envelope," he shared, capturing the tension of awaiting his fate.

Upon his eventual posting to the RNZAF Ground Training Depot at Harewood, David's military career took a significant turn. His training there marked the beginning of a series of experiences that would see him serving in the war in the Pacific.

 RNZAF units depart Green Island for Jacquinot Bay, New Britain. Tents in the background among the coconut trees. Kit bags and sundry other supplies in the foreground. Neg 5/440.RNZAF Official - Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

RNZAF units depart Green Island for Jacquinot Bay, New Britain. Tents in the background among the coconut trees. Kit bags and sundry other supplies in the foreground. Neg 5/440.RNZAF Official - Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

No known copyright restrictions. ‘PR6726’
In May 1945, he undertook jungle warfare training in Espiritu Santos, equipping him for the region's challenges. His assignments included stations at RNZAF Forward Headquarters on Green Island (Nissan group) and Jacquinot Bay in New Britain, playing a key role in the region's operations. His service concluded with a return to New Zealand on the S.S. Wahine in October 1945, after serving in Bougainville. Reflecting on this period, he noted,

"The next three years of the forties [1940s] to me, took on a different aspect, I had left home, but I would return there from time to time in my blue, brass, buttoned uniform to experience the warm full hearth of home and socialize, not quite so shyly at the local dances. I would travel throughout New Zealand and to the war in the Pacific, and later participate in the occupation of Japan, all before I turned 21.”

To the Rising Sun

Daniel David Walter Drawing Japan.

Daniel David Walter Drawing Japan.

Public - John - Researcher - 11 December 2022 - Judy Cardno a family friend. No known copyright restrictions.

With the war in the Pacific ended in August 1945, the focus shifted to reconstruction and peacekeeping in the South East Asian region. David was delighted when his brother John Ewart (Don) Daniel, (NZ443881), was chosen for the 14 Squadron Occupation Force in Japan. Don, already a leading Aircraftsman thanks to his excellent results in the Trade Training Flight Mechanic's course, had become a Fitter 2E.

Exciting news came for David: he was to join RNZAF Ardmore in February to prepare with the 14 Squadron for duties in Japan, a response to the RNZAF's need for additional personnel at the British Commonwealth Air Forces headquarters. Don and John Henry (Harry) Hobin (NZ444359), a childhood friend who was also joining the Squadron, were among the first to congratulate him.

Before their posting to Ardmore, David, Don, and Harry took leave, traveling to Napier in Don's 1935 MG sports car, an adventure filled with skilled driving reminiscent of a Grand Prix race. After saying goodbye to family and friends, they tackled the challenging Napier – Taupo road, arriving in Taupo covered in pumice dust from the journey.

At Ardmore, they underwent rigorous training under the watchful eye of the RNZAF Provost Marshall, Squadron Leader "Bull" Duncan, a veteran from the Coldstream Guards. Despite the intense February heat, they practiced parade ground drills, honing their discipline and readiness for the occupation role. The Air Force tailors adjusted their uniforms for a perfect fit, and even their webbing gear underwent changes for aesthetic reasons, eventually being painted white with enamel to prevent it from powdering the uniforms. Their bayonets were chromium-coated, and their boots were fitted with rubber soles in preparation for their journey on the HMS Glory, a Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier, highlighting the meticulous preparation for their upcoming duties in Japan.

The New Lark

HMS Glory painted by David Walter Daniel.

HMS Glory painted by David Walter Daniel.

No known copyright restrictions.Public - John - Researcher - 11 December 2022 - Judy Cardno a family friend
David's voyage to Japan aboard HMS Glory was a chapter of its own. He described the journey as both a literal and metaphorical voyage into the unknown, offering insights into naval life and the camaraderie that binds military personnel together. "Aboard HMS Glory, we set sail for Japan, a voyage that introduced me to naval life and traditions," he recounted, highlighting the transition from the familiar landscapes of New Zealand to the challenges of occupation duty in post-war Japan.

Arrival in Japan

Upon arrival in Japan, David and his comrades were confronted with the tangible consequences of war. The devastation of Hiroshima was a poignant reminder of the destructive power of modern warfare. However, it was in Japan that David experienced some of the most profound interactions of his military career. Engaging with the Japanese people, he navigated the delicate balance between occupier and ally, learning valuable lessons in diplomacy, respect, and mutual understanding. The following extract provides a real insight into his experiences.

“Even from the trucks and our sort stops to deviate around the appalling roads I felt momentarily transported in time to see the paddy fields with the peasants (mostly woman) working in them attired in their baggy pants and scarves around their heads, the quaint little houses, some with thatched roofs, others with the typical charcoal grey tile.

Image from the B Perkins personal album collection. \"Atomic Bomb damage at Hiroshima\" View of damaged buildings and dead trees in a street in Hiroshima, Japan. Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Image from the B Perkins personal album collection. "Atomic Bomb damage at Hiroshima" View of damaged buildings and dead trees in a street in Hiroshima, Japan. Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

CC-BY-NC-3.0‘ALB890591b277’
Halfway towards our destination we skirted around the outskirts of what once was the largest city in the area - HIROSHIMA! Suddenly the singing that typified serviceman been transported in vehicles, abruptly ceased as we gazed out on that vast area of blackened rubble which was once a large and beautiful city.

As we settled into our routines of Occupation Duties we also absorbed ourselves more in the customs and the lives of the Japanese. We learned that to be bowed to was not obsequiousness, that it could also be likened to shaking hands, that we were living amongst an extremely traditionally polite society. The area we occupied was predominantly a rural area and therefore perhaps more typical of the old Japan, than of the larger metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Osaka.

Though the day-to-day garments of the local Japanese was fairly drab, on special occasions such as Sakura - Cherry Blossom time, out - the ladies and girls would come dressed in the finery of their colorful kimonos and spotless Obi sashes.

Image from the Leonard Adolphus Rayner DFC personal collection. Local people standing in front of a shrine on Itsukushima Island, Japan. Handwritten on the reverse \"Steps leading up to Bhuddists [sic] shrine Itsukushima (Paradise Island).\" Air Force Museum of New Zealand

Image from the Leonard Adolphus Rayner DFC personal collection. Local people standing in front of a shrine on Itsukushima Island, Japan. Handwritten on the reverse "Steps leading up to Bhuddists [sic] shrine Itsukushima (Paradise Island)." Air Force Museum of New Zealand

CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 ‘2016-177.30’
Nearby a short ferry trip over the seas was the "jewel of the Inland Seas" Miyajima (Paradise Island) with its beautiful Shinto Shrine, Itsukushima and its traditional Torji (Gateway) built over the water. On weekends and special holidays crowds of Japanese would congregate there, all dressed in their fineries. We enjoyed going there on these occasions mingling with the crowds, being photographed with the children and generally soaking up the atmosphere.”

Reflecting on his service in Japan, David noted, "Our initial apprehensions of a latent Japanese guerilla army subsided, except on lonely guard duties, during the nights on the perimeter of the airfields or at ex-Japanese military bomb dumps, away in the hills from our base." These experiences, ranging from the daily routines on the base to visits to cultural sites, enriched his understanding of Japan and its history.

Homeward bound

As his service concluded, David contemplated his future with a perspective broadened by his experiences. The return journey to New Zealand, marked by stops in Okinawa, the Philippines, and Australia, offered time for reflection on the lessons learned and the memories gathered. His military service, which began with a desire to contribute to New Zealand's defense, had evolved into a journey of personal growth, cultural exchange, and an understanding of the complexities of post-war reconstruction.

Returning to civilian life, David carried with him the discipline and skills honed during his years of service. His post-military career, marked by contributions to his community reflected the legacy of a generation shaped by war and the challenges of rebuilding peace.

Daniel went on to marry and have two children. During his working career he was a member of the Whakarewarewa State Forest Park Advisory Committee and of the Rotorua RSA. He died after short illness on 10 December 2022 aged 96.

David Daniel's story, a testament to the adaptability and growth of a young New Zealander, offers a window into the life of a service person whose experiences reflect the broader contours of New Zealand's military and social history.

Further References:

  • The above narrative summarises David's remembrances, with the full text accessible through the following link: David Daniel - 14 Squadron
  • Brocklebank, L.W. (1997). Jayforce : New Zealand and the military occupation of Japan, 1945-48. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press.
  • Romano, Gail. Jayforce: 75 Years On. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 6 April 2021.

Acknowledgments

Portrait of David Walter Daniel, 444407 (2014). © NZIPP Photograph by Kerry Grant 1201-2271.

Portrait of David Walter Daniel, 444407 (2014). © NZIPP Photograph by Kerry Grant 1201-2271.

CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0.

 

We extend our thanks to the family of Aircraftsman 1st Class David Walter Daniel (NZ444407) and to researcher Judy Cardno for sharing David's experiences serving with the 14 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF) in Japan.

This account is a tribute not only to David's journey and dedication but also to his brother John Ewart (Don) Daniel, (NZ443881), a Flight Engineer with 5 Squadron RNZAF, who tragically lost his life in a Catalina Aircraft crash in Samoa in 1950. Additionally, it honors all of David's comrades who served alongside him in Japan.

 

 

 

 

Cite this article

Passau, Victoria. David Daniel and the 14 Squadron. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 25 March 2024. Updated: 25 March 2024.
URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/features/David-Daniel