Leonard Monk AWMM
Also known as
- WWI 23/793 AWMM
- WWII 1002 AWMM
Date of birth
Place of birth
Address before enlistment
WW1 Cashmere Hills, Christchurch, New Zealand AWMM
Post war occupation
Next of kin on embarkation
WW1 Mrs Agnes M. Isitt (mother), Cashmere Hills, Christchurch, New Zealand AWMM
POW liberation details
POW serial number
Leonard Monk Isitt (1891-1976), served with the NZ forces and the Royal Flying Corps in World War I. He became a flying instructor and then served with the Royal NZ Air force, retiring as Chief of the Air Staff in 1946 with the rank of Air Vice Marshal. After retirement he became chairman of Tasman Empire Airways limited (TEAL), the forerunner of Air New Zealand.
Isitt used his diplomatic skills to secure an active role for the RNZAF in the South Pacific during World War II. He was New Zealand's signatory to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on September 1945.
World War I
Isitt was born and educated in Christchurch, and after leaving school became a farm cadet and served in the terrritorial forces before enlisting in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1915. Isitt served with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in Eygpt and France and was wounded in the battle of the Somme in 1916. After convalescence in England he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and trained as a pilot. He then worked on army co-operation and in bomber squadrons in France. At the end of the war in he completed further specialist training with the RAF, then in 1919 returned to New Zealand to a position with New Zealands fledgling air service.
Between the wars
Isitt worked for the New Zealand Air Force until 1926 when he was seconded to the RAF in England. He received more training and attended the school of Army Co-operation, as well as acting as New Zealands liason officer to the Air Ministry. In 1928 he returned to New Zealand to command the new airbase at Hobsonville, which he developed during the next eight years. When the Royal New Zealand Air Force was established in 1937, Isitt was promoted to wing commander then group captain. He held a key position in a period of rapid expansion in the lead up to the Second World War. He was made a CBE for his contribution.
World War II
In 1940 Isitt went to Canada for the Empire air training scheme. In 1942 he was promoted to air commodore and was posted to London where he stablished the RNZAF Overseas Headquarters and oversaw New Zealand's extensive contribution to the air war in Europe.
Isitt returned to New Zealand in late 1942 to take up duties in the Air Department in Wellington and was appointed chief of air staff in 1943 with the rank of air vice-marshal. Isitt used his diplomatic skills to secure an active role for the RNZAF in the South Pacific during World War II. He was New Zealand's signatory to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on September 1945. Isitt retired as chief of air staff in 1946.
A photograph of Air Vice Marshal Leonard Isitt, signing the document of the formal surrender of Japan to the Allied Powers, is displayed in the Auckland War Memorial Museum exhibit 'The End at Last', part of 'Scars on the Heart'.
His medals are on display at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Wigram AWMM
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Leonard Monk Isitt
- New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force. (1914-1919). Nominal Rolls of New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Volume I. Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer. AWMM
Page No: 359 AWMM
- London Gazette AWMM
Supplement no 34893, p.4254 AWMM
- Beattie, P.J. & Pomeroy, M. (2013-2020). Onward : portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (vols 1-5). Auckland, New Zealand: Fair Dinkum Publications AWMM
Vol. 2: Includes portrait AWMM
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