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Leonard Monk Isitt (aviator)

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Title: Leonard Monk Isitt (aviator)  
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Subject: USS Missouri (BB-63), Military history of New Zealand during World War II, TEAL, Christchurch Boys' High School, Victor Goddard
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Leonard Monk Isitt (aviator)

For his father the Methodist minister and politician see Leonard Monk Isitt
Leonard Monk Isitt
File:AVM Sir Leonard Monk Isitt.jpg
AVM Sir Leonard Monk Isitt
Born (1891-07-27)27 July 1891
Christchurch, New Zealand
Died 21 January 1976(1976-01-21) (aged 84)
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Allegiance New Zealand
Service/branch New Zealand Army
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Rank Air Vice-Marshal
Commands held Royal New Zealand Air Force
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Other work Chairman of Tasman Empire Airways

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Leonard Monk Isitt (27 July 1891 – 21 January 1976) was a New Zealand military aviator and senior air force commander. At the close of World War II, he was the New Zealand signatory to the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. After the War he worked as chairman of Tasman Empire Airways.

Early and family life

Leonard Monk Isitt was born on 27 July 1891 in Christchurch, New Zealand, the son of the Methodist minister, member of parliament and prohibitionist Leonard Monk Isitt and Agnes Martha Caverhill. Leonard Monk Isitt junior was educated at Mostyn House, Cheshire, England and Christchurch Boys' High School. He had one brother, Willard Whitmore Isitt (1894–1916) who was a Rifleman in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in World War I and was killed in France on 31 October 1916.

World War I and air force service

In World War I he served in the New Zealand Army in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and then transferred to the Royal Air Force where he became a pilot and flew bombers over French battlefields. Between the wars one of his responsibilities was pilot flight training and he served in the Air Ministry, the New Zealand Permanent Air Force (NZPAF) and the RNZAF.[1]

World War II

In May 1942 Isitt was sent to London to establish the RNZAF's Overseas Headquarters, receiving a promotion to air commodore at the same time. Having accomplished his task, under a year later Isitt was back in New Zealand and on 19 July 1943 he was appointed Chief of Air Staff of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the rank of air vice-marshal, replacing Victor Goddard, an RAF officer. He was the first New Zealander to hold his Service's senior appointment. He represented New Zealand at conferences in London, Washington and Ottawa during World War II. He was the New Zealand signatory to the Japanese Instrument of Surrender marking the formal surrender of Japanese forces, so ending World War II.[2]

Isitt retired in 1946 as Chief of the Air Staff and he became chairman of Tasman Empire Airways (TEAL) in 1947.


In 1935, he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.[3] He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1940 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1945.


External links

  • . Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 16 December 2003
  • Biography in 1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ
  • New Zealand Electronic Text Centre accessed 14 June 2008
  • Sustained effort : the life of Sir Leonard Isitt Doctorial Thesis, Devon Sutcliffe, 2011
Military offices
New title
Air Force established
Air Member for Personnel
Succeeded by
New title
Headquarters established
Air Officer Commanding RNZAF Overseas Headquarters
Succeeded by
A de T Nevill
Preceded by
R V Goddard
Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
A de T Nevill
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