Leonard Monk Isitt

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For his father the Methodist minister and politician see Leonard Monk Isitt
Sir Leonard Monk Isitt
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
Signature Surrender of Japan pg 2k.jpg
Tokyo Bay, Japan – Surrender of Japanese aboard USS Missouri. Air Vice Marshal Leonard M. Isitt, representing the Dominion of New Zealand, signs the instrument of surrender watched by an officer of the Royal New Zealand Navy. General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, stands at the microphone.

Air Vice Marshal Sir Leonard Monk Isitt KBE (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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[1]

Inter-war years[edit]

Between the wars one of Isitt's responsibilities was pilot flight training and he served in the Air Ministry, the New Zealand Permanent Air Force (NZPAF) and the RNZAF.[2] In 1937, the RNZAF was made independent of the New Zealand Army and at that time Isitt was promoted to wing commander and appointed as the Air Member for Personnel. In the pre-World War II build up this was a key post and Isitt was soon promoted again to group captain.[3]

World War II[edit]

Continuing as Air Member for Personnel at the start of World War II, in March 1940 Isitt went to Canada as he had been appointed as New Zealand's representative on the board of Empire Air Training Scheme, a massive aviation training programme. 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.[4]

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.[5] He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1940 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1945.


External links[edit]

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
Arthur de Terrotte Nevill
Preceded by
Victor Goddard
Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
Arthur de Terrotte Nevill