Forgotten Ordnance

Ordnance Depots in the New Zealand Army had a reasonably well-recorded history from the late 1920s when they were maintained in Trentham (The central depot), Ngaruawahia, Linton and later Waiouru in the North Island and Burnham in the South Island. These depots served the Army through the fiscally challenged 1930s, the war years through to the 1990s.  Falling victim to progress, including the introduction of computerised systems, which allowed many supplies to be sourced by units directly from commercial suppliers, and the converting of military posts due to the international Tail to Teeth doctrinal trend. Depots were stripped of military manpower and traditional functions, leading to the full commercialisation of some and the shrinking of the regional Depots to mere shadows of what they were in their heyday.

The forgotten early days of New Zealand Ordnance

Before the formation of the Ordnance Corps in 1917, responsibility for the provision of Ordnance stores was shared between the Staff of the Permanent Forces and the Civil Service-run Defence Stores Department, with the Defence Stores Department having Mobilisation Stores at:

  • Mount Eden in Auckland
  • Alexandra Barracks, Mount Cook, Wellington
  • King Edward Barracks, Christchurch
  • St Andrews St, Dunedin

Although discussed as early as 1902, New Zealand did not make substantial moves to creating an Ordnance Corps until 1912, when a small cadre of officers and men were trained in providing Ordnance services for the 1913 and 1914 annual camps. (2 Clerks and 4 Issuers in 1913, 6 Clerks and 12 issuers in 1914)

There is some evidence suggesting that as a result of the lessons learnt during the 1913 and 14 annual camps, a nascent Ordnance Corps was established. This hypothesis is supported by the New Zealand Defence Forces Annual Report for the Period 1 July 1922 to 30 June 1923, which shows that as at 30 June 1914, there were 14 Other Ranks in the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.

ord corp 1923
The comparative strength of NZ Permanent Forces. New Zealand Defence Forces Annual Report for the Period 1 July 1922 to 30 June 1923

With war declared in August 1914 and mobilisation and equipping of the force the priority, the formation of an Ordnance Corps was most likely put on hold until the timing was right. Although no Ordnance Corps was formed, Ordnance Depots were still created to manage the stores required for the mobilisation, these were operated by a combination of staff from the civil service-run Defence Stores Department and individual soldiers seconded from military units (most likely the individuals trained in Ordnance duties for the annual camps).  

An example of this is Norman Levien, who in Oct 1914 enlisted into the Auckland Regiment and was then transferred into Ordnance as a temporary Sergeant as the IC of Stores and Equipment. Embarking with the main body and serving with the NZEF for the duration of the war, Levien later became a Major and the Chief Ordnance Officer in the NZAOC in the UK.

1914 ord dept

Initially, the original Ordnance Depots were operating in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with Featherson and Palmerston North added as the training tempo increased. Their existence is mostly forgotten, with few, if any, records remaining. Fortunately, an article in the January 1972 issue of the RNZAOC Pataka Magazine May 1972 describes in some detail the discovery in the 3 Supply Company strong room of an old ledger book from 1917, and the article describes some of the items and locations that items were issued to.

The following has been copied from the original 1972 Pataka magazine article.

Annals from a forgotten Ordnance Depot
(Author unknown)

An old and battered ledger

old ledger

An old and battered ledger, lying obscurely in a dim corner of the Depot strong room, catches the eye. Accustomed the drab and shoddy stationary of the present day, as we are, the magnificence of the old book stands out. The thick, leather covered binding in brown, blue and rich maroon with gilt linings, covers vast pages of smooth lined paper.

Battered and subjected to decades of dust, it is still impressive. Made in the age of the Czars and gas lit trains it has survived, redundant, like a pensioner, into the time of computers and commissars.

Sadly but inevitably many of its pages have been thoughtlessly ripped out to serve some temporary purposes. Thus its record of clothing transactions in a forgotten Ordnance Depot is like an old man’s memory – not like it use to be.


1917 – and all that

The volume opens onto the glorious first of June, 1917. World War 1 then was only but 18 months to run, though nobody could have realised it. In fact at that time the tide seemed to be running in favour of Germany and the decrepit powers bobbing about in her turbulent wake – Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria.
The USA came into the war in 1917, but, being unprepared tool little toll of Germany until the following year. In 1917 the U-Boats came close to knocking Britain out of the war by reducing stocks of food and war materials to some 2 weeks reserve.  In one week of that year the writers grandmother was reduced to feeding her family on turnips boiled with sugar. Old Russia was about to collapse that year from the combined effects of hunger and the terrible casualties sustained in three years of war along a vast front. Organised for the 18th century, her structure could not sustain a 20th-century war. This collapse gave Germany relief of fighting on one front and bringing her eastern armies across to join the western ones.  The combatant on the western front were by this time like punch-drunk boxers, trading senseless blows each day, each blow represented by hundreds even thousands of lives. Such losses were born to gain a few yards of territory either way, maybe up to a quarter mile of shell-pocked mud and soggy trenches. The most expensive winding strip running from the North Sea across France to Switzerland.

Away from all this fury, from the blood and the mud, this forgotten Ordnance Depot faithfully carried out its tasks as only one tiny cog in the lurching juggernaut of the war effort. No generals memoirs illuminate its role, gloss over its weaknesses, embellish its success or cast blame on the next man up or down on the promotional ladder. no famous war movies have brought the Depot to public fame or public scandal. 

Only the fading ink of a fraction of its past transactions is left to show that the place ever existed at all! The humble ledger book has proved more enduring than the Depot it once was part of, more enduring than the those who wrote in it and those who so thoughtlessly ripped out some of its pages for their own forgotten reasons.

Badges, Buttons and Balaclavas

In the remaining pages, a great many lines of stock are recorded. Most have their equivalent today, others have passed into disuse as the nature of warfare has changed.

On 1 Jun 1917 the following stocks are shown as being brought forward among many items:

  • Jacket SD  1605
  • Trouser SD 1144
  • Jackets Denim 1076
  • Trousers Denim 985
  • Pantaloons 307
  • Bags Kit  732
  • Greatcoats Dismounted  2303
  • Greatcoats Mounted 659
  • Balaclavas  294
  • Puggarees:
    • NZ Staff Corps 244
    • NZ Engineers  Nil
    • NZASC  122
    • Veterinary Corps  19
    • Medical Corps  48
    • NZRB 102
  • Titles Brass;
    • NZ Rifles  299
    • NZ Mtd rifles  100
    • NZMP  Nil
    • NZAOC  Nil
    • NZ P&T  Nil
    • NZ Pay Corps  Nil

Other items recorded in the ledger include:

  • Buttons Brass RNZA Vest
  • Buttons Bone
  • Buttons Brass NZ Staff Corps
  • Buttons Imperial
  • Badges Cap (also collar), for
    • 4 Regt
    • 5 Regt
    • 7 Regt
    • 8 Regt
    • 10 Regt
    • 12 Regt
    • Veterinary Corps
  • Badges Armlet
    • Provost Marshal
    • Umpire
    • Stretcher Bearer
    • Blue – Hospital
    • Geneva Cross
  • Breeches Riding
  • Links Split button
  • Gloves, Mechanical transport
  • Hose
  • Puttees
  • Covers Mess tin, Infantry
  • Badges Arm Brass
    • Armourer
    • Driver
    • Saddler
    • Farrier

What went where?

On 27 June 1917 the QM of troopship No 75 was vouchered the following items. (IV 248)

  • Jackets SD – 248
  • Trouser SD – 207
  • Jacket Denim –  47
  • Pantaloons –  47
  • Bags Kit – 9
  • Caps SD – 20
  • Greatcoats DS patt – 238
  • Hats Felt – 32
Troopships departing from Lyttelton. Alexander Turnbull Library

The QMs of Troopships Nos 74 and 77 were vouchered similar items and qtys on July 7 and 14 of that year. The troopship “MARUA” returned qty 7 Jackets SD on 28 July though being issued with another 80 plus 50 denim jackets etc., etc.
Issues to troopships appear quite often, on 6 Nov 1917 various items were issued under IV 252 to the transport “Devon” then lying at Port Chalmers. On 18 Jan 1918, qty 820 Kit Bags went on board HMS MARAMA.

Turning to the more usual area of army clothing issues, the rate of issues to individuals appears very high. In those days it is likely that clothing issues were made by Ordnance in Camps and thus the wheel has nearly turned full circle to what it was fifty years ago.

An officer known as the DofE&OS or DEOS appears most frequently of all among the recorded issues. DEOS was located in Wellington. What did these initials mean? Director of Equipment and Ordnance Services seems most likely, but then again the same page refers to issues made to the Director of Ordnance Services at Trentham.

Other issues, large and small, went to Home Service Store ST KILDA (IV 295 of 21 Nov 17) and OC Guards, QUARANTINE ISLAND (IV 520 of 12 Mar 18). Captain Von Luckner of the Reichmarine was a famous prisoner on this island in Lyttelton Harbour. Citizens of Germany and Austria-Hungary and their merchant seamen lucky enough to be in New Zealand at the outbreak of war were interned and many were kept on this island.

The list of “customers” is quite lengthy, but is worth recording as it shows the types of units which existed then. Some of the same type exist now; others have vanished.

  • OC RNZA Home Service
  • NZAOC Dunedin
  • 8 Medical Board
  • 7 Medical Board (In’gill)
  • 8th Regt (In’gill)
  • 10 Regt (Oamaru)
  • 5th Mtd Rifles (Dunedin)
  • 4th Regt (Kensington)
  • HQ Otago Military District
  • OC Railway Engr Unit (Oamaru)
  • OC Post & Telegraph Coy (Dun)
  • ADMS Dunedin
  • Vocational Officer (Dunedin)
  • OC Sth Island Railways Bn (Christchurch)
  • DOS Trentham
  • Ordnance Officer (Palm Nth)
  • C Bty Invercargill
  • Director Base Records (Wn)
  • 2 Fd Amb
  • 7 Fd Amb
  • OC Group 12 (In’gill)
  • 2 Coy NZE
  • 7th Mtd Rifles
  • OC Group 16 (Milton)
  • EL Sect (?) RNZA (Dunedin)
  • 2 Coy NZGA
  • OC Coast Defence
  • 6 Coy NZASC (In’gill)
  • 2 Dist Sigs Coy
  • Ordnance Officer Featherston
  • Ordnance officer Trentham
  • Chief OO Wellington 
  • OC Army Pay Corps (Dunedin)
  • Ordnance Officer Burnham
  • OC Sick & Wounded (Dunedin)
  • Ordnance Officer (Auckland)
  • Camp QM Awapuni
  • OC Sales Depot (Dunedin)

and the most intriguing unit of them all ….

  • OC Jaw Hospital, Dunedin where qty 14 Veterinary Corps Puggarees went under IV 319 of 25 July 1919!

As the present building occupied by 3 COD and formerly SDOD at Burnham were not built until shortly before and during World War II, and as the unit supplied include an Ordnance officer Burnham, it is likely that the Ordnance Depot or Store was located in Christchurch, the most probable place being King Edward Barracks. 

So, once again, the old ledger is closed and is returned to the dark corner of the strong room. Outside pass the files and the teleprints whilst in a nearby room the transactions whirr and clatter on electronic machines. Nearly 55 years have passed since the ledger was bright and new and in 55 years time it will be 2017. The younger soldiers of the Corps now will be drawing their superannuation and the older ones will have marched off to join those of 1917. It is unlikely that the MD310s of 1972 will be around to tell their story in 2027, but the old ledger of 1917 may last. Who can tell?

Some Analysis of the 1972 Article

Where was the Depot?

The author believes that the Ledger was from the Ordnance Stores for the Canterbury and Nelson District, which before 1921 was located in King Edward Barracks in Christchurch, which was commanded by Captain A.R.C White and the known military staff included:

  • NZAOC 92 Private Hector Finch McKay
  • NZAOC 103 Private Thomas Riordan
  • NZAOC 183 Sergeant Robert Walter Baker Gale

On reading the article, it is clear the ledger described is actually from the Dunedin Ordnance Depot, which was located in St Andrews Street, Dunedin and was commanded by Captain O.P McGuigan and the known military staff included:

  • NZAOC  23 Armt Sgt Maj (WO) William Carroll, MSM
  • NZAOC 90 Staff Sergeant D McIntyre
  • NZAOC 130 Private Joseph Woods
  • NZAOC 151 Private Arthur Pidduck
  • NZAOC 181 Private Peter James Innes
  • NZAOC 203 Private Richard Rowe
mob store Dunedin
Dunedin Mobilisation Stores, St Andrews Street, Dunedin. Google Maps/ Public Domain

Due to a reorganisation in 1921, both the Canterbury and Nelson Military District and the Otago and Southland Military Districts were combined into the Southern Military Command. As a result, the Ordnance Depots located at King Edward Barracks and the Dunedin Ordnance Depot situated in St Andrews Street, Dunedin, were relocated to Burnham Camp as the Southern Command Ordnance Depot.

Captain McGuigan and 5 staff were also relocated from Dunedin to Burnham, along with the Dunedin stock and records, including the ledger book described in the article.

The Southern Command Ordnance Depot was commanded by Captain White from 20 June 1921 until 19 Dec 1930, during which time he also doubled as the Burnham Camp Commandant.

Captain A.R.C White NZAOC. M.Dart/Public Domain

Badges, Buttons and Balaclavas

Many of the items on the list are easy to identify, but most people will immediately ask, “what the hell are Pantaloons?”   Pantaloons were a type of trouser issued during WW1 to Mounted soldiers. They seem to be similar in appearance to riding breeches ( also mentioned in the ledger). The only difference I can see is that Pantaloons only go to the knee, whereas the Riding knockers go to the ankles.

Pantaloons. Imperial War Museum

Issues to ships

One of the interesting aspects of the article is the issues to the troopships. They have all been entered into the ledger at least 4 months after the troopship’s actual sailing date;

  • Troopship No 75 was the “Waitemata” sailed on the 19th of Jan 1917 carrying the 21st Reinforcements, 13th Maori Contingent.  IV 248 entered into the Ledger on 27 June 1917.
  • Troopship No 74 was the ” Ulimaroa” that sailed on the 21st of Jan 1917, carrying the 21st Reinforcements, 13th Maori Contingent.  IV entered into the Ledger on 7 July 1917.
  • Troopship No 77 was the “Mokoia” sailed on the 13th of Feb 1917, carrying the 22nd Reinforcements – E.F.G. Companies. IV entered into the Ledger on 14 July 1917
  • No record of a troopship “Marau”
  • Troopship No 81 was the “Devon” Sailed on 5 April 1917, carrying the 24th Reinforcements. IV entered into the Ledger on 6 Nov 1917.
  • Hospital Ship “Marama” was in Port Chalmers 30 Dec – 31 Jan 1918, IV entered into Ledger on 18 Jan 1918.

As the entry dates into the ledger roughly match up with the ship’s return to New Zealand several months later, the time lag from the issue being carried out and the Ledger update could be the result of some quirk in the accounting system for troopships in place at the time. The Issues for the Hospital Ship “Marama” seem to have been carried out before the ship’s departure.


The Author is unsure of the meaning of the abbreviation DofE&OS or DEOS but is partly right in his assumption that the initials mean ”Director of Equipment and Ordnance Services” the correct designation was “Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores”. At the time was Major Thomas McCristell, who had previously been the head of the Defence Stores Department from April 1916, becoming the head of the NZAOC & NZAOD in March 1917. Remaining in the role until January 1920, when the position was renamed to “Director of Ordnance Services” and Lt Col H.E Pilkington became the incumbent.

Major Thomas James McCristell, Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores, 10 April 1916 – 20 January 1920.

Quarantine Island

The Author assuming that the Depot was in Christchurch, has confused Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua with Ripa Island (Fort Jervois) in Lyttelton Harbour. During the period 1915-1919, the Otago Quarantine Station was converted into a specialised military hospital treating both soldiers recruited in NZ and some NZ soldiers returned from overseas for VD, mainly gonorrhoea.

Quarantine Island, Port Chalmers. Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa

List of Customers

The list of customers provides a real insight into the range of units supported by the Dunedin depot and also identify s the other Ordnance units around the country at the time; these were:

  • DOS Trentham, Possibly after 1920 when the DOS appointment came into use.
  • Ordnance Officer (Palm Nth).
  • Ordnance Officer Featherston.
  • Ordnance Officer Trentham.
  • Chief Ordnance Officer Wellington.
  • Ordnance Officer Burnham from the time when the Depot in King Edward Barracks moved to Burnham, but before the Dunedin depot relocated to Burnham.
  • Ordnance Officer (Auckland).
  • Camp QM Awapuni indicates that there was no Ordnance Depot at Awapuni and the Camp QM was issuing and receiving goods directly from the Dunedin Depot, especially as Awapuni was the main training camp for the Medical Corps during WW1 and Otago was the location of several Medial facilities.

The Author highlights an issue to the OC Jaw Hospital in 1919; not sure the story behind this issue,  but the Jaw Hospital itself is an interesting topic.  Henry Pickerill who along with fellow New Zealander Harold Gillies was a pioneer and world leader in reconstructive plastic surgery, together, they developed groundbreaking techniques for treating some of the horrific injuries inflicted on soldiers during WW1, and many of their methods are still the standard 100 years on.  The connection to the Jaw Hospital is that Pickerill, his team and 59 patients returned to New Zealand in 1919, where treatment continued at the facial and jaw department of Dunedin Hospital.  Harold Gillies went on to develop Gender reassignment surgery.

What happened to the Ledger?

The Pataka article is the only mention of the ledger I have been able to find. Although the building in question is still occupied by the Army, I very much doubt that it remains there. Wouldn’t it be great if it still was?

3 Supply warehouse

3 Supply Company Main Warehouse C1972

3 Supply HQ
3 Supply Company Headquarters C1972

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

The First Cohort – Ordnance Soldiers of 1917

Who were the first Ordnance Soldiers on the formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in 1917?  The names of the original New Zealand Ordnance Officers are well recorded; Major McCristell, Captains King, Beck and White are names familiar to those knowledgeable in the History of the RNZAOC, but who were the original men of the Permanent Force NZAOC that came into life in 1917?

Not to be confused with New Zealand Expeditionary Force NZAOC, which was formed in 1915/16 as a unit of the NZEF. The formation of the Permanent Force NZAOC had been under discussion since 1904 and was finally established by regulations published in the NZ Gazette on 1 February 1917 and continued to serve the nation until 1996, when its successor, the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, was absorbed into the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment,

The NZAOC was to be organised to completely replace the existing Civil Service-run Defence Stores Department, additionally incorporating many of the Ordnance functions carried out by the New Zealand Permanent Forces. Using Ordnance personnel records held by Archives New Zealand, I have reconstructed the 1917 NZAOC nominal roll. This identifies information about the soldiers, their previous military service, dates they were transferred if already serving, or attested into the NZAOC if previously a civilian and a raft of other information on promotions, postings, and discipline issues. These records are not complete but do provide enough information when combined with other sources to build a picture of the events of 1917.

Once the regulations authorising the formation of the NZAOC were published in the NZ Gazette on 1 February 1917, I am of no doubt that much of the planning for the establishment of the new Corps had already been undertaken. Between March and November 1917, approximately 140 men were either transferred or recruited directly into the NZAOC from four manpower pools consisting of:

  • Serving soldiers of the Permanent Forces,
  • Members of civil service employed by the existing Defence Stores Department and other Government departments,
  • Returned servicemen from the NZEF who had to be returned to New Zealand as unfit for overseas service but suitable for home service, and
  • Direct Entries from civilian occupations.

The available records indicate that the men initially required to form the NZAOC were identified in February/March 1917. The first cohort of men was drawn from the Permanent Force and transferred into the NZAOD starting on the 15th of March 1917, followed by the Defence Stores Department Civilian Staff who had been selected for militarisation, beginning in July 1917.

For the Men of the new NZAOC apart from some administrative changes, new cap badges for the serving soldiers and uniforms, military rules, and regulations for the civilian staff, there probably was not much change to their daily routine, just a change in names and appointments. The NZAOC was organised into Clerical, Stores, Ammunition and Maintenance sections located at:

  • Wellington; with NZAOC Headquarters, Stores and Workshops at Alexandra Barracks. Stores Depots at Te Aro, Taranaki Street and Trentham. Ammunition Section at Fort Ballance at Mahanga Bay.
  • Auckland, Mt Eden and Narrowneck
  • Palmerston North,
  • Featherston Camp,
  • King Edwards Barracks, Christchurch and
  • Dunedin, Otago Districts Stores Depot, St Andrews Street.

So, who were the first Ordnance Soldiers?

The first 10 Soldiers of various trades and ranks who joined the NZAOC were transferred from the Permanent Forces on the 15th of March 1917; they were:

  • Auckland
    • NZAOC No 17 Quartermaster Sergeant Artificer George Bush, Armaments Artificer.
    • NZAOC No 20 Armament Sergeant Major (WO) Thomas Edward Bryce, Armaments Artificer.
  • Palmerston North
    • NZAOC No 132 Armourer Staff Sergeant Andrew Archibald Young, Armaments Artificer.
  • Wellington
    • NZAOC No 1 Private Hugh John Adams, Ammunition Section.
    • NZAOC No 58 Staff Sergeant Artificer Thomas Reid Inch, Armaments Artificer.
    • NZAOC No 68 Private Patrick Keeshan, Ammunition Section.
    • NZAOC No 75 Private Charles William Marshall, Ammunition Section.
    • NZAOC No 82 Artificer Sergeant Major (WO) William Edward Moore, Armaments Artificer.
    • NZAOC No 100 Conductor William Ramsey.
    • Conductor William Henry Manning
  • Dunedin
    • NZAOC No 23 Armament Sergeant Major (WO) William Carroll, Fitter.

Many of these men had served in the Permanent Force for some years, some as far back as the days of the Army Constabulary. Some reached retiring age in a few years, while some continued to serve into the early 1940s, but although advanced in years, they provided a strong experience base in not only trade but also military experience for the fledgeling Corps.

Dress Embellishments

The NZAOC was authorised to wear the following dress embellishments.

  • Cap and Collar Badges.  The home service NZAOC badge was based on the UK Army Ordnance Department badge. The New Zealand version modified the UK AOD badge by Having the letters NZ replace the centre cannonball in the top panel of the shield and with the inscriptions Army Ordnance Department on the scroll beneath the shield. The New Zealand Pattern Ordnance Corps Badge is unique in the world as it is one of the few Ordnance cap badges where the cannons face in the opposite direction to all other ordnance badges. Current evidence indicates that this badge was produced in Brass and Bronze
    The Collar badge was a simple version of the Cap badge without the scroll with the cannons facing inwards.


NZ Army Ordnance Corps badge 1917-1937. Robert McKie Collection
  • Brass Shoulder Titles. Although not authorised for wear until 1923, there is some photographic evidence showing that the brass NZAOC shoulder titles were worn as early as 1918.
    NZAOC Brass Shoulder Titles. Robert McKie Collection
    • Puggaree with Ordnance Flash. The Puggaree worn at the time was Black/Khaki/Black. (The Red/Blue/Red Ordnance Puggaree was not adopted until 1923) Soldiers of the NZAOC wore this with the Ordnance badge and a 1.5 Inch x 1.5-inch blue and red distinguishing patch on the left-hand side of the hat. Due to a shortage of Lemon Squeezer hats in early 1918, forage caps were substituted.
    NZAOC Home service patch (Reproduction). Robert McKie Collection

    Soldier Profile

    One member of the original cohort who I have decided to profile is the soldier who was allocated NZAOC Service Number 1.

    NZAOC No 1 Private Hugh John Adams

    Although technically not the first member of the NZAOC, but as a member of the first cohort to join the NZAOC and having NZAOC Service Number 1, it could be said that NZAOC No 1 Private Hugh John Adams was the first New Zealand Ordnance soldier and one of the first Ammunition Technicians.

    Hugh Adams was the son of Irish/Scottish immigrants Adams was born at Lyttleton on the 21st of July 1874. Adams only completed school up to Standard Four (today’s year 6) and was working as a labourer in Blenheim at around 1892 when at 18 years of age, he enlisted in the Blenheim Rifles Volunteers (B Company of the First Battalion of the Nelson Infantry Volunteers.

    Serving in the volunteers for five years, Adams resigned from the Blenheim Rifles in March 1897, moved to Wellington and was attested for service as a Gunner 3rd class into the Wellington Detachment of No 1 Company of the New Zealand Permanent Forces, Based at Fort Balance at Mahanga Bay Wellington.

    Over the next few years, Adams consolidated himself in the Artillery earning promotion to Gunner 2nd Class on 1 Sept 1899 and then promotion to Gunner 1st Class on 11 March 1901.

    Around 1900 Adams married Ada Charlotte McKenzie, with whom he had three children May, Cyril and Lyall.

    1902 saw the reorganisation of the New Zealand Forces when, on the 15th of October, the Wellington Detachment of No 1 Company of the New Zealand Permanent Forces became the Wellington Detachment of the Royal New Zealand Artillery.

    As a measure to assure some self-sufficiency in the inspection and supply of Artillery Ammunition the decision was made in 1914 to create as part of the Royal New Zealand Artillery an Ordnance Section to inspect and manufacture artillery ammunition. On 1 April 1915, authority was granted under New Zealand Defence Forces General Order 90 to raise the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Section.

    The section was small, and Adams, along with seven other members of the Royal New Zealand Artillery, were the foundation members whose primary duties were the assembling of ammunition components for the artillery.  With the creation of the NZAOC in 1917, the responsibility for the Ordnance Section passed from the Royal New Zealand Artillery to the NZAOC with Adam and the other members becoming Ordnance soldiers.

    The immediate post-war years into the mid-1920s were a busy time for the NZAOC. Substantial amounts of equipment from mobilisation camps in New Zealand and returned from Europe as the NZEF was demobilised needed to be sorted, graded, repaired, disposed of, redistributed, or placed into storage. For the Ammunition Section based at Mahanga Bay, it was a time of expansion. The Kaiwharawhara Magazine close to the city was closed, and the Mahanga Bay facilities expanded from the original magazine and laboratory building on the foreshore to include Fort Balance, Fort Gordon, and the Kau Point Battery, as these were decommissioned. Their armaments were removed, and gun pits were covered over with roofs and turned into additional magazines. The area went from being Wellington’s premier Defensive location to quite possibly the 1st large-scale ammunition depot of the NZAOC, a role it filled until the 1940s when purpose-built facilities were constructed at Belmont and Kuku Valley.

    Mahanga Bay, Miramar, Wellington, c1910 (Colourised) Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

    Adams remained employed in the Ammunition Section and was primarily the 2IC of the Section during the busy years of the early 1920s, his duties included making up ammunition, and he was responsible for the care of the magazines and surrounding areas. In a 1921 review of the Ammunition Section, Adams was deemed necessary for the operation.

    Few if any photographs exist of the work carried out by Adams and the Ammunition Section at Mahanga Bay, but these examples from the Australian War Museum provide some perspective.


    Removing primer from a round of fixed QF ammunition. Australian War Memorial

    RAN personnel inspecting cordite and then tying it into bundles. Australian War Memorial
    Base fuse or plug being removed from or replaced in a large calibre BL projectile. Australian War Memorial

    Reaching the retirement age of 55, Adams retired on 21 Feb 1929 after 31 years and 343 Days of service.

    Remaining in the rank of Private all his career, due to his lack of education past standard 4, Adams was recognised as a competent soldier in his role in the Ammunition Section and was no novice when handling explosives. Adams was awarded the following medals:

    • Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Medal, and the

    • New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal

    Adams Group
    NZAOC No 1 Private Hugh John Adams, Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Medal and New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal

    Adams passed away in August 1955, aged 81 years and is buried at the Karori cemetery in Wellington.

    Copyright © Robert McKie 2017