5 Advanced Ordnance Depot

5 Advanced Ordnance Depot (5 AOD) was a short-lived  Australian and New Zealand Ordnance Depot located in Singapore from 9 March 1970 to August 1971.

Created as a direct result of Australia’s and New Zealand’s commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements between Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom, 5 AOD was established to support the Australian and New Zealand Forces remaining in Singapore after the planned British withdrawal.

5AOD 1970
5 Advanced Ordnance Depot Plaque. Courtesy of Peter Cox

5 AOD was officially raised on 9 March 1970 with an advance party made up of:

  • Major N.W  Spenser  RAAOC    OC
  • Capt J.H Short RAAOC   OC BKS SVCS
  • Capt D.J Spreadbury RAAOC ATO
  • Capt L.G Gittins RAAOC LPO
  • WO2 A.J Morton RAAOC Chief Clerk
  • WO2 A.C Phillips RAAOC Control Office
  • WO2 W.s Eaglesham RAAOC Traffic
  • WO2 R.R Robertson RAAOC AT
  • WO2 J Twiss RNZAOC Control Office
  • SSgt J.A Green RAAOC LP
  • Sgt K.L Dodds RAAOC Documentation
  • LCpl S Shepherd RNZAOC Machine Operator

Set up from scratch in March 1970, initially, finding working accommodation was a priority and problematic. The Singapore authorities were unwilling to provide suitable accommodation in any of the recently vacated British facilities, so as a temporary measure 5 AOD was housed with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 3 Base Ordnance Depot (3 BOD) at Alexandria and Keat Hong.  A lack of accommodation plus political wranglings forced a change of location to the H.M Naval Base at Sembawang, where the unit occupied Transit Shed No 4 on 15 July 1970.

5 AOD1c
Transit Shed 4

Transit shed 4 was an iron framed Building with corrugated iron walls with a concrete floor. The total area of the building was 112500SqFtt, of which 70500 sq ft was initially available to 5AOD.

The building was located on the dockside in very close proximity to the water, with a circuit for vehicles around the building with access to the east and west sides, Sliding walls made up the West side with one door available on the east side.

The ceiling clearance was 25ft, and the building was served with natural lighting from skylights; electrical lighting was available but not suitable for detailed tasks.

on the establishment off 5 AOD the temporary Control, Stores and traffic Office and Orderly Room was a curtained area in the main warehouse set up for the clerical and administrative functions.

In-scaling of stores was achieved by assuming the responsibilities of the Australian Cell of 3 BOD and their existing stocks. Additional stocks were delivered directly from Australia by HMAS Jeparit. By October 1970, 5 AOD was functioning as a unit.

The Strength of 5 AOD in September 1970 was:

  • 10 Officers
  • 38 Other Ranks
  • 58 Locally Employed Civilians (LECs)

Although 5 AOD was established in March 1970, the New Zealand contribution did not start to be in place until June/July/August 1970 with the arrival of the advance party, including;

  • Captain Ian Ross
  • WO2 Jim Twiss
  • Sgt B Kukutai
  • Cpl Neilson
  • Cpl TT Smith
  • LCpl PP Reti
  • LCpl Shepard

During its short existence, New Zealand strength within 5 AOD averaged two Officers and 18 Other Ranks, including members of the advance party, soldiers such as:

  • Peter Cox
  • Ray Bennseman
  • Max Mclean
  • Terence Sharpe
Officer Commanding Board, Now located at the NZ Army Trade Training School Trentham. Robert McKie collection

Due to elections in the United Kingdom in 1971, the UK decided to not wholly withdraw as initially planned but to retain reduced forces in Singapore as part of the newly constituted ANZUK Force.  Succeeding the Far East Strategic Reserve, which had been in place since the 1950s, ANZUK Force was a tripartite force based in Singapore and was formed by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to provide military support in the Asian Pacific region while the nations of Malaysia and Singapore grew their Armed Forces.

As a valid economic measure, a combined Australian, New Zealand and UK Ordnance Depot, later known as the ANZUK Ordnance Depot, was organised to take over the responsibility of  UK 3BOD and 5 AOD.

Ceasing to exist in Aug 1971, 5AOD responsibility, personnel and stock were absorbed by the new ANZUK Ordnance Depot.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

British Commonwealth Ordnance Corps Badges 1895 – 2019

Ordnance badges of the United Kingdom and most present and former Commonwealth countries all trace their origins to the Coat of Arms of the Board of Ordnance.

Coming into use in the seventeenth century, but not given royal approval until 1806 when the Arms of the Board of Ordnance was confirmed by a grant from the College of Arms in 1823.

The description of the original grant of arms describes the coat of arms as;

  • The blazon is as follows:
    • Arms: Azure – 3 Field Pieces in pale, or; on a chief, argent, three cannonballs, proper.
    • Crest: Out of a mural crown, argent, a dexter cubit arm, the hand grasping a thunderbolt, winged and inflamed, proper.
    • Supporters: On either side, a Cyclops, in the exterior hand of the dexter a Hammer, and in that of the sinister a pair of Forceps, resting on the shoulder of each respectively, all proper.
    • Motto: ‘sua tela tonanti’ (‘To the Thunderer his weapons’); also more loosely translated as (‘To the warrior his arms’].
Board of Ordnance details

Translated into modern English it reads as:

Shield: Blue background with 2 Field Pieces in Gold, on the Top portion of the shield 3 Silver/White cannonballs.

Crest: rising from a
Silver/White crown, a right arm grasping a thunderbolt, wings against a flaming background.

Supporters: Two cyclops on either the right-hand cyclops holding a hammer, the left-hand cyclops a pair of Forceps, resting on the shoulder of each respectively.

Motto: In the riband, the motto ‘sua tela tonanti’ loosely translated as ‘To the warrior his arms’

The shield with three cannons and three cannonballs is the standard component of the Coat of Arms used on Ordnance cap badges; variations include a riband with either the Corps motto or a descriptor of the corps the insignia belongs to.

Early Australian and New Zealand Ordnance badges had annulus surrounding the shield with the name of the respective Corps inside it.

Many international variations of Ordnance badges have also had national identifiers affixed to the top of the shield, for example, Canada had a Beaver on their 1903 badge, and New Zealand had the letters NZ on various versions of their badge.

The common direction for the cannons is that they always face to the right (Dexter in heraldic terms), the exception is the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1917-23 and South Africa Ordnance Corps 1923-33 badges where the cannons face to the left (Sinister in heraldic terms).

On granting of Royal status, two features were added to most badges:

  • Permission was granted to affix the Royal garter in a buckled circle or oval, with the motto “Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense”. Its translation from “Old French” is “Shame be to him who thinks evil of it.” It is sometimes re-interpreted as “Evil (or shame) be to him that evil thinks” or “shame on anyone who thinks ill of it.”
  • Crowns of the reigning Regents were worn.
    • The Tudor or “Kings Crown” on badges from 1918 to 1953
    • The St Edwards or “Queens crown” from 1953

Listed below are examples of some of the various ordnance badges of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India and South Africa. Examples of New Zealand pages can be found at Ordnance Badges of New Zealand 1916-1996.


Great Britain

From 1896 the United Kingdom maintained two Ordnance entities.

  • The Army Ordnance Department, Comprising of Officers, and
  • The Army Ordnance Corps, Comprising of other ranks.

In July 1896, on the recommendation of the War Office, Queen Victoria approved the use of the arms of the Board of Ordnance in that the shield, less the crest and the supporters be incorporated into the badge of the Army Ordnance Department and Corps (AOC). The two cap badges were of similar design, differing only in the wording on the scroll and became the parents of all the Imperial, then Commonwealth Ordnance Corps, with elements of its design utilised by all Commonwealth Ordnance Corps at some stage.

The Army Ordnance Department and Corps were combined in 1918 to form the ‘Royal Army Ordnance Corps,’ remaining in existence until 1993 when it was disestablished to form the ‘Royal Logistic Corps‘.


Formed as the Australian Army Ordnance Stores Corps on 1 July 1902 at the same time as the civilian-staffed Civil Service run Australian Army Ordnance Department.

Entirely placed under military control in 1942 and renamed the Australian Army Ordnance Corps and granted Royal status in 1948. The current design of a badge with a King’s crown was approved in 1948 but only worn as a collar badge until 1956, when a cap badge with a Queens Crown was introduced, which remains in service today.



Created as the ‘Ordnance Stores Corps‘ in 1903. It was renamed the ‘Canadian Ordnance Corps‘ in 1907. Granted Royal designation in 1919 it became the ‘Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps‘. Following the establishment of the ‘Logistic Branch‘ which combined the ‘Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps’ and the ‘Royal Canadian Army Service Corps‘ in 1968 the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps was formerly stood down on 2 July 1974.


The history of the Indian Army Ordnance Corps is traced back to the 15-century formation of the three Presidencies of the East India Company – Bengal, Madras and Bombay, with the formal recognition of the Indian Army Ordnance Corps with the establishment of ‘Board of Ordnance‘ in 1775.

With the global disestablishment of the Board in 1855, the Ordnance State Department and Corps were created which was in turn, in 1885, organised into the Army Ordnance Department for officers and the Army Ordnance Corps for men.

In 1922 the Army Ordnance Department and Army Ordnance Corps were reorganised and renamed Indian Army Ordnance Corps. A similar corps badge to the previous badge was introduced, but with the scroll bearing the words Indian Army Ordnance Corps. This badge continued in use until 1954, when the current badge came into use. The IAOC badge should have been discontinued after India became a republic in 1950, but a delay in finalising the new crest led to its continued usage till 1954.

Indian Army Ordnance Corps cap, collar badges 1922-1950 and shoulder title. Robert McKie Collection

With Independence in 1950, the “Indian” prefix was dropped, and the corps is now only known as the Army Ordnance Corps.

iindia ordnance post 1947
India Army Ordnance Corps- post-1947

Other known Indian Ordnance badges were:

  • 1884-1922
    • Pagri (Turban) Badge – Ordnance shield surmounted by fist rising from coronet grasping lightning rods, scroll bellow inscription SUA TELA TONANI
    • Waist Belt Clasp – Kings Crown) over Ordnance shield in the centre, ORDNANCE around the top, INDIA around the bottom
    • Pagri (Turban) Badge – WW1 period – fist rising from coronet grasping
      lightning rods surmounted by two wings, no scroll


On the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Ordnance badge adopted by Pakistan was a modified IAOC badge where the crown was replaced by the Pakistan ensign of Cresent and Star and the word Indian was replaced by Pakistan.

On the 15th of August 1954, a redesigned badge was adopted. Based on the RAOC Pattern badge, this badge consisted of;

  • the Ordnance shield of three cannons and three cannonballs
  • Pakistan ensign of a 5 pointed Star
  • Annulus inscribed with the words ‘Pakistan Army Ordnance Corps’
  • The Ordnance Motto ‘Sua Tela Tonanti’ Translated into English reading ‘To the Thunder his Weapons’ inscribed onto the Riband.


A princely state during the British Raj. After India gained independence in 1947, Hyderabad remained independent with the Indian Army taking control of Hyderabad after an invasion codenamed Operation Polo bringing Hyderabad in the Indian union in 1948.

hydrabad ordnance
Hyderabad Army Ordnance Corps.




South Africa

Following the British model, the South African Ordnance Department for officers and the South African Ordnance Corps for men was established in 1923. Combining into a single Corps in 1933 and finally reorganising in 1939 when the Technical Services Corps and the ‘Q Services Corps’ was created.

Rhodesia and Nyasaland

The army of the Short-lived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953-1963) maintained the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Army Services Corps to provide logistical support to the Federal Army.  The Rhodesia and Nyasaland Army Services Corps was divided into three branches;

  • The Ordnance & Supply Branch – Tasked with the provisioning of all Army arms, supplies, and equipment. 150 soldiers strong.
  • The Workshop Branch – Artificers and mechanics responsible for the good maintenance of vehicles, firearms, and other equipment deployed by the Federal Army. The branch was 270 men strong.
  • The Supply & Transport Branch – Comprised of one Askari Platoon, two Coloured Afro-Asian Platoons, and one Eurasian Platoon, the Supply & Transport Branch was tasked in delivering the supplies set aside by the Ordnance & Supply Branch to troops in the field. The total size was 180 men.
Rhodesia Nyasaland ASC.jpg
Rhodesian and Nyasaland Army Service Corps cap badge 1955-1962. Robert McKie Collection



J.L. Chapple Indian Army Collection catalogue, Part II – Arms and Services, AFI, IST-ISF. (2017). Retrieved from Indian Military History Society: http://durbaronline.co.uk/PDF/PDF6arms-svces.pdf

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

ANZUK Ordnance Depot 1971-1975


ANZUK Flag. Wikipedia Commons

The ANZUK Ordnance Depot was the Ordnance component of the ANZUK Support Group supporting the Singapore Based ANZUK Force from August 1971 to September 1974.

The last of several post-war Commonwealth Ordnance Depots, the ANZUK Ordnance Depot was comprised of service personnel from the RAOC, RAAOC and RNZAOC, supported by a large complement of locally employed civilians. The ANZUK Ordnance depot was located in the premises vacated by the Royal Navy Victualling Depot on the dockside at Sembawang Naval Base.

12 (2)

Command and Organisation of the Depot

During its short duration as a unit, the Depot had four Commanding officers, two from the RAOC and two from the RAAOC, it was planned to rotate the command amongst all the nations, but the Depot would close before New Zealand had the opportunity to command.


ANZUK Ordnance Depot, Commanding Officers Aug 1917-Mar 1975. Robert McKie collection 2017.

Command of the Subunits was a shared by the three counties with New Zealand officer Captain Ian Ross commanding the Vehicle Sub Depot in the early years of the Depot.

In 1971 the Depot was organised into functional groups and Sub Depots, and had a Staff of more than 440 from the contributing and host nations as follows;

  • RAOC – 60 pers.
  • RAAOC – 60 pers.
  • RNZAOC – 20 pers.
  • LEC’s – 300 pers.


ANZUK Ordnance Depot 1971

ANZUK Ordnance Depo7 1973

ANZUK Ordnance Depot, April 1973. Robert McKie Collection

ANZUK Stores Sub Depot 1973

ANZUK Stores Sub Depot, April 1973. Robert McKie Collection


Vehicle Sub Depot, ANZUK Ordnance Depot, Singapore – 25th June 1972 (Left to Right) Sitting: SGT Matthews RAEME, SGT Carr REME, SSGT Slater RAAOC, CAPT Ross RNZAOC, WO2 Chapman RAOC, SGT Ball RAAOC, SGT Holmes RAOC Middle row: CPL Harrison REME, CPL McDonald RAOC, PTE Bensemann RNZAOC, LCPL McLean RNZAOC, CPL ? RAAOC, CPL Leach REME Top row: LCPL Peters RAOC, CPL Williams (?) RAAOC, CPL Picket RAOC, PTE Richmond RAAOC, CPL Ferris RAOC


ANZUK Ordnance Depot Plaque. Peter Cox Collection


The initial stocking of the ANZUK Ordnance depot was achieved by the transferring of stocks from the soon to be closed 3 Base Ordnance Depot, RAOC and from 5 Advanced Ordnance Depot,  the combined Australian and New Zealand Ordnance depot established a year earlier. In 1972 the depot had a stock holding of around 45000 line items spread over the different sub-depots.

The cost management of the force was on a percentage basis, 40% each for the United Kingdom and Australia with the remaining 20% of costs picked up by New Zealand. The reimbursement process was very complicated and managed by the ADOS staff in HQ ANZUK Support Group.   All stock received into the Ordnance Depot was costed, billed with the reimbursement arranged with the participating countries as items were issued.

National billing was only affected for principle items such as vehicles, controlled stores, major unit assemblies and the like, and reimbursement would only be made if the items were issued to a national unit (e,g, 1RNZIR). This resulted in 1RNZIR demanding routine stocks from the Depot at no extra charge, but if major items were issued New Zealand would only pay 80% of the cost. There was no cost involved when an item was issued to an integrated ANZUK unit.

Uniforms and Dress Embellishments

Troops from contributing nations wore their standard national uniforms with the addition of the ANZUK Force patch, which was worn on each shoulder.

ANZUK Force patch

ANZUK Force patch. Robert McKie Collection.

By 1973 the political climate was changing in both Australia and the United Kingdom, and the ANZUK force days were numbered.  By mid-1974 the remaining British element had split and became RAOC Ordnance Services Singapore for the duration of the final British Withdraw.

The New Zealand component of the ANZUK Force would become New Zealand Force South East Asia,  with the New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot coming into being on 31 January 1974 and the ANZUK Ordnance Depot ceased to exist on the 30th of Sept 1974.

By 1977 NZFORSEA was the sole remaining foreign presence in Singapore until its departure in 1989.

Zeitoun Ordnance Cap Badge Mystery

British Army Ordnance Corps 1915_zpsaibxjzox

New Zealand Supply Depot Staff at Zeitoun Camp, 1915. National Army Museum of New Zealand

I was recently made aware of this photo of New Zealand Supply Depot Staff at Zeitoun Camp, Egypt, in 1915; it was taken from the album of Major Alexander Charters, CMG, DSO, of the Wellington Infantry Battalion. The picture shows a group of men of the No 1 Depot Unit of Supply (DUS) New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC).


Badges of the NZASC 1910-1947. Robert McKie collection

Based at Zeitoun Camp from August 1915 until 16 March 1916, No 1 DUS was responsible for the supply and distribution of over 28000000 Kilograms of forage, foodstuffs, firewood and other goods to its subordinate units during that time.  It is, on the surface, an unremarkable picture but shows the variety of headwear and uniforms at the time. Most are wearing Wolseley pattern sun helmets, two are wearing Forage Caps, two individuals are wearing felt hats with NZASC Khaki/White/Khaki Puggaree, and one is wearing a Mounted Rifles bandoleer. Most interestingly of all is an individual wearing a Lemon Squeezer hat, with an unidentified Puggaree (most likely an infantry Puggaree) with a British Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) badge.

The question must be asked, why is a New Zealand soldier in 1915 wearing a British Army Ordnance Corps badge?

At the time of the photo, New Zealand did not have an Ordnance Corps, and one was not created in the NZEF until February 1916, (see NZAOC 1916-1919) and at home until 1917. (NZAOC, 1917-1923)   In the context of the NZEF, ad-hoc Ordnance Sections had been established as staff under the New Zealand Division Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS). On the arrival of the NZ advance party in 1914, Sergeant (later Major) Norman Joseph Levien had been attached to the British Ordnance Corps Depot at the Citadel in Cairo to study the Ordnance systems in use with the Imperial forces in Egypt to integrate New Zealand into the British Supply System.


Rue de la, Porte Rosette, Alexandria, Egypt. Public Domain

Early in 1915, to support the Zealand Forces, Levien, now promoted to Lieutenant, established a New Zealand Ordnance Depot in Alexandra at No. 12 Rue de la, Porte Rosette and a warehouse at Shed 43, Alexandra Docks.

Given the need to outfit New Zealand units as they arrived in Egypt and as the New Zealand Forces returned from Gallipoli, there was a significant effort to refit, refurbish and re-equip units as they reorganised for future service in France and the Middle East. This put a considerable strain onto the nascent New Zealand Ordnance Corps, requiring, in addition to the original DADOS staff, the drafting in of additional soldiers with clerical, stores and maintenance experience from within NZEF. Records analysed so far identify 13 Other Ranks (Private to Company Sergeant Major), who joined the NZAOC on its formal creation in Feb/Mar 1916, some of whom had been working in Ordnance roles since 1914.

British Army Ordnance Corps_zpshkmjkhxu

Ordnance Member, New Zealand Supply Depot Staff at Zeitoun Camp, and was definitely taken in 1915. National Army Museum of New Zealand

Unlike the soldiers of the NZASC who deployed as part of the established NZASC organisation and wore the NZASC cap badge.  Soldiers posted to NZ Ordnance deployed from NZ on the strength of the unit or Battalion that they had enlisted into and were posted to the Ordnance establishment after their arrival in Egypt and retained the cap badge of their parent unit. This might have caused some confusion and based on the evidence of the Zeitoun photo, at least one Ordnance soldier utilised a British AOC badge to identify himself as Ordnance.

RAOC 1918

UK Army Ordnance Corps Badge 1895-1918. Robert McKie Collection

Judging by the puggaree on this soldier’s lemon squeezer hat, this soldier has transferred to Ordnance from one of the New Zealand Infantry Battalions and quite possibly retains his parent unit’s collar badges. Unfortunately, the quality of the picture doesn’t provide enough detail to identify the group with any certainty.

This picture raises several questions.

  • Was this an officially endorsed dress embellishment to identify individuals employed in Ordnance roles, possibly with the endorsement of the British Ordnance establishment in Egypt?
  • Was it just a case of an individual employed in an Ordnance role using the renowned Kiwi initiative and acquiring an AOC badge to show that he was Ordnance?
  • Was it just an ASC soldier displaying an AOC badge he had just swapped as a keepsake? (A thriving trade caused a shortage of badges)
  • Was it, in fact, a British Ordnance Soldier wearing an acquired lemon Squeezer?
  • In 1914 there were several British Army Ordnance Corps Armourers posted to Alexandra barracks at Mount Cook in Wellington. Are they part of this mystery? Did some of these Armourers deploy with the NZEF to the Middle East?
  • Does the use of its badge have its origins back in 1913 when the first Ordnance Depots were established for the New Zealand Territorial Amy annual camps, and this individual was one of the original members?

Until further photographic evidence or written documentation is discovered, this picture raises more questions than answers, but this photo does provide a starting point for later research to unravel this cap badge mystery.  I have seen some examples of this badge with the letters “NZ” affixed on top of the shield. Are these modified badges part of the same story?

Eventually, the NZAOC in the NZEF adopted its own badge either in 1916/1917 and on the creation of the Home Service NZAOC in 1917, the adoption of its own badge. The use of both badges evolved several times into the 1955 pattern that served the RNZAOC until 1996.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017


New Zealand Supply Depot Staff at Zeitoun Camp, 1915 (Colourised). National Army Museum of New Zealand

No 2 Sub Depot -Palmerston North, 1942-45

It is well recorded that the Palmerston North Showgrounds was utilised as a military installation during the Second World War. Its most famous occupant was the Māori Battalion, which undertook its initial concentration and training at the showgrounds. But during the wartime period, the Palmerston North Showgrounds were also utilised at various times by the Manawatu Mounted Rifles, HQ 2 Brigade, HQ 4 Division, 2 ASC Coy and in the context of this discussion, No 2 Sub Depot, NZAOC.

The wartime NZAOC

During the Second World War, the supply functions of the NZAOC in New Zealand were organised with.

  • The Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham, with subunits located outside of Trentham at.
    • HQ Ammunition Section, Belmont
    • Ammunition Sections at Makomako and Waiouru
    • Bulk Stores at Linton and Mangere,
    • Artillery Sub Depot, Waiouru,
    • Inspection Ordnance Officer Section, Central Military District (Palmerston North)
    • Ammunition Repair Depot, Kuku Valley
  •  Ordnance Sub Depots in each military district:
    • Northern Military District – No 1 Sub Depot at Hopuhopu Military Camp.
    • Central Military District – No 2 Sub Depot at the Palmerston North Show Grounds.
    • Southern Military District – No 3 Sub Depot at Burnham Camp.

(Note: Up to 20 August 1942, the District Ordnance Depots were known as Northern, Central and Southern District Ordnance Depots) 

At the start of the war, the Northern District Ordnance Depot (No 1 Sub Depot) and Southern District Ordnance Depot (3 Sub Depot) were both well-established Ordnance Depots.

  • The Northern District Ordnance Depot at Hopuhopu Military Camp in the Waikato had opened in 1927 as a purpose-built Ordnance Depot.
  • The Southern District Ordnance Depot, which opened in 1921, had only received modern buildings in the early 1940s.

Although there was a Palmerston North Ordnance Detachment during the 1st World War, there is little evidence of a permanent Ordnance presence in Palmerston North during the interwar period. As an economic measure, Ordnance support to units in the lower North Island was provided directly from Trentham.

With the Mobilisation of the 2nd NZEF, Home Defence Forces and Territorial Forces, the Central Districts Ordnance Depot was established at the Palmerston North showgrounds early in 1942 with Lieutenant William Saul Keegan, New Zealand Temporary Staff (NZTS) appointed as Ordnance Officer, Central Military District and Officer Commanding, Palmerston North Detachment, NZAOC and NZOC attached on 1 March 1942

No 2 Sub Depot

The Palmerston North Showgrounds was a sensible place to locate the Central Districts Ordnance Depot.   Situated between Featherston, Waldegrave, Pascal and Cuba Streets, the showgrounds were only a few hundred meters from the Palmerston North Railway yards, which were at the time located in what is now the Railway Reserve on Pioneer Highway. This provided easy access for the receiving of goods, not only the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham but also from other suppliers from all over the country, and for the dispatching of goods to subordinate units all over the lower North Island by rail and road.

The showgrounds had some of the most significant covered spaces in the region with 5 exhibition halls under one roof and much hard standing for vehicles and other defence stores. To house the Māori Battalion and other units, cookhouses, dining halls, accommodation (huts and tented) and ablutions had also been established.

In the early years of the war occupancy of the showgrounds was seen as a temporary arrangement with the Manawatu Agricultural and Pastoral Association retaining part occupancy of the facility. By late 1941 with war with Japan becoming a growing reality, it was decided that the military should have full occupancy of the showgrounds for the duration of the war.

pnorth showgrounds 2

Palmerston North Showgrounds, Cuba Street, 1939. Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services

After the 20th of August 1942, the Central Districts Ordnance Depot was Renamed as No 2 Sub Depot and was situated on the Waldergrave Street side of the showgrounds, in the five large exhibition halls, which were under one roof.

  • Hall 1 was stocked with a vast quantity of clothing including boots, tunics, greatcoats underwear
  • Hall 2 was stocked with tools, spare parts, and expendable stores. There was more hardware including tons of nails, wire, rope, paint, thinners and linseed oil that was stocked by all the merchants of Palmerston North put together.
  • Hall 3 was stocked with a lot of camp fittings, crockery, cutlery, sheets, blankets other types of household linen by the thousands.
  • Hall 4 and 5 contained every type of Army store required, including Rifles and machine-guns.
  • Flammable goods, such as paints, turpentine and kerosene kept in steel drums were initially stored in the main buildings, and it was not until 1943 when suitable buildings with concrete floors and iron walls and roofs were provided.
  • Explosives and Ammunition were also stored at the showgrounds until 1943 when construction of the Makomako ammunition area was completed.

As the buildings were filled to capacity, often with stock stacked to the ceilings, two nightwatchmen were maintained to provide security and a fire picket during the silent hours.  Close liaison was maintained with the Fire Brigade, and inspections carried out on many occasions to examine the fire hazard. The Army’s first aid equipment was in good order and consisted of buckets, bucket pumps and hoses, and fire extinguishers. The method of storage was the best under the means available to the Depot, with flammable goods stacked between non-flammable products to provide fire breaks in the event of a fire. The Fire Brigade made many recommendations about the reduction of the fire hazard, and these recommendations were always acted on. Guidance for the installation of an automatic alarm system was not made by the fire brigade because it was considered that the precautions taken at the time were adequate.

No 2 Depot maintained surge accommodation outside of the showgrounds, including

  • Part Worn Clothing stores in Rangitikei and Church Streets
  • Engineer dumps at two locations at Fielding

The total value of all stock at the depot at the end of December 1944, was £1,100,000. ($NZ 90,845,402.49 in today’s currency)

Depot Establishment

The Establishment of No 2 Depot as of 17 August 1942 was set at 3 officers and 81 Other ranks organised as follows.

17 Aug 1942

Due to wartime manpower constraints, the posted strength was never entirely filled the establishment.

February 1943

Posted strength was One Officer and 66 Other ranks.

30th of October 1943

the establishment had been increased to 3 Officers and 95 Other ranks, with a posted strength of 2 Officer and 88 Other ranks.

29 February 1944

the establishment had been increased on 1 November 1943 to 3 Officers and 92 Other ranks, with a posted strength of 2 Officer and 83 Other ranks.

29 Feb 1944

5 April 1944

5 April 1944 No2 Sub Depot

Unknown Military Unit 2

No 2 Ordnance Sub Depot. Group of soldiers – Elmar Studios, 459 Main Street, Palmerston North circa 1942 to circa 1945, No Known Restrictions

The big blaze

On the 31st of December 1944, the Palmerston North fire brigade superintendent, Mr Milverton was tracing faults to the city general fire alarm system. The fault had been located at the Show Grounds and was determined to be caused by vibration caused by heavy motor traffic, as a temporary measure until the fault could be rectified, it was decided to cut out the Show Grounds loop from the alarm system. The military authorities were advised of the steps taken, and the alarm boxes were marked ‘Out of order’.

At around 2130 hrs Sergeant W. C. Luffman, Senior NCO of the Showgrounds guard conducted his patrol and found nothing amiss. On the next scheduled patrol at 1030 hrs in the cookhouse, a copper used for the heating of water was found empty and red hot with the gas under the copper alight, and as a result, a piece of wood on the wall was alight.   Turning the gas off, Sgt Luffman went to the main gate and instructed a Private Wagstaff to assist him.  Utilising a stirrup pump, they extinguished the burning timber. Satisfied that they had put the fire out, Private Wagstaff filled the copper with cold water and felt the iron around the site of the fire, finding it quite cold. The stirrup pump was refilled and left near the copper as a precaution against repetition.

Conducting another patrol at 1135 hrs, Privates Wagstaff along with Private Collins the Ordnance night watchman were instructed to examine the wall in the neighbouring Ordnance Store opposite to where the fire had been. Sergeant Luffman went back to the kitchen, finding conditions normal and no sign of fire and satisfied that all was well, Sgt Luffman returned to the guard house. Reaching there about 1155 hrs meeting up with Private Collins who reported no issues on the ordnance side of the wall.

Waiting at the guard house until midnight and wanting to contribute to the new years’ festivities by blowing a siren at the gate.  On-going outside Sgt Luffman saw a glow in the sky near the Ordnance Depot. Unsure if this was from the Ordnance Depot, he rushed into the guard house to telephone the fire brigade, only to receive no reply, as the alarms had been disconnected due to a fault earlier in the day there was no way to contact the brigade.

Luckily, local citizens had seen the fire and notified the fire brigade, and Sgt Luffman soon heard the sirens of the approaching fire engines. As the engines arrived, they found the fire, which was in the building beyond the cookhouse, which was the Ordnance Store. It was well alight, and flames were breaking through the roof. Three motor engines eventually respond, finding on their arrival that the fire had a good hold and it was not until midday that the last fires were finally extinguished. A row of six dwellings which faced Waldegrave Street but backed onto the showgrounds and were dangerously close to the fire and the administrative offices of the A&P Association were saved but only after tons of water had been poured into and over them. Halls 1, 2 and 3 were lost but halls 4 and 5 remained intact. At the time it was the most significant fire that the Palmerston North Fire Brigade had dealt with.

pnorth showgrounds

The aftermath of Dec 1944 Showground fire. Evening Post


Evidence submitted to the inquiry conducted in March 1945 by the Ordnance Officer in charge of the Ordnance Depot, Captain William Saul Keegan put the loss due to the fire at  £225700 ($18,639,824.86 today’s value), with a considerable amount of stock able to be salvaged. Lost in the fire was almost the entire stock of around 1500 Charlton Automatic Rifles, a successful New Zealand conversion of the Lee–Enfield rifle into an automatic rifle, only a handful survive today.

There was some suspicion that the fire was deliberately set to cover up thefts from the depot, but these were discounted by Captain Keegan. In his evidence, he stated that the total value of all stock at the depot at the end of December 1944, was £1100000 ($90845402.49). Thefts from the Depot up to the time of the fire were exceedingly small, and the more significant part of the overall deficiencies was the result of miscounting. In two years and nine months, the losses from all sources amounted to £627 ($51781.88) For the same period, there was brought on charge surpluses to the value of £1600 ($132138.77), and thus surpluses outweighed the shortages by about £1000 ($82586.73). Captain Keegan detailed the accounting system of charging for goods and based on his knowledge of the store there could be no suggestion that the fire was started to conceal shortages.

Detective F. Quin of the NZ Police gave evidence of the widespread and exhaustive investigations into the probable causes of the fire but was unable to produce any further relevant information which had not already been placed before the Court. No evidence could be found of sabotage, incendiaries, or any interference like that. No person could be found who had lit the copper found burning by Sergeant Luffman.

It was fortunate that the fire occurred in 1944, by when the Invasion threat had subsided, and the bulk of the Territorial Army, Home guard and other home defence forces had been demobilised, so the loss of the stores was negligible to the ongoing operations of the Army.

Post War Reorganisation

Land at Linton for a Military Camp was bought by the New Zealand Government in October 1941, with the first units entering the camp in February 1942, with the first prefabricated huts built within 6 months and more permanent accommodation been built in the following years. The Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham soon established a satellite Bulk Store at Linton, which was run independent of No 2 Sub Depot.

2 Sub Depot remained at the Palmerston North showgrounds until 14 December 1945 when it functions were assumed by the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham.

Reestablishment at Linton

On 1 October 1946, the Main Ordnance Depot Bulk Stores located in Linton Camp was formally reformed as No 2 Ordnance Depot. In addition to responsibility for units based in the Linton area, the new Depot assumed responsibility for the Main Ordnance Depot Subunits based in Waiouru Camp. The Suggested establishment as September 1946 was.

Sept 1946 No2 Sub Depot

Over the next 40 years, No 2 Ordnance Sub-Depot remained as the resident Ordnance unit in Linton Camp, undergoing the following name changes until the disestablishment of the RNZAOC in 1996.

  • Central Districts Ordnance Depot, 1948 to 1968
  • 2 Central Ordnance Depot, 1968 to 1979
  • 2 Supply Company, 1979 to 1985
  • 5 Composite Supply Company, 1985 to 1990
  • 21 Field Supply Company 1990 to 1996

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps buttons

Military buttons are as varied as cap badges. It was common for individual Regiments or Corps to have their own unique regimental button. The New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps was no exception, with buttons featuring the Ordnance Crest between 1917 and 1996.


Button Background

Uniform Button Sizes & Types

Military buttons, specifically those used by the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other Commonwealth nations, fall into 3 size categories:

  • Small – about 14mm diameter and used for caps, mess dress waistcoats (vests) and gorgets (red or blue tabs worn by Staff Officers on the collar).
  • Medium – about 19mm diameter and used on pockets and shoulder straps (epaulettes) of most parade uniforms and service dress.
  • Large – about 25mm diameter and used on great-coats and Service Dress jackets.

Button Ligne – the traditional way of measuring buttons

As with many military items, buttons have their own measurement system, which is known as ‘Lines’ or ‘Lignes’, where the diameter of buttons is measured, and the measurement in Lignes equates to 40L = 1 inch = 25.4 millimetres. The common Lignes are;

  • 14L – 9mm
  • 16L – 10.5mm
  • 18L – 11.5mm
  • 20L – 12.5mm
  • 22L – 14mm
  • 24L – 15mm
  • 26L – 17mm
  • 28L – 18mm
  • 30L – 19mm
  • 32L – 20.5mm
  • 36L – 23mm
  • 40L – 25.5mm
  • 44L – 28mm
  • 48L – 30mm

New Zealand Ordnance Buttons

Seven different types of Buttons used by the New Zealand Ordnance Corps from 1917 have been identified

  • Brass 1911 New Zealand Forces button
  • Brass New Zealand Army Ordnance Department, 1917-1924,
  • Brass New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps circa 1917-1924,
  • Brass New Zealand Ordnance Corps, 1924-47,
  • Brass New Zealand Army Ordnance pre-1953,
  • Gilt Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 1947-1955,
  • Anodised Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 1955- 1996.

The dates listed were not the actual dates when the buttons were in service but the period that the particular iteration of the Ordnance Corps was in existence. It could be assumed that some buttons remained in service after newer versions were introduced.

Brass 1911 New Zealand Forces button

The first New Zealand Ordnance Soldiers wore the standard New Zealand Forces buttons, which had been introduced in 1911. There is much photographic evidence of these buttons being worn by the NZEF NZAOC and the home service NZAOC. The 1911 button faded from widespread use as individual brass, and later, anodised buttons came into use for each different regiment and Corps. The 1911 Button reappeared in widespread use in the late 1990s as all individual corps buttons were wasted out and replaced by the modern anodised version of the 1911 button.


New Zealand Forces Button 1911. Robert McKie Collection

Brass New Zealand Army Ordnance Department

Gazetted by regulations published on 1 February 1917, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (NZAOD) was established as part of the permanent staff of the Defence Forces of New Zealand and consisted only of Officers.

Manufactured by Hobson & Sons of London and Extra Super, NZAOD buttons are brass, embossed with an ordnance shield of three cannons. Instead of the standard three cannonballs, there are two stars in their place with the letters NZ in between. The shield is mounted with a Kings (Tudor) crown and has the words “Army Ordnance Department” circling the shield.

The NZAOD was combined with the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in 1923. Given that the larger Ligne sizes are relatively common, they probably remained in use for several years after 1923.


New Zealand Army Ordnance Department, 1917-1924. Robert McKie Collection

Brass New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Circa

Gazetted by regulations published on 1 February 1917, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) was established as part of the permanent staff of the Defence Forces of New Zealand and consisted of Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and other ranks.

Manufactured by J.R Gaunt & Sons and Firmin, London, the NZAOC buttons are brass, embossed with an ordnance shield of three cannons. Instead of the standard three cannonballs, there are two stars in their place with the letters NZ in between. The shield is mounted with a Kings (Tudor) crown and has the words “Army Ordnance Corps” circling the shield.

As with the NZAOD button, the larger Ligne sizes are relatively common. They probably remained in use for several years after 1923.


New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 1917-1924. Robert McKie Collection

Brass New Zealand Ordnance Corps

Manufactured by J.R Gaunt & Sons of London, the New Zealand Ordnance Corps buttons are brass and are embossed with an ordnance shield of three cannons, with the standard three cannonballs in the top part of the shield. The shield is mounted with a Kings (Tudor) crown and has the words “New Zealand Ordnance Corps” circling the shield.

At present, little is known about the history of this pattern button, and it could have been utilised anytime between 1917 and 1955.


New Zealand Ordnance Corps. Robert McKie Collection

Brass Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1948-1953

Manufactured by J.R Gaunt & Sons of London, the Royal New Zealand Ordnance Corps buttons are brass and embossed with a badge similar to the 1947-55 RNZAOC badge with a Kings (Tudor) crown and NZ between the Garter and Riband. The standard wording “Honi Soit Oui Mal Y Pense” is not included in the Garter, but a series of large and small dots have been included where the usual script was normally placed.


Brass Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1948-1955. Robert McKie collection

Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, Gilt Mess Buttons

On the 6th of May 1948, an order was placed in the United Kingdom for six hundred anodised aluminium buttons of the pattern illustrated in the following picture.


Anodised Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps buttons

Introduced post-1954, the Aluminium Anodised buttons were manufactured by various manufacturers, including Gaunt and Firmin and remained in service until the disbandment of the RNZAOC in 1996. The button has the badge of the RNZAOC, with the St Edwards Crown embossed onto the button.


Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 1955-1996. Robert McKie Collection

British Ordnance Buttons

The following British Ordnance buttons are familiar in New Zealand and, as with Ordnance badges, share many standard design features.

Army Ordnance Department 1896 – 1901


Army Ordnance Department 1896 – 1901 Robert McKie Collection

Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1918 – 1949


Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1918 – 1949 Robert McKie Collection

Manufactures Marks

Located on the rear of the button, manufacturer marks identify the various button manufacturers that produced buttons for the NZ Army over the last one hundred years, of which some examples are shown below.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017