New Zealand Ordnance buttons, an introduction

Military buttons are as varied as cap badges. It was not uncommon for individual Regiments or Corps to have their own unique regimental button, and the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps was no exception with buttons featuring the Ordnance Crest between 1917 and 1996

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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 system of measurement, which is known as ‘Lines’ or ‘Lignes’, where the diameter of buttons is measured, and the measurement in Lignes equates as 40L = 1 inch = 25.4 millimetres. The common Lignes are;

  • 14L – 9mm
  • 16L – 10mm
  • 18L – 11.5mm
  • 20L – 13mm
  • 22L – 14mm
  • 24L – 15mm
  • 26L – 16mm
  • 30L – 19mm
  • 32L – 20mm
  • 36L – 23mm
  • 40L – 25mm
  • 44L – 28mm
  • 48L – 30mm

New Zealand Ordnance Buttons

So Far I have identified seven different types of Buttons used by the New Zealand Ordnance Corps from 1917

  • 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, possibly 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 are 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 been worn by both the NZEF NZAOC and the home service NZAOC. The 1911 button would fade from general use as individual brass and later anodised buttons came into use for each different regiment and Corps. The 1911 Button would make a reappearance in widespread use in the late 1990s as all individual corps buttons were wasted out and replaced the modern anodised version of the 1911 button.

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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, but given that the larger Ligne sizes are relatively common they probably remained in use for several years after 1923.

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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, both of 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 of this are relatively common they probably remained in use for several years after 1923.

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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.

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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 are embossed with a badge similar in pattern to the 1947-55 RNZAOC badge with a Kings (Tudor) crown and NZ between the Garter and Riband. The normal 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 normal script would be.

At present little is known about the history of this pattern button, and it could have been utilised anytime between 1948 and 1955.

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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 on the United Kingdom for 600 anodised aluminium buttons of the pattern illustrated in the following picture.

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Anodised Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps buttons

Introduced post-1954 the Aluminium Anodised buttons were manufactured by a variety of manufactures including Gaunt and Firmin and would remain 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. Compared to the brass buttons of earlier times they are unremarkable and in my opinion cheaper looking.

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

British Ordnance Buttons

The following British Ordnance buttons are quite common in New Zealand, and as with Ordnance badges share many common design features;

Army Ordnance Department 1896 – 1901

RAOC BUTTON 1

Army Ordnance Department 1896 – 1901 Robert McKie Collection

Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1918 – 1949

RAOC BUTTON 2

Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1918 – 1949 Robert McKie Collection

Manufactures Marks

Located on the rear of the button, manufacturer marks identify the various button manufactures that produced buttons for the NZ Army over the last 100 years, of which some examples are shown below.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

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