NZAOC June 1944 to May 1945

A short snapshot on the activities of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) and the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) for the period 1st June 1944 to 31st May 1945.

By May 1945 the threat from Japan had been neutralised, and the Allies were on the offensive in the Pacific. The New Zealand Division in the Pacific had been withdrawn, and its resources focused towards reinforcing the Division in Italy for the final fight against Germany.

The Home Defence Divisions had been disbanded with the Territorial Force, and Home Guard demobilised and all training suspended, with equipment either returned to Ordnance Depots or placed under the care and maintenance care of unit cadres. This allowed the NZAOC to be able to provide further attention to the concentration, classification, and maintenance of stores, conduct a complete stocktaking and carry out a progressive clearance of surplus holdings of arms, equipment, and ammunition.

RNZAOC hat and collar 1937-1947

RNZAOC hat and collar 1937-1947. Robert McKie collection

NZAOC Overview

Known NZAOC personnel in 1944 were;

  • Chief Ordnance Officer
    • Lieutenant Colonel Earnest Lenard Guy Bown
  • Main Ordnance Depot 
    • Commanding Officer
      • Lieutenant Colonel Earnest Lenard Guy Bown
    • Ordnance Officer’s
      • Captain R.J Gamble (Deceased Sept 1944)
  • Main Ordnance Workshops
    • Chief Ordnance Mechanical Engineer
      • Captain (Temp Lt Col) A.H Andrews,(Posted to 2NZEF as CNZEME) Aug 1944)
  • Ordnance Sub Depots
    • Officers Commanding
      • No 1 Sub Depot – Major D Lewis
      • No 2 Sub Depot –  Captain W. S. Keegan

The NZAOC was located at the following locations;



  • Main Ordnance Depot, including
    • Bulk Stores Sub Depots, at
      • Mangere,
      • Wanganui
      • Linton, and
      • Gracefield, Lower Hutt.
    • Artillery Sub Depot at Waiouru
    • HQ Ammunition Group, with sections at
      • Belmont,
      • Moko Moko,
      • Kuku Valley,
      • Waiouru.


  • No 1 Ordnance Sub Depot,
  • Ammunition Magazines at Kelms Road
  • Ammunition Magazines at  Ardmore

Palmerston North 

  • No 2 Ordnance Sub Depot, Palmerston North Showgrounds.


  • No 3 Ordnance Sub Depot
  • Ammunition magazines at
    • Alexandra,
    • Fairlie,
    • Glen Tunnel,
    • Mount Somers.

Construction of additional storage facilities at the Ngaruawahia and Burnham Sub Depots facilitated the release of twenty-seven rented commercial buildings, totalling 245,000 square feet (22761.2448 Sq Meters) of storage space at;

  • Auckland,
  • Hamilton,
  • Dunedin, and
  • Christchurch.

There was still a shortfall of storage space for bulky equipment for which suitable area did not exist.  It was anticipated that buildings erected for the Navy, Air Force and the United States Forces would not be disposed of until their storage possibilities had been investigated. It was accepted that outside storage was not optimal and that some deterioration of much of the equipment stores outside would occur if proper covered storage were not made available.

The Army was holding stores on account of the War Office alone to the value of £2,987,000 (2017 NZD$246,686,561.13), this represented a very small proportion of the total holdings of the NZ Army at the time.


In 1944 there were three types of Workshops in the New Zealand Army;

  • MT Workshops. Under the control of the Director of Mechanical Transport, MT Workshops were responsible for the issue of all classes of vehicles and spare parts and the repair of all such vehicles.
  • Ordnance Workshops. Under the control of the Chief Ordnance Mechanical Engineer, Ordnance Workshops were responsible for the repair of all armaments, instruments, wireless, radar and general stores.
  • Armourers Workshops. Under the control of the Director of Ordnance Services, Armourer Workshops were responsible for the repair of small arms and machine guns

At the start of 1944 there was;

  • Six Ordnance Workshops
    • Main Ordnance Workshop, Trentham
    • 11 Ordnance Workshop, Whangarei (Closed July 1944)
    • 12 Ordnance Workshop,  Devonport
    • 13 Ordnance Workshop, Blenheim  (Closed July 1944)
    • 14 Ordnance Workshop, Burnham
    • 15 Ordnance Workshop, Dunedin (Closed July 1944)
  • Nine MT Workshops
    • 1 MT Workshop, Trentham
    • 2 MT Workshop, Waiouru
    • 3 MT Workshop, Papakura
    • 4 MT Workshop, Palmerston North
    • 5 MT Workshop, Burnham
    • 6 MT Workshop, Whangarei (Closed July 1944)
    • 7 MT Workshop, Wellington
    • 8 MT Workshop, Blenheim (Closed July 1944)
    • 9 MT Workshop, Dunedin (Closed July 1944)
  • Five MT Depots
    • 1 MT Depot, Auckland
    • 2 MT Depot, Hamilton
    • 3 MT Depot, Napier
    • 4 MT Depot, Whanganui
    • 5 MT Depot, Christchurch
  • Four MT Stores
    • 1 Base MT Stores, Trentham
    • 2 Advanced MT Stores, Papakura
    • 3 Advanced MT Stores, Palmerston North
    • 4 Advanced MT Stores, Burnham

Across all Workshop branch’s work was heavy, and included

  • Coast Artillery and ancillary equipment continued to be regularly serviced, with periodical inspections of material that was held on a care and maintenance basis carried out.
  • Static anti-aircraft batteries had been dismantled and the equipment placed in storage,
  • Mobile anti-aircraft equipment’s (with their predictors and generators) had been overhauled and repaired for dispatch overseas if required, and
  • Radar workshops had serviced deployed equipment and maintained those that were on care and maintenance basis.
  • The complete overhauling and repairing an average of 715 vehicles per week. This includes all 3rd Division vehicles returned from the Pacific theatre, of which a quantity of these have been thoroughly reconditioned and transferred for overseas use.
  • Repairs for Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal New Zealand Air Force,
  • Repair and reconditioning of equipment for the United States Forces, including 500 United States Marine Corps vehicles from forward areas which had been reconditioned. VEHICLE RECLAMATION IN NEW ZEALAND

Surplus Stores

Surplus Army equipment and ammunition were made available to overseas theatres of war, the value of equipment from the New Zealand Army reaching battlefields of France, Germany, Italy, and Burma increasing from £12,000,000 (2017 NZD$$991,040,754.46) to approximately £25,000,000. (2017 NZD$2,064,668,238.46), including 800,000 rounds of 25-pounder gun ammunition that was forwarded to the three theatres during the year.

  • Clothing. Clothing unsuitable for reissue within the Army, but retaining some sales value and accumulated at ordnance depots, was under offer to the UNRRA and the Netherlands East Indies Government for use in liberated territories, this was managed by the Assets Realization Board.
  • Miscellaneous Items. Many items of a various nature including defence stores (barbed wire, pickets etc.), blankets, and medical supplies, to the value of £160,114 17s. (2017 NZD$13223305.65), were disposed of to other Government Departments and to the general public.
  • Vehicles. On 31 March 1944, the Army had 22190 vehicles on charge, by 31 March 1945 this had been reduced to  10931 vehicles. The 11259 vehicles had been disposed of as follows:
    • 8146 through the Ministry of Supply and War Assets Realization Board,
    • 2553 transferred to British and Allied services overseas, and
    • 560 transferred to other services and Departments in New Zealand.
    • The final holdings of holdings of commercial type vehicles impressed early in the war were made available for disposal.

3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Sub Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944 (Colourised). Alexander Turnbull Library


3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944(Colourised). Alexander Turnbull Library



3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944 (Colourised). Alexander Turnbull Library


3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944. Alexander Turnbull Library


3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944 (Colourised). Alexander Turnbull Library



Production of small-arms ammunition at the Colonial Ammunition Company Mount Eden facility at Auckland was reduced to a minimum, with the War Office taken over much of the surplus holdings of ammunition.

To ensure that Mortar, Artillery and Tank ammunition was fit for purpose the Ammunition Repair Depot had assessed thousands of rounds of ammunition, providing its immediate use on arrival in any theatre of war. An example of the this is the 801,096 25-pounder shells and 826,000 25-pounder cartridges that were inspected before shipment.

Uniforms and Clothing

Receipt and issue of clothing had been considerable, with;

  • 1,255,947 clothing items received from manufacturers,
  • 1,521,377 clothing items shipped overseas, and
  • 449,567 clothing items dry-cleaned and repaired.


Serious Incidents

Two serious incidents occurred during this period;

  • A massive fire at No 2 Sub Depot at Palmerston North on New Years Eve 1944 resulting in losses of £225700 (2017 NZD$18,639,824.86), with a considerable amount of stock able to be salvaged.
pnorth showgrounds

The aftermath of Dec 1944 Showground fire. Evening Post

  • An Accidental Explosion at the Glen Tunnel Ammunition Magazines in February 1945, resulting in the complete loss of an Explosive Store House and its contents.

Glenntunnel 4

Scenes from the ammunition accident at Glentunnel, 1945. RNZAOC School


Glenntunnel 1



The NZOC in Support of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force

  • Assistant Director of Ordnance Services, 2nd NZEF
    • Lieutenant-Colonel D. E. Harper, 27 Mar 1944–1 Oct 1944
    • Lieutenant-Colonel J. O. Kelsey, MBE. 1 Oct 1944–14 Aug 1945
  • Divisional Ordnance Field Park
    • Officer Commanding, Major H. L. McLaren
  • Mobile Laundry and Bath Unit
    • Officer Commanding, Captian I Bell

NZEF Ordnance units consisted of;

  • No 1 New Zealand Base Ordnance Depot, Maadi Camp Egypt
  • No 2 New Zealand Base Ordnance Depot, Bari,
    • 2 Base Advanced Ordnance Depot, Senegallia
  • 2 NZ Division Ordnance Field Park OFP
  • MZ Mobile Laundry and Bath Unit


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