During its 79 year existence as a Corps, the NZAOC/RNZAOC was mainly a peacetime organisation and only actively engaged in supporting the army on warlike operations for approximately half its life. 1919 to 1939 and 1972 to 1992 were two long periods where the country was at peace, and the NZAOC/RNZAOC focus was on supporting training and managing stocks for potential mobilisations while struggling to remain relevant in climates of financial restraint.
This article will provide an overview of the NZAOC during the period 1919 to 1938
On the cessation of hostilities in 1918, the New Zealand Army Ordnance organisation consisted of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (Officers) and the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Other Ranks) collectively referred to as the NZAOC.
During the interwar period, the strength of r the NZAOC fluctuated from a high of 493 in 1919 to a low of 20 in 1932 ending the period with a force of 34 in 1939
Directors of Ordnance Services
- Major T McCristell – 10 Apr 1916 to 30 Jan 1920 (Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores)
- Lt Col H.E Pilkington – 30 Jan to 1 Oct 1925 (Director of Ordnance Stores)
- Major T.J King – 1 Oct 1924 to 22 June 1940
Having only being Gazetted by regulations published in 1917, the NZAOC had only been established as part of the permanent staff of the Defence Forces of New Zealand for just over a year on the cessation of Hostilities.
Under the control of the Director of Army Ordnance and Supplies, Major T McCristell. The NZAOC was Organised with Ordnance Stores under four District Ordnance Officers located at;
- Mount Eden in Auckland
- Alexandra Barracks, Mount Cook, Wellington, with detachments at
- Palmerston North, and
- King Edward Barracks, Christchurch
- St Andrews St, Dunedin
With the cessation of Hostilities operations swiftly switched from supporting the NZEF and training replacements to the demobilisation of the NZEF, the closing of camps and the downsizing of the army to peacetime levels
The NZAOC was under pressure to reduce manning levels. This was not possible owing to the significant amount, of work, still required to be carried out in connection with the war. In addition to the ordinary ordnance work in support of the Territorial Force, the NZAOC was required to;
- maintain extra personnel for the handling, storage and accounting of hospital equipment for the hospitals under the Defence Department,
- retain additional staff for the educational and vocational establishments,
- Handle the large quantity of military material arriving from overseas.
Approved by His Majesty King George V at the end of 1920, General Order No 95 of 1 March 1921 granted formal approval of an alliance between the RAOC and the Ordnance Corps of;
- New Zealand
- South Africa
The RAOC motto ” SUA TELA TONANTI” formally adopted as the motto of the NZAOC.
During this period the NZAOC had been considerably reduced but was still considered more than the strength required for its regular peace duties which consisted of the accounting, storage, issue, receipt, and care of all Ordnance stores for the N.Z. Military Forces, including the following in addition to ordinary routine duties;;
- Receipt, accounting, and storage of abundant supplies of military equipment from the United Kingdom,
- Ordnance issues and accounting in connection with military hospitals and sanatoria,
- Sale of surplus stores
- Marking of new rifles and equipment and reissuing to Territorial Force and Cadets. Nearly all of the new army equipment had arrived, and distributed as under;
- Training equipment to units,
- Mobilisation equipment to depots in each command,
- Reserve equipment at the main Ordnance depot.
As a result of the Army reorganisation, Military districts were reduced from 4 to 3 and renamed as Commands. This resulted in the Education Department Industrial School at Burnham been taken over for use as an NZAOC depot for the Southern Military Command. This led to the Ordnance Store located at King Edward Barracks and the Dunedin Ordnance Store situated in St Andrews Street, Dunedin closing and relocating to Burnham Camp as the Southern Command Ordnance Depot.
The current Ordnance Store at Mount Eden was unsuitable, and until suitable storage accommodation was provided, mobilisation stores for Auckland command were to be housed at Featherston Camp which resulted in the delayed demolition of this camp.
The NZAOC Palmerston North Detachment had closed during this period and had transferred its stores to Featherston and Trentham Camps.
The Ordnance Stores located in Buckle Street in Wellington had been relocated to Trentham.
With Ordnance Depots established at Burnham for the Southern Command, and at Trentham for the Central Command. The site for the Northern Command Depot at Ngaruawahia had been obtained in an exchange with the Railway Department for land at Frankton Junction. The mobilisation stores for the Northern Command were held at Trentham and Featherston, so it became a priority to incur some expenditure for the erection of buildings at Ngaruawahia. Plans were also on the table for the provision of suitable fireproof buildings to replace the contemporary temporary accommodation at Trentham and Burnham. At Trentham all available buildings, including the gymnasium used by the School of Instruction, were utilised for storage; many of the older hutments were not suitable for storing the equipment stores within them, and the risk of fire was a very grave one.
Based on the lessons learned during the war, a new The cost accounting system was introduced in 1921.
Due to financial constraints work on the construction of the Ordnance Stores for the Northern Command had not yet been commenced, and work that was proposed to be carried out at Trentham and Burnham depots had been delayed. This had made the provision of proper Ordnance Depots at all three locations an urgent matter.
On 3 July 1923, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department was amalgamated with the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps resulting in one Ordnance organisation for the New Zealand Army.
At Ngaruawahia Camp, a railway-siding had been completed, and a branch line into the camp is under construction. The provision of buildings for Ordnance stores was receiving consideration.
At Ngaruawahia work commenced on the large Ordnance Store building, which when completed would absorb the stores located at Mount Eden and at Featherston Camp and enable the temporary structures in those camps to be dismantled. Five magazines for gun-ammunition and high explosives and the earthwork for five others were also completed at Ngaruawahia Camp. Five additional magazines for gun-ammunition and one for small-arms ammunition were planned to be constructed in 1927. Further building forecasted for the next year included;
- four married quarters,
- Ordnance Office, and
The development of Ngaruawahia Camp was continuing satisfactorily. The large Ordnance Store, a large building 322 ft by 100 ft divided into seven bay’s four 25ft by 100 ft, three 74ft by 100 ft, was nearing completion with the building walls up and two of the smaller bays roofed in. Other buildings projected to be constructed were an Ordnance workshop, 61ft by 50ft, and a vehicle shed, S2oft by 25ft.
The railway-siding serving the Ordnance buildings has been completed. The construction of the Ordnance Office and small-arms ammunition magazine has been commenced, and two high-explosive magazines and three married quarters will be put in hand immediately.
The entire inventory previously held at Featherston Camp had been removed. Several buildings were transferred to Fort Dorset to provide accommodation there, and, except for six retained for possible similar transfer elsewhere, and two brick buildings kept on the site, the whole of the buildings had been sold to the general public for removal. The land was retained and was leased for grazing purposes.
To make good wastage due to retirements, Six Other Ranks were enlisted into the NZAOC during this year.
The development of Ngaruawahia Camp was now in its final stages.
A concrete strong-room and Ordnance Workshops had been erected at Burnham Camp.
With the removal of stores to Ngaruawahia Camp, the buildings at Mount Eden were no longer required, so they were disassembled and re-erected Narrow Neck Camp.
All construction work at Ngaruawahia Camp was completed, and the buildings have been handed over to the Army
On account of the disastrous earthquake that struck Napier and Hastings on the 3rd February 1931, the NZAOC was called upon at short notice to supply tents, blankets, bedding, cooking and eating utensils, for use in the stricken areas. The total value of the stores issued from the Ordnance Stores at Trentham was £35,000. The Ordnance staff did particularly good work in dispatching these stores and equipment.
The Ordnance workshop located at Mount Cook was relocated to Trentham Camp.
With the Depression affecting the New Zealand economy, the NZAOC was forced to retrench many of its staff including;
- Seventy-six officers and other ranks of the NZAOC were retired on superannuation as from the 31st March 1931.
- Seventy-four NZAOC staff (excluding officers and artificers) who were not eligible for retirement were transferred to the civil service to work in the same positions but at a lower rate of pay.
A low period in NZAOC history, the retrenchments of 1931 had hit hard, and operations in the army were at an all-time low during this period
Equipment and stores required for the Territorial Force had been maintained during the year in serviceable condition. Meticulous attention had been paid to the inspection and testing of small-arms ammunition.
The NZAOC continued to be was responsible for;
- the provision, distribution, repair, examination, and maintenance of small arms machine guns, vehicles, clothing, equipment, and general stores
- the inspection and repair of armament and inspection of gun ammunition
- the receipt, testing, storage, and issue of small-arms ammunition
- the organisation and control of ordnance workshops
NZAOC personnel has been engaged throughout the year in the following activities :
- Care, preservation, turnover, and accounting for all stores, arms, equipment, and clothing held in Ordnance Depots.
- Receipt and classification of clothing returned from Territorials and Cadets. Allocation of apparel for dry-cleaning and renovation, and examination on return from dry-cleaning contractors.
- Examination of new clothing supplied by contractors.
- The annual inspection of rifles and light machine guns on the charge to Territorial Units and Cadets, and half-yearly examination of Vickers guns.
- The issue of camp equipment and training stores for camps, bivouacs, and courses of instruction throughout the Dominion, also hire of stores to various organisations.
- Sales of rifles and barrels to gunsmiths, to rifle clubs, and to the general public, and sales of S.A.A. to rifle clubs.
- The everyday issues of clothing, arms, equipment, S.A.A. and expendable stores. No progress has been made during the year with the stripping, cleaning, and preservation of the balance of the rifles, S.M.L.E. Mark III, held in store, and which have not been examined since receipt from the United Kingdom in 1920. Authority had been obtained, however, for the engagement of four arms-cleaners, and the work has now started.
As the guest of the Commonwealth Government of Australia, The Director of Ordnance Services paid a six-week visit to Australia at the end of 1936
The constant changes in the organisation of units and in equipment generally, as adopted in England, had very much complicated and increased the Ordnance work in New Zealand. Much remained to be done in the repair, maintenance, and the modernisation of arms and equipment, in the receipt, storage, and issue of stores and equipment from abroad, and in preparation for mobilisation.
A contract for the first section of the large Ordnance Store required at Trentham was let, and it was proposed to accelerate the construction of the remainder of the buildings. Plans were prepared for the structures needed for the Ordnance Depots at Ngaruawahia and Burnham, and for the rebuilding of the Ordnance Workshop, Devonport.
There had been a considerable increase in Ordnance work during the last eight months. Equipment tables for all Territorial units except Artillery had been prepared, and the issue of equipment was proceeding. Camp-equipment stocks have been thoroughly revised in the light of the altered establishments, and essential purchases have been affected.
The first section of the large Ordnance store building at Trentham was nearing completion, and a contract had been let for the second section. The construction of this store would alleviate the severe shortage of storage space at Trentham, and will at the same time make available additional barrack-rooms for the accommodation of troops attending the Schools of Instruction. A contract had also been let for the first section of a similar Ordnance store at Burnham with clearing operations on the site commenced.
The Southern Ordnance Depot assisted the Southern Military School at Burnham. The school conducted a unique course for quartermasters, drawn from the various Territorial units of the Southern Military District. The Southern Ordnance Depot provided instruction on the are and preservation of clothing and ordnance equipment.
Copyright © Robert McKie 2017