Captain William Thomas Beck, DSO MID

Unlike Ordnance Depots in New Zealand in the 1980s, the New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot (NZAOD) in Singapore had little affiliation with New Zealand’s first Colonial Storekeeper, Henry Tucker. Instead of having a Henry Tucker Club, some other social gathering was required for the Singapore-based RNZAOC Personnel. The solution was found in 1986, when a small club for RNZAOC Military members was established and named “Billy Becks’ in tribute to Captain William Thomas (Billy) Beck, attributed as the first New Zealander of Godley’s Force ashore at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

Meeting once a month on the rooftop of RSDS from August 1986, the “Billy Beck” club soon became an RNZAOC institution where all ranks could meet for a barbeque lunch and a few drinks. However, in 1989 the NZAOD closed, and the name “Billy Beck” was soon forgotten.

Who was Billy Beck?

William Thomas (Billy) was the son of Sarah Beck (Taylor) and her husband Richard Beck and was born in Castlemaine, Australia, on 7 May 1865. shortly after his birth, the Beck Family, including his two brothers and sister, migrated to New Zealand, Settling at Kanieri, Hokitika, on the West Coast of the South Island. Beck’s father was a butcher. His mother was in 1895 appointed as the first full-time Police Matron at Wellingtons Lambton Quay Headquarters, where she was responsible for handling female prisoners. She was also involved in enforcing the Infant Life Protection Act in New Zealand.

Beck Family
1917 Portrait of the Beck Family. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1054-584

At the age of 31, Beck married Edith Chick on 8 June 1896, in Port Chalmers, New Zealand and would have three children;

  • Ellen Edith, born 8 September 1895
  • Thomas Nathan, born 1 January 1897
  • Olive Ivy, born on 10 March 1903.
spar topedo boat
The NZ Permanent Militia used the Thorncroft Spar Torpedo boat. As a torpedo man, it was a vessel Beck would have been familiar with.

In the New Zealand Permanent Militia during the 1890s, Beck was a Torpedoman Second Class with No 2 Service Company, Permanent Militia, based at Port Chalmers.

By 1904 Beck had relocated to Auckland and was employed as a civilian by the Defence Stores Department as the Defence Storekeeper for the Northern Military District, located at Goal Reserve, Mount Eden. Around 1907, Beck was granted the rank of Honorary Lieutenant in the New Zealand Staff Corps, followed soon afterwards by promotion to Honorary Captain.

From the annual camps of 1913, a new management system for Camp Equipment was implemented. Temporary Ordnance Stores Depots were established before the camps, and stores were assembled based on the strength and role of the units attending the camps. The initial trial of the new system was a success and was to be refined and repeated for the 1914 camps. For the 1914 camping season, Beck was the Officer in charge of the Camp Ordnance for the Auckland Divisional Camp at Hautapu near Cambridge in April 1914. The Camp ran from 28 April to 11 May. With a staff of 6 clerks and 12 issuers, he was responsible for managing store issues from the Auckland Defence Stores, including;

  • 66 indicating Flags,
  • 80 Axes,
  • 100 picks and handles,
  • 800 water buckets,
  • 800 wash basins,
  • 82 picket ropes,
  • 81 brooms,
  • 5000 groundsheets,
  • 13 Roberts cookers,
  • 13 horse troughs,
  • 20 overall suits,
  • 1320 yards galvanised iron piping,
  • a 2000gal water tank,
  • 1 large swimming bath,
  • 11 flagstaff’s,
  • 500 nose-bags,
  • 566 pairs of boots,
  • 455 Mattress covers,
  • 500 blankets”.

On 21 August 1914, Beck was enlisted in the Auckland Infantry Battalion with the rank of Honorary Captain. After a short mobilisation period, Beck departed Wellington on 16 October 1914 with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s main body on the troopship TSS Maunganui.

Arriving in Suez, Egypt on the 3rd of December 1914 and was soon attached as the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services to the New Zealand & Australian Headquarters Ordnance (NZ & Aust HQ Ordnance) of the New Zealand and Australian Division.

Capt. Beck, DADOS, the first New Zealander ashore at Gallipoli, at daily ablutions. Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Deploying to the Dardanelles in April 1915, Beck as a critical member of General Godley’s Headquarters, was amongst those in the initial landings at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsular on 25 April 1915. The Assistant Director Medical Services, Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick, another New Zealander, was also part of the Headquarters landing party and described the events of that day:

“we were all ready to land but were kept waiting and waiting until about 9.00am. Some barges were moored alongside and a string of boats outside of these on the starboard side. Colonels Braithwaite, Chaytor and Manders, Major Hughes and Captain Beck and I got into the first boat. We were frightfully hampered by our kit – overcoat, revolver, glasses, map case, haversack, three days rations, firewood, Red Cross satchel, water bottle – like elephants. It was certainly that we would drown if we got sunk. After waiting, a steam picket boat came along in charge of a very fat rosy midshipman. he took our string of boats in tow and we were off. Our boat grounded about 50 feet from the shore and we all hopped out. Of course I fell into a hole up to my neck. I could hardly struggle ashore and when I did the first thing I saw was Beck sitting on a stone, roaring with laughter at us.”

Although New Zealanders were serving with the Australian Division and in other roles as part of the landings, Beck was the first New Zealander of Godley’s New Zealand and Australian Division to land on Gallipoli.

Beck ANZAC Cove
Captain Beck and Lieutenant Lawless- Gallipoli 1915. Auckland War Memorial Museum

So not only was Beck one of the first New Zealanders ashore, he was also a bit of a character and The Hawera & Normanby Star, 24 June 1916 had this to say about Captain Beck’s service at Gallipoli:

“Finally, there was Captain William Beck, an ordinary officer. “Beachy Bill” was in charge of the store – a miserable little place – and whenever he put his nose out of the door bullets tried to hit it. The Turkish gun in Olive Grove was named after him, “Beachy Bill.” The store was simply a shot under fire and Bill looked out and went on with his work just as if no bullets were about. He was the most courteous and humorous, and no assistant at Whiteley’s could have been more pleasing and courteous than the brave storekeeper on Anzac Beach. General Birdwood never failed to call on Captain Beck or call out as he passed on his daily rounds, asking if he were there, and they all dreaded that some day there would be no reply from a gaunt figure still in death. But Captain Beck was only concerned for the safety of his customers. He hurried them away, never himself.”

“Brave New Zealanders.” 1916. The Hawera and Normanby Star, Volume LXXI, Issue LXXI, , 24 June 1916.

The 14th of June 1915 saw Beck Commissioned as a Captain into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.

At Gallipoli since 25 April, the strain of the campaign was starting to wear beck down and in a letter to the Minister of Defence on 2 July, Godley who noted that;

I am sending Beck to Alexandria and cabling for Levien in his place: the former’s nerve is quite broken down, and he wants a rest from shells. He has been shelled out of his dug-out on several occasions, has had many close shaves, and his stores repeatedly wrecked, and this, on the top of all his hard work, has been rather much for him. Now that the MEF has taken over all our stores, this should work without difficulty.”

Major General Godley, “Correspondence Major General Godley to James Allen 2 July,” R22319698 – Ministerial Files – Correspondence with General Godley  (1915).

On the 13th of July 1915, Beck was listed as a casualty on Casualty list No 50. Replaced as DADOS on 1 August 1915 by Lieutenant Norman Levien, NZAOC, Beck left Gallipoli for duty in Alexandria.

Mentioned in Dispatches by the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, Sir Ian Hamilton on the 26th of August 1915, this was followed up with the awarding of the Distinguished Service Order for distinguished service in the field during operations in the Dardanelles, which was recorded in the London Gazette of 8 November 1915

With a Medical Board finding him “incapacitated for military duty”, Beck was invalided back to New Zealand on the RMS Tahiti on 20 November 1915 and struck off the strength of the NZEF on 19 February 1916. He was transferred to the reserve list of officers with the rank of Captain, resuming his pre-war duties at the Northern District Ordnance Depot as the District Storekeeper. In 1917 with the formation of the Home Service NZAOC, Beck transferred into the NZAOC with the new title of Assistant Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores for the Northern Military District, a position he held until his resignation in March 1918.

William Thomas Beck Circa 1921

Taking up employment with the Public Works Department in Apia, Samoa, Beck remained there until his retirement in 1922.

Divorcing his first wife Edith in the mid-1930s, Beck remarried in the late 1930s.

Retiring in Wellington, Beck passed away on the 15th of January 1947 and is interned in the soldiers’ section of the Karori Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand.

Beck’s medals are now on display in the Gallipoli Room of the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum, Queensland, Australia.

beck display
Captian W.T Beck whose medals and memorabilia, belonging to the Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum, Maryborough, Queensland, Australia
The first meeting of the Billy Beck Club August 1986. Back Row: Hiroti, Finlay, Marshall, Rangi, Canton, Newton, Ellis Middle Row: Sweetman (PTI), Brit exchange Officer, Crafts, Goddard, Juno, Pook, Le Gros. Front: McIntosh, Haewera, Clarke, Govan, Christie, Madgwick.
The Final Billy Becks, 1989 Back Row: Watmuff, Kearney, Davis, Ngatai, Tombleson, Tyler, Bourne Middle Row: Tamehana, Wiersma, McKie, Coleman, Carver. Front Row: Thomas, Clarke, Simonsen, Theyers, Reid


New Zealand, Marriage Index. 1896.

“Gunner W T Beck”.

New Zealand, Electoral Rolls. Waikouaiti Otago. 1896.

New Zealand, Electoral Rolls. Waikouaiti Otago. 1900.

Glackin, Rusell (2009). In Defence of our land. Penguin. p. 71. ISBN 9780143011866.

“W T Beck Defence Storekeeper,”.

New Zealand, Electoral Rolls. Eden Auckland. 1905–1906.


Bolton, Major J.S (1996). History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. p. 53. ISBN 0477015816.

Pugsley, C (1998). Gallipoli: the New Zealand Story. Reed New Zealand. ISBN 9780790005850.

Harper, Glyn (2015). JOHNNY ENZED: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914–1918. Exisle Publishing. ISBN 9781775592020.

“Brave New Zealanders”. The Hawera and Normanby Star. 24 June 1916. p. 5.

Stowers, Richard (2015). Heroes of Gallipoli. John Douglas Publishing. ISBN 9780994105950.

“Military personnel file”.


Reports of the Defence Committee. 1 January 1922. p. 4.

Beck, William Thomas. “Cemeteries Search”.

“New Zealander Decorated and Mentioned in Despatches”.

The London Gazette. 4 November 1915.

“Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum”.

RNZAOC Pataka Magazine. December 1986. p. 38.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

New Zealand Ordnance Roll of Honour


The Roll of Honour lists those individuals who have died whilst serving in New Zealand’s Ordnance Services.


Perth War Cemetery and Annex

  • Lance Corporal Donald James McInnes MID,  2 July 1943


Alamein Memorial

  • Temporary Major William Andrew Knox, 5 December 1941, OC Divisional Ordnance Field Park
  • Sergeant Allan Edward Agnew, 2 February 1945 Divisional Ordnance Workshops
  • Private Maurice Thompson,  28 November 1941 16 L.A.D
  • Private Samuel Victor Viall, 23 November 1941 19 L.A.D
  • Captain Frank Daniel Barry MC, 30 October 1942 15 L.A.D
  • Captain Robert George Brasell,  27 June 1942 16 L.A.D
  • Private Leo Gregory Narbey, 23 December 1941 Divisional Salvage Unit
  • Staff Sergeant Walter Jack Perry, 9 October 1941, Attached to 25 Battalion
  • Private Fredrick Albert Single, 16 July 1942

Cairo War Memorial Cemetery

  • Sergeant Hubert Joseph Edward Avery, 12 June 1941, Attached 18 Infantry Battalion
  • Private Berkeley Kristian Bunbury, 5 January 1941, 18 L.A.D.
  • Private Clive George Savage Cross, 23 February 1941 19 L.A.D.
  • Private Roderick Mcleod Matheson, 2 June 1941

Fayid War Cemetery

  • Sergeant Ronald Roy Moore, 13 February 1942, NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park

Heliopolis War Cemetery

  • Sergeant Allan John Jamieson, 2 August 1943. 2 Divisional Workshops
  • Private David Porter, 15 May 1942, Base Ordnance Depot
  • Private Alan James Robinson, 28 August 1942, Base Ordnance Depot


Suva Military Cemetery

  • Second Lieutenant Augustus Henrickson Brown, 4 January 1944


Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord

  • Sergeant Percy Clarence O’Hara, 11 April 1917


Cologne Southern Cemetery

  • Conductor Clarence Adrian Seay MSM, 20 February 1919
  • Staff Sergeant Major Charles Slattery, 25 February 1919


Athens Memorial

  • Private Nigel Felix Daniel A’court,  27 April 1941
  • Lieutenant Harry Duncan Arthur Bauchop, 20 April 1941, 9 L.A.D.
  • Sergeant Thomas Morris Drummond, 26 April 1941
  • Warrant Officer Class I Andrew Gunn, 18 April 1941, 13 L.A.D.
  • Private Norris Cochrane Kerr, 25 May 1941
  • Private Daniel William Neil, 20 April 1941, 9 L.A.D.


Ancona War Cemetery

  • Corporal Ivan Lawrence Fairbrother, 29 October 1944 16 L.A.D.

Caserta War Cemetery

  • Private Oscar Harold Maxted, 5 July 1944 Adv. Base Workshops.

Florence War Cemetery

  • Private Alister Alexander Phillips, 18 October 1945 38 L.A.D.

Padua War Cemetery

  • Corporal Albert Walter Findlater, 1 May 1945 2 Divisional Workshop
  • Lance Corporal John William Merson, 1 May 1945 10 L.A.D.

Ravenna War Cemetery

  • Private Ivan James Curin, 24 March 1945, Divisional Ordnance Field Park

Rome War Cemetery

  • Lance Corporal Owen Earle Penny, 28 June 1944

Sangro War Cemetery

  • Private Trevor James Cunningham, 26 November 1943 16 L.A.D.

New Caledonia

Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery

  • Sergeant Richard John Keebel, 8 November 1943
  • Sergeant William James Pearson MID, 27 October 1943

New Zealand


Waikumete Crematorium

  • Lieutenant John Omri Beaver, 1 May 1943

Purewa Cemetery

  • Captain Arthur Duvall, 4 July 1919


Bromley Cemetery

  • Sergeant Matthew James Gassney, 9 February 1947
  • Staff Sergeant Sydney C. Tennyson, 22 July 1930


Anderson’s Bay Cemetery

  • Staff Sergeant Huia Cecil Helean, 9 July 1944


St John’s Anglican Church,

  • Captain Sam Anderson, 7 December 1899

Kawakawa Cemetery

  • Private Donald Ewart Chapple, 27 June 1946

Lower Hutt

Taita Cemetery

  • Private Walter Thomas Hoare, 21 April 1946

Ngaruawahia Public Cemetery

  • Staff Sergeant John Murdo Graham, 16 May 1947

Richmond Cemetery

  • Private Trevor Ronald Beach, 5 October 1945


Koputama Cemetery

  • Private Joseph Irwin, 28 August 1946

Te Awamutu Public Cemetery

  • Gunner Jack Beattie, 16 December 1946

Timaru Cemetery

  • Staff Sergeant Thomas John Aloysius Rooney, 5 April 1947


St Johns Anglican Cemetery

  • Captain Robert John Gamble, 6 September 1944

Upper Hutt Cemetery

  • Corporal Peter Gow Scrimgeour, 24 October 1923

Waikaraka Park Cemetery

  • Corporal James Oscar Hedlund, 10 September 1943


Karori Cemetery

  • Private Sedrick Montague Cameron, 5 October 1945
  • Private Frederick William Manyard, 28 November 1918
  • Lance Corporal Duncan Macgregor. 25 July 1919


Maunu Public Cemetery

  • Lieutenant Mervyn Vance Wilson,12 September 1941


Ramleh War Cemetery

  • Sergeant Alexander Charles Wisnofski, 6 November 1918


Sfax War Cemetery

  • Private Alan Norman Head, 6 March 1943 9 L.A.D.
  • Corporal Alexander McCorkindale, 29 March 1943 Workshop Sec.

United Kingdom

Tidworth Military Cemetery, Wiltshire, England

  • Armourer Sergeant John William Allday, 9 January 1917

The Origins of the RNZAOC Petroleum Operator

RNZAOC Petroleum Operators were a specialist sub trade that was open to any regular or Territorial member of the RNZAOC. Petroleum Operations worked as part of 47 Petroleum Platoon or in small sections attached to regional Supply Companys, Combat Supplies Platoons or at times working alongside Royal New Zealand Air Forces Aviation refuellers.  Petroleum Operators performed a wide range of technical fuel functions, including;

  • The management of a Static and field fuel facilities
  • Refuelling of aircraft and vehicles
  • Operate vehicles including;
    • RT-25, Hough 60c, Matbro and Sktrak forklifts,
    • RL Bedford or Unimog U1700 Truck mounted Unit Bulk Refuelling Equipments,
    • M131 18000 litre Trailer Tanker Fuel or Lowes 23000 Litre Tailer tanker Fuel
  • Field and laboratory testing of fuel,
  • Jerrycan inspection and refurbishment programmes,
  • Accounting for fuel as a supply item,
  • First Aid Firefighting,
  • Pollution Control

The RNZAOC assumed the responsibilities for Petroleum Operators in 1979 when the Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps (RNZASC) was disbanded and the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT) formed with the Supply functions (Rations and Fuel, Oils and Lubricants) of the RNZASC transferring to the RNZAOC.

World War Two

With the army’s total number of motor vehicles in 1939 sitting at around 86 vehicles of all types, it should come as no surprise that there was no unit specially formed or trained to supply a modern fighting force with Fuel, Oil and Lubricants. Understanding that the next war would be one of mobility the decision was made to form a specialist Petrol Company for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force overseas.

2 Composite Company, NZASC of the Territorials (today’s Reserves) was on a weekend Training course when the war was declared, and many members of the soon to be raised Petrol Company were present including the 1st OC and CSM. On the 4th of September, Volunteers from the Territorials of 2 Composite Company were immediately required to deliver supplies to hastily mobilised Vital Points. And so, more than a week before recruiting opened for the NZEF, about twenty citizen-soldiers of the ASC had begun their war effort, many of who would go to Petrol Company for the duration of the War. From 1939 to 1945 Petrol company would provide sterling service to the NZEF finally being disbanded in late 1945.

1945 – 1964


20171105_153711-1374950190.jpgAlthough the general organisation of the RNZASC is reasonably well documented during this period, records examined so far do not shed light as to the organisation of the Petroleum assets.


Truck Mounted tank and bowser, 1 Battalion Wellington Regiment Annual Camp, Daba Camp, Waiouru, summer 1953-53


It is known that within 10 Transport Company in Korea from 1951 to 1955 there was a composite platoon which held specialist vehicles and was also responsible for the running of Petrol points, so it is assumed that Petroleum assets were dispersed throughout the various Transport units of the time.

1964 – 1979

1964 sees the appearance of 7 Petroleum Platoon, 21 Supply Company, RNZASC onto the ORBAT. Based at Waiouru as a combined Regular and Territorial unit.

Pet Op1

7 Petroleum Platoon (7 Pet Pl) at Annual Camp 1975 Waiouru Airfield



7 Petroleum Platoon (7 Pet Pl) at Annual Camp 1975 Waiouru Airfield – (Cpl Harris (TF) & Cpl Jack Tai (RF))

The late 1960s and early 1970’s saw the introduction of new equipment purchased from the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and items manufactured in New Zealand.


Trailer Tanker Fuel 18000Ltr (Vietnam era US M131 Semi Trailer, Tank, Fuel, 5000-Gallon). Fitted four compartments and a 200 GPM pump which could either pump fuel from an external source and dispense fuel thru bulk hoses or hose reels.


One of the stalwarts of the Pet Trade from the 1970’s and 80’s, A.J Weston. The pump unit is a 35GMP self-contained Pump/Filter/Meter unit powered by a Briggs and Stratton motor. This type of pump unit was originally used for aircraft refuelling but was often used for dispensing MT


1979 – 1996

In 1979 7 Petroleum Platoon RNZASC was transferred to the RNZAOC. Remaining as a Regular and Territorial Force unit it remained as a subunit of 21 Supply Company, which became the Territorial Force element of4 Supply Company. The designation ‘4’ was added to its name and it became 47 Petroleum Platoon RNZAOC.

From 1979 47 Petroleum Platoon would become fully bedded into the RNZAOC organisation, recruiting internally from within the Corps.

Petroleum Operators served across the RNZAOC and were transferred to the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment on its creation in 1996.


Unimog mounted Unit Bulk Refueling Equipment C1992. RNZAOC School


Copyright © Robert McKie 2017