Call Sign Rickshaw

In New Zealand Ordnance vernacular, Rickshaw is a name related to various Ordnance-related activities. Ordnance-associated exercises were given names with Rickshaw in the title, Unit social clubs and their bars adopted the name the Rickshaw Club. In the post-Ordnance Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR), a Lecture room at the Trade Training School has initially tilted as the “Rickshaw’ room alongside the “Playtime’ room for Transport and the “Bluebell” room for the Equipment Support (EME) trades.

What is a Rickshaw?

imagesA Rickshaw is a wheeled passenger cart, pulled by one man carrying either a passenger or freight. Originating in Japan in 1869, Rickshaws soon became a popular form of transportation throughout Asia until the mid-Twentieth Century.

The origin of the word Rickshaw is from the Japanese word jinrikisha (人力車, 人 which means “human-powered vehicle.”

  • jin= human, 力
  • riki= power or force, 車
  • sha= vehicle),.

What is the Ordnance Connection?

The use of Rickshaw was inherited from the British Army by the New Zealand Army during the Second World War as radio communications underwent a revolution. Transitioning from morse to voice systems as the war of movement unfolded in the Western Desert. It became apparent the enemy was listening in and intercepting communications, so Radio Telephone Procedure (RTP) developed to keep radio communications brief and limited. Part of the development of PTP was the adoption of Appointment Titles.

Appointments Titles were specific word chosen to indicate the holder of a particular appointment as an aid to concealing the level of command, familiar appointment titles were.

SUNRAY Commander
ACORN Intelligence
MOLAR Quartermaster
PRONTO Signals
PLAYTIME Supply and Transport
BLUEBELL Electrical & Mechanical Engineering

Appointment titles themselves were intended to be meaningless so as not to be associated with any arms or corps.

downloadAccording to the REME history and journal, the REME appointment title “Bluebell” originated with the formation of REME in 1942, and the need for a new title identified for the new Corps. Because it was ‘New, bright and shiny’ the nickname for EME was to be “Bluebell” after the then popular “Bluebell Polish” a product similar to ‘Brasso.’   Although this story is convincing, it is not confirmed, and anyone who can give the definitive answer is guaranteed free entry into the R.E.M.E. museum for life.

The origin of the appointment title “Rickshaw” for Ordnance use is unclear. A hypothesis is that like a Rickshaw driver who was a beast of burden carrying large loads in his carriage, Ordnance was identified as the combination of driver and carriage with the responsibility of supplying the whole army, in essence, the Army’s Rickshaw carriage.

In the 1970’s the name, Felix was adopted by the British Army in Northern Ireland as the appointment title for RAOC Bomb disposal teams.

Use of Radio Appointment titles was discontinued in the early 1990s as they were not compatible with NATO STANAGs, but their general usage remained. The usage of “Rickshaw” in New Zealand usage started to fall off after the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment in 1996, but its use was maintained by the Supply Wing of the Trade Training School who use “Rickshaw” as the name of Supply Wing exercises and activities.

3 thoughts on “Call Sign Rickshaw

    • rneilmckie

      Hi Wayne, it is a popular story amongst some within the EME community that Bluebell was the name of the horse used a the model for the badge, but I suspect that it is just an origin explanation that was created after the design of the badge and does not fit in with the timeline of the badge. The modern EME badge depicts a horse rearing with a coronet of fleur-de-lis around its neck and a chain attached to the coronet over its back. The horse stands on a globe and above it is a scroll inscribed depending on the nation with ‘REME’ ‘RAEME’, ‘RCAME’ or ‘RNZEME’ surmounted by a crown. Behind the horse there is a lightning flash. This symbolises electrical engineering while the globe stands for the world-wide role of the unit. The chained horse symbolises power under control. This badge is the second pattern EME Badge, the first been in use from 1942 to 1947, with the modern badge adopted by the REME from 1947 and adopted by the commonwealth nations soon afterwards. Given that “Bluebell” was in use as a radio callsign from 1942, that throws some doubt on the myth that the horse on the 1947 was named ‘Bluebell’.


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