Call Sign Rickshaw

In New Zealand Ordnance vernacular, Rickshaw is a name related to a variety of Ordnance related activities. Ordnance associated exercises would be given names with Rickshaw in the title, Unit social clubs and their bars would be called the Rickshaw Club. In the post-Ordnance Logistic Regiment, a Lecture room at the Trade Training School would be called 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 literally means “human-powered vehicle.”

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

What is the Ordnance Connection?

Use of Rickshaw in the New Zealand Army was inherited from the British Army who early in the Second World War underwent a revolution in communications. Transitioning from morse to voice systems as the war of movement was unfolding in the Western Desert. It became apparent the enemy was listening in and intercepting communications, so Radio Telephone Procedure (RTP) was developed and refined 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, common 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 not to be associated with any arms or corps.

downloadAccording to the REME history and journal, the REME appointment title “Bluebell” originated in 1942 when REME was formed and a new title was needed for the new Corps. Because it was ‘New, bright and shiny’ the nickname for EME would 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 will be provided 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 it was chosen because like a Rickshaw driver who was a beast of burden carrying large loads in his carriage, Ordnance was seen as the driver who was also a beast of burden with the responsibility of the whole army being carried in his 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 1990’s 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.




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