Gordon Cumming Bremner

Gordon Cumming Bremner was born at Wanganui on 30 October 1891. Completing his schooling, Gordon took up a career as a farm hand in the central North Island of New Zealand. Fulfilling his obligation to participate in Compulsorily Military Training, Gordon enlisted in the 6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles of the Territorial Army on 1 March 1911. Serving in the Territorial Army for three years Gordon would enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in January 1915.

Taking his attestation on 11 January 1915, Gordon would spend three months training at Trentham before embarking on Troopship No 23 the SS Waitoma on 17 April 1915 as part of the 4th Reinforcements for the voyage to Egypt. Disembarking at Suez on 25 May 1915, Gordon would undergo further training at Zeitoun Camp. Early in June Gordon departed Alexandra, joining the 11th (Taranaki) Company of the Wellington Battalion in the Dardanelles on 9 June.

Bremner GC 01 B Coy 4th Reinfs

Gordon Bremner with B Company 4th Reinforcements, Norm Lamont Collection

Bremner GC 01a B Coy 4th Reinfs

Gordon would have spent the uncomfortably hot months of June and July with the Taranaki Company rotating between Courtney and Quinn’s Posts at Gallipoli as the Wellington Battalion consolidated its position. Participating in the Battle of Chunuk Bair and wounded in action on 8 August,  the injury saw Gordon evacuated from Gallipoli on HMS Alaunia.  Gordon arrived back in Alexandra on 13 August and admitted to the 1st Australian (No.3 Auxiliary) Hospital at Heliopolis on 14 Aug where in addition to his battle injuries Gordon received treatment for appendicitis. Diagnosed with neurasthenia, the term used to describe “shell shock” or what is referred to in modern times as a Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) saw the transfer of Gordon to the New Zealand General Hospital at Abbassia on 13 September. With Gordon’s condition classifying him as unfit for service, he was transferred to the Lady de Walden’s Hospital at Alexandria on 8 October in preparation for his repatriation to New Zealand, departing on the SS Tahiti on 20 November. Arriving in New Zealand on boxing day 1915 and admitted to a convalescent home at Rotorua, Gordon would spend several months recuperating. Recovery was slow, and although his health had improved, Gordon remained classified as medically unfit for military service resulting in his discharge from the NZEF on 19 April 1916.

Bremner GC 07a Otago Witness Sep 1915

Motivated to continue serving, Gordon re-joined the Territorial Army on 1 June 1916 and applied for enlistment into the NZEF on 10 December, but his C2 medical grading precluded his reenlistment into the NZEF. Gordons records do not record his activities during 1917, but in February 1918 Gordon was medially reclassified as C1 – Likely to become fit for active service after special training. Gordon’s medical upgrading was well timed, as on 15 September 1917 authorisation for men medically unfit for active service was granted so they could replace Territorials who remained on duty at the coast defence forts in the main centres. Gordon was ordered to report to the Officer Commanding of the RNZA Wellington on 26 Feb 2018 and on 27 February 1918, Gordon was enlisted as a guard with the Garrison Artillery at Fort Ballance at Wellington.

Bremner GC 09 Garrison Artillery

Gordon Bremner Garrison Artillery. Norm Lamont Collection

On 31 December 1918 Gordon married Irene Pearl Williams at Wellington. Their marriage would see the birth of eight children and the adoption of another;

  • Zita Millicent (adopted), born 27 Dec 16 Christchurch,
  • Jean Kathleen, Born 21 Sept 20 Wellington,
  • James Alexander Gordon, born 31 Jan 22 Taumarunui,
  • Allan Duff, born 21 Apr 24 Wellington,
  • Jessie Elizabeth, born 20 Sept Wellington,
  • Louise Gladys, born 29 Sept Wellington.
  • Nancy Irene, born 1930,
  • John Keith, born 1934,
  • Joyce Kay, born 9 Feb 1936

After four years, the armistice of 11 November 1918 brought the First World War to a close, and by late 1919 Gordon was at a crossroads regarding his future. As a Bombardier (Corporal) in the Artillery, he was well placed to transfer from the Territorials into the Permanent Force and with his savings purchase a comfortable house and pursue a career in the peacetime army, or he could take his discharge and seek fresh pastures. Gordon chose to seek fresh pastures and with his pre-war experience as a farm hand decided to become a farmer. Utilising the Soldiers Resettlement Scheme, Gordon invested his savings in a farm in the King Country. With marginal and isolated land allocated to returned servicemen, Gordons attempt to develop and farm the land was an experience shared by many other returned servicemen and was a futile and hopeless endeavour. After two years of backbreaking and heartbreaking work, Gordon and his family abandoned their farm and now homeless with savings expended returned to Wellington in October 1922.

Attempting to find work with the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham in October 1923 and again in March 1924, Gordon was initially unsuccessful, but did secure work at the Trentham Racecourse and later as a foreman with the Public Works Department in Trentham Camp. Gordon eventually secured a position as the relieving Camp Firemaster and in charge of the night patrol, with accommodation for his family provided in a target shed adjacent to the rifle range. The delivery of the first motorised ambulance to Trentham Camp saw Gordon appointed as the driver. In July 1925 Gordon’s luck changed as he was accepted for service into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) and was attested as a Private into “E” Section of the Main Ordnance Depot on 21 July. Up to his enlistment in the NZAOC Gordon had remained efficient in the Territorial Army with his service between 1916 and 1925 equalling four years and 211 days.

Bremner GC 14

Gordon Bremner as Trentham Camp Ambulance Driver C1925. Trentham News 1 September 1955 Norm Lamont Collection

Gordon’s enlistment into the NZAOC would in normal circumstances allowed him to retire at the age of 55 with a comfortable pension, but this was not to be. Due to the world-wide depression and economic recession the government was forced to savagely reduce the strength of the Army by using the provisions of section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2)  military staff could be either;

  • Transferred to the Civil service, or
  • Retired on superannuation.

Using this act, Gordon was discharged out of the NZAOC and transferred to the Civil Service on 31 January 1931 to work in the same position as a lorry driver but at a lower rate of pay.

Discharge 1930

Less than a week after Gordon’s transfer to the NZAOC Civilian staff, a disastrous earthquake struck Napier and Hastings on 3 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. As part of the civilian ordnance staff, Gordon’s skills as a lorry driver were put to full use delivering these stores and equipment to Napier and Hastings. All military employees including the civilian staff such as Gordon who engaged in the relief effort were deserving of great credit for the manner in which they carried out their duties under trying conditions.

Gordon’s wounds continued to cause him issues, and in February 1933 Gordon was admitted to hospital for an operation on a duodenal ulcer which was causing him some discomfort. As a result of the surgery a souvenir of Chunuk Bair, a piece of Turkish shrapnel was removed from Gordon’s stomach.

Gordon would continue to serve with the NZAOC in a civilian capacity for the remainder of the 1930’s. Although New Zealand entered the Second World War in 1939, the NZAOC would not transition into a full wartime footing until 1942 when, with the threat of invasion by Japan perceived as possible, saw the mobilisation of the full military potential of New Zealand. The NZAOC would transition from an organisation primarily staffed by civilians into one with a predominately military establishment, with many of the NZAOC civilian staff including Gordon returning to uniform. Gordon was attested into the Temporary Service of the NZAOC at Trentham on 24 August 1942 and allocated the service number 814628. Promoted to Corporal on 1 September 1942 with promotion to Sergeant following on 1 August 1944.

 

Bremner GC 15 1950s

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

Bremner GC 14b

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

With the end of the Second World War, Gordon transitioned into the post-war Interim Army as a Sergeant on 26 June 1946 and then into the Home Service Section (HSS) of the Regular Force as a Sergeant in the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC). As a driver in the Receipts and Issues Group of the Main Ordnance Depot, Gordon would often be out on runs around the Wellington region collection and delivering store to units and to transports agencies such as the railway, his pleasant manner, willingness to oblige and friendly ways ensured that he was a respected and popular member of Trentham Camp. Gordons activities were not limited to Trentham Camp and throughout his post-war service at Trentham, he would undertake many tours of duty to the other Ordnance depots at Linton, Waiouru and Hopuhopu. Receiving three extensions to his service Gordon would serve throughout the 1950’s.

Bremner GC 14 1950s

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

In1955 a review of Gordon’s service was undertaken, and in acknowledgement of his Sixteen Years and Nineteen days qualifying service in the Territorial Army, NZEF and NZAOC from 1911 to 1931, Gordon was awarded the New Zealand  Long & Efficient Service Medal on 12 May 1955. The New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal was rendered obsolete with the standardisation of awards on 23 September 1931 and Gordons award of this medal is notable as due to its late claim, Gordon’s award was possibly the last one awarded.

LSES Medal Bremner

Reaching retiring age in 1956, Gordon was discharged from the New Zealand Army on 6 August 1956 after close to Forty-Five years service, the majority of which spent at Trentham Camp to which he had been a witness of its growth form a rudimentary Training Camp in 1915 to a modern Military Camp.

Gordon retired in Upper Hutt and passed away at the age of 76 on 28 November 1967. Gordon now rests at the Wallaceville Cemetery, Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tombstone

Gordon Bremner Tombstone, Wallaceville Cemetery, Upper Hutt. Courtesy Dave Morris

During his service Gordon was awarded the following medals;

  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal War Medal 1939-45
  • New Zealand. War Service Medal.
  • New Zealand Long & Efficient Service Medal

Gordon had also been issued with the Silver War Badge. The Silver War Badge, also known as the “Wound Badge” or “Services Rendered Badge” was issued during the First World War to personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service.

In August 1967 Gordon received his Gallipoli lapel badge in the post with a letter apologising for the delay in sending out the Medallion. Gordons Gallipoli medallion would arrive a  week after his funeral.

Gordon’s son James would also pursue a military career in the Ordnance Corps. Working a civilian storeman at the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham, James would be attested into the Army on 12 June 1940. Serving in Italy with the New Zealand Ordnance Corps with the 2nd NZEF from 1943 to 1945. Remaining in the NZAOC at the Main Ordnance Depot, James would retire from the RNZAOC as A Warrant Officer Class Two on 21 April 1961.

Bremner JA 06

 

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

 

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Charles Ingram Gossage, NZEF DADOS 1918-1919

Gossage 1919

Charles Ingram Gossage was born on 11 August 1890 at Tapanui, New Zealand to Richard Ingram Gossage and Margret (Smith) and was the oldest boy in a family of three girls and two boys; Jane Eliza born 1886, Marion Peebles and Margaret Rubina born 1888 and George Low born 1894.1

Meeting his military service obligations, Gossage served in the 5th Mounted Rifles (Otago Hussars). Joining the Bank of New Zealand on 6 January 1913, Gossage was employed at the Dunedin branch when he enlisted into the NZEF.

On the declaration of war Gossage along with his younger brother George volunteered for war service and enlisted at Dunedin into their Territorial Army unit the 5th Mounted Rifles (Otago Hussars) on 9-Aug-14. Gossage was attested as 9/39 Trooper C.I Gossage on 13-Aug-14.

After a short period of training, the Gossage brothers embarked as part of the NZEF Main Body on Troop Transport 5 on 15-Oct-14, disembarking in Egypt on 3-Dec-14

Transferred into the Divisional Headquarters on 5 Feb 1915, Gossage was allocated the new Regimental Number of 15/39a. Embarking from Alexandra for the Dardanelles on 27 April, Gossage would remain at Gallipoli until he was evacuated to Alexandra with dysentery in late June. Remaining in Hospital until 5 August he was then released to a convalescent Camp to recover, returning to full duty on 25 August.

On 27 August Gossages 22-year-old brother George who was also serving with the Otago’s in Gallipoli was killed in action and now rests on the Hill 60 cemetery at Gallipoli and is memorialised on the Mosgiel War memorial in New Zealand.

Gossage Brother

Trooper George Gossage, Mosgiel Lodge Memorial Board – No known copyright restrictions.

Returned to full fitness, Gossage departed from Alexandra for Mudros on 3 November, continuing to serve in Gallipoli until the withdrawal on 20 December, disembarking in Alexandra soon afterwards.

Gossage 1914

Some of the boys of the 7th Southland Squadron, Otago Mounted Rifles Members of the 7th Southland Squadron, Otago Mounted Rifles who were among the last to leave Gallipoli. Gossage is incorrectly named as Tossage.

Transferred from Division Headquarter back to the Otago Mounted Rifles Gossage was promoted to Temporary Signal Corporal on 28 December and would serve with the Otago Mounted Rifles in the Canal Zone and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 28 January 1916.

Enjoying some downtime as the NZEF reorganised, Gossage was admitted to hospital in Ismailia with VD on 6 February and then transferred to the Hospital at Abbassya the next day and released from the hospital on 13 February.

Relinquishing his temporary Corporal rank on 10 February, Gossage was transferred to Moascar camp and Attached to the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) on 13 February and promoted to Sergeant on 18 February.

Formally transferred to the NZAOC on 21 March, Gossage had a short time to acquaint himself with his new responsibilities before embarking for France on 6 April.

Working under the Deputy Assistant Director Ordnance Services (DADOS) NZ Division Lieutenant Colonel Herbert, the NZAOC had a steep learning curve and not only had to learn how to operate within the British Ordnance system,2  but also support the New Zealand Division as it reorganised and equipped with all types of war materiel.

On 17 April 1916 Gossage was appointed Company Sergeant Major and acting Warrant Officer, and on 24 July in a testament to his performance, Gossage was promoted to Warrant Officer Class One with the appointment of Conductor, the first New Zealand Soldier to be granted this appointment. Further promotion followed with promotion to 2nd Lieutenant on 25 January 1917.

14 May 1917 saw Gossage at the New Zealand Officer Convalescent Home at Brighton in England where he would remain until 12 June and then placed onto the strength of the HQ NZEF (UK) in London. Struck off strength HQ NZEF(UK) on 13 June Gossage was posted to the New Zealand Reserve Group at Sling Camp.

To further his utility as an Ordnance Officer, Gossage marched out of Sling Camp on 21 September to attend an Ordnance Officers course at the Headquarters of the Army Ordnance Corps located at the Red Barracks, Woolwich London.

During his time at Woolwich married Wilfred Agnes Norwell at London on 29 December 1917.

Completing the Ordnance Officers course at Woolwich, Gossage was brought back on to the strength of the NZAOC in London on 25 February 1918, proceeding back to France on 18 March. Arriving back in the NZ Division on 19 March, Gossage was promoted to Lieutenant and appointed DADOS NZ Division vice Lieutenant Colonel Herbert DSO who had been appointed as the ADOS of a British Corps.3  On 31 March for the period that he was employed as DADOS,   Gossage was granted the Rank of Temporary Captain, and on 24 June was granted the rank of Temporary Major.

Departing France for leave in the United Kingdom on 2 November 1918, Gossage was on leave when the armistice took effect on 11 November. Within the first few weeks of the armistice if space allowed the wives and families of New Zealand servicemen returned to New Zealand.4  It is possible that Gossage’s wife departed for New Zealand during this period.

Returning to France on 20 November Gossage moved with the New Zealand Division through Belgium into Germany establishing themselves in Cologne by 20 December, where they would carry out occupation duties before demobilisation.5  On 15 December Gossage was promoted to Captain while retaining the rank of Temporary Major while DADOS NZ Division.

NZ Ordnance Staff 1919

New Zealand Ordnance Corps demobilisation Staff at Mulheim, Germany, Febuary1919. Alexander Turnbull Library/Public Domain

 

With the first units of the Division demobilising on 18 March 1919, the New Zealand Division was formally disbanded on 25 March 1919.6  Gossage was ordered to proceed to England as soon as the Ordnance Equipment of the New Zealand Division was handed over to the British. Impressed with the performance of the New Zealand Division between 16 September 1918 and 15 March 1919, General Haig Mentioned in Dispatches many members of the New Zealand Division including Gossage on 16 March 1919. With the New Zealand Division demobilised and all its equipment disposed or handed back, Gossage marched out tor England on 2 May 1919.

On 31 May 1919,  Gossages daughter Thelma was born in Auckland New Zealand.

Awarded the OBE on 3 June 1919, Gossage remained in London until 25 August, then posted to Sling Camp where he remained until he returned to New Zealand for demobilisation on 3 November 1919.

Travelling back on the troopship Ruahine, Gossage arrived back in New Zealand on 25 December 1919 and proceeded on leave. On 24 January 1920 Gossage Relinquished the rank of Temporary Major and was Struck off the strength of the NZEF and was transferred to the reserve of Officers with the rank of Captain. In total Gossage spent five years and seventy-one days on overseas service.

Gossage would not remain out of uniform for long, and on 16 August 1920 was granted a commission as a Lieutenant in the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (NZAOD) as Ordnance Accounting Officer at the Mount Cook depot at Wellington.

Gossage oversaw the receipt of a large amount of new military equipment, which at the end of the war had been purchased from the United Kingdom to equip an Infantry Division and Mounted Brigade.  Additionally, Gossage also introduced a modern cost accounting system which proved very successful and reduced losses to a negligible level.

With the closing of the Mount Cook Depot in Wellington in 1920 and the transfer of Ordnance services to Trentham Camp, Gossage transferred to Trentham as the Accounting Officer on 18 July 1921. Offered a position with a commercial firm in London Gossage resigned his commission with the NZAOD on 31 December 1922 and with his family relocated to the United Kingdom.

With the onset of the Second World War and the second echelon of the 2nd NZEF in the United Kingdom, on 20 May 1940, Gossage offered his services to the New Zealand Government. On the recommendation of Lieutenant Colonel King, the DADOS of the 2NZEF, Gossage’s offer was declined. Although his offer of service was declined by New Zealand, Gossage was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the admin branch of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) on 21 April 1941.7 The extent of Gossage’s wartime service with the RAOC is unknown, but he does not appear in the Army list of 1947, so was probably discharged soon after the end of the war.

Gossage passed away at St Andrews Hospital, London at the age of 75 on 3 March 1966.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

 Notes

1 “Charles Ingram Gossage “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

2 P.H. Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War (History Press, 2018).

3 Herbert was posted to the British XI Corps as ADOS, “Alfred Henry Herbert “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

4 “Nzef Circular Memorandum Uk 214, Notes on Demobilisation’, in Reports by Gen. Richardson in Uk No. 23-32 Nov 1917-Feb 1919, Acid 17590 Wa/231/11, Anz.”

5 Matthew Wright, Western Front: The New Zealand Division in the First World War 1916-18 (Auckland, N.Z: Reed Books, 2005, 2005), Bibliographies Non-fiction, 159.

6 Ibid., 160.

7 “Supplement to the London Gazette, Page 3075,” London Gazette, 30 May 1941.


Influenza 1918

Natural calamities in New Zeland have proved the worth of the military, which with a trained and disciplined workforce and access to resources can respond efficiently in a manner that civilian organisations can match. Be it floods, heavy snow, cyclones or earthquakes the men and women of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps have often been found at the front line of relief efforts.

One of the earliest examples of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services providing emergency relief was during the Influenza epidemic of October 1918, when the most massive public health crisis ever to strike New Zealand occurred when the worldwide influenza epidemic reached New Zealand shores. Between October and November 1918, an estimated 9000 New Zealanders would perish as a result of the Influenza epidemic.[1] In the capital city of Wellington, the onset of the Influenza epidemic caused the existing medical facilities to be overwhelmed and unable to cope with the unprecedented number of people struck down with Influenza.  Stepping up to assist the Public Health Department, The New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps based at Alexandra Barracks were mobilised to establish emergency hospitals around the Wellington region.

McCristell

Major Thomas James McCristell, Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores, 10 April 1916 – 20 January 1920.

Under the management of the Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores, Major Thomas McCristell, the 123 men of the Ordnance Corps equipped the various emergency hospitals with over 300 beds, supplied the stores and supervised the hospital arrangements and general machinery of each establishment  in and about Wellington, so that by 20 November the following hospitals and convalescent hospitals had been established:[2]

  • Hospitals
    • Normal School, 91 women,
    • Sydney street Schoolroom, 41 men.
    • Missions to Seamen, 65 men.
    • John’s Schoolroom, 67 men and women.
    • Alexandra Hall, 20 men.
    • Wellington College, 105 men and women.
    • Patrick’s College, 48 men.
    • Brooklyn Hall, 32 men and women.
    • Johnsonville, 23 men and women.
    • Seatoun, 10 men and women.
  • Convalescent Hospitals
    • Thomas’s Hall, 35 men.
    • Wellington Convalescent Home, 24 women.
    • Salvation Army Training College, 16 women.
    • Anne’s Hall, 30 men.
  • Untended Children’s Home
    • Miramar Golf Club, 56 children

The 1916 census listed the population of Wellington as 95235, deaths in Wellington attributed to the influenza were 795 which gave Wellington a death rate of 7.9 per 1000. This rate was slightly higher than Auckland but well below the death rate found in other North Island Locations which was as high as 43 per 1000.[3] It would be optimistic to believe that the work carried out by the Ordnance Corps in establishing emergency hospitals contributed to Wellingtons low death rate.

hero_wellington-ambulances

Emergency ambulances alongside the Wellington Town Hall during the 1918 flu pandemic. Ref: PAColl-7489-69 Alexander Turnbull Library

The Ordnance men were not immune to the effects of the Influenza, and at one stage 7O men were laid up with influenza, placing extraordinary demands onto the very much reduced staff.[4] Private F.W  Maynard, a 35-year-old Ordnance Soldier, died as a result of the complications caused by Influenza on the 28 November.[5]

By December 1918 the influenza epidemic was under control, and the crisis has passed with the emergency hospitals progressively shut down. Much of the credit to the success of the setting up and management of the emergency hospitals were placed directly on Major McCristell and his team from the Ordnance Corps.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

flu-poster

Influenza instructions for nurses.Ref: Eph-B-HEALTH-1918-01, Alexander Turnbull Library

 

 

Notes

[1] Manatū Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage, “100 Years since Influenza Pandemic, 28 September 2018,”  https://mch.govt.nz/100-years-influenza-pandemic.

[2] “Revelations,” New Zealand Times, Volume XLIII, Issue 10133, 22 November 1918.

[3] “North Island Influenza Death Rates, 11 January 2018,”  https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/influenza-pandemic/north-island-death-rates.

[4] “Under Control,” New Zealand Times, Volume XLIII, Issue 10131, 20 November 1918.

[5] “Soldiers Deaths,” Evening Post, Volume XCVI, Issue 131, 29 November 1918.