NZAOC Conductors 1917-1931

The Honourable and Ancient Appointment of Conductor has origins dating back to 1327. The appointment is mentioned in the Statute of Westminster as the men whose job was to conduct soldiers to places of assembly. The “Conductor of Ordnance” is also mentioned in the records of the siege of Boulogne in 1544. Surviving as an appointment related to handling stores in the British Army until the late 19th century. The first New Zealand connection to the Conductor appointment was during the New Zealand Wars, with Conductors appointed to provide support to the Imperial Regiments serving in that campaign. The British Army formalised the appointment by Royal Warrant on 11 January 1879, which established Conductors of Supplies (in the Army Service Corps) and Conductors of Stores (in the Ordnance Stores Branch) as Warrant Officers, ranking above all Non-Commissioned Officers. The Army Service Corps dispensed with Conductors of Supplies in 1892, with the Army Ordnance Corps retaining Conductors on its formation in 1895. In the Army Ordnance Corps, the appointment of Conductor had become a senior and responsible position. When required, the holder was a pillar of knowledge who would do duty as a subaltern officer but not sit on courts of inquiry or regimental boards. On parade, Conductors would take post as an officer but would not salute.[1]

New Zealand Conductors

Before the First World War, no single indigenous Ordnance Organisation supported the New Zealand Forces, responsibility for Ordnance Services was split between the Defence Stores Department and the Royal New Zealand Artillery. The requirement for an Ordnance Organisation had been identified as early as 1901[2] and again in 1901[3], but no decision was taken to form an Ordnance Corps until 1916. Early 1916 saw the formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) as a unit of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). The NZAOC EF would be a wartime unit constituted for the period of hostilities and would be disestablished and demobilised as part of the NZEF in 1920. However, in New Zealand, on 1 February 1917, the home service NZAOC was constituted and established as a component of the New Zealand Permanent Forces.[4]

On creating the NZAOC in New Zealand, provision had been allowed in its organisational structure for the appointment of six Conductors as part of the Clerical and Stores Section.[5]

Following the British model, the NZAOC EF included both Conductors and Sub-Conductors as part of its organisational structure.[6] This practice was not duplicated by the NZAOC in New Zealand, with only the appointment of Conductor adopted. The Rank insignia for the Conductor in both the NZEF and New Zealand would be a Crown in a Wealth,[7] the same insignia is worn by Warrant Officers Class Two in the modern New Zealand Army.


Warrant Officer Class One, Conductor Badge 1915-1918. Robert McKie Collection

Drawing the bulk of its staff from the existing personnel of the New Zealand Defence Stores Department, the NZAOC also absorbed individuals who were suitably qualified and experienced in the handling and accounting of military equipment from the military districts and training camps, including the men who would be the first two Conductors.

  • William Henry Manning, [8] and
  • William Ramsey.[9]

William Henry Manning

At fifty years of age, William Henry Manning was too old to serve overseas but could enlist into the NZEF Army Service Corps (ASC) on 17 December 1915 for home service only.

Born on 31 August 1965, Manning had spent most of his adult life as a soldier in the British Army. As a Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, Manning had also spent time as an acting ASC Officer in charge of supplies and an acting Ordnance Officer in various parts of the Empire. One of his last positions was as a Troopship Quartermaster Sergeant on the SS Lismore Castle, transporting the 2nd Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment to South Africa from the United Kingdom in October – November 1899. On completing his tenure with the British Army, Manning migrated to New Zealand with his wife and two children.

Appointed as a teacher in 1908, Manning and his wife would become School Masters, first at the Native School at Te Haroto and then the Native School at Waimarma.

Eager to serve, Manning approached the Defence Force on 10 October 1915, advising them of his experience and willingness to serve. Manning’s offer to serve was accepted, and on 17 December 1915, Manning was attested into the ASC as a soldier. Promoted successively from Private, Corporal, Sergeant and then Staff Sergeant on 6 April 1916.

Transferred to the Quartermaster General Branch on May 1916, Manning would remain there until 1 February 1917, when he would become a foundation member of the NZAOC on its formal formation with promotion to Conductor following on 2 February 1917.

William Ramsey

Born on 11 June 1852, Ramsey, like Manning, had spent his adult life in the British Army worldwide, including service at Woolwich, Aldershot, Limerick, Malta, and Ambala (India), and on his retirement had migrated to New Zealand with his wife and six children.

William Ramsey

William Ramsey, 1918

At the time of his enlistment in December 1915, Ramsey worked as a caretaker for the Presbyterian Institute at Trentham. At sixty-three years of age, Ramsey was enlisted for service with the New Zealand Army at the Headquarters of Trentham Camp on 3 December 1915. Like Manning, Ramsey’s experience was recognised, and while working for Captain McCristell, the Camp Quartermaster was promoted successively from Private, Corporal, Sergeant and then Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant on 1 April 1916. On 3 February 1917, Ramsey was transferred into the NZAOC and immediately promoted to Conductor.


With available records identifying Manning and Ramsey as the first Conductors appointed in New Zealand, Information of the Conductors that followed is incomplete with the following known to have been selected as Conductors.

  • Regt No 36 Conductor James Murdoch Miller, [10]1 Jul 17 – 3 Jul18
  • Regt No 69 Conductor Eugene Key,[11] 5 Jul 17 – 16 Jan 18
  • Regt No 91 Conductor Donald McCaskill McIntyre,[12] 30 Jul 17 – 10 Jul 19
  • Regt No 112 Conductor George William Bulpitt Silvestre,[13] 1 Nov 18 – 22 Aug 20
  • Regt No 48 Conductor Mark Leonard Hathaway, MSM,[14]  1Nov 18 – 30 Sep 19
  • Regt No 888 Conductor Henry Earnest Erridge, 1 Oct 19 – 31 July 26
  • Regt No 605 Conductor Walter Edward Cook,[15] 1 Nov 19 – 5 Jul 20
  • Regt No 948 Conductor Michael Joseph Lyons,[16] MSM 1 Apr 22 – 1Jul-27
  • Regt No 807 Conductor Thomas Webster Page, MSM 1Aug 22 – 22 Dec 25
  • Regt No 363 Conductor David Llewellyn Lewis, 1 Oct 28 – 31 Mar 31

4 July 1918 saw both Manning and Ramsey promoted to Honorary Lieutenants and appointed as Ordnance Officers 4th Class to the Inspectorial Staff of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (NZAOD).[17]

Having both reached retiring age, Manning and Ramsey relinquished their honorary ranks and appointments on the Inspectorial Staff of the NZAOD and were demobilised out of the NZAOC on 4 April 1920.[18]

In 1918, British Army Order 305 was issued, which settled the insignia for Conductors as the Royal Arms in Laurel Wreath and for a Sub-Conductor the Royal Arms.[19] Although probably adopted for wear in New Zealand in 1918/19, the Insinga of the Royal Arms in a Laurel Wreath was confirmed for New Zealand Conductor in the NZ Military Forces Dress Regulations of 1923.[20]


Warrant Officer Class One, Conductor Badge. Robert McKie Collection

Precdence of RanksDefence Regulations since 1895 had placed Conductors as warrant officers, ranking them above all non-commissioned officers. The New Zealand Defence Regulations of 1927 placed Conductors on the order of precedence of Warrant and Non-Commissioned Officers as the senior of the Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) rank equivalent to Staff Sergeant-Majors, N.Z. Permanent Staff and Master Gunner, 1st Class.[21]

Following the mass civilianisation of the NZAOC in 1931, the appointment of Conductor fell into abeyance. The appointment would remain a valid appointment until removed from Army Regulations in 1949.[22] Reinstated in 1977, The appointment of Conductor again became available for selected WO1s of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC). It would remain in use until 1996 when due to the amalgamation of the RNZAOC into the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment. The appointment was discontinued.

Ordnance 1918

The New Zealand Ordnance Corps 1918, Buckle Street Wellington. RNZAOC School

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018


[1] The Kings Regulations and Orders for the Army, (London1908).

[2] J Babington, “Defence Forces of New Zealand,” in AJHR (Wellington: House of Representatives, 1904).

[3] J Ward, ibid. (1907).

[4] “New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Regulations,” New Zealand Gazette, No 95, June 7, 1917, P. 2288.

[5] Ibid., P. 2289.

[6] The First conductors in the NZEF NZAOC were Acting Sub Conductor William Coltman, appointed in February 1916 and Conductor Charles Gossage, appointed on 21 July 1916.” Gossage, Charles Ingram “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Coltman, William “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[7] British Army Orders 70 & 174 of 1915, (1915).

[8] “Manning, William Henry,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1915.

[9] “Ramsey, William,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1915.

[10] “Miller, James Murdoch “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand (1914-1918).

[11] “Key, Eugene,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand (1914-1918).

[12] ” Mcintyre, Donald Mccaskill,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand (1899-1919).

[13] “Silvestre, William Bulpitt,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand (1914-1918).

[14] “Hathaway, Mark Leonard,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand (1917-1928).

[15] “Cook, Walter Edward,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand (1917-1920).

[16] “Michael Joseph Lyons,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand (1914-1919).

[17] “Appointments, Promotions and Transfers of Non-Commissioned Officers of the NZ Army Ordnance Corps and NZ Permanent Force,” New Zealand Gazette No 105, 1 August 1918.

[18] “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations, Transfers and Retirements of Officers from the NZ, NZ Army Ordnance Department and Territorial Force,” New Zealand Gazette No 26, 8 April 1920.

[19] British Army Order 308 of 1918, (1918).

[20] New Zealand Military Forces Dress Regulations, ed. New Zealand Military Forces (Wellington1923).

[21] “Regulations for the Military Forces of the Dominion of New Zealand.,” New Zealand Gazette no. 32 (1927).

[22] “Regulations for the New Zealand Military Forces 1927, Amendment, No. 62,” New Zealand Gazette, No 26, 28 April 1949.

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