The Honourable and Ancient Appointment of Conductor has origins dating back to 1327 where the appointment is mentioned in the Statute of Westminister as the men whose job it 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 directly related to the handling of 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 with the holder being a pillar of knowledge, who when required 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.
New Zealand Conductors
Before the First World War, no single indigenous Ordnance Organisation was supporting 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 and again in 1907 but with no decision taken on the formation of an Ordnance Corps until 1916. Early 1916 saw the establishment 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. On the formation of 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.
Following the British model, the NZAOC EF included both Conductors and Sub-Conductors as part of its organisational structure. This practice was not duplicated by the NZAOC in New Zealand, with only the appointment of Conductor adopted. The Rank insignia for conductors in both the NZEF and New Zealand would be a Crown in Laurel Wealth, the same badge is worn by Warrant Officers Class Two in the modern New Zealand Army.
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
At fifty years of age William Henry Manning as too old to serve overseas but was able to enlist into the NZEF Army Service Corps(ASC) on 17 December 1915 for home service only.
Born on 31 August 1865, Manning had spent most of his adult life as a soldier in the British Army. Serving as a Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, Manning had also spent time as an acting ASC Officer in charge supplies and an acting Ordnance Officer in various parts of the Empire. One of his last positions held 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 the completion of his tenure with the British Army, Manning with his wife and two children migrated to New Zealand.
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 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.
Born on 11 June 1852, Ramsey, like Manning had spent his adult life in the British Army all around the world 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.
At the time of his enlistment in December 1915, Ramsey was working 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 with 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, promoted successively from Private, Corporal, Sergeant and then Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant on 1 April 1916. On 3 February 1917 on McCrystal’s recommendation 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 Conductors;
- Regt No 36 Conductor James Murdoch Miller 1 Jul 17 – 3 Jul18,
- Regt No 69 Conductor Eugene Key 5 Jul 17 – 16 Jan 18,
- Regt No 91 Conductor Donald McCaskill McIntyre 30 Jul 17 – 10 Jul 19,
- Regt No 112 Conductor George William Bulpitt Silvestre 1 Nov 18 – 22 Aug 20
- Regt No 48 Conductor Mark Leonard Hathaway, MSM 1 Nov 18 – 30 Sep 19
- Regt No 605 Conductor Walter Edward Cook 1 Nov 19 – 5 Jul 20,
- Regt No 948 Conductor Michael Joseph Lyons, MSM 1 Apr 22 – 1Jul-27.
4 July 1918 saw both Manning and Ramsey promoted to the rank of Honorary Lieutenants and appointed as Ordnance Officers 4th Class to the Inspectorial Staff of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department(NZAOD).
Having both reached retiring age Manning and Ramsey relinquished their honourary ranks and appointments on the Inspectorial Staff of the NZAOD and demobilised out of the NZAOC 4 April 1920.
During 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. 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 Conductors in the NZ Military Forces Dress Regulations of 1923.
Defence Regulations since 1895 had placed Conductors as warrant officers, ranking them above all non-commissioned officers. The New Zealand Defence Regulations of 1927 set 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.
Following the mass civilianization of the NZAOC in 1931 the appointment of Conductor fell into abeyance. The appointment would remain as a valid appointment until removed from Army Regulations in 1949. Reinstated in 1977, The appointment of Conductor again became available for selected WO1’s of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps(RNZAOC) and 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.
Copyright © Robert McKie 2018
 The Kings Regulations and Orders for the Army, (London1908).
 J Babington, “Defence Forces of New Zealand,” in AJHR (Wellington: House of Representatives, 1904).
 J Ward, ibid. (1907).
 “New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Regulations,” New Zealand Gazette, No 95, June 7 1917, P. 2288.
 Ibid., P. 2289.
 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.”Charles Ingram Gossage “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “William Coltman,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.
 British Army Orders 70 & 174 of 1915, (1915).
 “William Henry Manning,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1915.
 “William Ramsey,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1915.
 “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.
 “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.
 British Army Order 308 of 1918, (1918).
 New Zealand Military Forces Dress Regulations, ed. New Zealand Military Forces (Wellington1923).
 “Regulations for the Military Forces of the Dominion of New Zealand.,” New Zealand Gazette no. 32 (1927).
 “Regulations for the New Zealand Military Forces 1927, Amendment, No. 62,” New Zealand Gazette, No 26, 28 April 1949.