The NZAOC and how it features in the historiography of the NZEF

The role of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) during the First World War of1914 to 1919, is one that has remained untold if not forgotten. While the contribution of the NZEF, its commanders, battles and significant units are recorded in many articles, books and websites, the NZAOC has been less fortunate. When it comes to a narrative which includes the Logistic Services of the NZEF, the narrative is almost universally biased towards the larger of the Logistic Services; the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC) and the contribution of the NZAOC has been one of an unloved redhaired stepchild and seldom mentioned. From an initial mobilisation strength of an officer and a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) in 1914, the NZOAC would mature into a modern and effective organisation providing Ordnance services to the NZEF on par to their counterparts in the British and other Commonwealth Divisions.  Using Ian McGibbon’s 2016 New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign and Peter Hamlyn Williams 2018 Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War, this essay will examine the representation of the NZAOC in the historiography of the NZEF from 1914 to 1919.

The official New Zealand War histories published in the 1920s often are criticised for their “inadequacy” and “turgid prose”.[1] Ian McGibbon’s 2016 book New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign goes a long way in providing a comprehensive and easy to read account of New Zealand’s forces on the Western Front. Although McGibbon’s focus is on the New Zealand Division on the Western Front, he does provide some broader context on the NZEF, but in a similar vein to H Stewarts, The New Zealand Division of 1921, [2]  McGibbon does not acknowledge the role of the NZAOC. McGibbon cannot be faulted for neglecting to mention the NZAOC, as the NZAOD was one of several NZEF units identified at a conference of NZEF Senior Officers in 1919 as requiring the recording of their war history.[3] Despite the prompt from the wartime leaders of the NZEF, the NZAOC missed the opportunity and never followed through in the production of the NZAOC war history leaving a significant gap in New Zealand’s historiography of the First World War.

The NZAOC was not a feature of the pre-war New Zealand Army, and on the mobilisation of the NZEF in 1914,  a small Ordnance Staff consisting of the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) and an SNCO Clerk was formed as part of the NZEF Headquarters Administrative and Services Branch, becoming the foundation staff of the NZAOC.[4] The Ordnance Manual (War) of 1914 details the role of the DADOS as to “deal with all matters affecting the Ordnance services of the division. The DADOS would manage the state of the clothing and equipment on the charge of the units composing the division and would from time to time advise the officers in charge of the stores which in all probability would be required for operations”.[5]  As the NZEF arrived in Egypt and settled down to the business of preparing itself for war, the need for a larger New Zealand Ordnance organisation must have been recognised, leading to the commissioning from the ranks of the first NZAOC officers on 3 April 1915.[6]  Soldiers and NCO’s would also be attached to the nascent Ordnance Depots at Zeitoun, Alexandra and Gallipoli throughout 1915 and into 1916. McGibbon describes the early 1916 formation of the New Zealand Division in Egypt,[7] and although providing a paragraph on the NZASC, fails to mention the expansion of the NZAOC as a unit of the NZEF.[8] The expansion of the NZAOC in early 1916 was as a result of organisational changes across the British Army Ordnance Corps(AOC) as the scale of the war, and the support required became apparent.[9] In line with all British Divisions, the DADOS of the NZ Division would assume responsibility for a small Ordnance organisation complete with integral transport.[10]

In his brief section on Logistics, McGibbon states that “The New Zealand Division slotted into the BEF’s vast Logistic system.”[11] While this statement is not incorrect, it does understate the role of the NZAOC in providing the linkages which enabled the NZ Division to integrate and become part of the vast and evolving British logistical system. However, the misunderstanding of the NZAOC’s contribution is one echoed in many New Zealand Histories of the First World War including Major J.S Bolton’s A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.[12] McGibbon’s omissions of the NZAOC do not detract from the overall quality of his book but instead continues an unintentional tradition across New Zealand’s historiography of the First World War of forgetting the NZAOC. Bolton’s history of the RNZAOC which dedicates close to ten pages on the First World War provides few details of NZAOC activities in the NZEF. Bolton instead bases much of his narrative on Major General Forbes A History of the Army Ordnance Services,[13] and Brigadier A. H Fernyhough’s A short history of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps[14] which, overlaid with some material from the NZ Division DADOS war diaries provide a broad overview of the NZAOC during the First World War. Likewise, Peter Capes Craftsmen in Uniform and Peter Cooke’s Warrior Craftsmen, both histories of the Royal Electrical And Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME), a corps that grew out of the NZAOC, fail to record the story of the NZAOC craftsmen who served in the NZEF.[15] [16]  The authoritative work to date on British Logistics during The First World War is Ian Malcolm Brown’s British Logistics on the Western Front 1914-1914.[17] Outstanding as Brown’s work is, it focuses on the larger logistical picture, and it is not until 2018 with Philip Williams Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War that a work dedicated on the activities the AOC during the First World War provides a narrative relatable to the NZAOC.

Although Williams work examines the activities of the AOC from the Ordnance factories of the United Kingdom to the trenches in all the British theatres of war, it has much relevance to the NZAOC as the New Zealand Division was just one of sixty Infantry Divisions of the British Army and therefore part of the Ordnance system that Williams describes. Williams who draws upon a combination of Forbes and Fernyhough’s histories and personal diaries to provide valuable insights into the activities of the NZAOC, which along with the Australians and Canadian Ordnance Corps were cogs in the imperial logistical machine that was the wartime AOC.[18] [19]

Britain’s war effort was vast and unprecedented, requiring a Logistical effort that grew from the pre-war industrial base to one of total war. From the Ordnance perspective, Williams lays out the Ordnance contribution from the factory to the foxhole in an uncomplicated and engaging style providing the reader with an appreciation of the scale of the Ordnance commitment to the war effort. Similarly, McGibbon also discusses the resources required to support the NZ Division on the Western Front and discusses the establishment of the NZEF Headquarters in London and training depots for reinforcements, hospitals and convalescent homes across the United Kingdom. However, McGibbon follows the established template and fails to mention the NZAOC contribution in the United Kingdom. In addition to all the other administrative branches established as part of the NZEF Headquarters, there was also an Ordnance Department with responsibility for “the purchase of Ordnance supplies”.[20] Under the Chief Ordnance Officer for the NZEF in the United Kingdom, Captain (later Major) Norman Levien, the NZAOC would pay a significant role in supporting the NZEF. Levien would introduce into the NZEF standardised stores accounting systems and review purchase contracts leading to the introduction of competitive tendering for the provision of stores and services to the NZEF, leading to considerable savings.[21]  In Order to provide dedicated Ordnance Support to the NZEF, a New Zealand Ordnance Depot was also established in London.[22]

Where McGibbon’s primary effort is on the NZ Division on the Western Front, Williams provides an overview of the Ordnance support provided to all the campaigns that New Zealand participated in, which when read in conjunction with the limited material on the NZAOC such as the DADOS war dairies can be extrapolated to tell the story of the NZAOC. For example, Williams details the Ordnance preparations for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) operations at Gallipoli, the challenges faced during the campaign and how Ordnance was never to get fully organised which corresponds to and fills out the few accounts of New Zealand’s Ordnance contribution to that campaign.[23] It is in Williams chapter on the Somme where he highlights the anonymity of Ordnance in the Divisional Order of Battle which has contributed to the NZAOCs absence from the historiography. Williams finds it intriguing that despite the Order of Battle for a Division listing Divisional Headquarters, Artillery, Engineers, Infantry Brigades, Army Service Corps and all other types of integral units, Ordnance is not mentioned as such.[24]  Glyn Harpers Johny Enzed does help to lift the veil of anonymity of the NZAOD in the NZEF Order of Battle for 1916 and lists Ordnance three times, but provides little other information on the NZAOC.[25]  Williams unpacks the role of Ordnance within an Infantry Divison, explaining how under the DADOS the Ordnance staff had multiple responsibilities. The DADOS had the responsibility of ensuring that the Divisions requirement for the accurate and precise management of Ordnance Stores including boots, uniforms, guns and camp equipment. As an example, Williams discusses the process that a DADOS would follow to replace a Lewis gun buried in a mine explosion. Reporting the loss of the gun to Corps and Army Headquarters, to Ordnance Headquarter and the Quartermaster General (QMG) at General Headquarters (GHQ) and on receipt of the replacement gun, how the reporting process would be repeated to acknowledge the receipt of the gun.[26]  In addition to the DADOS’s stores accounting responsibilities, Williams also explains how the operation of the Divisional Laundry and Baths fell under the DADOS remit. Maintenance is another area in which the DADOS had some responsibility. Initially, craftsmen such as armourers and bootmakers belonged to the individual Regiments within the Division, but as units went into action, these men became redundant, so they were often transferred to ordnance and placed into Divisional Workshops under the DAODS. Given the broad responsibilities of the NZAOC, a hypothesis for the NZAOC’s anonymity in the historiography of the NZEF could be as simple as a case of unrecognised success. Success in that the NZAOC fulfilled its role so well with no major errors affecting the operations of the NZEF that it went unnoticed, and their continual anonymity, therefore, is a measure of the success of the NZAOC.

In conclusion, one hundred years after the end of the First World War the NZAOC remains an anonymous unit of the NZEF, and despite its small size, it is time to reconsider its place in the historiography of the NZEF. McGibbon’s New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign reinforces the anonymity of the NZAOC, but McGibbon’s omission is not intentional but a continuation of the belief that the NZEF just slotted into the British logistic system without questioning the mechanisms and the men that enabled the NZEF to do so. Williams Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War which is an examination of the British Ordnance system, provides useful insights on how the NZEF not only received Ordnance support but provides an example how the DADOS within the NZ Division managed the Ordnance functions within the Division, a linkage which has long been missing from the historiography.

20180605_195417-190082474.jpg

New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Badge, 1916-1919 (Robert McKie Collection 2017)

Notes

[1] Steven Loveridge, “New Zealand’s Bloodiest Campaign,” New Zealand Books 27, no. 118 (2017).

[2] Stewarts only mention of New Zealand’s Ordnance contribution to the NZ Division is on the Organisational Tables on pages 15 and 603 where he lists the DADOS as part of the organisation. H. Stewart, The New Zealand Division, 1916-1919: A Popular History Based on Official Records, Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V. 2 France (Whitcombe & Tombs, 1921), Non-fiction.

[3] In the Senior Officer Conference of November 1919, 22 units of the NZEF had convenors of Regimental Committees appointed with the responsibility to appoint a writer of the units War History. Lt Col Herbert who had been the NZ Division DADOS from 1916 to 1918 was appointed as the convenor for the NZAOC, but no official wartime history of the NZAOC was ever published.  Conference of Senior Officers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force,  (Archives New Zealand, R22550177, 1919).

[4] “Appendices to War Diaries, I – Lxii,” Item ID R23486739, Archives New Zealand 1914-1915.

[5] Ordnance Manual (War), War Office (London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914).

[6] “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” New Zealand Gazette 8 July 1915.

[7] I. C. McGibbon, New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign (Bateman, 2016), Non-fiction, 30-31.

[8] “Road to Promotion,” Evening Post, Volume XCI, Issue 29, 4 February 1916.

[9] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), 151.

[10]  Records of the exact manning and organisation of the New Zealand Division DADOS branch have not been seen, but would have been similar to the organisation of the Australian DADOS Divisional Ordnance Staff which was comprised of:

  • 1 Officer as DADOS (Maj/Capt)
  • 1 Conductor of Ordnance Stores per Divisional HQ
  • 1 Sergeant AAOC per Divisional HQ
  • 1 Corporal AAOC per Divisional HQ
  • 3 RQMS (WO1) AAOC
  • 3 Sergeants AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades
  • 3 Corporals AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades

As the war progressed additional Ordnance Officers would be included into the DADOS establishment who along with the Warrant Officer Conductor would manage the Ordnance staff and day to day operations allowing the DADOS the freedom to liaise with the divisional staff, units and supporting AOC units and Ordnance Depots. John D Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army (Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee, 1989), 78.

[11] McGibbon, New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign, 176.

[12] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 69.

[13] Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services.

[14] Brigadier A H Fernyhough, A Short History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (First Edition) (RAOC Trust 1965), 22-26.

[15] Peter Cape, Craftsmen in Uniform: The Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: An Account (Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, 1976), Non-fiction, 13.

[16] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 10-13.

[17] I.M. Brown, British Logistics on the Western Front: 1914-1919 (Praeger, 1998).

[18] Colonel W.R Lang, Organisation, Administration and Equipment of His Majestys Land Force in Peace and War, Part Ii of the Guide – a Manual for the Canadian Militia (Infantry) by Major-General Sir William D Otter, Kcb, Cvo (Toronto: The Copp, Clarke Company Limited, 1917), 91-93.

[19] Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army 40-95.

[20] H. T. B. Drew, The War Effort of New Zealand: A Popular (a) History of Minor Campaigns in Which New Zealanders Took Part, (B) Services Not Fully Dealt within the Campaign Volumes, (C) the Work at the Bases, Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V.4 (Whitcombe & Tombs, 1923), Non-fiction, 248.

[21] “Norman Joseph Levien,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914-1924.

[22] Equipment and Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London – Administration Reports Etc., 18 October 1916 – 8 August 1918 Item Id R25102951, Archives New Zealand (1918).

[23] P.H. Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War (History Press, 2018), 64-75.

[24] Ibid., 137.

[25]  NZ Army Ordnance Details as part of the Division, An NZ Ordnance Section as part of the administrative Headquarters of NZEF in Egypt and NZ Ordnance Section as part of the administrative Headquarters of NZEF in the United Kingdom. Glyn Harper, Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918, First World War Centenary History (Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015), Non-fiction, Appendix 3.

[26] Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War, 124.

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources

“Appendices to War Diaries, I – Lxii.” Item ID R23486739, Archives New Zealand, 1914-1915.

Conference of Senior Officers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Archives New Zealand, R22550177, 1919.

Equipment and Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London – Administration Reports Etc., 18 October 1916 – 8 August 1918 Item Id R25102951, Archives New Zealand. 1918.

“Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.” New Zealand Gazette, 8 July 1915.

“Norman Joseph Levien.” Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914-1924.

Ordnance Manual (War). War Office. London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914.

“Road to Promotion.” Evening Post, Volume XCI, Issue 29, 4 February 1916.

Secondary Sources

Bolton, Major J.S. A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992.

Brown, I.M. British Logistics on the Western Front: 1914-1919. Praeger, 1998.

Cape, Peter. Craftsmen in Uniform: The Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: An Account. Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, 1976. Non-fiction.

Colonel W.R Lang. The Organisation, Administration and Equipment of His Majestys Land Force in Peace and War. Part Ii of the Guide – a Manual for the Canadian Militia (Infantry) by Major-General Sir William D Otter, KCB, CVC. Toronto: The Copp, Clarke Company Limited, 1917.

Cooke, Peter. Warrior Craftsmen, RNZEME 1942-1996. Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017.

Drew, H. T. B. The War Effort of New Zealand: A Popular (a) History of Minor Campaigns in Which New Zealanders Took Part, (B) Services Not Fully Dealt within the Campaign Volumes, (C) the Work at the Bases. Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V.4. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1923. Non-fiction.

Fernyhough, Brigadier A H. A Short History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (First Edition). RAOC Trust, 1965.

Forbes, Arthur. A History of the Army Ordnance Services. London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929.

Harper, Glyn. Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918. First World War Centenary History. Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015. Non-fiction.

Loveridge, Steven. “New Zealand’s Bloodiest Campaign.” New Zealand Books 27, no. 118 (Winter2017 2017): 18-18.

McGibbon, I. C. New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign. Bateman, 2016. Non-fiction.

Stewart, H. The New Zealand Division, 1916-1919: A Popular History Based on Official Records. Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V. 2 France. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1921. Non-fiction.

Tilbrook, John D. To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee, 1989.

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

 

 

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