Reports on NZ Ordnance Depots in the Pacific, 1943-44

The Second World War would be a period of immense growth for New Zealand’s Ordnance Services. Expanding from a strength of 6 Officers, 28 Permanent Other Ranks and 113 Civilian Staff operating from limited infrastructure in Devonport, Hopuhopu, Trentham and Burnham Camp in May 1939,  New Zealand’s Ordnance Services would have expanded by 1944 into a diverse organisation supporting New Zealand’s Forces at home and abroad.

Armed with the 1939 Ordnance Manual (war), the Ordnance units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) would be established and adapted for their specific theatres of operation. In the Middle East, New Zealand Ordnance would integrate into the Ordnance Servicers of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. However, with a Brigade Group based in Fiji from late 1940, it would be the Ordnance Services in the Pacific that faced the most significant challenges. As the NZ Brigade Group transitioned and expanded from its garrison duties in Fiji into a Division conducting amphibious combat operations in the Solomon Islands, the supporting Ordnance Services challenges included anticipating the needs of the Division up to six months in advance and relying on fragile lines of communication that stretched back to New Zealand for everyday items and to the United Kingdom for much of the military hardware held by the Division. Additionally, the tropical climate and indigenous fauna encountered in the area of operations would provide additional hurdles to overcome.

After a series of actions in the Solomons, the burden of maintaining two Divisions was unstainable for the limited resources that New Zeland could provide, and by October 1944 the Pacific Divison had been disestablished. Its men were either demobilised to fill critical civilian roles, or retained in the Army, as reinforcements for the Division in Italy or in the case of many of the Ordnance men, absorbed into New Zealand based Ordnance Depots to receive and refurbish the large amount of equipment returned from the Pacific.

20171005_163604C

3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944 (Colourised). Alexander Turnbull Library

20171005_163654C

3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944(Colourised). Alexander Turnbull Library

Based on the experienced gained in the operation of the Base Ordnance Depot in New Caledonia and Advanced Ordnance Depot in Guadalcanal, two Ordnance Officers who had served in the Pacific since 1940, Henry Mckenzie Reid and Stanley Arthur Knight produced reports in 1945 summarising Ordnance operations in New Caledonia and Guadacanal. Both Knight and Reid had been civilians in the Ordnance Corps before the war, Reid at Trentham and Knight at Hopuhopu and commissioned as officers during 1940. Both men would serve in the Base Ordnance Depot in Fiji and then with the Base Ordnance Depot in New Caledonia as Chief Ordnance Officer. Knight would also be the final DADOS of the 3rd NZ Divison. Both officers would remain in the NZAOC after the war with Reid becoming the Director of Ordnance Services from April 1957 to November 1960.

Both reports are similar in overall content with various points on Storage, Packing of Stores, Personnel, Ammunition with each Officer providing varying degrees of detail. The combined purpose of the reports is not only to provide a historical record of this aspect of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services in the Pacific but also to provide a resource for the New Zealand Ordnance Services and assist in planning for future operations in the tropics.

OPERATIONS OF ORDNANCE DEPOTS IN PACIFIC
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF
LIEUT-COL S.A.KNIGHT N.Z.E.F I.P.

Knight Pic

Lieutenant-Colonel Stanley Arthur Knight

FORWARD

I was appointed Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services immediately prior to the withdrawal of troops from forward areas to base areas in New Caledonia. Shortly after my arrival in Guadalcanal, units commenced preparations prior to evacuation, and my duties as D.A.D.O.S were not onerous since the demand for equipment had dropped to bare essentials. My observations must, therefore, be entirely concerned with an analysis of experiences gained while holding the appointment of Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), Base Ordnance Depot(BOD) New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific(NZEF IP).

ZONE OF OPERATIONS

The Base Ordnance Depor was established in New Caledonia at the beginning of the new year in 1943. Being situated some 30 miles for the port of Nepoui at which the bulk of our stores were unloaded and 100 miles from Noumea, fairly long hauls by road were necessitated.

In August of the same year, an Advanced Ordnance Depot was established in Guadalcanal, staffed by about 50% of the Base Ordnance Dept personnel. A few weeks later a Forward Ordnance Depot staffed by 2 officers and 25 ORs was established a Vella Lavella. The later depot was closed down and personnel withdrawn to Guadalcanal when Divisional Troops move forward to Green Island.

Due account must the taken of the type of operations to be undertaken, but it is my opinion that sub-division must be kept to a minimum. If the Base Depot is situated as close as possible to the fighting troops, then the necessity to establish Advanced Depots can be reduced to a minimum. Each time a Sub-Depot is established, additional personnel are required, and the total quantity of stores must necessarily be increased go provide working margins for each Depot.

STORAGE

It will be generally accepted that few if any permanent buildings will be available for the holding of ordnance store on Pacific Islands unless the Base is established at places such ad Noumea, Suva or Rabaul. Full provision must, therefore, be made for the temporary coverage to provide adequate protection for the initial shipments of stores when a Depot id being established.

Sufficient timber and tarpaulins for the erection of shelters should be forwarded with the first shipment of stores. Well constructed canvas shelters with good ventilation will give satisfactory accommodation for the storage, breaking down and issue of equipment for a period of 3 or 4 months. If the Depot is to remain in one site for a longer period, prefabricated buildings should be provided as early as possible if the loss of stores is to be kept to a minimum. Canvas coverings can only be considered a temporary measure as owing to the high humidity, together with tropical rain and cyclones, deterioration is very rapid.

The effects of a hurricane can be severe, and a poorly constructed Ordnance Depot might easily be completely wrecked with very heavy mortality to stores since hurricanes are usually accompanied by torrential downpours.
I stress the fact that the best type of storage which can be procured, must go forward at the very earliest moment; otherwise, the Depot will be severely hampered, particularly in its infancy.

To meet the requirement of a Base Ordnance Depot serving a Division (including Ammunition) and to provide a small surplus for contingencies 2000 tarpaulins, preferably of the standard 180ft x 13-ft would be required.

In the initial stages of an operation, stores are usually carted to dumps from shops. Every effort should be made to provide dunnage for the stacks and tarpaulins should be arranged, allowing good air circulation.

Stacks of stores covered in this manner require constant attention. For instance, when a stack which has been properly covered allowing good air circulation, is partially broken down, the tarpaulin is allowed to drape on the ground. The air under the tarpaulin arranged in this manner is always saturated in a damp climate and rapid deterioration is the result. The same applies to tentage which should be properly erected, preferably with wooden floors, allowing free air circulation and the maximum benefit of dry sunny days used by removing and drying out damp walls.

Although 1200 Tarpaulins were placed on order for manufacture some weeks prior to the Divisions departure from New Zealand, only about 400 were to hand and available for use when the Ordnance Depot was established in New Caledonia. This number was insufficient to cover all Depot stocks and Ammunition with the result that much damage resulted. On instructions from the A.A. & Q.M.G, 80 tarpaulins had to be removed from ammunition stacks for the issue to A.S.C units. As a result of the Ammunition being exposed to heavy rains, considerable damage was done, and a repair party of 50 men was employed for many weeks at a later date, repairing and cleaning the Ammunition, while some had to be destroyed owing to its unserviceability.

When the Ammunition dump was established at Guadalcanal, every effort was made to provide the best possible storage. Ammunition was stacked on goof platforms with coconut poles for base and Tarpaulins were properly arranged, allowing free ait circulation. As a result, losses were negatable in a striking contrast to the losses in this Ammunition by U.S. Forces, who did not cover Ammunition stacks which were often in damp areas with no dunnage.

As it is not possible, without disastrous results, to open up and expose M.T parts, Signal Equipment and spares, Wireless Equipment and spares, M.G and S.A spares and certain Engineer Stores in other than dry storage, it is recommended that sufficient Stores wagons should be provided to house this equipment until such time s prefabricated buildings can be erected. It is estimated that not less than 24 well-appointed stores wagons would be required and theses should be stocked with spares, most likely to be in early demand.

I may appear to have dwelt on the question of storage, but when the Base Ordnance Depot commenced operations in NECAL, the only stores and office accommodation available in addition to Tarpau1ins, on which I have already documented were 8 I.P.P. Tents, being the balance of 110 shipped and 2 G.S Single Marquees. Although a considerable quantity of dunnage was unloaded from ships and made available to Units for camp construction, very little was made available for dunnage of stores. Timber ordered in NZ by B.O.D. for the dunnage of Ammunition was taken over by the Engineers and very little made available for Ammunition. By the same token, priority was given to the issue of I.P.P. tents for Messes, Orderly Rooms etc., 102 being used for this purpose, leaving a balance of 8 for use in our Depot as Stores and offices.

The construction of storage accommodation for Ordnance Depot should be the responsibility of the Works Construction Coy N.Z.E which in my opinion is an essential unit in any Army formation.

PERSONNEL

Personnel for an Ordnance Depot should be carefully selected to fill the various positions; the following are most suitable: –

Clerks: Men who have been clerks and accountants in civilian life are easily trained to carry out clerical duties in an Ordnance Depot. Qualified accountants are invaluable, and three or four of these in a Depot are worth their weight in gold.

Storeman-General: Men who have worked in retail stores and warehouses and who have good clerical training invariably make good storeman. Farm labourers and navvies are, almost with exception, useless as storemen and cannot be relied on to carry out other than labouring duties. It is agreed that there is a certain amount of labouring work in and Ordnance Depot, but this can be done very efficiently by an intelligent man, while on the other hand, a labourer cannot carry on with the onerous duties of a storeman, should the need arise.

Storeman-M.T: It is essential that M.T. Storeman should have had considerable experience at this trade in civilian life. It is desirable that Senior Storemen should have had at least 8 or 10 years experience in the handling of M.T spares.

Storeman-Wireless: Technical men who have a sound knowledge of wireless equipment appear to be very difficult to procure, but it is highly desirable that at least one very experienced man should be included in the staff of a Depot. It is likely that a Wireless Mechanic who could fill a storeman’s position would be more easily procured.

Storeman-Signals: Signal Storemen from the P&T Dept should prove the most suitable, but again these seem rare.

Storeman-Engineers, Arty & Armd: Key personnel to fill the positions of storemen in these sections should be from Ordnance Depots in NZ and should have some years’ experience. It is extremely unlikely that any suitable personnel could be obtained from other than Ordnance Depots to fill these positions in anything like a satisfactory manner.

The future Defence Policy of this country should include the training of men for Ordnance duties. Even if only an elementary training can be given, men so trained would he much more useful than those who had no training at all. It is also suggested that a good percentage of the men employed during peacetime in Ordnance Depots should be young men fit for Overseas Service should the need arise.

Care should be taken to ensure that the men selected for Ordnance Depots are trustworthy and of good character. It will be found that men who have filled positions of trust in civilian life can be depended upon to carry out their work in a satisfactory manner in the Army.

N.C.O.’s

Almost without exception, N. C. 0′ s are promoted on their technical ability, which naturally is of prime importance in an Ordnance Depot. Quite frequently, these N.C.O’s prove poor disciplinarians and have insufficient training in drill. It is highly desirable that all N.C.O’s should have a short course on discipline and drill, otherwise discipline within the Unit tends to become rather lax.

The importance is stressed, of making provision in the future for sufficient key personnel to be trained particularly in technical sections. In our Base Ordnance Depot with an establishment of 220 NCO’s and 0R’s, we did not have one storeman with any knowledge of Technical stores and had only two men with pre-war Ordnance training.

My experience has convinced me that No Ordnance Depot will function to its fullest capacity unless a D & E platoon is included in the establishment. This Section which should consist of 25 to 30 men including 2 carpenters, would be able to perform the following duties, Guards, Picquets, Camp Maintenance, Maintenance of Stores areas, General Fatigues, and providing working parties to relive pressure at rush periods. This would obviate the necessity of having to detail clerks and storemen, who are often key men, for such duties.

PACKING

The standard packing case used by Ordnance in New Zealand has proved quite satisfactory. A suggested improvement is that all cases should be constructed of tongue and groove timber.

Many of the cases, and in particular those constructed by Army contractors, proved unsatisfactory. Three-ply cases are poor for tropical conditions and should not be used. Cases carrying “every-ready” were not constructed stoutly enough to carry the weight packed in them, with the result that a high percentage arrived broken, with a resultant loss of the contents through pillage etc., which in some cases was very heavy. Old used cases should not be used for stores which may require many handlings. Timber used should not be less the ¾ inch, and in many cases, it is advisable to use 1-inch boards or heavier, if high weight – size ration is involved.

Waterproof lining for cases should be used wherever possible. In packing stores, it should be always born in mind that cases may have to withstand severe conditions during transit. Quite frequently during unloading of ships on beaches or in transit camps where no coverage is available, stores are subjected to torrential downpours of rain. The resultant damage is not always apparent from outside appearances when packages reach their final destinations. If not required for immediate use the total contents may be rendered unserviceable before being unpacked, perhaps some weeks later.

The use of packing such as wood-wool or straw, which retains moisture, causes rapid corrosion of metal articles, particularly if they have not been toughly treated with a rust preventive before packing. Stores packed out from Ordnance Depots in New Zealand, without any rust preventative have been received in an unserviceable condition owing to the ingress of water or moisture during transit. On occasions, the stores received unserviceable have been urgently required for maintenance. These remarks apply in the main to Artillery Stores, Small Arms parts, and tools.

The packing of Bubbles Spirt Glass, Thermometers and Artillery Packings, etc without protection from heavy articles in the same case, must be avoided at all costs. Fragile articles should be packed in a small wooden box before being included with heavy articles in a case. The use of straw or wool-wood as cushioning when packing instruments such as Binoculars, Telescopes, Periscopes, Rangefinders, etc., should be avoided. Any damage retained by such packing induces rapid mould growth.

STORES PROVISIONING

Having due regard to lines of communication, minimum require rents only should be carried forward and held until adequate storage can be arranged. This is of course entirely governed by lines of communication. During operations of 3 Div. the paucity of shipping, particularly
during the first 9 months, made it essential that we should carry at least 6 months stock for all items. On some occasions, stores awaited shipment from N.Z. for 6 or 7 months owing principally to the higher priority placed on U.S. equipment.

It is recommended that in future operations where a full Division has to be maintained, consideration should be given to the chartering of a cargo ship solely for supplying such a force. A ship similar to the ‘Matua’ would do the job admirably. When making this recommendation, I am fully aware that there was a shortage of shipping during the period, but the position may not obtain on another occasion.

TENTS & TARPAULINS

Conditions in the Tropics made the lite of Tentage very short. I.P.P· and I.P. Tents were in general use and proved very suitable. However, due to the high humidity and heavy rainfall, the average life for the Outer Roof was only about 9 months and Inner Roof – 12 months. According to the location and care taken, there were variations. Tents pitched under trees were seldom, if ever, properly dried out and would be unserviceable in 6 months or less, while others pitched in dry exposed areas where the full benefit of drying breezes was obtained, would be serviceable for 12 months or even longer. In combat areas, subject to air attacks, full use has to be made of natural camouflage, and Tents have of necessity to be pitched under trees, where they are available.

Some G.S. Single Marquees which have only a single skin, were used for storage and these were not at all suitable. Besides being unbearably hot, they are not rainproof and should not be used in the Pacific.

The Pyramidal Tent, commonly used for housing troops, by the U.S. Forces is also unsuitable for the tropics, being unbearably hot.

The life of Tarpaulins is also considerably lessened, principally by the tropical heat. Waterproof dressing, which is normally wax bases, melts and runs out of the fabric with the result that frequent dressing is required.·

BOOTS

The Black R. & F. Boot used by the N.Z. Forces gave good service. Due to the conditions, wear on boots was very heavy and the average boot required re-soling every 3 or 4 weeks. Very little trouble was experienced with mould growth, except where boots had become damp during transit or through poor storage.

CLOTHING

Uniforms – Wear and tear on clothing was very heavy. In my opinion, the standard Khaki Drill shirt which can be worn with either shorts or long trousers is the most suitable. The Bush Shirt is not suitable for wear with the shorts and cannot be considered a utility garment such as the K.D. shirt is. The average soldier has to do his own laundering while on Active Service end Bush Shirts look very untidy unless they are well laundered.

Socks – Socks proved quite suitable and gave good service.

Hose, Footless – Footless Hose Proved most unsuitable being much too short and tight-fitting. Soldiers avoided wearing them whenever possible. If it is decided to continue the use of this article, liberal allowance should be made for shrinking.

Underclothing – Vests and Shorts Cotton Under gave good service, but it is suggested that for tropical use, these should be made lighter. The lighter weight garments as used by U.S. Forces are considered to be much more suitable.

Belts – A belt similar to that used by U.S. Forces for general purposes should be issued to each soldier.

Hats S.D – Due to the perspiration and rough conditions, the mortality was very high. However, this hat gave good service. The issue of a Tropical Sun Hat would be a more welcome addition to the kit of soldiers.

SMALL ARMS

I do not propose to report fully on the behaviour of S.A armament or other technical stores since a publication prepared by a Scientific Mission from Australia, who visited New Guinea, covers in detail all the difficulties which confront those who use Army Equipment in the tropics much more fully and scientifically than I could hope to do. I will refer to this publication at the conclusion of my report, but I desire to stress the heavy mortality inflicted on rifles, by the Mason Bee.

This small insect was responsible for the destruction of some hundreds of rifle barrels in the Division. The Mason. Bee will build a nest in a rifle overnight, and corrosion caused by acid immediately sets in and cannot be arrested.

To prevent the Bee entering the nuzzle of a rifle, a covering, preferably of mosquito netting or some such open texture material, should be used as this will allow breathing and thus not induce sweating of the barrel which will occur if it is completely sealed.

Mosquito netting was made available to Units in the Division, but in view of the heavy mortality, it is doubtful that the fullest use was made of this or the repeated warnings issued in Divisional Orders, rigidly enforced by all C.O’s.

LIFTING GEAR

The Depot was considerably handicapped by the total lack of lifting gear, until 3 months before the Depot closed, when a very useful Mobile Crane arrived from N.Z. This was in striking contrast to the U.S.Forces who always had an abundance of lifting gear of all types and sizes. The Depot staff had to manhandle such items as Speedway Stores weighing 1-ton and MT cases of assemblies weighing 1,100 lbs.

Every Ordnance Depot should have on its War Equipment Table three Finger Lifts and two Mobile Cranes. One of the latter should be capable of lifting 2-tons at least.

AMMUNITION

The use of other than steel boxes for the packing of Ammunition should be reduced to an absolute minimum. Wooden boxes, particularly those packed with 3.7 How. Shell and 25-pdr. Shell failed to stand up to the handling and transporting. This was mainly due of course to the deterioration caused to the woodwork by the damp, humid climate and accelerated in some instances by exposure to the weather when coverage was not available, but in any case, the life of wooden boxes is much less than that of steel boxes, which will withstand a good deal of rough handling.

AUTOMATIC MAINTENANCE

The principle of the supply of Automatic maintenance items is considered to be an excellent one. For conditions in the Pacific, there is no doubt that the scales would require a certain amount of revision but owing to the fact that supplies did not come to hand until some 6 months before the Division returned to N.Z, insufficient data was obtained, and time did not permit revision of the schedules. Had Automatic Maintenance been in operation during the whole period, some very valuable
information would have been available.

LIASION WITH N.Z

It is considered that constant Liaison with N.Z. should be maintained. It is considered that an Ordnance Officer should visit the N.N Base from which supplies are drawn, every 3 or 4 months and that an Ordnance Officer from N.Z. should pay frequent visits to Depots overseas when they are so readily accessible by air transport.

GENERAL ADMINISTRATION

It is desired to place on record the valuable assistance rendered to the Base Ordnance Depot by the Officer I/C Administration, (Brig. W. W. Dove) and his staff at his H.Q. ·what was a very difficult job was made considerably lighter by the friendly co-operation and help and advice given at all times. No reasonable request was ever refused, and everything possible was done to promote efficiency in. the Depot.

The Main Depot was divided into Sections as follows:

H.Q.
General Stores and Clothing.
Armament, Engrs and Signals.
M.T.
Ammunition.
Returned Stores.

HQ was controlled by the C.O.O, assisted by an Adjutant and each Section was controlled by an Ordnance Officer.

This arrangement proved quite satisfactory and could well be adopted in future for an Ordnance Depot set up under similar circumstances with the addition of a Provision and Statistical Section, controlled by an Officer.

CONCLUSION

Following a survey carried out in New Guinea by a Scientific Mission from Australia, a pamphlet entitled “Condition of Service Material under Tropical Conditions in New Guinea” was published.

This publication deals exhaustively with the effects of tropical. Conditions or equipment in all its phases and is, in my opinion, applicable to all Pacific Islands to a greater or lesser degree.

It is recommended that the fullest possible use should be made of this publication and no Ordnance Officer proceeding to the Pacific should fail to read this valuable Pamphlet.

(sgd) S.A. KNIGHT

OPERATIONAL REPORT
BASE ORDNANCE DEPOT
MAJOR H.McK. REID  N .Z.E.F I.P.

Reid Pic

Major Henry Mckenzie Reid

The problems of the receipt, custody and issue of Ordnance Stores in the Pacific Area, is much greater than is imagined by the layman, and it is hoped that the following remarks may prove helpful should the occasion ever arise when an Ordnance Depot is again established in the Pacific.

One of the greatest problems which has to be overcome is the time lag which occurs between the placing of an order and the receipt of the stores. It was soon found that estimates had to be prepared covering supplies sufficient for six months, as this was the period which we could expect would elapse before stores would arrive. This occasionally brought about very large shipments which were more difficult to handle than would have been the case had stores arrived, say, at monthly intervals. The problem of shipping is one which would greatly improve, and I would suggest, that with a full Division to be serviced, there would be sufficient cargo to warrant the chartering of a small ship which would be at the sole disposal of NEW ZEALAND Forces. I mention this, as on numerous occasions, stores which were urgently required by us, were short shipped owing to priorities being placed on US Equipment. I would again point out, that any Ordnance Depot operating in the Island areas, should carry not less than six months supplies. For the information of any Ordnance Officers concerned, I will attach to this report, a schedule giving some idea of the quantities of popular items used by this Force. This may prove of some value both in the initial provisioning of a Depot and also in the preparation of maintenance demands.

STORAGE

Early coverage of stores after receipt is one of the greatest importance. I fully appreciate the difficulty in providing permanent or pre-fabricated buildings, but I would emphasise the fact that this type of storage is essential if the Depot is to function for any length of time. The provision of a permanent building for the handling of M.T spares and other technical stores should be an urgent priority, as, in a humid climate such as rules in the Islands, it is essential to have some areas in which these stores can be opened and handled. Loss of M.T stores through decoration was relatively light in NECAL, but this could only be attributed to the acquiring of storage space at the Gendarmerie. However, until this building became available, we found it impossible to open and supply spare parts which were urgently required for the repair of trucks which were suffering heavy damage due to the atrocious condition of the road. I would recommend the use of stores wagons both for M.T. parts and Artillery, Engineer and Signal parts. These wagons could be parked in NEW ZEALAND with a selection of parts which it could be assumed would be required soon after landing. These stores would be available for immediate issue, and when permanent storage space was available, they could be used for the distribution of small stores to Divisional units. Temporary coverage should be available immediately stores are landed, and I would suggest the 2000, 18’x13’ tarpaulins, together with a supply of timber, should be made available for the erection of temporary shelters and for the coverage of ammunition. Prior to leaving NEW ZEALAND, 1200 tarpaulins were ordered, 400 of these were received with an early consignment of stores, but the balance took many months to arrive, due either to the difficulty in obtaining these in NEW ZEALAND and the lack of shipping at that stage. Owing to this short delivery of tarpaulins, quite a quantity of precious stores suffered untold damage. This position was further aggravated by an order from a very responsible officer for the issue of a number of tarpaulins to A.S.C. It was pointed out that the only tarpaulins available were covering ammunition, with the result the considerable damage was done. Heavy repairs were necessary, and a certain amount of unserviceable ammunition had to be dumped.

Dependent on the availability of timber at the site where ammunition is to be stored, I would suggest that a large quantity of heavy dunnage should be provided from NEW ZEALAND for the purpose of correctly storing ammunition clear of ground contact. This dunnage could easily be used for the securing of M.T Trucks during the shipment.

When the Ordnance Depot arrived in NECAL, it was expected to establish itself and commence functioning with as little loss of time as possible, with the result that the Ordnance Depot was not well constructed as possible and that the men had insufficient opportunity to make themselves reasonably comfortable. Owing to the shortage of manpower, it took many months to have the same amenities as other units had in a few days. I would consequently suggest that the site for an Ordnance Depot should be levelled and roads prepared by the engineers so that the ordnance personnel could get on with the establishment their Depot. Assistance should be given by the Engineers in the erection of temporary shelters such as I have previously mentioned.

PACKING OF STORES

The packing and marking of stores received from NEW ZEALAND caused much concern to B.O.D whilst in NECAL. Some cases were much too light for the type of stores which they contained. These were mainly packages received directly from Contractors. As an example, Ever-ready Batteries invariably arrived in a damaged condition owing to the fact that they were packed in light cases. The ideal type of case is that used by the NZAOC for the packing of clothing. This is a standard case in three sizes which proved very satisfactory. The use of this principle should be extended to all types of stores being shipped overseas. It may appear costly to have to provide this type of case, but the amount of stores lost and damaged would be reduced, and would compensate for the outlay. Much damage was done to valuable stores due to faulty packing. For instance, where metal stores are being packed, care should be taken to see that bright surfaces are greased. Quite a number of shipments arrived from NEW ZEALAND in which Small Arms parts, Arty parts and other small items had been just put in a box, with the result that they arrived resembling a heap of rusty metal. Small part such as these, should be greased and packed in greased paper. Glass items such as Spirt Bubbles, should be carefully packed and not be permitted to roll in cases. The use of straw or wood-wool should not be permitted where metal items are being packed, as both of these substances attract moisture, with the result that they become damp and stores begin to sweat.

The marking of stores caused a lot of heartaches to B.O.D, the codesign “P” in a circle, was parked on each side of cases but the scheduled marking was, in many in instances only placed on the top of the case. From an identification point, the local method of marking is for the scheduled mark to be put on both ends of the case. If possible, this could also go on the top. In order to minimise the chance of pillage, I would suggest that the practice of indicating the contents on the outside of the case should cease.

Code signs were used, but were much too obvious to be misunderstood.

Good Paint should be used in marking, as cheap paint or stencil inks fade under tropical conditions. The position was complained of to D.M.T WELLINGTON and was rectified after the visit of D.M.T’s Representatives. Things such as this may appear trivial, but really important to an Ordnance man for the easy identification of stores.

SUB-DIVISION OF B.O.D

Taking into account the type of operations to expected in the Pacific where forces are liable to land on different islands, I am of the opinion that B.O.D. should not establish more than one forward base. In order to provide an Ordnance Detachment with both the 8th and 14th Brigades and to have maintained an Advanced Ordnance Depot at GUADALCANAL, it would have been necessary if these establishments were to function efficiently, to have provided approximately twice the amount of stores and 80% more men. I am of the opinion that prior to leaving NEW ZEALAND, all units should be allowed to carry a reserve stock of, say, 10 to 20% of items such as Boots, Clothing, Camp Equipment and any items considered necessary. The ideal method of supply with an Amphibious Force would be to establish an Advanced Depot such as A.O.D GUADALCANAL. From then on, all units would work on their reserve stocks. This would allow units to requisition stores and still be able to provide the immediate needs of the man. This principle was tried by the Force in GREEN ISLAND and proved very successful. Units were permitted to carry forward this reserve and from then on submitted demands back to A.O.D GUADALCANAL, which was able to forward the stores required. Any time factor due to shipping was cared for by the reserve stores held by the unit. Regarding a move from NEW ZEALAND of a Force, no unit should move without being completely equipped. If for any reason units have to move without full equipment, then it is imperative that Ordnance stores and the Ordnance unit should be one of the first to move. During the move into NECAL, Ordnance received a huge quantity of stores which were landed prior to the arrival of the main body of B.O.D. This entailed many difficulties for the two officers and 30 O.R’s of B.O.D. who had preceded the Main Body. Their worries were increased by units arriving incompletely equipped and requesting the delivery of stores direct from the Dump in the NEPOUI VALLEY. Some units arrived with men short of even clothing, and this alone should back my suggestion that, either unit’s proceed fully equipped, or that the complete Ordnance unit be one of the earliest to move.

TRANSPORT & LIFTING GEAR

Only in the later months of B.O.D’s existence was ample transport available. This in itself is inclined to hamper the activities of a Depot, and I would recommend that transport should be allowed on a very liberal scale. I would also stress the necessity of having some heavy lifting equipment such as the Mobile Crane which arrived at B.O.D about three months prior to its return to NEW ZEALAND. Such items as Speedway Stoves, M.T Engines and other heavy equipment ranging from 3 or 4 cwt, had to be manhandled and this was much more apparent under the conditions in the islands. A mobile Crane should be one of the first items on any Ordnance Depots War Equipment Table.

INSPECTING ORDNANCE OFFICER

I would strongly recommend the appointment of an Inspecting Ordnance Officer whose duties would take him to every unit, where he should be given the right to inspect equipment and report on it. A check could thus be kept on the state in which a unit kept its equipment and also on the fact that they had no more or less entitled to them.

I would also recommend that the return of unserviceable items to B.O.D should discontinue and that a travelling Board of Survey should visit units at pre-arranged times. The I.O.O could function on this board as a permanent member. Items od no Salvage value could be destroyed on the spot whilst items for repair or salvage could be returned to Ordnance. This would obviate the necessity of carting over many miles, large quantities of material whose only fate could be to end in fire. This would minimise the work of the Salvage Section of B.O.D. They would then be in a position to do more repair work than was ever accomplished.

LIASION WITH NEW ZEALAND

Liaison with NEW ZEALAND or source of supply is an extremely desirable thing, but it is suggested that from an Ordnance point of view this can most successfully be carried out by someone conversant with Ordnance. Quite apart from the Divisional Liaison Officer who made several trips to NEW ZEALAND, I am of the opinion that Ordnance should have had closer contact with NEW ZEALAND. I would suggest that an Ordnance Officer should visit NEW ZEALAND or source of supply, at least every three months. I stipulate an Ordnance Officer, as he would be conversant with the general needs of the Depot. For our dealings with U.S. Forces both in NECAL and GUADALCANAL, use was made of two excellent Warrant Officers, and their appointment was more than warranted. Being in close contact with the U.S Forces, they were many times able to procure stores which were urgently required by our Forces.

D&E SECTION

Much working time is lost in an Ordnance Depot due to the necessity of guards and fatigues. I would recommend that a D & E Section should be incorporated in the establishment. This Section need not be officered, but could be administered by Headquarters Section. under the Adjutant. The ideal section would be about 25 to 30 men strong and should include a carpenter and general maintenance man. This would allow Storemen and Clerks to continue with their duties, but I would suggest that any relief for the D & E Section should come from the general personnel during off duty periods.

AMMUNITION

The type of boxes used for the packing of ammunition could be revised. It is common knowledge now, that timber suffers more than anything in the damp, humid conditions found in the islands. I would recommend that all types of ammunition should be packed in metal containers. Not only do wooden boxes deteriorate, but in the number of times they are handled, they cannot stand up to the hard conditions. This is amply demonstrated by the condition in which small arms ammunition in particular, and 3.7 How Shell and some 25 pr Shell arrived back into NEW ZEALAND. Hardly any of the small arms ammunition is in fit condition to travel again.

SELECTION OF PERSONNEL

The selection of personnel for an Ordnance Depot should be given the greatest thought, and every endeavour should be made to ensure that the right type of personnel should be available prior to the Depot’s departure from NEW ZEALAND. The provision of a number of men to make up the full establishment is of no use if personnel with a knowledge of the duties they are expected to carry out are not available. This is stressed particularly in the Technical Sections of a Depot – namely, M. T, Arty, Sigs; Engs and Ammunition. The necessary knowledge to successfully carry out these jobs cannot be gained quickly enough whilst overseas, and an endeavour should be made to see that the bulk of each of these sections should be trained Ordnance personnel. In addition, care should be taken to ensure that men posted to an Ordnance Depot should be of good character and behaviour, as much trust has to be, of necessity, placed in them.

TRAINING OF NCO’S

Of necessity, N.C.O’s in an Ordnance unit are promoted for their ability to carry out the work which they are doing. This will sometimes result in an N.C.O. being extremely efficient at his work, but being a very poor disciplinarian. I would consequently recommend that N. C. 0’s in Ordnance be
given a short course solely on drill and discipline.

AUTOMATIC MAINTENANCE

The supply of spare parts under the system of Automatic Maintenance, is, in itself, an excellent idea. The scales, however, require a certain amount of modification, in that some items are provided for in either too large or too small quantities. Unfortunately, we did not operate the scales for a long enough period to be able to correct them, but in a new Force, this could quite easily be done after, say, six months’ service. In the main, the principle is right, and only minor alterations are necessary.

CONCLUSION

I have read carefully the pamphlet prepared by the Australian Army on the “Condition of Service Material under Tropical Conditions in New Guinea”. Everything contained in this pamphlet is applicable in a greater or lesser degree to conditions as found in NEW CALEDONIA and GUADALCANAL, and I would suggest that this pamphlet should be consulted and acted upon prior to any further Force leaving NEW ZEALAND for service in the tropics. This pamphlet was prepared by a Scientific Mission for the Scientific Liaison Bureau, Melbourne, Australia.

(sgd) H.McK. REID Major,
Chief Ordnance Officer, B.O.D.


Captain F.E Ford, Ordnance Officer 1917-31

Frank Edwin Ford served in both military and civilian roles for thirty years from 1901 to 1931. As Mobilisation Storekeeper in Nelson, Ford would be at the forefront of the earliest efforts to manage Ordnance support to New Zealand’s Forces. As an Ordnance Officer from 1917, Ford would be the first Officer Commanding of two significant New Zealand Ordnance units; the Palmerston North Ordnance Detachment, which would lay the foundations for the Linton based Supply Company which remains an active unit of the modern New Zealand Army, and the Hopuhopu Supply Company which would provide significant support during the mobilisation of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the early years of the Second World War and to the northern region into the years leading up to the closure of Hopuhopu Camp in 1989.

Little evidence remains of Ford’s early life with records stating that he was born around 1878. Ford enlisted into the permanent Militia as an artilleryman on 1 April 1901,[1] and by 1903 had been promoted to the rank of Bombardier, attached to “H” Battery of the New Zealand Field Artillery Volunteers at Nelson.[2]

Ford would marry Sophia Mary Barlow at Wellington on 26 January 1904. This union resulted in one daughter, Phyllis, who was born on 4 July 1907.

Early in December 1904 while breaking the H Battery camp at the Nelson Botanical gardens, Ford was seriously injured in an accident with a piano. While moving a piano, Ford slipped resulting on the instrument falling on him breaking both his collarbones. There were initially serious concerns about internal injuries, but it seems that Ford made a full recovery. [3]

March 1908 saw Ford transferred from service with “H” Battery to the position of Mobilisation Storekeeper for the Nelson Military District.[4]

In 1911 the Nelson Military District was absorbed into the Canterbury Military District.[5] With his position now subordinate to the Defence Storekeeper for the Canterbury Military District, Ford would remain at Nelson as Assistant Defence Storekeeper until 1915.

Early in 1915, Ford took up the appointment of District Storekeeper for the Wellington Military District, commencing duty and taking charge of the Defence Stores, Palmerston North, on 21 June 1915.[6] In addition to his duties as district Ordnance Officer, Ford was also the Officer Commanding of the Palmerston North Ordnance Detachment. The Palmerston North Ordnance Detachment operated from several sites in Palmerston North, including an ordnance Store at locates at 327 Main Street. The Detachment had the responsibility of supplying the units based in Palmerston North and districts with uniforms, equipment, arms and general stores. On 13 February 1916 Ford was attached to the New Zealand Staff Corps as an Honourary Lieutenant.[7] On the formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (NZAOD) on 1 April 1917, Ford was transferred into the NZAOD as an Ordnance Officer, 3rd class, with the rank of Captain.[8]

Ford would remain at Palmerston North until 1 Dec 1921 when with the closing down of the Palmerston North Ordnance Detachment, Ford handed duties of Central Districts Ordnance Officer to Captain H. H. Whyte, M.C.and took up the position of Ordnance Officer, Featherston Camp.[9]

Featherston Camp was New Zealand’s largest training camp during the First World War, where around 60,000 young men trained for overseas service between 1916 – 1918. In addition to a large amount of Military equipment accumulated during the war, enough new material to equip an Infantry Division and a Mounted Rifle Brigade had been purchased from the United Kingdom and delivered to New Zealand from 1919 to 1921. With insufficient storage infrastructure available at Mount Eden, Trentham and the new Ordnance Depot at Burnham, Featherson would remain in use as an Ordnance Depot until the completion of a purpose-built Ordnance Depot at Hopu Hopu. Ford would command the Ordnance Detachment from December 1921 until September 1926. In 1924 the Ordnance Detachment at Featherson consisted of the following personnel;[10]

  • 1 Captian (Ford)
  • 2 Staff Sergeants
  • 1 Sergeant
  • 2 Corporals

The New Zealand Gazette of 3 July 1924 published regulations that revoked the 1917 regulations that established the NZAOD and NZAOC, reconstituting the Ford and the other officers of the NZAOD and the men of the NZAOC into a single NZAOC as part of the New Zealand Permanent Forces.[11]

Assuming the role of Ordnance Officer for the Northern Military Command from 1 Sept 1926.[12] In addition to his duties as Command Ordnance Officer, Ford would also have the role of Officer Commanding of the Northern Ordnance Detachment operating from Mount Eden with the responsibility of supplying the Northern Command with uniforms, equipment, arms and general stores.

Following several years of construction, occupation of the new camp at Hopuhopubegan 1927, Ford and the Ordnance Staff of the Northern Command vacated Mount Eden and made Hopuhoputheir permanent headquarters from April 1928.[13] The work of shifting the stores from Mount Eden to Hopuhoputook close to two months and necessitated the transportation of hundreds of tons of military stores by a combination of rail and over fifty truck-loads.[14]

With the Depression affecting the New Zealand economy, the New Zealand Defence establishment, including the NZAOC took measures to reduce expenditures by the forced retrenchment of many of its staff. By using the provisions of section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2) staff who would have retired within five years were placed on superannuation, others who did not meet the criteria of the act were transferred to the Civil Service.[15] At fifty-three years of age, Ford met the retirement criteria and, along with another five officers and thirty-eight other ranks of the NZAOC, on 30 Jan 1931 were retired on superannuation.[16] By 31 March 1931, the NZAOC had been reduced to a uniformed strength of Two Officers and Eighteen Other Ranks.

After his retirement, Ford would spend the remainder of his life living in the Auckland suburb of Devonport. Passing away on 10 April 1946, Ford now rests at O’Neill’s Point Cemetery, Belmont, Auckland.

Ford

F.E Ford headstone, O’Neill’s Point Cemetery (photo J. Halpin 2011) – No known copyright restrictions

Copyright © Robert McKie 2020

Notes

[1] “Fitzgerald, Denis,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[2] “H Battery Ball,” Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXXVII, Issue 113, Page 2, 28 May 1903.

[3] “Page 6 Advertisements Column 2,” Colonist, Volume XLVII, Issue 11206, 12 December 1904.

[4] Established in 1908 under the provisions of the Defence Act Amendment Act 1900, New Zealand was divided into five Military Districts, Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago.”General Order Constituting Military Districts and Sub Districts,” New Zealand Gazette No 24 1908.; “H Battery Nzfav,” Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XLII, Issue XLII, Page 3, 16 March 1908

[5] Peter D. F. Cooke, Defending New Zealand: Ramparts on the Sea 1840-1950s (Wellington, N.Z.: Defence of New Zealand Study Group, 2000, 2000), Bibliographies, Dictionaries, Non-fiction.

[6] “Personal Matters,” Evening Post, Volume XC, Issue 66, Page 6, 15 September 1915.

[7] “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations and Transfer of Officers of the New Zealand Staff and Territorial Force,” New Zealand Gazette No 47, 20 April 1916.

[8] “New Zealand Army,” Evening Post, July 28 1917.

[9] “Untitled – Ford,” Manawatu Standard, Volume XLIII, Issue 386, 2 December 1921.

[10] “Appropriations Chargeable on the Consolidated Fund and Other Accounts for the Year Ending 31 March 19241923 Session I-Ii, B-07,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1923 Session I-II, B-07  (1924): 134.

[11] “NZAOD and NZAOC,” New Zealand Gazette July 3 1924.

[12] New Zealand Military districts were reduced to three and renamed Northern, Central and Southern Military Commands shortly after the First World War.I. C. McGibbon and Paul William Goldstone, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (Auckland; Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, 2000), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 319.

[13] “The Hopu Hopu Camp,” Waikato Times, Volume 103, Issue 17298,  Page 7, 10 January 1928.

[14] “Large Military Camp,” Poverty Bay Herald, Volume LIV, Issue 16796, Page 12  (1928).

[15] “Attitude of Members “, New Zealand Herald, Volume LXVII, Issue 20644, 16 August 1930.

[16] “Defence Cut,” Evening Star, Issue 20766, 13 April 1931; “Appointment, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers from the NZ Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 27, 9 April 1931.