NZOC Light Aid Detachments, 1939-44

In the period between the world wars, Britain analysed the lessons of the Great War and, looking forward, realised that the next war would not be one of attrition-based warfare, but a war of speed, mobility and surprise utilising modern technologies such as armoured vehicles, motorised transport and communications. By 1939 the British Army had transformed from the horse-drawn army of the previous war into a modern motorised force fielding more vehicles than their potential opponents, the Germans. Britain’s modernisation was comprehensive with new weapons and equipment and robust and up to date doctrine, providing the foundation for the employment of the army. The modernisation of the British Army included the Logistical services, with both the Army Service Corps and the Army Ordnance Corps on the path to becoming doctrinally prepared, equipped and organised for the upcoming conflict.  New Zealand would take Britain’s lead and, from the mid-1930s, began to reorganise and reequip New Zealand’s Military in tune with emerging British doctrine. New Zealand’s entry into the war in September 1939 would initiate a massive transformation of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services with new units raised and personnel recruited to support New Zealand’s forces at home and overseas. In addition to Ordnance Deports and Workshops, the most numerous Ordnance unit would be the Light Aid Detachments (LAD). Providing first-line repair to formations and Units, LAD’s would provide the backbone of New Zealand repair and maintenance services keeping the critical material of war operational in often extreme conditions. This article provides background on the role and function of the LAD in overseas and home defence roles between 1939 and 1945.

Throughout the interwar years, the British Military establishment analysed the lessons of the previous war and interpreted contemporary developments. Updating doctrine throughout the 1930s, the British Military would progressively transform into a mechanised force armed with some of the era’s most advanced weapons and equipment. The tactical bible of British Commonwealth armies, the Field Service Regulations (FSR), was updated with at least four editions issued, proving that the British Army was willing to learn from the mistakes learned in the previous war.[1] Concurrent to the tactical doctrine of the FSR Anticipating the Royal Army Ordnance Corps  (RAOC) spent the 1930s creating the infrastructure and doctrine to support the mechanisation of the British Army by creating essential relationships with the British motor industry that would smooth the path to mobilisation.[2] In addition to the doctrine published in the FSR’s, the wartime doctrine for the operation of British and Commonwealth Ordnance Services was detailed in the Ordnance Manual (War) 1939.

Authorised for use from 13 September 1939, the Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 was intended to “Guide all concerned and particularly to assist, at the beginning of a campaign, those who have no previous war experience of the duties that they are called upon to undertake.”[3] The Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 detailed all the responsibilities that were expected of the British and Commonwealth Ordnance Services, with the repair and maintenance responsibilities as follows;[4]

8. The organisation for carrying out, in the field, repairs (including replacement of component and complete assemblies) to units’ equipment (other than ammunition) consists of:-
(a) Light aid detachments, which are attached to certain units and formations to advise and assist them with their

“first line” repair and recovery duties.
(b) Mobile workshop units, equipped with machinery, breakdown and store lorries, which are allotted to certain

formations for carrying out “second line” repairs and recovery.
(c) Stationary base ordnance workshops, which are established on a semi-permanent basis at, or adjacent to, the

base ordnance depot or depots.
(d) Ordnance field parks from which replacement of components and complete assemblies can be effected. These

ordnance field parks also hold a proportion of replacement vehicles.

The Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 then details the role of the Light Aid Detachment:

2. In order to assist units with their first line repair and recovery work, and to provide- expert diagnosis and technical experience, light aid detachments are permanently attached to certain formations and units, for example:
• Artillery regiments.
• Cavalry regiments and Tank battalions, Royal Armoured Corps.
• Infantry brigades.
• Machine-gun battalions.
• Tank battalions.
• Royal Engineer field parks.
• Divisional Signals.
The LADs. attached to RE field parks and to divisional signals (whose establishments of vehicles are comparatively small) are required to look after other small mechanised units not provided with LADs.

3. The personnel of a LAD consists of an Ordnance Mechanical Officer (OME), an armament artificer (fitter), an electrician, and a few fitters, and the necessary storemen, driver mechanics, drivers, etc., for their vehicles. Its transport usually consists of two lorries (one store and one breakdown), a car and a motorcycle.

4. Its functions are: –
(a) To advise units how best to keep their equipment and vehicles in a state of mechanical efficiency; to help them to

detect the causes of any failures or breakdowns, and to assist them in carrying out first line repairs up to their full

capacity.
(b) To assist units with first-line recovery of breakdowns.
(c) To maintain a close liaison between the unit and formation workshop.

During rest periods LADs may be able to carry out more extensive repairs. If the time is available, the necessary parts and material can be brought up from the ordnance field park to enable them to carry out jobs which would normally be beyond their capacity when on the move.


In such circumstances, repair detachments of recovery sections may be brought up to assist them).

5. LADs do not form part of the workshops in any sense. They are definitely an integral part of “B” echelon of the unit to which they are attached, and the OME. is directly under the orders of OC unit, in the same way as the regimental medical officer. The OC unit is the accounting officer for the vehicles and stores of the LAD. When an LAD serves more than one unit, as in the case of an infantry brigade, the OME. is the accounting officer for all purposes.

Members of 10 Light Aid Detachment, NZ Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attached to 5 NZ Fd Park Coy, changing truck engine, probably at Burbeita. Man in peaked cap identified as Lt G D Pollock, later Col Pollock. Taken circa 1941 by an official photographer. Ref: DA-01035-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22485028

The New Zealand LAD’s

When New Zealand committed forces to the war effort in 1939, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, despite having the doctrinal foundations provided by the Ordnance Manual (War), did not have the Regular or Territorial Force personnel available to provide LADs immediately. Therefore, like the United Kingdom, New Zealand would rely on its civilian motor industry to provide the bulk of the tradesmen for the LADs. However, despite the challenges in forming a specialised unit from scratch, the New Zealand Army would raise fifty-six Light Aid Detachments, in three distinct tranches between 1940 and 1943, consisting of

  • 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force – Eighteen LAD’s
  • 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific – Seven LAD’s
  • Home Defence – Thirty-One LAD’s.

NZEF LADS

Created as part of the newly constituted 2NZEF in 1939, the 2NZEF NZOC was described in the Evening Post newspaper as consisting of “11 Light Aid Detachments of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps. These are numbered 9 to 19, and their part is to render assistance and effect repairs to mechanic transport and the anti-tank units”[5].

The was initially some confusion between the use of the designation NZAOC and NZOC in the context of the NZEF. This was clarified in NZEF Order 221 of March 1941, which set NZOC as the title of Ordnance in the NZEF.

1942 saw the separation of maintenance and repair functions from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) with the formation of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) in the Brutish Army.[6] The New Zealand Division followed suit and formed the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME) on 1 December 1942, separating the repair, maintenance and ordnance stores functions of the NZOC.[7]

UnitFormation Date
9 LAD4 Field Regiment11 Jan 1940[8]
10 LAD5 Field Park11 Jan 1940[9]
11 LADHQ 4 Infantry Brigade11 Jan 1940[10]
12 LAD27 NZ (MG) Battalion, Disbanded 15 October 194211 Jan 1940[11]
13 LAD2 NZ Divisional Cavalry11 Jan 1940[12]
14 LADDivisional Signals11 Jan 1940[13]
15 LAD7 Anti-Tank Regiment29 Feb 1940[14]
16 LAD5 Field Regiment
17 LADHQ 5 NZ Infantry Brigade29 Feb 1940[15]
18 LAD6 Field Regiment7 Mar 1940[16]
19 LADHQ 6 NZ Infantry Brigade12 Sept 1940[17]
35 LAD22 Motorised Battalion
38 LAD18 Armoured Regiment16 Feb 1942
39 LAD19 Armoured Regiment16 Feb 1942
40 LAD20 Armoured Regiment16 Feb 1942
GMC CCKW Truck modelled with the Regimental Markings of 38 LAD, 18th Armoured Regiment. Craig Paddon

NZEF NZ Tank Brigade

Formation Sign 1 NZ Tank Brigade

The New Zealand Tank Brigade was an NZEF unit formed at Waiouru in October 1941 to be deployed to the Middle East after Training in New Zealand for six months. The entry of Japan into the war in December 1941 necessitated the rerolling of the NZ Tank Brigade into a home defence role.  After reorganisations, the Brigade was ordered to be redeployed in April 1942, with its Headquarters and Battalions dispersed to the South Island, Northland, Manawatu and Pukekohe.

November 1942 saw further changes which would start the gradual disestablishment of the NZ Tank Brigade.[18]

  • No 1 Tank Battalion and 32 LAD remained in the Home defence roll in the Auckland/Northland area.
    • No 2 Tank Battalion, the Army Tank Ordnance Workshop and Ordnance Field Park were dissolved and became part of 3 NZ Division Independent Tank Battalion Group for service in the Pacific.
    • No 3 Tank Battalion and 33 LAD were deployed to the Middle East for service with the 2nd NZ Division, where it was dissolved, forming the nucleus of the 4th NZ Armoured brigade and 38, 39 and 40 LADs.
    • 34 LAD was stationed with the Independent Tank Squadron at Harewood in the South Island.

By June 1943, the final units of the 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade, including 32 LAD and 34 LAD, were disbanded.

32 LADNZ Army Tank Brigade 1 Tank BattalionOct 1941[19]Waiouru, Pukekohe
33 LADNZ Army Tank Brigade 2 Tank BattalionOct 1941[20]Waiouru, Manawatu
34 LADNZ Army Tank Brigade 3 Tank BattalionOct 1941[21]Waiouru, Harewood
Army Tank Ordnance Workshops, OFP and LAD identifying patch. Malcolm Thomas Collection

NZEF in the Pacific

NZOC units also were formed for service with the NZEF in the Pacific (NZEFIP). Initially, 20 LAD was formed to support the 8 Infantry Brigade Group in Fiji from November 1940. 14 Infantry Brigade Group would reinforce the force in Fiji with 36 and 37 LAD formed to provide additional support. With the redeployment of the New Zealand Brigade from Fiji in late 1942, 36LAD would remain as the LAD for the new Fiji Brigade that was about to be formed. In March 1943, eight members of 36 LAD would deploy with the Fijian Brigade to Bougainville. On 1 May 1944, 36 LAD would be renamed the Recovery Section, Brigade Mobile Workshops, Fiji Military Forces.[22]

The bulk of the NZEFIP would be reorganised as the 3rd New Zealand Division, with the NZOC commitment expanding into 23 units and detachments, including six LAD’s serving in operations in New Caledonia, The Solomon Islands and Tonga.[22] The formation of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1942 was not followed through in New Zealand and the Pacific, with repair and Maintenance functions remaining part of the Ordnance Corps for the duration of the war.

On concluding successful campaigns in the Solomon Islands in 1944, 3 NZ Division and its equipment were returned to New Zealand and formally disbanded on 20 October 1944. On return to New Zealand, many NZOC members were graded unfit due to the rigours of the tropical campaign and returned to their civilian occupations. Those fit enough were redeployed as reinforcements to 2NZEF in Italy, with the LAD men joining NZEME units.

UnitFormation DateLocations
20 LADB Force, 17 Field Regiment23 Oct 1940[23]Fiji/New Caledonia
36 LADHQ 8 Brigade Group and then Fiji Military ForcesJan 1942[24]Fiji
37 LADHQ 14 Brigade GroupJan 1942[25]Fiji/New Caledonia
42 LAD38 Field RegimentJan 1942[26]New Caledonia
64 LADHQ 8 Infantry BrigadeJan 1943[27]New Caledonia
65 LADHQ 15 Brigade Group, HQ 3 NZ Division EngineersJan 1943New Caledonia
67 LADHQ 3 NZ Divisional SignalsJan 1943[28]New Caledonia

Home Service Territorial Army LAD’s

Badge of NZOC, 1940-46. Robert McKie Collection

With the NZAOC and the New Zealand Permanent Army Service Corps (NZPASC) existing as part of the Permanent Army, only the NZPASC had a Territorial Army component, known as the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC). From the 1930s, workshop sections had been included on the establishments of ASC unit for activation on mobilisation. With the onset of war in 1939 and the mobilisation of the Territorial Army in 1940, the Quartermaster General, Col H.E Avery, made the decision that LADs were an Ordnance responsibility, and the NZOC was established as the Ordnance Component of Territorial Army in December 1940.[29]

By late 1943 the mobilisation of the Territorial Forces had ceased to be necessary, and most units had been stood down and placed on care and maintenance status with a small RF Cadre. By 1 April 1944, all wartime home defence units had been disbanded.[30]  Although not part of the pre-war Territorial Army, the NZOC remained on establishments. In 1946 a Reorganisation of New Zealand Military Forces removed the distinction between Regular and non-Regular soldiers, and the NZOC ceased to be a separate Corps with the supply functions amalgamated into the NZAOC and the Workshops functions, including the LADs (21, 23, 25, 28, 30 and 53) amalgamated into the NZEME.[31]

Northern Military District

UnitFormation DateLocations
21 LAD1 NZ Division, 1 Field Regiment19 Dec 1940[32]Whangarei
22 LADHQ 1 Brigade19 Dec 1940[33]Papakura
28 LAD1 NZ Division, 3 LAFV (AECMR)[34]9 Jan 1942[35]Pukekohe/Warkworth
51 LADHQ 12 Brigade9 Jan 1942[36]Kaikohe
55 LAD1 NZ Division, 15 LAFV (NAMR)[37]9 Jan 1942[38]North Waimate
56 LADDistrict Troops, NMD District Signals9 Jan 1942[39]Ngaruawahia
63 LAD1 NZ Division, 20 Field RegimentWaimata North
68 LADDistrict Troops, 4 LAFV (WMR)[40]Ngaruawahia
70 LAD1 NZ Division, 1 Divisional SignalsAvondale

Central Military District

UnitFormation DateLocations
23 LAD4 NZ Division, 2 Field Regiment19 Dec 1940[41]Linton Camp
24 LAD2 Infantry Brigade, HQ 2 Brigade19 Dec 1940[42]Palmerston North
27 LAD7 Brigade Group, 12 Field Regiment9 Jan 1942[43]Greytown
29 LAD7 Brigade Group, HQ 7 Brigade Group9 Jan 1942[44]Carterton
30 LAD4 NZ Division, 2 LAFV (QAMR)[45]19 Dec 1940[46]Wanganui
58 LAD7 Brigade Group, 9 LAFV (WECMR)[47]9 Jan 1942[48]Hastings
60 LAD4 NZ Division, 6 LAFV (MMR)[49]9 Jan 1942[50]Fielding
71 LADDistrict Troops, Buckle StreetBuckle Street Wellington
72 LADFortress Troops, HQ Wellington FortressWellington
73 LAD4 NZ Division, HQ 4 DivisionPalmerston North

Southern Military District

UnitFormation DateLocations
25 LAD5 NZ Division, 3 Field Regiment19 Dec 1940[51]Hororata
26 LAD3 Infantry Brigade, HQ 3 Brigade19 Dec 1940[52]Burnham
52 LAD11 Brigade Group, HQ 11 Infantry Brigade9 Jan 1942[53]Blenheim
53 LAD5 NZ Division, 1 LAFV (CYC)[54]9 Jan 1942[55]Blenheim
54 LADDistrict Troops, 5 LAFV (OMR)[56]9 Jan 1942[57]Wingatui
57 LAD10 Infantry Brigade, HQ 10 Brigade9 Jan 1942[58]Ashburton
59 LAD11 Infantry Brigade10 LAFV (NMMR)[59]9 Jan 1942[60]Blenheim
61 LAD5 NZ Division, 18 Field RegimentUnknown
62 LAD11 Infantry Brigade, 19 Field RegimentBlenheim
74 LADFortress Troops, HQ Lyttleton FortressLyttleton
75 LADFortress Troops, HQ Dunedin Fortress then HQ Area IXDunedin/Nelson
77 LAD5 NZ Division,5 Division SignalsRiccarton

Copyright © Robert McKie 2021


Notes

[1] This compared with the two editions of German and French doctrine produced during the same period. Jonathan Fennell, Fighting the People’s War : The British and Commonwealth Armies and the Second World War, Armies of the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Non-fiction, 32.

[2] P.H. Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War (History Press Limited, 2016).

[3] Ordnance Manual (War), ed. The War Office (London: His Majestys Stationery Office, 1939), 9.

[4] Ibid., 17.

[5] “Pwd Tenders,” Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 6,, 7 July 1939.

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

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

[8] “New Zealand Ordnance Corps “, New Zealand Gazette, No 1, June 11 1940, 19.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] “New Zealand Ordnance Corps “, New Zealand Gazette, No 16, February 29 1940, 324.

[15] Ibid.

[16] “New Zealand Ordnance Corps “, New Zealand Gazette, No 18, 7 March 1940, 360.

[17] “New Zealand Ordnance Corps “, New Zealand Gazette, No 98, 12 September 1940, 2319.

[18] Jeffrey Plowman and Malcolm Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, Kiwi Armour: 2 (J. Plowman, 2001), Non-fiction.

[19] “Hq Army Tank Brigade Ordnance Units, June 1942 to January 1943,” Archives New Zealand Item No R20112168  (1943).

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Robert A. Howlett, The History of the Fiji Military Forces, 1939-1945 (Published by the Crown Agents for the Colonies on behalf of the Government of Fiji, 1948), Non-fiction, Government documents, 257-8.

[22] Oliver A. Gillespie, The Tanks : An Unofficial History of the Activities of the Third New Zealand Division Tank Squadron in the Pacific (A.H. and A.W. Reed for the Third Division Histories Committee, 1947), Non-fiction, 137-227.

[23] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 55.

[24] Ibid., 57.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 63.

[27] Ibid., 62.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Peter Cooke and John Crawford, The Territorials (Wellington: Random House New Zealand Ltd, 2011), 258.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “H-19 Military Forces of New Zealand Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding, for Period 1 June 1949 to 31 March 1950 “, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1950).;”Reorganisation of the Territorial Force,” New Zealand Gazette No 55, 21 October 1948.

[32] “Formation of New Units, Changes in Designation, and Reorganization of Units of the Territorial Force. ,” New Zealand Gazette, No 127, 19 December 1940, 3738-39.

[33] Ibid.

[34] 3 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (Auckland East Coast Mounted Rifles) Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[35] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,” New Zealand Gazette, No 8, 22 January 1942, 351.

[36] Ibid.

[37] 15 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (North Auckland Mounted Rifles) Plowman

[38] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,”  351.

[39] Ibid.

[40] 4 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (Waikato Mounted Rifles) Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[41] “Formation of New Units, Changes in Designation, and Reorganization of Units of the Territorial Force. ,”  3738-39.

[42] Ibid.

[43] “Calling out Parts of the Defence Forces for Military Service,” New Zealand Gazette, No 3, 9 January 1942, 43.

[44] Ibid.

[45] 2 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles)Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[46] “Parts of the Defence Forces Called out for Military Service,” New Zealand Gazette, No 128, 19 December 1940, 3777.

[47] 9 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (Wellington East Coast Mounted Rifles)Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[48] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,”  351.

[49] 6 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment ( Manawatu Mounted Rifles)Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[50] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,”  351.

[51] “Formation of New Units, Changes in Designation, and Reorganization of Units of the Territorial Force. ,”  3738-39.

[52] Ibid.

[53] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,”  351.

[54] 1 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry)Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[55] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,”  351.

[56] 5 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (Otago Mounted Rifles)Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[57] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,”  351.

[58] Ibid.

[59] 10 Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment ( Nelson Marlbough Mounted Rifles) Plowman and Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, 5-7.

[60] “Formation of New Units and Disbandment of Uuits of the Territorial Force and National, Military Reserve. ,”  351.

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