A retrospective view of the Main Ordnance Depot, Trentham

From 1920 to 1996, Trentham Camp in Wellington’s Hutt Valley was home to New Zealand’s Army’s principal Ordnance Depot. During its 76-year tenure as an Ordnance Depot, also every New Zealand Army Ordnance Officer and Soldier, at some stage of their career work at, passed through or had some interaction with the Trentham Ordnance Depot.

Using a 1983 Depot plan as a reference point, this article takes a look back at how the Trentham Ordnance Depot developed from 1920 to 1996.

Depot Plan, 1 Base Supply Battalion. Robert McKie Collection
Entrance to the Ordnance Depot 1998, Upper Hutt City Library (19th Mar 2020). Trentham Camp buildings, unidentified; barrier in fence. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 11th Oct 2020 08:03, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/29474
Building 73. Upper Hutt City Library (19th Mar 2020). Trentham Camp building; multi-bay warehouse. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 11th Oct 2020 08:05, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/29475

1920

In 1920 the NZAOC had its Headquarters and main depot located at Alexandra Barracks at Mount Cook, Wellington. In the regions, Ordnance Stores were maintained at Mount Eden, Palmerston North, Trentham Camp, Featherston Camp, Mount Cook, Christchurch and Dunedin.

As part of the post-war reduction of the Army and the rationalization of the Ordnance Services, the early interwar years were a transition period. In the South Island, the Dunedin and Christchurch Ordnance Stores closed and relocated to Burnham Camp. In the North Island, the Palmerston North Depot closed, and the main depot at Mount Cook relocated to Trentham Camp to establish the Main Ordnance Depot.

The Featherson Camp and Mount Eden Ordnance Stores remained in operation until 1928 when construction of a new Purpose-built Ordnance Depot at Hopuhopu in the Waikato was completed.

With no purpose-built storage accommodation, the NZAOC Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham Camp in the years leading up to the Second World War utilise up to one hundred different existing camp administrative and accommodation structures as its primary means of warehousing.

Upper Hutt City Library (31st Mar 2018). Trentham Camp 1920; aerial view looking east.. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 15:04, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/464

1940

Seen here shortly after its construction in late 1940/early 1941, this warehouse (Building 73) was constructed as part of a wider nationwide program of defence works. With the construction contracts let in 1938 and construction beginning in 1939, Building 73 was constructed using reinforced concrete and designed with nine bays that allowed the loading and unloading of Trains on one side and Motor transport on the other. The design and layout of building 73 were utilised as the model for new warehouses that were later constructed at Burnham and Waiouru.

Upper Hutt City Library (5th Mar 2018). Trentham Camp 1938-1943 (approximate). In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 15:28, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/25874

1941

From this November 1941 photo, the full size of Building 73 can be appreciated in comparison to the World War One era buildings in which many of the Main Ordnance Depots Stores had been held during the inter-war years. Under construction is Building 68, which in later years became the Direct Support Section (DSS), Building 87 (Dental Stores) and Building 88 (Detention Block)

Trentham Camp, November 1941. National Archives, AAOD,W3273, Box 19, Record WDO 9811, R18059582

1943

Although Building 73 provided a huge increase in storage capability, wartime demands soon necessitated further increases in storage infrastructure; immediately obvious is Building 74. Building 74 was a near duplicate of building 73, with the main exception that due to wartime constraints, it was constructed out of wood instead of reinforced concrete.

Building 86 has been completed, and connected to it is Building 70, which later become the Textile Repair Shop.

Buildings 64, 65 and 66 have been completed, with Buildings 60 and 61 under construction.

1944

By 1944, despite the wartime expansion of the Main Ordnance Depot, storage requirements still exceeded available storage at the Main Ordnance Depot, with a large number of items held in Sub Depots at Māngere, Linton Camp, Whanganui, Waiouru, Lower Hutt and Wellington.

Twelve additional warehouses can be seen to the East of Buildings 73 and 74, and Building 26 is under construction.

Upper Hutt City Library (14th Feb 2018). Aerial view; Trentham Military Camp 1944.. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 14:56, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/625

1945

These two photos from late 1945 show the extent of the wartime expansion of the Main Ordnance Depot.

The latest additions are Buildings 27,28,29. 30 and 31. These buildings had originally been built for the United States Forces at Waterloo in Lower Hutt by the Public Works Department. Surplus to the United States requirements due to their downsizing in New Zealand, the buildings had been transferred to the NZ Army. The first building was disassembled and re-erected at Trentham by the end of September 1945, with the follow-on buildings re-erected at a rate of one per month, with all construction completed by February 1946

Upper Hutt City Library (27th Feb 2018). Trentham Camp overall view 1945; Carman block, 1945. Panoramic view.. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 14:57, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/565

1966

Twenty Years later, much of the wartime infrastructure constructed for the Main Ordnance Depot and much of the First World War camp accommodation remains in use. During the 1950s, the compound at Dante Road had been developed for the Central Districts Vehicle Depot. When that unit relocated to Linton in 1958, the compound became the Main Ordnance Depot Vehicle Sub-Depot. On the right side of the photo, the large building, the Ordnance Depot, is the General Motors Plant.

1974

By 1974, much of the central infrastructure remains, however, the eleven sheds constructed in 1943/44 have been demolished.

1980

1n 1979 the Main Ordnance Depot was renamed as 1 Base Supply Battalion, RNZOAC. There has been a slight change to the WW2 Infrastructure.

1988

In one of the largest infrastructure investments since 1939 and the first modern warehouse built for the RNZAOC since 1972, a new warehouse was opened in 1988. Designed to accommodate 3700 pallets and replace the existing WW2 Era Storage, the new award-winning warehouse was constructed for $1.6 million. In addition to the high-rise pallet racking for bulk stores, a vertical storage carousel capable of holding 12,000 detail items was installed later.

2020

On 8 December 1996, the RNZAOC was amalgamated into the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment, ending the Ordnance Corps association with Trentham Camp that had existed since 1920.

Further developments occured in January 1998 when the entire military warehousing and maintenance functions in Trentham camp were commercialised and placed under the control of civilian contractors.

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