General Godley and New Zealand’s Defence Stores Department

16 October 1914 was a significant day for New Zealand as the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) sailed out of Wellington Harbour, marking the departure of the largest, best trained and equipped Military Force ever to leave New Zealand shores. Departing in ten troopships, the 8500 men and 5000 horses of the NZEF would be the second significant departure of troops from New Zealand as the 1400 strong Samoa Expeditionary Force had departed several weeks earlier on 14 August 1914, only ten days after the declaration of war on 5 August 1914.

The fleet of troopships which transported the Main Body of the NZEF and their escort in Wellington Harbour, 15 October 1914. Image courtesy of Matt Pomeroy.

The mounting of such a force within such timeframes was the culmination of years of planning, implementation and training to provide a structured, equipped and supportable force able to easily integrate into an Imperial army alongside the UK, Australia, Canada and India. While credit for the development of the New Zealand Military in the years leading up to 1914 can be accredited to Major General Godley and his staff of British Army officers seconded to the New Zealand Military Forces. Little study has been dedicated to the logistic organisation responsible for supporting the Force, the Defence Stores Department.  Under the leadership of Major James O’Sullivan, the Defence Stores Department would be the organisation working behind the scenes with responsibility for the supply and maintenance of clothing and personal equipment, accoutrements, saddlery, harness, small-arms and small-arms ammunition, machine guns, material, transport, vehicles, camp equipment, and all stores required by New Zealand’s Military Forces.

However, despite the success in providing the stores and maintenance support required for the 1914 mobilisation, the establishment of reinforcement training camps, and maintenance of the Territorial Army, the Defence Stores Department has remained an anonymous participant in New Zealand’s Military Historical narrative. So why is this so? The historical record does not record any shameful failures necessitating its historical absence. However,  correspondence of the era indicates that there might have been a clash of personalities between General Godley and Major O’Sullivan, which has hidden the Defence Stores from view for over a hundred years.

General Sir Alexander Godley. S P Andrew Ltd :Portrait negatives. Ref: 1/1-013997-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22715773

As the NZEF finalised its final preparations before boarding its transport ships, General Godley visited the Defence Stores on 24 September and thanked the Defence Stores Staff for their contribution to mounting the NZEF.[1]

Departing on 16 October, Godley would be at sea for ten days before preparing a handwritten note to Colonel James Allen, the New Zealand Minister of Defence. Reacting to what could only be described as gossip, Godley’s note would set in motion a series of events that would test the Defence Stores and lead to O’Sullivan’s resignation.[2]

Dear Colonel Allen

Just before I left Wellington and since sailing, I have heard a good deal of talk about the conduct of the Stores at Wellington and criticism of J O’Sullivan. I believe the Mayor and the ladies Committee who provided articles for the men were very disappointed with his method of costing and accounting for what they sent him for the troops.

Campbell (Coast Defence Commander) also spoke to me of irregularities which had come to his notice. I have little doubt in my own mind that O’Sullivan and probably some of his subordinates are, like all Quartermasters and Storekeepers feathering their nests to a certain extent. But against this one has to put the fact that, broadly speaking, the equipping of this Force and of the South African contingents, by O’Sullivan was extremely well done and considering the opportunities he has had, one can only be astonished at his moderation in feathering his nest.

My object in writing now, though is to suggest that it might be worth while to have some sort of special audit of the Stores accounts for the Expeditionary Force, perhaps by the Public Service Commission or somebody of the kind. I mean by this an inspection and stocktaking of the Stores in kind more than cash transactions, as the later are always taken for granted and audited by the Treasury as regards vouchers not the Audit Department. Esson tells me that whenever the question of an Army Audit has been raised, the Audit Department have made difficulties and have suggested that it clashed with their functions, but this is probably a misconception and in any case the Army system has grown so big that some more checks is I am sure required, and the departure of this Force would be a good reason for starting it now.

But, whatever happens, the good work done by O’Sullivan and his Department should not be overlooked, though it is too close a borough, and would now be all the better for shaking up and overhauling with fresh blood.

Yours Sincerely

Alex Godley

Possibly in response to Godley’s note, the Public Service Commission convened the Defence Stores Commission, which throughout 1915 examined the Defence Stores in detail, producing a comprehensive report to the Minister of Defence on 31 August 1915.

Forwarded to the Commander of NZ Forces Brigadier General A.W Robin, a reply was furnished on 9 September 1915. Admitting fault where required, Robins reply, however, counted many of the commission’s points and highlighted the success of the Defence Stores and highlighted that the Defence Stores were operating adequately under existing Military Stores and Treasury Regulations. However, O’Sullivan’s reputation had been tarnished.

A letter from Allen to Godley sent on 4 January 1916 summarises the situation[3]

The Stores Department, about which there was an enquiry have come fairly well out of it, but I gather there is a pretty strong feeling that 0’Sullivan, who is on sick leave now should not go back.

Although acquitted of any misconduct, O’Sullivan position had become untenable, and to maintain the smooth functioning of the Defence Stores, Allen outlined changes that had been made to the Defence Stores in a letter to Godley on 13 April 1916,[4]

So far as Defence is concerned, Captain McCristell has been brought in from Featherston and placed in 0’Sullivan’ s position, the latter being made Inspector of 0rdnance Stores.

I should think 0’Sullivan has been more enquired into than any other officer in the Department, but nothing very detrimental has come out about him; however, it seemed to me to be wise, especially in view of the fact that the Supplies Board -which is under the control of the Hon. Mr Myers – was so determined about it, that he should give up his position as head of the Stores Department. I have every confidence that McCristell will do well there.

Replying  to Allen on 24 March, Godley was less than supportive of O’Sullivan and made clear his personnel feelings, [5]

I am sorry, but not altogether surprised, to hear about 0’Sullivan. I think you know my feeling about him, which is that, considering the class of man he is, and the opportunities he has had, one can only be astonished at his moderation. Ninetynine out of a hundred in his position would have made a large fortune.

A component of the New Zealand Military establishment since the 1860s, the Defence Stores Departments tenure as a civilian branch of the Military were numbered. Although nothing detrimental came out of the Public Service Commissions report, the time was deemed suitable to follow the lead of the Australian and the Canadians and militarise the Defence Stores into an Army Ordnance Corps. Gazetted on 1 February 1917, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps assumed the responsibilities of the Defence Stores Department, with McCristell assuming the role as the head of the Ordnance Corps.[6]

O’Sullivan would retire from his position of Inspector of Ordnance Stores in January 1917, to take up farming in Huntley.

The enquiry of the Defence Stores Department fell flat and found nothing detrimental, and further study will be required to determine why the Defence Stores Department became an anonymous participant in New Zealand’s Military Historical narrative. Is it linked to Goldey’s dislike of O’Sullivan and his belief that Quartermasters and Storekeepers were only interested in “feathering their own nests”, or is it part of the Kiwi Tall Poppy Syndrome where success is looked down on? The mounting of the NZEF was a monumental task, and the Defence Stores Department is well overdue for some recognition for the part that they played.


Notes

[1] “Defence Stores Staff,” Dominion, Volume 7, Issue 2264, , 25 September 1914, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/DOM19140925.2.47.

[2] “Correspondence Major General Godley to James Allen 26 October “, R22319698 – Ministerial Files – Correspondence with General Godley  (1914).

[3] “Correspondence James Allen to Major General Godley 4 January,” R22319698 – Ministerial Files – Correspondence with General Godley  (1916).

[4] “Correspondence James Allen to Major General Godley 13 April “, R22319698 – Ministerial Files – Correspondence with General Godley  (1916).

[5] “Correspondence Major General Godley to James Allen 24 March,” R22319699 – Ministerial Files – Correspondence with General Godley  (1916).

[6] “New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Regulations,” New Zealand Gazette No 95 (Wellington), June 7 1917.


John Henry Jerred

Located in Wellington’s Karori cemetery is the long-forgotten grave of John Henry Jerred, Assistant Defence Storekeeper, died 20 December 1902.  John Henry Jerred had served in Government service for twenty-two years from 1880 as a Police Constable, Engineer on Torpedo Boats, and as a storekeeper in the Defence Stores. However, losing a leg while in the Police had adversely affected his ability to gain life insurance, join a Friendly Society, or earn a fair wage leaving his family financially unprepared for his early death. Such was the standing and high esteem of John Jerred that his friends erected a fitting memorial to John’s life. Sadly, now in disrepair, John Jerred’s graveside and the life he had lived has long been forgotten. Thanks to the keen eyes of members of the NZ Remembrance Army, John Jerred’s resting place has been rediscovered and is on the path to refurbishment.

Born in London in 1860, John was an engineer by profession and arrived in New Zealand around 1879 and commenced his career in Wellington.

Joining the Armed Constabulary on 1 February 1880, John would undertake the initial training required and then settle into the Depot Routine at the Armed Constabulary’s Mount Cook Depot in Wellington. In September 1880, John was one of many Armed Constabulary men sent to Ripapa Island in Lyttelton Harbour as guards for 160 Māori’s from Parihaka.

Ripapa Island had briefly been utilised as a quarantine station with purpose-built accommodation for over 300 immigrants. However, with the more spacious Quail Island designated a quarantine station in 1875, Ripapa’s barracks were largely devoid of purpose until the government found a use for it as a prison for Māori Ploughmen that had been imprisoned without trial due to the Parihaka Māori settlements passive resistance campaign against the surveying and selling of its land by the government, which would lead to the 1881 Parihaka invasion.

[Medley, Mary Catherine] 1835-1922 :[Quarantine Island Port Lyttelton. 1880s or 1890s], Alexander Turnbull Library. the new Ripapa (known as Ripa) Island quarantine station included barracks, a hospital, service buildings, a barrack master’s cottage and a jetty.

Each guard was issued with a Snyder repeating rifle with 40 rounds of ball ammunition and an Adams revolver with 18 Rounds. A typical guard shift would be for 24hours starting at 9 am. Daily routine allowed the prisoners out of their barracks for recreation from 9 am to 1 pm, and following lunch, from 2 pm to 6 pm, after dinner, they would be secured in their barracks for the night. Throughout the night, the guards would be on shifts to ensure that two were always awake. Following relief at 9 am, the old guard would be required to unload the streamer from Lyttelton of provisions and coal before cleaning their weapons and standing down for the rest of the day.

He was completing such a shift on 10 December 1880, when before standing down, John cleaned his revolver. On completion of cleaning his revolver, he reloaded it. However, he noticed a spot on the chamber that he had missed in his exhausted state, which he then cleaned and, distracted with tiredness, accidentally discharged the revolver into his leg, shattering the thigh bone.

Admitted to Christchurch hospital, the leg was set. It was expected that John would after a period of recovery keep his leg, with only a limp to remind him of the accident. Unable to return to full duty, John would remain on light duties and, in July 1881, was posted to Wellington, where he took up duties as a librarian. However, John’s recovery was not going well, and in November 1881, he was admitted to Wellington hospital, with the only option being the amputation of his leg on 13 November. Now permanently disabled, John returned to his role of a librarian.

From the late 1870s, New Zealand had been under the spectre of incursion by Russia into the Southern Seas prompting what has become known as the Russia Scare. Cognisant of the potential threat, the New Zealand Government decided to construct fortifications and purchase torpedo boats to protect the harbours at Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. With Torpedo boats ordered and due for delivery in 1884, John’s skills as an Engineer became useful. On 17 May 1883, he was attested as an Artificer in the Permanent militia, taking charge of the machinery of the torpedo boats allocated to Wellington.

 

Example of a spar torpedo boat, http://navymuseum.co.nz/spar-torpedo-boats/

With the torpedo boats used on alternative weekends by the Wellington and Petone Naval volunteers, John could not remain on the torpedo boats when they took to the sea for their weekend exercises due to not holding the correct certification. To rectify this and increase his utility, John sat and passed the examination on 8 October 1883, gaining the required certification.

To service the construction of fortifications on the then remote Miramar peninsula, the Defence Department purchased the motor launch the SS Ellen Balance in 1885, with Jarred placed in charge of its engines in November 1885. However, with the ongoing maintenance of the Torpedo boats proving troublesome, John was put back in charge of them in January 1886.

Star Boating Club Submarine Mining Volunteer Corps, Shelly Bay, Wellington. Andrews, C J, fl 1979 :Photographs of the Star Boating Club Submarine Mining Volunteer Corps. Ref: 1/2-091774-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23233117

The Torpedo Boat SS Waitemata had been transferred to Auckland during 1885 and required an experienced engineer to keep it operational, so Jarred was transferred to Auckland on 20 April 1886 to take charge of the SS Waitemata. On 4 August 1886, John was attested for a further three years’ service in the Permanent Militia.

Auckland’s climate was favourable for Jarred, but his time in Auckland would be short and in May 1887, he was recalled to Wellington to take charge of the Defence vessel the SS Isabel as the Engineer & Stoker.

In 1887, John married Mary Ann Bell, and they would have two children, Ida Isabel, born in 1888 and Harold Vincent, born 1 December 1894.

Despite John’s experience as an engineer, he was considered because of his disability a liability. In a cost reduction exercise typical of the Defence Department, John was dismissed from the service under a scheme of only keeping physically able men employed on 22 February 1888. This dismissal did not sit well with John. He appealed the decision highlighting that the savings made in dismissing him were negated because it cost more to employ civilian engineers to fill the void left by his dismissal. John’s appeals, although supported by many, was ultimately unsuccessful in reversing his dismissal. However, he has offered the caretaker position for the Ministerial Residence on Tinakori Road in Wellington in compensation.

Returning to the employ of the Defence Department on 9 December 1889, John was appointed as Arms Cleaner in the Defence Stores. Under the Defence Storekeeper, Captain Sam Anderson, John was not utilised as an Arms Cleaner but was employed in Clerical and General Store Work. On the death of William Warren, one of the Defence Stores Storeman on 28 January 1894, John was appointed as Acting Storeman.

On 28 September 1899, the New Zealand Premier’ King Dick’ Seddon offered to the Imperial Government in London, in the event of war with the Boer Republics, the services of a contingent of Mounted Infantry for service in South Africa. The offer was accepted, and when war broke out on 11 October 1899, New Zealand was swept up in a wave of patriotic fervour. This mobilisation would push the Defence Stores Department to its limits as it equipped the New Zealand Contingents to the war in South Africa. From 6 to 21 October 1899, under the direct supervision of the Under-Secretary for Defence, Sir Arthur Percy Douglas, the Defence Storekeeper Captain Anderson and his small staff spent up to 16 hours daily, receiving, recording, branding and then dispatching all manner of essential items to the assembled Contingent at Karori Camp.

The Defence Stores were located at the Military reserve in Wellingtons Mount Cook, then known as Alexandra Barracks. The Actual Stores building were old and not fit for purpose as they leaked and were cold and draughty. The hours worked by the Defence Stores Staff and the poor infrastructure would take its toll on the Staff of the Defence Stores.

Scene in Mount Cook, Wellington, taken between 1882 and 1931 from Tasman Street, showing Mount Cook Prison/Alexandra Barracks (top, to left). Photographer unidentified.Ref: 1/2-066816-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22855721

On 7 December 1899, the Defence Storekeeper, Captain Sam Anderson, suddenly died. This was at a critical time as the Defence Stores Department, which after years of neglect, was at breaking point due to the mobilisation. Captain James O’Sullivan, a long time and experienced member of the Defence Stores, succeeded Anderson as acting Defence Storekeeper.

Anderson Death was followed by the death of the Assistant Defence Storekeeper, Mr Thomas Henry Sewell, in June 1900. John replaced Sewell.

With further contingents sent to South Africa, the pace of work at the Defence Stores did not lessen. Despite his disability, John had a robust constitution. Still, the strain of long hours and a poor working environment took a toll on his system, leading to an attack of acute pneumonia, and after four days of illness, John died on 20 December 1902 at the age of forty-six.

Johns death was unfortunate for his family and placed them in a dire financial position. Having lost one of his legs, John was ineligible for life insurance and could not join a Friendly Society. His salary was so small that it prevented him from making adequate provisions for his family’s future. To make ends meet, Mary attempted to find work but illness and hospitalisation requiring surgery incapacitated her further. Some relief was found when on two occasions, she partitioned the Premier and the House of Representatives for assistance. Her petitions were supported by Johns long service and supporting statements from prominent members of the Defence Department and Government. The Under Secretary of Defence stated to the House that John “was highly valued as a most efficient Clerk and thoroughly zealous and painstaking officer by his immediate superiors.” Also assisting Mary in her petitions were several articles in the press that highlighted the poor working conditions in the Defence Stores and how those poor conditions had contributed to the poor health of many of the Defence Stores staff. Mary’s petitions were successful, and she was granted two grants, each of €50 (2021 NZ$9,319.35).

Considering John’s service, when Mary decided to relocate her family to Woolston in Christchurch in 1903, the Minister of Railways covered the expenses for her household removal from Wellington to Christchurch.

A wide circle of friends deeply regretted johns’ death. As a tribute to their departed friend, they covered the costs of erecting a memorial stone at Johns grave in the Karori Cemetery.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2021