One Hundred Years at Burnham

June 2021 is a significant month for the New Zealand Army, the RNZAOC, and its successor, the RNZALR. June 2021 commemorates the One-Hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Burnham Camp. It also celebrates that one unit has had a continuous footprint in Burnham since 1921, the NZAOC Ordnance Depot, now the RNZALR 3 Catering and Supply Company.  

The site on which Burnham Camp now sits had since 1875 been the Burnham Industrial School for neglected and delinquent children. Utilised by the Territorials as a training site from 1914, it was recommended in 1918 that the school and grounds continue to be used as a site for future Territorial Force Annual Camps.

Burnham Industrial School | Burnham Industrial School was op… | Flickr
Burnham Industrial School. Archives New Zealand Reference: photographs CH438/1

The Industrial School closed in 1918, and with wartime training ceasing, the need for a permanent army camp to act as a mobilisation centre in the South Island was recognised. With the facilities at Burnham serving the Army well during the war, negotiations for transferring the Industrial School buildings and land from the Education Department to the Defence Department began in earnest.

On 11 September 1920, the Education and Defence Departments had reached an agreement on the handover of the Burnham Industrial School to the Defence Department for use as a Military training camp and Ordnance Depot.

The NZAOC had since 1906 maintained two Mobilisation and Ordnance Stores in the South Island to support the Southern Military districts.  Located at King Edward Barracks in Christchurch was the store responsible for the Canterbury and Nelson Military District. The Otago and Southland Military Districts store was in St Andrew Street Dunedin. However, as part of a post-war reorganisation of the New Zealand Military Forces and the receipt of new military equipment delivered from the United Kingdom , the decision was made to establish a South Island Ordnance Depot at Burnham. This led to the NZAOC on 15 November 1920, taking over the existing Education Department buildings at Burnham for an Ordnance Depot. Concurrently, approval for a new North Island Ordnance Depot at Hopuhopu to serve the Northern Military District was approved.

With the closure of the Dunedin Store and the transfer of Stores from the North island imminent, the establishment of the new Ordnance Depot took on a sense of urgency. Accordingly, £500 (2021 NZD 48,639.23) was approved in November 1920 for the purchase and erection of shelving, with a further £600 (2021 NZD 58,367.07) approved for the erection of new buildings, including twenty-five from Featherston Camp and the removal and reassembly of Buckley Barracks from Lyttelton for use by the Ordnance Depot.

As the Canterbury and Nelson Military District and the Otago and Southland Military Districts were combined into the Southern Military Command, Captain Arthur Rumbold Carter White was appointed as Ordnance Officer Southern Command on 27 May 1921. White had been appointed as the Defence Storekeeper for the canterbury District in 1906. Reclassified as the Assistant Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores and granted honorary rank in February 1916 and then commissioned as Captain in the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (NZAOD) in 1917.

With the formalities of the transfer between the Education Department and Defence Department finalised on 31 May 1921, Major E Puttick, NZ Staff “Q” Duties formally received the property and buildings of Burnham Camp from the Education Department. Confirming the status of Burnham as a New Zealand Military Camp, General Order 255 of 20 June 1921 appointed Captain A.R.C White NZAOD as the first Commandant of Burnham Camp, a position he would hold until 1930.

Captain A.R.C White NZAOC. M.Dart/Public Domain

The Ordnance Depot would remain in the Industrial School buildings until 1941, when construction of a purpose-built warehouse and ammunition area was completed. Since 1921, Burnham Camp has undergone many transformations and remains one hundred years on as the South Island home of the NZ Army.

Despite many units coming and going from Burnham Camp, the only unit to retain a constant footprint in Burnham Camp has been the Ordnance Depot. As the nature of logistic support and how it is delivered has developed and changed over the last one hundred years, the original Ordnance Depot had undergone many re-organisations to keep pace, and since 1921 has been known as

  • 1921-1942, Southern Districts Ordnance Depot
  • 1942-1948, No 3 Ordnance Sub Depot.
  • 1948 renamed and split into.
    • Southern Districts Ordnance Depot (SDOD).
    • Southern Districts Ammunition Depot (SDAD) and
    • Southern Districts Vehicle Depot (SDVD)
  • 1961 SDOD reorganised to include the SDVD and SDAD
  • 1968 Renamed 3 Central Ordnance Depot (2 COD)
  • 16 October 1978 Renamed to 3 Supply Company
  • 1990 Renamed to 3 Field Supply Company
  • 9 December 1996 becomes 3 Supply Company, Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR)., and later renamed as 3 Catering and Supply Company, RNZALR

Although other Corps and Regiments have been tenants at Burnham Camp, it is the Ordnance Store which from 1921, first as an NZAOC and then RNZAOC unit and now as an RNZALR unit has been a constant and unbroken tenant of Burnham Camp. A record of service in one location unmatched by any other unit of the New Zealand Army.


Burnham Ordnance Depot 1942

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