MT Stores – 1939-1963

The Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC) and its predecessor’s primary storekeeping responsibility was providing Clothing, Camp Equipment, Ammunition, Arms and Accessories to New Zealand’s Military Forces. From the Second World War, the technical nature of military Storekeeping evolved to include a host of military equipment such as vehicles, communications equipment and mechanical plant. These new types of equipment were utilised in large quantities, and all required accessories and a complex range of repair parts to keep them operational. To provided a comprehensive and optimal measure of control from 1963, RNZAOC Stores Sections were raised as part of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (RNZEME) workshops. The Stores Sections were complimented by the standing up of the Auto Parts trade in 1965. This article provides a broad and introductory overview of how the Motor Transport Branch (MT Branch) and the RNZAOC managed Motor Transport Stores (MT Stores) from 1939 to 1963.

As in the First World War, the New Zealand Army mobilised in 1939 would be equipped and organised to allow near-seamless integration into a larger British army. The British army of 1939 was one whose doctrine had embraced modern technology so that. ‘By the time of the invasion of Poland, the British Army in Europe was rather more motorised than the German Army.’[1] Aspects of the advanced British doctrine had filtered through to New Zealand in the later 1930s, with modern equipment such as Bren Guns and Universal carriers arriving in New Zealand and some rudimentary experiments in motorising the Army had taken place. However, as a legacy of interwar defence policies and financial constraints, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC), unlike the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) in the United Kingdom, was not organised effectively and, as a result, unprepared to function effectively when the war began. It could be said that during the Second World War, New Zealand maintained two separate armies. First, the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2nd NZEF), with its combat units, supporting arms and logistic units, organised against modified War Office Establishment tables with G1098 stores directly drawn from British Stocks.[2] Secondly, there was the NZ Army at home. Although also organised against War Office Establishment tables, its equipment needs, and G1098 Stores would be provided from a New Zealand Logistical base.

The NZAOC of 1939 was a Corps that had suffered under the defence restraints of the interwar years and was primarily concerned with the supply and maintenance of clothing, equipment, ammunition, and weapons. Although the army had 56 vehicles, the NZAOC had little experience supporting Motor Transport (MT) on a scale required by a growing army.  A significant factor limiting the growth of the NZAOC in the critical early wartime years was that nearly all its senior leadership had been seconded to the 2nd NZEF. Given the need to rapidly expand and manage the capacity of the Army’s MT fleet, the Quartermaster General (QMG) decided in a significant break from the doctrine that to allow the NZAOC to focus on its key responsibilities, a separate MT Branch would be established.[3]

New Zealand Temporary Staff. Robert McKie Collection

The MT Branch was established in late 1939 to manage and maintain the thousands of purchased or impressed vehicles required by the military. Taking a similar approach to the RAOC in the United Kingdom, the MT Branch would leverage off the experience of the New Zealand Motor industry.[4]  Many of the MT Branch’s staff would be directly recruited from the motor industry into the New Zealand Temporary Staff (NZTS). By December 1942, the MT Branch consisted of,[5]

  • MT Workshops
    • 1 MT Workshops, Trentham
    • 2 MT Workshop, Waiouru
    • 3 MT Workshops, Papakura
    • 4 MT Workshops, Whangarei
    • 5 MT Workshops, Palmerston North
    • 6 MT Workshops, Wellington
    • 7 MT Workshops, Blenheim
    • 8 MT Workshops, Burnham
    • 9 MT Workshop, Dunedin
  • MT Depots providing pools of vehicles
    • 1 MT Depot, Auckland
    • 2 MT Depot, Hamilton
    • 3 MT Depot, Napier
    • 4 MT Depot, Wanganui
    • 5 MT Deport, Christchurch
  • MT Stores Depots providing MT spares, tools and equipment for MT Workshops and Depots
    • 1 Base MT Stores Depot, Wellington
    • 2 MT Stores Depot, Auckland
    • 3 MT Stores Depot, Wellington
    • 4 MT Stores Depot, Christchurch
    • 7 MT Stores Depot, Blenheim

As most vehicles utilised by the NZ Military in the early years of the war were impressed from civilian service, initial scaling of MT spares were achieved by simply purchasing the existing stock held by New Zealand motor manufacturers and dealerships. As the war progressed, new vehicles, equipment and spares arrived from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States, requiring further expansion of the MT Branch.

Freed from the burden of managing MT, the Chief Ordnance Officer (COO) with NZAOC, Territorial units of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) and personnel from the NZTS would provide.

  •  All natures of stores and equipment other than rations, forage, and fuel.
  • The repair and maintenance of armaments and equipment, including
    • Light Aid Detachments and mobile workshops providing 1st and 2nd line support across Field Force Units
    • Armament and General Engineering Workshops.
      • Main Ordnance Workshop, Trentham
      • 11 Ordnance Workshop, Whangarei
      • 12 Ordnance Workshop, Devonport
      • 13 Ordnance Workshop, Blenheim
      • 14 Ordnance Workshop, Burnham
      • 15 Ordnance Workshop, Dunedin

Post War Developments

Before the war, the NZAOC had not been organised to carry out its functions effectively. The conclusion of the war provided the opportunity for the NZAOC to be reorganised to bring it into line with RAOC organisational structures and procedures, including the management of vehicles and MT Spares. The MT Branch, which had only been intended as a temporary wartime organisation, would, as a result, have its wartime responsibilities absorbed into a reorganised NZAOC and newly established NZEME. [6] When the MT Branch was established in 1939, it had 62 vehicles at its disposal. By the end of the war the Branch had handled over 30000 vehicles, with 21000 disposed of by March 1946.

MT Workshops

The MT Branch Workshops along the Ordnance Workshops would, from 1 September 1946, be absorbed into a new organisation, the NZEME.[7]

MT Vehicle Depots

With many of the vehicles impressed earlier in the war returned to their original owners or disposed of during the war, the MT Vehicle Deports still held thousands of military vehicles. From 1 September 1947, responsibility for the MT Vehicle Depots was transferred to the RNZAOC, establishing the RNZAOC Vehicle Depots at Sylvia Park, Trentham, and Burnham.[8]

MT Spares Depots

Following several audits and stocktakes, spare parts, tools, and accessory s were handed over from MT Stores to the RNZAOC on 1 April 1948. To continue the management of MT Stores, the RNZAOC established MT Spares Groups at the Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) at Trentham and at the Northern and Southern District Ordnance Depots. The system of supply for MT Stores was that the RNZEME workshops held a small stock managed by RNZEME Stores Staff. Replenishment was by either Local Purchase or through the supporting District Ordnance Depot, MT Group. The exception was that the Central Districts Workshops at Waiouru and Linton demanded off the MOD MT Stores Group at Trentham. This anomaly was rectified in 1954 when the Central Districts Ordnance Depot at Linton was authorised to establish an MT Stores Depot.

By 1961 the NZ Army vehicle fleet was in transition as the older World War Two era fleet of vehicles, including Chevrolets, Fords and GMCs, where been replaced with a fleet of modern Bedford’s and Land Rovers. As the vehicle fleet transitioned, the management MT Stores were also reviewed, and several changes would be implemented during 1961and 1962.

Workshop Stores Sections

RNZAOC Workshop Stores Sections were to be raised at the following RNZEME Workshops,

•             Northern Districts Workshops,

•             Central Districts Workshops,

•             Central Districts Armament and General Workshops

•             Central Districts MT Workshops

•             Southern District Workshops

50% of the staff for the new Stores Sections would be RNZEME personnel transferred into the RNZAOC.[9]

Ordnance Deport MT Stores Groups

With raising the RNZAOC Stores Sections, the District Ordnance Depot MT Stores Groups were rerolled as Technical Stores Groups and ceased to hold MT Stores. Stock of MT Stores was redistributed to the new Stores Sections whose initial scaling for 1962 was to have six months of inventory; this was reduced to three months after January 1963. The balance of the District Ordnance Depots stock not required by the Stores Sections was to be transferred to the MOD.

By the end of 1963, RNZAOC Stores Sections had been firmly established as part of the RNZEME Workshops, providing not only MT Spares but the full range of repair parts and spares required by the workshops. Developing their own unique culture within the RNZAOC, the stage was set to introduce an RNZAOC Auto Parts and Accessories trade in 1965.


Notes

[1] 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]  Army Form G1098, the Unit Equipment Table giving the entitlement to stores and equipment.

[3] The Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 and mobilisation regulations stated that all A and B Vehicles less those driven by the RASC were to be maintained by the RAOC, RASC vehicles were to be maintained by the RASC. Ordnance Manual (War), ed. The War Office (London: His Majestys Stationery Office, 1939), 12.

[4] P.H. Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War (History Press Limited, 2016), 42-54.

[5] “Staff – Motor transport branch,” Archives New Zealand Item No R22438851  (1942).

[6] “Organisation – Policy and General – Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1946-1984,” Archives New Zealand Item No R17311537  (1946).

[7] The NZEME would gain royal status in 1947 as the Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME).

[8] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, RNZEME 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 189.

[9] “Organisation – Policy and General – Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1946-1984.”

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