The Cave

As New Zealand’s Army’s central stock holding unit, 1 Base Supply Battalion(1BSB) was responsible for managing and providing depot-level storage of New Zealand’s Military’s stock of land equipment and spares. Despite having this responsibility since 1920, 1BSB and its predecessors had always struggled with providing suitable warehousing infrastructure and made do with the available storage infrastructure.

With no purpose-built storage accommodation, from 1920 to 1940, the NZAOC Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) would utilise up to one hundred camp administrative and accommodation structures as its primary means of warehousing. Relief was provided in 1938 when contracts were issued to construct a modern warehouse utilising the most modern of methods and materials.[1] The New warehouse, later known as Building 73, would be 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 would be utilised as the model for new warehouses that would later be constructed at Burnham and Waiouru.

Building 73

Although Building 73 provided a considerable increase in storage capability, wartime demands soon necessitated further increases in storage infrastructure, resulting in the construction of Building 74. Building 74 and the warehouses constructed in Burnham and Waiouru were close facsimiles of building 73, with the main exception that it was constructed out of wood instead of reinforced concrete due to wartime constraints.[2]

The wartime expansion of the New Zealand military would see the MOD exponentially expand to cope with the influx of military material with additional buildings constructed in Trentham and sub-depots also established a Mangere, Wanganui, Linton Camp, Gracefield and Wellington.

Peace in 1945 would bring little respite as stocks were centralised at the MOD, requiring further expansion of the MOD warehousing infrastructure. To meet this need, five warehouses that were built for the United States Forces at Lower Hutt, were disassembled and re-erected at Trentham by September 1945.[3] Additionally, the RNZAF Stores Depot constructed at Mangaroa in 1943 was handed over to the MOD in 1949.

Over the next forty years, the warehousing infrastructure at Trentham would change little, with a 1985 NZDF report identifying many deficiencies leading to significant upgrading of Trentham’s warehousing infrastructure.[4]

Main Ordnance Depot 1966

In one of the most significant warehousing infrastructure investments since 1939 and the first modern warehouse built for the RNZAOC since 1972, Building 75, a high stud warehouse capable of holding 3700 pallets,  opened in 1988. Although a significant advancement in warehousing capability, the new warehouse had limited space for outsized items. Additionally many other warehousing functions such as packing and traffic remained in Building 73, so further work was required to enhance the functionality of 1BSBs entire warehousing capability.

Building 73 (left), Building 74 (Right)

With trains no longer utilised for the delivery and dispatching of stores, the rail lines between Building 73 and 74 had long been redundant. By removing the rail line and raising the ground level between the two buildings, additional storage spect of almost two square kilometres, protected from the elements by a 200 x 13-meter roof, was created. At the southern end, a loading ramp was constructed to allow the loading and unloading of trucks, with angled ramps at either end allowing the movement of vehicles along the length of the new storage area.  Opened on 2 November 1989, the new warehouse was christened as “the Cave.” The Cave allowed the more efficient transfer of stores to and from the storage areas in  Buildings 73, 74 and 75 to the receipt, selecting, packing and issue bays in Building 73.

Lieutenant Colonel P.P Martyn, Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps. Commanding Officer 1 Base Supply Battalion January 1988 – December 1990, Officially opening “The Cave”

The additional storage space allowed the storage of outsized items which had previously been stored at the Mangaroa Depot, which was subsequently decommissioned and handed over to NZDF Property Services.

The optimisation of storage space between the two buildings was so successful a similar modification would be constructed between two of 21 Supply Company’s 1950s era Warehouses at Linton, creating much-needed storage and office space.


Notes

[1] “New Army Ordnance Block Now under Construction at One of the Military Camps,” Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 65, 14 Sept 1939.

[2] F Grattan, Official War History of the Public Works Department (PWD, 1948).

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

[4] “Assessment and Audit – Audit Files – [1995] – Nzdf Bulk Warehousing,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24596003  (1985).


1950s Camp Equipment

Publicity photos from the 1950s showing a range of portable Camp Equipment managed by the RNZAOC

Safes-Meat Portable

A required item to preserve meat in Field Kitchens in the days before portable refrigeration.

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Stands Ablution Portable

This item is designed so that soldiers when in a field camp environment can have a place to carry out their daily ablutions.

Consisirtng of a sink top with a drain trough and bar to hang towels and mirrors, soldier would wash in shave using a basin. OIn completion if their business the contents of the basin wold be tipped into the drain from where it would flow into a sump dug into the ground

1593580122840-9565c613-7945-4f21-a0a0-40135baa0f52_.jpg
Stand Ablution Components. Robert McKie Collection

Stand Ablution laid with its compontrs laid out;

  • Bar Towel/Toprail, Qty 1
  • Leg Ablution Stand End, Qty 2
  • Leg Ablution Stand Center, Qty 1
  • Brace Ablution Stand, Qty 2
  • Drain Sink, Trough, Qty 1
  • Drain, Lavartory pipe, Qty 1
  • Bolt securing, Qty 4
1593580055144-87079f80-679e-47de-b471-851f452a81cb_.jpg
The above picture shows the Stand Ablution in the final stages of assembly with the two soldiers about to fir the Bar Towel/Top-rail to the Leg Ablution Stand Ends. Once the Bar Towel/Top-rail is attached, the braces would be bolted tight and the Drain Sink, Trough and Drain, Lavatory pipe attached.
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Mess Kit Washup

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Used in conjunction with a kerosene heater, theses tubs would be assembled over a small trench with the chimney device drawing heated air under the tubs heating them up.

This set up was base on the three pot cleaning method.

Prior to washing. plates and utensils would have to be thoroughly scrapped clean into a rubbish bin.

Sink 1: Wash sink – Full of hot soapy water, utensils would be given a good scrub with a brush r dish cloth.

Sink 2: Hot-rinse sink -,Filled with clear, hot water, utensils would be rinsed in this sink.

Sink 3: Cold-rinse sink – Utensils would undergo a final rinse in water which would have had a few drops of bleach or other sanitising argent added to it

Field Cook House

In the background to these photos a Field Cook House can be seen. This was a portable building designed to be used as a Field Cookhouse which could easily be assembled from components.


Bryan Nelson Jennings Memorial Trophy

The Bryan Nelson Jennings Memorial Trophy would, for a short period in the 1990s, be a coveted trophy awarded to the most outstanding Automotive Parts and Accessories Merchandising Apprentice of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps(RNZAOC).

Apprenticeships for the Automotive Parts and Accessories Merchandising Trade (AP Trade) had been established in 1965 to provide the RNZAOC with skilled tradespeople for employment in RNZAOC Workshops Stores Sections that had been established as part of Royal New Zealand Electrical Mechanical and Electrical Engineers(RNZEME) Workshops and Light Aid Detachments in 1962.

The role of RNZAOC Stores Sections was to carry and manage the specialised holdings of spares, assemblies & workshop materials (Class 9 stores) of their parent workshops.

Administered by the New Zealand Trade Certification Board (now the New Zealand Qualifications Authority), the Automotive Parts and Accessories Merchandising apprentice training scheme consisted of 9000 working hours of study and on the job training with three Trade Board examinations required to gain the trade qualification.

Initially, apprentices would begin their training as 16-year-old Regular Force Cadets (RF Cadets), who, on graduation, would complete their apprentice training at the Main Ordnance Depot, MT Spares Section at Trentham Camp. However, during the 1970s, RNZAOC direct entry recruits were also accepted as apprentices.

Further progression in the AP trade was achieved by qualified apprentices undertaking the New Zealand Management Certificate in Automotive Parts & Accessories Merchandising. the first two Certificate level qualifications were awarded in 1988 To;

  • Sergeant M Wilson (0001)
  • Sergeant S O’Brien (0002)

The final AP Trade Apprentice would be recruited in 1996, following which the apprentice scheme would cease as the foundation for the AP Trade.

Warrant Officer Class One Bryan Nelson Jennings

Bryan was born in Wellington in 1926. Too young to see active service in WW2, Bryan served with the Melrose Battalion, Wellington South Home Guard unit from 1 April 1943 to 1 April 1944, attaining the rank of Corporal.

Volunteering for service with ‘J ‘ Force, the New Zealand component of the British Occupation Forces (BCOF) in Japan, Bryana would be posted to 4 New Zealand Base Ordnance Depot (later renamed to 4 NZ Ordnance Field Park) in August 1946. Completing his engagement, Bryan would return to New Zealand on 14 September 1947. Following a short period posted to the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham as part of the post-war Interim Army, Bryan was soon discharged and returned to civilian life.

Enlisting into the Regular Forces RNZAXCO on1 April 1948, Bryan undertook a short period of refresher training at the Army School of Instruction at Trentham before being posted to the Main Ordnance Depot as a storeman in the Technical Spares Group and later in the Tyre Store.

Temporarily posted to 10 Coastal Regiment RNZA at Fort Dorset, Bryan, like many of his contemporaries, would be employed on the wharves during the 1951 Waterfront Workers strike.

Promoted to Temporary Sergeant on 25 November 1953, Bryan would be promoted Staff Sergeant on 13 October 1958. Poste to 1 Composite Ordnance Company n loan back in 1964, Bryan would remain at the Main Ordnance Depot.

Posted to 1 General Troops Workshops, Stores Section, Linton Camp as a Warrant Officer Class Two in 1965, Bryan would soon find himself loaned back to the Central Districts Motor Transport Workshops at Trentham.

Seconded to the New Zealand Cadre (Fiji) of the Fijian Military Forces in 1968 as a Temporary Warrant Officer Class One in 1968, Bryan would spend the next two years assisting in the training and development of the Fiji Military Forces.

Returning to New Zealand in January 1971, Bryan was posted to 1 Base Workshops, Trentham and promoted to Warrant Officer Class One. Bryan would remain at 1 Base Workshops and the IC Stores section until his release from the army on n 21 April 1981.

During Bryans more than thirty-two years of service, he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct medal on 25 March 1965, followed by the Meritorious Service Medal on19 April 1978.

Following his retirement, Bryan would remain in Upper Hurt. Staying engaged with the community, Bryan was an active member of the Lions organisation and a member of the School Board of the Heretaunga College.

Bryan passed away on 9 August 1989 at Upper Hurt after a long illness.

In his memory, The Bryan Nelson Jennings memorial trophy was instituted in 1991. Although not an AP Trade Apprentice himself, Bryan was a mentor to many apprentices and was described as a legend in the trade.

The object of the award was to provide a tangible mark of achievement and was intended to encourage junior soldiers of the AP trade to reach and maintain a high standard of professional competence and personnel integrity.

Nominations for the award were graded against the following attributes:

  • Basic Soldier Skills
  • Loyalty
  • Sportsmanship
  • Enthusiasm
  • Dress, bearing and personnel appearance
  • Trade Skills

Personnel eligible for consideration for the trophy were to meet the following requirements

  • Not be above the rank of Substantive Lance Corporal
  • Must have attended either 1st, 2nd or 3rd qualifying examinations in the past 12 Months
  • Must still be serving their apprenticeship.

The Trophy now resides at the Trade Training School of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment.


NZ Military 1st Generation Vehicles

The recent announcement that the New Zealand Defence Force is purchasing the Australian Bushmaster 5.5 protected mobility vehicle provides the right opportunity to look back at the first generation of specialist military vehicles utilised by the New Zealand Military.

NZ Bushmaster 5.5

For many years New Zealand’s military relied upon a small number of civilian horse-drawn carts and wagons to move personnel and equipment, with the Commandant of the Forces noting in 1905 that “Supply and transport equipment was wanting.”[1]

During 1906/1907, New Zealand’s Military undertook a significant reorganisation, and for the first time a defined equipment policy was adopted. It was recommended in the Commandant’s report to Parliament that a minimum number of vehicles, including saddles and harnesses, be provided for the force, including;[2]

  • telegraph-carts
  • ambulance wagons
  • medical water-carts
  • carts for small-arms ammunition supply
  • General Service (GS) field service wagons

The experience gained in the recent South Africa war impressed on the military the importance of equipment standardisation. So along with the weapons, uniforms and equipment used by New Zealand, these Carts and Wagons were as much as possible to be of a standard Imperial pattern.

To initiate the purchase of Carts and Wagons £1000 (2021 NZD 177,225.38) was provided in the 1907-08 Defence estimates for the 1908 appropriations. It was anticipated that some could be made in New Zealand with the balance purchased overseas.[3]  Ongoing appropriations up to 1913 would be,

  • 1908-09 – £1500 (2021 NZD 267-986.26)
  • 1909-10 – £1500 (2021 NZD 268-891.62)
  • 1910-11 – £2500 (2021 NZD$451,816.08)
  • 1911-12 – £2500 (2021 NZD$447,246.12)
  • 1912-13 – £1841 (2021 NZD$330,242.79)
  • 1913-14 – £2350 (2021 NZD$408,030.13)

To provide some context to these amounts, the cost of a Mark X G.S Wagon in 1905 was £61(2021 NZD$11,421.09) with a Wagon Ambulance Mark V costing £136 (NZD$25,517.45) in 1903.

The outcome of this spending was that in time for the 1908 Easter camps; the following equipment was issued to the Military Districts, complete with harnesses from the Defence Stores.[4]

  • Five locally made Colonial Pattern Ambulance-wagons. These were assessed to be superior to the three Mark V Imperial pattern carts already on issue, which were considered too heavy for colonial requirements.[5] 
  • Five Colonial Pattern GS wagons
  • Five Small Arms Ammunition Carts
  • Five water-carts

In 1909 a Maltese cart and a Mark V General Service Wagon were ordered from the United Kingdom. On arrival in New Zealand, these pieces of equipment were to be utilised as samples to manufacture this type in New Zealand. Arrangements for the supply of four additional local pattern water carts were also put into place.[6]

The roster of transport Vehicles available to the NZ Miltary in 1912 was;[7]

  • Five Colonial Pattern Ambulance Wagons
  • Three Mark V Imperial Ambulance Wagons
  • Five Colonial Pattern GS wagons
  • Five Small Arms Ammunition Carts
  • Nine Water Carts
  • One Mark V GS wagon as a sample for manufacture
  • One Cable Cart, with four on order

By 1913 the inventory of Transport vehicles had mildly increased with some specialist carts for the Field Engineers.[8]

  • Five Colonial Pattern Ambulance Wagons
  • Three Mark V Imperial Ambulance Wagons
  • Five Colonial Pattern GS Wagons
  • Five Small Arms Ammunition Carts
  • Nine Water Carts
  • One Mark V GS Wagon as a sample for manufacture
  • Four Cable Carts
  • Six Carts (Royal Engineer), double
  • Four Pontoon Wagons (Complete with pontoons)
  • One Maltese cart as a sample for manufacture

With the standing up of the Army Service Corps(ASC) Companys, the lack of Field Transport was highlighted in the 1913 camps. It was recognised that maintaining all of the ASC Companys with their war or even peace requirements was impossible in the current fiscal environment. To reduce the ASC reliance on hiring civilian wagons and carts, It was recommended that each ASC company have at least two wagons and carts to allow training and camp use.[9] In the Director of Stores Annual Report for 1913/14, it was noted that provision for Thirty Two Colonial Pattern GS Wagons had been made in the estimates for 1913/1914, but tenders for their purchase had not yet been issued.[10]

Following the mobilisation of the NZEF in 1914, much of the available transport was dispatched overseas. Requirements for Carts and Wagons for the NZEF and Territorial Camps were met by hiring or impressing equipment into service. By late 1916/1917, hiring and impressing of field transport had ceased with the latest pattern Horse Ambulance, Water Cart and General Service wagons in use with medical and ASC units.[11]

Examples of three types of the latest pattern Military Wagons of the New Zealand Military pictured at Trentham Camp C1917.

  • Mk X GS wagon
  • Wagons, Limbered, GS
  • Mark II Horse Ambulance

Mk X GS Wagon

The British military had developed the General Service wagon over many years of research and development based on operational experience with ten “marks” of General Service wagons designed between 1862 and 1905. The Mark 1 GS Wagon was a versatile platform that could easily transport 1.5 tons on fair roads with a team of two horses. If the terrain demanded it, additional horses could easily be added to assist. The final iteration before the introduction of motor transport was the Mark X GS wagon introduced in 1905. [12] The first standardised military transport vehicle, the Mark X, would be manufactured in England, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Wagon GS

Wagons, Limbered, GS

Wagons, Limbered GS were two-wheeled carts (limbers) linked by a short pole or perch and drawn by horses. Their articulated design created an agile vehicle that, although unable to carry the same load as a GS Wagon, was the preferred cart for mobile units.[13]

Wagon Limbered GS

Mark II Horse Ambulance

Any injured horse needing care could be evacuated by this Horse Ambulance. The Mk II Horse Ambulance is a reversible vehicle, allowing loading from either end. The arch over the body is part of the axle and, when necessary, could provide sturdy support to an injured horse.[14]

Mark II Horse Ambulance

 


Notes

[1] “Defence Forces of New Zealand (Report by the)  by Major-General J.M Babington, Commandant of the Forces,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives  ( 1 August 1905), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1905-I.2.4.2.31.

[2] “Defence Forces of New Zealand report by the Council of Defence and by the Inspector-General of the New Zealand Defence Forces for the year 1907.,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives  ( 1 January  1907), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1907-I.2.4.2.28.

[3] “Appropriations chargeable on the consolidated fund and other accounts for the year ending 31st March 1908,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives, 1907 Session 1, B-07  ( 1 August 1907), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1907-I.2.1.3.7/3.

[4] “Defence Forces of New Zealand: Report by the Council of Defence and extracts from the report of the Inspector-General of the NZ Defence Forces, for the year ended 28th February 1908,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives, 1909 Session II, H-19  (28 February 1909), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1909-II.2.4.2.28.

[5] James O’Sullivan, “Correspondence from Surgeon General, New Zealand Forces,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24752338  (8 May 1902-1908).

[6] “Defence Forces of New Zealand: Report by the Council of Defence, for the year ended 28th February 1910,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1910 Session I, H-19  (28 February 1910), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1910-I.2.3.2.29.

[7] “Defence Forces of New Zealand: Report of the General Officer Commanding the Forces for the period 28 July 1911 to 27th June 1912,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives, 1912 Session II, H-19  (27 June 1912), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1912-II.2.4.2.37.

[8] “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand for the period 28 June 1912 to 20 June 1913,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives  (1 January 1913), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1913-I.2.5.2.34.

[9] “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand for the period 20 June 1913 to 25 June 1914,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1 January 1914), https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/AJHR1914-I.2.3.2.29.

[10] James O’Sullivan, “Report of the Director of Equipment & Stores for the year ending 31 March 1914,” Archives New Zealand Item No R22432126  (8 May 1914).

[11] “H-19 Defence Forces of New Zealand, Report of  the General Officer Commanding the Forces, From 1st June 1916, to 31st May 1917,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1 January 1917).

[12] Ernest Ryan, “Army horse transport: General Service, Ambulance and other vehicles from the Crimean war to Mechanization,” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research 42, no. 171 (1964), http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/stable/44223504.

[13] Ryan, “Army horse transport: General Service, Ambulance and other vehicles from the Crimean war to Mechanization.”

[14] “Mark II Horse Ambulance,” RLC Horse-Drawn Heritage, 2019, accessed 18 August 2021, https://www.rlcheritage.co.uk/page7.html.



Belmonts Chemical Weapon Stockpile

Of all the Ammunition magazine areas constructed in New Zealand during the Second World War, the Belmont magazine area was nestled in the hills north of Wellington between the Hutt and Porirua was the largest and closest to a large population area. In the early 1970s, following the removal, disassembly for scrap, and destruction of its stocks, Belmont’s life as an magazine area concluded with the land was reverting to civilian use.   As with any retired military facility kept out of the public eye during its operational life, urban legends and rumor’s thrive about secret tunnels and forgotten caches of buried military material.  In this respect, Belmont is no different as items such as empty 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft projectiles are occasionally discovered, fueling such rumor’s. Although there is little evidence to support the stories and urban legends, Belmont does have some secrets from its wartime past. The most significant is that Belmont was the home to the bulk of New Zealand’s chemical weapon stockpile.

As the threat of war with Japan became inevitable in 1940, the New Zealand Government would begin a progressive mobilisation of New Zealand’s home defence forces. By early 1942 this mobilisation would see two Infantry Brigades deployed to Fiji and Three Divisions and several independent Brigades mobilised for home defence.

This massive mobilisation initiated a rearmament program resulting in vast amounts of war material from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States being delivered to New Zealand. Included as part of the infusion of new weapons and equipment was the required scales of ammunition required for each type of weapon system. Ammunition scales used by New Zealand were based upon the standard British scales. They included all the ammunition natures needed by New Zealand for use in the Pacific and home defence, including Anti-Tank, High-Explosive, Smoke and a stockpile of Chemical rounds consisting of,

  • 112,770 25-Pounder Chemical rounds, and
  • 10,300 4.2-inch B4 (Tear) and Y4(Blister) chemical mortar bombs.

With consignments of ammunition due to arrive in New Zealand from late 1942, construction of the new ammunition magazine areas had been initiated in 1940, with the construction of the Belmont Magazine Area beginning in September 1942.[1]  The Belmont Magazine Area would consist of sixty-two Magazine buildings, with buildings 28 and 29 dedicated to holding chemical rounds from late 1943.

All the 4.2inch Bombs were stored at Belmont with the recommended distribution of the 25-Pounder chemical rounds been,[2]

  • 30,000 rounds to the Northern Military District
  • 30,000 rounds to the Southern Military District
  • 52,770 rounds to the Central Military District Belmont Depot

However, records are uncertain if this distribution occurred, so it is quite probable that the entire stock of 25-Pounder ammunition was held at Belmont.

The New Zealand Stockpile was significant as a lethal percutaneous dose of mustard was 4.5 gm. With 300 tons of the agent in the NZ stockpile, the potential lethal doses held in Belmont was approximately 60 million. To put the size of the stockpile in context, it was equal to 5% of the United States Stockpile in 1993.

The use of Chemical Weapons was highly controlled and only to be used in retaliation if the enemy used it first. Although US forces on Guadalcanal had captured some Japanese Chemical Weapons, the NZ Deputy Chiefs of Staff was confident that there did ‘not appear to be any other or greater evidence that the Japanese propose to use gas in this area’. However, it is believed that 3 NZ Div did deploy with Chemical rounds for their 25-pounders just in case.

If Chemical rounds were deployed with the 3 NZ Div, they would have been returned to New Zealand in 1944 and stored at the Kelms Road Depot at Ngaruawahia alongside the other natures of ammunition utilised by the Division.

Following the war, the disposal of wartime ammunition would become a standing task for the RNZAOC Ammunition functions as damaged, obsolete, and surplus stocks were disposed of by a variety of methods.

Ammunition that was damaged would often be disposed of by demolition, with, for example, the destruction of 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft ammunition issued to units and returned to Depots would take up to 1957 to complete.[3]

The stockpile of chemical munitions would be dumped at sea, with two dumping operations found in archival sources.[4]

  • Two hundred tons of chemical shells scuttled on the tug Maui Pomare at the 100-fathom line in the Hauraki Gulf in April 1946.
  • One thousand five hundred tons of 25-Pounder chemical shells and twenty tons of bombs had been dumped by the Marine Department steamer Matai off the Wellington coast by October 1946.

Stock from the Belmont magazine area was delivered by Army personnel to the wharf at the RNZAF base at Shelly Bay in lots of 250 Tons and loaded onto the Marine Department steamer Matai. All possible safety precautions were applied with each crew member was issued protective capes, respirators and gloves. With special chutes constructed, cases of shells were jettisoned fifty Nautical miles off the Wellington coast in the Cook Strait Canyon, which reaches depths of three kilometres.[5]

N Z Government S S Matai, on patent slip at Evans Bay, Wellington. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-049255-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22744146

The dumping of the Chemical munitions was well publicised with newspaper articles describing the disposal operation;[6]

Stored since 1943, 1500 tons of gas shells are to be dumped at sea by the Matai.  Fuses have been removed from the 25lb shells that contain the gas, but to ensure that there is no risk to those carrying out the work, full Admiralty and War Office safeguards will, be taken. The gas is of the blister variety. The boxes containing the shells will be filled with sand to guard against possible leakages. Each box is painted with a substance that will indicate even a pinpoint of escaped gas.

Northern Advocate, 18 September 1946

Although the archival records that at least 15,220 tons of Chemical munitions had been dumped at sea by the end of 1946, there is no accurate reconciliation of the actual number of rounds disposed of. However, it would be a reasonable assumption that New Zealand had no desire to maintain a contingency stock of Chemical weapons and that all wartime stocks were disposed of by the end of 1946.


Notes

[1] F Grattan, Official War History of the Public Works Department (PWD, 1948).

[2] “Defence Works – Magazine – Belmont Hills,” Archives New Zealand Item No R22435088  (1942).

[3] “H-19 Military Forces of New Zealand Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding, for period 1 April 1957 to 31 March 1958,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (3 July 1958 1958).

[4] “Ammunition – Disposal of unserviceable ammunition 1945-1952,” Archives New Zealand Item No R21465842  (1945).

[5] A Hubbard, “Chemical War: Our seabed legacy,” New Zeland Listner, 16 January 1993.

[6] “Gas Shells to be Dumped at Sea,” Northern Advocate, 18 September 1946, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NA19460918.2.17.


National Service Reminiscences

Military conscription in New Zealand was first introduced in 1910 to build and maintain a credible force that would allow New Zealand to play its part in defence of the British Empire.  Initially intended to feed the Territorial Army, conscription was extended in 1916 to allow men to be conscripted directly into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). Conscription would be suspended during the lean post-Bellum years and re-established in 1940 as a wartime measure to satisfy New Zealand’s wartime personnel commitments.

New Zealand’s 1945 post-war commitments required the raising and mounting of a Division for service in the Middle East. The only way the personnel requirements for a Division could be met would be through conscription. A referendum was conducted in1949, resulting in a yes for Compulsory Military Training (CMT), which would commence in 1950.

The CMT scheme would train 63033 men up to 1958 when the Labour Government ceased CMT. In 1961 the National Government introduced a new National Service Act, which would require all males to register with the Labour Department on or before their 20th birthday. Following registration, ballots would be conducted to select individuals to undertake military training.

Training would consist of three months of initial full-time training, during which the men would be given the choice of three weeks part-time training in a Territorial unit for three years or one year’s service in a Regular Force unit. The National Service Scheme would last until 1972, when it was discontinued due to a changing social and economic environment.  

Since 1972 there has been no Military conscription in New Zealand. Since 1972 there have been many calls for the re-introduction of Military conscription to instill a sense of citizenship and discipline to reduce unemployment and youth crime. However, no major political party has made any significant policy statements on the re-introduction of military conscription.

The following are the remanences of John Mudgway, who at the age of 19, was selected by Ballot to undertake National Service as part of the first intake in 1961.

My Military Career by John Mudgway

When the National Government brought back military service in 1961 it was named National Service. We had to register with the Labour Department and the Golden Kiwi lottery marbles were used to draw certain birth dates. The “winners” of these birth dates were ordered into Waiouru Military Camp for 7 weeks basic training and were then posted to a Territorial Unit to complete their 3-year term. This was done in 3 annual camps, plus local parades. They then went to reserves for a further three years.

There was an option offered to us – which was we could serve one-year regular force and then be put on reserve for a further 3 years. I chose the latter.

Waiouru Camp
10 May 1962 – 27 June 1962

I was posted to Waiouru Military Camp and arrived on 9th May 1962, along with 549 other young lads.

Above left – Recruits leaving the train at Waiouru Camp rail siding before entering the camp to begin 14 weeks
training, at the end of which they will be posted to “Territorial Force Units.”
Right – Recruits E L McFeran (left) and R A Shaw sorting out equipment, clothing and bedding in their barrack
room.

I did seven weeks basic training – learning the military way of life, marching, shooting, and cleaning boots and weapons etc. One lasting memory I have is of being told that – in the event of an atomic blast, lay on the ground, cover myself with my greatcoat, have no skin exposed – and I would survive!

John Mudgway (Hastings), Ned Kinita (Waipukurau)
and Robyn Gunderson (Dannevirke).

Trentham Military Camp
28 June 1962 – 9 May 1963

When I arrived in camp, RSM Ordnance Schools, School Sergeant Major Alfred Wesseldine, decided they would not run the school for just me, so I was posted direct to MT Spares for the duration of my service.

Myself (Pte John Mudgway) (on left) and Dennis Leslie Goldfinch (who retired as a WO1). We are facing the main building of MT Spares in the MOD Compound. August 1962. Behind us in part of the wavy roof building, was the Uniform Store and smoko room.
On our left is a large, grassed area that was covered in 25 pounder artillery pieces that were being cut up for scrap by a private contractor. Further to the left was the Tyre Store that “Goldie” was in charge of.

Below is the two of us in 2012 (50 years later)

During my service in RNZAOC I participated in several events.

I was part of a Guard of Honour for the Chief of the Imperial General Staff at Wellington Airport when he flew in.
I was also in a Guard of Honour for the NZ Chief of Staff at Wellington Airport when he flew in.

I was part of the street lining contingent that paraded on the streets of Wellington City for the Queen when she visited in February 11 & 12 1964. (I saw her 23 times). We drove the streets of Wellington in 2 RL Bedfords, to places in streets she was to move through, detrucked and stood at attention on the road-sides while she passed, back to the trucks and on to our next destination. She must have thought there were a lot of handsome young lads in our army.

Escorted a prisoner the Ardmore Prison, by overnight train in 1964. I was the junior escort.

I was dragged out of the barracks at 2am one morning and trucked over to Mangaroa, Whitemans Valley Tent Loft to drag tents from a burnt-out building.

One of my jobs during my service was to sit out between two of the stores buildings and empty the brass fire extinguishers that had been returned to us from all the other stores round the country. These extinguishers were filled with carbon-tetrachloride and after spraying the contents into buckets for several days we were quite “high” ourselves. I presume the brass containers went for scrap.

During my time in M T Spares I worked with Staff Sgt Kevin Anderson, Goldie of course, and Pte’s Vic Fletcher and Tammy Tamihana. Our Stores Officer was Geoff Atkinson first, then latterly Captain R G H Golightly. Our C S M was WO 1 Maurie Bull. We also had some civilian workers in our stores, one of whom was retired Sgt Bert Royal. Also there were a group of prisoners from Waitako Prison that used to come and do the “dirty jobs” that we didn’t have to do.

I also did a couple of Camp Patrols in the MOD Compound. We had to patrol the compound several times during the night and were supposed to sleep in the Gate House.

Trentham Camp 26 July 2012

Not a bad years work for a 19/20 year old Hastings lad.


581769 Private Mudgway J W.