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.

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