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.


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