Tragedy at Tikao Bay

Today Tikao Bay is a calm, peaceful little bay with a laid-back holiday vibe hidden away in Akaroa Harbour with few clues remaining of its military use and the tragic drowning of two Ordnance soldiers.

During World War Two, with the threat of invasion by Japan just over the horizon, the isolated Akaroa Harbour would be fortified to deny its use by the enemy. However, by the time the battery of 6-inch guns,  Naval Armament Depot and controlled minefield was completed in 1943, the threat had diminished, with the defences becoming an expensive white elephant. In early 1944 The controlled minefield was fired, and all the navy stores at the Tikao Bay Naval Armament Depot were transferred to other installations and facilities offered to the army.[1]

Akaroa Harbour Defences. Peter Cooke Defending New Zealand 2000

The extensive facilities at Tikao Bay, including a mine magazine, examination room, primer magazine wharf and accommodation buildings, were taken over by the Southern District’s Ordnance Depot at Burnham Camp in 1944 as a satellite storage depot for Gun and Artillery Equipment.[2] With an initial establishment of seven men in 1944, this had been reduced by 1955 to two soldiers responsible for the storage and maintenance of the equipment held at Tikao Bay.

Former Defence buildings Tikao Bay. Suff.co.nz/Ewen Sargent

Staff Sergeant Frederick Hastings Kirk aged 52, was married with three children and had been the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the Tikao Bay depot since 1950. Staff Sergeant Kirk had joined the Ordnance Depot at Burnham in 1939 as a civilian before enlisting into the 2nd NZEF early in 1940. As a Temporary Warrant Officer Class Two in 23 Battalion, Kirk was taken prisoner at Crete in 1941 and would remain a Prisoner of War for four and a half years. On his return to New Zealand, he joined the temporary staff and was posted to the Ordnance Depot at Burnham. In 1948 he became a member of the Regular Force and transferred to Tikao Bay in 1950. 

Private Donald George Dixon was aged 28 and was married with three children. Private Dixon would initially serve with the ammunition inspection branch after his 1953 enlistment and was transferred to the Tikao Bay Depot in October 1953.

On Tuesday, 10 March 1955, on completion of their daily duties, Kirk and Dixon left the depot at about 7 pm to check a set net approximately 200 yards (183 Meters) from the Tikao bay jetty. Having not returned by 11 pm, the police were notified, and Constable Egan of Akaroa and Mr G Brasell undertook an initial search. At 3 am Wednesday, Egan and Brasell located the missing men’s upturned dingy at the high-water mark near the set net, which was still in position. Reinforced with a party from Burnham Camp, local residents, and the police, the search for the missing men, would continue for the rest of the week.[3]

Private Dixon’s body was located and recovered from the harbour on Saturday morning.[4] The search for Staff Sergeants Kirks body would continue with his body found on 18 March.[5] It was assumed that a southerly wind had risen after the two men left the depot, causing the dingy to capsize with the coroner’s report ruling the deaths as asphyxia by drowning due to misadventure.

Tikao Bay would remain as an Army installation and training area into the early 1970s; however, its role as a storage depot would cease in the 1960s as the army progressively disposed of the remaining artillery equipment held there.[6]


Notes

[1] Sydney D. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs War History Branch Waters, The Royal New Zealand Navy (Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Dept of Internal Affairs, 1956), 229-36.

[2] “Establishments – Ordnance Corps “, Archives New Zealand No R22441743  (1937 – 1946).

[3] “Two Soldiers Missing,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27606, , 12 March 1955.

[4] “Unsuccessful Search for Body,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27608, , 15 March 1955.

[5] “Soldiers Body Recovered,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27612, , 19 March 1955.

[6] “Army Sells Guns,” Press, Volume C, Issue 29469, , 22 March 1961; “Tikao Bay Depot,” Press, Volume XCIX, Issue 29331, , 10 October  1960.


Once on Chunuk Bair

One of the New Zealand military’s functions is to assist civilian organisations where no viable civilian resources are available.  One such example of this support was in 1991 when the NZ Army provided expertise and personnel to help produce the movie, Chunuk Bair.  

The high point of the New Zealand effort at Gallipoli was the capture of Chunuk Bair, a key feature on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Captured by the Wellington Battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone on 8 August 1915, the New Zealanders would hold the position against violent counterattacks by a motivated and well-led opponent until relieved by British Battalions on 9 August. The latter were driven off Chunuk Bair in a counterattack led by Mustafa Kemal on the early morning of 10 August.

‘The Battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915, by Ion Brown’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/battle-chunuk-bair-8-august-1915-ion-brown, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-May-2014

The anti-Vietnam protest movement of the 1960s and 70s had caused anything related to the ANZAC legend to become unpopular in New Zealand, with ANZAC day commemorations mainly attended by veterans and serving military personnel. The 1981 Australian movie Gallipoli, with its powerful anti-British theme,was released and considered an ‘event of national significance in Australia. This spike of interest across the Tasman was a turning point and provided the springboard for New Zealand playwright Maurice Shadbolt to provide his contribution in enhancing the notion of Gallipoli as the birthplace of New Zealand as a nation with the events at Chunuk Bair as a source of national pride.

Shadbolt’s play Once on Chunuk Bair would open to much praise from the theatre gong public on ANZAC Day 1982 at Auckland’s Mercury Theatre and would reinforce Shadbolt’s view that Chunuk Bair marked the birth of the nation freed from the shackles of British Colonialism. Once on Chunuk Bair gave the battle of Chunuk Bair the same national significance to New Zealand that the Australians place on their magnificent debacle at Lone Pine and the Nek. Despite a short theatrical run, Shadbolt’s play would become popular in schools and universities as it was taught and performed as part of the educational experience in a similar way that the Australians use the movie Gallipoli.

With the 75th anniversary of Gallipoli observed in 1990, a shift in public consciousness toward Gallipoli was revived, and Once on Chunuk Bair was made into a movie during 1991. Produced on a low budget and aimed at a New Zealand audience. The Army Museum provided much technical advice, uniforms and props, with the Army also providing significant assistance to the production, including expertise in explosives and many Men as extras. RNZAOC ammunition technical officer (ATO) Ian Juno would be listed in the credits as providing the special effects, and a sizable quantity of soldiers from 1 Base Supply Battalion would feature in many scenes as extras.

With production compressed within four weeks, many of the Large-scale battle scenes were filmed on Wellington’s south coast, a near facsimile of the terrain of Gallipoli, with the more detailed scenes filmed in a specially constructed set at the Avalon studios.

Chunuk.jpg

Although the final product was disappointing and did not have the same polished attributes as the earlier Australian movie Gallipoli, it complements Christopher Pugsley’s 1984 TVNZ documentary Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, the Voices of Gallipoli in establishing the Gallipoli Campaign and the Chunuk Bair battle as the cornerstones of the national identity.


New Zealand Army Logistics Corps Stable Belts

Worn by some New Zealand Army units since the mid-1960s, it would not be until 1973 that wearing of stable belts (commonly referred to as Corps or Regimental Belts in the New Zealand Army) was authorised across the New Zealand Army. In adopting a stable belt, A small number of units would adopt belts of a unique design, however most New Zealand corps, regiments, and infantry battalions would choose designs based the regimental colours of parent or allied units of the British Army. The three Logistics Corps of the NZ Army would adopt stable belts of a British design and it would not be until 1996 and the formation of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR) that a unique New Zealand Logistic stable belt would be adopted.

Stable belts have their origins in the British Army. Cavalrymen (and ASC and AOC personnel from trades associated with horses) found that by modifying a Cavalry “Surcingle,” they would have a belt that was very useful in providing lower back support when cleaning stables and tending horses. As British military uniforms became more utilitarian, lacking the colour and flair of earlier patterns, the wearing of coloured “stable belts” in regimental colours evolved, adding a splash of colour and individuality to the drab khaki working uniforms of the period.

The use of coloured stable belts in regimental colours spread to all branches of the British Army, becoming established as a uniform item following World War Two. Most commonwealth countries would follow the example of the British Army and adopt the coloured stable belt of the Corps or Regiments to which they had links or alliances. The adoption of stable belts by the NZ Army was far from enthusiastic, and it was not until the mid-1960s that stable belts started to make their appearance. It would not be until 1973 that the Army Dress Committee officially approved the universal wearing of stable belts for all Regiments and Corps of the NZ Army.

Stable Belts have generally been manufactured from a 21/2- to 3-inch-wide belt of a heavily woven material with horizontal stripes in two or more colours. Buckle types would vary with six main types used.

  • Single tongue leather buckle. In NZ only used by the 4th Otago and Southland Battalion
  • Multi tongue leather buckle. Consisting of two leather buckles
  • Single Locket
  • Triple Locket. In NZ only used on the 5th Wellington West Coast Battalion Other Ranks Stable belt.
  • Rectangular plate (Matt colour or Chromed) and Cap Badge design.
  • Web Belt clasp. Used on Interim RNZALR Stable belt.

RNZASC stable belt

Photographic evidence suggests that the Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps (RNZASC) adopted the British Army Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) stable belt sometime around 1970. However, the exact year is unknown. Until its disestablishment in1965, the RASC had worn a stable belt with a blue base with two central white stripes and two yellow stripes on the borders. A stable belt with a multi tongue leather buckle, the RASC stable belt was worn with two leather buckles worn on the right hip. The same pattern stable belt was worn by the Canadian ASC up to 1968 and continues to be worn by the Malaysian Kor Perkhidmatan Diraja (Royal Logistics Corps).

RASC/RNZASC stable belt. Angus Kirk Collection

In late 1974 early 1975 the RNZASC retired the RASC belt and adopted the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT) stable belt. Adopted by the RCT in 1965 and then by the Royal Australian Corps of Transport (RACT) in 1973.

RCT/RNZCT stable. Robert

RNZCT stable belt

On 12 May 1979, the RNZASC ceased to exist, as its Supply functions were transferred to the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC), while the Transport, Movements and Catering functions were reformed into the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT). The RCT pattern stable belt would continue to serve as the stable belt of the RNZCT throughout the RNZCTs existence within the NZ Army. The only change to the belt throughout its life would be some subtle changes to the design of the buckle.

Early Pattern RCT/RNZASC/RNZCT stable belt. Robert McKie collection
Late Pattern RCT/RNZCT stable belt. Robert McKie collection

RNZAOC stable belt

There is much photographic evidence of RNZAOC officers and soldiers in Singapore unofficially wearing British (Single locket) and Malaysian (multi tongue leather buckle) Ordnance Corps stable Belts during the 1970-72 period. The RNZAOC would initially discuss introducing stable Belts in 1969, with approval for the RNZAOC stable belt granted in 1972. The RNZAOC Belt would be the same pattern as the RAOC belt but would have a rectangular chrome plate mounted with RNZAOC Badge.

RNZAOC stable belt. Robert McKie collection

RNZEME stable belt

With its distinctive dark blue background with red and yellow stripes, the stable belt of the Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME)was introduced in 1967 and was based on the Royal and Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) stable belt. The upper portion of the right-hand buckle carried the Corps motto (Arte et Marte). The right-hand piece had the RNZEME badge.

RNZEME stable belt. Robert.McKie Collection

RLC stable belt

In 1993, in the most significant reorganisation of its Logistic Support since 1965, the British Army formed the Royal Logistic Regiment (RLC) by combining the RCT, RAOC, Catering and Pioneer Corps into the new Regiment. Eager to retain the values and traditions of its foundation Corps and Regiments, the RLC retained many elements of its founding corps Regimental colours and the history they represented in the design of the RLC stable belt. The REME would remain a separate Corps outside of the RLC.

RLC stable belt

RNZALR stable belt

In a similar initiative to the British Army’s formation of the RLC, the NZ Army would also combine its logistic functions into a single Logistic Regiment. The significant difference between the British and New Zealand logistical changes was that the RNZEME would also be disestablished and included in the NZ Logistic Regiment.

On 9 December 1996, the Officers and Soldiers of the RNZCT, RNZAOC and RNZEME marched onto parade grounds on each camp and base. Corps flags were lowered, headwear and stable belts exchanged, and the Officers and Soldiers marched off as members of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR).

With the colourful stable belts of three RNZALR foundation corps and the collective history of service to New Zealand since 1840 that they represented retired, the RNZALR would take a different approach to the RLC in selecting a new stable belt. While the RLC had embraced its foundation Corps’ values and traditions, the RNZALR would divorce itself from the past and adopt a plain navy-blue stable belt

As stock of the new RNZALR stable belt were not available on the formation of the New Regiment, a temporally belt was issued. Consisting of a navy-blue belt with Web Belt clasps, the interim belt would be retired within a year as stocks of the new RNZALR Stable belt became available.

The only distinctive feature of the RNZALRs stable belt is locket style Chrome buckle, which includes the following features

  • The RNZALR Corps badge on the male side of the buckle
  • The RNZALR motto “Ma Nga Hua Tu Tangata”, on the female side of the buckle.