Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps

In British and Commonwealth military doctrine, there has long been a separation of responsibility for Supplies and Stores

  • Supplies – The provisioning, storing and distributing of food for soldiers, forage for animals; Fuel, Oil and Lubricants (FOL) for tanks, trucks and other fuel-powered vehicles and equipment; and the forward transport and distribution of ammunition. In the NZ Army, Supplies were managed by the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC) from 1911 to 1979.
  • Stores – The provisioning, storage and distribution of weapons, munitions and military equipment not managed by RNZASC. Stores were the Responsibility of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC) until 1996.

Despite the separation of responsibilities, the RNZASC and RNZAOC had a long and cooperative relationship.

During early colonial days, the early actions of the New Zealand Wars proved that the New Zealand bush and the elusive tactics of the Maori presented new problems of supply and transport. An Imperial Supply and Transport Service was established and operated with the Imperial troops.

From the end of the New Zealand Wars until 1910, there was no unit of ASC in New Zealand, with the supply functions required by the New Zealand Military provided by the Defence Stores Department. However, in 1911 the formation of the Divisional Trains saw the beginnings of the NZASC as part of the Territorial Army. NZASC units served in World War One, during which the NZASC and NZAOC would, especially in the early years of the war, often share personnel, facilities, and transportation.

In 1917 the NZAOC was established as a permanent component of the New Zealand Military Forces, however it would not be until 1924 that the Permanent NZASC was formed. The alliance between the NZASC and the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was approved in 1925.

The RASC has its roots much deeper in history. Up to the time of Cromwell, armies mainly lived by plunder. The RASC came into being in 1888. but the work it would perform was being done long before that.

Cromwell and then the Duke of Marlborough, and later Napoleon organised a system of civilian commissaries. The Duke of York established the Corps of Royal Waggoners in 1794. This purely transport organisation continued until 1869 under various names, eventually, as the Military Train, fighting as light cavalry in the Indian Mutiny.

The birth of the Supplies and Transport Service dates from 1869. when the Commissariat and the officers of the Military Train along with the Military Stores Department came under one department called the Control Department, it remained for General Sir Redvers Buller, in 1888, to organise the first Army Service Corps. Since its formation, the RASC has been a combatant corps , trained and armed as infantry and responsible for its own protection. Considered a more technical Corps the NZAOC was not granted combatant status until 1942.

During World War Two, many units and establishments represented the NZASC in all the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) theatres. Again, as in the earlier World War, the NZASC would have a cooperative relationship with New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) Ammunition Examiners (AEs) were on the establishments of the RNZASC Ammunition platoons, with NZASC Warrant Officers attached to the NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park (OFP) to provide technical advice on vehicle spares. As a tribute to the service of the NZASC in WW2, the title, “Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps,’’ was bestowed in 1946.

In the post-war era, the NZASC and from 1946 the RNZASC would serve with distinction in J Force in Japan and then contribute the second-largest New Zealand contingent to K Force in Korea by providing 10 Transport Company.

Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the RNZASC would be an integral part of the New Zealand Army. Its functions ranging from the everyday task of cooking and serving food to the more spectacular operation of dropping supplies by air.

To purchase, store, rail, ship, and otherwise distribute the amount of food, fuels and oils needed to supply a modern army, the RNZASC maintained Supply Depots and employed many kinds of tradespeople, including Butchers. Supply Depots would be located in Papakura, Waiouru, Linton, Trentham, Burnham and Singapore, holding supplies in bulk and distributing them as required. A section of the RNZASC would be a feature of every army camp with smaller Supply and Transport depots to handle goods received from the central supply depots and provide drivers and transport for many purposes at Devonport/Fort Cautley, Hopuhopu, Papakura, Waiouru. Linton. Trentham, Wellington/Fort Dorset, Christchurch/Addington, and Burnham.

ANZUK Supply Platoon, Singapore – 1972 Standing L to R: Cpl Parker, RAASC. Cpl Olderman, RAASC, Cpl Mcintyre, RAOC. Sgt Frank, RAOC. Cpl Rangi, RNZASC. Sgt Locke, RNZASC. Sgt Bust, RAOC. Pte Mag, RAASC. Cpl David, RAASC. Sitting L to R: Sgt Kietelgen, RAASC. WO2 West, RAOC. Capt Mcnice, RAOC. Maj Hunt, RAASC. Lt Fynn, RAASC. WO2 Cole, RAASC. WO2 Clapton. RAASC

Following the Macleod report that recommended the streamlining of logistic support for the British Army, the RASC merged in 1965 with the Royal Engineers Transportation and Movement Control Service to form the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT). This would see the RASC Supply functions transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). In 1973, following the British lead, the Australians also reformed their Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RAASC) into the Royal Australian Army Corps of Transport (RAACT).

Acknowledging the British and Australian experience, the RNZASC would also undergo a similar transition, and on 12 May 1979, the RNZASC ceased to exist, and its Supply functions transferred to the RNZAOC, while the Transport, Movements and Catering functions were reformed into the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT).

The RNZASC supply functions would be integrated into the RNZAOC, with the Camp Supply Depots becoming NZAOC Supply Platoons numbered as.

  • 14 Supply Platoon, Papakura/Hopuhopu
  • 24 Supply Platoon, Linton
  • 34 Supply Platoon, Burnham
  • 44 Supply Platoon, Waiouru
  • 54 Supply Platoon, Trentham
  • NZ Supply Platoon, Singapore

In recognition of its long RNZASC service, 21 Supply Company was retained as a Territorial Force(TF) unit, initially as the TF element of 4 Supply Company in Waiouru and later as the TF element of 2 Supply Company, Linton. Today 21 Supply is the main North Island Supply unit of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR).

For a short period following the RNZAOC assumption of Supply functions, some RF and TF RNZAOC would periodically be employed within the RNZCT transport Squadrons Combat Supplies sections.

The RNZAOC Butcher trade inherited from the RNZASC would be discontinued in the mid-1980s, with the last of the butchers reclassifying as RNZAOC Suppliers. By the mid-1990s, it was decided as a cost-saving measure to allow the RNZCT catering staff to order directly from commercial foodstuff suppliers, effectively ending the RNZAOC foodstuffs speciality. The only RNZASC trade speciality remaining in the RNZAOC on its amalgamation into the RNZALR was that of petroleum Operator.

The RNZASC and RNZCT like the RNZAOC, have passed their combined responsibilities to the RNZALR. However, the RNZASC and RNZCT maintain a strong association that provides many benefits and opportunities for comradeship to RNZASC/CT Corps members and past and present members of the RNZALR. Another role of the RNZASC/CT association is to ensure that the rich and significant history of the RNZASC/CT is not lost to the future generations of the RNZALR.

Copies of the RNZASC/CT association newsletter from issue 92 can be viewed here

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