Auckland Defence Store, 1861 – 1903

Throughout the early 1860s, elements from the Militia and Volunteers supported the Imperial troops undertaking the bulk of the military operations in the early years of the New Zealand Wars. In 1861 as George Grey assumed the role of Governor for a second term, Grey undertook a policy of conciliation while also preparing for war.  As General Cameron built up his Imperial forces, Gray reviewed and overhauled the citizen forces of New Zealand. In January 1862, new regulations for the volunteer force were issued, followed on 18 September,  by the Colonial Defence Act of 1862.  This Act saw the formation of the Colonial Defence Force, the first regular Force in New Zealand. Under the Quartermaster General of the Colonial Defence Force, Captain Robert Collins, the Colonial Store Department and the Militia Store Department assumed the store’s responsibility for the Militia, Volunteer and Regular Forces of New Zealand.

In Auckland, the Colonial Store Department and the Militia Store Department initially operated out of offices in Princes Street. However, approval was granted in October 1863 for the erection of a store adjacent to the Imperial Armoury near the Symonds street entrance to the Albert Barracks.[1]  The two Store Departments essentially carried out the same functions, and in 1865 the post of Superintended of Militia Stores held by Mr E.D King was disestablished with the responsibility for colonial defence stores centralised under the Colonial Storekeeper, Captain John Mitchell.

Military Store Albert Barracks 1871

A review of colonial defence with a reliance on local forces taking over from Imperial Forces saw the passing of the Armed Constabulary Act of 10 October 1867. This Act combined police and military functions into the regular Armed Constabulary (AC) Force. The AC Force would be supported by loyal natives, Militia and Volunteer units with Defence Storekeepers in Auckland, Whanganui and Wellington providing the required logistic support.[2]

In April 1869, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Gorton was appointed as the Inspector of Defence Stores, establishing his office at Molesworth Street in Wellington, bringing all New Zealand’s Defence storekeepers under his control.  By January 1869, as the withdrawal of Imperial units became imminent, the dismantling of their central logistic hub at Auckland’s Fort Britomart and Albert Barracks had commenced, with military stores, including guns and ammunition that were not auctioned off to the public or purchased by the New Zealand Government, shipped to the United Kingdom. The departure of the British Military Storekeeper Joseph Osbertus Hamley in July 1870 marked the final withdrawal of Imperial Forces from New Zealand, with the Auckland Defence Store taking over ownership of the Armoury and Magazines located in Albert Barracks.

In May 1869, Captain John Mitchell was suspended as the Auckland Storekeeper due to unauthorised absences. Resigning in July, Mitchell was replaced by Major William St Clair Tisdall as acting Storekeeper. Tisdall was assisted by a small staff, some of whom had served in the stores since 1861, including

  • John Blomfield, Clerk
  • John Price, Clerk
  • D Evitt, Armourer Sergeant
  • Arms Cleaners
    • Mr’s F Gibbons,
    • J Penligan and
    • C.C Rockley

Following the departure of Imperial units, the future of Albert Barracks came under debate. In addition to the Defence Stores, the only other military use of the former barracks was by the local Militia and Volunteers who retained a drill hall and utilised the parade round. The Auckland Improvement (Albert Barrack Reserves) Act 1872 repealed previous Acts relating to the status of Albert Barracks and placed responsibility for the management and disposal of the land under the Auckland Improvement Commissioners.[3] The Auckland Improvement Commissioners would draw up and oversee plans to develop the bulk of the Barracks into a recreational reserve with other areas subdivided into roads and plots of land for further development.

By 1871 the growth of Auckland now placed the ageing powder magazine in the centre of a built-up area, raising concerns about its safety. New powder magazines were constructed at Mount Eden, with the first stocks transferred from Albert Park to Mount Eden in September, following which the Albert Barracks magazines were demolished.[4]  With the Auckland districts supply of ammunition now safety stored at Mount Eden under the care of the Defence Stores magazine keeper, Tisdall and the remaining staff of Storemen and Armourers would remain at Albert Barracks.[5] Initially located in the old Imperial Armoury building at the Symonds Street entrance of Albert Barracks, it was considered an obstruction to the Commissioners projected improvements.[6] To allow the extension of Princes Street and subdivision of the land between Princes and Symonds Street, in July 1873,  the Defence Stores had been moved into the well-constructed stone building that had previously been the Barracks hospital.[7] The new building included ample accommodation for warlike stores, including small workshops and a forge.[8] The only remnant of the site of the old Armoury were two Russian 18-pounder guns taken at the Crimea and presented by the Imperial Government to the colony of New Zealand in the late 1850s.[9]

The Defence Stores building in Albert Park was described by the Auckland Star as the “hideous eyesore in Albert Park’ and considered a blight on the skyline as it obstructed the view from the park that had been established to replace the Barracks.[10]  By 1883 an agreement was reached between the Auckland Council and the Government, with a plot of land in O’Rourke Street provided to allow the relocation of the Defence Stores.[11] 

Queen St with Albert Barracks on the left hillside C1870-1979. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 898-9969

When the proposal was first mooted to relocate the Defence Store, plans were prepared in the Auckland Public Works office for a three-storied building equal in space to the present location. However, as it was the intention to centralise the operations of the Defence Stores in Wellington, the original design was countermanded with a design for a smaller building substituted. Tenders for the erection of the new Defence Stores building were published on 10 May 1883 for a building meeting the following specifications,

  • to be constructed of brick, two storeys in height, with concrete foundation,
  • to have a frontage of 25 feet with a depth of 36 feet.
  • the ground floor was to have
    • a passage seven feet wide,
    • two 18×18 apartments,
    • a staircase leading from the ground floor to the upper storey
  • upper floor subdivided into
    • An 18×8 office,
    • compartment with lift,
    • a 14×18 room
    • an 11 x 18 room
  • To the rear of the building
    • a 14×25 shed with an asphalted floor for gun carriages
    • a 6×14 coal shed,
    • a 14×20 Armourer’s shop.

Due to the considerable amount of material accumulated in the old Defence Stores over its many years of operation, Captain Sam Anderson, the Chief Defence Storekeeper, assisted in a stocktake of the old store as it was decommissioned, ensuring only essential materials were transferred to the new building.  Surplus stores were disposed of by tender or redistributed, including over 2000 obsolete muzzle-loading muskets relocated to the Defence Store in Wellington.[12] The old Stores building was soon demolished with much of the material used in the construction of the new building, with the only reminder of the military’s residence of Albert Park being a small portion of the Barracks wall and a few old cannons on display in the new ornamental gardens.

The New Defence Store in O’Rourke Street would be one of the earliest purpose-built Storehouses built for New Zealand’s Military. Up to this period, many of the buildings utilised by the Defence Stores were inherited from the Imperial Forces or requisitioned commercial premises.

By 1888, the cost of maintaining a peacetime military had reached the point where cutbacks and savings across the Defence budget had to be made. As part of several reductions across the Defence Department, the Auckland Defence Store would be drastically downsized, resulting in the retirement or redundancy of most of the staff. The closure of the Auckland Defence Stores was met with dismay with the press questioning it as an absurd decision, with the New Zealand Herald noting in an editorial that the closure of the Auckland Defence Store was” solely arising from the Wellington authorities having a want of local knowledge and of the requirements of the place.” This pushback on the closure of the Auckland Defence Store resulted in a short reprieve for  James Bloomfield, the Defence Storekeeper in Auckland, who had served since 1861, was granted a reprieve from redundancy and allowed to extend his tenure, retiring in December 1888 handing over the responsibilities of Defence Storekeeper for Auckland to Major John William Gascoyne of the New Zealand Permanent Militia.[13] Following Gascoyne’s departure in 1891, the responsibilities of Auckland Defence Storekeeper would be assumed by the Adjutant of the Auckland Brigade Office, who would oversee the duties of the Magazine Keeper at Mount Eden, Mr J Hawthorn.[14]

Concurrent with the Adjutant taking over the Defence Storekeepers responsibilities, the Auckland Brigade Office was moved from its offices in the Auckland Supreme Court into the Defence Store O’Rourke Street building, from where the Adjutant would conduct his duties related to the Auckland Volunteers and the Defence Stores.[15] This shared arrangement would remain in place into the early years of the twentieth century and would even see a telephone installed in 1902.

Routine activities conducted by the Auckland Defence Stores in O’Rourke Street included various tender for the provision of uniforms and repair of equipment. Following the bloodless Dog Tax War of 1898, the Defence Store in O’Rourke street took custody of the surrendered arms, including,[16]

  • one Winchester repeating rifle
  • one Winchester carbine
  • two Green’s American patent Snider breech-loading rifles
  • one Snider rifle
  • one muzzle-loading carbine
  • one Lee Bolt shotgun, single barrel
  • three breech-loading single barrel guns.
  • three double-barrel breech-loaders (nearly new)
  • ten double-barrel muzzle-loading guns
  • two single barrel guns
  • four bundles of ammunition (various)

 In 1903 the Police expressed an interest in taking over the building as accommodation for the Auckland Police Commissioner. Following an inspection by the Defence Storekeeper, Mr James O’Sullivan, arrangements were made to transfer the Defence Stores from the O’Rourke Street Property to Mount Eden and hand the building over to the Police.[17] During 1904 the handover of the Defence Stores building the Police was concluded, ending the sixty-year relationship between Auckland’s Albert Park and the Military.

The Police would fully refurbish the former Defence Store Building into a residential villa. The building would survive into the 1960s when it was demolished to allow the construction of  Auckland University.

1905 view of the refurbished Defence Store building(Center of the photo next to Police Station)

Despite the construction of new buildings for the Defence Stores in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin during the early 1900s, no new permanent buildings would be constructed for the Auckland Defence Stores as the existing powder magazines at Mount Eden constructed in 1871, were deemed sufficient enough to meet current and projected needs. Following the transition of the Defence Stores into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in 1917, a new Ordnance Depot was constructed for the Northern Region to replace the infrastructure at Mount Eden in the late 1920s. However, it would not be in Auckland but at Hopuhopu in the Waikato. Ordnance Stores would be established in Auckland during World War Two utilising rented commercial premises.  In the post-war era, ordnance warehouses established at Syliva Park utilised buildings constructed for the United States Forces. Other than Explosive Store Houses at Ardmore, no permanent dedicated storage infrastructure would ever be constructed for the RNZAOC in Auckland. 

The significance of the Defence Store building in O’Rourke Street is that excluding smaller unit storehouses and ammunition storehouses, it remains the only purpose-built military warehouse constructed for the New Zealand Army in Auckland.


Notes

[1] Queen’s Redoubt Assistant Military Secretary, “Correspondence Stating That There Is No Objection to the Erection of a Store for Colonial Purposes Adjoining Armoury Albert Barracks,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24075932  (1863).

[2] M. R. Wicksteed, The New Zealand Army: A History from the 1840s to the 1980s ([Ministry of Defence, 1982), Non-fiction, 2-3.

[3] Under the provisions of the Public Domains Act 1860, the Auckland Military Reserves Act 1871 established the land that Albert Barracks occupied as Crown land.

[4] “New Power Magazine at Mount Eden,” New Zealand Herald, Volume VIII, Issue 2377, 7 September 1871.

[5] The Magazine Keeper was Mr J Broughton, Tindall’s other staff consisted of his Clerk Mr J Blomfield. Armourer Mr D Evitt and Three Arms Cleaners Mr’s F Gibbons, J Penligan and C.C Rockley. “D-13 Nominal Roll of the Civil Establishment of New Zealand on the 1st July 1872,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1872); “Nominal Return of Officer in Defence Department and Armed Constabulary Force on 1 July 1872,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1873 Session I, H-24a  (1872).

[6] “Deputation from the Auckland Improvement Commissioners,” New Zealand Herald, Volume X, Issue 2859, , 28 March 1873.

[7] “Militia Store Move,” Auckland Star, Volume IV, Issue 1087, 17 July 1873.

[8] “Wooden Building in Albert Barracks,” New Zealand Herald, Volume X, Issue 09, 30 September 1873.

[9] “Russian Guns,” New Zealand Herald, Volume XI, Issue 3927, , 13 June 1874.

[10] “Albert Park Armoury,” Auckland Star, Volume XII, Issue 3523, 22 November 1881.

[11] Linking Princes and Symonds Streets, O’Rourke Street is now occupied by Auckland University,  Captain Anderson, “Old Defence Store to Be Sold by Tender, All the Muzzle Loading Rifles to Be Sent by “Hinemoa”,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24280543  (1883).

[12] “Flashes,” Wanganui Herald, Volume XVII, Issue 5047, 27 April 1883.

[13] “Reductions in Civil Service,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1888 Session I, H-30, 11 May 1888.

[14] A. H. McLintock, ” Frederick John William Gascoyne,”  http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/1966/gascoyne-or-gascoigne-frederick-john-william.

[15] “Volunteer Gossip,” Observer, Volume XI, Issue 656, (1891).

[16] “The Maori Trouble,” Auckland Star, Volume XXIX, Issue 114, , 16 May 1898.

[17] Wellington Defence Storekeeper, ” Subject: Report of Inspection of Defence Stores Auckland. Again Urges Removal of Store from O’Rourke [O’rorke] Street to Mount Eden Cost to Be Met by Police Department ” Archives New Zealand Item No R24743403  (1903).



Major William Andrew Knox

At approximately 2135 hours on 5 December 1941, an Italian bomber launched a torpedo sinking the SS Chakdina, a vessel evacuating 380 wounded men, including ninety-seven New Zealanders from Tobruk. Included in the list of New Zealanders lost that fateful evening was Major William Andrew Knox, the Officer Commanding of the New Zeland Divisional Ordnance Field Park.

William Andrew Knox was the second of three sons born to William and Jessie Knox in Auckland on 14 November 1893.

Portrait of Major William Andrew Knox, Auckland Weekly News, 21 January 1942. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19420121-29-1. Image has no known copyright restrictions.

From 20 March 1911, Knox would undertake his Compulsory Military service obligation, serving with “A” Battery of the New Zealand Field Artillery (NZFA) until his enlistment into the NZEF on 13 August 1914. Embarking on the Main Body of the NZEF on 15 October 1914, Knox served at Gallipoli, where he was slightly injured. Continuing to serve in the NZFA for the duration of the war,  Knox attained the rank of Lieutenant on 16 October 1916 and was Mentioned in Dispatches. Struck off the Strength of the NZEF on22 May 1919, Knox was transferred to the Reserve of officers but would not undertake any further military training until 1939. Knox’s brother Trevor would serve within the NZ Rifle Brigade during this conflict and passed away due to disease on 9 July 1918. 

Working as a commercial traveller during the interbellum, Knox would apply and be accepted for the Special Force assembled in 1939. Posted as a troop Subaltern in the 5th Field Regiment and despite being a fit and able 46-year-old, unlike most younger officers who had remained current through Territorial service, Knox struggled to learn and adapt to the more modern weapons and gunnery practices. Unable to cope, Knox applied to be released from the Special Force and be reassigned to an administrative role.

As the Special Force was in the early stage of its training Knox was released on 6 December 1939  and was reassigned to the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment as the Quartermaster departing from New Zealand to the Middle East as part of the Second Echelon. Diverted to Britain to strengthen the invasion defences, Knox and the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment did not reach Egypt until February 1941.

Following the Greek Campaign, the New Zealand Division was concentrated together in Egypt, undertaking rebuilding and expansion. As part of the expansion of the Division was the inclusion of an Ordnance Field Park (OFP), which was formally stood up 28 July 1941. The New Zealand OFP had a strength of 4 Officers and 81 Other Ranks. Organised into a Headquarters and three sections, the NZ OFP was equipped with twenty-seven 3-ton Lorries in different configurations optimised for the carriage of OFP Stores. On 4 August 1941 Knox was transferred into the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) as the Officer Commanding of the NZ OFP and granted the rank of Temporary Major whilst holding that appointment.

An OFP was a mobile mini Ordnance Depot with its stock held on vehicles (on wheels) consisting of;

  • Assemblies and spare parts of “A” and “B” vehicles and equipment’s required by mobile workshops for repair purposes, and
  • Advanced holdings of certain “A” and “B” vehicles for replacement purposes

An OFP’s holdings would constitute a forward portion of the stocks of the Base Ordnance Depot.

The NZ OFP war diary for August and September records that those months were spent receiving intakes of scalings from various Base Ordnance Depots and receiving personnel and vehicles.

On 7 October, the NZ OFP deployed from the comfort of Maadi Camp into a new position in the location in the vicinity of Bagush. The NZ OFP undertook routine duties interspaced with rifle and Bren gun training periods for the remainder of October.

During November 1941, the NZ OFP would operate in support of the NZ Division during Operation Crusader. Operation Crusade was a significant allied operation to destroy Axis armoured forces in the Cyrenaica region of Libya and lift the siege of Tobruk.

Attached to the NZ Div Workshops as part of the admin group under the NZ Div CRASC, Operation Crusader was a harsh introduction to the realities of mobile logistics in the harsh terrain and climate of the Western Desert.

NZ OFP on the move. Noel Kreggher Collection

Throughout November, the NZ OFP was on the move every couple of days, and after a final push of seven days of hard desert travel, entered the outer defences of Tobruk at 0730 on 29 November 1941. Under enemy shell fire for two days, Knox placed the NZ OPF into dispersal locations and confirmed with 70 Div HQ the final placement of the NZ OFP.   At about 0930, while conducting a recce of the final dispersal area, Knox’s vehicle ran over a mine. The vehicle was a complete wreck with Knox injured in the leg and immediately evacuated to Casualty Clearing Station and then to 62 General Hospital. At about 1430, the NZ OFP moved to a new location in a derelict vehicle park on the edge of Tobruk township. The NZ OFP remained in Tobruk until 7 December, when it redeployed back to Baghish.

On 5 December 1941, alongside 380 wounded allied soldiers, of whom ninety-seven were New Zealanders, 100 German and Italian Prisoners of War and 120 crew, Knox was evacuated on the SS Chakdina. Unfortunately, several hours after clearing Tobruk, the SS Chakdina was attacked by an Italian S.79 torpedo bomber. A torpedo hit the SS Chakdina, exploding in one of the after holds sinking the vessel in three and a half minutes. Around 400 men were drowned, with only eighteen of the ninety-seven New Zealanders were rescued, with the remainder, including Knox, presumed drowned.

Lost at sea, Knox has no known grave and is commemorated at the Alamein Memorial in Egypt. Listed as a member of the New Zealand Artillery until 2019, he has been recognised as a member of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

For his cumulative WW1 military service, Knox was awarded the following medals.

  • 1914-1915 Star
  • British War Medal, 1914-20
  • Victory Medal, 1914-18 (w.MID)
  • 1939-1945 Star
  • Africa Star
  • Defence Medal
  • British War Medal
  • New Zeland War Service Medal. 1939-1945
  • New Zeland Territorial Service Medal


The Legend of Saint Barbara

A patron saint is an individual who in the Christian tradition is considered to be the heavenly advocate for groups of the faithful (families, parishes, regions, countries).

The tradition of patron saints traces its origins back to the Roman Empire and the building of the first public churches. As many of these churches were built over the graves of martyrs, they were given the name of the martyr, with the expectation that the martyr would act as an advocate for the Christians who worshipped there.

By the Middle Ages, organisations began to adopt patron saints to seek the protection of heaven for the ordinary interests of the organisation and for the health of members of that organisation.

Adopting the tradition of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Saint Barbara was adopted as the Patron Saint of the RNZAOC.

Saint Barbara’s day is commemorated on the 4th of December.

The Legend of Saint Barbara

St. BarbaraLiving during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maximian, (305-311) Saint Barbara was from Heliopolis in the Roman province of  Phoenice, which is now Baalbek in modern Lebanon. Living in the time when the Roman Empire was transitioning between paganism and Christianity, Barbara came from a wealthy merchant family following the beliefs of Roman polytheism.  Her father was a rich and well-known merchant named Dioscorus, who after the death of his wife devoted himself to his only daughter.

Barbara was not only extremely beautiful and extremely intelligent, and her father vowed to protect her from the outside world by imprisoning her in a tower, forbidding her to associate with anyone apart from teachers and servants who had instructions that she be taught how to worship to the pagan gods. The view from the tower was a picturesque one of wooded hills, rivers and fields covered in colourful flowers stretching as far as the eye could see. With such a view Barbara soon questioned the creation of such a beautiful world. Over time, Barbara became convinced that the idols she had been taught about were merely the work of human hands and could not have made the surrounding world. As she was reaching adulthood Dioscorus began to seek out suitors and potential husbands for his daughter. Refusing them all, she warned her father that she was seeking something else and that his insistence on marriage could forever damage their relationship.

Sensing some conflict in his daughter, Dioscorus allowed Barbara some freedom and hoped that by allowing her to leave the tower she would change her attitude. Using the opportunity to meet new people, Barbara was soon mixing with people from the emerging religion of Christianity.  Learning about the message of Jesus, the Holy Trinity and the Christian Church, Barbara was converted and baptized by a priest from Alexandria who to avoid detection was disguised as a merchant.

Accepting Barbara’s new freedom, but still not knowing that she had been baptized Dioscorus took the opportunity to depart on some business travels, leaving instructions for a private bathhouse to be built for his daughter. Originally planned to have only two windows, Barbara inspired by her new religion had the workers add in an additional window, to represent the Christian Holy Trinity. Barbara’s bathhouse became a place of healing, with many miracles occurred there. The 10-century scholar St. Simeon Metaphrastes placed it on an even footing to the stream of Jordan.

Returning from his travels Dioscorus returned to find the bathhouse built to a different design and the news was broken to him by Barbara that she was rejecting the worship of his idols and that she had been baptized as a Christian. Upset with this revelation, knowing the shame it would bring on to him, Dioscorus fell into a fit of rage, taking his sword with the intention of striking Barbara.

Running away before her father could strike her, Barbara headed for the hills with her father in pursuit. Chasing after his daughter, Dioscorus pursuit was cut short when a hill blocked his way. According to legend the hill had opened and hid Barbara within a crevice. Continuing to search for his daughter to no avail, Dioscorus sought the help of two local shepherds. The first, knowing where Barbara was denied any knowledge of her whereabouts, the second knowing of Dioscorus wealth and possible reward, betrayed Barbaras location to her father, for his betray legend has it that he was turned to stone and his flock was turned into locusts.

Kalteysen_St._Barbara_Altarpiece_(detail)

The Torture of Saint Barbara

Finding his daughter, Dioscorus locked her up whilst starving and beating her. Given that being a Christian was then a crime, Dioscorus had little choice but to hand Barbara over to the prefect of the city, Martianus. With the cooperation of Dioscorus, Martianus continued with the beatings and torture. Refusing to renounce her Christian faith, Barbara prayed to Jesus. As the beatings continued during the day, each night her wounds were miraculously healed. Infuriated that her wounds were healing, Martianus subjected her to new tortures to convince her to renounce the Christian faith. Refusing Barbar drew strength from her prayers and stood firm. These tortures were carried out in the public arena and as Barbara was being tortured a virtuous Christian woman in the crowd called Juliana took sympathy on Barbara.  Inspired by Barbara’s voluntary martyrdom on behalf of all Christians, Juliana denounced the torturers in a loud voice, resulting in her seizure and torture alongside Barbara.

saint-barbara-death

The Execution of Saint Barabra

Both women were now being repeatedly tortured with their bodies were raked and wounded with hooks and stripped naked and paraded through the city where they were greeted by derision and jeers.  Holding out and not forsaking their faith, Barbara continued to pray, and legend has it that an angel appeared and covered their nakedness with a splendid robe and extinguished torches that were about to be used to burn the pair.

Tiring of the lack of progress with the torture, Martianus ordered the execution of the pair. Barbara and Juliana were beheaded on the 4th of December, with the final blow to Barbara delivered by Dioscorus. Another Christian, Valentinus buried Barbara with her tomb becoming the site of many miracles.  Dioscorus and Martianus were also punished, as it is said that shortly after the execution they were struck down and killed by lightning, seen by many as God’s revenge for the killings.

Patronage

Barbara seems to have been canonized by the seventh century and her story introduced to Britain during the time of the Crusades.

Saint Barbara’s association with the lightning that killed her father established her association with lightning and fire. As Christianity became firmly established, Saint Barbara was invoked as a protectress against the perils of lightning. When gunpowder was introduced in the Western world, this led to her adoption as the patroness of artillerymen. Eventually, her patroness would be extended to many who were in danger of sudden death, including firefighters, sailors, armourers, military engineers, gunsmiths, tunnellers, miners and warehouse workers.

Given the Royal Army Ordnance Corps association with explosives and artillery, Saint Barbara was adopted as the Patron Saint of the RAOC, a tradition that was carried over to many of the Commonwealth Ordnance Corps including the RNZAOC.

A New Zealand Ordnance Connection to Saint Barbara

Surprisingly, there is a connection between the New Zealand Ordnance Corps and Saint Barbara. During the Second World War, C Section of the New Zealand Divisional Ordnance Field Park and the NZ Advanced Ordnance Depot would spend a brief time deployed in the vicinity Baalbek in modern-day Lebanon, which is the attributed as the place where St Barbara lived.

St. Barbara

Saint Barbara of Heliopolis of Phoenicia

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017


Plastic Royal Army Ordnance Corps Badge

Tales from the Supply Depot

By far the biggest users of plastic cap badges in World War II were the Corps units, such as the Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Corps of Signals and the subject of today’s post, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. These units were all very large when compared to the size of infantry regiments and so the initial investment in tooling up moulds to make plastic cap badges from was well rewarded by the large number of badges that would be needed. This also ensured the maximum saving in brass, as these units would have eaten up far more of this precious resource in cap badges than any infantry unit. The badges were generally copied directly from the standard brass badges, albeit thicker to allow the necessary depth of material to keep the badge’s strength and give enough material to attach the fixing lugs to. The badge of the RAOC consisted…

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New Zealand Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London

The New Zealand Ordnance Corps in the course of its 80-year history established and maintained Ordnance Depots in many unique locations. The Base Ordnance Depot in Trentham became acknowledged as the home of the Corps; the New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot in Singapore the most exotic, and all Corps members have fond memories of the depots in Ngaruawahia, Waiouru, Linton and Burnham. This article will examine one of the least known of New Zealand’s Ordnance Depots, the First World War Farringdon Road Depot.

The NZEF of the 1914-1919 war was organised and equipped in such a way so that when mobilised it could comfortably fit into the British Imperial Army alongside British, Australian, Canadian and other troops from throughout the British Empire. In the early days of the war Ordnance support was provided by British AOC[1] Divisional/Corps depots, and although satisfactory the need for the NZEF to have an internal Ordnance organisation to cater for New Zealand specific items was recognised. Subsequently, regulations formally announcing the establishment of the NZAOC[2], as a unit of NZEF[3] were published in February 1916[4]. Moving with the NZEF to Europe the NZAOC consisted of three distinct elements;

  • NZAOC Administrative staff based at the NZEF headquarters at Bloomsbury Square, London consisting of
    • the NZEF Assistant ADOS[5], who was also the Officer Commanding NZEF Ordnance Corps.
    • Chief Ordnance Officer for the NZEF in the United Kingdom.
    • A staff of clerks, storekeepers and
  • The New Zealand Division DADOS[6] and Staff, including personnel attached to Brigades.
  • NZAOC Staff of the ANZAC Mounted Brigade in Palestine.

As the NZEF NZAOC staff in the United Kingdom became established, taking under its wing support responsibility for the numerous New Zealand Camps, Hospitals and convalescent facilities dispersed throughout the United Kingdom. To centralise and manage Ordnance support it became necessary to establish a New Zealand Ordnance Depot to support all New Zealand units based in the United Kingdom.

NZEF in UK
‘NZEF in England 1916-19 map’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/nzef-england-1916-19-map, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Dec-2016

What was required was a depot in a central location, near the NZEF Headquarters and with road and railway access to the New Zealand Camps and establishments and the ability to quickly link into the AOC logistic infrastructure and RAOC depots such as;

On the 25th of October 1916, the Officer Commanding, London District Authorised the NZEF, under the Defence of the Realm Act to take over the premises of Mr H Fisher and Mr J Fisher at 30 and 32 Farringdon Road[7] as an Ordnance Store. Located 1.5km from the NZEF Headquarters, the NZ Ordnance Depot was well situated on one of the leading north/south roads through London, with easy access to other arterial routes. Adjacent to the Metropolitan Railway, the Ordnance depot had easy access to Farringdon Passenger station and the Metropolitan Railway Goods Station[8]. The intent was to occupy the building from the 7th of November 1916. Still, due to issues securing the key and having the utilities such as water and electricity connected, the final occupation did not occur until the 27th of November. Records indicate the Depot started operations on the 1st of December 1916.

NOTE:  Originally numbered as part of Farringdon Road, Nos 30 and 32 were renamed as  30 Farringdon Lane in 1979.

Faddingdon
Faddingdon 3D
New Zealand Ordnance Depot, 30-32 Farrington Road, London. Map data ©2018 Google, Imagery ©2018 Google

Overall command of the Depot rested with the Chief Ordnance Officer for the NZEF in the United Kingdom, Captain (later Major) Norman Levien. The Officer in charge of the Depot for most of its existence was Warrant Officer Class One (Conductor), Arthur Gilmore[9]. Posted to the Depot in November 1916 Conductor Gilmore would, apart from a six-month secondment to the Ordnance Depot at Sling Camp and three months sick leave due to Influenza would remain at the Depot until its closure in late1919[10]. Conductor Gilmore was promoted to Second Lieutenant on the 1st of February 1919.

The bulk of the stocks held by the Depot consisted of clothing and necessaries of all descriptions. Clothing was a mixture of;

  • New items purchased from the RACD[11] at Pimlico,
  • New items purchased for civilian manufactures, often at a cheaper rate than from the RACD, In the year up to December 1917 total savings of £31532.7.10(approximately 2018 NZD$3,763,454.27) were made by establishing contracts for clothing with civilian suppliers rather than purchasing from the RACD.
  • Cleaned and repaired items from Salvage stocks,

As members of the New Zealand Division started leave rotations to the United Kingdom from the front lines in Belgium and France, the condition of their clothing was found to be unsatisfactory. Under the instructions of the NZ General Officer Commanding, further accommodation for the Depot was secured for the reception of troops from the front on leave. This facility allowed troops as they arrived from the front, to rid themselves of their dirty, often vermin-infested uniforms, have a hot bath and receive a fresh issue of underwear and uniforms. As troops arrived on leave with their spare kit, ammunition, arms and equipment, A secure kit store was available for the holding of these items. As this reception store was developed, the New Zealand Soldiers Club and the New Zealand War Contingent Association set up facilities to provide hot drinks and the option to receive instruction on the use of prophylactic outfits[12].

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The following items are an example of the types and quantities of the stores received by the Farringdon Road Depot over the Period 1 December 1916 to 1 August 1919;

stock

With the Armistice in November 1918, the activities of the Depot started to wind down. Undergoing a full audit in July 1919, outstanding orders cancelled, stocks either returned to New Zealand, returned to RAOC Depots for credits, sold or destroyed with the Depot closed by November 1919 ending an early chapter of the New Zealand Ordnance story.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

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New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Badge, 1916-1919 (Robert McKie Collection 2017)

Notes

[1] Army Ordnance Corps

[2] New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps

[3] New Zealand Expeditionary Force

[4] “Road to Promotion “, Evening Post, Volume XCI, Issue 29, 4 February 1916.

[5] Assistant Director of Ordnance Service

[6] Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Service

[7] Now Farrington Lane  “Insurance Plan of London Vol. Vi: Sheet 128,” ed. British Library (Chas E Goad Limited, 1886).

[8] “Farringdon Road,” in Survey of London: Volume 46, South and East Clerkenwell, Ed. Philip Temple (London: London County Council, 2008), 358-384. British History Online, Accessed April 25, 2018, Http://Www.British-History.Ac.Uk/Survey-London/Vol46/Pp358-384..”

[9] “Personnel Records “Arthur Gilmore”,”  (Wellington: Archives New Zealand, Archive Reference AABK 18805 W5568 0135616).

[10] Arthur Gilmore, “Audit Farringdon Road Ordnance Stores for Period Ended 17 July 1919,” (Wellington: Archives New Zealand  Record Group WA1 Record No 2/13, 1919).

[11] The Royal Army Clothing Depot, Pimlico, was the main supplier of Uniforms for the British Army from 1855 until 1932.

[12] Captian Norman Levein, “Report of Ordnance Officer on Administration of Ordnance Department for 1917,” (Wellington: Archives New Zealand Record Group WA1 Record No 2/13, 1918).