Frederick Silver – Artillery Stores Accountant 1884 – 1913

Frederick Silver was a British Royal Marine Artilleryman who settled in New Zealand, serving in the Armed Constabulary, Permanent Militia and Defence Stores Department. Silver played an instrumental role in installing and maintaining New Zealand’s early coastal defence artillery and mobilising New Zealand contingents for the war in South Africa. The following is an account of his life and achievements.

The son of William and Jane Silver, Baker and Beer Retailer of Cheshunt, England, Frederick Silver was born on 28 August 1849, in Cheshunt, near Waltham Abby Hertfordshire. Initially a baker by trade, at the age of eighteen, Silver enlisted in the Royal Marines Light Infantry (Portsmouth Division) on 9 May 1865. Transferring into the Royal Marine Artillery on 5 April 1866, Silver served on board HMS Pandora on the West Coast of Africa from March 1868 to April 1870. Silver was promoted to Bombardier and transferred on 12 November 1869, HMS Seringapatam, awaiting passage to Headquarters. On 17 April 1872, the muster roll of HMS Audacious lists Silver as a crew member, followed by a move to Headquarters on 24 September 1872.

It is possible that Silver served on board HMS Monarch, the first sea-going turret ship and the first British warship to carry 12-inch guns, for the Spithead review in 1873. He then deployed to the Gold Coast on board HMS Simoon.

During the Ashanti campaign, Silver served ashore and was in charge of all the Naval Stores landing at Elmina (capital of the Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abirem District on the south coast of Ghana). He was later attached to the force under Colonel (Later Field-Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood). In his memoir “From Midshipman to Field-Marshall,” Wood wrote about Silver’s courage during the heavy fire in the clearing of Faisowah.

The reference in “From Midshipman to Field-Marshall” reads,

“When we came under heavy fire in the clearing of Faisowah, I extended Woodgate’s Kossoos to the east of the track, and Richmond on the west side with the Elmina company, in which there were 25 Haussa Ashanti slaves, whom we had taken in previous reconnaissances. The Haussas I extended in line behind, intending to pass through them if I were obliged to retire. Sergeant Silver and two white Marine Artillerymen were with me, using a rocket tube, and their cool courageous bearing was an object lesson to the blacks who could see them. “

Field-Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood “From Midshipman to Field-Marshall”, (Vol 1 pages 270-271).

After his Ashanti War Service, Silver served on HMS Monarch in the Channel Fleet from April 1874 until October 1875. He was discharged, by purchase, as a sergeant, on 9 November 1875 and set out to seek a new life in the colony of New Zealand.

After a 160-day eventful voyage during which the sailing ship Bebington Silver had collided with another ship, endured a typhus and typhoid outbreak, and ran short of provisions, Silver arrived in Auckland on 15 July 1876.

Soon after he arrived in New Zealand, Silver joined the Armed Constabulary (AC) as a constable on 29 September 1876. He remained in the AC until 1886 when the Defence Act (1886) established the Permanent Militia.

Silver married Sarah Mair on 28 August 1878 in Auckland, and they had four sons.

As a result of the 1882 Russian War scare, Silver was transferred to Wellington and employed as a Drill Instructor. The Garrison Artillery was formed from the AC in 1884, and Silver was appointed Sergeant on 1 November 1884.

New Zealand had received twenty-two breech-loading, 7-ton, and 64-pdr Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) in 1874. However, as interest had waned by the time of their arrival in 1878, they had not been mounted and were placed into storage. In conjunction with Sergeant Major Robert George Vinning Parker, formally of the Royal; Garrison Artillery, Silver helped develop a system using tackles and timber to take these guns out of storage and mount and install them in Auckland and Wellington. This system, developed by Silver and Parker, was adapted for mounting all other similar guns throughout New Zealand. In addition to mounting the guns, Silver instructed the Gunners in the various drills at Wellington before they were detailed for the four main centres.

As New Zealand modernised its coastal defences with modern 8-inch and 6-inch breech-loading guns at Wellingtons Fort Ballance, Point Halswell and Kaiwarra Batteries, Silver supervised the mounting of these guns while also providing instruction on their use to the Permanent Staff and Volunteers. Silver oversaw mounting the first Breech-loading gun at Auckland’s Fort Cautley, Auckland. Under Silver’s supervision, mounting New Zealand’s early Coast Artillery guns was achieved at no extra cost to New Zealand.

Gun emplacement at Fort Ballance, Wellington, 1884. Williams, Edgar Richard, 1891-1983: Negatives, lantern slides, stereographs, colour transparencies, monochrome prints, photographic ephemera. Ref: 1/2-140344-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22917815

Establishing the Garrison Artillery and introducing new guns, equipment, ancillary equipment, and ammunition required new accounting and management procedures. As this was out of the scope and experience of the Defence Stores Department, in conjunction with the Defence Storekeeper Captain Sam Anderson, Parker instigated the system of Artillery Stores Accounting, which was to remain in place well into the early 20th Century. Silver was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major and Instructor in Gunnery on 13 March 1885. Following Parkers posting to Port Chalmers in 1889, Silver, in addition to his regimental duties, was placed in charge of all the Artillery stores at Auckland, Wellington and Lyttleton.

Following the death of the Defence Storekeeper, Captain Sam Anderson, in December 1899, Silver applied for the position of Ledger keeper in the Defence Stores. Silver had had a long association with Anderson. Although he felt he could assume the position of Defence Storekeeper, he recognised that Thomas Henry Sewell, the Assistant Storekeeper or James O’Sullivan, Chief Clerk of the Defence Stores, had a firmer claim on the appointment. By applying for the position of Ledger Keeper in the Defence Stores, he believed that it would place him in contention for the appointment of Assistant Defence Storekeeper. Ultimately Sewell was too ill to succeed Anderson, and O’Sullivan was appointed Defence Storekeeper.

Appointed as a temporary clerk in the Defence Stores, Silver was discharged from the Permanent Militia on 25 June 1900 and immediately assumed his new position in the Defence Stores. Although his new position entailed some new duties, Silver’s duties in managing the Artillery Ledgers were seamlessly carried over from the Permanent Militia to the Defence Stores.

During the South Africa war mobilisation, Silver oversaw clothing stores at Christchurch, Dunedin, Auckland and Trentham camps. The first contingent was required to supply their horses and saddlery equipment, with the remainder of their equipment supplied by the Government. Later contingents were supplied with their equipment from public subscriptions and Defence resources, putting the Defence Stores under considerable strain. However, due to the efforts of the Defence Stores, each contingent sailed well-equipped as the circumstances allowed. As Silver prepared and distributed the kit for the Eighth Contingent at their Auckland Camp, the observation was made that Silver was “as sleepless as a time-piece and as methodical as a cash register”.

Following the death of the Assistant Defence Storekeeper, John Henry Jerred, on 20 December 1902, as Silver’s current appointment was still temporary, Ministerial authority was granted for Silver to be appointed Assistant Defence Storekeeper on 27 December 1902.

1906 was a significant year of transformation for the Defence Stores Department. The Defence Act Amendment Act 1906 was passed on 28 October, establishing the Defence Council and providing the New Zealand Military Forces with a headquarters organised with specific staff functions, including

  • Director of Artillery Services (Ordnance): Responsible for Artillery armament, fixed coast defences, and supplies for ordnance.
  • Director of Stores: Responsible for clothing and personal equipment, accoutrements, saddlery, harnesses, small-arms and small-arms ammunition, machine guns, material, transport, vehicles, camp equipment, and all stores required for the Defence Forces.

On 26 December 1906, it was announced that O’Sullivan had been confirmed as the Director of Stores for the colony of New Zealand and appointed as Quartermaster and an Honorary Captain in the New Zealand Militia. For now, Silver’s appointment remained designated as the Assistant Defence Storekeeper. Although the Artillery ledgers should have reverted to the Director of Artillery Services (Ordnance), they remained a Defence Stores responsibility under Silver’s care.

The passing of the Defence Act 1909 heralded a transformation of the Defence Forces of New Zealand, establishing a military system that influenced the organisation, training and recruitment of the New Zealand army into the early 1970s. On 28 February 1910, The Act abolished the existing Volunteer system, creating a citizen-based Territorial Army from the units, regiments and Corps of the Volunteer Army. The Territorial Army’s personnel needs were to be maintained by a Compulsory Military Training (CMT) system, requiring the registration of all boys and men between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one. The challenge for O’Sullivan, Silver and the Defence Stores Department, an organisation already markedly transformed since 1900, was to continue to transform to meet the needs of the growing citizen army that New Zealand was creating. On 1 June 1910, Silver’s position was redesignated as the Assistant Director of Military Stores, and he was appointed a Quartermaster with the rank of Honorary Lieutenant in the New Zealand Militia.

On the appointment of Major General Alexander Godley as the Commandant of the NZMF in December 1910, Godley revitalised New Zealand’s military organisational framework, including the reorganisation of the Headquarters Staff. O’Sullivan’s position of Director of Stores was redesignated as the Director of Equipment and Stores (DEOS) and included as a branch in the Adjutant and Quartermaster General Branch staff. The Director of Ordnance and Artillery remained a separate branch, with the Godley’s’ new regulations detailing the division of responsibilities between the two directors. Unlike 1906 this reorganisation saw the Director of Ordnance and Artillery assert responsibility for managing Artillery Stores. On 14 July 1911, Lieutenant Colonel Johnston, the Director of Artillery, requested that Silver and the Artillery ledgers be transferred from the Defence Stores to the Director of Ordnance and Artillery Staff.

As the Artillery Ledgers had been Silver’s principal duty at the Defence Stores, the transfer between the branches was immediate and seamless, with the pressing question being the title of Silver’s new appointment. Silver’s initial designation was to be Armament Quartermaster. However, to bring Silver’s appointment into line with the Armament Ledgers in the British Army, he was redesignated as the Artillery Stores Accountant on 11 August 1911.

As Artillery Stores Accountant, Silver’s duties were:

  • Post up and balance the Headquarters, field and Garrison Armament ledgers.
  • Audit all Field Artillery Brigade District Ledgers.
  • Prepare annual demands for armament equipment and ammunition for the Dominion.
  • Prepare annual return of armament for the War Office.
  • Compile half-yearly returns of ammunition in stock and under order.
  • Check all local purchase requisitions affecting artillery stores.
  • Prepare circulars embodying all List of Changes in War Materiel affecting the armament of the Dominion.
  • Have knowledge of all technical artillery questions that may arise.
  • Keep corrected and up-to-date all textbooks and have all amendments duly made.
  • Keep records of all periodic tests of explosives and enter “sentence” in accordance with regulations.
  • Check stores in Districts and inspect Armament and equipment magazines, &c. , under the instructions of the Director of Ordnance.

By June 1913, Silver was 64 and had served for 47 and a half years, ten years of Royal Marine service and 37 years in the New Zealand Forces. Having suffered a physical breakdown, he recognised that he could not devote the required attention to his duties and requested permission to retire. Silver’s request to retire was granted, and on 17 June 1913, he retired with the Honorary rank of Captain. Silver’s severance date was 31 October 1913, and he was granted an annual pension of £165 (2022 NZ$31,360.16)  per year commencing on 1 November 1913.

Silver died at his home at Karaka Bay, Seatoun, Wellington, on 5 May 1925 and is interned at Karori Cemetery Wellington.

Frederick Silver, a British Royal Marine Artilleryman, settled in New Zealand and served in the Armed Constabulary and later in the Permanent Militia. He was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major and Instructor in Gunnery on 13 March 1885 and played a crucial role in installing and maintaining New Zealand’s early coastal defence artillery. He supervised mounting modern 8-inch and 6-inch breech-loading guns at various locations, including Wellington’s Fort Ballance, Point Halswell, and Kaiwarra Batteries. As a foundation member of New Zealand’s Garrison Artillery, he helped to introduce new accounting and management procedures. He managed the Artillery ledger account from 1889 until his retirement in 1913. In 1900, Frederick Silver transferred to the Defence Stores Department and significantly contributed to mobilising all New Zealand contingents to the war in South Africa. He returned to the Artillery in 1911 and retired in 1913 after 47 and a half years of service, including ten years of Royal Marine service and 37 years in the New Zealand forces. Frederick Silver’s contributions to New Zealand’s early coastal defence artillery and mobilisation efforts during the South African War were invaluable. His service is a testament to his dedication and expertise.

One thought on “Frederick Silver – Artillery Stores Accountant 1884 – 1913

  1. Dave Morris

    Have you got his pers file? I wonder if he was involved in the Maori
    wars anywhere. Particularly Parihaka.



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