About ‘To The Warrior His Arms’ The History of the RNZAOC

Welcome to our website dedicated to the history of New Zealand’s Military Ordnance Services. We aim to fill a gap in the New Zealand military history narrative by providing a comprehensive and growing history of the Ordnance Services from 1840 to 1996.

The provision of weapons, ammunition, clothing, and equipment used to maintain and service these items is known as Ordnance Stores in the vernacular of British and Commonwealth Militaries. Ordnance Services have been a constant feature of the New Zealand Military landscape since 1840, with the Colonial Storekeeper appointed as the first Government storekeeper responsible for providing arms, munitions, and accoutrements to the first militias.

During the New Zealand Wars between 1840 and 1870, the Commissariat was responsible for keeping the soldier well-fed. The Military Store Department was tasked with keeping the soldier well and comfortably clad and supplied with the munitions of war. The passing of the Colonial Defence Act of 1862 saw New Zealand forces take on a bulk of the responsibility, allowing the withdrawal of Imperial forces by 1870.

The indigenous New Zealand Military saw the growth of a Defence Stores organisation, which supported the military until the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) replaced it as part of the Permanent Forces in 1917. The contribution of the NZAOC to the success of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in the First World War has rarely been examined. Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert, the first Officer Commanding the NZEF Ordnance Corps and the NZEF Assistant Director of Ordnance Service (ADOS), was tasked after the war to produce a war history of the NZAOC. However, this task was never completed.

The men of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) supported the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force of the Second World War in all theatres. The New Zealand Division in the Western Desert and Italy was regarded as one of the finest Divisions of the war. However, the Ordnance Story was considered an area of little interest. The project was not pursued any further despite its crucial role in understanding the importance of logistics in modern warfare.

On the home front, the Hope Gibbons fire on 29 July 1952 destroyed a bulk of the files relating to the Defence Stores Department, leaving a massive hole in the History of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services.

This website expands on Major Joe Bolton’s 1992 History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, examining in more detail the Ordnance Support and the men and women who provided it during the Colonial era, the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and Somalia. It also examines Ordnance Services during peacetime in New Zealand and overseas garrisons.

Thank you for visiting our website, and we hope you find it informative and engaging.

RNZAOC Corps Painting by Graham Braddock, RNZAOC/public domain

31 thoughts on “About ‘To The Warrior His Arms’ The History of the RNZAOC

  1. Kevin Dreyer

    Hi Rob. Love the site. but found it devoid of recent history; ie there’s a whole raft of grumpy old gits (well several of us anyway) who could well fill in some of the detail of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. As an example I did actually serve with 1 Comp Ord when it had the laundry platoon – but don’t remember that much about it. Went from there to Vietnam (2 AOD as Planning Officer just before the withdrawal)and then to NZAOD Singapore and then back to BSB etc. Would be happy to try and co-ordinate my generation to fill out the site., Could well be a thankless task but….

    Liked by 1 person

    • rneilmckie

      Thanks Kevin, glad you are enjoying the site. Its a work in progress and there are articles from more recent times in the pipeline. Any contributions are more than welcome,


    • Paul mcnabb

      Brilliant work, we ignore far too much of NZ’s history so this welcome. I missed the chapter that was skipped under packs describing the failed NZ foxhound project sponsored by Dr Inft in early to mid 1980s using the renowned mountaineer Graham Dingle as a consultant & resulting in the abortion of an ‘Onward’ pack . I was the trials pl in Singapore and the cases of violent heat rash caused by a body-hugging ‘alpine’ pack design combined with the constant ping as one of the multiplicity of plastic buckles expanded in the apparently unforeseen heat of Asia causing a violent disinvestment of pack from soldier, lead to a savage rejection in our report. Parts of the concept were good – it was 77 set ready with pre-manufactured aerial holes, it had a detachable ‘Patrol Pack’ & even contained a fold out daygo marker panel sewn in to prevent soldier theft. But I got sick of carrying meters of Don 10 needed to execute constant running repairs in my platoon to the main load bearing straps all while detached on the main divide, Pahang. Yet another epic NZ failure despite the evident good intentions. Hopefully others can add more to the saga for your web site?


      • Hi Paul, Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge about the failed NZ foxhound project. It’s important to acknowledge both the successes and failures of historical events, as they shape our current understanding and future actions. Your insights about the pack design and its shortcomings are valuable and provide a unique perspective on the project. It would be interesting to hear from others who were involved in the project and learn more about their experiences as well. Thank you for contributing to the conversation.


      • Paul McNabb

        Dear Rob, I hasten to add that other elements of Project Foxhound were a great success such as adopting the layered approach to cold weather clothing etc. The Onward pack soldiered on in NZ for 5 or more years so there must have been a reasonable QTY purchased. In turn the well-liked US Alice packs in OD were also on issue in different sizes, but once the Director Infantry & especially the SO2 Brian Hall made the decision to stop any more local development & sourced in Brit/NZDF DPM pattern Alice packs (from I believe Sth Korea?), these versions whiel a huge step up were unable to take the usual silly weights infantry carried and in marked contrast to the original US Alice packs, our shoulder retention straps slipped badly off the frame and needed field improvision of knotted webbing & electrical tape bound up to the frame. In closing may I mention that at the completion of Basic in the early 70’s Depot NCO’s recommended all Infantry recruits would need to purchase our own packs given the inadequacy of issue kit to cope with corps training. Consequently trucks were run into Taihape for recruits to purchase Mountain Mule or Trapper Nelsons and the numbers of packs the sports store held on strength, out of all proportion to local civilian demand, confirmed this was a standard practice. Oh my poor, poor army. There are so many other such examples. Yes I saw the ad Rob, and yes you will be supported in this addiction to home baked scones.


  2. David Thompson (Thommo)

    Hi Rob, An awesome site and great to see the old Pataka magazines as well, brought back lots of memories Keep up the good wok!!


    • rneilmckie

      Thanks Thommo, Glad you are enjoying the site, keep watching as there is more content in the pipeline and as I research more I am adding additional details to existing pages.

      Cheers Rob


  3. Dave Morris

    You might say, ‘Someone’s gotta do it.’ I’ll chip in whenever, but I am not up to doing the task. Count on me.


  4. Kerry Grassam

    Hi Rob, I have just returned from a RNZASC/ RNZCT reunion at Whangarei, as I was in RNASC in regular force 1963 -66..On joining the TF ,in the late seventies I joined up with RNZAOC, in 3 Bath platoon at Burnham. While at reunion I found out RNZAOC, RNZASC RNZEME, All were almagamated to form the RNZALR. Can you tell me if this is correct, also is there any members who still about from 3Bath Platoon. Regards H41062 GRASSAM K M ( Kerry Grassam)


    • rneilmckie

      Hi Kerry, yes I can confirm that the RNZAOC, RNZASC RNZEME were all amalgamated to form the RNZALR on the 8thof December 1996. I am not sure how many from 3 Bath Platoon are still around but I will put a note on the RNZAOC Facebook page and see who we can find. I hope you find this site informative and take the time to subscribe. I attempt to add new content each week and welcome any contributions and feedback.


  5. Colin Campbell,

    Hi Rob, I am writing about ANZUK in Singapore 1971-74. I would like to quote from your website re the Supply Depot. May I have your permission to do so? Thanks


    • rneilmckie

      Hi Colin, Great to hear that you are writing about the ANZUK Force, it is a long-neglected subject. Feel free to quote from my website but do please ensure that you reference appropriately. Regards


      • Colin Campbell

        Rob, Thank you. Yours is the best information I could find anywhere on the ANZUK Supply depot. It is a pity that space will limit me to only a few paragraphs. Regards, Colin


  6. Les Bates

    Served in 21 field supply co 1986 to 1998 great memories went from 100 plus TF with small RF contingent to 10 TF after creation of log regiment and finally no TF allowed to be part of a RF regiment.


  7. John Balding

    Despite your humble ‘work in progress’ statement, this is a well researched site, well done. We have communicated before over some minor inaccuracies/inconsistencies but can’t find those messages hence this plea via your comments board. I am keen to see a copy of the document you refer to titled, Redesignation of Titles of Inspecting Ordnance Officers and Other Ammunition Personnel Army 209/5/3/Sd’, a soft copy would be appreciated for my own project in UK. Keep up the good work as “knowledge not shared is lost”.
    Regards JB


  8. Stephen Home

    Dear Sir, I noticed that your site published a book titled “DRESS REGULATIONS FOR THE OFFICERS OF THE ARMY. 1883”. I am doing some research into British Army Sword Knots and wondered if there were copies of this book from any other earlier year that I might be able to read or download. Thank you for your help.
    Yours faithfully
    Stephen Home
    British Army veteran


  9. Bec

    Hello, I am doing research on my partner’s grandfather who was an Armourer Sergeant with the 8th CMR, 11th AMR and 2nd Machine Gun Corp. 9 months of part time study has revealed bits of information about what his life could’ve have been like july 1916 – jan 1919. I have matched information about the 6th Reinforcement with his service records, war diaries as well as other general information about ordnance units. However there seems to be a massive gap in what these guys did, when, how etc.
    I am looking for someone who knows about NZEF Armourers of WW1 or a source of information about this specialist unit. I feel like I am missing something. :/


    • Hi Bec, you are correct. There is a massive gap in New Zealand’s Military historical narrative about the role that the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (including Armourers) carried out in the NZEF during WW1. Still, it is one that I am slowly correcting. My work on Armourers is still in progress however their responsibilities included the care and repair of small arms (including rifles, pistols, swords, and scabbards), bayonets, machine guns, Machine Gun carriages, bicycles and for minor repairs to the metal work of accoutrements and equipment. Although held against the strength of Infantry and Mounted Rifle Regiments, from 1916, it seems that Armourers within the NZEF were brigaded together into a central Armourers Workshop, I am still researching how this was managed and if individual Armourers retained some relationship with their parent Regiment. I would be interested to learn more about your relative’s service as it is another piece in the puzzle that is the NZAOC in WW1.


  10. Paul McNabb

    Hi again, Rob I don’t want to hog the site so hopefully this doesn’t need to be posted. As a ‘client’ of the Army Ordnance Corps I just wanted to explain we never blamed them for the deficiencies of the 70’s and 80’s when the army seemed to hit its post-WW2 nada. Many times it was achingly obvious some poor ordnance chappie had done his/her best to meet a stores request that was simply not on inventory. For instance indenting for Don 10 to use for electrical detonation at a time there was an army-wide shortage of D10, resulted in delivery of a 1.5M high, 2M diameter wooden wheel complete with cotton-covered wire and stamped USMC. Completely unsuitable to carry electricity once in contact with our sodden ground but someone back in Ordnance didn’t do the easy thing by failing to meet the requesting units need. Similarly a request for 1/2 shelters were met by spanking new 2 man pup tents complete with 2″ square posts with brass sockets, stamped USMC but completely unsuited to a Recc pl. Both these examples were in 1980-81 so in contrast to what one of the other correspondents has commented, there was still a lot of Lend-Lease still being held by Ordnance in the 1980’s and being issued out to user units (and in the case of the cotton-covered electrical wire delivered with a message from ordinance that they didn’t want it back. [‘wasted out’ I think was the term] ).
    In relation to the very thorough history of NZ boots on your site, when we moved to the vulcanised sole boot around 1979, what wasn’t mentioned is that one of the NZ manufacturers had not produced a solid rubber heel but a 1/8 inch rubber skin over balled – up cardboard to take up the remaining heel space. Unfortunately this resulted in several pointed arguments with Ordnance stores at Burnham in seeking to explain why new boots issued by them were destroyed in 6 weeks wear, until we were able to show a boot they had themselves issued as a replacement, was in turn revealing its cardboard and rubber construction. From that point on Ordnance supported the Bn and we had no more arguments, but in the web article these NZ companies are described as reputable, where we suffered from this shonky workmanship for at least a further 18 months as the new design wasn’t rectified nor ‘Made good’ at the manufacturers’ expense. As a general rule no one seemed to be held accountable for equipment failure during the 23 years of my service, with the failure of the attempt to restore waterproofing to used 1/2 shelters being a humorous case. Rather than replace the thin nylon 1/2 shelters at end of life (est. cost $7?), NZ took them in and reissued the worn our 1/2 shelters with a now added white latex coating. Unfortunately this layer delaminated under the first rainstorm and resulted in 5 or more liters hanging as a blister beneath the nylon until inevitably it burst dumping everything on the hapless solider below. In harbor one would watch one another’s blistering hootchi covers with morbid fascination. Severe budget constraints caused the work-arounds, that a better funded army would have addressed correctly. Like I say, not a go at Ordnance at all, we all suffered from the myth of that time ‘that we were a first rate army with second rate equipment’, which from this later perspective would perhaps be better termed a second rate army with fourth rate equipment. Thanks to all members of RNZAOC who did their very best for us in the early 1970’s through to early 1990’s.


  11. Dave M

    The Roll of Honour. 1977:
    L/Cpl Michael Douglas Armstrong, Ordnance School, RNZAOC, 26 January 1977, Maunu Cemetery, Whangārei, NZ. Was this the one that went missing (I think in the Southern Alps) when he took some leave? I understood he was never found.


    • Correct Dave, He had tramped from the Hermitage through the Copland Pass to Fox Glacier and was on the return journey, An entry in the Douglas Hut log dated 26 January 1977, is the last known record of his journey.


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