Reports on NZ Ordnance Depots in the Pacific, 1943-44

The Second World War would be a period of immense growth for New Zealand’s Ordnance Services. Expanding from a strength of 6 Officers, 28 Permanent Other Ranks and 113 Civilian Staff operating from limited infrastructure in Devonport, Hopuhopu, Trentham and Burnham Camp in May 1939,  New Zealand’s Ordnance Services would have expanded by 1944 into a diverse organisation supporting New Zealand’s Forces at home and abroad.

Armed with the 1939 Ordnance Manual (war), the Ordnance units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) would be established and adapted for their specific theatres of operation. In the Middle East, New Zealand Ordnance would integrate into the Ordnance Servicers of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. However, with a Brigade Group based in Fiji from late 1940, it would be the Ordnance Services in the Pacific that faced the most significant challenges. As the NZ Brigade Group transitioned and expanded from its garrison duties in Fiji into a Division conducting amphibious combat operations in the Solomon Islands, the supporting Ordnance Services challenges included anticipating the needs of the Division up to six months in advance and relying on fragile lines of communication that stretched back to New Zealand for everyday items and to the United Kingdom for much of the military hardware held by the Division. Additionally, the tropical climate and indigenous fauna encountered in the area of operations would provide additional hurdles to overcome.

After a series of actions in the Solomons, the burden of maintaining two Divisions was unstainable for the limited resources that New Zeland could provide, and by October 1944 the Pacific Divison had been disestablished. Its men were either demobilised to fill critical civilian roles, or retained in the Army, as reinforcements for the Division in Italy or in the case of many of the Ordnance men, absorbed into New Zealand based Ordnance Depots to receive and refurbish the large amount of equipment returned from the Pacific.

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3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Sub Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944. Alexander Turnbull Library

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3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Sub Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944. Alexander Turnbull Library

Based on the experienced gained in the operation of the Base Ordnance Depot in New Caledonia and Advanced Ordnance Depot in Guadalcanal, two Ordnance Officers who had served in the Pacific since 1940, Henry Mckenzie Reid and Stanley Arthur Knight produced reports in 1945 summarising Ordnance operations in New Caledonia and Guadacanal. Both Knight and Reid had been civilians in the Ordnance Corps before the war, Reid at Trentham and Knight at Hopuhopu and commissioned as officers during 1940. Both men would serve in the Base Ordnance Depot in Fiji and then with the Base Ordnance Depot in New Caledonia as Chief Ordnance Officer. Knight would also be the final DADOS of the 3rd NZ Divison. Both officers would remain in the NZAOC after the war with Reid becoming the Director of Ordnance Services from April 1957 to November 1960.

Both reports are similar in overall content with various points on Storage, Packing of Stores, Personnel, Ammunition with each Officer providing varying degrees of detail. The combined purpose of the reports is not only to provide a historical record of this aspect of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services in the Pacific but also to provide a resource for the New Zealand Ordnance Services and assist in planning for future operations in the tropics.

 

 

OPERATIONS OF ORDNANCE DEPOTS IN PACIFIC
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF
LIEUT-COL S.A.KNIGHT N.Z.E.F I.P.

Knight Pic

Lieutenant-Colonel Stanley Arthur Knight

FORWARD

I was appointed Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services immediately prior to the withdrawal of troops from forward areas to base areas in New Caledonia. Shortly after my arrival in Guadalcanal, units commenced preparations prior to evacuation, and my duties as D.A.D.O.S were not onerous since the demand for equipment had dropped to bare essentials. My observations must, therefore, be entirely concerned with an analysis of experiences gained while holding the appointment of Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), Base Ordnance Depot(BOD) New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific(NZEF IP).

ZONE OF OPERATIONS

The Base Ordnance Depor was established in New Caledonia at the beginning of the new year in 1943. Being situated some 30 miles for the port of Nepoui at which the bulk of our stores were unloaded and 100 miles from Noumea, fairly long hauls by road were necessitated.

In August of the same year, an Advanced Ordnance Depot was established in Guadalcanal, staffed by about 50% of the Base Ordnance Dept personnel. A few weeks later a Forward Ordnance Depot staffed by 2 officers and 25 ORs was established a Vella Lavella. The later depot was closed down and personnel withdrawn to Guadalcanal when Divisional Troops move forward to Green Island.

Due account must the taken of the type of operations to be undertaken, but it is my opinion that sub-division must be kept to a minimum. If the Base Depot is situated as close as possible to the fighting troops, then the necessity to establish Advanced Depots can be reduced to a minimum. Each time a Sub-Depot is established, additional personnel are required, and the total quantity of stores must necessarily be increased go provide working margins for each Depot.

STORAGE

It will be generally accepted that few if any permanent buildings will be available for the holding of ordnance store on Pacific Islands unless the Base is established at places such ad Noumea, Suva or Rabaul. Full provision must, therefore, be made for the temporary coverage to provide adequate protection for the initial shipments of stores when a Depot id being established.

Sufficient timber and tarpaulins for the erection of shelters should be forwarded with the first shipment of stores. Well constructed canvas shelters with good ventilation will give satisfactory accommodation for the storage, breaking down and issue of equipment for a period of 3 or 4 months. If the Depot is to remain in one site for a longer period, prefabricated buildings should be provided as early as possible if the loss of stores is to be kept to a minimum. Canvas coverings can only be considered a temporary measure as owing to the high humidity, together with tropical rain and cyclones, deterioration is very rapid.

The effects of a hurricane can be severe, and a poorly constructed Ordnance Depot might easily be completely wrecked with very heavy mortality to stores since hurricanes are usually accompanied by torrential downpours.
I stress the fact that the best type of storage which can be procured, must go forward at the very earliest moment; otherwise, the Depot will be severely hampered, particularly in its infancy.

To meet the requirement of a Base Ordnance Depot serving a Division (including Ammunition) and to provide a small surplus for contingencies 2000 tarpaulins, preferably of the standard 180ft x 13-ft would be required.

In the initial stages of an operation, stores are usually carted to dumps from shops. Every effort should be made to provide dunnage for the stacks and tarpaulins should be arranged, allowing good air circulation.

Stacks of stores covered in this manner require constant attention. For instance, when a stack which has been properly covered allowing good air circulation, is partially broken down, the tarpaulin is allowed to drape on the ground. The air under the tarpaulin arranged in this manner is always saturated in a damp climate and rapid deterioration is the result. The same applies to tentage which should be properly erected, preferably with wooden floors, allowing free air circulation and the maximum benefit of dry sunny days used by removing and drying out damp walls.

Although 1200 Tarpaulins were placed on order for manufacture some weeks prior to the Divisions departure from New Zealand, only about 400 were to hand and available for use when the Ordnance Depot was established in New Caledonia. This number was insufficient to cover all Depot stocks and Ammunition with the result that much damage resulted. On instructions from the A.A. & Q.M.G, 80 tarpaulins had to be removed from ammunition stacks for the issue to A.S.C units. As a result of the Ammunition being exposed to heavy rains, considerable damage was done, and a repair party of 50 men was employed for many weeks at a later date, repairing and cleaning the Ammunition, while some had to be destroyed owing to its unserviceability.

When the Ammunition dump was established at Guadalcanal, every effort was made to provide the best possible storage. Ammunition was stacked on goof platforms with coconut poles for base and Tarpaulins were properly arranged, allowing free ait circulation. As a result, losses were negatable in a striking contrast to the losses in this Ammunition by U.S. Forces, who did not cover Ammunition stacks which were often in damp areas with no dunnage.

As it is not possible, without disastrous results, to open up and expose M.T parts, Signal Equipment and spares, Wireless Equipment and spares, M.G and S.A spares and certain Engineer Stores in other than dry storage, it is recommended that sufficient Stores wagons should be provided to house this equipment until such time s prefabricated buildings can be erected. It is estimated that not less than 24 well-appointed stores wagons would be required and theses should be stocked with spares, most likely to be in early demand.

I may appear to have dwelt on the question of storage, but when the Base Ordnance Depot commenced operations in NECAL, the only stores and office accommodation available in addition to Tarpau1ins, on which I have already documented were 8 I.P.P. Tents, being the balance of 110 shipped and 2 G.S Single Marquees. Although a considerable quantity of dunnage was unloaded from ships and made available to Units for camp construction, very little was made available for dunnage of stores. Timber ordered in NZ by B.O.D. for the dunnage of Ammunition was taken over by the Engineers and very little made available for Ammunition. By the same token, priority was given to the issue of I.P.P. tents for Messes, Orderly Rooms etc., 102 being used for this purpose, leaving a balance of 8 for use in our Depot as Stores and offices.

The construction of storage accommodation for Ordnance Depot should be the responsibility of the Works Construction Coy N.Z.E which in my opinion is an essential unit in any Army formation.

PERSONNEL

Personnel for an Ordnance Depot should be carefully selected to fill the various positions; the following are most suitable: –

Clerks: Men who have been clerks and accountants in civilian life are easily trained to carry out clerical duties in an Ordnance Depot. Qualified accountants are invaluable, and three or four of these in a Depot are worth their weight in gold.

Storeman-General: Men who have worked in retail stores and warehouses and who have good clerical training invariably make good storeman. Farm labourers and navvies are, almost with exception, useless as storemen and cannot be relied on to carry out other than labouring duties. It is agreed that there is a certain amount of labouring work in and Ordnance Depot, but this can be done very efficiently by an intelligent man, while on the other hand, a labourer cannot carry on with the onerous duties of a storeman, should the need arise.

Storeman-M.T: It is essential that M.T. Storeman should have had considerable experience at this trade in civilian life. It is desirable that Senior Storemen should have had at least 8 or 10 years experience in the handling of M.T spares.

Storeman-Wireless: Technical men who have a sound knowledge of wireless equipment appear to be very difficult to procure, but it is highly desirable that at least one very experienced man should be included in the staff of a Depot. It is likely that a Wireless Mechanic who could fill a storeman’s position would be more easily procured.

Storeman-Signals: Signal Storemen from the P&T Dept should prove the most suitable, but again these seem rare.

Storeman-Engineers, Arty & Armd: Key personnel to fill the positions of storemen in these sections should be from Ordnance Depots in NZ and should have some years’ experience. It is extremely unlikely that any suitable personnel could be obtained from other than Ordnance Depots to fill these positions in anything like a satisfactory manner.

The future Defence Policy of this country should include the training of men for Ordnance duties. Even if only an elementary training can be given, men so trained would he much more useful than those who had no training at all. It is also suggested that a good percentage of the men employed during peacetime in Ordnance Depots should be young men fit for Overseas Service should the need arise.

Care should be taken to ensure that the men selected for Ordnance Depots are trustworthy and of good character. It will be found that men who have filled positions of trust in civilian life can be depended upon to carry out their work in a satisfactory manner in the Army.

N.C.O.’s

Almost without exception, N. C. 0′ s are promoted on their technical ability, which naturally is of prime importance in an Ordnance Depot. Quite frequently, these N.C.O’s prove poor disciplinarians and have insufficient training in drill. It is highly desirable that all N.C.O’s should have a short course on discipline and drill, otherwise discipline within the Unit tends to become rather lax.

The importance is stressed, of making provision in the future for sufficient key personnel to be trained particularly in technical sections. In our Base Ordnance Depot with an establishment of 220 NCO’s and 0R’s, we did not have one storeman with any knowledge of Technical stores and had only two men with pre-war Ordnance training.

My experience has convinced me that No Ordnance Depot will function to its fullest capacity unless a D & E platoon is included in the establishment. This Section which should consist of 25 to 30 men including 2 carpenters, would be able to perform the following duties, Guards, Picquets, Camp Maintenance, Maintenance of Stores areas, General Fatigues, and providing working parties to relive pressure at rush periods. This would obviate the necessity of having to detail clerks and storemen, who are often key men, for such duties.

PACKING

The standard packing case used by Ordnance in New Zealand has proved quite satisfactory. A suggested improvement is that all cases should be constructed of tongue and groove timber.

Many of the cases, and in particular those constructed by Army contractors, proved unsatisfactory. Three-ply cases are poor for tropical conditions and should not be used. Cases carrying “every-ready” were not constructed stoutly enough to carry the weight packed in them, with the result that a high percentage arrived broken, with a resultant loss of the contents through pillage etc., which in some cases was very heavy. Old used cases should not be used for stores which may require many handlings. Timber used should not be less the ¾ inch, and in many cases, it is advisable to use 1-inch boards or heavier, if high weight – size ration is involved.

Waterproof lining for cases should be used wherever possible. In packing stores, it should be always born in mind that cases may have to withstand severe conditions during transit. Quite frequently during unloading of ships on beaches or in transit camps where no coverage is available, stores are subjected to torrential downpours of rain. The resultant damage is not always apparent from outside appearances when packages reach their final destinations. If not required for immediate use the total contents may be rendered unserviceable before being unpacked, perhaps some weeks later.

The use of packing such as wood-wool or straw, which retains moisture, causes rapid corrosion of metal articles, particularly if they have not been toughly treated with a rust preventive before packing. Stores packed out from Ordnance Depots in New Zealand, without any rust preventative have been received in an unserviceable condition owing to the ingress of water or moisture during transit. On occasions, the stores received unserviceable have been urgently required for maintenance. These remarks apply in the main to Artillery Stores, Small Arms parts, and tools.

The packing of Bubbles Spirt Glass, Thermometers and Artillery Packings, etc without protection from heavy articles in the same case, must be avoided at all costs. Fragile articles should be packed in a small wooden box before being included with heavy articles in a case. The use of straw or wool-wood as cushioning when packing instruments such as Binoculars, Telescopes, Periscopes, Rangefinders, etc., should be avoided. Any damage retained by such packing induces rapid mould growth.

STORES PROVISIONING

Having due regard to lines of communication, minimum require rents only should be carried forward and held until adequate storage can be arranged. This is of course entirely governed by lines of communication. During operations of 3 Div. the paucity of shipping, particularly
during the first 9 months, made it essential that we should carry at least 6 months stock for all items. On some occasions, stores awaited shipment from N.Z. for 6 or 7 months owing principally to the higher priority placed on U.S. equipment.

It is recommended that in future operations where a full Division has to be maintained, consideration should be given to the chartering of a cargo ship solely for supplying such a force. A ship similar to the ‘Matua’ would do the job admirably. When making this recommendation, I am fully aware that there was a shortage of shipping during the period, but the position may not obtain on another occasion.

TENTS & TARPAULINS

Conditions in the Tropics made the lite of Tentage very short. I.P.P· and I.P. Tents were in general use and proved very suitable. However, due to the high humidity and heavy rainfall, the average life for the Outer Roof was only about 9 months and Inner Roof – 12 months. According to the location and care taken, there were variations. Tents pitched under trees were seldom, if ever, properly dried out and would be unserviceable in 6 months or less, while others pitched in dry exposed areas where the full benefit of drying breezes was obtained, would be serviceable for 12 months or even longer. In combat areas, subject to air attacks, full use has to be made of natural camouflage, and Tents have of necessity to be pitched under trees, where they are available.

Some G.S. Single Marquees which have only a single skin, were used for storage and these were not at all suitable. Besides being unbearably hot, they are not rainproof and should not be used in the Pacific.

The Pyramidal Tent, commonly used for housing troops, by the U.S. Forces is also unsuitable for the tropics, being unbearably hot.

The life of Tarpaulins is also considerably lessened, principally by the tropical heat. Waterproof dressing, which is normally wax bases, melts and runs out of the fabric with the result that frequent dressing is required.·

BOOTS

The Black R. & F. Boot used by the N.Z. Forces gave good service. Due to the conditions, wear on boots was very heavy and the average boot required re-soling every 3 or 4 weeks. Very little trouble was experienced with mould growth, except where boots had become damp during transit or through poor storage.

CLOTHING

Uniforms – Wear and tear on clothing was very heavy. In my opinion, the standard Khaki Drill shirt which can be worn with either shorts or long trousers is the most suitable. The Bush Shirt is not suitable for wear with the shorts and cannot be considered a utility garment such as the K.D. shirt is. The average soldier has to do his own laundering while on Active Service end Bush Shirts look very untidy unless they are well laundered.

Socks – Socks proved quite suitable and gave good service.

Hose, Footless – Footless Hose Proved most unsuitable being much too short and tight-fitting. Soldiers avoided wearing them whenever possible. If it is decided to continue the use of this article, liberal allowance should be made for shrinking.

Underclothing – Vests and Shorts Cotton Under gave good service, but it is suggested that for tropical use, these should be made lighter. The lighter weight garments as used by U.S. Forces are considered to be much more suitable.

Belts – A belt similar to that used by U.S. Forces for general purposes should be issued to each soldier.

Hats S.D – Due to the perspiration and rough conditions, the mortality was very high. However, this hat gave good service. The issue of a Tropical Sun Hat would be a more welcome addition to the kit of soldiers.

SMALL ARMS

I do not propose to report fully on the behaviour of S.A armament or other technical stores since a publication prepared by a Scientific Mission from Australia, who visited New Guinea, covers in detail all the difficulties which confront those who use Army Equipment in the tropics much more fully and scientifically than I could hope to do. I will refer to this publication at the conclusion of my report, but I desire to stress the heavy mortality inflicted on rifles, by the Mason Bee.

This small insect was responsible for the destruction of some hundreds of rifle barrels in the Division. The Mason. Bee will build a nest in a rifle overnight, and corrosion caused by acid immediately sets in and cannot be arrested.

To prevent the Bee entering the nuzzle of a rifle, a covering, preferably of mosquito netting or some such open texture material, should be used as this will allow breathing and thus not induce sweating of the barrel which will occur if it is completely sealed.

Mosquito netting was made available to Units in the Division, but in view of the heavy mortality, it is doubtful that the fullest use was made of this or the repeated warnings issued in Divisional Orders, rigidly enforced by all C.O’s.

LIFTING GEAR

The Depot was considerably handicapped by the total lack of lifting gear, until 3 months before the Depot closed, when a very useful Mobile Crane arrived from N.Z. This was in striking contrast to the U.S.Forces who always had an abundance of lifting gear of all types and sizes. The Depot staff had to manhandle such items as Speedway Stores weighing 1-ton and MT cases of assemblies weighing 1,100 lbs.

Every Ordnance Depot should have on its War Equipment Table three Finger Lifts and two Mobile Cranes. One of the latter should be capable of lifting 2-tons at least.

AMMUNITION

The use of other than steel boxes for the packing of Ammunition should be reduced to an absolute minimum. Wooden boxes, particularly those packed with 3.7 How. Shell and 25-pdr. Shell failed to stand up to the handling and transporting. This was mainly due of course to the deterioration caused to the woodwork by the damp, humid climate and accelerated in some instances by exposure to the weather when coverage was not available, but in any case, the life of wooden boxes is much less than that of steel boxes, which will withstand a good deal of rough handling.

AUTOMATIC MAINTENANCE

The principle of the supply of Automatic maintenance items is considered to be an excellent one. For conditions in the Pacific, there is no doubt that the scales would require a certain amount of revision but owing to the fact that supplies did not come to hand until some 6 months before the Division returned to N.Z, insufficient data was obtained, and time did not permit revision of the schedules. Had Automatic Maintenance been in operation during the whole period, some very valuable
information would have been available.

LIASION WITH N.Z

It is considered that constant Liaison with N.Z. should be maintained. It is considered that an Ordnance Officer should visit the N.N Base from which supplies are drawn, every 3 or 4 months and that an Ordnance Officer from N.Z. should pay frequent visits to Depots overseas when they are so readily accessible by air transport.

GENERAL ADMINISTRATION

It is desired to place on record the valuable assistance rendered to the Base Ordnance Depot by the Officer I/C Administration, (Brig. W. W. Dove) and his staff at his H.Q. ·what was a very difficult job was made considerably lighter by the friendly co-operation and help and advice given at all times. No reasonable request was ever refused, and everything possible was done to promote efficiency in. the Depot.

The Main Depot was divided into Sections as follows:

H.Q.
General Stores and Clothing.
Armament, Engrs and Signals.
M.T.
Ammunition.
Returned Stores.

HQ was controlled by the C.O.O, assisted by an Adjutant and each Section was controlled by an Ordnance Officer.

This arrangement proved quite satisfactory and could well be adopted in future for an Ordnance Depot set up under similar circumstances with the addition of a Provision and Statistical Section, controlled by an Officer.

CONCLUSION

Following a survey carried out in New Guinea by a Scientific Mission from Australia, a pamphlet entitled “Condition of Service Material under Tropical Conditions in New Guinea” was published.

This publication deals exhaustively with the effects of tropical. Conditions or equipment in all its phases and is, in my opinion, applicable to all Pacific Islands to a greater or lesser degree.

It is recommended that the fullest possible use should be made of this publication and no Ordnance Officer proceeding to the Pacific should fail to read this valuable Pamphlet.

(sgd) S.A. KNIGHT

 

OPERATIONAL REPORT
BASE ORDNANCE DEPOT
MAJOR H.McK. REID  N .Z.E.F I.P.

Reid Pic

Major Henry Mckenzie Reid

The problems of the receipt, custody and issue of Ordnance Stores in the Pacific Area, is much greater than is imagined by the layman, and it is hoped that the following remarks may prove helpful should the occasion ever arise when an Ordnance Depot is again established in the Pacific.

One of the greatest problems which has to be overcome is the time lag which occurs between the placing of an order and the receipt of the stores. It was soon found that estimates had to be prepared covering supplies sufficient for six months, as this was the period which we could expect would elapse before stores would arrive. This occasionally brought about very large shipments which were more difficult to handle than would have been the case had stores arrived, say, at monthly intervals. The problem of shipping is one which would greatly improve, and I would suggest, that with a full Division to be serviced, there would be sufficient cargo to warrant the chartering of a small ship which would be at the sole disposal of NEW ZEALAND Forces. I mention this, as on numerous occasions, stores which were urgently required by us, were short shipped owing to priorities being placed on US Equipment. I would again point out, that any Ordnance Depot operating in the Island areas, should carry not less than six months supplies. For the information of any Ordnance Officers concerned, I will attach to this report, a schedule giving some idea of the quantities of popular items used by this Force. This may prove of some value both in the initial provisioning of a Depot and also in the preparation of maintenance demands.

STORAGE

Early coverage of stores after receipt is one of the greatest importance. I fully appreciate the difficulty in providing permanent or pre-fabricated buildings, but I would emphasise the fact that this type of storage is essential if the Depot is to function for any length of time. The provision of a permanent building for the handling of M.T spares and other technical stores should be an urgent priority, as, in a humid climate such as rules in the Islands, it is essential to have some areas in which these stores can be opened and handled. Loss of M.T stores through decoration was relatively light in NECAL, but this could only be attributed to the acquiring of storage space at the Gendarmerie. However, until this building became available, we found it impossible to open and supply spare parts which were urgently required for the repair of trucks which were suffering heavy damage due to the atrocious condition of the road. I would recommend the use of stores wagons both for M.T. parts and Artillery, Engineer and Signal parts. These wagons could be parked in NEW ZEALAND with a selection of parts which it could be assumed would be required soon after landing. These stores would be available for immediate issue, and when permanent storage space was available, they could be used for the distribution of small stores to Divisional units. Temporary coverage should be available immediately stores are landed, and I would suggest the 2000, 18’x13’ tarpaulins, together with a supply of timber, should be made available for the erection of temporary shelters and for the coverage of ammunition. Prior to leaving NEW ZEALAND, 1200 tarpaulins were ordered, 400 of these were received with an early consignment of stores, but the balance took many months to arrive, due either to the difficulty in obtaining these in NEW ZEALAND and the lack of shipping at that stage. Owing to this short delivery of tarpaulins, quite a quantity of precious stores suffered untold damage. This position was further aggravated by an order from a very responsible officer for the issue of a number of tarpaulins to A.S.C. It was pointed out that the only tarpaulins available were covering ammunition, with the result the considerable damage was done. Heavy repairs were necessary, and a certain amount of unserviceable ammunition had to be dumped.

Dependent on the availability of timber at the site where ammunition is to be stored, I would suggest that a large quantity of heavy dunnage should be provided from NEW ZEALAND for the purpose of correctly storing ammunition clear of ground contact. This dunnage could easily be used for the securing of M.T Trucks during the shipment.

When the Ordnance Depot arrived in NECAL, it was expected to establish itself and commence functioning with as little loss of time as possible, with the result that the Ordnance Depot was not well constructed as possible and that the men had insufficient opportunity to make themselves reasonably comfortable. Owing to the shortage of manpower, it took many months to have the same amenities as other units had in a few days. I would consequently suggest that the site for an Ordnance Depot should be levelled and roads prepared by the engineers so that the ordnance personnel could get on with the establishment their Depot. Assistance should be given by the Engineers in the erection of temporary shelters such as I have previously mentioned.

PACKING OF STORES

The packing and marking of stores received from NEW ZEALAND caused much concern to B.O.D whilst in NECAL. Some cases were much too light for the type of stores which they contained. These were mainly packages received directly from Contractors. As an example, Ever-ready Batteries invariably arrived in a damaged condition owing to the fact that they were packed in light cases. The ideal type of case is that used by the NZAOC for the packing of clothing. This is a standard case in three sizes which proved very satisfactory. The use of this principle should be extended to all types of stores being shipped overseas. It may appear costly to have to provide this type of case, but the amount of stores lost and damaged would be reduced, and would compensate for the outlay. Much damage was done to valuable stores due to faulty packing. For instance, where metal stores are being packed, care should be taken to see that bright surfaces are greased. Quite a number of shipments arrived from NEW ZEALAND in which Small Arms parts, Arty parts and other small items had been just put in a box, with the result that they arrived resembling a heap of rusty metal. Small part such as these, should be greased and packed in greased paper. Glass items such as Spirt Bubbles, should be carefully packed and not be permitted to roll in cases. The use of straw or wood-wool should not be permitted where metal items are being packed, as both of these substances attract moisture, with the result that they become damp and stores begin to sweat.

The marking of stores caused a lot of heartaches to B.O.D, the codesign “P” in a circle, was parked on each side of cases but the scheduled marking was, in many in instances only placed on the top of the case. From an identification point, the local method of marking is for the scheduled mark to be put on both ends of the case. If possible, this could also go on the top. In order to minimise the chance of pillage, I would suggest that the practice of indicating the contents on the outside of the case should cease.

Code signs were used, but were much too obvious to be misunderstood.

Good Paint should be used in marking, as cheap paint or stencil inks fade under tropical conditions. The position was complained of to D.M.T WELLINGTON and was rectified after the visit of D.M.T’s Representatives. Things such as this may appear trivial, but really important to an Ordnance man for the easy identification of stores.

SUB-DIVISION OF B.O.D

Taking into account the type of operations to expected in the Pacific where forces are liable to land on different islands, I am of the opinion that B.O.D. should not establish more than one forward base. In order to provide an Ordnance Detachment with both the 8th and 14th Brigades and to have maintained an Advanced Ordnance Depot at GUADALCANAL, it would have been necessary if these establishments were to function efficiently, to have provided approximately twice the amount of stores and 80% more men. I am of the opinion that prior to leaving NEW ZEALAND, all units should be allowed to carry a reserve stock of, say, 10 to 20% of items such as Boots, Clothing, Camp Equipment and any items considered necessary. The ideal method of supply with an Amphibious Force would be to establish an Advanced Depot such as A.O.D GUADALCANAL. From then on, all units would work on their reserve stocks. This would allow units to requisition stores and still be able to provide the immediate needs of the man. This principle was tried by the Force in GREEN ISLAND and proved very successful. Units were permitted to carry forward this reserve and from then on submitted demands back to A.O.D GUADALCANAL, which was able to forward the stores required. Any time factor due to shipping was cared for by the reserve stores held by the unit. Regarding a move from NEW ZEALAND of a Force, no unit should move without being completely equipped. If for any reason units have to move without full equipment, then it is imperative that Ordnance stores and the Ordnance unit should be one of the first to move. During the move into NECAL, Ordnance received a huge quantity of stores which were landed prior to the arrival of the main body of B.O.D. This entailed many difficulties for the two officers and 30 O.R’s of B.O.D. who had preceded the Main Body. Their worries were increased by units arriving incompletely equipped and requesting the delivery of stores direct from the Dump in the NEPOUI VALLEY. Some units arrived with men short of even clothing, and this alone should back my suggestion that, either unit’s proceed fully equipped, or that the complete Ordnance unit be one of the earliest to move.

TRANSPORT & LIFTING GEAR

Only in the later months of B.O.D’s existence was ample transport available. This in itself is inclined to hamper the activities of a Depot, and I would recommend that transport should be allowed on a very liberal scale. I would also stress the necessity of having some heavy lifting equipment such as the Mobile Crane which arrived at B.O.D about three months prior to its return to NEW ZEALAND. Such items as Speedway Stoves, M.T Engines and other heavy equipment ranging from 3 or 4 cwt, had to be manhandled and this was much more apparent under the conditions in the islands. A mobile Crane should be one of the first items on any Ordnance Depots War Equipment Table.

INSPECTING ORDNANCE OFFICER

I would strongly recommend the appointment of an Inspecting Ordnance Officer whose duties would take him to every unit, where he should be given the right to inspect equipment and report on it. A check could thus be kept on the state in which a unit kept its equipment and also on the fact that they had no more or less entitled to them.

I would also recommend that the return of unserviceable items to B.O.D should discontinue and that a travelling Board of Survey should visit units at pre-arranged times. The I.O.O could function on this board as a permanent member. Items od no Salvage value could be destroyed on the spot whilst items for repair or salvage could be returned to Ordnance. This would obviate the necessity of carting over many miles, large quantities of material whose only fate could be to end in fire. This would minimise the work of the Salvage Section of B.O.D. They would then be in a position to do more repair work than was ever accomplished.

LIASION WITH NEW ZEALAND

Liaison with NEW ZEALAND or source of supply is an extremely desirable thing, but it is suggested that from an Ordnance point of view this can most successfully be carried out by someone conversant with Ordnance. Quite apart from the Divisional Liaison Officer who made several trips to NEW ZEALAND, I am of the opinion that Ordnance should have had closer contact with NEW ZEALAND. I would suggest that an Ordnance Officer should visit NEW ZEALAND or source of supply, at least every three months. I stipulate an Ordnance Officer, as he would be conversant with the general needs of the Depot. For our dealings with U.S. Forces both in NECAL and GUADALCANAL, use was made of two excellent Warrant Officers, and their appointment was more than warranted. Being in close contact with the U.S Forces, they were many times able to procure stores which were urgently required by our Forces.

D&E SECTION

Much working time is lost in an Ordnance Depot due to the necessity of guards and fatigues. I would recommend that a D & E Section should be incorporated in the establishment. This Section need not be officered, but could be administered by Headquarters Section. under the Adjutant. The ideal section would be about 25 to 30 men strong and should include a carpenter and general maintenance man. This would allow Storemen and Clerks to continue with their duties, but I would suggest that any relief for the D & E Section should come from the general personnel during off duty periods.

AMMUNITION

The type of boxes used for the packing of ammunition could be revised. It is common knowledge now, that timber suffers more than anything in the damp, humid conditions found in the islands. I would recommend that all types of ammunition should be packed in metal containers. Not only do wooden boxes deteriorate, but in the number of times they are handled, they cannot stand up to the hard conditions. This is amply demonstrated by the condition in which small arms ammunition in particular, and 3.7 How Shell and some 25 pr Shell arrived back into NEW ZEALAND. Hardly any of the small arms ammunition is in fit condition to travel again.

SELECTION OF PERSONNEL

The selection of personnel for an Ordnance Depot should be given the greatest thought, and every endeavour should be made to ensure that the right type of personnel should be available prior to the Depot’s departure from NEW ZEALAND. The provision of a number of men to make up the full establishment is of no use if personnel with a knowledge of the duties they are expected to carry out are not available. This is stressed particularly in the Technical Sections of a Depot – namely, M. T, Arty, Sigs; Engs and Ammunition. The necessary knowledge to successfully carry out these jobs cannot be gained quickly enough whilst overseas, and an endeavour should be made to see that the bulk of each of these sections should be trained Ordnance personnel. In addition, care should be taken to ensure that men posted to an Ordnance Depot should be of good character and behaviour, as much trust has to be, of necessity, placed in them.

TRAINING OF NCO’S

Of necessity, N.C.O’s in an Ordnance unit are promoted for their ability to carry out the work which they are doing. This will sometimes result in an N.C.O. being extremely efficient at his work, but being a very poor disciplinarian. I would consequently recommend that N. C. 0’s in Ordnance be
given a short course solely on drill and discipline.

AUTOMATIC MAINTENANCE

The supply of spare parts under the system of Automatic Maintenance, is, in itself, an excellent idea. The scales, however, require a certain amount of modification, in that some items are provided for in either too large or too small quantities. Unfortunately, we did not operate the scales for a long enough period to be able to correct them, but in a new Force, this could quite easily be done after, say, six months’ service. In the main, the principle is right, and only minor alterations are necessary.

CONCLUSION

I have read carefully the pamphlet prepared by the Australian Army on the “Condition of Service Material under Tropical Conditions in New Guinea”. Everything contained in this pamphlet is applicable in a greater or lesser degree to conditions as found in NEW CALEDONIA and GUADALCANAL, and I would suggest that this pamphlet should be consulted and acted upon prior to any further Force leaving NEW ZEALAND for service in the tropics. This pamphlet was prepared by a Scientific Mission for the Scientific Liaison Bureau, Melbourne, Australia.

(sgd) H.McK. REID Major,
Chief Ordnance Officer, B.O.D.

 

 


NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park 1941-1945

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Badge of the 2nd NZEF

From July 1941 to December 1945, the New Zealand Divisional Ordnance Field Park (NZ OFP) was the primary stores holding organisation supporting the 2nd New Zealand Division of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force(2 NZEF). Following closely behind the NZ Division the NZ OFP main role was to provide a holding of spares for the NZ Divisional Workshop, and often as the Workshop deployed elements forward to support individual brigades, sections of the NZ OFP would also be detached forward. Mentioned in passing in many of the war histories produced since the war, the story of the NZ Divisional OFP has remained untold in any detail.

British experimentation in mechanisation during he the 1920s had identified the need for mobile Field Workshops and OFP’s to support the mechanised forces that would fight the next war. Added to British Army War Establishments (WE) in the 1930s but due to the financial depression of the time, it would not be until July 1939 when Britain formed a number of new Field Workshops and OFPs as part of the Territorial Army, setting out to recruit 150 officers and 5000 other ranks to bring the new units to war strength.[1]

A 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 as are normally 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(BOD) and would be modified due to experience gained as the war progressed and equipment changed. [2]

Stockholding would normally consist of fast-moving or essential items essential to maintain equipment vital to the dependency, including MT spares, Weapon spares and signal stores,[3] with scaling for each Divisional OFP against a scale set to represent 2.5% of the supported division’s vehicles.[4] Scaling of OFP’s was centrally controlled by the British Army’s Scales Branch of the Central Provisioning Organisation, which developed standard “Middle East” scaled for OFP’s taking into consideration the long lines of communication from the factory to the foxhole and the diversity of equipment sources such as for Britain, India, Canada and the United States.[5]

When New Zealand committed forces to the war in September 1939, an Infantry Division with supporting arms was to be recruited and sent overseas in three Brigade Group echelons.

  • The first echelon consisting of the 2NZEF Headquarters and a Brigade Group arrived in Egypt in February 1940.
  • The second echelon was diverted to Britain and would not join the NZ Division in Egypt until March 1941.
  • The third echelon would arrive in Egypt in September 1940.

Given the title of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC), the initial Ordnance contribution would only consist of Headquarters Staff and Light Aid Detachments (LAD) attached to each Infantry Brigade and Artillery Regiment. Within a short period of time, New Zealand Ordnance personnel would work closely with the existing Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) Base Stores Depots and Workshops in Egypt to establish the NZOC Base Ordnance Depot and Workshops at Maddi Camp. With the arrival of the 3rd echelon in Sept 1940 and the final arrival of the 2nd echelon from England in March 1941 was the NZ Division fully able to be consolidated as a unit. NZOC units consisting of Three Independent Brigade Workshops and 11 Light Aid Detachments were sent to Greece in March 1941 as part of New Zealand contribution to that campaign.[6] The NZOC workshops were supported in this campaign by the RAOC 1 OFP.[7] A lack of consultation prior to the operation saw that the attached British OFP was not scaled correctly to support the New Zealand units. 1 OFP held sufficient spares for Internationals and Crossley’s but this would be problematic as with the NZ Division not equipped with Internationals and only held two Crossley’s. Fortunately, 1 OFP held sufficient quantities of Ford, 25 pounder and 2 pounder spares, spring steel, sheet and rod metals, compressed air and many general items and with supplementation from local sources was able to provide some useful support to the NZ Workshops.[8] The Greek Campaign would ultimately be a defeat for the British Forces who would lose the Island of Crete to German airborne forces in May 1941.

NZ OFP July 1941 – January 1943

OFP October 1941

Alf Beale of the OFP sorting out his stock for the bin vehicle. Maadi Camp, October 1941. Photo W.W Thomas.

NZ Division Ordnance Field Park (1941)

Vehicle Tactical Sign NZ Division Ordnance Field Park 1941

Evacuated to Egypt, the New Zealand Division would undertake a period of rebuilding and expansion. 1 NZ Field Workshop war reformed as1 NZ Divisional Ordnance Workshop on 16 June 1941 followed by the formation of 2 and 3 NZ Field Workshops on 27 June. Taking on board the lesson of the Greek campaign a New Zealand Divisional OFP was formed on 28 July 1941. The NZ OFP would spend August and September assembling its personnel and equipment and bringing its stock to scale with the personnel learning the intricacies of Ordnance accounting. With a strength of 4 Officers and 81 Other Ranks, the OFP was equipped with 27 3-ton Lorries in different configurations optimised for the carriage of OFP Stores.[9]

OFP Formed 41

OFP Sept 41

Four Ordnance Sergeants of the Divisional OFP in the Western Desert, September 1941. L to R: W.W Thomas, E.M McSherry, A Wilkin, R Smith. Photo W.W Thomas.

OFP ESTB 1941

Organised with a Headquarters and three sections, the NZ OFP would participate in Operation Crusader in November 1942 and its subsequent operations. Like any unit of the NZ Division, the NZ OFP was not immune to casualties and would see Major William Knox, Officer Commanding of the NZ OFP injured after driving over a landmine leading to his evacuation from Tobruk, during which it is suspected that he drowned when the ship he was on was sunk.[10] [11] Withdrawn to Egypt in December 1941 the NZ OFP would then accompany the NZ Divison to Syria in March 1942 as a precautionary measure to guard against a German thrust from the North.

Recalled to the Western Desert during June 1942, the NZ Division was urgently called forward to help counter the Axis advances into Egypt. The NZ Division would transit the 1500 kilometres from Syria to Minqar Qiam on Egypt’s western frontier in just over a week and was immediately in the fight.  Forced into a fighting withdraw the NZ Division soon withdrew to new positions in the vicinity of the Egyptian town of El Alamein where the 8th Army would hold fast and hold the line.

Lessons learned in the recent campaign identified the need for the New Zealand Division to have its own armoured element. This led to the converting of the 4th Infantry Brigade into the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade on 5 October 1942.[12] [13] Concurrent with the reorganisation of the 2nd NZEF, the increased mechanisation of the battlefield saw the British Army reform its maintenance and repair organisations and form them into a single Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) on 1 October 1942.[14] The EME would assume responsibility for all RAOC, ASC and Royal Engineer Workshops, Recovery Sections and LADs.  New Zealand and Australian would follow suit on 1 December 1942, followed by India on 1 May 1943 and Canada on 22 February 1944. The formation of the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME) would see the NZ OFP remain with the NZOC,[15] whilst assuming the additional responsibility for the provision of MT Spares to the ASC workshops which had transferred to NZEME, and the scaling of spares for the new armoured component of the Division.

As New Zealand Division had converted to a mixed Infantry/Armoured Division, the NZ OFP was reorganised on 20 November 1942 from a modified Infantry Division OFP of a Headquarters and three Sections into a modified OFP structure of a Headquarters and three task orientated sections consisting of ;[16]

  • A Headquarters Holding Section – responsible for holding reserve stocks of all OFP Stores
  • An Infantry Section – responsible for serving the workshops and LAD’s both of the Infantry Brigades and Divisional troops with MT Stores, weapon spares and signal stores
  • an Armoured Section – Responsible for workshops and LAD’s of the Armoured brigade for armoured specific MT Stores, weapon and signal stores.

The positions of Driver-Mechanics and Electrician were removed from the establishment with the affected personnel transferred to NZEME units and replaced with NZOC Storeman-Drivers, The Fitters were retained as attached NZEME personnel.

RAOC9

RAOC Ordnance Field Park 1944/45 (RAOC, public domain)

February 1943 – January 1944

2 NZ Division Ordnance Field Park

Vehicle Tactical Sign NZ Division Ordnance Field Park 1944-45

On in February 1943, the establishment was again modified with an increase of the strength to 5 Officers and 99 Other Ranks with the structure changed to include an additional section, the Reserve Vehicle Park Section whose role was to hold reserves of the Divisions vehicles.

Further adjustment to the role and establishment of the OFP were facilitated on 7 March 1943 when Controlled Stores became an OFP responsibility’ Included as part of the OFP Headquarters, whose strength grew by one Warrant Officer Class One and one Private.

OFP ESTB 1943

Following the second Battle of El Alamein, the NZ OFP would continue to support the NZ Division in the advance across Libya and into Tunisia until the final defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa in May 1943. During this advance, there were periods when a New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot (NZAOD) was attached to the NZ OFP from the NZ Base Ordnance Depot (BOD) in Egypt. The role of the NZAOD was to provide holding of General stores and consumables not held by the OFP, mainly clothing and personnel webbing equipment.

The New Zealand Division would not participate in the invasion of Sicily but would spend the next few months reorganising and refitting as the 4th Armoured Brigade completed its training and was fully integrated into the NZ Division, and it would not be until October 1943 that the Division would re-enter the war in Italy.

February 1944 – December 1945

After several months in Italy, the NZ OFP undertook another reorganisation in February 1944. The NZ BOD at Maadi camp in Egypt had been split into two parts; No 1 NZ BOD, which would remain in Egypt and No 2 NZ BOD which was based at Bari on the South Adriatic coast of Italy.  With No 2 NZ BOD in Italy, the shortened and narrow lines of communication made the need for the NZAOD less necessary than in North Africa. The NZAOD that had been supporting the NZ Division in Italy prior to the establishment of 2 BOD was disbanded on 16 February 1944. With a requirement for the stores that the NZAOD held remaining forward, some its functions were absorbed into the NZ OFP as a mobile AOD section, increasing the strength of the NZ OFP by one Officer and fifteen Other Ranks and 10 additional lorries. [17]

OFP ESTB 1944

One of the functions that the AOD section brought to the NZ OFP was a Mobile Officers Shop. Officers shops were an organisation developed by the British in North Africa. Centrally provisioned by the Central Provision Office, Officers Shops allowed Offices to buy at reasonable rates, authorised items of kit such as clothing, camp kit, travel bags, Leather jerkins and shoes.[18] In Italy, the Officers Shop organisations were similar to that in the Middle East, but also stocked a range of locally obtained items. Although the Officers shop function was included as part of the AOD Section from February 1944 it would not officially be formalised and added to the establishment of the NZ OFP until 11 May 1945.

Further changes to the NZ OFP happened in August 1944 when an NZASC Warrant Officer Class Two was included in the Headquarter establishment to assist in the coordination of supplies to NZASC units from the NZ OFP.[19]  Additional equipment in the form of a truck-mounted crane to assist with the handling of heavy tank spares and engines in the Armoured Section was also approved during August 1944.[20]

In April 1945 the stockholding of signals stores in Division OFP’s was authorised to be increased. With the increase of holdings estimated to be around six tonnes, an additional three 3-ton Lorries was approved along with an increase of two Storeman and one Clerk.

Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945, bringing hostility’s in Europe to a close, but in the Pacific and South East Asia the war against Japan was still in progress and discussion of the future of the NZEF and its future in the war was underway. By June 1945 the decision had been made to maintain NZOC units in the NZEF at full strength to facilitate the handing back of vehicles and equipment by Divisional units as they were demobilised or reorganised for service against Japan. The August atomic bombing of Japan and their subsequent surrender in September 1945 brought what was going to be a long war to a sudden end. Japan would be occupied by allied forces and New Zealand would contribute a Brigade group (J Force) based on the 9th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd NZEF.[21]

In October 1945 it was decided to disband the NZ OFP, its men and equipment would be absorbed into an NZAOD, a Vehicle and Equipment Handling Depot and attached to 557 BOD, RAOC. The NZAOD and Vehicle and Equipment Handling Depot would receive and sort the equipment, with the best of it going to the J Force elements forming at Florence and the remainder returned to the RAOC. The NZOC personnel seconded to 557AOD who would receive and process the equipment back into the RAOC system, whilst also collection and dispatching new equipment from RAOC stocks for delivering to J Force.[22] [23]

OFP DisbandmentThe NZ OFP was functionally disbanded on 26 October 1945 and formally disbanded after 4 years and 5 months of service as a unit of the 2nd NZEF on 29 December 1945.[24]

During the NZ OFP 4 years of service, the following members died while on active service;

  • Temporary Major William Andrew Knox, 5 December 1941, No Known Grave, commemorated at Alamein Memorial.
  • Sergeant Ronald Roy Moore, 13 February 1942, now resting at the Fayid War Cemetery in Egypt.
  • Private Ivan James Curin, 24 March 1945, now resting Ravenna War Cemetery in Italy

OFP Storage and Accounting

Prior to the beginning of the war of the war, the standard system of field storage was the humble disused ammunition box. As Britain mobilised the influx of men from the automotive industry into the RAOC saw the introduction of the latest in storage techniques and how to maximise space which would be utilised to maximise storage in the OFP’s.[25]

Morris C8 15cwt 4 X 4 GS

Morris C8 15cwt 4 X 4 GS

The heart of the OFP was its store’s vehicles. The NZ OFP used a mixture of 15-cwt (.75-tone) trucks for administration tasks and 3-Ton lorries for the carriage of stores. The 3-ton lorries were generally of two types;

  • GS Lorries for the carriage of large items such as engines, gearboxes and differentials, and
  • Bin Lorries for the carriage of smaller compact items such as nuts, bolts, gaskets, fan belts, brake linings, windscreen wipers

GS Lorries were fitted with a flat floor body with fixed sides and headboard, and a drop tailgate. Usually fitted with a canvas canopy on a tubular frame. At times the tubular frame would be lined with chicken wire to limit pilferage.

Binned vehicles were lorries and trailers fitted with fixed racking made up of bins of different dimensions. Early designs consisted of full-length benches on both sides of the vehicle with storage bins under the benches and compartments for small items above the benches and a writing desk. Stores inside the bins were kept secure on the move by a mesh screen which could be removed when the vehicle was stationary to allow access to the stores. As the war progressed, the design of binned vehicles became more sophisticated with later models having solid bodies with internal lighting. The following illustrations provide an example of different types of bin trucks.

Polish OFP 2

Bin Lorry of the Polish Corps Italy 1943-45. The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

Polish OFP 1

Bin Lorry of the Polish Corps Italy 1943-45. The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

stores NO1 aust binned

Bin Truckc60l

Ledger CardStores accounting was managed by the Visidex system. The Visidex system was introduced in the late 1930’s by the RAOC as simple ledger card system to replace mechanical ledger posting systems which had proved to be unsatisfactory.[26] Adopted for wartime service the Visidex system was ideal as it was a simple system that required a minimum of staff training. Using carbon backed posting slips it allowed checks to easily carried out. Each OFP section would maintain a control office for which all indents from units would be received, the stock record would be checked, the location where the stock held identified (in an OFP each truck was a stock location) and the stock record updated. If the stock was available, it would immediately be issued. If the stock was not available, it would be recorded as a Dues Out, and an indent would be placed on the supporting Depot for replenishment which would be marked as a Dues In.[27] Each truck in an OFP would also maintain stock records that that would be reconciled with each issue and receipt and stocktake. The robustness and simplicity of the Visidex system would see it remaining as the primary field stores accounting system in the New Zealand Army well into the 1990s.

Summary

The New Zealand Division was one that was heavy in motor transport, and the close of the war in Europe as General Freyberg canvassed for the Division to be employed in South East Asia, British commanders welcomed the thought of the NZ Divisions participation, but concerns were raised that there would not be sufficient road space for the many thousands of vehicles on the NZ Division.[28]  With vehicles from motorcycles to tanks, weapons from pistols to howitzers and hundreds of other pieces of technical equipment requiring maintenance and repair,  the 2n NZEF developed first under the NZOC and then NZEME a world-class maintenance and repair system based on LAD, Field and Base workshops, which in the NZ Division was kept supplied with MT and other technical spares by the NZ OFP.

In the post-war NZ Army, OFP’s would exist in various iterations from 1948 until the late 1970s, but these would be training units that would never be deployed as standalone units such as the NZ OFP. The direct descendent s of the NZ OFP would be the RNZAOC Stores Sections attached to each RNZEME Workshop. Carrying specialised spares, assemblies and workshops materials to suit the particular requirement of its parent RNZEME workshops, Stores Sections became an RNZAOC responsibility in 1962 when RNZEME Technical Stores were transferred to the RNZAOC. A familiar sight on any RNZEME workshop exercise from the 1960s to 1996, the spirit of the NZ OFP would be well represented by RNZAOC Workshops Stores Sections with their RL Bedford Bin trucks and later Unimog mounted Binned 13’ Containers.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

OFP Mascot

Sergeant Harry Gilbertson of the OFP with the section mascot. ‘Sergeant Two Bob’ was brought as a pup from a ‘WOG’ for two bob and stayed with the section until the end of the war. Maadi, September 1943. Photo H.J Gilbertson

Notes

[1] “Technicians for Army,” Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 22, 26 July 1939.

[2] The War Office, Ordnance Manual (War) (London: His Majestys Stationery Office, 1939), Chapter IV, Section 35, Page 79.

[3] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945 (London: Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 1965), 153.

[4] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 95.

[5] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 184.

[6] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 94.

[7] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 141.

[8] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 95.

[9] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field Item Idr20107590 Record No  Da 1/9/Sd81/21 (Wellington: New Zealand Archives, 1941).

[10] A commercial traveller, Major Knox had served in the Field Artillery in the Great War attaining the rank of Lieutenant. Enlisting in the 2NZEF in 1930, Knox was posted to the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment as the Quartermaster. On 4 August 1941 Knox was transferred into the NZOC as the Officer Commanding of the NZ OFP and granted the rank of Temporary Major whist holding that appointment. Injured as the result of driving over a landmine, Knox was admitted to a Casualty Clearing Station on 29 November 1941. Evacuated alongside 380 other wounded soldiers, of whom 97 were New Zealanders on the SS Chakdina on the afternoon of 5 December 1941. Torpedoed by enemy aircraft, only 18 of the New Zealanders were rescued with the remainder including Knox presumed drowned. “William Andrew Knox,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1939.

[11] J. B. McKinney, Medical Units of 2 Nzef in the Middle East and Italy, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 (Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch Department of Internal Affairs, 1952, 1952), Non-fiction, 179.

[12] I. C. McGibbon and Paul William Goldstone, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (Auckland; Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, 2000), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 37.

[13] D. J. C. Pringle and W. A. Glue, 20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 (Wellington: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1957, 1957), Non-fiction, 292.

[14] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017).

[15] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 103.

[16] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[17] Ibid.

[18]  Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 205.

[19] NZASC Units were; 4 & 6 Reserve Mechanical Transport Company, Ammunition Company, Petrol Company, Supply Column, NZ Field Bakery, 18 Tank Transporter Company, NZ Mule Transport Company. Julia Millen, Salute to Service: A History of the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport and Its Predecessors, 1860-1996 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1997, 1997), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 441.

[20] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[21] Matthew Wright, Italian Odyssey: New Zealanders in the Battle for Italy 1943-45 (Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 2003, 2003), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 166.

[22] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[23] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 120.

[24] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[25] P.H. Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War (History Press Limited, 2016), 73.

[26] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 40.

[27] Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War, 73.

[28] Wright, Italian Odyssey: New Zealanders in the Battle for Italy 1943-45, 166.


1st NZ Army Tank Brigade Ordnance

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Formation Sign 1 NZ Tank Brigade

Formed at Waiouru in October 1941 with the intent of being deployed to the Middle East after Training in New Zealand for six months. The 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade was to provide armoured support for the 2nd NZ Division. The 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade consisted of three Tank Battalions with ancillary units including Medical Corps, ASC, Signals and Ordnance. The Ordnance units included:

  • A Second Line Workshop.
  • A Third Line Workshop.
  • Two Ordnance Field Parks supporting each workshop.
  • Three Light Aid Detachments (one for each Tank Battalion).
TANK BDE ORD

Ordnance within the 1st NZ Tank Brigade

The leadership of the Brigades Ordnance units was drawn from the 2nd NZ Division and arrived back in New Zealand in Late 1941. As the New Zealand Ordnance Corps was a new unit, most of the new recruits had to be found in Civilian Garages, workshops and industry with some additional specialists drawn from NZAOC workshops and returned from the Middle East. Most of the specialist personnel were trained at the Main Ordnance Workshop in Trentham with the remainder prepared at the new AFV school in Waiouru. 1

New Zealand is ready

With the entry of the Japanese into the war in December 1941 and their advance and conquering of much of South East Asia and the Pacific, home defence became the priority. Plans to deploy the 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade to the Middle East were put on hold and the unit rerolled for the immediate defence needs of New Zealand.2 After a period of reorganisations, the Brigade was ordered to be deployed in April 1942, with elements dispersed to:

  • Brigade HQ renamed Independent Squadron – deployed to the South Island.
  • 1 Tank Battalion – deployed to Northland.
  • 2 Tank Battalion – deployed to the Manawatu.
  • 3 Tank Battalion – deployed to Pukekohe.

This dispersion caused some issues for the Ordnance organisation. Designed to support the Brigade as a single entry in the flat North African desert within a 70mile radius. Ordnance would struggle to support the dispersed brigade that was now dispersed throughout the length and breadth of rural New Zealand, with few suitable roads and limited railway capability able to handle the ancillary equipment such as the specialist workshop binned and machinery trucks.

To Provide optimal support for the Brigade units the Ordnance organisation had been reorganised by July 1942 with the Army Tank Ordnance Workshop and 32, 33 and 34 LAD’s organised into what could be described as “Super-LADs” providing both 1st and 2nd line A and B Vehicle and Armaments and specialist spares support. 3rd line support was provided by the Tank Brigade Ordnance Workshop at Trentham and the Railway Workshops at Otahuhu.

November 1942 saw further changes which would start the gradual disestablishment of the 1st NZ Tank Brigade.3

  • No 1 Tank Battalion and 32 LAD remained in the Home defence roll in the Auckland/Northland area.
  • No 2 Tank Battalion, the Army Tank Ordnance Workshop and Ordnance Field Park were dissolved and became part of 3 NZ Division Independent Tank Battalion Group for service in the Pacific.
  • No 3 Tank Battalion and 33 LAD were deployed to the Middle East for service with the 2nd NZ Division, where it was dissolved, forming the nucleus of the 4th NZ Armoured brigade.
  • 34 LAD was stationed with the Independent Tank Squadron at Harewood in the South Island.
  • The Tank Brigade Ordnance Workshop and Ordnance Field Park would remain at Trentham, eventually being fully integrated into the Base Ordnance Workshops.
tank

A Valentine Mk V of the Brigade HQ Squadron, Dunedin,1943. http://kiwisinarmour.hobbyvista.com

By June 1943, the final units of the 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade; the 1 Tank Battalion Group and 32 LAD, now based at Pukekohe and the Independent Tank Squadron and 34 LAD based at Harewood were disbanded. The Ordnance personnel of those units were either sent to the 2nd or 3rd Divisions in Italy and the Pacific as reinforcements or absorbed into other ordnance units in New Zealand for the duration of the war.

The only unit authorised to wear the 2NZEF ‘Onward” badge, members of the 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade also wore on both arms a one-inch square coloured patch in the arm of service colours (purple Navy and Post Office Blue for Ordnance), with a miniature RTR ‘Tank” superimposed onto it. 3,4

 

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

Notes

  1. Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Wellington: Defence of NZ Study Group, 2016.
  2. Henley, “The Tanks An Unofficial History of the Activities of the Third New Zealand Division Tank Squadron In the Pacific,” in TANKS, MMGS & ORDNANCE, Wellington, Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1947.
  3. Plowman and M. Thomas, New Zealand Armour in the Pacific 1939-45, Christchurch: Jeffrey Plowman, 2001.
  4. Documents Relating to New Zealand’s Participation in the Second World War, Wellington, New Zealand: R. E. Owen, Government Printer, 1951.
  5. Oldham, Badges and insignia of the New Zealand Army, Auckland: Milimem Books, 2011.
  6. M. Thomas and C. Lord, NZ Army Distinguishing Patches 1911-1991, Wellington: Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord, 1995.
  7. J. Bolton, A History Of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps., Wellington: RNZAOC, 1992.