Behind the scenes at Takapau

It is said that a picture says a thousand words, and this postcard of the Takapau Divisional Camp of April-May 1914 is such a picture. While It tells part of the story of the neatly 4839 Territorials who attended the camp, it also provides an insight into the tremendous logistical effort by the Defence Stores Department to provide the stores and equipment required by the largest Territorial camp ever held in New Zealand.

Between April and May 1914, 18,882 Territorial Soldiers of New Zealand’s citizen army would attend five main camps across New Zealand. 

  • the Auckland Military Districts camp was at Hautapu, near Cambridge,
  • the Canterbury Military Districts camp was split between Kowai, near Springfield, with the Marlborough and Nelson units camping at Tapawera, near Nelson.
  • the Otago Military Districts Camp was at Matarae, in Central Otago
  • The Wellington Military Districts were held at Takapau in Hawkes Bay.

To oversee the management of the Camp Equipment and other Ordnance Stores required, the District Storekeepers of each Military District were appointed as Ordnance Officers for the duration of the camp and provided with a staff of eighteen Territorial Soldiers trained in the duties required of an Ordnance Depot.

The District Storekeepers were

  • Honorary Lieutenant William Thomas Beck, District Storekeeper, Auckland
  • Honorary Lieutenant Arthur Rumbold Carter White, District Storekeeper, Christchurch
  • Honorary Lieutenant Mr Owen Paul McGuigan, District Storekeeper, Dunedin
  • Mr Frank Edwin Ford District Storekeeper, Nelson
  • Honorary Major James O’Sulllian, Defence Storekeeper Wellington

Based on the numbers that attended the Takapau Camp and the Camp Equipment scale of 1913, the following quantities indicate the Camp Equipment required. Provided from the Defence Stores in Wellington, two trainloads were required to move the stores from Wellington to Takapau to pre-position prior to the camp.

  • Axes, felling, helved, 122
  • Axe. Pick, 160
  • Buckets, Water, 1937
  • Basins, Wash hand, 2023
  • Boilers with lid, 20 Gal, 100
  • Boilers with lid, 9 Gal, 100
  • Candlesticks, bayonet, 2023
  • Choppers, Meat, 100
  • Crowbars (if required) 190
  • Dishes, meat, 1711
  • Kettles, camp, 1543
  • Lantern s, stable, 348
  • Racks, arm, tent (Large loop), 1259
  • Spades, 274
  • Shovels, 274
  • Tents, circular, complete, 1773
  • Marquees, 65
  • Ropes, picket, 20 yards  115
  • Brooms, bass, 128
  • Sheets, ground, 8350
  • Rakes, iron 16in ,128

How much of this equipment was available in the District Storehouses is unknown. However, it is known that in 1914 the NZ Military had a sufficient stock of tents to accommodate the whole Territorial Force at the full establishment, including

  • 3651 tents (circular)
  • 181 marquees,
  • 30 operating tents, and
  • 98 bivouac tents

The concept of the Camp Ordnance Depots was that as the unit advance parties arrived, the required number of camp equipment stores would be issued from the Ordnance Depot to the unit Quartermaster Staff, usually under the control of the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant.

On completing the camp, the RQMS would be required to return all the stores to the Ordnance depot and remain available to finalise any accounts for losses and damages. Following the closedown of the camp, the stores would be loaded onto trains and returned to the District Stores, ready for the next activity.

The Ordnance Depots also held a stock of clothing and equipment available as replacements or for sale. For example, the Takapau Camp Ordnance Depot sold 1000 boots and 250 blankets.

The Divisional Camps of 1914 were only the second time Ordnance Depots had been established at annual camps and proved a success. There is no doubt that they would have been stood up again for the planned camps in 1915. However, the logistical framework of the 1914 Divisional Camps served as a dress rehearsal for the August 1914 mobilisation and contributed to the raising and dispatching overseas of the largest, best trained and equipped force to be dispatched from this country in the 20th century.


1950s Camp Equipment

Publicity photos from the 1950s showing a range of portable Camp Equipment managed by the RNZAOC

Safes-Meat Portable

A required item to preserve meat in Field Kitchens in the days before portable refrigeration.

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Stands Ablution Portable

This item is designed so that soldiers when in a field camp environment can have a place to carry out their daily ablutions.

Consisirtng of a sink top with a drain trough and bar to hang towels and mirrors, soldier would wash in shave using a basin. OIn completion if their business the contents of the basin wold be tipped into the drain from where it would flow into a sump dug into the ground

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Stand Ablution Components. Robert McKie Collection

Stand Ablution laid with its compontrs laid out;

  • Bar Towel/Toprail, Qty 1
  • Leg Ablution Stand End, Qty 2
  • Leg Ablution Stand Center, Qty 1
  • Brace Ablution Stand, Qty 2
  • Drain Sink, Trough, Qty 1
  • Drain, Lavartory pipe, Qty 1
  • Bolt securing, Qty 4
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The above picture shows the Stand Ablution in the final stages of assembly with the two soldiers about to fir the Bar Towel/Top-rail to the Leg Ablution Stand Ends. Once the Bar Towel/Top-rail is attached, the braces would be bolted tight and the Drain Sink, Trough and Drain, Lavatory pipe attached.
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Mess Kit Washup

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Used in conjunction with a kerosene heater, theses tubs would be assembled over a small trench with the chimney device drawing heated air under the tubs heating them up.

This set up was base on the three pot cleaning method.

Prior to washing. plates and utensils would have to be thoroughly scrapped clean into a rubbish bin.

Sink 1: Wash sink – Full of hot soapy water, utensils would be given a good scrub with a brush r dish cloth.

Sink 2: Hot-rinse sink -,Filled with clear, hot water, utensils would be rinsed in this sink.

Sink 3: Cold-rinse sink – Utensils would undergo a final rinse in water which would have had a few drops of bleach or other sanitising argent added to it

Field Cook House

In the background to these photos a Field Cook House can be seen. This was a portable building designed to be used as a Field Cookhouse which could easily be assembled from components.