Plan of the Defence Stores Mount Eden

This undated plan of the Mount Eden Goal Reserve provides a view of the layout of the long-forgotten Auckland Defence Stores Mount Eden location. Located between the Goal and Auckland Grammar School this plane was drawn up some time between 1907 and 1917

The Defence Stores footprint at Mount Eden started in 1871 when two magazines were constructed to house Defence ammunition, then stored at Albert Barracks in the centre of Auckland.

In 1903 the Defence Stores Office in O’Rourke Street (now Auckland University) was relocated to Mount Eden. Initially, the existing magazines at Mount Eden were thought to be sufficient. However, it was soon found that additional buildings were required, and a Stores building and Armourer’s shop were constructed during 1903/04. Eventually, a house was also built for Captain W.T Beck, the District Storekeeper.

In 1917 the Defence Stores were reorganised into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC), with the Mount Eden Defence Stores becoming the Northern Districts Ordnance Depot.

By 1920, with little space available for expansion to allow the storage of the large number of mobilisation stores required by the Norther District, construction of an alternative site for the Mount Eden Ordnance Depot began at Hopuhopu in the Waikato.

While the Hopuhopu site was still under construction, Stores from the Mount Eden site began to be transferred to Hopuhopu in 1927. The new depot officially opened in 1929, with the Mount Eden Depot closing.

The Store constructed in 1903 was dismantled and re-erected at the Narrow neck Camp on Auckland’s North Shore. The fate of the original magazines is unknown, but they were likely taken over for a time by the nearby Colonial Ammunition Company (CAC).

The closure of the Mount Eden Depot did not totally sever to connection between Mount Eden and the Ordnance Corps, with Ordnance Ammunition staff remaining attached to the CAC until 1967, testing the supply of Small Arms Ammunition provided by that factory.


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.


New Zealand Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20180426_220053-999293972

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

stock

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

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

20180605_195417-190082474.jpg
New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Badge, 1916-1919 (Robert McKie Collection 2017)

Notes

[1] Army Ordnance Corps

[2] New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps

[3] New Zealand Expeditionary Force

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

[5] Assistant Director of Ordnance Service

[6] Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Service

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Zealand Arms to Afghanistan

Following the war in South Africa, the British Empire was at the height of its power and prestige. The Royal Navy ruled the oceans, and if British interests were threatened on land, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had proven their commitment to support the empire by contributing men and materiel. As the economic powerhouse of the empire, British India was the most significant jewel in the British Imperial crown. However, British India’s confidence that it had the support of British dominions was put to the test in 1909 when it was discovered that firearms from Australia and New Zealand were being provided to tribes on the North-West Frontier who were actively opposed to the interests of British India. So how did firearms from New Zealand end up in the hands of Pathan Tribesmen on the borders of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan?

As the New Zealand military reorganised and reequipped following the war in South Africa, new uniforms and equipment would be introduced and the .303inch cartridge adopted as the standard calibre for rifles, carbines and machine guns, resulting in the Defence Stores holding over 17,000 Snider, Martin-Henry and Remington Lee rifles, carbines and accoutrements and just under a million rounds of obsolete ammunition. The disposal of this stockpile was the most significant disposal of Arms and Ammunition undertaken by the Defence Stores throughout its existence which would have the unintended consequence of arming Pathan tribesmen on the borders of British India.

Snider rifles had been introduced into New Zealand service from 1868.

Top: Snider Long Rifle, Middle: Snider Medium (Hay) Rifle, Bottom: Snider Short (Sword) Rifle Photo J Osborne New Zealand Arms Register. http://www.armsregister.com/

The Sniders would serve thru to 1890 when they began to be superseded by Martini-Henry rifles and carbines.

Rifle, Martini-Henry, 1896, Enfield, by Royal Small Arms Factory. Gift of the Police Department, date unknown. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (DM000372)

The introduction of cordite or smokeless powder ushered in the introduction of the .303 Martini-Enfield rifle leading to the progressive withdrawal of the Sniders and Martini-Henrys following the introduction of bolt action Lee Metford and Enfield rifles. With sufficient .303 calibre Martini-Enfield’s and an increasing amount of bolt action, magazine-fed Lee Metford and Enfield rifles available to arm the forces and provide a reserve, the Defence Council authorised a Board of Survey to be formed to investigate the disposal of the obsolete Sniders and Martinis in store.[1] In addition to Sniders and Martinis, there was also a quantity of .340 Remington-Lee rifles. In a bold move to provide New Zealand’s forces with the most modern of rifles, these were imported into New Zealand in 1887. However, due to unsatisfactory ammunition, the Remington-Lees were withdrawn from service in 1888.

Sitting in early 1907 and consisting of three officers, the Board of Survey weighed up the options for the disposal of the stockpile of obsolete weapons. Dumping the entire stock at sea was considered, but an anticipated outcry from the New Zealand press, who would have viewed this means of disposal as another example of needless government waste, ruled out this option. A small but guaranteed financial benefit resulted in sale by tender being decided upon as the most practical means of disposal.[2]

The early 20th Century was a turbulent time in world history. The late 19th-century race by the European powers had left them all fighting colonial bush wars to suppress opposition and maintain control in their various colonial possessions. In Eastern Europe, the Balkans were aflame as the former European vassals of the Ottoman empire fought the Turks and each other as they struggled to gain their independence. Closer to New Zealand, as the emerging American and Japanese empires undertook colonial expansion in the Philippines and Korea, conflict and insurrection ensured and would only be quelled by the most brutal measures.

In this environment, the New Zealand Government was cognisant that there was a ready market for firearms, however as the Arms Act of New Zealand limited the bulk export of weapons from New Zealand, the conditions of the tender were clear that for any arms not purchased for use in New Zealand, the remainder were not to be exported to any country or place other than Great Britain.

The entire stock of firearms was stored at the Defence Stores at Wellington and packed 50 to 90 weapons per case. The tender terms allowed tenderers to quote for not less than 100 of any weapon. The quantities and types of weapons were,

  • .577 Snider rifles, short sword bayonets with scabbards – 6867
  • .577 Snider rifles, long – 978
  • .577 Snider carbines, artillery; sword bayonets with scabbards – 1957
  • .577 Snider carbines, cadet – 849
  • .577 Snider carbines, cavalry – 669
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry rifles, sword bayonets with scabbards – 4686
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry carbines – 520
  • Enfield carbines, Sword bayonets and scabbards – 103
  • .340 Remington Lee Rifles – 840
  • Swords, cavalry, with scabbards – 600

The ammunition was all of the black powder types, which, when fired, created a large amount of smoke exposing the rifleman’s position. An interesting ammunition type included in the tender was 106,000 rounds of Gardner-Gatling ammunition. This ammunition had been imported in the late 1880s as part of a demonstration lot, resulting in the purchase of a single Gardiner Machine Gun by the New Zealand Government. The ammunition was stored in the magazines at Wellington and Auckland, with the tender terms allowing bids of less than 50,000 rounds of any mixture of ammunition. The ammunition types tendered were.

  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, ball, rifle, solid case – 189000 rounds
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, ball, rifle, rolled case – 170000 rounds
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, ball, carbine, rolled case – 120000 rounds
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, blank – 240000 rounds
  • .577 Snider Ball – 150000 rounds
  • .45 Gardner Gatling, ball – 106,000 rounds

Notice of the tender was published by the Director of Military Stores, Captain James O’Sullivan, in the New Zealand press from 4 June 1907, with 14 June set as the final day for bids.[3]

The Tender Board accepted the highest tender in July 1907 with all the arms purchased by a Manchester firm through their New Zealand agents.

Much of the powder within the ammunition had caked and was unsuitable for use, leading to a significant part of the stocks being broken down into salvageable components in New Zealand. Under the supervision of Captain O’Sullivan, a record of each weapon was taken, recording the brands and serial numbers stamped on each weapon. As the weapons were packed into cases, the contents of each case were also recorded. The entire consignment was loaded onto the S.S. Mamari at Wellington, which sailed directly to London via the New Zealand Shipping Company’s usual route.  Included in the mail carried on the same voyage was a notification to the War Office in England providing complete shipment details. Providing these details to the War Office was not obligatory and only made on Captain O’Sullivan initiative. Four months later, the War Office received a reply asking why they had been sent all that information.

Approximately £6000 (2021 NZ$1,095,722) was realised by the entire sale of arms and ammunition.

Captain O’Sullivan’s attention to detail in dispatching the New Zealand firearms to England would prove wise when in May 1909, the Calcutta Englishman, the leading daily newspaper in India, published an article stating that Weapons bearing Australian and New Zealand markings had been smuggled across the Pathan border.[4]

Rifle, Martini-Henry, 1896, Enfield, by Royal Small Arms Factory. Gift of the Police Department, date unknown. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (DM000372)

While the Calcutta Englishman was accurate in its report that weapons bearing Australian and New Zeland Military markings had been found in the hands of Pathan tribesmen. The path the New Zealand weapons had taken to India was not the result of poor accounting by New Zealand’s Defence Stores, but rather the shady dealing of British second-hand arms dealers.


Notes

[1] “Defence Forces of New Zealand: Report by the Council of Defence and Extracts from the Report of the Inspector-General of the NZ Defence Forces, for the Year Ended 28th February 1908,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1909 Session II, H-19  (1909).

[2] “The Smuggled Rifles,” Star (Christchurch), Issue 9546, 19 May 1909.

[3] “Obsolete Arms,” New Zealand Times, Volume XXIX, Issue 6231, 10 June 1907.

[4] “Australasian Arms Smuggled into India,” Evening News (Sydney, NSW ) 12 May 1909.



The Wombles on the Western Front: BEF salvage development 1914-1919

New  Zealand’s first experience of Salvage units was during the 1914-18 war. Each British formation (including Dominion forces) was required as part of an army salvage plan to appoint a Salvage Officer for each brigade, and a Division Salvage Company, which in turn was supported a Corps Salvage Company.  

Shortly after arriving in France, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert the DADOS of the New Zealand Division was directed to provide one officer, one sergeant and two corporals for the Divisional Salvage Company, with the OC of the Pioneer Battalion providing four Lance Corporals and 24 Other ranks.

Formed on 5 May 1916 the NZ Divisional Salvage Company was under the command of Lieutenant  Macrae, NZAOC. The duties of the NZ Divisional Salvage Company were:

“The care and custody of packs of troops engaged in offensive operations; The care of tents and canvas of the Division; The salvage of Government property, and also enemy property, wherever found; The sorting of the stuff salved, and dispatch thereof to base.”

Headquarters New Zealand and Australian Division, “New Zealand Division – Administration – War Diary, 1 May – 26 May 1916,” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487546  (1916)

Although initially reporting to the Corps Salvage Officer, entries in the DADOS war diaries indicate that the Divisional Salvage Company was an integral part of the DADOS responsibilities. During April 1918 the NZ Div Salvage Company recovered the following items.

One Bristol Airplane

One Triumph Norton Motorcycle

Three Douglas Motorcycles

285 Rifles

10 Bayonets and scabbards

25 Steel Helmets

Four Pistol Signal

Three Mountings MG

62 Belts MG

32 Belt boxes MG

95 Gas respirators

“Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) – War Diary, 1 April – 30 April 1918.” 1918. Archives New Zealand Item No R23487665.

This talk examines the work of the British salvage system from its small beginnings at the battalion level to the creation of a giant corporation controlled by GHQ. It deals with salvage during hostilities and the colossal often forgotten task of the clean-up afterwards.


Anti Aircraft Ammunition Disposal 1955-57

During the Second World War, New Zealand had utilised approximately one hundred and thirty British Ordnance QF Mk 3 3.7inch Mark 3 Anti-Aircraft guns.[1]

Deployed across New Zealand at fixed and mobile sites with wartime scales of ammunition, these guns would sit ready during the wartime years in anticipation of Japanese Air raids. New Zealand’s anti-aircraft defences would never be tested, and with the immediate threat removed, the were guns were placed into storage with the ammunition returned to ammunition depots for refurbishment. However, due to the considerable amount of ammunition returned to New Zealand’s Ammunition depots at the end of the war, the capacity to hold all of the returned stock would soon be outstripped with large amounts required to be stored under tarpaulins in field conditions.

Valentine Tank at Trentham, stacks of Ammunition can be seen in the background. NZ National Library Ref EP/1955/1794-F

By 1954, 17000 rounds of 3.7-inch anti-aircraft ammunition had been stored in unsuitable conditions at the Liverpool Range outside Trentham Camp. With sufficient 3.7-inch stocks available to meet training needs in other depots, the Liverpool range stocks were considered surplus. Although initially intended to be inspected and refurbished at the Kuku Valley Ammunition Repair Depot, inspections revealed that the Liverpool Range stocks had deteriorated to the state where destruction was the only option.

Examination of deteriorated shell at Trentham, Upper Hutt. National Library of New Zealand Ref: EP/1955/1792-F

A plan was formulated to transport the 17000 rounds of unstable 3.7-inch ammunition from its storage area at the Liverpool range across the valley approximately 1.4 kilometres to the demolition area at Seddon Range, where the explosive content would be destroyed, and recoverable components such as the brass casings recovered and sold as scrap.

To create a safe working area around the stacks and provide access between the Liverpool and Seddon ranges, the Royal New Zealand Engineers undertook the engineering task of creating access to the stacks and constructing a road between the ranges.

Due to the detonation of the ammunition and its storage containers and the likelihood of an explosion, a modified armoured truck and trailer was constructed to facilitate the transportation.

Army vehicles at Trentham, Upper Hutt. Ref: EP/1955/1793-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23078184

The 3.7-inch round was a 12.7kg single piece of ammunition consisting of a cast steel projectile with a tapered nose filled with Amatol, TNT or RDX/TNT explosives, mounted in a brass casing. The brass case consisted of an explosive primer and a cordite propellant charge that could propel the projectile to a maximum ceiling of 9000 meters or a horizontal range of 15000 meters. Each 3.7-inch round was packed in a fibre cylinder, with two rounds packed into a C235 streel case.[2]

Examples of 3.7-inch rounds
C235 Ammunition Tin (2 x 3.7-inch rounds per tin)

With 17000 rounds in 8500 cases, ten cases (twenty rounds) would be transported from the Liverpool range to the Demolition area at a time. The cases would be unloaded at the demolition range, and in batches of four, the rounds would be detonated.

From June 1955, five or six detonations would occur daily with the frequency and strength of the explosions causing some distress to local residents, with the Upper Hutt Council questioning the Army on the reasons for the explosions.[3]  Another resident would forward a strongly worded protest letter to the editor of the Upper Hutt Leader Newspaper.[4]

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sir, The terrific explosions at the Trentham Camp which have wrecked our nerves for some considerable time, are the subject of this letter. Mr Editor. The world is at peace, yet we are at war (by the sound of things) in this beautiful valley in which we live. Every day these loud blasts shake our houses, waken our babies end sleeping little ones also elderly people having an afternoon nap, have a rude awakening, It takes very little imagination to realise the effect this bombing has on the nerves of bed-ridden patients at the Silverstream hospital. I ask you to publish this letter in the hope that the authorities will cease-fire, or at least explain why and how long this blasting is to be endured.

I am etc.,

ATOMIC BOMB

However, the explosive destruction on the old ammunition would continue with the daily explosions becoming an accepted and routine feature of life in Upper Hutt.[5]

The demolition of the 17000 rounds of unsafe 3.7inch ammunition would be concluded in December 1957. The destruction had proceeded without incident, with the local residences thanked for their considerable forbearance in putting up with the noise of explosions nearly every day.


Notes

[1] Damien Fenton, A False Sense of Security : The Force Structure of the New Zealand Army 1946-1978, Occasional Paper / Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand: No. 1 (Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, 1998), Bibliographies, Non-fiction.

[2] Great Britain. War Office, Anti-Aircraft Ammunition: User Handbook (War Office, 1949).

[3] “The “Boom” from Trentham Camp,” Upper Hutt Leader, Volume XII, Number 28, , 28 July 1955.

[4] “Letters to the Editor,” Upper Hutt Leader, Volume XII, Number 29, , 4 August 1955.

[5] Howard Weddell, Trentham Camp and Upper Hutt’s Untold Military History (Howard Weddell, 2018), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 187-88.


NZ Aid to French Indo China 1952-54

Traditionary reliant on the United Kingdom for military equipment. The rapid expansion of New Zealand’s military and the threat of invasion by Japan during World War Two had necessitated New Zealand to seek and receive substantial war material from the United States. As the New Zealand Army reorganised in the post-war era, it soon became apparent that New Zealand’s military warehouses and ammunition depots were overflowing with surplus war material. In a move to enhance New Zealand’s national security by abetting our allies in their efforts to contain Communism in South-East Asia, New Zealand would transfer free of charge to the French authorities in Indochina much of the surplus arms and ammunition held in RNZAOC Depots across New Zealand.

The post-war NZ Army was based on the 2nd NZEF of WW2 and consisted of an Infantry Division with integral Artillery, Armoured and Logistics elements. Based on the era’s strategic thinking, it was expected the NZ force would be deployed to the Middle East alongside British formations. Despite the reliance upon the United States for war material in the previous war and the large stock of American equipment in storage, the NZ Army would be armed with British calibre weapons and uniforms and equipment of British pattern.[1] By 1952 France was struggling to hold onto Indochina, and although receiving 7200 tons of material a month from the United States, it was still falling short of its requirements.[2] Realising that large stockpiles of British and American equipment had been declared surplus or abandoned across Asia and Australasia, the French established purchasing missions to acquire this equipment.[3]

French transport regiment train ct515 Hanoi-Nam Dinh convoy 15/17 May 1950 black and white kodak film on kodak camera http://www.indochine.uqam.ca/fr/la-galerie.html

Responding to French requests, it was announced in September 1952 that New Zealand would be providing at no cost weapons and ammunition of American origin that were of a different calibre used by New Zealand forces. This shipment of firearms and ammunition were lend-lease weapons that had urgently been provided to New Zealand in 1942 and used by the Home Guard and some New Zealand units in the pacific, notably with RNZAF units co-located with American Forces, been lend-lease in origin, concurrence on the transfer had been sought and obtained from the United States. The Minister of External Affairs, T. C. Webb, stated that a substantial part of the consignment had been delivered to Singapore on HMNZS Bellona, where it would be shipped to French Indochina. [4] This first shipment included[5]

  • 13000, .30inch calibre Springfield M1903 rifles
  • 700, .30inch calibre Machine Guns, and
  • 670000 rounds of .30inch calibre Small Arms Ammunition (SAA).

Early in 1953, the Chief of the NZ General Staff, Major General Gentry, met with the French Commander-in-Chief, General Henri Navarre, at Saigon and discussed the transfer of surplus military equipment. Following Gentry’s report on this meeting, the NZ Government offered surplus equipment to the French authorities. With the war going badly for the French with the battle of Dien Bien Phu underway, a French Military mission consisting of Lieutenant-Colonel Cathala and Captain Mugg arrived in Auckland on 10 September 1953 for a two-week visit to examine equipment and consider, with the New Zealand service authorities, its suitability for use in Indochina.[6]

Reinforcements occupying positions in the dugouts during the battle of Dien Bien Phu, March 3 1954

With equipment identified and agreed upon, it would be concentrated that Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham and following final inspections loaded onto a British vessel at Wellington in early March 1954.[7] Equipment dispatched to Indochina included[8]

  • 500 Revolvers,
  • 3000 .30inch calibre Springfield M1903 rifles
  • 750 .30inch calibre Machine Guns,
  • 50 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns and ammunition,
  • 10000 round of 37m armour-piercing shot,
  • Wireless Sets
  • Field Telephones,
  • Charging Sets
  • Assorted Uniform Items
  • 670000 rounds of .30inch calibre SAA
Bofors Guns Trentham, 1 March 1954. Evening Post illustrations file and prints. 1950-2000. (PA-Group-00685). [Series]

With the French surrendering at Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954. and the final withdrawal of French Forces from Vietnam concluded by April 1956; it is doubtful that the small New Zealand contribution of weapon and equipment assisted the French in any way. However, it might have found some utility in the new nation of South Vietnam or on some other French colonial battlefield.

Despite the small quantity of material provided, the French Minister to New Zealand, Mr Noel Henry, conveyed the French Government’s gratitude to New Zealand, acknowledging that New Zealand had done all it could do within its limited means.[9]


Notes

[1] Damien Fenton, A False Sense of Security : The Force Structure of the New Zealand Army 1946-1978, Occasional Paper / Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand: No. 1 (Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, 1998), Bibliographies, Non-fiction.

[2]N.S. Nash, Logistics in the Vietnam Wars, 1945-1975 (Pen & Sword Military, 2020), 63.

[3] Charles R. Shrader, A War of Logistics : Parachutes and Porters in Indochina, 1945-1954, Foreign Military Studies (University Press of Kentucky, 2015), Non-fiction, 134.

[4] “NZ Gives Arms to French,” Press, Volume LXXXVIII, Issue 26838, , 17 September 1952.

[5] New Zealand Foregin Policy: Statements and Documents 1943-1957, Ministry of Foregin Affairs (Wellington: Government Printer 1972).

[6] “Arms for Indo China,” Press, Volume LXXXIX, Issue 27192, , 9 November 1953.

[7] “Arms Aid for Indo-China,” Press, Volume XC, Issue 27332, , 24 April 1954.

[8] Roberto Giorgio Rabel, New Zealand and the Vietnam War : Politics and Diplomacy (Auckland University Press, 2005), Bibliographies, Non-fiction.

[9]“Arms Aid for Indo-China.”


Henry Earnest Erridge

Serving the nation for 44 years, Henry Erridge would see service at Gallipoli before being invalided back to New Zealand. Continuing to serve throughout the interbellum, Erridge would assist in shaping the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps for the Second World War. During the war, Erridge would play a significant role in providing New Zealand’s contribution to the collective logistics effort of the British Commonwealth

Henry Earnest Erridge was born in Dunedin on 18 December 1887 to Henry and Jane Erridge. The fifth of seven children, Henry would be educated in Dunedin and received commercial training. A keen military volunteer Erridge had joined the Dunedin Engineer Volunteers as a Cadet in 1904, transferring into the Otago Hussars in 1909, gaining Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Rank.   On 6 April 1914, Erridge joined the New Zealand Permanent Staff (NZPS) with the rank of Staff Sergeant Instructor as the Orderly Room and Quartermaster (QM), No 15 Area Group, Oamaru.[1]

On the outbreak of war in August 1915, Erridge was seconded for duty with the NZEF and left New Zealand with the Main Body, Otago Infantry Battalion. As a Signals Sergeant in the Otago’s, Erridge saw service during the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February 1915 and later took part in the landings at Gallipoli. Stuck down with enteric fever, Erridge would be evacuated from Gallipoli to Alexandria in June, and in August, invalided back to New Zealand for further convalescence.

Returning to duty as a Warrant Officer in the QM Department at Featherston Camp on 10 Jamuary 1916, Erridge was appointed Stores Forman responsible for managing the QM Stores accounts for Featherston and its subsidiary camps. Reclassified as Class “A” fit for overseas service on 5 July 1918, it was intended to attach Erridge to a reinforcement draft and returned to the front. Deemed as essential, the Director of Equipment and Ordnance (DEOS) Stores appealed to the Chief of the General Staff, stating that

The accounts of the Camp Quartermaster, Featherston Camp, have not been completed and balanced. The principle causes for this state of affairs are:


(1) The inferior class of clerks posted for Home Service duties.
(2) And ever-changing staff, thus throwing the bulk of work on SSM Erridge, who has been employed in the capacity of foreman.

It is essential that SSM Erridge be retained until 1 November at least

Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores to Chief of the General Staff. 14 August 1918

The DEOS appeal was successful, and Erridge was granted authority to delay his placement into a reinforcement draft until November on the proviso that every endeavour was to be made to have all accounts in connection with the QM Branch Featherston and subsidiary camps completed to the satisfaction of the proper authority. Following the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Enridges employment was reassessed, and he was provided orders to remain with the QM Department at Featherston. Seconded to the Ordnance Stores in Wellington in June 1919, Erridge was permanently transferred into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) with Conductor rank on 1 October 1919.

Recommended for the Supplies and Purchasing Officer position with the civil administration in Samoa, Erridge was accepted for service with the Samoan Administration for three years from 24 May 1920. Due to a misunderstanding of the secondment rules, Erridge was discharged from the New Zealand Military. However, this was reviewed, and the discharge was rescinded, allowing Erridge to retain his rank and seniority on return to New Zealand.

`Administration Headquarters. “Apia”‘. Moore, Robert Percy, 1881-1948 :Panoramic photographs of New Zealand. Ref: Pan-0422-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/32050069

Completing his service in Samoa in August 1923, Erridge returned to New Zealand and, following three months leave, resumed duty with the NZAOC, where he was posted to the Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) and placed in charge of the Stores on 1 December 1923. In an example of his experience and utility, Erridge would temporally relieve Captain F.E Ford, the Ordnance Officer of Featherston Camp, over the period 4-31 Jan 1924.

During the 1920s, the Quartermaster General (QMG) vested command of the NZAOC to the Director of Ordnance Service (DOS). Assisted by the Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), the Inspecting Ordnance Officer (IOO), and the Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME), the DOS was responsible to the for:[2]

  • The provision, receipt, storage, distribution, repair, examination, and maintenance of small-arms, machine guns, vehicles, clothing and necessaries, equipment and general stores (including medical and veterinary), and camp and barrack equipment,
  • The inspection and repair of armament and warlike stores, and the inspection of gun ammunition.
  • The provision, receipt, storage, and distribution of small arms ammunition.
  • The receipt, storage, issue, and repair of fixed armament, field armament, and artillery vehicles.
  • The organisation and control of ordnance workshops
  • The preparation and periodic revision of Equipment Regulations and barrack and hospital schedules
  • The organisation, administration, and training of the NZ Army Ordnance Corps Forces
  • The maintenance of statistics of the Ordnance Department.

The DOS was also the Commanding Officer (CO) of the NZAOC and was responsible for the interior economy, including enlistment, training, pay, promotion, postings transfers, clothing, equipment, and discharges within the unit.

In 1924 the incumbent DOS, Lt Col Pilkington, was appointed QMG in Army Headquarters. Major T.J King, then acting COO, was appointed DOS, with Major William Ivory acting as the IOO and OME.  By 1925 King recognised that he could not provide complete justice to both the DOS and COO posts, but with no Ordnance Officers immediately available to fill the COO position, he recommended that the QMG give some relief by granting Erridge an officer’s commission. In his recommendation to the QMG, King noted that

Conductor Erridge is a man of wide experience in Ordnance duties and stores works generally and is eminently fitted for appointment as Ordnance Officer with the rank of lieutenant. He is a man of unblemished character, with a very high regard for the interests of the Corps and the services, and in the last few months gained sufficient insight into the duties I propose transferring him to.

Director of Ordnance Stores to Quartermaster General 11 December 1925

The QMG supported King’s recommendation on the proviso that Erridge pass all the required commissioning examinations. On passing the examinations needed, Erridge was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the NZAOC on 23 July 1926.[3] However, the question then arose of where to place Erridge on to the Army List. Technically the COO appointment was still vacant with Erridge for all intents acting as King’s assistant and only performing part of the COO duties with the work of the COO divided between King and Erridge. It was not desired to add to the establishment an Assistant COO, so it was decided to show Erridge as Ordnance Officer (Provision). Following several years as the Ordnance Officer (Provision), Erridge was appointed to the dual roles of Ordnance Officer MOD and Ordnance Officer Central Military District (CMD) on 14 May 1929.[4]

In December 1930, the incumbent Ordnance Officer Southern Military District (SMD)and Camp Commandant of Burnham Camp, Captain A.R.C White, faced compulsory retirement. To allow some continuity while White’s replacement was decided, Erridge was temporarily sent to Burnham. Although initially only a temporary posting, Erridge would remain at Burnham until 1934 in the dual roles of Ordnance Officer SMD and Officer in Charge Burnham Camp (Camp Commandant).[5]

By 1935 in his role of DOS, King was looking forward and preparing his organisation for war. In a submission to the General Headquarters, King requested authority to reorganise his staff. Regarding Erridge, King started.

Owing to the large amount of new equipment that is on order and is likely to be ordered soon, it is essential that the staff of the Ordnance Depot, Trentham, be strengthened to the extent that I should again have the assistance of my most experienced Ordnance Officer.

There is a great deal of work of a technical nature in connection with mobilisation, rewriting of Regulations, etc., which I am unable to find time to carry out myself, and which Mr Erridge, by virtue of his long experience and training, is well qualified to undertake. This work is most necessary and should be put in hand as soon as possible; I have no other Officer to whom I could delegate it.

Again, King’s recommendations were accepted, and on 30 June 1934, Erridge relinquished his Burnham appointments and was appointed as the Ordnance Officer (Provision) at the MOD, with promotion to Captain following on 1 December 1934.[6]

When the war was declared in September 1939, the NZAOC would undergo significant transformation as its mobilisation plans were implemented. The DOS, Lieutenant Colonel King, would be seconded to the 2nd NZEF as the Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (DDOS). Accompanying King would be a small staff drawn from the military and civilian staff of the NZAOC who would form the nucleus of the Ordnance Corps in the 2nd NZEF. Kings’ responsibilities of DOS and COO would be handed over to the Ordnance Officer CMD, Lt Col Burge.

On 2 December 1939, Erridge relinquished the appointment of Ordnance Officer (Provision), was granted the Rank of temporary Major and posted to Army HQ with substantive Major confirmed in February 1940.[7]  In June 1940, the NZAOC would undergo further reorganisation when Lt Col Burge relinquished the appointment of DOS when he was appointed as Deputy QMG in Army HQ with the position of DOS placed into abeyance for the duration of the war. Appointed as Staff Officer Ordnance and CO of the NZAOC, Erridge would take over responsibility for the NZAOC.[8]

With the national economy transitioning from a peacetime to a war footing, the Government would undertake a series of initiatives to ensure international trade and commerce security.  Representing the New Zealand Military, Erridge would accompany the New Zealand Minister of Supply and a small entourage of officials of the New Zealand Munitions and Supply Delegation on a tour of Australia for a series of talks with their Australian counterparts in July/August 1940.[9]

While the mission of the New Zealand Munitions and Supply Delegation to Australia was focused on strengthening cooperation between New Zealand and Australia, the Eastern Group Conference held in Delhi in October 1940 had the broader goal of organising a joint war supply policy for the countries of the “Eastern Group.” The countries represented at the Eastern Group Conference included the United Kingdom, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, East Africa, Palestine, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, and Hong Kong, with the Government of the Netherlands East Indies attending as observers.[10]  The New Zealand delegation would include.

  • The Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Sir John Duigan,
  • Major H. E. Erridge,
  • Mr F. R. Picot, Director of the Internal Marketing Department,
  • Mr J. R. Middleton, assistant-Secretary of supply,
  • Mr B. Taylor, assistant to the chief investigating officer of the Treasury Department.

As a result of the October conference, the Eastern Group Supply Council (EGSC) was established to coordinate and optimise the production and distribution of war materiel in the British colonies and dominions in the Eastern Hemisphere. The New Zealand members of the council who would be based in New Delhi were.

  • Mr F.R Picot, Director of Internal Marketing and Food Controller,
  • Mr W.G.M Colquhoun (Munitions Department).
  • Mr R.J Inglis (Supply Department).
  • Mr R.H. Wade (of the Treasury).

A Central Provisions Office (Eastern) was also set up in Delhi, with national offices established in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, East Africa, Southern Rhodesia and the Middle East.   The Central Provision Office (Eastern) was a military organisation consisting of about 40 to 50 Army officers from all countries constituting the Eastern Group. Headed by the Controller-General of Army Provisions, who was also the military member of the EGSC and acted as the agent of the Imperial General Staff and various Commanders in Chief. The role of the Central Provision Office (Eastern) was coordinating with the controllers of the national provision offices to obtain military stores to maintain the British and Commonwealth war effort.[11] From March 1941, Two NZAOC Officers, Temporary Major D. L. Lewis and Lieutenant D.I Strickland, would be attached to the Central Provision Office (Eastern) staff in New Delhi.[12]

Before the Central Provision Office (Eastern) assumed complete provision control, it would be necessary for all the controllers of the national provision offices to meet to ensure that uniform procedures were adopted. A coordination conference for the various Provision Group Controllers was held at New Delhi in July 1941, with Erridge attending as New Zealand’s military representative. Based on this conference, on 5 August 1941, the New Zealand War Cabinet approved the establishment of the New Zealand Defence Servicers Provision Officer (DSPO), with Erridge appointed as its Controller with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant Colonel. Relinquishing the appointment of Staff Officer Ordnance and handing over the Commanding Officer NZAOC duties to Major E.L.G Bown, the COO MOD.[13]

By  April 1945, the DSPO thought Central Provision Group (Eastern) had shipped for the British Ministry of Supply equipment to the value of £10,000,000 (2021 NZD $8,988,577,362.41) with additional equipment to the value of  £8,520,761 (2021 NZD $765,895,194.35) that was surplus to the requirements of NZ Forces overseas transferred to the War office.[14]  During a visit to New Zealand in January 1946, Major-General R.P Pakenham-Walsh, CB, MC., a member of the Eastern Group Supply Council and the Central Provision Office(Eastern), stated that “Stores from New Zealand which had been made available to the Eastern Group Supply Council had been of great importance in the prosecution of the war” adding that “the Dominion’s contribution had compared more than favourably with that of various larger countries.”[15]  Following the surrender of Germany in April and Japan’s defeat in August 1945, the Eastern Group Supply Council and Central Provision Office, although serving their purpose well, had become irrelevant and were dissolved on 31 March 1946.[16]  However, it would take two years for the DSPO to transition to a peacetime footing. Seconded to the War Asset Realisation Board (WARB) on 1 May 1947, Erridge would start to wind down the work of the DSPO while also coordinating the disposal of equipment through the WARB. On 17 December 1948, Erridge handed over the remaining stocks to the WARB and closed the DSPO.

At 62 years of age and following 45 years of volunteer, Territorial and Regular service, Erridge retired from the New Zealand Army and was placed onto the Retired List with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 29 May 1949.[17] Never marrying, Erridge spent his retirement in his hometown of Dunedin. On 30 March 1962, a resident of the Dunedin’s Ross Home, Erridge, passed away at 74. Following his wishes, he was cremated, and his ashes scattered.

Throughout his service, Erridge was awarded the following decorations

  • OBE (1946)
  • NZ Long Service and Efficient Service (1925)
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal
  • War Medal 1939-45
  • NZ War Medal, 193-45

Notes

[1] Archives New Zealand, “Henry Earnest Erridge- Ww1 8/1004, Nzaoc 888, Ww2 800245, 30293,” Personal File, Record no R24097640  (1904-1948): 2708.

[2] “Regulations for the Military Forces of the Dominion of New Zealand,” New Zealand Gazette, May 19 1927.

[3] “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations and Transfers of Officers of the NZ Military Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 61, 19 July 1926.

[4] “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations and Transfer of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 48, 27 June 1929.

[5] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 16, 5 March 1931.

[6] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 55, 19 July 1934.;”Appointment, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers from the NZ Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 87, 29 November 1935.

[7] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 1, 11 Jan 1940.;”Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 75  (1940).

[8] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 70  (1940).

[9] “Unity in War Effort,” Evening Star, Issue 23622, 8 July 1940.

[10] East Africa consisting of the territories of (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland; Bertram Stevens, “The Eastern Group Supply Council,” The Australian Quarterly 13, no. 3 (1941).

[11] “Eastern Group Supply Council,” Otago Daily Times, Issue 24640, 23 June 1941.

[12] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Retirements of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces.,” New Zealand Gazette, No 30, 9 April 1941.

[13] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Retirements of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces.,” New Zealand Gazette, No 74, 11 September 1941.

[14] “War Supplies,” Evening Post, Volume CXXXIX, Issue 126, 30 May 1945.

[15] “Production Problems,” Evening Star, Issue 25690, 14 January 1946.

[16] “Supplies – the Eastern Group Supply Council,” Northern Advocate, 1 April 1946, 1 April 1946.

[17] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Resignations, of Officers of the New Zealand Army “, New Zealand Gazette No 37, 16 June 1949.


Tragedy at Tikao Bay

Today Tikao Bay is a calm, peaceful little bay with a laid-back holiday vibe hidden away in Akaroa Harbour with few clues remaining of its military use and the tragic drowning of two Ordnance soldiers.

During World War Two, with the threat of invasion by Japan just over the horizon, the isolated Akaroa Harbour would be fortified to deny its use by the enemy. However, by the time the battery of 6-inch guns,  Naval Armament Depot and controlled minefield was completed in 1943, the threat had diminished, with the defences becoming an expensive white elephant. In early 1944 The controlled minefield was fired, and all the navy stores at the Tikao Bay Naval Armament Depot were transferred to other installations and facilities offered to the army.[1]

Akaroa Harbour Defences. Peter Cooke Defending New Zealand 2000

The extensive facilities at Tikao Bay, including a mine magazine, examination room, primer magazine wharf and accommodation buildings, were taken over by the Southern District’s Ordnance Depot at Burnham Camp in 1944 as a satellite storage depot for Gun and Artillery Equipment.[2] With an initial establishment of seven men in 1944, this had been reduced by 1955 to two soldiers responsible for the storage and maintenance of the equipment held at Tikao Bay.

Former Defence buildings Tikao Bay. Suff.co.nz/Ewen Sargent

Staff Sergeant Frederick Hastings Kirk aged 52, was married with three children and had been the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the Tikao Bay depot since 1950. Staff Sergeant Kirk had joined the Ordnance Depot at Burnham in 1939 as a civilian before enlisting into the 2nd NZEF early in 1940. As a Temporary Warrant Officer Class Two in 23 Battalion, Kirk was taken prisoner at Crete in 1941 and would remain a Prisoner of War for four and a half years. On his return to New Zealand, he joined the temporary staff and was posted to the Ordnance Depot at Burnham. In 1948 he became a member of the Regular Force and transferred to Tikao Bay in 1950. 

Private Donald George Dixon was aged 28 and was married with three children. Private Dixon would initially serve with the ammunition inspection branch after his 1953 enlistment and was transferred to the Tikao Bay Depot in October 1953.

On Tuesday, 10 March 1955, on completion of their daily duties, Kirk and Dixon left the depot at about 7 pm to check a set net approximately 200 yards (183 Meters) from the Tikao bay jetty. Having not returned by 11 pm, the police were notified, and Constable Egan of Akaroa and Mr G Brasell undertook an initial search. At 3 am Wednesday, Egan and Brasell located the missing men’s upturned dingy at the high-water mark near the set net, which was still in position. Reinforced with a party from Burnham Camp, local residents, and the police, the search for the missing men, would continue for the rest of the week.[3]

Private Dixon’s body was located and recovered from the harbour on Saturday morning.[4] The search for Staff Sergeants Kirks body would continue with his body found on 18 March.[5] It was assumed that a southerly wind had risen after the two men left the depot, causing the dingy to capsize with the coroner’s report ruling the deaths as asphyxia by drowning due to misadventure.

Tikao Bay would remain as an Army installation and training area into the early 1970s; however, its role as a storage depot would cease in the 1960s as the army progressively disposed of the remaining artillery equipment held there.[6]


Notes

[1] Sydney D. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs War History Branch Waters, The Royal New Zealand Navy (Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Dept of Internal Affairs, 1956), 229-36.

[2] “Establishments – Ordnance Corps “, Archives New Zealand No R22441743  (1937 – 1946).

[3] “Two Soldiers Missing,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27606, , 12 March 1955.

[4] “Unsuccessful Search for Body,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27608, , 15 March 1955.

[5] “Soldiers Body Recovered,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27612, , 19 March 1955.

[6] “Army Sells Guns,” Press, Volume C, Issue 29469, , 22 March 1961; “Tikao Bay Depot,” Press, Volume XCIX, Issue 29331, , 10 October  1960.


Once on Chunuk Bair

One of the New Zealand military’s functions is to assist civilian organisations where no viable civilian resources are available.  One such example of this support was in 1991 when the NZ Army provided expertise and personnel to help produce the movie, Chunuk Bair.  

The high point of the New Zealand effort at Gallipoli was the capture of Chunuk Bair, a key feature on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Captured by the Wellington Battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone on 8 August 1915, the New Zealanders would hold the position against violent counterattacks by a motivated and well-led opponent until relieved by British Battalions on 9 August. The latter were driven off Chunuk Bair in a counterattack led by Mustafa Kemal on the early morning of 10 August.

‘The Battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915, by Ion Brown’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/battle-chunuk-bair-8-august-1915-ion-brown, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-May-2014

The anti-Vietnam protest movement of the 1960s and 70s had caused anything related to the ANZAC legend to become unpopular in New Zealand, with ANZAC day commemorations mainly attended by veterans and serving military personnel. The 1981 Australian movie Gallipoli, with its powerful anti-British theme,was released and considered an ‘event of national significance in Australia. This spike of interest across the Tasman was a turning point and provided the springboard for New Zealand playwright Maurice Shadbolt to provide his contribution in enhancing the notion of Gallipoli as the birthplace of New Zealand as a nation with the events at Chunuk Bair as a source of national pride.

Shadbolt’s play Once on Chunuk Bair would open to much praise from the theatre gong public on ANZAC Day 1982 at Auckland’s Mercury Theatre and would reinforce Shadbolt’s view that Chunuk Bair marked the birth of the nation freed from the shackles of British Colonialism. Once on Chunuk Bair gave the battle of Chunuk Bair the same national significance to New Zealand that the Australians place on their magnificent debacle at Lone Pine and the Nek. Despite a short theatrical run, Shadbolt’s play would become popular in schools and universities as it was taught and performed as part of the educational experience in a similar way that the Australians use the movie Gallipoli.

With the 75th anniversary of Gallipoli observed in 1990, a shift in public consciousness toward Gallipoli was revived, and Once on Chunuk Bair was made into a movie during 1991. Produced on a low budget and aimed at a New Zealand audience. The Army Museum provided much technical advice, uniforms and props, with the Army also providing significant assistance to the production, including expertise in explosives and many Men as extras. RNZAOC ammunition technical officer (ATO) Ian Juno would be listed in the credits as providing the special effects, and a sizable quantity of soldiers from 1 Base Supply Battalion would feature in many scenes as extras.

With production compressed within four weeks, many of the Large-scale battle scenes were filmed on Wellington’s south coast, a near facsimile of the terrain of Gallipoli, with the more detailed scenes filmed in a specially constructed set at the Avalon studios.

Chunuk.jpg

Although the final product was disappointing and did not have the same polished attributes as the earlier Australian movie Gallipoli, it complements Christopher Pugsley’s 1984 TVNZ documentary Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, the Voices of Gallipoli in establishing the Gallipoli Campaign and the Chunuk Bair battle as the cornerstones of the national identity.