The role of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 1914-1920

This article was initially published in the Journal of the New Zealand Military History Society “The Volunteers” in July 2020

The role of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) during the First World War, is one that has remained untold if not forgotten. While the contribution of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), its commanders, battles and significant units is well recorded, the narrative on the Logistic Services of the NZEF has been universally biased towards the larger of the Logistic Services; the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC), with the contribution of the NZAOC, seldom mentioned.The significance of the NZAOC is that from 1914 to 1919, the NZAOC was the body charged with supplying and maintaining the weapons, ammunition, clothing and equipment of the NZEF, and as such was a key enabler towards the success of the NZEF. The main NZAOC functions were within the NZ Division under the control of the NZ Division Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS). Additionally, as part of the NZEF Headquarters in London, the NZAOC would manage a range of ordnance functions in support of the NZEF.  This article examines the role of the NZAOC as it grew from an initial mobilisation strength of two men in 1914 into a small, but effective organisation providing Ordnance services to the NZEF.

New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Badge, 1916-1919 (Robert McKie Collection 2017)

Unlike the Australians who were in the early stages of establishing their Ordnance Corps under with the assistance of a British Ordnance Officer in 1914, New Zealand was without a uniformed Ordnance Corps on the declaration of war in 1914.[1]  The formation of the NZAOC had been a topic of discussion and indecision from as early as 1900, and despite the transformational reforms of the New Zealand Defence Act of 1909, there was little appetite to decide on the formation of the NZAOC.[2] However, the need for personnel trained in Ordnance duties was understood, with some training and experimentation in the provision of Ordnance Services carried out in the Brigade and Divisional Camps of 1913 and 1914, laying the foundation for the mobilisation of August 1914.[3]

Section 5 of General Order 312 issued in August 1914 would establish Ordnance Services as part of the NZEF. This order authorised as part of the Division Headquarters establishment; a DADOS, one clerk and a horse.[4]  Appointed to the position of DADOS was Honorary Captain William Thomas Beck of the New Zealand Staff Corps,[5] with the position of Clerk filled by Sergeant Norman Joseph Levien, a general storekeeper who had enlisted into the 3rd Auckland Regiment on the outbreak of war.[6]  Beck and Levien would assist in equipping troops for overseas service at the Avondale camp before embarking with the main body of the NZEF.[7]

Disembarking in Egypt on 3 December 1914 and armed with The Ordnance Manual (War) of 1914, Beck was provided with the following guidance on his role as DADOS;

“To deal with all matters affecting the Ordnance services of the division. The DADOS would manage the state of the clothing and equipment on the charge of the units composing the division and would from time to time advise the officers in charge of the stores which in all probability would be required for operations”.[8]

NZAOC Captain W T Beck, Ordnance Depot Shrapnel Gully Gallipoli 1915

One of Becks first tasks was to establish a shared depot with the NZASC at Zeitoun,  with NZEF Order No 9 of 10 December 1914 detailing the instructions for submitting demands to the DADOS Ordnance Depot.[9] Working alongside their Australian and British counterparts, Beck and Levien would have their staff enhanced with the addition of six soldiers from 28 December 1914.[10]  With no experience of the British Ordnance systems and procedures, Levien was attached for a short period to the British Army Ordnance Corps Depot at the Citadel in Cairo to study the ordnance systems in use and adapt them for use by the New Zealand Forces.[11] As the preparations for the Dardanelles campaign began to unfold, the NZAOC begin to take shape with Levien, and Sergeant King from the Wellington Regiment commissioned from the ranks to be the first NZAOC officers on 3 April 1915.[12]

To support the upcoming Dardanelles operation and ensure the flow of stores forward, Alexandra was to be the main Ordnance Base Depot. The cargo ship ‘SS Umsinga’ which had been fitted out in the United Kingdom with many of the Ordnance Stores anticipated to support the operation, would act as the forward Ordnance Depot.[13]  As part of the New Zealand preparations, Beck would be the DADOS for the New Zealand & Australian Division (NZ & A Div). At Alexandra, Levien secured premises at No. 12 Rue de la Porte Rosette and Shed 43, Alexandra Docks for a New Zealand Ordnance Depot. The Australians would also establish a similar Depot at Mustapha Barracks and at No 12 Bond Store on Alexandra Docks.[14] King would remain at Zeitoun as the Officer in Charge of the Ordnance Depot at Zeitoun Camp to manage the reception of reinforcements and bringing them up to theatre scales as they arrived from New Zealand.

Rue de la, Porte Rosette, Alexandria, Egypt. Public Domain

Concentrating off the Island of Lemnos from April 10, the ANZAC, British and French invasion fleet would invade Turkey at three locations on the morning of 25 April. The 1st Australian Division would land first at around 4 am on 25 April, with Godley’s Headquarters leading the NZ & A Div ashore at around 9 am, with Beck, according to Christopher Pugsley the first New Zealander ashore as part of Godley’s Force.[15]

As Beck landed, the 1st Australian Division DADOS Lt Col J.G Austin was supervising the cross-loading of ammunition and Ordnance stores in a rudimentary Logistics Over-the-Shore (LOTS) operation using a small fleet of lighters.[16]  As the lighters unloaded, and the stores transferred to a hastily established ordnance dump just off the beach, issues of ammunition had begun to be issued to replenish the men fighting in the hills,[17] and Beck would have been immediately committed to establishing his domain as DADOS of the NZ & A Div. Under Austin who had taken control of the Ordnance operations in the ANZAC sector,[18] Beck would remain as the DADOS of the NZ & A Div until August.

Supplies on the beach at ANZAC Cove 1915. Athol Williams Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
Ordnance Depot Shrapnel Gully, Gallipolli. Alexander Turnbull Libary

Assisting Beck with the more onerous physical work and the management of the depot staff, was Staff Sergeant Major Elliot Puldron.[19]  Becks service at Gallipoli was reported in the Hawera & Normanby Star on 24 June 1916.

“Finally, there was Captain William Beck, an ordinary officer. “Beachy Bill” was in charge of the store – a miserable little place – and whenever he put his nose out of the door bullets tried to hit it. The Turkish gun in Olive Grove was named after him, “Beachy Bill.” The store was simply a shot under fire, and Bill looked out and went on with his work just as if no bullets were about. He was the most courteous and humorous, and no assistant at Whiteley’s could have been more pleasing and courteous than the brave storekeeper on Anzac Beach. General Birdwood never failed to call on Captain Beck or call out as he passed on his daily rounds, asking if he were there, and they all dreaded that someday there would be no reply from a gaunt figure still in death. But Captain Beck was only concerned for the safety of his customers. He hurried them away, never himself”. [20]

As a result of the rigours of the campaign, Beck was evacuated from Gallipoli in August with Levien replacing him as DADOS. From mid-September, the exhausted New Zealanders withdrew to Lemnos for rest and reconstitution. King and Levien switched roles with Levien appointed the Chief Ordnance Officer (COO) of Sarpi camp with the responsibility for re-equipping the depleted NZ & A Div. Returning to Gallipoli in November, King would remain with the NZ & A Div as the DADOS and Levien would remain on Lemnos. Both men would return to Egypt in December after the NZ & A Div withdrew from Gallipoli.

Now with sufficient New Zealand reinforcements available, the NZEF was expanded and reorganised into an Infantry Division which would serve on the Western Front and a Mounted Rifle Brigade, which would remain in the Middle East.[21]  As a consequence of the logistical lessons learnt on the Western Front by the British Army Ordnance Corps(AOC), the existing NZ Ordnance cadre would expand into a modest unit of the NZEF.[22]  In the NZ Division, the Staff of the DADOS would expand from the original officer, clerk and horse in 1914, into a staff of several officers, warrant officers, SNCOs, men and dedicated transport.[23] The NZAOC in the Mounted Rifle Brigade would work under the Australian DADOS of the ANZAC Mounted Division, with the Ordnance establishment for each Mounted Brigade Headquarters consisting of a warrant officer, sergeant clerk and corporal storeman.[24]

Beck had been identified to continue as the NZ Division DADOS, but continual ill-health had resulted in his return to New Zealand in November. Godley selected Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert as an officer with the right business acumen to replace Beck. Herbert was the first Mayor of Eketahuna, and a successful business owner who ran a chain of general stores in the north Wairarapa, the challenge of managing the NZAOC would be one well suited to his experience.[25] Herbert had previously commanded the Maori Contingent and then the Otago’s on Gallipoli, and in January 1916 was transferred into NZAOC as the NZ Division, DADOS and Officer Commanding of the NZEF NZAOC.[26] As Herbert took command, additional officers and soldiers were transferred into the NZAOC to complement the men already serving in the NZAOC.[27]

Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert, NZAOC. aucklandmuseum/Public Domain

As Herbert prepared his men for the move to France, he had the formidable task of instructing them in the necessary ordnance procedures and duties that they would be expected to carry out in France, almost all of Herbert’s men had seen service on Gallipoli and adapted themselves to their new circumstances to provide their mates on the front the best possible service. Not all the original NZAOC officers would remain with the NZ Division; King would become ill with enteric feverand invalided back to New Zealand, and would be a foundation member of the NZAOC in New Zealand on its formation in 1917.[28]  Levien (and two Other Ranks) would remain in Egypt attached to NZEF Headquarters where he would close the Alexandra Depot and dispose of the vast stockpile of stores that the NZEF had accumulated over the past year. Departing Egypt in May 1916, Levien would not re-join the NZ Division but remain with the Headquarters NZEF as the NZEF COO in the United Kingdom.[29]

A significant duty of the DADOS and his staff was to vet all indents that were submitted by units of the NZ Division. Herbert and his staff were to exercise a check on these indents and keep records of the receipt and issues of stores to prevent the placing of excessive demands. Herbert’s role was not to obstruct legitimate demands but to accelerate their processing and see that the stores, when received, were issued without delay. Herbert would later reminisce at a Returned Servicemen’s meeting that his role was “to see that all units were properly equipped, at the same time endeavouring to ensure that no one ” put it across him ” for extra issues”.[30] The DADOS would not typically hold stocks of any kind, but as experience grew, the DADOS would hold a small reserve of essential items.[31] An example of the items held by the DADOS were gumboots and socks.[32]

A crucial role of the DADOS was to ensure that all damaged or worn stores that were fit for repair were exchanged for new or refurbished items and the damage items returned to the appropriate repair agency. Under the responsibility of the DADOS, an Armourer Staff Sergeant was attached to each infantry battalion in the early years of the war. It was later found to be a much better plan to remove the armourers from Battalions and form a division armourers shop equipped with all the tools and accessories necessary for the repair of small arms, machine guns, bicycles, primus stoves, steel helmets and other like items, allowing them to be repaired and reissued with much higher efficiency than if left with an individual Battalion armourer.[33] Also under the supervision of the DADOS were the Divisional boot repair shop and Divisional Tailors shops. These shops saved and extended the life of many hundreds of pairs of boots and suits of clothing.

In May 1916, shortly after arriving in France the DADOS 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. 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.”[34]

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.[35]

The appointment of Divisional Baths and Laundry Officer was another DADOS  responsibility from December 1916.[36] The Division would endeavour to maintain facilities to provide the entire Division with a Bath and a change of clothing every ten days.[37]  The Divisional Baths and Laundry provided a welcome respite for solders from the front; soiled clothing was handed in as solders arrived and undressed, provide a hot bath or shower, solders would then be issued a clean uniform. The soiled uniform would be inspected, cleaned and repaired if necessary and placed into stock ready for the next rotation of soldiers to pass through.[38]

9/39 Temporary Major Charles Gossage OBE. National Library of New Zealand/public domain

Herbert would remain as DADOS until 31 March 1918 when he relinquished the appointment of OC NZAOC and DADOS NZ Division to be the Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (ADOS) of XI Army Corps.[39] Herbert was replaced as DADOS by Lieutenant Gossage who had recently completed an Ordnance course at Woolwich and was granted the rank of Temporary Captain while holding the position of DADOS. The appointment of OC NZAOC was taken up by Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Edward Pilkington. Pilkington was a New Zealand Artillery Officer with a flair for administration. Pilkington had acquitted himself well as the ADOS of XIX Corps during the retreat of the British 5th Army in March 1918 and was considered the most experience Ordnance Officer in the NZEF and was appointed NZEF ADOS on 30 June 1918.[40]

Prior to the arrival of Pilkington as NZEF ADOS, the headquarters of the NZEF in London had evolved into a self-contained administrative unit, with capably managed departments providing the full range medical, pay, postal and other administrative services to maintain a the NZEF training camps in the United Kingdom as well as the NZEF units in France and the Middle East.[41] In his role as the NZEF COO, Levien would undertake several initiatives to improve the logistical situation of the NZEF. Levien’s initial work included the establishment of the Sling Ordnance Depot and smaller sub-depots at all of the NZEF Training Camps and Hospitals throughout the United Kingdom.[42] To support these Depots, Levien would also establish an Ordnance Depot at Farringdon Road, London.[43]  Levien was always keen to reduce costs, and an example of his cost-saving efforts is that by a combination of switching clothing suppliers from the Royal Army Clothing Department (RACD) at Pilimlco to commercial suppliers and by repairing damaged clothing, these changes resulted in savings of 2019 NZD$9,788,232.00 in the period leading up to December 1917.[44]

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

Levien would also study the stores accounting procedures employed by the Australians and Canadians, and after discussions with Battalion Quartermasters and the Ordnance Officer at Sling, Levien submitted a modified stores accounting system that was adopted across the NZEF to provide a uniform and efficient method of accounting for stores. So successful was this system that it was adopted by the post-war NZAOC and proved very successful with losses becoming comparatively negligible against the previous systems.[45] Levien also instigated the establishment of an independent NZEF audit department and a purchasing board to supervise purchasing by the NZEF. For his efforts, Levien who finished the war a Major was awarded an MBE and OBE.[46]

The armistice of 11 November 1918 brought a sudden end to the fighting on the Western Front leading to the NZ Division marching into Germany to take up occupation duties at Cologne soon afterwards. Gossage and his staff would initially be concerned with closing down or handing over the ordnance stores and infrastructure in France and Belgium and establishing the ordnance mechanisms required to support the NZ Division in Germany. The New Zealand occupation would be short, and the NZ Division had disbanded by 26 March 1919.[47] With all of the NZ Divisions equipment requiring disposal, Gossage and his men were ordered to remain in Germany to manage the handing back of the Divisions equipment to British ordnance and dispose of the items unable to be returned by sale or destruction.  Gossage would eventually march out for England on 2 May 1919.[48]  Concurrent with the mobilisation activities undertaken by Gossage in Germany, the NZAOC in the United Kingdom would swiftly switch activities from equipping the NZEF to demobilising the NZEF and all the ordnance activities associated with that task.

Army clothing at a New Zealand military ordnance store, England. Alexander Turnbull Library

Additionally, the NZAOC would manage the return to New Zealand of the considerable amount of war trophies that the NZEF had accumulated,[49] and the indenting of new equipment to equip the New Zealand Army into the early 1940s.[50] Under Captain William Simmons the final OC Ordnance from 20 Feb 1920, the final remnants of the NZEF NZAOC would be demobilised in October 1920 closing the first chapter of the NZAOC.[51]

In conclusion, this article provides a snapshot of the role of the NZAOC and its place within the NZEF. Charged with the responsibility of supplying and maintaining the weapons, ammunition, clothing and equipment of the NZEF, the NZAOC provided the NZEF with a near-seamless link into the vast Imperial ordnance system. The responsibilities of the NZAOC as part of the NZ Division would extend from the traditional ordnance supply and maintenance functions to the management of the Divisional Baths, Laundries and Savage. In the United Kingdom, the NZAOC would not only provide ordnance support to the troops undertaking training and casualties in hospitals but under a process of continual improvements streamline logistics procedures and processes to enable the NZEF to make considerable savings. However, despite its success as a combat enabler for the NZEF, the legacy of the NZAOC would be one of anonymity. The anonymity of the NZAOC was as a consequence of its small size, and its place in the organisational structure as part of the NZEF and Division Headquarters.

Bibliography

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“Crozier, Lewis “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) – War Diary, 1 April – 30 April 1918.” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487665  (1918).
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Equipment and Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London – Administration Reports Etc., 18 October 1916 – 8 August 1918 Item Id R25102951, Archives New Zealand. 1918.
“Geard, Walter John.” Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Gilmore, Arthur “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Gossage, Charles Ingram.” Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
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“Herbert, Alfred Henry “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Hutton, Frank Percy.” Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“King, Thomas Joseph.” Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Levien, Norman Joseph “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Little, Edward Cullen “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Lofts,Horace Frederick “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“Macrae, Kenneth Bruce “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
“New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Regulations.” New Zealand Gazette No 95, June 7 1917, 2292.
“New Zealand Expeditionary Force – Army Ordnance Corps Daily Order No. 1 “. Archives New Zealand Item No R25958433  (1916).
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“Oldbury, Charles Alfred.” Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
Ordnance Manual (War). War Office. London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914.
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“Puldron, Elliot “. Personal File, Archives New Zealand, 1914.
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“Road to Promotion.” Evening Post, Volume XCI, Issue 29, 4 February 1916.
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New Zealand Ordnance Corps demobilisation Staff at Mulheim, Germany, Febuary1919. Alexander Turnbull Library/Public Domain

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Forbes, Arthur. A History of the Army Ordnance Services. London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929. Harper, Glyn. Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918. First World War Centenary History. Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015. Non-fiction.
McGibbon, I. C. New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign. Bateman, 2016. Non-fiction.
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Notes

[1] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), 229.
[2] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 52-53.
[3] Under the Director of Equipment and Stores, a fortnight course of instruction on ordnance duties was conducted at Alexandra Barracks in January 1913 to trained selected Officers in Ordnance Duties. During the Brigade and Divisional camps of 1913 and 1914 each Brigade Ordnance Officer was allocated a staff of 2 clerks and 4 issuers, who had also undertaken training on Ordnance duties. , “Territorials,” Evening Star, Issue 15018, 29 October 1912.; “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand for the Period 28 June 1912 to 20 June 1913,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representives  (1913).
[4] “Troopships; Embarkation Orders; Daily Field States; and a Large Chart of ‘New Zealand Expeditionary Forces – Personnel’ as at 1 June 1915),” Item ID R23486740, Archives New Zealand 1914.
[5] Beck was an experienced military storekeeper, who had been a soldier in the Permanent Militia before his appointment as Northern Districts Defence Storekeeper in 1904. Beck was the Officer in charge of the Camp Ordnance for the Auckland Divisional Camp at Hautapu near Cambridge in April 1914 so was well prepared for the role of DADOS “Beck, William Thomas,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.; “The Hautapu Camp,” Waikato Argus, Volume XXXV, Issue 5575, 4 April 1914.
[6] “Levien, Norman Joseph “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.
[7] “Beck, William Thomas.”
[8] Ordnance Manual (War), War Office (London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914).
[9] “Appendices to War Diaries, I – Lxii,” Item ID R23486739, Archives New Zealand 1914.
[10]Divisional Order 210 of 28 December transferred the following soldiers to the Ordnance Depot;

•              Private Walter John Geard, Geard would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war
•              Private Arthur Gilmore, Gilmour would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war|
•              Private Gavin Hamilton, Worked At Alexandra Depot until returned to New Zealand in October 1915
•              Private Lewis Crozier, Promoted to Sergeant 18 Feb 16, returned to NZ August 1917
•              Private Horace Frederick Lofts, Transferred to NZASC October 1917
•              Private Joseph Roland Henderson, Transferred to NZASC 25 February 1916

“Geard, Walter John,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Hamilton, Gavin “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Crozier, Lewis “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Lofts,Horace Frederick “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Henderson, Joseph Roland,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Gilmore, Arthur “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.[11] “Levien, Norman Joseph “.
[12]Thomas Joseph King a qualified accountant and would  be the Corps Director in the interwar period and would serve in the 2nd NZEF as ADOS, “King, Thomas Joseph,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.: “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” New Zealand Gazette 8 July 1915.
[13] Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services, 221-23.
[14]“Levien, Norman Joseph “; John D Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army (Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee, 1989), 43.
[15] Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story (Auckland [N.Z.] : Sceptre, 1990, 1990), 111.
[16] Australian Army, “Logistics,” Land Warfare Doctrine 4.0  (2018): 7.
[17]  Lt Col Austin was a British Army Ordnance Department officer on secondment to the Australian Army as DOS before the war and served with the AIF on Gallipoli as the DADOS 1st Australian Division and later ADOS of the ANZAC Corps.  Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army 45.
[18] Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services, 229-30.
[19] “Puldron, Elliot “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.
[20] “Brave New Zealanders,” The Hawera and Normanby Star, Volume LXXI, Issue LXXI, , 24 June 1916.
[21] I. C. McGibbon, New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign (Bateman, 2016), Non-fiction, 30-31.
[22] “Road to Promotion,” Evening Post, Volume XCI, Issue 29, 4 February 1916.;Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services, 151.[23]  The NZAOC Establishment was published in the NZEF Orders of 18 Feb 1916. “New Zealand Expeditionary Force – Army Ordnance Corps Daily Order No. 1 “, Archives New Zealand Item No R25958433  (1916).
[24] Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army 55.
[25] “Herbert, Alfred Henry “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.
[26] M. Soutar, Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Māori in the First World War (Bateman Books, 2019), 185.
[27] The officers and men transferred in to the NZAOC in the period January/March 1916 would include;

•              Private Frank Percy Hutton
•              Sergeant Kenneth Bruce MacRae
•              2nd Lieutenant Alfred James Bond
•              Company Sergeant Major William Henchcliffe Simmons
•              Company Sergeant Major William Hall Densby Coltman
•              Temp Sergeant Edward Cullen Little
•              Corporal John Goutenoire O’Brien
•              Corporal John Joseph Roberts
•              Private Clarence Adrian Seay
•              Sergeant Charles Ingram Gossage
•              Armourer Charles Alfred Oldbury

“Gossage, Charles Ingram,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Oldbury, Charles Alfred,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Seay, Clarence Adrian  “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “O’brien, John Goutenoire “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Little, Edward Cullen “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Coltman, William Hall Densby “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Simmons, William Henchcliffe “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Bond, Alfred James,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Macrae, Kenneth Bruce “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914; “Hutton, Frank Percy,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[28] The New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and Corps would be establised as a pernamant unit of the New Zealand Military Forces  from 1 Feb 1917 “New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Regulations,” New Zealand Gazette No 95, June 7 1917.
[29] “Levien, Norman Joseph “; “New Zealand Expeditionary Force – Army Ordnance Corps Daily Order No. 1 “.
[30] “Returned Soldiers,” Evening Post, Volume CIII, Issue 136, 12 June 1922.
[31] Military Board of Allied Supply Allied and Associated Powers, Report of the Military Board of Allied Supply (Washington: Govt. Print. Off., 1924).
[32] Peter D. F. Cooke, Won by the Spade : How the Royal New Zealand Engineers Built a Nation (Exisle Publishing Ltd, 2019), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 199.
[33] P.H. Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War (History Press, 2018).
[34] Headquarters New Zealand and Australian Division, “New Zealand Division – Administration – War Diary, 1 May – 26 May 1916,” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487546  (1916).
[35] Items Salved ny the NZ Div Salvage Company in April 1918 included:

•              One Bristol Airplane,
•              One Triumph Norton Motorcycle,
•              Three Douglas Motorcycles,
•              The following enemy stores;
•              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,” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487665  (1918).

[36] “2nd Australia & New Zealand Army Corps [2anzac], Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (Ados) – War Diary, 1 December – 31 December 1916,” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487340  (1916).
[37] Ideally baths would be established for each Brigade and one for the remainder of the Division, these baths would be supported by a central Laundry “An Account of the Working of the Baths Established in the Divisional Areas in France,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24428508  (1918).
[38] Glyn Harper, Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918, First World War Centenary History (Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015), Non-fiction, 351-54.
[39] “Herbert, Alfred Henry “.
[40] “Pilkington,Herbert Edward “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.
[41] H. T. B. Drew, The War Effort of New Zealand : A Popular (a) History of Minor Campaigns in Which New Zealanders Took Part, (B) Services Not Fully Dealt with in the Campaign Volumes, (C) the Work at the Bases, Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V.4 (Whitcombe & Tombs, 1923), Non-fiction, 248.
[42] “Levien, Norman Joseph “.
[43] Equipment and Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London – Administration Reports Etc., 18 October 1916 – 8 August 1918 Item Id R25102951, Archives New Zealand (1918).
[44] Ibid.
[45] “H-19 Defence Forces of New Zealand, Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding the Forces from 1 July 1922 to 30 June 1923,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1923).
[46] Wayne McDonald, Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914-1918, 3rd edition ed. (Richard Stowers, 2013), Directories, Non-fiction, 146.
[47] McGibbon, New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign, 355.
[48] “Gossage, Charles Ingram.”
[49] “Trophies and Historical Material – [War] Trophies – New Zealand Expeditionary Force [Nzef] – Shipment of to New Zealand, 21 September 1917 – 24 November 1919,” Archives New Zealand Item No R25103019  (1919).
[50] “O’brien, John Goutenoire “.
[51] Simmons had served on the Samoa Advance party in 1914 and demobilised in October 1920, possibly one of the longest serving members of the NZEF. “Simmons, William Henchcliffe “.


Australian Mobile Laundry Trailers

In the early years of the Second World War, the United Kingdom was unable to provide Australia with the necessary military hardware to equip a rapidly expanding Australian Army.  The following two articles; For Want of Clean Socks: The Australian Mobile Laundry Trailers and And More Clean Socks: The Australian Light Laundry Trailer by Australian military historian and authority on the technical history of vehicles and equipment,  Michael K Cecil, examine how Australian industry stepped up to provide the Australian Army Ordnance Corps with a Mobile Laundry capability. First published in the Australian  Khaki Vehicle Enthusiasts Newsletter the KVE News of March 2013 these articles are Published with the permission of the author, Michael K Cecil.Copyright Michael K Cecil

For Want of Clean Socks: The Australian Mobile Laundry Trailers

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Laundry the hard way: scrubbing by hand in a basin of water.

Keeping clothing and bedding clean is only second in importance to good food and clean water when it comes to maintaining an Army’s health and morale. To this end, Laundry Units have been an integral part of the Australian Army’s Order of Battle since the First World War. But the early days of the Second World War heralded a change from the semi-static trench warfare of the First World War to a much more mechanised and fluid war – a war on wheels and tracks where gains or losses might be measured in tens of kilometres in a day. Any unit operating in a forward area had best be prepared to move quickly in response to changes in the tactical situation.

Mobile laundry facilities were first given serious consideration by the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (2AIF) in mid-1940, and by the Australian Military Forces (AMF) later the same year. Initial equipment was to be provided by purchase from Britain in line with the policy of adopting British Army standardised equipment wherever possible. However, Britain was unable to supply the laundry equipment in a timely manner or in the quantities required, so the Army turned to local industry to bridge the gap.

By late 1940, orders had been placed for the supply of various commercially available laundry equipment, in order to assemble a pilot model mobile laundry for trials. Several Australian companies from across the nation were contracted – Robert Bryce for the washing machine, Robert Lilley and Co. for the hydro-extractor and the soap and soda dissolver, Burtons Ltd for the tumble dryer, Cameron and Sutherland supplied centrifugal pumps, and a clarifier was supplied by the Perth-based firm Boltons Ltd. An entirely new device, a continuous drying machine, was being designed by the Land Headquarters Experimental Workshop, who would also assemble the pilot model laundry trailers. Power for each complete laundry was to be supplied by a 25kva, 415 Volt, three-phase AC generator mounted on a four wheel trailer. This was already an issue item, so procuring one for the pilot model laundry did not present a problem.

The equipment had all arrived at the workshop by the close of July 1941, except for the trailers. These were in extremely short supply owing to a higher priority demand for machinery trailers. The workshop went ahead and began assembling the laundry as a static unit – at least the components could be tested and their inter-relationship could be worked out within the trailer’s known dimensions in the interim.

And they were desperately needed. By February 1941, sixteen mobile laundry units were allowed for on the Australian Army’s Order of Battle – six for the 2nd AIF, and ten for a fully mobilised AMF, each one attached to an individual higher formation. Of those for the 2nd AIF, 5 were needed overseas. The 8 th Infantry Division in Malaya were in the greatest need, so the pilot model laundry – still not mounted on trailers – was sent to Malaya, along with some additional commercially available equipment, to provide a static laundry facility. Tropical conditions were already proving to be particularly hard on troops, and regular changes of clothing and bed linen helped keep tropical diseases, particularly skin rashes, in check.

By the time the pilot model’s equipment left for Malaya in September 1941, the mobile laundry design was well advanced. In anticipation of receiving trailers, contracts for the supply of the various major components were issued to suppliers. There was even a contract for the woven rattan trolley baskets, with Lawries Ltd engaged to manufacture enough sets for 11 mobile laundries.

Assembly of the first mobile laundry was to be undertaken by Robert Lilley and Co., but the supply of the trailers was still proving something of a problem. It was overcome by supplying machinery trailers that then had to be converted: hardly an ideal solution, but the only one available under the prevailing circumstances. The stripped machinery trailers were delivered to Lilleys in late April, 1942.

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A Mobile Hospital laundry set up, with the boiler trailer set at right angles to the other 4 trailers. The trailer sides are dropped to the horizontal and used as the walkways and working area. The boiler trailer is the specially built McGrath model with the stepped bed construction to provide maximum height for the vertical boiler. AWM140751. Copyright expired.

By mid June 1942, good progress was being made on the construction of the pilot model mobile laundry at Robert Lilley and Co in West Melbourne. Trailer brake modifications were well advanced at Patons Brakes, and the McGrath Trailer Co had completed a new trailer specifically for the boiler assembly after the converted machinery trailer proved unsatisfactory. In anticipation of successful trials, contracts had also been placed with various manufacturers for laundry components, such was the urgent need to supply completed laundries to field units. The contractors list was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the Australian light manufacturing industry at the time: Andrew & Higgs, Gordon Brothers, Lawries Ltd, Johnsons Tyne Foundry, and L Horscroft & Co., to name a few.

A fully equipped divisional mobile laundry consisted of 9 trailers of equipment, each one towed by a 3- ton truck or lorry. There were four washing machine trailers, two boiler and feed water trailers, two trailers equipped with a generator and tumble dryer (the dedicated generator trailer had been abandoned in favour of combining it with a dryer in a more compact layout), and a continuous drying room trailer. They were designed to be parked in a line and interconnected by the various pipe work and electrical cabling. The trailers’ lower sides were designed to fold out horizontally to provide working room and facilitate movement of staff and trolleys laden carrying washing between trailers. The upper wire mesh sides were hinged at the top, allowing them to be raised to the horizontal to provide an all round awning over the workspace.

3

Feeding the laundry boiler to provide hot water and steam for washing, and heat for the continuous dryer. The boiler had the versatility to be fired by wood or, in the tropics where dry wood was not available, quickly converted to a petrol-fed ‘hydra burner’. AWM055382 Copyright expired.

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Baskets full of linen waiting to be washed. A mobile laundry’s work was never done! The near trailer houses the drum-type washing machine and to its right, a ‘hydro-extractor’ is being loaded from the trolley basket. The hydro-extractor was a machine that performed the ‘spin’ cycle of a modern washing machine. AWM026376. Copyright expired.

The Unit was manned by 3 officers and 118 other ranks, and the washing capacity was 400 pounds weight (181 kilograms) of dry clothing and linen per hour. Manning was based upon a sustained operation of two 8 hour shifts per day, 6 days per week, but greater output was possible if operated with more staff on a three shift rotation. For attachment to hospitals, a Hospital Mobile Laundry Unit was created. This was essentially a ‘half laundry’, consisting of five trailers: 2 washing machine, 1 each boiler and generator/tumble dryer trailer, and a drying room.

By early 1943, mobile laundry equipment manufactured by Australian industry was flowing to field units. Divisional Units were attached to higher formations located across Australia and in New Guinea, and Hospital laundry units were taking over from the older and far less efficient technology being employed at General Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations in Northern Australia and New Guinea.

5

A ‘flat head’ V8 working hard to spin the generator to provide all the power needs of the Mobile Laundry Unit. The other end of the same trailer housed a tumble dryer unit. AWM027631. Copyright expired

While these large capacity laundries were hard at work satisfying the never-ending requirements for clean linen and uniforms in larger formations and medical facilities, experience in the tropics during 1942 had demonstrated a need to constantly provide front line troops with clean clothes whenever possible, both for health and morale reasons. But the Mobile and Hospital laundries were just too far in the rear and too unwieldy to be safely moved further into the combat zone. Consequently, there was a desperate need for a lighter, more compact laundry for deployment as far forward into the combat zone as possible. Consequently, there was a desperate need for a lighter, more compact laundry for deployment as far forward into the combat zone as possible. The following article covers the Australian ‘Light Laundry’,

 

And More Clean Socks: The Australian Light Laundry Trailer

While the multi-trailer Mobile and Hospital laundries served the rear areas well, there was still a desperate need for a lighter, more compact laundry for deployment as far forward into the combat zone as possible. Troops operating anywhere need to maintain their clothes and equipment, but suffice to say, combat conditions often preclude anything more than the most basic of attention to this. While troops could survive quite well operating in the dry conditions of the Middle East, Greece and North Africa, the tropics meant dealing with a whole new regime of endlessly wet, muddy and humid conditions, together with the prevalence of some debilitating tropical diseases. Such conditions could rapidly reduce an army’s fighting effectiveness. Hence, the provision of clothes washing and decontamination facilities for front line troops and forward medical facilities such as Casualty Clearing Stations became almost as important as good food and shelter.

To provide washing facilities, the mobile showering unit, wholly mounted in a ¼ ton truck, was invented. To wash and decontaminate their clothes, the Australian Light Laundry was devised. The design work commenced in earnest in December 1942, and a pilot model was put together during January 1943. It was a somewhat radical design, as it dispensed with the steam pressure boiler altogether, opting for a direct-fired water heater to provide the hot water directly to the washing machine. This had the advantage that a qualified pressure vessel (boiler) attendant was not required: the simple system could be operated by almost anyone with a minimum of training. The drying system was also a departure from the conventional, as it too used a system of direct firing to heat the air exchanger that forced heated air into the tumble dryer. The complete laundry was mounted on a single four-wheeled 14 foot x 7 foot flat bed trailer. Initial trials of the pilot model during January and February 1943 proved the rugged simplicity of the design.

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The Light Laundry (Aust) used a radical design to achieve compactness, but not sacrifice efficiency. Built by L. Horscroft, they were an instant success in forward areas. (Image reproduced from the MGO Equipment Memorandum)

The US Forces had also come to the realisation that a light mobile laundry was needed, but when shown the Australian pilot model, expressed some dismay at its unconventional features. The US Army Services of Supply (USASOS) opted for a different, more conventional design much to the disappointment of the Australian authorities. This design, which utilised a conventional 100 psi steam pressure boiler, was to be manufactured in Australia under the Reciprocal Lease Lend agreement. By refusing to standardise, Australian industry would effectively be required to split their efforts and produce two light laundry designs in parallel. Australian authorities considered this division a waste of precious manufacturing resources, but the USASOS were not to be swayed.

The Light Laundry (Aust) was geared toward the washing needs of a small hospital or casualty clearing station of up to 200 beds. With this capability, it could also be used for the washing and decontamination of the clothing of front line units when withdrawn to secure areas a short distance behind the lines. In addition to consumables such as soap and fuel, all the Light Laundry (Aust) needed was a reliable supply of water. Delivery of water to the washer and water heater was handled by a small petrol engine driven pump which was included as part of the laundry’s basic equipment.

The oil-fired water heater provided hot water to the washing machine, with the residual heat used to provide the primary supply of warm air to the tumble dryer. A booster burner was also provided to heat the air-exchanger for times when the water heater was not in full operation. Power to operate the dryer and washer was provided by a 10hp Ford petrol engine connected to a counter-shaft running the full length of the trailer. Flexible couplings enabled any one part of the system to be temporarily disengaged, such as when emptying or filling the dryer or washing machine, and power was transferred from the countershaft by belts and pulleys. The fully integrated system was designed to wash 60 lbs dry weight of clothing per hour, but early trials exceeded all expectations by consistently processing more than 70 lbs per hour, and an experienced crew could complete more than 80 lbs per hour for short periods if needed.

With the success of the pilot model, and in anticipation of an early delivery of the production equipment, Army Headquarters authorised the addition of 22 Light Mobile Laundry Units onto the Order of Battle in February 1943. The units were designed to operate with any type of formation or unit as required, and were manned by members of the Australian Army Ordnance Corps (AAOC). To equip them, contracts were raised with L Horscroft and Co. for 25 Light Laundries (Aust) in April 1943, which was later raised to 40. L. Horscroft and Co. were experienced in the manufacture of laundry and oven equipment, and were already handling several military contracts for cleaning and drying equipment, including ovens for heating explosives. Within a few months, Light Mobile Laundry Units AAOC were in operation within Australia and on their way to several locations in New Guinea.

The Light Laundry (Aust) was one of the more successful collaborative projects undertaken by Australian industry during the Second World War. From the Army’s articulation of the requirement in late 1942, it took only until mid-1943 to equip, raise and deploy the new units into forward areas. Truly a fantastic effort.

Copyright Michael K Cecil

 

Biographical Details Michael K Cecil

Michael K. Cecil was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1955. His tertiary studies were at Monash University (Clayton campus) where he graduated with two degrees: a Batchelor of Science with Honours and a Batchelor of Arts. He later studied at Canberra Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a Certificate IV in Museum Practice.

Following graduation from Monash University, he held various positions in both the public service and in private consulting. These included research assistant to the ‘Atlas of Victoria’ project, various tertiary teaching positions, and technical administration appointments.

Always passionate about history, he has been researching Australian military history – particularly the technical history of vehicles and equipment – since the early 1970s. This translated into publication of articles in the late 1980s, and his first book in the early 1990s.