Warrant Officer Class One Douglas Keep Wilson

This article is republished with the permission of the Facebook page “Upper Hutt War Stories“. Upper Hutt War Stories is a Facebook page dedicated to commemorating the war service of Upper Hutt’s citizens and those with strong connections to the City. It remembers those who put their lives on the line for the defence of our Nation.

Buried right next to his longtime friend and fellow serviceman on the gentle slope of Wallaceville Cemetery is a soldier with nearly 40 years’ service with the New Zealand Army. Doug Wilson and Gordon Bremner served in the same unit and played cricket together for the Central Military Districts team. Like his friend, Doug Wilson’s grave gives no clue as to his time in uniform, his participation in World War Two or his extensive Regular Force service.

A local Wellington Boy, Doug was raised in Upper Hutt, attending the Silverstream and Trentham Schools. His father John was serving as a member of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps at Trentham Camp at the time. Unfortunately, the military downsizing which accompanied the great depression saw John Wilson lose his uniformed Army role in 1931. But he was able to stay on as a civilian member of the Civil Service at the camp, until he was reinstated as a soldier again in 1935.

Once Doug finished secondary school at Hutt Valley High, he managed to also get a job at the camp with his father, as a civilian storeman in January 1937. After working for a short period in the Main Ordnance Depot he moved into the clerical section, then volunteered to serve part-time as a soldier in the Territorial Force from mid-1938. A Gunner in the Royal New Zealand Artillery, he underwent training with an Anti-Aircraft battery at Fort Dorset as the clouds of another war in Europe began to gather.

As member of the Defence Department, Doug was not immediately called up for service when war broke out in 1939. Largely because he was already busy helping with the massive expansion of the military which occurred at this time. Starting with equipping and supplying the initial echelons of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force which began departing for Europe from 5 January 1940.

As New Zealand’s contribution to the war increased, Doug was formally drawn into the Army in September 1941 and posted to the New Zealand Temporary Staff. He served there throughout the Second World War, working in the Defence Services Provision Office, part of the Army Headquarters in Wellington. Because his role and expertise were in critical demand in New Zealand, he was never allowed to deploy to an overseas theatre of war.

This decision was lucky for Vera Rasmussen, who Doug met during the War, proposed to in 1944 and married in November 1945. As the Army reduced in size after the conflict, Doug decided to stay on, enlisting into the Regular Force in April 1947, just days before his wife gave birth to the first of their five sons. A storeman clerk in the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps he returned to Army Headquarters, and began slowly progressing up through the ranks.

By 1952 Doug was a Warrant Officer Class Two, and considered a senior and experienced member of the Ordnance Corps. Although not deploying overseas himself, he was involved in the preparation and sustainment of several operational forces, including those sent to Korea, and later Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam.

A keen sportsman he played in several Army and regional teams, including the Army Cricket team. It was here that he played alongside Gordon Bremner, who had served with Doug’s father and Doug had worked alongside during his early days at Trentham. Three years later they found themselves working within the same unit, when Doug was posted back to the Main Ordnance Deport at Trentham Camp in November 1955.

Attaining the Army’s most senior enlisted rank of Warrant Officer Class One in 1958, Doug sadly lost his wife Vera four years later, just six months after the birth of their youngest son. Despite the challenges this loss imposed on the young family, Doug was well supported by his Army colleagues and would continue to serve with the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps until February 1975.

He was awarded the New Zealand Military Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1964, which recognised more than 15 years’ unblemished service since gaining the Territorial Efficiency Medal, which he had qualified for at the end of the War. Then in 1969 Doug was singled out for the award of the prestigious and highly regarded Meritorious Service Medal (MSM).

An exceptionally scarce award for those with more than 21 years regular service, the MSM could be held by no more than 20 serving members of the New Zealand Army at any one time. It was generally reserved as special medallic recognition for the longest serving and most prominent Warrant Officers of the Service. With a total of 37 years uniformed service to the nation (38 years with the New Zealand Army if his time as a civilian storeman at Trentham is also included) Doug was certainly considered a worthy recipient.

Remaining in Upper Hutt after retiring from the military, Doug sadly passed away in 2012. His family laid him to rest in Wallaceville Cemetery with his wife Vera, and close to his old colleague and cricket team mate Gordon Bremner. The plain headstones giving no indication of the amazing stories of dedication and extended service to our nation of these two old soldiers. Lest we forget.

For the story of Gordon Bremner see: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=161882235428299&id=108826077400582

References

https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C145653

https://rnzaoc.com/2020/04/19/ordnance-cricket-team-1934-35/

https://rnzaoc.com/2018/10/28/gordon-cummin-bremner/

Howard E. Chamberlain, Service lives remembered: the Meritorious Service Medal in New Zealand and its recipients, 1895-1994, H.E Chamberlain: Wellington, NZ, 1995, p. 512.

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19440421.2.106.3 .


Memories of Service – Ron Cross

Memories of Service

 

Lieutenant Colonel Ron Cross is a military man through and through, A Regular Force Cadet, Artilleryman, Infantryman, a Graduate of the Officer Cadet School, Portsea and RNZAOC Officer, including a stint as Chief instructor of the Ordnance School from November 1972 to August 1974 and Officer Commanding of the NZAOD from April 1976 to May 1978, Ron is a  proud soldier.

In this Memories of Service video produced by the New Zealand Returned Services Associaton.  Ron recounts the experiences that shaped his life. Joining up as a regular Army Cadet, Ron served in both the Malayan conflict and the Vietnam War. From the comedy of preparing for jungle warfare in snow-covered hills around Tekapo to the tension of being fired on at close range on the roads of Vietnam, Ron’s vivid recollections are captivating.

Click on the attached link to view the video:

https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/memories-of-service-ron-cross-2017


WO1 David Andrew Orr, RNZAOC

Much of this article is published with the permission of the author of Service Lives Remembered, The Meritorious Service Medal in New Zealand and Its Recipients: 1895-1994, Howard (Clas) Chamberlain.Copyright Howard (Clas) Chamberlain

David Orr was born in Wellington on 13 January 1935 a son of John and Elizabeth Agnes Orr (nee Graham) who came from Ballymena and Randalstown, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Dave’s father was a policeman and at the time of Dave’s enlistment was stationed at Kaponga near Hawera. Dave shared his home life with two brothers and a sister and was educated at the Hawera Technical High School. He left after reaching Form Five to be employed as a concrete worker by Mr J.A. Stenning of Hawera. Dave was called up for service under the Compulsory Military Service scheme and after the initial training became a Territorial Force soldier. He reached the rank of Lance Corporal before joining the Regular Force. On 1 August 1957, Dave married Beverly Ann Barnett at Taumaranui. Dave would have three children, Gary John (b. 20 Jan 1958, Taumaranui), Susan Beverly (b. 22 Nov1959) and Debra Kay (b. 21 Feb 1961, Palmerston North).

1 Regt

Plaque of 1 Battalion the New Zealand Regiment. Robert McKie collection

Dave enlisted into the Regular Army in August 1957 and after a basic refresher training course, followed by advanced corps training at Waiouru was posted to the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Regiment. This Battalion was the replacement for the Special Air Service Squadron which had been in Malaya from 1955. The Battalion paraded through Wellington in November 1957 prior to its departure for Malaya. It was transported to Singapore on board the troopship TSS CAPTAIN COOK (which had been used for bringing migrants to New Zealand after WW2) arriving in December. On arrival in Malaya many of its personnel were sent just across the causeway from Singapore to Johore State for acclimatisation and jungle training mainly at the Jungle Warfare School at Kota Tingi. In March 1 NZ Regiment moved to Ipoh, and relieved the 1st Battalion the Royal Lincoln Regiment which had been on operations in North Malaya in the State of Perak.

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ANZAC Day Sobraon Camp 1958. Left to Right: Alkie McAlpine, Sam Peleti, Dave Orr, Bill Roden, Max Handley, Dave Wilson. 1Bn NZ Regiment Newsletter Nov 2011.

Dave was posted to active service as the Battalion was employed on counter-insurgency duties in an effort to round up remaining terrorists which were the hardcore members of the Malayan Communist Party. The Battalion was involved in deep jungle patrols of up to platoon size as the Emergency was still being fought. Apart from other duties, Dave was involved with setting up the Pipe Band of 1 NZ Regiment whilst in Malaya. (During this tour, while on patrol, one of the members of the band was hauled out of his bed in the jungle by a tiger and severely injured.) On 5 August 1959 Dave Orr emplaned on an RNZAF Hastings aircraft at Singapore and returned to New Zealand. For his service in Malaya Dave was awarded the General Service Medal 1918 clasp ‘Malaya’

RNZAOC GILT, annodised plain 1955-1996

Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1955-1996 badge Gilt, anodised plain. Robert McKie Collection

Dave Orr changed Corps to RNZAOC upon his return to New Zealand in 1959, became a Storeman/Clerk and was posted to Central District Ordnance Depot (CDOD), Linton, where he was also involved with forming the Linton Camp Pipe Band which now no longer exists. He was promoted Corporal during August 1962 and Sergeant during April 1967. He was next posted to Waiouru Sub-Depot of CDOD, promoted Staff Sergeant in 1967 and WO2 in 1970. WO2 Orr was posted back to Linton Camp in 1974 to 1 General Troops Workshops (RNZEME) stores section before returning to CDOD in 1975 when he was promoted WO1.

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RNZAOC Conductor Badge. Robert Mckie Collection

WO1 Orr was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Military) on 1 August 1975. He was posted to Trentham Camp during 1977, firstly to 1 Base Ordnance Depot (later 1 Base Supply Battalion then 5 Logistics Regiment) then to the appointment of RSM, the RNZAOC School. He was later appointed a Conductor in the RNZAOC, a distinction much prized and not granted lightly within the RNZAOC. During 1977 he initiated the setting up of the RNZAOC Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ silver collection now valued at thousands of dollars.

While posted to the New Zeland Advanced Ordnance Depot in Singapore, WO1 Orr was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on 29 April 1982

The citation for the Meritorious Service Medal reads in part as follows, “Warrant Officer Orr has given dedicated and reliable service not only to his Corps but also the Army as a whole. He has shown his ability to understand and communicate with soldiers at all levels and has portrayed an image of a “Soldier Friend”. Young soldiers find WO1 Orr easy to approach and always willing to help. In all his dealings WO1 Orr puts others needs before those of his own. His exceptional service and conduct were recognised in 1975 when he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

Warrant Officer Orr has been actively involved in many activities including Chief Marshal, Napier Military Pageant, Directing Staff Wanganui Military Pageant, Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Hamilton Military Pageant, for which he has received noted commendations…

In recognition of an outstanding career WO1 Orr has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. This medal is only awarded to senior NCOS with at least 21 years service. Only 20 serving personnel may be awarded it at any one time and then only those soldiers who have performed good, faithful, valuable and meritorious service and possessed of an irreproachable conduct throughout the qualifying period. The Meritorious Service Medal admirably compliments his earlier award of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.”

Dave Orr 2

Warrant Officer Class One (Conductor) Dave Orr receiving his MSM from the Commander NZ Force SEA, Brigadier Burrows 1982. Joe Bolton Collection

Dave was actively involved with Camp and Corps sport during his career both as a player and administrator. Dave Orr retired from the Army in 1985 and was employed as the Property Officer (a civilian appointment) at Trentham Camp until his retirement.

Dave passed away on the morning of 26 March 2020 after a long illness.