Central Districts, RNZAOC Corps Day 2017

To commemorate the 70th anniversary on the 12th of July 1947 of the granting of the “Royal” prefix by King George VI to the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, and the 100th anniversary of the formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps on 1 February 1917. A small gathering was held the 15th of July  2017 at the Empire Hotel in Palmerston North.

The Empire Hotel was chosen as the venue as 100 years ago the NZAOC Palmerston North Detachment, Ordnance Store was located across the road at 327 Main Street, and I am sure that some of them would have enjoyed a cold beer at the Empire Hotel on a Saturday afternoon.

NZ Army Ordnance Stores, 327 Main Street, Palmerston North circa 1930. Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services

NZ Army Ordnance Stores, 327 Main Street, Palmerston North circa 1920. Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services

The gathering was small, but those who attended represented a varied cross-section of former RNZAOC members from the 1960’s to the 1990’s.


Rear Left to Right: Tony (Wingnut) Rogers, Terry McBeth, Richard Tyler, Rob Mckie, Merv Hutley, Kevin Sigglekow, Peter Cox, Brian Crafts, Peter Dellabarca, Front Row Left to Right: Ray Benseman, Willie Simonsen, Phil Blundell, Dave Morris.

Ordnance and the Central Districts

The RNZAOC and its predecessors have had a  long association with the Central Districts of New Zealand. The Central Districts including the provinces of;

  • Taranaki,
  • Whanganui,
  • Ruapehu,
  • Rangitikei,
  • Manawatu,
  • Hawkes Bay,
  • Wairarapa,
  • Horowhenua, and
  • Wellington.

Ordnance Depot

In the early years of the 20th Century, Ordnance Support to the region was provided by the Defence Stores Department from their Headquarters at Mount Cook in Wellington.

With the foundation of the NZAOC in 1917, Trentham soon became the Main Ordnance Depot with detachments at Featherston and Palmerston North

On the conclusion of the First World War permanent Ordnance Depots were established at Ngaruawahia to support the Northern Districts, and at Burnham to Support the Southern Districts, it was decided to support the Central Districts directly from the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham, resulting in the closure of the Featherston and Palmerston North Ordnance Detachments

With the onset of the Second World War and the mobilisation of  New Zealand, the Central Districts Ordnance Depot was established at the Showground’s in Palmerston North with several large warehouses in rented accommodation at Whanganui.

In August of 1942, the District Ordnance Depots were renamed, and responsibility’s defined.  The Main Ordnance Depot name would remain extant, and it would service;

  • Army Headquarters,
  • Army School,
  • Mobilisation Camp, Trentham,
  • All other troops in the Wellington Fortress area,
  • 1, 2 and 3 Ordnance Sup Depots.

The Central Districts Ordnance Depot would become  No 2 Ordnance Sub Depot and would service ;

  • Waiouru Military Camp and all units therein,
  • Tactical School, Wanganui,
  • Staff College, Palmerston North,
  • Central Military Districts Troops (except Wellington Fortress troops),
  • 4th Division.

On the Wars end, No 2 Ordnance Sub Depot closed on 14 December 1945 and responsibility for Ordnance Support for the Central Districts reverted to the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham. A short time later No 2 Ordnance Sub depot reopened in Linton Camp.

  • No 2 Ordnance Sub Depot in Linton, would endure becoming;
  • No2 Ordnance Depot in 1946,
  • Central Districts Ordnance Depot in 1961,
  • 2 Central Ordnance Depot in 1968,
  • 2 Supply Company in 1979,
  • 5 Composite Supply Company in 1985 and finally
  • 21 Field Supply Company in 1990 until 1996 when its ownership Passed from the RNZAOC to the RNZALR.

Workshops and Stores Sections

In September 1946 most of the repair and maintenance functions of the NZAOC became the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The NZAOC retained repair functions such as Bootmaking, Textile Repair and Tailoring.

From 1961 the RNZAOC was represented across the Central Districts in all of the RNZEME Workshops and LAD Stores Sections.

Ammunition Depot

Constructed and becoming operational in the mid-1940’s, Ammunition Depots would be established at:

  • Kuku valley at Trentham,
  • Belmont in Wellington,
  • Makomako, and
  • Waiouru.

These would remain as interdependent Ammunition Depots until 1961 when they became Sub-Depots of the Central Districts Ordnance Depot.

The Belmont Ammunition Depot would close in the late 1960’s, with Makomako closing in the mid-1990’s leaving Waiouru as the Main Ammunition Depot.

Waiouru Camp

When Waiouru Camp was established in 1940 it was planned to create an Ordnance Depot there, but these plans never eventuated, and Waiouru would remain a Sub Depot of Trentham. Waiouru became a Sub Depot of Linton until the 1970s when it became 4 Central Ordnance Depot, then 4 Supply Company in 1979.

Wellington Region Ordnance Units


Although based in the Wellington region and having a broader responsibility for just, not the Central Districts but also the entire Army, by their proximity they have a closer association to the Central Districts than the Northern and Southern Districts and therefore have been included in this article.

In the post-war era Ordnance in the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham would undergo many transformations, the Main Ordnance Depot would become the Base Ordnance Depot in 1968 and then the 1st Base Supply Battalion in 1979 and finally 5 Logistic Regiment in 1993.

The RNZAF stores depot at Mangaroa was handed over to the NZ Army in 1949 and over the years would become home to;

  • 4(NZ) Division Ordnance Field Park was based at Trentham and Mangaroa from 1950 to 1963,
  • 1 Infantry Brigade OFP from 1963 to 1968 until reorganised and redeployed to Ngaruawahia and Burnham.
  • 1st Composite Ordnance Company from 1964 to 1977.

The Central Districts Vehicle Depot would be established at Trentham in the late 1940’s and would move closer to its primary customer base at  Linton in 1958 and would to be absorbed into the CDOD as a Sub-Depot in 1961.

Adoption of RNZASC functions

In 1979 the foodstuffs and POL functions of the RNZASC became an Ordnance responsibility with the RNZAOC gaining;

  • 24 Supply Platoon in Linton,
  • 44 Supply Platoon in Waiouru,
  • 54 Supply Platoons in Trentham,
  • 21 Supply Company in Waiouru (retaining its name in honour of its long history with the RNZASC), and
  • 7 Petroleum Platoon in Waiouru, which was renamed 47 Petroleum Platoon (4 added to identify it as a Platoon of 4 Supply Company).

Establishment of the RNZALR

On the 8 of December 1996, the RNZAOC along with the RNZCT and RNZEME was disestablished and its personnel and unit’s becoming part of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017



No 2 Sub Depot -Palmerston North, 1942-45

It is well recorded that the Palmerston North Showgrounds were utilised as a military installation during the Second World War. Its most famous occupant being the Maori Battalion, which undertook its initial concentration and training at the showgrounds. But during the wartime period, the Palmerston North Showgrounds were also utilised at different times by the Manawatu Mounted Rifles, HQ 2 Brigade, HQ 4 Division, 2 ASC Coy and in the context of this discussion No 2 Sub Depot, NZAOC.

The wartime NZAOC

During the Second World War,  the supply functions of the NZAOC in New Zealand were organised with;

  • The Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham, with subunits located outside of Trentham at;
    • HQ Ammunition Section, Belmont
    • Ammunition Sections at Makomako and Waiouru
    • Bulk Stores at Linton and Mangere,
    • Artillery Sub Depot, Waiouru,
    • Inspection Ordnance Officer Section, Central Military District (Palmerston North)
    • Ammunition Repair Depot, Kuku Valley
  •  Ordnance Sub Depots in each military district:
    • Northern Military District – No 1 Sub Depot at Ngaruawahia Military Camp.
    • Central Military District – No 2 Sub Depot at the Palmerston North Show Grounds.
    • Southern Military District – No 3 Sub Depot at Burnham Camp.

(note: Up to 20 August 1942 the District Ordnance Depots were known as Northern, Central and Southern District Ordnance Depots) 

At the start of the war the Northern District Ordnance Depot (No 1 Sub Depot) and Southern District Ordnance Depot (3 Sub Depot) were both well established Ordnance Depots;

  • The Northern District Ordnance Depot at Ngaruawahia Military Camp in the Waikato had opened in 1927 as a purpose-built Ordnance Depot. (also known as Waikato or Hopuhopu Military Camp)
  • The Southern District Ordnance Depot, which although opening in 1921 had only received modern buildings in the early 1940s.

Although there was a Palmerston North Ordnance Detachment during the 1st World War, there is little evidence of a permanent Ordnance presence in Palmerston North during the interwar period,  as an economy measure it is most likely Ordnance support to units in the lower North Island were provided directly from Trentham.

With the Mobilisation of the 2nd NZEF, Home Defence Forces and Territorial Forces, the Central Districts Ordnance Depot was established at the Palmerston North showgrounds early in 1942 with Lieutenant William Saul Keegan, New Zealand Temporary Staff (NZTS) appointed as Ordnance Officer, Central Military District and Officer Commanding, Palmerston North Detachment, NZAOC and NZOC attached on 1 March 1942

No 2 Sub Depot

The Palmerston North Showgrounds was a sensible place to locate the Central Districts Ordnance Depot.   Situated between Featherston, Waldergrave, Pascal and Cuba Streets, the showgrounds were only a few hundred meters from the Palmerston North Railway yards, which were at the time located in what is now the Railway Reserve on Pioneer Highway. This would have provided easy access for the receiving of goods, not only the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham but also from other suppliers from all over the country, and for the dispatching of goods to subordinate units all over the lower North Island by rail and road.

The showgrounds had some of the most significant covered spaces in the region with 5 exhibition hall under one roof and much hard-standing for vehicles and other defence stores. To house the Maori Battalion and other units, cookhouses, dining halls, accommodation (huts and tented) and ablutions had also been established.

In the early years of the war occupancy of the showgrounds was seen as a temporary arrangement with the Manawatu Agricultural and Pastoral Association retaining part occupancy of the facility. By late 1941 with war with Japan becoming a growing reality, it was decided that the military should have full occupancy of the showgrounds for the duration of the war.

pnorth showgrounds 2

Palmerston North Showgrounds, Cuba Street, 1939. Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services

After the 20th of August 1942, the Central Districts Ordnance Depot was Renamed as No 2 Sub Depot and was situated on the Waldergrave Street side of the showgrounds, in the five large exhibition halls, which were practically under one roof.

  • Hall 1 was stocked with a vast quantity of clothing including boots, tunics, greatcoats underwear
  • Hall 2 was stocked with tools, spare parts, and expendable stores. There was more hardware including tons of nails, wire, rope, paint, thinners and linseed oil that was stocked by all the merchants of Palmerston North put together.
  • Hall 3 was stocked with a lot of camp fittings, crockery, cutlery, sheets, blankets other types of household linen by the thousands.
  • Hall 4 and 5 contained practically every type of Army stores required including  Rifles and machine-guns.
  • Flammable goods, such as paints,  turpentine and kerosene kept in steel drums were initially stored in the main buildings, and it was not until 1943 when suitable buildings with concrete floors and iron walls and roofs were provided.
  • Explosives and Ammunition were also stored at the showgrounds until 1943 when construction of the Makomoko ammunition area was completed.

As the buildings were filled to capacity, often with stock stacked to the ceilings, two nightwatchmen were maintained to provide security and a fire picket during the silent hours.  Close liaison was maintained with the Fire Brigade, and inspections carried out on many occasions to examine the fire hazard. The Army’s first aid equipment was in good order and consisted of buckets, bucket pumps and hoses, and fire extinguishers. The method of storage was the best under the means available to the Depot, with flammable goods stacked between non-flammable products in an attempt to provide fire breaks in the event of a fire. The Fire Brigade made many recommendations about the reduction of the fire hazard, and these recommendations were always acted on. Guidance for the installation of an automatic alarm system was not made by the fire brigade because it was considered that the precautions taken at the time were adequate.

No 2 Depot maintained surge accommodation outside of the showgrounds, including

  • Part Worn Clothing stores in Rangitikei and Church Streets
  • Engineer dumps at two locations at Fielding

The total value of all stock at the depot at the end of December 1944, was £1,100,000. ($NZ 90,845,402.49 in today’s currency)

Depot Establishment

The Establishment of No 2 Depot as of 17 August 1942 was set at 3 officers and 81 Other ranks organised as follows;

17 Aug 1942

Due to wartime manpower constraints, the posted strength would never entirley complete the establishment.

February 1943

Posted strength was One Officer and 66 Other ranks.

30th of October 1943

the establishment had been increased to 3 Officers and 95 Other ranks, with a posted strength of 2 Officer and 88 Other ranks.

29 February 1944

the establishment had been increased on 1 November 1943 to 3 Officers and 92 Other ranks, with a posted strength of 2 Officer and 83 Other ranks.

29 Feb 1944

5 April 1944

5 April 1944 No2 Sub Depot

Unknown Military Unit 2

No 2 Ordnance Sub Depot. Group of soldiers – Elmar Studios, 459 Main Street, Palmerston North circa 1942 to circa 1945, No Known Restrictions

The big blaze

On the 31st of December 1944, the Palmerston North fire brigade superintendent, Mr Milverton was tracing faults to the city general fire alarm system. The fault had been located at the Show Grounds and was determined to be caused by vibration caused by heavy motor traffic, as a temporary measure until the fault could be rectified, it was decided to cut out the Show Grounds loop from the alarm system. The military authorities were advised of the steps taken, and the alarm boxes were marked ‘Out of order’.

At around 2130 hrs Sergeant W. C. Luffman, Senior NCO of the Showgrounds guard conducted his patrol and found nothing amiss. On the next scheduled patrol at 1030 hrs in the cookhouse, a copper used for the heating of water was found empty and red hot with the gas under the copper alight,  and as a result, a piece of wood on the wall was alight.   Turning the gas off,  Sgt Luffman went to the main gate and instructed a Private Wagstaff to assist him.  Utilising a stirrup pump, they extinguished the burning timber. Satisfied that they had put the fire out, Private Wagstaff filled the copper with cold water and felt the iron around the site of the fire, finding it quite cold. The stirrup pump was refilled and left near the copper as a precaution against repetition.

Conducting another patrol at 1135 hrs, Privates Wagstaff along with Private Collins the Ordnance night watchman were instructed to examine the wall in the neighbouring Ordnance Store opposite to where the fire had been. Sergeant Luffman went back to the kitchen, finding conditions normal and no sign of fire and satisfied that all was well, Sgt Luffman returned to the guard house. Reaching there about 1155 hrs meeting up with Private Collins who reported no issues on the ordnance side of the wall.

Waiting at the guard house until midnight and wanting to contribute to the new years’ festivities by blowing a siren at the gate.  On going outside Sgt Luffman saw a glow in the sky near the Ordnance Depot. Unsure if this was from the Ordnance Depot,  he rushed into the guard house to telephone the fire brigade, only to receive no reply, as the alarms had been disconnected due to a fault earlier in the day there was no way to contact the brigade.

Luckily local citizens had seen the fire and notified the fire brigade, and Sgt Luffman soon heard the sirens of the approaching fire engines. As the engines arrived, they found the fire, which was in the building beyond the cookhouse, which was the Ordnance Store. It was well alight, and flames were breaking through the roof. Three motor engines would eventually respond, finding on their arrival that the fire had a good hold and it was not until midday that the last fires were finally extinguished. A row of six dwellings which faced Waldegrave Street, but backed onto the showgrounds and were dangerously close to the fire and the administrative offices of the A&P Association were saved but only after tons of water had been poured into and over them. Halls 1, 2 and 3 were lost but halls 4 and 5 remained intact. At the time it was the most significant fire that the Palmerston North Fire Brigade had dealt with.

pnorth showgrounds

The aftermath of Dec 1944 Showground fire. Evening Post


Evidence submitted to the inquiry conducted in March 1945 by the Ordnance Officer in charge of the Ordnance Depot, Captain William Saul Keegan put the loss due to the fire at  £225700 ($18,639,824.86 today’s value), with a considerable amount of stock able to be salvaged. Lost in the fire was almost the entire stock of around 1500 Charlton Automatic Rifles, a successful New Zealand conversion of the Lee–Enfield rifle into an automatic rifle, only a handful survive today.

There was some suspicion that the fire was deliberately set to cover up thefts from the depot, but these were discounted by Captain Keegan. In his evidence, he stated that the total value of all stock at the depot at the end of December 1944, was £1100000 ($90845402.49). Thefts from the Depot up to the time of the fire were very small, and the more significant part of the overall deficiencies was the result of miscounting. In two years and nine months, the losses from all sources amounted to £627 ($51781.88) For the same period, there was brought on charge surpluses to the value of £1600 ($132138.77), and thus surpluses outweighed the shortages by about £1000 ($82586.73). Captain Keegan detailed the accounting system of charging for goods and based on his knowledge of the store there could be definitely no suggestion that the fire was started to conceal shortages.

Detective F. Quin of the NZ Police gave evidence of the widespread and exhaustive investigations into the possible causes of the fire but was unable to produce any further relevant information which had not already been placed before the Court. No evidence could be found of sabotage, incendiaries, or any interference like that. No person could be found who had lit the copper found burning by Sergeant Luffman.

It was fortunate that the fire occurred in 1944, by when the Invasion threat had subsided, and the bulk of the Territorial Army, Home guard and other Home defence forces had been demobilised, so the loss of the stores was negligible to the ongoing operations of the Army.

Post War Reorganisation

Land at Linton for a  Military Camp was bought by the New Zealand Government in October 1941, with the first units entering the camp in February 1942, with the first prefabricated huts built within 6 months and more permanent accommodation been built in the following years. The Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham soon established a satellite Bulk Store at Linton, which was run independent of No 2 Sub Depot.

2 Sub Depot remained at the Palmerston North showgrounds until 14 December 1945 when it functions were assumed by the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham.

Reestablishment at Linton

On 1 October 1946, the Main Ordnance Depot Bulk Stores located in Linton Camp was formally reformed as No 2 Ordnance Depot. In addition to responsibility for units based in the Linton area, the new Depot would also assume responsibility for the Main Ordnance Depot Sub Units based in Waiouru Camp. The Suggested establishment as September 1946 was;

Sept 1946 No2 Sub Depot

Over the next 40 years, No 2 Ordnance Sub-Depot would remain as the resident Ordnance unit in Linton Camp, undergoing the following name changes until the disestablishment of the RNZAOC in 1996;

  • Central Districts Ordnance Depot,  1948 to 1968
  • 2 Central Ordnance Depot, 1968 to 1979
  • 2 Supply Company, 1979 to 1985
  • 5 Composite Supply Company, 1985 to 1990
  • 21 Field Supply Company 1990 to 1996

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

Palmerston North Detachment – NZAOC

I recently discovered this interesting picture of the Palmerston North Ordnance Store, 327 Main Street, opposite the Empire Hotel ( The Cobb to those of you familiar to Palmerston North).  The location of this building is now where Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) is, I suspect that when the Railway line was relocated, Main street was adjusted as this location s now 527 Main Street.

NZ Army Ordnance Stores, 327 Main Street, Palmerston North circa 1930. Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services

NZ Army Ordnance Stores, 327 Main Street, Palmerston North. Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services

The building was initially known as the Lyceum Hall and in 1914 used by the Boy Scouts as their hall.

butler postingsThe Palmerston North Ordnance Store was established early in the war to service the growing mobilisation camps in the Manawatu region, with records showing that Alfred Butler a civilian employee of the Defence Stores Department was transferred into the Palmerston North Ordnance Store in February 1915. Private Butler was attested in the NZAOC on its formation in 1917. Mr Frank Edwin Ford, formerly the Mobilisation Storekeeper at Nelson, was appointed district storekeeper, Wellington. Military District. Ford commenced duty and took charge of the Defence Stores, Palmerston North, on 2l June 1915.

At some stage in the early years of the war the building was taken over by the Defence Department, most likely by the Defence Stores Department,  and by 1917 was utilised as an Ordnance Store. On 1 July 1917 many of the Defence Stores Department staff were attested for service into the newly formed New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, and from 1 July 1917 the Palmerston North Ordnance Store official designation was “Palmerston North Detachment – NZAOC”.

Under the command of the Captain F.E Ford NZAOD, the Ordnance Officer Wellington, between 1 July 1917 and 14 Dec 1921 the Palmerston North Detachment – NZAOC consisted of the following staff drawn from the New Zealand Permanent Staff, Militarised Defence Stores Department staff and returned servicemen from the NZEF.

  • NZAOC  No 132. Armourer Staff Sergeant Andrew Archibald Young, MSM.
  • NZAOC  No 209. Sergeant A.K Simpson.
  • NZAOC  No 617, Private James Richards Horace.
  • NZAOC  No 80, Private Wilfred John Mitchinson.
  • NZAOC  No 838, Lance Corporal William Robert McMinn.
  • NZAOC No 19, Private Alfred Charles Butler.
  • NZAOC  No 44, Private George Henry Gedson.
  • NZAOC  No 53, Private H Houton.
  • NZAOC  No 163, Private William Alexander Larkin.

It is unknown if this building was occupied by all the Ordnance Staff, of they were employed in different locations, but what is know is that by 1921 as the Army demobilised and wartime facilities closed. Up to its closure in 1921 the Palmerston North Detachment was primarily concerned with transferring stores to Featherston Camp and conditioning many auctions and tenders for surplus Camp Equipment and Clothing.

The Building was advertised for let by Headquarters, Central Military Command in June 1921 and by September 1921, the building had been taken over by  Universal Secondhand Depot, who at the time claimed to have in stock the most extensive supply of Modern Secondhand Furniture in the District.

Records show that by December 1921 the Palmerston North Detachment – NZAOC staff had either been posted to Featherston or Trentham Camps or had been demobilised, and it seems that with little ceremony the  Palmerston North Detachment – NZAOC faded into History with only a single photo to remember its existence.