New Zealand Base Ordnance Depot, Egypt and Italy 1940-46

The 2nd NZEF Base Ordnance Depot(BOD) was the primary Ordnance organisation supporting the 2nd NZEF in its operations from Egypt to Italy from 1940 to 1946. Unlike the Infantry, Artillery, Engineers and even the Army Servicer Corps, New Zealand did not have an Ordnance component in the Territorial Army from which to draw upon when establishing the Ordnance services of the 2nd NZEF, this led to the NZ BOD having to be built from scratch. The two senior ordnance officers, King and Andrews were from the regular Army, some of the personnel were drawn from the civilian staff of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) with others having a clerical or warehousing background. With this diversity of experience, the men of the NZ BOD with the assistance of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) Depots in Egypt underwent a crash course in the intricacies of British military stores accounting, warehousing and distribution operations. Initially based at Maadi Camp on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt, the NZ BOD would eventually grow into two Depots, one in Egypt and one in Italy. Not entirely a Base organisation the NZ BOD would also deploy an Advanced Ordnance Depot and conduct stores convoy operations. This article provides an introduction to the NZ BOD, another forgotten New Zealand Ordnance unit of the Secoend World War.

When given command of the NZDF, General Freyberg as the General Officer Commanding had been given a mandate and authority to “establish such administrative headquarters and base and line of communication units as are necessary for the functions of command, organisation, including training, and administration with which he has been invested”, with “the authority to procure equipment (shown on equipment tables) that cannot be supplied through official channels. Such equipment to be bought through Ordnance channels where possible”,[1]  this included the establishment of a Base Ordnance Depot to support the growing New Zealand Force

As the New Zealand Forces arrived in Egypt, the logistical situation was dire. The Middle East Command was in a period of transition from a peacetime to a wartime footing. The German victory’s in the low countries and France which saw the loss of much of the British Armies equipment in the subsequent evacuation resulting in the Middle East placed on a low priority for personnel and resources as the United Kingdom rearmed and prepared for invasion. The RAOC resources which the NZEF could draw upon were limited and consisted of;[2] [3]

  • A combined Ordnance Depot and Workshop at Abbassia
  • A Clothing and mobilisation sub-depot at Kasr-el-Nil
  • A sub-depot at Alexandra
  • Forward dumps of tentage, accommodation stores and ammunition at El Daba and Mersa Matruh.

The first Director of Ordnance Services (DOS) for the Middle East would not be appointed until late 1940 when Colonel W.W Richards was transferred from France to Egypt as a Brigadier.[4] Cognisant of the supply situation and also the international composition of the Middle East Command, Brigadier Richards would  oversee the rapid upgrade of infrastructure, personnel and capability of the combined Ordnance services of the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa ,India and New Zealand, creating effective Ordnance Field Force units supported by robust base facilities, shaped to meet the national requirements of each contributing nation.

Known as the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC), The embryotic New Zealand Ordnance organisation that arrived in Egypt with the 1st Echelon included;[5]

  • Lieutenant Colonel T.J. King NZAOC, DADOS
  • Captain A.H Andrews NZAOC, Ordnance Mechanical Engineer,
  • Lieutenant D.E Harper NZOC. OO Base Depot
  • Lieutenant G Langslow NZOC, 9 LAD, 4 Field Regiment NZA
  • Lieutenant G.D Pollock NZOC, 10 LAD, 5 Field Park Company, NZE
  • Captain J.H Mander NZOC, 11 LAD, HQ 4 Infantry Brigade,
  • Captain N.P Manning NZOC, 12 LAD, 27 Machine Gun Battalion,
  • Lieutenant J.O Kelsey NZOC, 13 LAD, Divisional Cavalry Regiment,
  • J.H England NZOC, 14 LAD, Divisional Signal Units
  • NZOC tradesmen, Clerks, Storemen and Drivers held under the Base Depot organisation.

The initial Base Depot found in the embarkation rolls was not the Base Ordnance Depot but a convenient use of the War Establishment to place personnel who were not allocated to existing units on the establishment. On mobilisation Army headquarters was sure that a base function would be required, and Base Depot was the only suitable unit that could be found on British War Establishments that could be used for the personnel filling many if the anticipated base roles in the NZEF. Under General Freyberg’s mandate to “establish such administrative headquarters and base and line of communication units” The Base Depot was disestablished in April 1940 and Headquarters NZEF Base formally established as a unit of the NZEF with personnel distributed to functional subunits, including NZOC Stores and clerical staff to the NZ BOD.[6] At this stage, NZ BOD would also manage some of the Base Workshop functions in conjunction with 31 LAD (Base)

Maadi Camp 1941

View of the working area of the Ordnance Depot at Maadi Camp in 1941. Photo H.J Gilbertson

Maadi Camp 1941.1

View of the working area of the Ordnance Depot at Maadi Camp in 1941. Photo H.J Gilbertson

The 2nd NZEF had arrived in Egypt with the bare minimum of equipment, but by August 1940 the NZ BOD was in the routine of receiving and issuing new equipment to the force; and in fact, the equipping of New Zealand Forces was proceeding far better than with comparable United Kingdom units in the area. As the accounting system was still in a peacetime system the British authorities were most generous in providing what equipment was available to the Commonwealth. At this time issues of equipment had to be checked and signed for, with the arrangement with the United Kingdom that the initial issues to the New Zealand Forces would be paid for at the actual value.

The 2nd NZEF had arrived in Egypt with the same uniforms and web equipment as the NZEF of 1918. As stocks became available the NZ BOD began to issue the new 1937 pattern ‘Battledress’ and ’37 pattern webbing’ to all New Zealand Troops. Additionally, as each draft arrived issues of theatre specific clothing and equipment had to be issued to each soldier;

  • Helmets steel 1,
  • Respirators Anti Gas 1,
  • Armbands (white) 1,
  • Shorts Khaki Drill 2,
  • Shirts tropical 2,
  • Drawers cellular short 2,[7]
  • Hosetops (long socks) (prs) 1

This was a considerable amount of clothing and equipment to bring into stock for issues and for stockholding, not forgetting that the old uniforms and equipment that was been exchanged had to be sorted, stored and disposed of. To manage the workload, infrastructure would be required along with additional personnel. To supplement the NZOC military personnel, civilian labour would be utilised. Under the control of a supervisor know as a Rais (Arabic: رئیس‎; also spelled Raees), teams of workers known as Fellaheen (Arabic: فلاحين‎, fallāḥīn) would come into the BOD each day,[8] Over time locally employed civilians would not only carry out labouring work but also more complex warehousing and clerical functions providing a level of continuity that soldiers because of the demands of soldiering are often unable; to maintain.

Liaison with the RAOC depots was the key to the success of the NZ BOD. Held on the establishment of the NZ BOD, NZOC Liaison staff were attached to RAOC depots for the duration of the war, NZOC liaison staff would serve in both clerical and stores positions with a dual role; first the NZOC had no combined corporate history of ordnance procedures so the attachment would enable NZOC members to become familiar with current RAOC procedures, and secondly it allowed NZOC staff in RAOC depots to directly manage and process New Zealand demands.[9]

In June 1940, Lt Col King departed for England where he would facilitate the Ordnance support for the 2nd Echelon of the 2NZEF which had been diverted to England rather than Egypt, this would leave Major Andrews managing all the NZOC maintenance and supply functions in Egypt. With the 3rd Echelon arriving in Egypt in September 1940 planning on the future of the NZ BOD and the overall NZOC commitment to the NZEF with the drafting of new establishments underway. Correspondence between Andrew and King describes the growth of the NZ BOD into a quite large depot.[10]

BOD October 1940

Base Ordnance Depot Staff, Maadi, October 1940. Back Row clerks: G Gilbert-Smith, LCpl W.W Thomas, G Duane, O McKibbon. Front Row Storemen: M Ivey, R Watson, W Mooney. Photo W.W Thomas

By March 1941 the 2nd Echelon had arrived in Egypt from the United Kingdom and the New Zealand Division was complete for the first time. Although some units had been involved in operations against the Italians, the Divisions first real taste of battle would be the disastrous Greek and Crete campaigns. Although ad hoc NZOC workshops would be sent to Greece to support the LAD’s, the NZ BOD would only play a supporting role in these campaigns. In the months after the Greek and Crete campaign, the NZ Division would retrain and reorganise.

From April 1942 the DOS for the Middle East was weighing up the option of pooling all British and Dominion Base Ordnance units into one organisation under the DOS GHQ Middle East. Whilst retaining their national identity’s they world services all units regardless of nationality on a geographic basis. Stocks of common items would be demanded from the main British BOD, provisioned for and demanded by the DADOS (P) from the United Kingdom or the Eastern Supply Group. Items peculiar to each nation would be demanded independently by each national BOD. The NZEF replied that the NZ BOD at Maadi Camp had materially reduced the work of the RAOC Depots and that excellent liaison between the RAOC and NZOC existed and the proposed system was in effect the system in place and working quite satisfactorily.[11]

As a consequence of the NZ Divisions reorganisation, Divisional NZOC units were to be formed, with personnel from the NZ BOD, NZOC reinforcements and transfers from within the 2nd NZEF transferred to the following NZOC Field Force units prior to their formation; [12]

  • The New Zealand Divisional Ordnance Field Park (NZ OFP), formed 28 July 1941,
  • The NZ Divisional Salvage unit, formed 16 August 1941.
  • The New Zealand Divisional Mobile Bath Unit, formed 6 September 1941,
  • The New Zealand Divisional Mobile Laundry and Forward Decontamination unit, formed 22 September 1941.

Concurrent with the reorganisation of the 2nd NZEF after the Greek Campaign, the NZOC maintenance services would start to be formalised into a fully functional workshop system of Base, Divisional and field workshops. Following closely behind the British who with the increased mechanisation of the battlefield reformed its maintenance and repair organisations and form them into a single Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) on 1 October 1942 assuming responsibility for all RAOC, ASC and Royal Engineer Workshops, Recovery Sections and LADs.  New Zealand and Australian would follow suit on 1 December 1942, followed by India on 1 May 1943 and Canada on 22 February 1944.[13]

Maadi 1941

An Italian trailer put to use in the NZ BOD at Maadi in 1941. Soldier is Jack Thompsom. Photo: H.L Gilbertson

In addition to the Divisional NZOC units, a New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot (NZAOD) was formed as sub-unit of the NZ BOD to facilitate the holding of stock closer to the forward areas. No additional personnel was authorised for the NZAOD, so when raised its personnel and equipment would be drawn from NZ BOD resources.[14]

BOD 41

The NZ AOD was initially located with an RAOC AOD at El Daba during Operation Crusader, [15]  with the NZ Division withdrawn back to Egypt in December 1941 the NZAOD had just unloaded its stock at the Tura caves when it was ordered to move with the Division to Syria where it set up in the vicinity of Baalbeck.

March 1942 would see the establishment of the NZ BOD increased to five Officers and 95 other ranks.

BOD MAR 42

Returning to Egypt with the NZ Division in June 1942, the NZAOD would gradually morph into a mobile depot and accompany the NZ Division the pursuit of the Axis forces into Tunisia.[16] On three occasions it would ground its stocks, at Bardia, Tripoli and Enfidaville. Due to its mobile nature, the NZAOD ended up utilising many of the NZ BOD’s limited holding f vehicles

Replenishment for the NZAOD would be direct from the NZ BOD for NZ specific items of supply. For items of a generic nature, replenishment would be from the closest supporting RAOC AOD, Forward Depot or Dump, if those units were unable to satisfy the indent, it would be pushed to the supporting RAOC BOD. New Zealand liaison staff in the RAOC depots would process the New Zealand indents and forward on the next available transport for delivery.

An example of the efficiency of the replenishment system is that when at Enfidaville the NZAOD sent a signal to RAOC 557 AOD, then at Tripoli, over 600km away. Within five days those stores were being issued to units if the Division.

Sys of Sup

 

October 1943 would see the NZEF begin operations in Italy as part of the 8th Army. The NZAOD would remain deployed forward in support of the NZ Division. Major Harper the DADOS of the NZ BOD also deployed into Italy to conduct an appreciation of the future NZ Ordnance Support required.  At the time of Major Harper’s appreciation, there was only one RAOC depot operating in support to the 8th Army. This was an ad hoc organisation called Eight Army Field Stores and was operating using stocks from the initial Ordnance Beach Detachments. The RAOC 500 AOD was in the process of getting organised at Bari on the Adriatic coast, with its limited stocks steadily been built up, few demands could satisfactory be met.[17] To improve the situation for the NZ Division and the NZEF, Harper recommended that rather rely on already stretched RAOC depots the NZ BOD be reformed into two Depots;

  • One part to service the NZEF in Egypt and to hold reserves of clothing for the whole NZEF,
  • The other part to be in Italy to service the NZ Division and other NZEF units in Italy, such as hospitals and the advance base.

Major Harper envisaged only a small increase in personnel and that the liaison staff with RAOC Depts remain incorporated in the new establishment.

As one of the factors of the NZ Divisions good equipment state was that it had always had its own BOD, which was now located far away in Egypt, and to maintain the NZ Division in a comparable manner as it had been in North Africa, Harper’s recommendation that the BOD be split into two sections was approved by the GOC  2 NZEF on 4 Nov 1942. Major Harper was instructed to make arrangement to obtain the required buildings and stores accommodation in Bari and then return to Egypt to assist in the arrangements to split the NZ BOD for the move to Italy.[18]

From 10 November 1943, the NZ BOD split into three distinct sections

  • Ordnance Depot at Base (Egypt)
  • Ordnance Depot at Advance Base (Italy), and
  • NZAOD

The significant change is that the NZAOD was established as a standalone section, whereas in the previous year’s its personnel and equipment had been taken out of the establishment the NZ BOD, the NZAOD was now recognised separate section with its own personnel and equipment.

A change in the boot repair contract in Maadi had also necessitated an increase on the establishment of Shoemakers and Bootmakers to enable the NZ BOD to become self-sufficient in the area in boot repair.

The NZ BOD would also be the reinforcement depot for the NZOC. Reinforcements from NZ or individuals injured in units and withdrawn to the rear to convalesce would be held in the reinforcement depot until appropriate vacancies became available in forward units.

NZOC personnel on liaison duties with ROAC depots also cease to be held in the establishment of the NZ BOD.

BOD NOV 43

BOD Staff Dec 1943

Main Office Staff, 1 Base Ordnance Depot, Maadi, Egypt, December 1943. Standing: Ike Dabscheck, Stone, Lieutenant Stroud, Major Cordery, Lieutenant Barwick, Unidentified. In front: Jack Picot, Geff Rees, Falloon. Photo: J.D Picot

Early in 1944, it was decided that given the distance between Egypt and Italy that the NZ BOD Ordnance Depot at Advance Base in Bari should be upgraded to full Base Depot Status. With effect 16 February the following changes to establishments were made;

  • NZ BOD was renamed 1 NZ Base Ordnance Depot, (1 NZ BOD)
  • 2 NZ Base Ordnance Depot was formed as a unit of the NZEF (2 NZ BOD)
  • The NZAOD was disbanded.

Change to 1BOD

2 BOD Formed

Changing from NZ BOD to 1 NZ BOD, this unit’s establishment would be reduced to two Officers and 37 Other ranks, retaining responsibility as the bulk holding depot for items peculiar to NZ and the reaming base units in Egypt, No1 NZ BOD would be the Reinforcement Depot for NZOC and would also include Includes a Officers shop detail.  An Officers Shop detail was also added to the responsibilities of 1 NZ OFP. Officers shops were an organisation developed by the British in North Africa. Centrally provisioned by the Central Provision Office, Officers Shops allowed Offices to buy at reasonable rates, authorised items of kit such as clothing, camp kit, travel bags, Leather jerkins and shoes.[19]

The NZAOD would be also disbanded and its functions absorbed into the NZ OFP mobile AOD section.[20]

NZAOD DISBANDED FEB 1944

From the existing NZ BOD Ordnance Depot at Advance Base in Bari, 2 NZ BOD would be formed as a unit of the NZEF. Carrying out the same role as the NZ BOD in North Africa 2 NZ BOD would be a Reinforcement Depot for NZOC Personnel and include a Stores Convoy Unit.

Stores Convoy Units were a capability that was generated by the early lessons of the desert war, and although utilised by both the NZ OFP and NZAOD during 1942/43 the system was not formally organised as a unit in the NZEF until 1944. The supply and transportation of Ordnance Stores is something which was not always understood and more complex than the supply and transportation of Rations, Fuel and Ammunition. Except for a small range of fast moving items, Ordnance stores consist of a very large range of stores, for which the actual need of the users cannot be anticipated with any certainty. It is impractical to hold stocks close to the forward units as the assets required to move these stocks are not realistic, therefore a reliable and fast service was required to supply urgent requirements from the nearest stock holding unit – often the BOD. Rail had many limitations which made urgent deliveries impactable as was the use of Army Service Corps (ASC) assets who on regular runs failed to meet the delivery requirements. Therefore, it became necessary to introduce a road convoy service dedicated to the transportation of Ordnance Stores. Originally operated by using reserve vehicles from the RAOC 1 OFP and 1st Cavalry Division OFP, the system originally operated between Cairo and Mersa Matruh supplementing the existing rail system. The system proved successful and was extended to the delivery of vehicles other urgent fighting stores direct to divisional OFP’s across the Middle East theatre form Persia to Tunisia. [21]  The New Zealand Stores Convoy Unit would operate from 1944 into 1945 along the entire axis of the New Zealand’s Divisions advance through Italy from Bari to Trieste.

2NZEF Ordnance

A group of NZAOD personnel Italy 1944. Front Row: H.D Bremmer, R.G James, 2nd Lieutenant H.J Mackridge, N.G Hogg, G.P Seymour. Back Row: WO2 Worth, D.S Munroe, G Caroll, C Moulder, E.W.T Barnes, H Rogers, C.W Holmes, W Wallace, N Denery Photo: Defence Archive Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library.

As the NZ Division advanced up the Italian peninsular HQ 2 NZEF also wised to shorten the lines of communication and remain close to the Division, and on 11 September HQ 2 NZEF relocated to Senigallia. The headquarters move to Senigallia was soon followed by many of the administrative units including 2NZ BOD which established an Advanced Section of Depot of one Officer and 20 Other Ranks.

2 BOD OCT 44

Although the Officers shop details have been active since February 1944, formal approval for the establishment of Officers shops was not granted in April 1945 with the following officer’s shops to be added to establishments;

  • 1 NZ BOD – One Officer Shop Detail
  • 2 NZ BOD – Two Officer Shop details, (Bari and Senigallia)
  • NZ OFP, AOD Section – One Officer Shop Detail.

Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945, bringing hostility’s in Europe to a close, but in the Pacific and South East Asia the war against Japan was still in progress and discussion of the future of the NZEF and its future in the war was underway. By June 1945 the decision had been made to maintain NZOC units in the NZEF at full strength to facilitate the handing back of vehicles and equipment by Divisional units as they were demobilised or reorganised for service against Japan. In June 1945 103 personnel from Divisional NZOC units were placed on the establishment of 2 NZ BOD but attached to RAOC units, the bulk to the RAOC 557 BOD at Naples to facilitate the handing back of equipment and also the distribution of new equipment for the force been raised for operations against Japan

2 BOD NOV 45

The August atomic bombing of Japan and their subsequent surrender in September 1945 brought what was going to be a long war to a sudden end. Japan would be occupied by allied forces and New Zealand would contribute a Brigade group (J Force) based on the 9th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd NZEF.[22]

By November the 2 NZ BOD Advanced Section of Depot at Senigallia had been disbanded and the establishment of 2 NZ BOD reduced to five Officers and 42 Other ranks. The personnel of the 2 NZ BOD Advance Section of Depot were transferred to Florence where they married up with the NZ OFP to form a final NZAOD to support the demobilisation of the 2nd NZEF. The liaison staff to the RAOC depots had also been reduced from the original 103 to five Officers and thirty-eight Other Ranks.[23]

Both 1 and 2 NZ BOD would spend the remaining months of 1945 packing and returning equipment to New Zealand, clearing Depots and returning stocks to the ROAC. By 1 February 1946 after close to six years of providing Ordnance support to the 2nd NZEF the Base Ordnance Depots and the NZAOD of the NZOC were formally disbanded and the final NZOC troops headed for home or to Japan for service with J Force.

1946

Like all of the NZOC units of the 2nd NZEF, the role that the NZ BOD played in supporting the 2nd NZEF has hardly rated a mention in many of the contemporary histories of the 2nd NZEF. But considering that it was a unit started from scratch and had to learn its trade on the job under wartime conditions it is a unit worthy of recognition. Providing the 76000 New Zealand Troops that passed through Maadi Camp, and maintaining the NZ Division over vast distances with all manner of war material was a huge achievement and one never to matched in the history of the New Zealand Army.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Notes

[1] W. G. Stevens, Problems of 2 Nzef, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 (Wellington, N.Z: War History Branch, Dept of Internal Affairs, 1958, 1958), Non-fiction, 93.

[2] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945 (London: Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 1965), 110-11.

[3] 1939-1948 New Zealand Army WWII Nominal Rolls, “Roll 1: 1939 – 31 Mar 1940,”  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1832/31839_224118__0001-00003?backurl=https%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fsearch%2fdb.aspx%3fdbid%3d1832%26path%3d&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnBrowsing#?imageId=31839_224118__0001-00042.

[4] Frank Steer, To the Warrior His Arms: The Story of the Raoc 1918–1993 (London: RAOC, 2005), 73.

[5] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 72.

[6] Stevens, Problems of 2 Nzef, 21-22.

[7] Short cellular drawers or underwear were issued to British and Commonwealth troops for wear in summer and for general wear in tropical areas. They were white open-weave ‘cellular’ fabric, featuring a two-button fastening to the front opening and a pair of horizontal cloth loops to either side of the front waistband.

[8] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 106.

[9] Ibid., 102-03.

[10] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base, Item Idr20107591 Record No  Da 1/9/Sd81/22 (Wellington: New Zealand Archives, 1941).

[11] Ibid.

[12] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field Item Idr20107590 Record No  Da 1/9/Sd81/21 (Wellington: New Zealand Archives, 1941).

[13] Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996, 72-122.

[14] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base.

[15] Listed in some records as the RAOC 508 AOD it might actually be 500 AOD as no record exists of an RAOC 508 AOD.

[16] It is assumed that the NZAOD was co-located with the NZ OFP when in the mobile role.

[17] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 243.

[18] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base.

[19] History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 205.

[20] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[21] History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 120.

[22] Matthew Wright, Italian Odyssey: New Zealanders in the Battle for Italy 1943-45 (Auckland, N.Z: Reed, 2003, 2003), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 166.

[23] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base.

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NZEF Ordnance 1914-1915

20180605_195417-190082474.jpg

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

From the turn of the twentieth century, the New Zealand Army had transformed from small permanent militia and volunteer force, into a modern citizen army, organised for integration with a much larger British Imperial Army. When New Zealand entered the First World War, the New Zealand Army did not have not have a Regular or Territorial Army Ordnance Corps from which to expand into a wartime Ordnance organisation. The creation of a New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps had remained a topic of discussion and indecision, but appetite to make a decision was lacking until the war necessitated the formation of a New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps as a unit of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).

Ordnance functions in support of the New Zealand Forces had since 1907 been a civil/military responsibility under the control of the Defence Council with duties divided between the civilian Defence Store Department and the Royal New Zealand Artillery;[1]

  • The Director of Artillery Services (Ordnance): Responsible for Artillery armament, fixed coast defences, and supplies for ordnance, and
  • The Director of Stores: Responsible for clothing and personal equipment, accoutrements, saddlery, harness, small-arms and small-arms ammunition, machine guns, material, transport, vehicles, camp equipment, and all stores required for the Defence Forces.

As this created a division of roles and responsibilities, there were many calls for the establishment of a New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps along the lines of;

  • The Army Ordnance Corps, established in Britain in 1895,
  • The Australian Army Ordnance Department, established in 1902, and
  • The Canadian Ordnance Corps, established in 1907.

On 27 December 1907, James O’Sullivan head storekeeper of the Defence Sores Department was confirmed as the Director of Stores, with the Rank of Honorary Captain in the New Zealand Staff Corps.[2] [3]  Further progress was made on the creation of an Army Ordnance Corps in 1913 with the selection and appointment of Brigade Ordnance Officers (Territorial) in each district with the intent of forming a Central Ordnance Depot to support each Brigade Camp during the 1913 camping season. Under the Director of Equipment and Stores,[4] a fortnight course of instruction on Ordnance duties was conducted at Alexandra Barracks in January 1913 for the selected Brigade Ordnance Officers. In the field during the 1913 Annual Camps, each Brigade Ordnance Officer was allocated a staff of 2 clerks and 4 issuers, who were also selected before the camps and had undertaken training on Ordnance duties.[5] [6]]

From an Ordnance perspective, the1913 camps were a revolution in Ordnance planning. For the first time, The issue of camp equipment was effectively managed with issues direct from Brigade Ordnance Depots directly to Regiments as they marched in. Issues were based against set scales, removing any doubt as to quantities taken into use and ensuring units were not holding excessive equipment and obviating any losses that were a feature of the previous system of direct consignment in small lots. On the completion of the camps, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeants assembled all equipment for return or made the necessary arrangements to rectify deficiencies without any delay. To facilitate the closing of camp stores accounts, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeants were placed under the orders of the Brigade Supply Officer and would if necessary remain post the departure of their Regiments, remaining until the completion of checking and adjusting of accounts for rations and equipment. The Brigade Ordnance Officers would then ensure the return of all camp equipment to the respective mobilisation stores.[7] An organisational success, the 1913 Ordnance Depot concept was carried over for use in the 1914 camps. The significant difference between the 1913 and 1914 camp’s was that they were to be much larger Divisional camps. To manage the increase of dependency the size of the Ordnance Depot Staff was increased to 6 clerks and twelve issuers.[8]  Moreover, some of the regional Defence Storekeepers participated as the camp Ordnance Officers[9].

Based on many of the logistical lessons learned by the British Army in the Anglo/Boer war, the British Army published their doctrine for the provision of Ordnance Services to the British Army in the 1914  ‘Ordnance Manual (War)’. The concept of operations for British Ordnance Services was that they were to be organised depending upon the general nature of operations and lines of communication. Arranged within convenient distances of Corps and Divisions, Ordnance Depots would be located to allow units to draw their stores and ammunition from that source. If lines of Communication became extended, the establishment of intermediate, advanced, and field depots on the lines of communication was authorised. The composition of Ordnance Depots was to consist of personnel of each trade, of sufficient numbers necessary for the operation of a small ordnance depot and workshop.[10] Assistant Directors Ordnance Services (ADOS) would be responsible for each Corps, with Deputy Assistant Directors Ordnance Services (DADOS) accountable for each Division.[11]

The doctrine Britain had in place at the beginning of the First World War was for forces to be fully equipped with everything necessary to enable them to undertake operations. [12]  Included in the plan was the daily maintenance of Combat Supplies,[13] [14] but no provision for the replacement of weapons, equipment or clothing was allowed. Re-equipment would happen upon the withdrawal of forces for rest[15]. New Zealand’s contribution as part of the British Empire was to be the NZEF based around an Infantry Division and a Mounted Infantry Brigade. Given the doctrine, New Zealand’s Ordnance requirements were minimal and would initially consist of no more than a DADOS, A Senior NCO clerk and a box of Stationary.[16]

Detailed in Section 5 of General Order 312 of August 1914, the initial establishment of the NZEF was; 1 Officer, 1 Clerk and a horse.[17] The NZEF DADOS was New Zealand Staff Corps Honorary Captain William Thomas Beck, Defence Storekeeper for the Northern Districts. [18] [19] 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.[20][21][22]

The Senior Non-Commissioned Officer assisting Beck was Norman Joseph Levien.[23] A general storekeeper, Levien enlisted into the 3rd Auckland Regiment immediately on the outbreak of war, appointed as a Temporary Sergeant and transferred to the Ordnance Department as the IC of Stores and Equipment, assisting in equipping troops for overseas service. Beck and Levien embarked with the main body of the NZEF, departing Wellington for England on the troopship TSS Maunganui on 3 December 1914.[24]

The main body of the NZEF was initially destined for England, but the Canadian Expeditionary Force had suffered an exceptionally bitter winter on Salisbury Plain resulting in a change of plans for the main body of the NZEF to spare them the rigours of an English winter. Diverted to Egypt and disembarking on 3 December 1914. The New Zealanders would join with the Australians as the ‘Australasian Army Corps’.[25] The Corps comprised two divisions; the 1st Australian Division, and the New Zealand and Australian Division. Based at Based Zeitoun Camp on the outskirts of Cairo the New Zealanders trained and acclimatised to the local conditions, with preparations made for potential operations against the Ottoman Empire. The New Zealanders would see their first action in February 1915 when Ottoman forces raided the Suez Canal.

British Army Ordnance Corps 1915_zpsaibxjzox

New Zealand Supply Depot Staff at Zeitoun Camp, 1915. Note Ordnance solder front row 3rd from left. National Army Museum of New Zealand

By 10 December Beck had established himself as the DADOS of the NZEF with an Ordnance office and a shared depot with the Army Service Corps at Zeitoun Camp. NZEF Order No 9 of 10 December 1914 stated that all indents for Ordnance Stores, including petrol and lubricants were to be submitted to the DADOS Ordnance Depot.[26] Beck and had much to work ahead to bring the New Zealand units to scale and come to terms with the British Ordnance Systems. Britain had maintained occupation forces in Egypt since the 1880’s and as such had peacetime Ordnance depots in Alexandra and Cairo.[27] To understand the British systems and how best to utilise them Sergeant Levien was attached to the British Ordnance Corps Depot at the Citadel in Cairo to study the Ordnance systems in use and the Ordnance procedures the New Zealand Forces would have to adopt.[28]

plan of camp

Plan of Zeitoun Camp

Divisional Order 210 of 28 December transferred the following soldiers to the Ordnance Depot;

  • Private Walter John Geard,[29]
  • Private Arthur Gilmore,[30]
  • Private Gavin Hamilton,[31]
  • Private Lewis Crozier,[32]
  • Private Horace Frederick Lofts,[33]
  • Private Joseph Roland Henderson.[34]
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Rue de la, Porte Rosette, Alexandria, Egypt. Public Domain

By March 1915 Levien had secured premises for a New Zealand Ordnance Depot and warehouse at  No. 12 Rue de la Porte Rosette and a warehouse at Shed 43, Alexandra Docks. From these premises, the New Zealand Forces would be provided support before and during the Dardanelles campaign. The Australians established a similar Depot at Mustapha Barracks and in No 12 Bond Store on Alexandra Docks.[35]

On 3 April 1915, Beck received a boost to his DADOS organisation. Commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant, Thomas Joseph King a qualified accountant transferred into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.[36] King was appointed as the Officer in Charge of the Ordnance Depot at Zeitoun Camp,[37] and Levien, also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant assumed the position of Officer in Charge of Equipment, Small Arms and Accoutrements (SAA) and Clothing.

Order 122

Order No 122 promoting King and Levien into the NZAOC on 4 April 1915

Early in January 1915 planning began for operations in the area around the Dardanelles, with the ambitious goal of forcing the Ottoman Empire out of the war. Now well known as the Gallipoli Campain, the Australians and New Zealanders were committed to being critical participants in the planned amphibious assault and ground offensive. The Ordnance plan for the campaign included the establishment of an Ordnance Base Depot in Alexandria, and a floating Ordnance Depot set up on the cargo ship the ‘SS Umsinga’. The Umsinga was fitted out in the UK with all the Ordnance Stores required, all carefully laid out by vocabulary with detailed plans produced to locate the stock quickly. With Lieutenant Colonel McCheane in command as the Chief Ordnance Officer, he had a complement of one hundred and fifty men of the AOC to manage the stocks.[38]

The invasion fleet loaded with the ANZAC, British and French concentrated off the Island of Lemnos from April 10. The Assault would be at two locations on the morning of 25 April. The British 29th Division would land at Cape Helles on the southern tip of the Gallipoli Penisula, and the ANZACs at locations on the west coast of the Peninsular that would become known as ANZAC Cove. The division of the landing force made the concept of having the ‘Umsinga’ as the offshore ordnance Depot unworkable. To rectify the situation, the ‘SS Anglo Indian’ became the second floating Ordnance Depot. Half the stocks of the ‘Umsinga’ were cross-loaded to the ‘Anglo Indian’ on the night of 23/24 April, with British Ordnance Officer Major Basil Hill appointed as Chief Ordnance Officer on the Anglo Indian, along with with haft the AOC men from the “Umsinga”.[39]

The 1st Australian Divison started landing at around 4 am on the morning of 25 April, followed by the Australian and New Zealand Division several hours later. Soon after the beachhead was secured but still under considerable enemy fire, the ‘Anglo Indian’ drew close to the shore and started to cross-load Ammunition and other Ordnance Stores for transfer to an Ordnance dump established at the southern end of the beach.  Lt Col J.G Austin,[40] the 1st Australian Division DADOS, supervised the unloading of the lighters into the Ordnance dump and established forward ammunition dumps close to the front lines.[41]

ANZAC Cove

Supplies on the beach at ANZAC Cove 1915. Athol Williams Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

As DADOS of the Australian & New Zealand Division, Beck landed with Godley’s Headquarters at ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.[42] Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick, ADMS, another New Zealander, was part of the Headquarters landing party describes the events on that day: [43]

we were all ready to land but were kept waiting and waiting until about 9.00 a.m. Some barges were moored alongside and a string of boats outside of these on the starboard side. Colonels Braithwaite, Chaytor and Manders, Major Hughes and Captain Beck and I got into the first boat. We were frightfully hampered by our kit – overcoat, revolver, glasses, map case, haversack, three days rations, firewood, Red Cross satchel, water bottle – like elephants. It was a certainty that we would drown if we got sunk. After waiting, a steam picket boat came along in charge of a very fat rosy midshipman. He took our string of boats in tow, and we were off. Our boat grounded about 50 feet from the shore and we all hopped out. Of course, I fell into a hole up to my neck. I could hardly struggle ashore and when I did the first thing I saw was Beck sitting on a stone, roaring with laughter at us. Billy Beck was the first New Zealander of Godley’s force (New Zealanders were serving in the Australian Division) to get onto Gallipoli”.

The landings were not as successful as planned with the Ottoman troops providing a more robust defence than expected; the campaign soon developed into stalemated trench warfare. By July the Island of lemmos 40 miles from the peninsula had become the logistics hub supporting the campaign.  The Ordnance command structure underwent a shakeup, the DOS for the entire campaign was Colonel Perry of the AOD, ADOS’s were made responsible for Ordnance support in the individual Corps areas of Helles and ANZAC Cove, Lt Col Austin assumed the position of the ANZAC Corps ADOS. The much larger “SS Minnetonka” was charted to act as depot ship, making regular round trips from Lemmos, Helles and ANZAC. The “‘Umsinga’ and ‘Anglo Indian’ continue to support their respective areas as ammunition tenders.

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Ordnance Depot Shrapnel Gully, Gallipoli. Alexander Turnbull Libary

Beck remained as the DADOS of the Australian & New Zealand Division withStaff Sergeant Major Elliot Purdom, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant of the Auckland Mounted Rifles transferred into the division headquarters to be his assistant. For the next three months, Purdom would assist Beck with the strenuous work of landing and organising stores and managing the depot staff.  It would appear that he was also a bit of a character and The Hawera & Normanby Star, 24 June 1916 had this to say about Captain Beck’s service at Gallipoli:[44]

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in Egypt, with reinforcements arriving from New Zealand, King remained fully occupied at the Zeitoun Ordnance Depot. Ensuring new drafts of troops were brought up to scale and troops departing for ANZAC cove were fully equipped, on 2 May, King received additional assistance in the form of Trooper Reginald Pike. Pike 39 years old and a veteran of the Boer war was promoted to Temporary Sergeant and appointed as Ordnance Clerk. Pike would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war.[45]

By mid-July illness was taking its toll on Beck and Purdom and during August both men were transferred to the hospital in Alexandria, after some time in Alexandra, both would be invalided back to New Zealand.[46]  Levien embarked for the Dardanelles on 2 August to replace Beck as DADOS, with King taking over the management of the Alexandra Depot on 12 August. At ANZAC Cove Private Arthur Gilmour transferred into the NZAOC as acting Sergeant on 24 August.[47]

On 6 October Levien and King, both received promotions to Lieutenant[48]. King took over as DADOS of the Division and Levien was appointed the Chief Ordnance Officer at Sarpi camp, with responsibility for re-equipping the depleted Australian & New Zealand Division. Having been in action since April, the Division required some rest and reorganisation. From mid-September 1915, most of the depleted division withdrew to the Island of Lemnos. Spending seven weeks at Sarpi Camp, the Division returned to the Gallipoli peninsula in early November with King remaining as DADOS. November also saw the promotion of Acting Sergeant Gilmour to Sergeant.

By mid-October, it was apparent that the situation in the Dardanelles had become hopeless, with operations against the enemy reaching a stalemate and offensive options exhausted. After extensive planning, evacuation orders were issued on 22 November. Starting on 15 December, withdrawing under cover of darkness, the last troops departed ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay by dawn 20 December, with the final evacuations of the French and British forces at Helles completed by 9 January.

Returning to Egypt the Australians and New Zealand Division regrouped, and with enough New Zealand reinforcements now available to form a third Brigade, the NZEF became a standalone New Zealand Division. The bulk of the Australian and New Zealand forces separated, but the Mounted Rifle Brigade joined with the Australians to establish the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division, which would remain in the Middle East for the remainder of the war. Elements of the New Zealand Division detached for operations against the Senussi in Western Egypt, returned to the Division in February and by March the New Zealand Division started to depart for France, joining the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.

Herbert

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

From late 1915 the need for a more robust NZAOC was recognised, and expansion of the NZAOC as a unit of the NZEF began in December, and Private Frank Percy Hutton[49] and Sergeant Kenneth Bruce MacRae[50] transferred into the NZAOC. On 1 January 1916 Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert, who had previously served as Commanding Officer of the Pioneer Battalion was transferred into NZAOC and appointed New Zealand Division, DADOS and Officer Commanding of the NZEF NZAOC.[51]  Also on 1 January Staff Sergeant Geard who had been with Ordnance since December 1914 formally transferred into the NZAOC.[52]

The NZAOC would officially become a unit of the NZEF in February,[53]  with a commensurate influx of personnel transferred into the NZAOC, including;

  • 2nd Lieutenant Alfred James Bond,[54]
  • Company Sergeant Major William Henchcliffe Simmons,[55]
  • Company Sergeant Major William Hall Densby Coltman, promoted to Acting Warrant Officer Class One (Acting Sub-Conductor),[56]
  • Temp Sergeant Edward Cullen Little,[57]
  • Corporal John Goutenoire O’Brien,[58]
  • Corporal John Joseph Roberts
  • Private Clarence Adrian Seay, [59]
  • Sergeant Charles Ingram Gossage,[60]
  • Armourer Charles Alfred Oldbury.[61]

On 22 March Sergeant MacRae was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant

King and Levien would not travel with the Division to France. King was struck down with Enteric (typhoid) fever and would be invalided back to New Zealand on 10 May. King would remain in the Military, initially taking up a posting in the Defence Stores and transferring into the NZAOC on its formation in New Zealand in 1917. Levien oversaw the closing down of the Alexandra depot, disposing of the vast stockpile of stores that had accumulated over the year. Levien would embark for England in May 1916, taking up the post of NZEF Chief Ordnance Officer in the UK.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Notes

[1] “Defence Forces of New Zealand Report by the Council of Defence and by the Inspector-General of the New Zealand Defence Forces for the Year 1907.,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representives  ( 1907).

[2] “Personal,” Otago Daily Times, Issue 13786  (1907).

[3] “Director of Ordnance Stores,” Dominion, Volume 9, Issue 2741 8 April  1916

[4] The Director of Stores title was changed to Director of Equipment and Stores early in 1911

[5] “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).

[6] “Territorials,” Evening Star, Issue 15018, 29 October 1912.

[7] “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand for the Period 28 June 1912 to 20 June 1913.”

[8] “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand Fir the Period 20 June 1913 to 25 June 1914,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representives  (1914).

[9] “Auckland Territorials,” New Zealand Herald, Volume LI, Issue 15594 28 April 1915.

[10] Ordnance Manual (War), War Office (London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914), Appendix 1.

[11] Ibid., Page 3.

[12] Ibid., Page 4, Para 8.

[13] Rations, water, fuel, ammunition, and animal feed

[14] Ordnance Manual (War), Page 4, Para 9.

[15] P.H. Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War (History Press, 2018), Page 13.

[16] Ibid.

[17] ” 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 1914-1915.

[18] “Main Expedition,” Evening Post, Volume LXXXVII, Issue 73, 23 September 1914.

[19] “Officers of Dominions Contingent,” Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIII, Issue 8951, 24 September 1914.

[20] “Auckland Territorials.”

[21] “The Hautapu Camp,” Waikato Argus, Volume XXXV, Issue 5575, 4 April 1914.

[22] “Camp Preparations,” Evening Post, Volume LXXXVII, Issue 22 27 January  1914.

[23] “Norman Joseph Levien,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914-1924.

[24] “William Thomas Beck,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[25] the ‘Australasian Army Corps’. The designation; Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’ was soon adopted and abbreviated to ANZAC, but would not enter the common vernacular until after the Gallipoli landings.

[26] “Appendices to War Diaries, I – Lxii,” Item ID R23486739, Archives New Zealand 1914-1915.

[27] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), Page 211.

[28] “Norman Joseph Levien.”

[29] Geard would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war “Walter John Geard “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[30] Gilmour would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war “Arthur Gilmour “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[31] Worked At Alexandra Depot until returned to New Zealand in October 1915 “Gavin Hamilton,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[32] Promoted to Sergeant 18 Feb 16, returned to NZ Aug 1917 “Lewis Crozier,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[33] Transferred to NZASC October 1917 “Horace Frederick Lofts,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[34] Transferred to NZASC 25 Feb 1916 “Joseph Roland Henderson,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[35] 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), Page 43.

[36] “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotion of Officers in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” New Zealand Gazette, No 81 8 July 1915.

[37] “Thomas Joseph King,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914-1946.

[38] Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services, Pages 221-23.

[39] Ibid., Page 222.

[40] 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.

[41] Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army Page 45.

[42] Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story (Auckland [N.Z.]: Sceptre, 1990, 1990).

[43] Glyn Harper, Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918, First World War Centenary History (Auckland, New Zealand: Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015, 2015).

[44] “Brave New Zealanders,” The Hawera and Normanby Star, Volume LXXI, Issue LXXI,, 24 June 1916.

[45] “Reginald Pike,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[46] “William Thomas Beck.”

[47] “Arthur Gilmour “.

[48] “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotion of Officers in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (Europe),” New Zealand Gazette, No 5, 20 January 1916.

[49] “Frank Percy Hutton,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[50] “Kenneth Bruce Macrae,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[51] “Alfred Henry Herbert “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[52] “Walter John Geard “.

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

[54] “Alfred James Bond “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[55] “William Henchcliffe Simmons “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[56] “William Hall Densby Coltman “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[57] “Edward Cullen Little “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[58] “John Goutenoire O’Brien  “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[59] “Clarence Adrian Seay  “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[60] “Charles Ingram Gossage “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[61] “Charles Alfred Oldbury “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.


NZEF NZAOC Conductors 1916 to 1920

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Warrant Officer Class One, Conductor Badge 1915-1918. Robert McKie Collection

The Honourable and Ancient Appointment of Conductor has origins dating back to 1327 where they are mentioned in the Statute of Westminister as the men whose job it was to conduct soldiers to places of assembly.  The “Conductor of Ordnance” is also mentioned in the records of the siege of Boulogne in 1544. Surviving as an appointment directly related to the handling of stores in the British army until the late 19th century, the appointment was formalised by Royal Warrant on 11 January 1879 which established conductors of supplies (in the Army Service Corps) and conductors of stores (in the Ordnance Stores Branch) as warrant officers, ranking above all non-commissioned officers.

The need for a New Zealand Ordnance Corps had been discussed since the turn of the century, so when war came in 1914, New Zealand was without an Ordnance Corps. Once the lead elements of the NZEF disembarked and established itself in Egypt, a New Zealand Ordnance Organisation was hastily created from scratch. Growing from the New Zealand DADOS staff the embryotic New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) was created as an NZEF unit during 1915 and was formally established as a unit of the NZEF establishment in January 1916.

Following the British model, the NZAOC included Warrant Officers Class One appointed as Conductors and Sub-Conductors as part of its organisational structure. Drawn from across the units of the NZEF and with an average age of 23, many of the men who were NZAOC Conductors had seen service at Gallipoli during the Dardanelles Campaign. Learning the hard lessons because of the administrative failures during that campaign, there is little doubt that these men understood the importance of their appointments in assuring that Ordnance stores were sourced and pushed directly forward to the frontline troops of the NZ Divison.

The wide recognition in many historical sources that the New Zealand division was one of the best organised, trained and equipped Divisions in the British Army during the war in Europe is in part due to the contribution of the NZAOC and its conductors, with at least 4 four Conductors awarded Meterous Service Medals for their work.

 

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Warrant Officer Class One, Sub-Conductor Badge. 1915-1919 Robert McKie Collection

 

William Coltman

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12/1025 Acting Sub-Conductor William Hall Densby Coltman, NZAOC. Auckland Weekly News/Public Domain

The first New Zealander to hold a Conductor appointment was Company Sergeant Major William Coltman. Enlisting into the Auckland Infantry Regiments in Sept 1914, Coltman served in the Dardanelles where he was injured. Transferring into the NZAOC in February 1916 as a Company Sergeant Major with the appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor. Coltman remained in this role with the NZAOC until March 1917 when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and spent the rest of the war as an Infantry Quartermaster officer in the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps.

Charles Gossage

20171005_164430Charles Gossage enlisted in the Otago Mounted Rifles in September 1914. Serving in the Dardanelles, Gossage transferred into the NZAOC in February 1916. On the 24th of July 1916 with the rank of Company Sergeant Major,  Gossage was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the Appointment of Conductor.  Gossage would hold this appointment until the 24th of Jan 1917 when he was commissioned as a Lieutenant. Gossage would remain on the New Zealand Division DADOS staff, finishing the war as a Major and NZ Div DADOS. Awarded the OBE, Gossage would continue to serve in the Home Service NZAOC as an Accounting Officer until December 1922.

Arthur Gilmore

Arthur Gilmore enlisted in the Auckland Infantry Regiment in September 1914. Serving as part of the DADOS Staff at Gallipoli. Gilmore was formally placed on the strength of the NZAOC on the 8th of April 1916.  In Dec 1916 Sergeant Arthur Gilmore was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor. Gilmore would remain as a Conductor in the NZEF until Feb 1919 when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. For his services as a Conductor, he was awarded the MSM.

Walter Geard

Mulheim 2

Lieutenant Geard, NZAOC

Walter Geard enlisted in the Auckland Infantry Regiment in August 1914. Seeing Service in the Dardanelles. Staff Sergeant Geard was attached to theNew Zealand Mounted Brigade Headquarters for Ordnance duties where he was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on 1 Jan 1917. Geard’s tenure as a Conductor was short as he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 20 June 1917. Transferred from Egypt to France, Geard spent the rest of the war on the staff of the NZ Division DADOS, demobilising as a Lieutenant in 1919.

William Simmons

 William Henchcliffe Simmons was a railway clerk who enlisted in D Battery of the New Zealand Field Artillery in August 1914. Seven days later Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons embarked as part of the NZEF Samoa Advance Force. Returning to New Zealand in March 1915, Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons was transferred into the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade which was then training a Trentham Camp. In October 1915 Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons deployed with the  1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade to Egypt. Disembarking in Egypt in November 1915 Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons was attached to Brigade Headquarters with the acting rank of Warrant Officer as the clerk NZAOC.  Transferring into the NZAOC on the 26th of February 1916 with the rank of Company Sergent Major. Promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on the 1st of January 1917. Simmons tenure as a Conductor was short as he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in June 1917. Simmons remained in the NZAOC filling various staff roles in France and England for the duration of the war, finally being appointed Honorary Capitan in Feb 1920 when he was appointed as the Officer in Charge of NZ Ordnance in England, a post he held until October 1920 when he was demobilised. For his services as a Conductor, Simmons was awarded the MSM.

Clarance Seay

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6/3459 Warrant Officer Class 1 (Conductor) Clarence Adrian Seay, MSM. NZAOC Archives New Zealand/Public Domain

Clarance Seay was a farm cadet who enlisted in C Company on the 8th Reinforcements on the 20th of August 1915. Arriving at the New Zealand Base depot in Egypt in November 1915, Seay was transferred into the NZAOC in February 1916. With the pending promotion of Conductor Simmons, Sergeant Seay was promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of acting Sub-Conductor on the 23 Mar 1917. Attaining substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on 28 April 1917. Seay was promoted to full Conductor on the 22nd of September 1917. Seay remained with the NZ Division for the remainder of the war. In May 1918 Seay suffered a personal loss when his younger brother Gordon Seay, was killed in action. Sadly died of Influenza on the 20th of February 1919 in Cologne, Germany. Interred in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Cologne. Based on his performance Seay was awarded the MSM

“For long and valuable service. This NCO has done continuous good work and has performed his duties in a most excellent manner. As Senior Warrant Officer, with the New Zealand Ordnance Department, his work has been of a most arduous character and has frequently involved him in situations which have called for a display of energy and initiative. In an advance, the necessity of clean clothing and socks, etc, for the fighting troops is sometimes very acute. Conductor Seay on his energy and ability has at times been of the greatest assistance to the DADOS in administrating a very important branch of the service.”

 

Walter Smiley

Enlisting into the Canterbury Infantry Regiment in August 1914. Injured in the Dardanelles, Smiley was evacuated to Malta, then England returning to ANZAC Cove on the 7th of December 1915,, where he was transferred into the NZAOC and attached to the Canterbury Battalion. Sergeant Walter Smiley was promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of acting Sub-Conductor on the 23 April 1917.  Gaining Substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on the 20th of December 1917. Smiley would carry out his role as a Conductor first in France,  then England from October 1918 until he was demobilised in October 1919.

Frank Hutton

Frank Hutton enlisted in the Otago Infantry Regiment in August 1914. After service in the Dardanelles, Hutton was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to the NZAOC on the 1st of December 1915. Sergeant Frank Hutton was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 1st of December 1917. Remaining with the NZ Divison for the remainder of the war, Hutton was demobilised in September 1919.
Hutton was re-enlisted into the NZAOC as a Lance Corporal on the 14th of December 1942 as an Ammunition Examiner in the Inspecting Ordnance Officer Group in the Northen Military district based at Ngaruawahia. Hutton was discharged from the RNZAOC on the 6th of June 1948 when he was 69 years of age.

Edward Little

Enlisting in the 5th Wellington Regiment on the 9th of August 1914, Little was transferred into the Otago Infantry Battalion on the 23rd of March 1915. Injured in the buttocks and shoulder in the Dardanelles after a recovery period Little was transferred into the NZAOC on the 17th of February 1916, moving with he NZ Divison to France. On the 15th of April 1917, Sergeant Edward Little was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor. Promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on the 31st of August 1918.  Transferred to the Middle East in October 1918, Conductor Little spent the remainder of the war attached to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade Headquarters and was demobilised in October 1919.

John Goutenoire O’Brien

Private John O’Brien left New Zealand with the 6th Reinforcements on the 14th of August 1915. After service in the Dardanelles, O’Brien was transferred into the NZAOC in February 1916. Serving in France for 2 years O’Brien was assigned to London Headquarters in March 1918 as the Chief Clerk. Staff Sergeant John O’Brien was Promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the Appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 18 October 1918.  Gaining Substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 25th of November 1918. O’Brien was appointed as a Conductor on the 1st of Feb 1919. O’Brien was awarded the MSM and was the senior Warrant Officer NZAOC EF when he was demobilised in March 1920. His final duties included the indenting of new equipment for two divisions and a Mounted brigade that would equip the New Zealand Army until the late 1930s.
After a short stint serving in the NZAOC in New Zealand, O’Brien would return to his pre-war trade of banker. Immigrating to the United States, O’Brien attended De Paul University Law School in Chicago from 1921 to 1924.  In 1926 O’Brien took up the position of vice-president of the Commercial National Bank in Shreveport, Louisiana. During the Second World War, O’Brien then a US Citizen served in the United States Army Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel in the South-West Pacific Theatre of Operations.

Edwin Green

GreenES

8/1484 Sub Conductor Edwin Stanley Green, NZAOC. Auckland Weekly News/Public Domain

Enlisting into the Otago Infantry Regiment in December 1915, Green served in the Dardanelles where he was wounded. Transferring into the NZAOD in December 1916 Staff Sergeant Edwin Green was Promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the Appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 20 October 1918.  Gaining Substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 26th of November 1918. Green was demobilised in Dec 1919.

Charles Slattery

A member of the Royal New Zealand Artillery since February 1898, Slattery was transferred into the New Zealand Permanent Staff as a Quartermaster Sergeant for the Wellington Railway Battalion on the 7th of October 1913. Joining the 2nd Battalion of the Wellington regiment in November 1918 and was then transferred to the NZAOC on the 6th of January 1919 and promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor. Sadly Slattery died of Influenza on the 25th of February 1919 in Cologne, Germany. Interred in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Cologne.

Harold Hill

Enlisting into the Wellington Infantry Regiment in February 1915, Hill would see service in the Dardanelles before transferring into the NZAOC in February 1916. Promoted to Corporal in April 1916 and then Sergeant in September 1916. Sergeant Hill was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 21st of Feb 1919. Hill was demobilised in October 1919.

Arthur Richardson

Initially enlisting in the Royal New Zealand Artillery in 1913. Serving with the NZEF from June 1917 to August 1919, Sergeant Artificer Richardson was temporarily transferred from the New Zealand Artillery into the NZAOC in Feb 1918. Promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 3rd of Feb 1919. Richardson was demobilised from the NZEF on the 13th of Feb 1919 and returned to service with the Royal New Zealand Artillery. In 1928 Richardson was Transferred back into the NZAOC counting to serve until the creation of the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, retiring in 1951.

Hubert Wilson

Enlisting into the New Zealand Field Artillery in August 1914, Wilson was wounded in the thigh while serving in the Dardanelles. Remaining with the Artillery for several years, Staff Sergeant Wilson Transferred into the NZAOC in October 1918.  Promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 3rd of March 1919. Wilson was demobilised from the NZEF in May 1920. For his actions before joining the NZAOC Wilson was awarded the Military Medal.
Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

New Zealand Ordnance Shoulder Titles

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New Zealand Army Shoulder Titles C1979. Robert McKie Collection

Brass Shoulder Titles

Authorised in Army Dress Regulations for 1912 [1], shoulder titles were to be affixed to the shoulder strap (Epaulette) of the Service jacket. Shoulder titles were to be metal denoting the Corps or Regiment of the wearer. With the establishment of the NZEF, New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps(NZAOC) in 1916 and the Home Service NZAOC and New Zealand Army Ordnance Department in 1917, the introduction of brass NZAOC and NZAOD shoulder titles soon followed.

The Dress Regulations of 1923 further clarified their use in that “The shoulder titles of the unit or corps, in brass letters will be worn by Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men on the shoulder straps of jackets (service and blue) and great coats. The will not be worn on mess-jackets”. The approved Ordnance shoulder-titles were [2]:

    • New Zealand Army Ordnance Department – NZAOD

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  • New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps – NZAOC.
NZAOC STAB

NZAOC Shoulder Titles. Robert McKie Collection

With the disestablishment of the NZAOD on the 27th of June 1924 [3], and official use of the NZAOD shoulder title was discontinued, and the NZAOC shoulder title remained in use for all ranks,  its use confirmed in the 1927 Dress regulations [4].

Eary in World War Two saw the establishment of the NZEF and Territorial Army ‘New Zealand Ordnance Corps’, again as in the case of the NZAOC 24 years earlier, shoulder titles were soon provided[5].

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Worn early in the war, the adoption of new uniforms and universal “New Zealand” flashes, saw that existing stocks of brass shoulder titles, including the NZAOC and NZOC shoulder titles, were wasted out until stocks were exhausted [6].

Cloth Titles

The adoption of cloth shoulder titles was first proposed in 1948. Screen printed samples like the current British pattern were proposed in 1949.

RAOC Shoulder

RAOC 1940’s screen printed shoulder titles. Robert McKie Collection

Desiring something more durable and presentable it was decided that embroidered shoulder titles would be the way ahead. After much deliberation, the Army Board approved the introduction of shoulder titles in 1954. After much bureaucratic discussion over costings and developing requirements, it was not until 1961 that the first samples were approved. The shoulder titles for the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps were to have a Post Office red background with purple navy lettering in “Serif” Font. Over time there would be variations in colour and size of lettering due to manufacture variations, with the final versions featuring lettering in a “Sans Serif” font and an overlocked edge [2].

RNZAOC 2RNZAOC 3RNZAOCRNZAOC 4RNZAOC 1

RNZAOC 5

As part of a significant overhaul of New Zealand Army Service Dress in the mid-1990’s, Corps shoulder patches including the RNZAOC pattern, were replaced with a universal “NEW ZEALAND” shoulder title.

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References

 

[1] Dress Regulations 1912, GHQ Circular No 5, Wellington: General Headquarters, 1912.
[2] M. Thomas and C. Lord, NZ Army Distinguishing Patches 1911-1991, Wellington: Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord, 1995.
[3] “NZAOD and NZAOC,” New Zealand Gazette, p. 1605, 3 July 1924.
[4] “Shoulder Titles,” New Zealand Gazette, p. 1599, 19 May 1927.
[5] G. Oldham, Badges and Insignia of the New Zealand Army, 2 ed., Auckland: Milimen Books, 2011.
[6] B. O’Sullivan and M. O’Sullivan, New Zealand Army Uniforms and Clothing 1910-1945, Christchurch: Wilson Scott, 2009.

NZAOC Between the wars: 1918 to 1939

During its 79 year existence as a Corps, the NZAOC/RNZAOC was mainly a peacetime organisation and only actively engaged in supporting the army on warlike operations for approximately half its life. 1919 to 1939 and 1972 to 1992 were two long periods where the country was at peace, and the NZAOC/RNZAOC focus was on supporting training and managing stocks for potential mobilisations while struggling to remain relevant in climates of financial restraint.

This article will provide an overview of the NZAOC during the period 1919 to 1938

On the cessation of hostilities in 1918,  the New Zealand Army Ordnance organisation consisted of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (Officers) and the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Other Ranks) collectively referred to as the NZAOC.

Personnel

During the interwar period, the strength of r the NZAOC fluctuated from a high of 493 in 1919  to a low of  20 in 1932 ending the period with a force of 34 in 1939

NZAOC INTERWAR MANNING

Directors of Ordnance Services

  • Major T McCristell – 10 Apr 1916 to 30 Jan 1920 (Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores)
  • Lt Col H.E Pilkington – 30 Jan to 1 Oct 1925 (Director of Ordnance Stores)
  • Major T.J King – 1 Oct 1924 to 22 June 1940

NZAOC JULY 1918 TO JUNE 1919

Having only being Gazetted by regulations published in 1917, the NZAOC had only been established as part of the permanent staff of the Defence Forces of New Zealand for just over a year on the cessation of Hostilities.

Under the control of the Director of Army Ordnance and Supplies, Major T McCristell. The NZAOC was Organised with Ordnance Stores under four District Ordnance Officers located at;

  • Mount Eden in Auckland
  • Alexandra Barracks, Mount Cook, Wellington, with detachments at
    • Palmerston North, and
    • Featherston
  • King Edward Barracks, Christchurch
  • St Andrews St, Dunedin

With the cessation of Hostilities operations swiftly switched from supporting the NZEF and training replacements to the demobilisation of the NZEF, the closing of camps and the downsizing of the army to peacetime levels

NZAOC JULY 1919 TO JUNE 1920

The NZAOC was under pressure to reduce manning levels. This was not possible owing to the significant amount, of work, still required to be carried out in connection with the war. In addition to the ordinary ordnance work in support of the Territorial Force, the NZAOC was required to;

  • maintain extra personnel for the handling, storage and accounting of hospital equipment for the hospitals under the Defence Department,
  • retain additional staff for the educational and vocational establishments,
  • Handle the large quantity of military material arriving from overseas.

NZAOC JULY 1920 TO JULY 1921

Approved by His Majesty King George V at the end of 1920, General Order No 95 of 1 March 1921 granted formal approval of an alliance between the RAOC and the Ordnance Corps of;

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa

The RAOC motto ” SUA TELA TONANTI” formally adopted as the motto of the NZAOC.

During this period the NZAOC had been considerably reduced but was still considered more than the strength required for its regular peace duties which consisted of the accounting, storage, issue, receipt, and care of all Ordnance stores for the N.Z. Military Forces, including the following in addition to ordinary routine duties;;

  • Receipt, accounting, and storage of abundant supplies of military equipment from the United Kingdom,
  • Ordnance issues and accounting in connection with military hospitals and sanatoria,
  • Sale of surplus stores
  • Marking of new rifles and equipment and reissuing to Territorial Force and Cadets. Nearly all of the new army equipment had arrived, and distributed as under;
    • Training equipment to units,
    • Mobilisation equipment to depots in each command,
    • Reserve equipment at the main Ordnance depot.

As a result of the Army reorganisation, Military districts were reduced from 4 to 3 and renamed as Commands. This resulted in the Education Department Industrial School at Burnham been taken over for use as an NZAOC depot for the Southern Military Command. This led to the Ordnance Store located at King Edward Barracks and the Dunedin Ordnance Store situated in St Andrews Street, Dunedin closing and relocating to Burnham Camp as the Southern Command Ordnance Depot.

The current Ordnance Store at Mount Eden was unsuitable, and until suitable storage accommodation was provided, mobilisation stores for Auckland command were to be housed at Featherston Camp which resulted in the delayed demolition of this camp.

The NZAOC Palmerston North Detachment had closed during this period and had transferred its stores to Featherston and Trentham Camps.

The Ordnance Stores located in Buckle Street in Wellington had been relocated to Trentham.

NZAOC JULY 1921 TO JUNE 1922

With Ordnance Depots established at Burnham for the Southern Command, and at Trentham for the Central Command. The site for the Northern Command Depot at Ngaruawahia had been obtained in an exchange with the Railway Department for land at Frankton Junction. The mobilisation stores for the Northern Command were held at Trentham and Featherston, so it became a priority to incur some expenditure for the erection of buildings at Ngaruawahia. Plans were also on the table for the provision of suitable fireproof buildings to replace the contemporary temporary accommodation at Trentham and Burnham. At Trentham all available buildings, including the gymnasium used by the School of Instruction, were utilised for storage; many of the older hutments were not suitable for storing the equipment stores within them, and the risk of fire was a very grave one.

Based on the lessons learned during the war, a new The cost accounting system was introduced in 1921.

NZAOC JULY 1922 TO JUNE 1923

Due to financial constraints work on the construction of the Ordnance Stores for the Northern Command had not yet been commenced, and work that was proposed to be carried out at Trentham and Burnham depots had been delayed. This had made the provision of proper Ordnance Depots at all three locations an urgent matter.

NZAOC JUNE 1923 TO MAY 1924

On 3 July 1923, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department was amalgamated with the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps resulting in one Ordnance organisation for the New Zealand Army.

NZAOC JUNE 1924 TO MAY 1925

At Ngaruawahia Camp, a railway-siding had been completed, and a branch line into the camp is under construction. The provision of buildings for Ordnance stores was receiving consideration.

NZAOC JUNE 1925 TO MAY 1926

At Ngaruawahia work commenced on the large Ordnance Store building, which when completed would absorb the stores located at Mount Eden and at Featherston Camp and enable the temporary structures in those camps to be dismantled. Five magazines for gun-ammunition and high explosives and the earthwork for five others were also completed at Ngaruawahia Camp. Five additional magazines for gun-ammunition and one for small-arms ammunition were planned to be constructed in 1927. Further building forecasted for the next year included;

  • four married quarters,
  • Ordnance Office, and
  • workshops.

NZAOC JUNE 1926 TO MAY 1927

The development of Ngaruawahia Camp was continuing satisfactorily. The large Ordnance Store, a large building 322 ft by 100 ft divided into seven bay’s four 25ft by 100 ft, three 74ft by 100 ft, was nearing completion with the building walls up and two of the smaller bays roofed in. Other buildings projected to be constructed were an Ordnance workshop, 61ft by 50ft, and a vehicle shed, S2oft by 25ft.

The railway-siding serving the Ordnance buildings has been completed. The construction of the Ordnance Office and small-arms ammunition magazine has been commenced, and two high-explosive magazines and three married quarters will be put in hand immediately.

The entire inventory previously held at Featherston Camp had been removed. Several buildings were transferred to Fort Dorset to provide accommodation there, and, except for six retained for possible similar transfer elsewhere, and two brick buildings kept on the site, the whole of the buildings had been sold to the general public for removal. The land was retained and was leased for grazing purposes.

NZAOC JUNE 1927 TO MAY 1928

To make good wastage due to retirements, Six Other Ranks were enlisted into the NZAOC during this year.

The development of Ngaruawahia Camp was now in its final stages.

NZAOC JUNE 1928 TO MAY 1929

A concrete strong-room and Ordnance Workshops had been erected at Burnham Camp.

With the removal of stores to Ngaruawahia Camp, the buildings at Mount Eden were no longer required, so they were disassembled and re-erected Narrow Neck Camp.

NZAOC JUNE 1929 TO MAY 1930 

All construction work at Ngaruawahia Camp was completed, and the buildings have been handed over to the Army

NZAOC JUNE 1930 to MAY 1931

On account of the disastrous earthquake that struck Napier and Hastings on the 3rd February 1931, the NZAOC was called upon at short notice to supply tents, blankets, bedding, cooking and eating utensils, for use in the stricken areas. The total value of the stores issued from the Ordnance Stores at Trentham was £35,000. The Ordnance staff did particularly good work in dispatching these stores and equipment.

The Ordnance workshop located at Mount Cook was relocated to Trentham Camp.

With the Depression affecting the New Zealand economy, the NZAOC was forced to retrench many of its staff including;

  • Seventy-six officers and other ranks of the NZAOC were retired on superannuation as from the 31st March 1931.
  • Seventy-four NZAOC staff (excluding officers and artificers) who were not eligible for retirement were transferred to the civil service to work in the same positions but at a lower rate of pay.

NZAOC JUNE 1931 TO MAY 1932

A low period in NZAOC history, the retrenchments of 1931 had hit hard, and operations in the army were at an all-time low during this period

NZAOC JUNE 1932 TO MAY 1933

NZAOC JUNE 1933 TO MAY 1934

NZAOC JUNE 1934 TO MAY 1935

Equipment and stores required for the Territorial Force had been maintained during the year in serviceable condition. Meticulous attention had been paid to the inspection and testing of small-arms ammunition.

NZAOC JUNE 1935 TO MAY 1936

The NZAOC continued to be was responsible for;

  • the provision, distribution, repair, examination, and maintenance of small arms machine guns, vehicles, clothing, equipment, and general stores
  • the inspection and repair of armament and inspection of gun ammunition
  • the receipt, testing, storage, and issue of small-arms ammunition
  • the organisation and control of ordnance workshops

NZAOC JUNE 1936 TO MAY 1937

NZAOC personnel has been engaged throughout the year in the following activities :

  •  Care, preservation, turnover, and accounting for all stores, arms, equipment, and clothing held in Ordnance Depots.
  • Receipt and classification of clothing returned from Territorials and Cadets. Allocation of apparel for dry-cleaning and renovation, and examination on return from dry-cleaning contractors.
  • Examination of new clothing supplied by contractors.
  • The annual inspection of rifles and light machine guns on the charge to Territorial Units and Cadets, and half-yearly examination of Vickers guns.
  • The issue of camp equipment and training stores for camps, bivouacs, and courses of instruction throughout the Dominion, also hire of stores to various organisations.
  • Sales of rifles and barrels to gunsmiths, to rifle clubs, and to the general public, and sales of S.A.A. to rifle clubs.
  • The everyday issues of clothing, arms, equipment, S.A.A. and expendable stores. No progress has been made during the year with the stripping, cleaning, and preservation of the balance of the rifles, S.M.L.E. Mark III, held in store, and which have not been examined since receipt from the United Kingdom in 1920. Authority had been obtained, however, for the engagement of four arms-cleaners, and the work has now started.

As the guest of the Commonwealth Government of Australia, The Director of Ordnance Services paid a six-week visit to Australia at the end of 1936

NZAOC JUNE 1937 TO MAY 1938

The constant changes in the organisation of units and in equipment generally, as adopted in England, had very much complicated and increased the Ordnance work in New Zealand. Much remained to be done in the repair, maintenance, and the modernisation of arms and equipment, in the receipt, storage, and issue of stores and equipment from abroad, and in preparation for mobilisation.

A contract for the first section of the large Ordnance Store required at Trentham was let, and it was proposed to accelerate the construction of the remainder of the buildings. Plans were prepared for the structures needed for the Ordnance Depots at Ngaruawahia and Burnham, and for the rebuilding of the Ordnance Workshop, Devonport.

NZAOC JUNE 1938 TO MAY 1939

There had been a considerable increase in Ordnance work during the last eight months. Equipment tables for all Territorial units except Artillery had been prepared, and the issue of equipment was proceeding. Camp-equipment stocks have been thoroughly revised in the light of the altered establishments, and essential purchases have been affected.

The first section of the large Ordnance store building at Trentham was nearing completion, and a contract had been let for the second section. The construction of this store would alleviate the severe shortage of storage space at Trentham, and will at the same time make available additional barrack-rooms for the accommodation of troops attending the Schools of Instruction. A contract had also been let for the first section of a similar Ordnance store at Burnham with clearing operations on the site commenced.

The Southern Ordnance Depot assisted the Southern Military School at Burnham. The school conducted a unique course for quartermasters, drawn from the various Territorial units of the Southern Military District. The Southern Ordnance Depot provided instruction on the are and preservation of clothing and ordnance equipment.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

 


NZAOC June 1931 to May 1932

Personnel

The strength of the NZAOC between June 1931 and May 1932 was;[1]

  • 2 Officers
  • 18 Permanent Other Ranks

Key Appointments

Director of Ordnance Services

  • Major Thomas Joseph King, NZAOC

Assistant Chief Ordnance Officer Trentham Camp

  • Captain W. R. Burge, M.C., NZSC

Main Ordnance Depot

  • Captain E.L.G Bown, NZSC.

Northern Command Ordnance Officer

  • Lieutenant J. W. Barry, N.Z. Staff Corps

 Central Command Ordnance Officer

  • Captain W.R Burge, MC, NZSC

Southern Command Ordnance Depot

  • Lieutenant H. E. Erridge, NZAOC.[2]
  • Lieutenant D. Nicol, NZAOC.[3]

Inspecting Officer Ordnance and Ordnance Mechanical Engineer

  • Major W Ivory, RNZA

Assistant Inspecting Ordnance Officer and Ordnance Mechanical Engineer

  • Captain I. R. Withell, RNZA

Proof Officer, Small Arms Ammunition, Auckland

  • Captain I. R. Withell, RNZA
  • Honorary Lieutenant J.W Fletcher, NZPS.[4]

NZAOC appropriations year ending March 1932

Obituary

Mr W Ramsy a former member of the NZAOC passed away at New Plymouth after a brief illness on 15 May 1932. The late Mr Ramsay was a native of Glasgow, and before coming to New Zealand had seen service with the British Army in various parts of the world. He attained the rank of sergeant-major in the 18th. Hussars and later was stationed with the Army- Service Corps in Malta. Shortly after’ his arrival’ in Wellington, the war broke out, and almost immediately he joined up with the Defence Department staff. Transferring into the NZAOC on it formation as a Conductor, Ramsey was soon promoted to Lieutenant, taking his release when reaching the retiring age for his rank in 1920.[5]

Copyright © Robert McKie 2019

Notes:

[1] “H-19 Defence Forces of New Zealand, Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding the Forces June 1931 to May 1932,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1932).

[2] John J. Storey and J. Halket Millar, March Past: A Review of the First Fifty Years of Burnham Camp (Christchurch, N.Z.: Pegasus Press, 1973, 1974 printing, 1973), Non-fiction, 118.

[3] “H-19 Defence Forces of New Zealand, Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding the Forces June 1933 to May 1934,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1934): 1.

[4] Appointed 1 Sept 1931 NZ General Order 353/1931

[5] “Obituary Ramsey,” Evening Post, Volume CXIII, Issue 114, 16 May 1932.