Reports on NZ Ordnance Depots in the Pacific, 1943-44

The Second World War would be a period of immense growth for New Zealand’s Ordnance Services. Expanding from a strength of 6 Officers, 28 Permanent Other Ranks and 113 Civilian Staff operating from limited infrastructure in Devonport, Hopuhopu, Trentham and Burnham Camp in May 1939,  New Zealand’s Ordnance Services would have expanded by 1944 into a diverse organisation supporting New Zealand’s Forces at home and abroad.

Armed with the 1939 Ordnance Manual (war), the Ordnance units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) would be established and adapted for their specific theatres of operation. In the Middle East, New Zealand Ordnance would integrate into the Ordnance Servicers of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. However, with a Brigade Group based in Fiji from late 1940, it would be the Ordnance Services in the Pacific that faced the most significant challenges. As the NZ Brigade Group transitioned and expanded from its garrison duties in Fiji into a Division conducting amphibious combat operations in the Solomon Islands, the supporting Ordnance Services challenges included anticipating the needs of the Division up to six months in advance and relying on fragile lines of communication that stretched back to New Zealand for everyday items and to the United Kingdom for much of the military hardware held by the Division. Additionally, the tropical climate and indigenous fauna encountered in the area of operations would provide additional hurdles to overcome.

After a series of actions in the Solomons, the burden of maintaining two Divisions was unstainable for the limited resources that New Zeland could provide, and by October 1944 the Pacific Divison had been disestablished. Its men were either demobilised to fill critical civilian roles, or retained in the Army, as reinforcements for the Division in Italy or in the case of many of the Ordnance men, absorbed into New Zealand based Ordnance Depots to receive and refurbish the large amount of equipment returned from the Pacific.

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3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Sub Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944. Alexander Turnbull Library

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3 NZ Division Tricks and Tanks parked at Main Ordnance Depot, Mangere Sub Bulk Depot on their Return from the Pacific in 1944. Alexander Turnbull Library

Based on the experienced gained in the operation of the Base Ordnance Depot in New Caledonia and Advanced Ordnance Depot in Guadalcanal, two Ordnance Officers who had served in the Pacific since 1940, Henry Mckenzie Reid and Stanley Arthur Knight produced reports in 1945 summarising Ordnance operations in New Caledonia and Guadacanal. Both Knight and Reid had been civilians in the Ordnance Corps before the war, Reid at Trentham and Knight at Hopuhopu and commissioned as officers during 1940. Both men would serve in the Base Ordnance Depot in Fiji and then with the Base Ordnance Depot in New Caledonia as Chief Ordnance Officer. Knight would also be the final DADOS of the 3rd NZ Divison. Both officers would remain in the NZAOC after the war with Reid becoming the Director of Ordnance Services from April 1957 to November 1960.

Both reports are similar in overall content with various points on Storage, Packing of Stores, Personnel, Ammunition with each Officer providing varying degrees of detail. The combined purpose of the reports is not only to provide a historical record of this aspect of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services in the Pacific but also to provide a resource for the New Zealand Ordnance Services and assist in planning for future operations in the tropics.

 

 

OPERATIONS OF ORDNANCE DEPOTS IN PACIFIC
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF
LIEUT-COL S.A.KNIGHT N.Z.E.F I.P.

Knight Pic

Lieutenant-Colonel Stanley Arthur Knight

FORWARD

I was appointed Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services immediately prior to the withdrawal of troops from forward areas to base areas in New Caledonia. Shortly after my arrival in Guadalcanal, units commenced preparations prior to evacuation, and my duties as D.A.D.O.S were not onerous since the demand for equipment had dropped to bare essentials. My observations must, therefore, be entirely concerned with an analysis of experiences gained while holding the appointment of Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), Base Ordnance Depot(BOD) New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific(NZEF IP).

ZONE OF OPERATIONS

The Base Ordnance Depor was established in New Caledonia at the beginning of the new year in 1943. Being situated some 30 miles for the port of Nepoui at which the bulk of our stores were unloaded and 100 miles from Noumea, fairly long hauls by road were necessitated.

In August of the same year, an Advanced Ordnance Depot was established in Guadalcanal, staffed by about 50% of the Base Ordnance Dept personnel. A few weeks later a Forward Ordnance Depot staffed by 2 officers and 25 ORs was established a Vella Lavella. The later depot was closed down and personnel withdrawn to Guadalcanal when Divisional Troops move forward to Green Island.

Due account must the taken of the type of operations to be undertaken, but it is my opinion that sub-division must be kept to a minimum. If the Base Depot is situated as close as possible to the fighting troops, then the necessity to establish Advanced Depots can be reduced to a minimum. Each time a Sub-Depot is established, additional personnel are required, and the total quantity of stores must necessarily be increased go provide working margins for each Depot.

STORAGE

It will be generally accepted that few if any permanent buildings will be available for the holding of ordnance store on Pacific Islands unless the Base is established at places such ad Noumea, Suva or Rabaul. Full provision must, therefore, be made for the temporary coverage to provide adequate protection for the initial shipments of stores when a Depot id being established.

Sufficient timber and tarpaulins for the erection of shelters should be forwarded with the first shipment of stores. Well constructed canvas shelters with good ventilation will give satisfactory accommodation for the storage, breaking down and issue of equipment for a period of 3 or 4 months. If the Depot is to remain in one site for a longer period, prefabricated buildings should be provided as early as possible if the loss of stores is to be kept to a minimum. Canvas coverings can only be considered a temporary measure as owing to the high humidity, together with tropical rain and cyclones, deterioration is very rapid.

The effects of a hurricane can be severe, and a poorly constructed Ordnance Depot might easily be completely wrecked with very heavy mortality to stores since hurricanes are usually accompanied by torrential downpours.
I stress the fact that the best type of storage which can be procured, must go forward at the very earliest moment; otherwise, the Depot will be severely hampered, particularly in its infancy.

To meet the requirement of a Base Ordnance Depot serving a Division (including Ammunition) and to provide a small surplus for contingencies 2000 tarpaulins, preferably of the standard 180ft x 13-ft would be required.

In the initial stages of an operation, stores are usually carted to dumps from shops. Every effort should be made to provide dunnage for the stacks and tarpaulins should be arranged, allowing good air circulation.

Stacks of stores covered in this manner require constant attention. For instance, when a stack which has been properly covered allowing good air circulation, is partially broken down, the tarpaulin is allowed to drape on the ground. The air under the tarpaulin arranged in this manner is always saturated in a damp climate and rapid deterioration is the result. The same applies to tentage which should be properly erected, preferably with wooden floors, allowing free air circulation and the maximum benefit of dry sunny days used by removing and drying out damp walls.

Although 1200 Tarpaulins were placed on order for manufacture some weeks prior to the Divisions departure from New Zealand, only about 400 were to hand and available for use when the Ordnance Depot was established in New Caledonia. This number was insufficient to cover all Depot stocks and Ammunition with the result that much damage resulted. On instructions from the A.A. & Q.M.G, 80 tarpaulins had to be removed from ammunition stacks for the issue to A.S.C units. As a result of the Ammunition being exposed to heavy rains, considerable damage was done, and a repair party of 50 men was employed for many weeks at a later date, repairing and cleaning the Ammunition, while some had to be destroyed owing to its unserviceability.

When the Ammunition dump was established at Guadalcanal, every effort was made to provide the best possible storage. Ammunition was stacked on goof platforms with coconut poles for base and Tarpaulins were properly arranged, allowing free ait circulation. As a result, losses were negatable in a striking contrast to the losses in this Ammunition by U.S. Forces, who did not cover Ammunition stacks which were often in damp areas with no dunnage.

As it is not possible, without disastrous results, to open up and expose M.T parts, Signal Equipment and spares, Wireless Equipment and spares, M.G and S.A spares and certain Engineer Stores in other than dry storage, it is recommended that sufficient Stores wagons should be provided to house this equipment until such time s prefabricated buildings can be erected. It is estimated that not less than 24 well-appointed stores wagons would be required and theses should be stocked with spares, most likely to be in early demand.

I may appear to have dwelt on the question of storage, but when the Base Ordnance Depot commenced operations in NECAL, the only stores and office accommodation available in addition to Tarpau1ins, on which I have already documented were 8 I.P.P. Tents, being the balance of 110 shipped and 2 G.S Single Marquees. Although a considerable quantity of dunnage was unloaded from ships and made available to Units for camp construction, very little was made available for dunnage of stores. Timber ordered in NZ by B.O.D. for the dunnage of Ammunition was taken over by the Engineers and very little made available for Ammunition. By the same token, priority was given to the issue of I.P.P. tents for Messes, Orderly Rooms etc., 102 being used for this purpose, leaving a balance of 8 for use in our Depot as Stores and offices.

The construction of storage accommodation for Ordnance Depot should be the responsibility of the Works Construction Coy N.Z.E which in my opinion is an essential unit in any Army formation.

PERSONNEL

Personnel for an Ordnance Depot should be carefully selected to fill the various positions; the following are most suitable: –

Clerks: Men who have been clerks and accountants in civilian life are easily trained to carry out clerical duties in an Ordnance Depot. Qualified accountants are invaluable, and three or four of these in a Depot are worth their weight in gold.

Storeman-General: Men who have worked in retail stores and warehouses and who have good clerical training invariably make good storeman. Farm labourers and navvies are, almost with exception, useless as storemen and cannot be relied on to carry out other than labouring duties. It is agreed that there is a certain amount of labouring work in and Ordnance Depot, but this can be done very efficiently by an intelligent man, while on the other hand, a labourer cannot carry on with the onerous duties of a storeman, should the need arise.

Storeman-M.T: It is essential that M.T. Storeman should have had considerable experience at this trade in civilian life. It is desirable that Senior Storemen should have had at least 8 or 10 years experience in the handling of M.T spares.

Storeman-Wireless: Technical men who have a sound knowledge of wireless equipment appear to be very difficult to procure, but it is highly desirable that at least one very experienced man should be included in the staff of a Depot. It is likely that a Wireless Mechanic who could fill a storeman’s position would be more easily procured.

Storeman-Signals: Signal Storemen from the P&T Dept should prove the most suitable, but again these seem rare.

Storeman-Engineers, Arty & Armd: Key personnel to fill the positions of storemen in these sections should be from Ordnance Depots in NZ and should have some years’ experience. It is extremely unlikely that any suitable personnel could be obtained from other than Ordnance Depots to fill these positions in anything like a satisfactory manner.

The future Defence Policy of this country should include the training of men for Ordnance duties. Even if only an elementary training can be given, men so trained would he much more useful than those who had no training at all. It is also suggested that a good percentage of the men employed during peacetime in Ordnance Depots should be young men fit for Overseas Service should the need arise.

Care should be taken to ensure that the men selected for Ordnance Depots are trustworthy and of good character. It will be found that men who have filled positions of trust in civilian life can be depended upon to carry out their work in a satisfactory manner in the Army.

N.C.O.’s

Almost without exception, N. C. 0′ s are promoted on their technical ability, which naturally is of prime importance in an Ordnance Depot. Quite frequently, these N.C.O’s prove poor disciplinarians and have insufficient training in drill. It is highly desirable that all N.C.O’s should have a short course on discipline and drill, otherwise discipline within the Unit tends to become rather lax.

The importance is stressed, of making provision in the future for sufficient key personnel to be trained particularly in technical sections. In our Base Ordnance Depot with an establishment of 220 NCO’s and 0R’s, we did not have one storeman with any knowledge of Technical stores and had only two men with pre-war Ordnance training.

My experience has convinced me that No Ordnance Depot will function to its fullest capacity unless a D & E platoon is included in the establishment. This Section which should consist of 25 to 30 men including 2 carpenters, would be able to perform the following duties, Guards, Picquets, Camp Maintenance, Maintenance of Stores areas, General Fatigues, and providing working parties to relive pressure at rush periods. This would obviate the necessity of having to detail clerks and storemen, who are often key men, for such duties.

PACKING

The standard packing case used by Ordnance in New Zealand has proved quite satisfactory. A suggested improvement is that all cases should be constructed of tongue and groove timber.

Many of the cases, and in particular those constructed by Army contractors, proved unsatisfactory. Three-ply cases are poor for tropical conditions and should not be used. Cases carrying “every-ready” were not constructed stoutly enough to carry the weight packed in them, with the result that a high percentage arrived broken, with a resultant loss of the contents through pillage etc., which in some cases was very heavy. Old used cases should not be used for stores which may require many handlings. Timber used should not be less the ¾ inch, and in many cases, it is advisable to use 1-inch boards or heavier, if high weight – size ration is involved.

Waterproof lining for cases should be used wherever possible. In packing stores, it should be always born in mind that cases may have to withstand severe conditions during transit. Quite frequently during unloading of ships on beaches or in transit camps where no coverage is available, stores are subjected to torrential downpours of rain. The resultant damage is not always apparent from outside appearances when packages reach their final destinations. If not required for immediate use the total contents may be rendered unserviceable before being unpacked, perhaps some weeks later.

The use of packing such as wood-wool or straw, which retains moisture, causes rapid corrosion of metal articles, particularly if they have not been toughly treated with a rust preventive before packing. Stores packed out from Ordnance Depots in New Zealand, without any rust preventative have been received in an unserviceable condition owing to the ingress of water or moisture during transit. On occasions, the stores received unserviceable have been urgently required for maintenance. These remarks apply in the main to Artillery Stores, Small Arms parts, and tools.

The packing of Bubbles Spirt Glass, Thermometers and Artillery Packings, etc without protection from heavy articles in the same case, must be avoided at all costs. Fragile articles should be packed in a small wooden box before being included with heavy articles in a case. The use of straw or wool-wood as cushioning when packing instruments such as Binoculars, Telescopes, Periscopes, Rangefinders, etc., should be avoided. Any damage retained by such packing induces rapid mould growth.

STORES PROVISIONING

Having due regard to lines of communication, minimum require rents only should be carried forward and held until adequate storage can be arranged. This is of course entirely governed by lines of communication. During operations of 3 Div. the paucity of shipping, particularly
during the first 9 months, made it essential that we should carry at least 6 months stock for all items. On some occasions, stores awaited shipment from N.Z. for 6 or 7 months owing principally to the higher priority placed on U.S. equipment.

It is recommended that in future operations where a full Division has to be maintained, consideration should be given to the chartering of a cargo ship solely for supplying such a force. A ship similar to the ‘Matua’ would do the job admirably. When making this recommendation, I am fully aware that there was a shortage of shipping during the period, but the position may not obtain on another occasion.

TENTS & TARPAULINS

Conditions in the Tropics made the lite of Tentage very short. I.P.P· and I.P. Tents were in general use and proved very suitable. However, due to the high humidity and heavy rainfall, the average life for the Outer Roof was only about 9 months and Inner Roof – 12 months. According to the location and care taken, there were variations. Tents pitched under trees were seldom, if ever, properly dried out and would be unserviceable in 6 months or less, while others pitched in dry exposed areas where the full benefit of drying breezes was obtained, would be serviceable for 12 months or even longer. In combat areas, subject to air attacks, full use has to be made of natural camouflage, and Tents have of necessity to be pitched under trees, where they are available.

Some G.S. Single Marquees which have only a single skin, were used for storage and these were not at all suitable. Besides being unbearably hot, they are not rainproof and should not be used in the Pacific.

The Pyramidal Tent, commonly used for housing troops, by the U.S. Forces is also unsuitable for the tropics, being unbearably hot.

The life of Tarpaulins is also considerably lessened, principally by the tropical heat. Waterproof dressing, which is normally wax bases, melts and runs out of the fabric with the result that frequent dressing is required.·

BOOTS

The Black R. & F. Boot used by the N.Z. Forces gave good service. Due to the conditions, wear on boots was very heavy and the average boot required re-soling every 3 or 4 weeks. Very little trouble was experienced with mould growth, except where boots had become damp during transit or through poor storage.

CLOTHING

Uniforms – Wear and tear on clothing was very heavy. In my opinion, the standard Khaki Drill shirt which can be worn with either shorts or long trousers is the most suitable. The Bush Shirt is not suitable for wear with the shorts and cannot be considered a utility garment such as the K.D. shirt is. The average soldier has to do his own laundering while on Active Service end Bush Shirts look very untidy unless they are well laundered.

Socks – Socks proved quite suitable and gave good service.

Hose, Footless – Footless Hose Proved most unsuitable being much too short and tight-fitting. Soldiers avoided wearing them whenever possible. If it is decided to continue the use of this article, liberal allowance should be made for shrinking.

Underclothing – Vests and Shorts Cotton Under gave good service, but it is suggested that for tropical use, these should be made lighter. The lighter weight garments as used by U.S. Forces are considered to be much more suitable.

Belts – A belt similar to that used by U.S. Forces for general purposes should be issued to each soldier.

Hats S.D – Due to the perspiration and rough conditions, the mortality was very high. However, this hat gave good service. The issue of a Tropical Sun Hat would be a more welcome addition to the kit of soldiers.

SMALL ARMS

I do not propose to report fully on the behaviour of S.A armament or other technical stores since a publication prepared by a Scientific Mission from Australia, who visited New Guinea, covers in detail all the difficulties which confront those who use Army Equipment in the tropics much more fully and scientifically than I could hope to do. I will refer to this publication at the conclusion of my report, but I desire to stress the heavy mortality inflicted on rifles, by the Mason Bee.

This small insect was responsible for the destruction of some hundreds of rifle barrels in the Division. The Mason. Bee will build a nest in a rifle overnight, and corrosion caused by acid immediately sets in and cannot be arrested.

To prevent the Bee entering the nuzzle of a rifle, a covering, preferably of mosquito netting or some such open texture material, should be used as this will allow breathing and thus not induce sweating of the barrel which will occur if it is completely sealed.

Mosquito netting was made available to Units in the Division, but in view of the heavy mortality, it is doubtful that the fullest use was made of this or the repeated warnings issued in Divisional Orders, rigidly enforced by all C.O’s.

LIFTING GEAR

The Depot was considerably handicapped by the total lack of lifting gear, until 3 months before the Depot closed, when a very useful Mobile Crane arrived from N.Z. This was in striking contrast to the U.S.Forces who always had an abundance of lifting gear of all types and sizes. The Depot staff had to manhandle such items as Speedway Stores weighing 1-ton and MT cases of assemblies weighing 1,100 lbs.

Every Ordnance Depot should have on its War Equipment Table three Finger Lifts and two Mobile Cranes. One of the latter should be capable of lifting 2-tons at least.

AMMUNITION

The use of other than steel boxes for the packing of Ammunition should be reduced to an absolute minimum. Wooden boxes, particularly those packed with 3.7 How. Shell and 25-pdr. Shell failed to stand up to the handling and transporting. This was mainly due of course to the deterioration caused to the woodwork by the damp, humid climate and accelerated in some instances by exposure to the weather when coverage was not available, but in any case, the life of wooden boxes is much less than that of steel boxes, which will withstand a good deal of rough handling.

AUTOMATIC MAINTENANCE

The principle of the supply of Automatic maintenance items is considered to be an excellent one. For conditions in the Pacific, there is no doubt that the scales would require a certain amount of revision but owing to the fact that supplies did not come to hand until some 6 months before the Division returned to N.Z, insufficient data was obtained, and time did not permit revision of the schedules. Had Automatic Maintenance been in operation during the whole period, some very valuable
information would have been available.

LIASION WITH N.Z

It is considered that constant Liaison with N.Z. should be maintained. It is considered that an Ordnance Officer should visit the N.N Base from which supplies are drawn, every 3 or 4 months and that an Ordnance Officer from N.Z. should pay frequent visits to Depots overseas when they are so readily accessible by air transport.

GENERAL ADMINISTRATION

It is desired to place on record the valuable assistance rendered to the Base Ordnance Depot by the Officer I/C Administration, (Brig. W. W. Dove) and his staff at his H.Q. ·what was a very difficult job was made considerably lighter by the friendly co-operation and help and advice given at all times. No reasonable request was ever refused, and everything possible was done to promote efficiency in. the Depot.

The Main Depot was divided into Sections as follows:

H.Q.
General Stores and Clothing.
Armament, Engrs and Signals.
M.T.
Ammunition.
Returned Stores.

HQ was controlled by the C.O.O, assisted by an Adjutant and each Section was controlled by an Ordnance Officer.

This arrangement proved quite satisfactory and could well be adopted in future for an Ordnance Depot set up under similar circumstances with the addition of a Provision and Statistical Section, controlled by an Officer.

CONCLUSION

Following a survey carried out in New Guinea by a Scientific Mission from Australia, a pamphlet entitled “Condition of Service Material under Tropical Conditions in New Guinea” was published.

This publication deals exhaustively with the effects of tropical. Conditions or equipment in all its phases and is, in my opinion, applicable to all Pacific Islands to a greater or lesser degree.

It is recommended that the fullest possible use should be made of this publication and no Ordnance Officer proceeding to the Pacific should fail to read this valuable Pamphlet.

(sgd) S.A. KNIGHT

 

OPERATIONAL REPORT
BASE ORDNANCE DEPOT
MAJOR H.McK. REID  N .Z.E.F I.P.

Reid Pic

Major Henry Mckenzie Reid

The problems of the receipt, custody and issue of Ordnance Stores in the Pacific Area, is much greater than is imagined by the layman, and it is hoped that the following remarks may prove helpful should the occasion ever arise when an Ordnance Depot is again established in the Pacific.

One of the greatest problems which has to be overcome is the time lag which occurs between the placing of an order and the receipt of the stores. It was soon found that estimates had to be prepared covering supplies sufficient for six months, as this was the period which we could expect would elapse before stores would arrive. This occasionally brought about very large shipments which were more difficult to handle than would have been the case had stores arrived, say, at monthly intervals. The problem of shipping is one which would greatly improve, and I would suggest, that with a full Division to be serviced, there would be sufficient cargo to warrant the chartering of a small ship which would be at the sole disposal of NEW ZEALAND Forces. I mention this, as on numerous occasions, stores which were urgently required by us, were short shipped owing to priorities being placed on US Equipment. I would again point out, that any Ordnance Depot operating in the Island areas, should carry not less than six months supplies. For the information of any Ordnance Officers concerned, I will attach to this report, a schedule giving some idea of the quantities of popular items used by this Force. This may prove of some value both in the initial provisioning of a Depot and also in the preparation of maintenance demands.

STORAGE

Early coverage of stores after receipt is one of the greatest importance. I fully appreciate the difficulty in providing permanent or pre-fabricated buildings, but I would emphasise the fact that this type of storage is essential if the Depot is to function for any length of time. The provision of a permanent building for the handling of M.T spares and other technical stores should be an urgent priority, as, in a humid climate such as rules in the Islands, it is essential to have some areas in which these stores can be opened and handled. Loss of M.T stores through decoration was relatively light in NECAL, but this could only be attributed to the acquiring of storage space at the Gendarmerie. However, until this building became available, we found it impossible to open and supply spare parts which were urgently required for the repair of trucks which were suffering heavy damage due to the atrocious condition of the road. I would recommend the use of stores wagons both for M.T. parts and Artillery, Engineer and Signal parts. These wagons could be parked in NEW ZEALAND with a selection of parts which it could be assumed would be required soon after landing. These stores would be available for immediate issue, and when permanent storage space was available, they could be used for the distribution of small stores to Divisional units. Temporary coverage should be available immediately stores are landed, and I would suggest the 2000, 18’x13’ tarpaulins, together with a supply of timber, should be made available for the erection of temporary shelters and for the coverage of ammunition. Prior to leaving NEW ZEALAND, 1200 tarpaulins were ordered, 400 of these were received with an early consignment of stores, but the balance took many months to arrive, due either to the difficulty in obtaining these in NEW ZEALAND and the lack of shipping at that stage. Owing to this short delivery of tarpaulins, quite a quantity of precious stores suffered untold damage. This position was further aggravated by an order from a very responsible officer for the issue of a number of tarpaulins to A.S.C. It was pointed out that the only tarpaulins available were covering ammunition, with the result the considerable damage was done. Heavy repairs were necessary, and a certain amount of unserviceable ammunition had to be dumped.

Dependent on the availability of timber at the site where ammunition is to be stored, I would suggest that a large quantity of heavy dunnage should be provided from NEW ZEALAND for the purpose of correctly storing ammunition clear of ground contact. This dunnage could easily be used for the securing of M.T Trucks during the shipment.

When the Ordnance Depot arrived in NECAL, it was expected to establish itself and commence functioning with as little loss of time as possible, with the result that the Ordnance Depot was not well constructed as possible and that the men had insufficient opportunity to make themselves reasonably comfortable. Owing to the shortage of manpower, it took many months to have the same amenities as other units had in a few days. I would consequently suggest that the site for an Ordnance Depot should be levelled and roads prepared by the engineers so that the ordnance personnel could get on with the establishment their Depot. Assistance should be given by the Engineers in the erection of temporary shelters such as I have previously mentioned.

PACKING OF STORES

The packing and marking of stores received from NEW ZEALAND caused much concern to B.O.D whilst in NECAL. Some cases were much too light for the type of stores which they contained. These were mainly packages received directly from Contractors. As an example, Ever-ready Batteries invariably arrived in a damaged condition owing to the fact that they were packed in light cases. The ideal type of case is that used by the NZAOC for the packing of clothing. This is a standard case in three sizes which proved very satisfactory. The use of this principle should be extended to all types of stores being shipped overseas. It may appear costly to have to provide this type of case, but the amount of stores lost and damaged would be reduced, and would compensate for the outlay. Much damage was done to valuable stores due to faulty packing. For instance, where metal stores are being packed, care should be taken to see that bright surfaces are greased. Quite a number of shipments arrived from NEW ZEALAND in which Small Arms parts, Arty parts and other small items had been just put in a box, with the result that they arrived resembling a heap of rusty metal. Small part such as these, should be greased and packed in greased paper. Glass items such as Spirt Bubbles, should be carefully packed and not be permitted to roll in cases. The use of straw or wood-wool should not be permitted where metal items are being packed, as both of these substances attract moisture, with the result that they become damp and stores begin to sweat.

The marking of stores caused a lot of heartaches to B.O.D, the codesign “P” in a circle, was parked on each side of cases but the scheduled marking was, in many in instances only placed on the top of the case. From an identification point, the local method of marking is for the scheduled mark to be put on both ends of the case. If possible, this could also go on the top. In order to minimise the chance of pillage, I would suggest that the practice of indicating the contents on the outside of the case should cease.

Code signs were used, but were much too obvious to be misunderstood.

Good Paint should be used in marking, as cheap paint or stencil inks fade under tropical conditions. The position was complained of to D.M.T WELLINGTON and was rectified after the visit of D.M.T’s Representatives. Things such as this may appear trivial, but really important to an Ordnance man for the easy identification of stores.

SUB-DIVISION OF B.O.D

Taking into account the type of operations to expected in the Pacific where forces are liable to land on different islands, I am of the opinion that B.O.D. should not establish more than one forward base. In order to provide an Ordnance Detachment with both the 8th and 14th Brigades and to have maintained an Advanced Ordnance Depot at GUADALCANAL, it would have been necessary if these establishments were to function efficiently, to have provided approximately twice the amount of stores and 80% more men. I am of the opinion that prior to leaving NEW ZEALAND, all units should be allowed to carry a reserve stock of, say, 10 to 20% of items such as Boots, Clothing, Camp Equipment and any items considered necessary. The ideal method of supply with an Amphibious Force would be to establish an Advanced Depot such as A.O.D GUADALCANAL. From then on, all units would work on their reserve stocks. This would allow units to requisition stores and still be able to provide the immediate needs of the man. This principle was tried by the Force in GREEN ISLAND and proved very successful. Units were permitted to carry forward this reserve and from then on submitted demands back to A.O.D GUADALCANAL, which was able to forward the stores required. Any time factor due to shipping was cared for by the reserve stores held by the unit. Regarding a move from NEW ZEALAND of a Force, no unit should move without being completely equipped. If for any reason units have to move without full equipment, then it is imperative that Ordnance stores and the Ordnance unit should be one of the first to move. During the move into NECAL, Ordnance received a huge quantity of stores which were landed prior to the arrival of the main body of B.O.D. This entailed many difficulties for the two officers and 30 O.R’s of B.O.D. who had preceded the Main Body. Their worries were increased by units arriving incompletely equipped and requesting the delivery of stores direct from the Dump in the NEPOUI VALLEY. Some units arrived with men short of even clothing, and this alone should back my suggestion that, either unit’s proceed fully equipped, or that the complete Ordnance unit be one of the earliest to move.

TRANSPORT & LIFTING GEAR

Only in the later months of B.O.D’s existence was ample transport available. This in itself is inclined to hamper the activities of a Depot, and I would recommend that transport should be allowed on a very liberal scale. I would also stress the necessity of having some heavy lifting equipment such as the Mobile Crane which arrived at B.O.D about three months prior to its return to NEW ZEALAND. Such items as Speedway Stoves, M.T Engines and other heavy equipment ranging from 3 or 4 cwt, had to be manhandled and this was much more apparent under the conditions in the islands. A mobile Crane should be one of the first items on any Ordnance Depots War Equipment Table.

INSPECTING ORDNANCE OFFICER

I would strongly recommend the appointment of an Inspecting Ordnance Officer whose duties would take him to every unit, where he should be given the right to inspect equipment and report on it. A check could thus be kept on the state in which a unit kept its equipment and also on the fact that they had no more or less entitled to them.

I would also recommend that the return of unserviceable items to B.O.D should discontinue and that a travelling Board of Survey should visit units at pre-arranged times. The I.O.O could function on this board as a permanent member. Items od no Salvage value could be destroyed on the spot whilst items for repair or salvage could be returned to Ordnance. This would obviate the necessity of carting over many miles, large quantities of material whose only fate could be to end in fire. This would minimise the work of the Salvage Section of B.O.D. They would then be in a position to do more repair work than was ever accomplished.

LIASION WITH NEW ZEALAND

Liaison with NEW ZEALAND or source of supply is an extremely desirable thing, but it is suggested that from an Ordnance point of view this can most successfully be carried out by someone conversant with Ordnance. Quite apart from the Divisional Liaison Officer who made several trips to NEW ZEALAND, I am of the opinion that Ordnance should have had closer contact with NEW ZEALAND. I would suggest that an Ordnance Officer should visit NEW ZEALAND or source of supply, at least every three months. I stipulate an Ordnance Officer, as he would be conversant with the general needs of the Depot. For our dealings with U.S. Forces both in NECAL and GUADALCANAL, use was made of two excellent Warrant Officers, and their appointment was more than warranted. Being in close contact with the U.S Forces, they were many times able to procure stores which were urgently required by our Forces.

D&E SECTION

Much working time is lost in an Ordnance Depot due to the necessity of guards and fatigues. I would recommend that a D & E Section should be incorporated in the establishment. This Section need not be officered, but could be administered by Headquarters Section. under the Adjutant. The ideal section would be about 25 to 30 men strong and should include a carpenter and general maintenance man. This would allow Storemen and Clerks to continue with their duties, but I would suggest that any relief for the D & E Section should come from the general personnel during off duty periods.

AMMUNITION

The type of boxes used for the packing of ammunition could be revised. It is common knowledge now, that timber suffers more than anything in the damp, humid conditions found in the islands. I would recommend that all types of ammunition should be packed in metal containers. Not only do wooden boxes deteriorate, but in the number of times they are handled, they cannot stand up to the hard conditions. This is amply demonstrated by the condition in which small arms ammunition in particular, and 3.7 How Shell and some 25 pr Shell arrived back into NEW ZEALAND. Hardly any of the small arms ammunition is in fit condition to travel again.

SELECTION OF PERSONNEL

The selection of personnel for an Ordnance Depot should be given the greatest thought, and every endeavour should be made to ensure that the right type of personnel should be available prior to the Depot’s departure from NEW ZEALAND. The provision of a number of men to make up the full establishment is of no use if personnel with a knowledge of the duties they are expected to carry out are not available. This is stressed particularly in the Technical Sections of a Depot – namely, M. T, Arty, Sigs; Engs and Ammunition. The necessary knowledge to successfully carry out these jobs cannot be gained quickly enough whilst overseas, and an endeavour should be made to see that the bulk of each of these sections should be trained Ordnance personnel. In addition, care should be taken to ensure that men posted to an Ordnance Depot should be of good character and behaviour, as much trust has to be, of necessity, placed in them.

TRAINING OF NCO’S

Of necessity, N.C.O’s in an Ordnance unit are promoted for their ability to carry out the work which they are doing. This will sometimes result in an N.C.O. being extremely efficient at his work, but being a very poor disciplinarian. I would consequently recommend that N. C. 0’s in Ordnance be
given a short course solely on drill and discipline.

AUTOMATIC MAINTENANCE

The supply of spare parts under the system of Automatic Maintenance, is, in itself, an excellent idea. The scales, however, require a certain amount of modification, in that some items are provided for in either too large or too small quantities. Unfortunately, we did not operate the scales for a long enough period to be able to correct them, but in a new Force, this could quite easily be done after, say, six months’ service. In the main, the principle is right, and only minor alterations are necessary.

CONCLUSION

I have read carefully the pamphlet prepared by the Australian Army on the “Condition of Service Material under Tropical Conditions in New Guinea”. Everything contained in this pamphlet is applicable in a greater or lesser degree to conditions as found in NEW CALEDONIA and GUADALCANAL, and I would suggest that this pamphlet should be consulted and acted upon prior to any further Force leaving NEW ZEALAND for service in the tropics. This pamphlet was prepared by a Scientific Mission for the Scientific Liaison Bureau, Melbourne, Australia.

(sgd) H.McK. REID Major,
Chief Ordnance Officer, B.O.D.

 

 


The NZAOC and how it features in the historiography of the NZEF

The role of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) during the First World War of1914 to 1919, is one that has remained untold if not forgotten. While the contribution of the NZEF, its commanders, battles and significant units are recorded in many articles, books and websites, the NZAOC has been less fortunate. When it comes to a narrative which includes the Logistic Services of the NZEF, the narrative is almost universally biased towards the larger of the Logistic Services; the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC) and the contribution of the NZAOC has been one of an unloved redhaired stepchild and seldom mentioned. From an initial mobilisation strength of an officer and a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) in 1914, the NZOAC would mature into a modern and effective organisation providing Ordnance services to the NZEF on par to their counterparts in the British and other Commonwealth Divisions.  Using Ian McGibbon’s 2016 New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign and Peter Hamlyn Williams 2018 Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War, this essay will examine the representation of the NZAOC in the historiography of the NZEF from 1914 to 1919.

The official New Zealand War histories published in the 1920s often are criticised for their “inadequacy” and “turgid prose”.[1] Ian McGibbon’s 2016 book New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign goes a long way in providing a comprehensive and easy to read account of New Zealand’s forces on the Western Front. Although McGibbon’s focus is on the New Zealand Division on the Western Front, he does provide some broader context on the NZEF, but in a similar vein to H Stewarts, The New Zealand Division of 1921, [2]  McGibbon does not acknowledge the role of the NZAOC. McGibbon cannot be faulted for neglecting to mention the NZAOC, as the NZAOD was one of several NZEF units identified at a conference of NZEF Senior Officers in 1919 as requiring the recording of their war history.[3] Despite the prompt from the wartime leaders of the NZEF, the NZAOC missed the opportunity and never followed through in the production of the NZAOC war history leaving a significant gap in New Zealand’s historiography of the First World War.

The NZAOC was not a feature of the pre-war New Zealand Army, and on the mobilisation of the NZEF in 1914,  a small Ordnance Staff consisting of the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) and an SNCO Clerk was formed as part of the NZEF Headquarters Administrative and Services Branch, becoming the foundation staff of the NZAOC.[4] The Ordnance Manual (War) of 1914 details the role of the DADOS as to “deal with all matters affecting the Ordnance services of the division. The DADOS would manage the state of the clothing and equipment on the charge of the units composing the division and would from time to time advise the officers in charge of the stores which in all probability would be required for operations”.[5]  As the NZEF arrived in Egypt and settled down to the business of preparing itself for war, the need for a larger New Zealand Ordnance organisation must have been recognised, leading to the commissioning from the ranks of the first NZAOC officers on 3 April 1915.[6]  Soldiers and NCO’s would also be attached to the nascent Ordnance Depots at Zeitoun, Alexandra and Gallipoli throughout 1915 and into 1916. McGibbon describes the early 1916 formation of the New Zealand Division in Egypt,[7] and although providing a paragraph on the NZASC, fails to mention the expansion of the NZAOC as a unit of the NZEF.[8] The expansion of the NZAOC in early 1916 was as a result of organisational changes across the British Army Ordnance Corps(AOC) as the scale of the war, and the support required became apparent.[9] In line with all British Divisions, the DADOS of the NZ Division would assume responsibility for a small Ordnance organisation complete with integral transport.[10]

In his brief section on Logistics, McGibbon states that “The New Zealand Division slotted into the BEF’s vast Logistic system.”[11] While this statement is not incorrect, it does understate the role of the NZAOC in providing the linkages which enabled the NZ Division to integrate and become part of the vast and evolving British logistical system. However, the misunderstanding of the NZAOC’s contribution is one echoed in many New Zealand Histories of the First World War including Major J.S Bolton’s A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.[12] McGibbon’s omissions of the NZAOC do not detract from the overall quality of his book but instead continues an unintentional tradition across New Zealand’s historiography of the First World War of forgetting the NZAOC. Bolton’s history of the RNZAOC which dedicates close to ten pages on the First World War provides few details of NZAOC activities in the NZEF. Bolton instead bases much of his narrative on Major General Forbes A History of the Army Ordnance Services,[13] and Brigadier A. H Fernyhough’s A short history of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps[14] which, overlaid with some material from the NZ Division DADOS war diaries provide a broad overview of the NZAOC during the First World War. Likewise, Peter Capes Craftsmen in Uniform and Peter Cooke’s Warrior Craftsmen, both histories of the Royal Electrical And Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME), a corps that grew out of the NZAOC, fail to record the story of the NZAOC craftsmen who served in the NZEF.[15] [16]  The authoritative work to date on British Logistics during The First World War is Ian Malcolm Brown’s British Logistics on the Western Front 1914-1914.[17] Outstanding as Brown’s work is, it focuses on the larger logistical picture, and it is not until 2018 with Philip Williams Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War that a work dedicated on the activities the AOC during the First World War provides a narrative relatable to the NZAOC.

Although Williams work examines the activities of the AOC from the Ordnance factories of the United Kingdom to the trenches in all the British theatres of war, it has much relevance to the NZAOC as the New Zealand Division was just one of sixty Infantry Divisions of the British Army and therefore part of the Ordnance system that Williams describes. Williams who draws upon a combination of Forbes and Fernyhough’s histories and personal diaries to provide valuable insights into the activities of the NZAOC, which along with the Australians and Canadian Ordnance Corps were cogs in the imperial logistical machine that was the wartime AOC.[18] [19]

Britain’s war effort was vast and unprecedented, requiring a Logistical effort that grew from the pre-war industrial base to one of total war. From the Ordnance perspective, Williams lays out the Ordnance contribution from the factory to the foxhole in an uncomplicated and engaging style providing the reader with an appreciation of the scale of the Ordnance commitment to the war effort. Similarly, McGibbon also discusses the resources required to support the NZ Division on the Western Front and discusses the establishment of the NZEF Headquarters in London and training depots for reinforcements, hospitals and convalescent homes across the United Kingdom. However, McGibbon follows the established template and fails to mention the NZAOC contribution in the United Kingdom. In addition to all the other administrative branches established as part of the NZEF Headquarters, there was also an Ordnance Department with responsibility for “the purchase of Ordnance supplies”.[20] Under the Chief Ordnance Officer for the NZEF in the United Kingdom, Captain (later Major) Norman Levien, the NZAOC would pay a significant role in supporting the NZEF. Levien would introduce into the NZEF standardised stores accounting systems and review purchase contracts leading to the introduction of competitive tendering for the provision of stores and services to the NZEF, leading to considerable savings.[21]  In Order to provide dedicated Ordnance Support to the NZEF, a New Zealand Ordnance Depot was also established in London.[22]

Where McGibbon’s primary effort is on the NZ Division on the Western Front, Williams provides an overview of the Ordnance support provided to all the campaigns that New Zealand participated in, which when read in conjunction with the limited material on the NZAOC such as the DADOS war dairies can be extrapolated to tell the story of the NZAOC. For example, Williams details the Ordnance preparations for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) operations at Gallipoli, the challenges faced during the campaign and how Ordnance was never to get fully organised which corresponds to and fills out the few accounts of New Zealand’s Ordnance contribution to that campaign.[23] It is in Williams chapter on the Somme where he highlights the anonymity of Ordnance in the Divisional Order of Battle which has contributed to the NZAOCs absence from the historiography. Williams finds it intriguing that despite the Order of Battle for a Division listing Divisional Headquarters, Artillery, Engineers, Infantry Brigades, Army Service Corps and all other types of integral units, Ordnance is not mentioned as such.[24]  Glyn Harpers Johny Enzed does help to lift the veil of anonymity of the NZAOD in the NZEF Order of Battle for 1916 and lists Ordnance three times, but provides little other information on the NZAOC.[25]  Williams unpacks the role of Ordnance within an Infantry Divison, explaining how under the DADOS the Ordnance staff had multiple responsibilities. The DADOS had the responsibility of ensuring that the Divisions requirement for the accurate and precise management of Ordnance Stores including boots, uniforms, guns and camp equipment. As an example, Williams discusses the process that a DADOS would follow to replace a Lewis gun buried in a mine explosion. Reporting the loss of the gun to Corps and Army Headquarters, to Ordnance Headquarter and the Quartermaster General (QMG) at General Headquarters (GHQ) and on receipt of the replacement gun, how the reporting process would be repeated to acknowledge the receipt of the gun.[26]  In addition to the DADOS’s stores accounting responsibilities, Williams also explains how the operation of the Divisional Laundry and Baths fell under the DADOS remit. Maintenance is another area in which the DADOS had some responsibility. Initially, craftsmen such as armourers and bootmakers belonged to the individual Regiments within the Division, but as units went into action, these men became redundant, so they were often transferred to ordnance and placed into Divisional Workshops under the DAODS. Given the broad responsibilities of the NZAOC, a hypothesis for the NZAOC’s anonymity in the historiography of the NZEF could be as simple as a case of unrecognised success. Success in that the NZAOC fulfilled its role so well with no major errors affecting the operations of the NZEF that it went unnoticed, and their continual anonymity, therefore, is a measure of the success of the NZAOC.

In conclusion, one hundred years after the end of the First World War the NZAOC remains an anonymous unit of the NZEF, and despite its small size, it is time to reconsider its place in the historiography of the NZEF. McGibbon’s New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign reinforces the anonymity of the NZAOC, but McGibbon’s omission is not intentional but a continuation of the belief that the NZEF just slotted into the British logistic system without questioning the mechanisms and the men that enabled the NZEF to do so. Williams Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War which is an examination of the British Ordnance system, provides useful insights on how the NZEF not only received Ordnance support but provides an example how the DADOS within the NZ Division managed the Ordnance functions within the Division, a linkage which has long been missing from the historiography.

20180605_195417-190082474.jpg

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

Notes

[1] Steven Loveridge, “New Zealand’s Bloodiest Campaign,” New Zealand Books 27, no. 118 (2017).

[2] Stewarts only mention of New Zealand’s Ordnance contribution to the NZ Division is on the Organisational Tables on pages 15 and 603 where he lists the DADOS as part of the organisation. H. Stewart, The New Zealand Division, 1916-1919: A Popular History Based on Official Records, Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V. 2 France (Whitcombe & Tombs, 1921), Non-fiction.

[3] In the Senior Officer Conference of November 1919, 22 units of the NZEF had convenors of Regimental Committees appointed with the responsibility to appoint a writer of the units War History. Lt Col Herbert who had been the NZ Division DADOS from 1916 to 1918 was appointed as the convenor for the NZAOC, but no official wartime history of the NZAOC was ever published.  Conference of Senior Officers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force,  (Archives New Zealand, R22550177, 1919).

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

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

[6] “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” New Zealand Gazette 8 July 1915.

[7] I. C. McGibbon, New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign (Bateman, 2016), Non-fiction, 30-31.

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

[9] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), 151.

[10]  Records of the exact manning and organisation of the New Zealand Division DADOS branch have not been seen, but would have been similar to the organisation of the Australian DADOS Divisional Ordnance Staff which was comprised of:

  • 1 Officer as DADOS (Maj/Capt)
  • 1 Conductor of Ordnance Stores per Divisional HQ
  • 1 Sergeant AAOC per Divisional HQ
  • 1 Corporal AAOC per Divisional HQ
  • 3 RQMS (WO1) AAOC
  • 3 Sergeants AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades
  • 3 Corporals AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades

As the war progressed additional Ordnance Officers would be included into the DADOS establishment who along with the Warrant Officer Conductor would manage the Ordnance staff and day to day operations allowing the DADOS the freedom to liaise with the divisional staff, units and supporting AOC units and Ordnance Depots. 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), 78.

[11] McGibbon, New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign, 176.

[12] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 69.

[13] Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services.

[14] Brigadier A H Fernyhough, A Short History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (First Edition) (RAOC Trust 1965), 22-26.

[15] Peter Cape, Craftsmen in Uniform: The Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: An Account (Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, 1976), Non-fiction, 13.

[16] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 10-13.

[17] I.M. Brown, British Logistics on the Western Front: 1914-1919 (Praeger, 1998).

[18] Colonel W.R Lang, Organisation, Administration and Equipment of His Majestys Land Force in Peace and War, Part Ii of the Guide – a Manual for the Canadian Militia (Infantry) by Major-General Sir William D Otter, Kcb, Cvo (Toronto: The Copp, Clarke Company Limited, 1917), 91-93.

[19] Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army 40-95.

[20] H. T. B. Drew, The War Effort of New Zealand: A Popular (a) History of Minor Campaigns in Which New Zealanders Took Part, (B) Services Not Fully Dealt within the Campaign Volumes, (C) the Work at the Bases, Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V.4 (Whitcombe & Tombs, 1923), Non-fiction, 248.

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

[22] Equipment and Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London – Administration Reports Etc., 18 October 1916 – 8 August 1918 Item Id R25102951, Archives New Zealand (1918).

[23] P.H. Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War (History Press, 2018), 64-75.

[24] Ibid., 137.

[25]  NZ Army Ordnance Details as part of the Division, An NZ Ordnance Section as part of the administrative Headquarters of NZEF in Egypt and NZ Ordnance Section as part of the administrative Headquarters of NZEF in the United Kingdom. Glyn Harper, Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918, First World War Centenary History (Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015), Non-fiction, Appendix 3.

[26] Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War, 124.

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources

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

Conference of Senior Officers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Archives New Zealand, R22550177, 1919.

Equipment and Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London – Administration Reports Etc., 18 October 1916 – 8 August 1918 Item Id R25102951, Archives New Zealand. 1918.

“Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.” New Zealand Gazette, 8 July 1915.

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

Ordnance Manual (War). War Office. London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914.

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

Secondary Sources

Bolton, Major J.S. A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992.

Brown, I.M. British Logistics on the Western Front: 1914-1919. Praeger, 1998.

Cape, Peter. Craftsmen in Uniform: The Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: An Account. Corps of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, 1976. Non-fiction.

Colonel W.R Lang. The Organisation, Administration and Equipment of His Majestys Land Force in Peace and War. Part Ii of the Guide – a Manual for the Canadian Militia (Infantry) by Major-General Sir William D Otter, KCB, CVC. Toronto: The Copp, Clarke Company Limited, 1917.

Cooke, Peter. Warrior Craftsmen, RNZEME 1942-1996. Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017.

Drew, H. T. B. The War Effort of New Zealand: A Popular (a) History of Minor Campaigns in Which New Zealanders Took Part, (B) Services Not Fully Dealt within the Campaign Volumes, (C) the Work at the Bases. Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V.4. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1923. Non-fiction.

Fernyhough, Brigadier A H. A Short History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (First Edition). RAOC Trust, 1965.

Forbes, Arthur. A History of the Army Ordnance Services. London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929.

Harper, Glyn. Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918. First World War Centenary History. Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015. Non-fiction.

Loveridge, Steven. “New Zealand’s Bloodiest Campaign.” New Zealand Books 27, no. 118 (Winter2017 2017): 18-18.

McGibbon, I. C. New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign. Bateman, 2016. Non-fiction.

Stewart, H. The New Zealand Division, 1916-1919: A Popular History Based on Official Records. Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V. 2 France. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1921. Non-fiction.

Tilbrook, John D. To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee, 1989.

Williams, P.H. Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War. History Press, 2018.

 

 


Sling Ordnance Depot, 1916-1920

To sustain and maintain the New Zealand Division on the Western Front during the First World War, New Zealand established a network of training camps, hospitals and other administrative facilities in the United Kingdom. At Sling Camp in the centre of Salisbury Plain, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) established an Ordnance Depot to provided Ordnance Support to all of the Units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) located in the Southern Command area of the United Kingdom.  Comprised of a small number of NZAOC soldiers the Sling Ordnance Depot would perform all the duties required of it from its inception in 1916 until final demobilisation in 1920.

Officially called the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade Reserve Camp, Sling Camp is the most well-known of the NZEF training camps in England. Throughout the war, Sling Camp would house up to 5000 men undergoing training and recuperation at any one time.[1] To provide ordnance support to Sling Camp, the NZEF Chief Ordnance Officer, Captain Norman Joseph Levien established the Sling Ordnance Depot during the period May-July 1916[2] The Sling Ordnance Depot would not only be responsible for NZEF units in Sling Camp but also all the NZEF units located in the Southern Command Area, including;

  • the New Zealand Command Depot and No 3 General Hospital at Codford,
  • the Artillery and Medical Corps at Ewshot;
  • the Signals at Stevenage;
  • the Engineers, Tunnellers and Māori’s at Christchurch,
  • No 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst, and
  • The Convalescent Discharge Depot at Torquay.
NZEF UK

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

The Sling Depot would be under the command of the Ordnance Officer NZEF in Southern Command, aided by a small staff of NZAOC Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). Additional manpower to assist in the handling and management of stores would be provided by supported units, with up to eighty other men attached to the depot during periods of high activity.[3]  Eighteen miles from Sling and with over three thousand men based at Codford, an auxiliary ordnance depot was also established there under the control of an NCO.

BondAJ12-689

Second Lieutenant A.J Bond

Second Lieutenant Alfred James Bond would be appointed as the first Ordnance Officer at Sling in July 1916. Bond had been attached to the NZ Ordnance Depot at Alexandra from 30 April 1915 and was promoted to Second Lieutenant on19 January 1916, followed by his transfer into the NZAOC on 2 March 1916. Moving with the NZ Divison to France, Bond would eventually be transferred to the HQ of the NZEF in June 1916 and appointed as the Ordnance Officer for NZEF Units in the Southern Command in July 1916. Bond would remain at Sling until June 1917 when he was seconded for duty with No 5 Light Railway Section in France.[4]  Bond had been under scrutiny since March 1917 when a court of inquiry had found fault with his leadership, which had led to the death of NZAOC Armourer Sergeant John William Allday as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on 9 January 1917.[5]

Bond was replaced as Ordnance Officer by Second Lieutenant William Henchcliffe Simmons. Simmons had initially served in the Samoa Expeditionary Force after which he would see service at Gallipoli before transferring into the NZAOC. At the time of Bonds secondment to the Light Railway Section, Simmons was serving as a Conductor in the NZ Division in France. Promoted to Second Lieutenant, Simmons would serve as the Ordnance Officer at Sling until August 1917, when Bond returned from his secondment.[6]

WhyteHH

Captain H.H Whyte

Bond would remain as Sling Ordnance Officer until January 1918 when Captain Herbert Henry Whyte, MC arrived for temporary duty as the Sling Ordnance Officer. Whyte was an NZ Artillery officer who along with NZAOC Officer Lieutenant Charles Ingram Gossage had completed a course of instruction in Ordnance duties at the Woolwich Arsenal.[7] Whyte would alternate between the Sling depot and Headquarters in London until 8 May 1918 when he would take up the full-time appointment of Sling Ordnance Officer. Whyte would remain as the Ordnance Officer of the Sling Depot until January 1920 when he was appointed as the acting NZEF Assistant Director of Ordnance Services.[8]

All units in the NZEF Southern Command would raise indents on the Sling Depot, which after checking by the Ordnance Officer would be satisfied from existing stock or sourced from the appropriate source of supply for direct delivery to units. The primary source of supply for general ordnance stores was the British Ordnance Depot at Tidworth, which was conveniently located only five miles from Sling. Occasionally stores would also be drawn from the British Ordnance Depots at Hilsea and Warminster. The relationship with the Tidworth Depot would be close with an NZAOC SNCO seconded there to manage the New Zealand indents.[9] Clothing and Textile were drawn from the New Zealand Ordnance Depot at Farringdon Road in London, or directly for the Royal Army Clothing Department (RACD) Southampton Depot.[10]

ordnance-store-ww1_0

‘Ordnance store during First World War’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/ordnance-store-england-during-first-world-war, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 17-Nov-2016

In addition to the provision of general ordnance stores, clothing and textiles, the Sling Ordnance Dept also managed an Armourers Group and a Salvage Depot. The Armourers Group would have been equipped with all the tools and accessories necessary for the repair of small arms, machine guns, bicycles, primus stoves, steel helmets and other like items[11]

The Salvage Depot had developed during 1917as a measure to recycle unserviceable stores to minimise waste and ensure financial savings. All UK NZEF units would return their part worn and unserviceable clothing and textile items to the Salvage Depot for sorting and further action.

All Serviceable and repairable Service Dress Clothing was sent to the Farringdon Road Depot in London for cleaning, repair, and holding for further issue. Serviceable garments such as socks and underwear sent to the Steam Laundry Company at Salisbury, where after cleaning were returned to the Sling Depot and held as stock. Unserviceable textile stores, such as web gear would be forwarded to the Imperial Salvage Depot at Dewsbury.

The Salvage Depot would grade Boots as either repairable or unserviceable. Repairable boots were sent to either the Farringdon Road Depot or the Southern Command Boot Repair Depot at Southampton for repair and reintegration back into stock. Unserviceable boots were sold by auction in Southampton.

Unserviceable general stores that were not repairable on-site would be placed onto a Board of Survey, of which the Ordnance Officer was a member, classed as unserviceable and returned to the British ordnance Depot from where they were initially sourced, either Tidworth, Hilsea or Warminster.

In addition to the processing of clothing, textiles and general stores, the Salvage Dept would also collect waste paper and tin cans for recycling.

On the signing of the armistice, Sling switched from training camp to a demobilisation centre for all “A Class” men, and the role of the Ordnance Depot became one closing units and disposing of equipment, while also equipping men returning to New Zealand. The demobilised plan called for little equipment used by the NZEF during the war to be backloaded to New Zealand. The exception would be rifles and web equipment.  Rifles were inspected by Ordnance, overhauled and reconditioned with best 20000 returned to New Zealand as transports became available. Web Equipment was cleaned, reconditioned and returned to New Zealand as space became available. The NZAOC Staff in NZEF Headquarters in London would oversee the purchase of enough equipment to equip two Infantry Divisions and One Mounted Rifle Brigade. Again as transport became available, this would be dispatched to New Zealand. The plan was for key NZAOC men to accompany each consignment to assist with its receipt in New Zealand.  In addition to closing down units and disposing of equipment, the primary role of the NZAOC was to issue men returning to New Zealand with New Uniforms.[12]

The demobilisation process required the holding of a much larger stock of clothing, and on 23 November 1918, the existing Sling Ordnance Depot was closed and relocated to larger premises a short distance away in the central area of Bulford Camp.[13] The NZ Ordnance Depot at Bulford became the central reception depot for all Ordnance and Salvage for NZEF units in the UK. The Salvage Depot would become the busiest and most important branch of the Bulford Depot with up to eighty additional men added to its staff. In the six months leading up to June 1919, the Bulford disposal depot enabled credits of £38000 (2019 NZD$ 4,12,9535.50) to be made on behalf of the NZEF.

Ceasing activities with the departure of the last New Zealand soldiers repatriated to New Zealand. The Sling Ordnance Depot would cease operations after three years of service. Its final administrative functions were taken over by the NZAOC Headquarters in London, which from February 1920 were under the command of Captian William Simmons who would be the Officer in Charge of NZ Ordnance in England until October 1920.

No nominal roll of NZAOC soldiers who served in the Sling Depot has survived, but the following men are now known to have served at the depot;

  • 23/1318 Armourer Sergeant John William Allday
  • 12/689 Lieutenant Alfred James Bond
  • 2/3001 Sergeant Herbert William Grimes
  • 10/1251 Staff Sergeant Henry Richard Harntett
  • 10/921 Sergeant Leslie Vincent Kay
  • 23/659 Temporary Capitan William Henchcliffe Simmons
  • 2/284 Captain Herbert Henry Whyte
  • 6/572 Sergeant Henry Wilkinson

 

Notes:

[1] H. T. B. Drew, The War Effort of New Zealand: A Popular (a) History of Minor Campaigns in Which New Zealanders Took Part, (B) Services Not Fully Dealt within the Campaign Volumes, (C) the Work at the Bases, Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V.4 (Whitcombe & Tombs, 1923), Non-fiction, 249-53.

[2] “Levien, Norman Joseph “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[3] “New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps – War Diary, Summary, 23 November 1918 – 9 June 1919 “, Archives New Zealand Item No R23856659  (1919).

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

[5] “Allday, John William  “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

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

[7] Gossage would go on to be the NZ Division DADOS “Gossage, Charles Ingram,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[8] “Whyte, Herbert Henry,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[9] “Harnett, Henry Richard,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[10] “New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps – War Diary, Summary, 29 July 1918 “, Archives New Zealand Item No R23856657  (1918).

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

[12] “New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps – War Diary, Summary, 23 November 1918 – 9 June 1919 “.

[13]  The Ordnance Depot occupied buildings that had formally been used by the NZEF Base Kit Stores which had vacated the premises a few weeks previously.ibid…


Alfred Henry Herbert, NZ Division DADOS 1916-1918

When New Zealand entered the First World War, and an Expeditionary Force raised for overseas service, there was no Ordnance Corps in place to support the Force. The subsequent formation and operations of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) to support the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) is an area that is overlooked in almost all the contemporary New Zealand histories of the First World War. As part of this historical oversight, the stories of the men who served in the NZAOC has remained untold and forgotten to all but a few distant family members. This article will tell the story of the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) of the New Zealand Division for the bulk of the war; Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert. Herbert was an experienced Territorial Force Officer and shopkeeper from Eketahuna who would build up the NZAOC from the ground up to ensure that the NZ Division was provided with all of its Ordnance needs from February 1916 to March 1919.

20180605_195417-190082474.jpg

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

Alfred Henry Herbert was born at Newbury, Berkshire, England on 4 October 1867 to William and Kathrine Herbert. The Herbert family emigrated to New Zealand in 1877 settling in Wellington. Herbert would attend Mount Cook School, and on completion of his studies found his calling in the grocery, plumbing and drapery trades where he would gain clerical and accounting experience.[1]

Herbert would gain his first military experience in October 1885 when he joined the New Zealand Volunteer unit, the Wellington Guards. As a private soldier, Herbert would excel in shooting, gaining prizes in several of the shooting competitions that were a popular aspect of the volunteer experience. Herbert would remain in the Wellington Rifles until February 1888. [2]

July 1887 would find Herbert working at the Cuba Street Branch of the Wellington Meat Preservation Company. Herbert would also undertake several charitable and civic activities during 1887, such as becoming a member of the Loyal Antipodean Lodge of Oddfellows,[3] and Secretary of the Wellington Tradesmen’s Aetheric club.[4] In later years Herbert would also become Freemason and a Justice of the Peace.[5]

Herbert would relocate to the growing North Wairarapa town of Eketahuna, sixty kilometres north of Masterton where he would become an active and respected member of the community. At the time Eketahuna did not have a Volunteer unit, but it did have the Eketahuna Rifle Club, which Herbert joined in 1891 as a Member and treasurer where he continued to maintain his skill in shooting.[6]

On 14 August 1894. Herbert would marry Lizzie Toohill, eldest daughter of Mr D. E. Toohill the Eketahuna chemist.[7] On 2 March 1895, Herbert’s only child Arthur Lancelot was born. Having spent three years as a General Store Keeper with Jones and Company of Eketahuna, Herbert branched out in 1895 with his brothers Lancelot and Marcus, establishing the business of Herbert Brothers with their anchor store in Eketahuna and branches in Pahiatua and Alfredton.[8]A.H Ferbert Building old

The South Africa War that began in 1899 encouraged a wave of militarist enthusiasm to sweep across New Zealand, and Eketahuna wanted to play its part. Seventy men from Eketahuna banded together and formed the Eketahuna Mounted Rifle Volunteers and applied to the Defence Department for recognition which was declined, with the men encouraged to join Masterton or Pahiatua units. The Eketahuna locals persisted, and despite many of the original seventy men already seeing service or serving in South Africa, the Eketahuna Mounted Rifle Volunteers gained acceptance into service as part of the New Zealand Volunteer Force on 10 September 1900.[9]  Fifty-Seven men were sworn into the unit on 8 November 1900 and officers elected including Herbert as a Second Lieutenant.[10] The Eketahuna Mounted Rifles would become C Squadron of the Second Regiment, Wellington (Wairarapa) Mounted Rifles in 1901, but would still be referred to as the Eketahuna Mounted Rifles.[11]EMR Letterhead

Herbert was promoted to Captain in 1903 and assumed the role of Officer Commanding of the Eketahuna unit. Herbert would remain as the Officer Commanding until 5 April 1907 when he resigned and transferred into the Reserve of Officers on the active list as Unattached. Herbert unsuccessfully attempted the Captain to Majors promotion examination in September1909, but successfully re-sat the examination in December 1909 and was promoted to Major as at 1 December 1909.

MR A.H Herbert C1907

Mr A.H Herbert, C1907. Auckland Museum/Public Domain

Taking an interest in local politics and furthering the prosperity of Eketahuna, Herbert was one of several local business owners who banded together to establish the Eketahuna Town Board on 19 July 1905.  With Herbert elected as the Chairman, Herbert would continue to lead the town board until 1907 when despite not having the required population base, Eketahuna gained the status of a Borough. In the elections of the Eketahuna Borough Council held on 25 April 1907, Herbert was elected as the first Mayor of Eketahuna, a position he would hold until 1909 followed by a term as a Borough councillor from 1912 to 1914.[12]

With the formation of the Territorial Army in 1911 the Eketahuna Mounted Rifles were amalgamated into the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles and Herbert transferred into the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles as the Second in Command on 15 March 1911.[13]

Appointed to the NZEF on 16 January 1915, Herbert would take command of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles as part of the third reinforcements departing New Zealand on 14 February 1915. Included in the third reinforcements was the first Maori Contingent under the command of Major Henry Peacock. During the voyage to Egypt, Peacock contracted typhoid and was hospitalised in Albany and then repatriated to New Zealand. Herbert was selected as the replacement Commanding Officer of the Maori contingent and granted the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 26 March 1915.

Unlike Peacock who had trained with the Maoris, understood their needs and had their confidence, Herbert was an outsider. Like many Pakeha of his era, Herbert had had little or no contact with Maori, and his relationship with the Maori contingent would be a difficult one. Despite the enthusiasm of the Maori contingent, there was still many in command who still doubted the utility and usefulness of the Maori troops, and the Maori Contingent would undertake training and Garrison roles in Egypt and Malta, and it would not be until late June that they were called forward for service in Gallipoli. Landing in Gallipoli on 3 July 1915, the Maoris would participate in much of the hard fighting that took place during July and August. As the Maoris fought hard and impressed many with their martial prowess, their relationship with Herbert was deteriorating and would come to a head-on in early August. A series of incidents and allegations would see three Maori Officers suspended and later returned to New Zealand but reinstated into the NZEF in December. By the end of August, the Maori Contingent would be broken up, and the men distributed throughout the other New Zealand units with Herbert seconded to a British unit.

On 20 August Herbert took up temporary command of a British Battalion, the 9th (Service) Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and then was placed in command of the Otago Infantry Battalion on 30 August. Herbert would remain with the Otago’s on Gallipoli, during their period of rest and reconstitution on Mudros, and on their return to Gallipoli in the final weeks leading up the final Gallipoli evacuation. Herbert’s service with the Otago’s was according to Godley “with great success”.[14]

Herbert’s future was uncertain, the Maori Committee of the House of Representatives had made it clear in a letter to the Minister of Defence that “Herbert was not to have anything more to do with the Maoris in the future” so Herbert retuning to command the Maoris was out of the question. Therefore, Herbert was struck off the strength of the Maori Contingent and posted to the Headquarters of the NZEF as the Officer Commanding of the Cairo Base Depot. Herbert’s tenure in this role was short as a DADOS for the NZ Division was required. The previous incumbent Captain W.T Beck’s service at Gallipoli had taken its toll, and in November a Medical Board found him “incapacitated for military duty” resulting in his repatriation to New Zealand. The NZAOC had two other officers; Lieutenants King and Levien. These officers had both performed the duties of the DADOS after Beck’s evacuation from Gallipoli, but a more experienced officer was required to fill the vacant position of DADOS and Herbert with his military, and civilian experience was a good match for the role.

Despite being on active service Herbert was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and Commanding Officer of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles on 22 November 1915, a position he would not fill until his demobilisation from the NZEF in 1919.

On 1 February 1916, Herbert was transferred into NZAOC and appointed as the NZ Division, DADOS and Officer Commanding of the NZEF NZAOC. The NZAOC that Herbert was taking command of was an organisation that was in its infancy, and one that he would have to build from the ground up. The NZAOC was not a feature of the pre-war New Zealand Military, and on the mobilisation of the NZEF in 1914, a small Ordnance Staff consisting of the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) and an SNCO clerk became the foundation staff of the NZAOC.[15] The Ordnance Manual (War) of 1914 detailed the role of the DADOS as to “deal with all matters affecting the Ordnance services of the division. The DADOS would manage the state of the clothing and equipment on the charge of the units composing the division and would from time to time advise the officers in charge of the stores which in all probability would be required for operations”.[16]  As the NZEF arrived in Egypt and settled down to the business of preparing itself for war, the need for a larger New Zealand Ordnance organisation must have been recognised, leading to the commissioning from the ranks of the first NZAOC officers on 3 April 1915.[17]  Soldiers and NCO’s would also be attached to the nascent Ordnance Depots at Zeitoun, Alexandra and Gallipoli throughout 1915 and into 1916. The expansion of the NZAOC in early 1916 was as a result of organisational changes across the British Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) as the scale of the war, and the support required became apparent.[18] In line with all British Divisions, the DADOS of the NZ Division would assume responsibility for a small Ordnance organisation complete with integral transport.[19]

Herbert would spend February to March 1916 coming to grips with the roles and responsibilities of the DADOS in addition to preparing the NZ Division for service in France. Herbert would depart for France on 6 April 1916. On arriving in France, the task ahead for Herbert and his men must have been tremendous. Much of the Division’s original equipment that had survived the Gallipoli campaign remained in Egypt and the NZ Division re-equipped against new scales that had evolved to meet the conditions on the Western Front. The Divisions DADOS Staff would have spent hours compiling indents based upon returns furnished by Regimental Quartermasters. Once raised, the indents would have been checked by Herbert to ensure that no unit was exceeding their requirements and then forwarded to the supporting Ordnance in the Corps Area. Herbert would soon learn the responsibilities of Ordnance were more than the ordering, accounting and management of stores but also the management of the Divisional Baths and Laundries, the Divisional Salvage Company, Divisional boot repair shops and Divisional Armourers Shops.[20]

An indication of the success of Herbert’s efforts in managing the diverse Ordnance functions in the NZ Division is recorded in the citations for his two Mentioned in Dispatches (MID) and Distinguished Service Order (DSO).[21]

MID citation 4 January 1917

“Has practically organised this Department from the bottom and has done very good work. At all times he has spared no pains to satisfy the demands made on him.”

MID Citation 1 June 1917 (Field Marshal Haig Dispatch)

“For distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty.”

DSO Citation 4 June 1917

“This officer has paid the greatest attention to his work and by his care and attention to detail has very considerably reduced the wastage in the Division, thereby effecting very material economy.”

A.L HerbertLike many New Zealand families, Herbert’s would be directly affected by the war. On 30 December 1915, Herbert’s brother Frank was lost at sea when the P&O vessel the SS Persia, which he was an officer on, was torpedoed and sunk without warning off the island of Crete by the German U-boat U-38.[22] A further loss would strike the Herbert family when Herbert’s only son Edward Lancelot Herbert was Killed in Action on 16 November 1916.[23] Soon after the notification of their son’s death, Herbert’s wife travelled to London and set up a flat which became a home away from home for many of the homesick soldiers from the Eketahuna District.[24]

Herbert would remain with the NZ Division until late March 1918 when in the wake of the German Spring Offensive, or Kaiserschlacht (“Kaiser’s Battle”) of March 1918, Herbert was seconded to XI Corps of the British Fifth Army. The Fifth Army had borne the brunt of the German Spring Offensive and took the blame for failing to hold the German advance. Relinquishing the appointment of NZ Division DADOS and Officer Commanding of the NZAOC on 31 March 1918, Herbert Transferred into XI Corps as the Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (DDOS). The Fifth Army, including the XI Corps, would rebuild and have its reputation vindicated by its actions in the 100-day offensive.

On the competition of the war, Herbert returned to New Zealand relatively fast, sailing from Plymouth on 17 March 1919. Herbert’s return to Eketahuna would be a festive affair with most of the community gathering at the railway station to greet him with an observer noting “He was the best known soldier in the district and on his return from the front he dismounted the train to be with his wife, who was known in the war areas for her services to the troops, to a tumultuous welcome, the school children all being allowed to join the crowd at the station”.[25]

Herbert

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

With his return to civilian life and resumption of his Territorial Army career as Commanding Officer of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles, Herbert’s association with the NZAOC seems to have ended. However, at the NZEF Senior Officer Conference of November 1919, Herbert was appointed as the convenor for the NZAOC war history.[26] It seems out of character for Herbert to not follow through on the task of convening the NZAOC War History, but no official wartime history of the NZAOC was ever published leaving a significant gap in New Zealand’s historiography of the First World War. An explanation as to why this occurred is that Herbert had a falling out with the Army over his placement onto the retired list. The New Zealand Gazette of 18 March 1920 published a notice that Herbert had relinquished command of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles and posted to the retired list. This notice came as a surprise to Herbert, who subsequently submitted an objection through the command chain. Ultimately Herbert’s complaint was dismissed by the Commander of New Zealand’s Military Forces on 8 April 1920. It was considered that Herbert had already exceeded his time in the position and although his service as the DADOS of the NZ Division was well recognised and appreciated, it did not give him the experience in handling troops during a war which was essential in the role of Regiment Commanding Officer.[27]

With this dispute behind him, Herbert would return to manage his business concerns and remain an active member of the community with an appreciation of him stating that “He certainly did not bring back to his business any show of army rank …… he was a gentleman …. and well-known as he owned three stores in the district. He was thoughtful, business-like and strict”.[28] Herbert took an interest in the welfare of returned soldiers and would spend time as President of the Eketahuna Returned Servicemen’s Association (RSA). Herbert would also be a speaker for many public functions where he would reminisce on his experiences as DADOS, providing humorous accounts of the trials and tribulations he endured in France in trying to see that all units were adequately equipped, at the same time endeavouring to ensure that no one ” put it across him ” for extra issues.[29]

For his military service since 1885, Herbert was awarded the following medals and awards;[30]

  • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
  • 1914-1915 Star
  • British War Medal (1914-1920)
  • Victory Medal with oak leaf
  • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal
  • New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal

Herbert would remain a stalwart of the Eketahuna community for the remainder of his life and passed away on 14 May 1946 at the age of 77 years and now rests in the Mangaoranga Eketahuna cemetery.

A.H Ferbert Building

 

 

Notes

[1] The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts],  (Victoria University of Wellington, 1908), 726.

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

[3] “Advertisements,” Evening Post, Volume XXXIII, Issue 76,, 31 March 1887.

[4] “Advertisements,” Evening Post, Volume XXXIV, Issue 58, 6 September 1887.

[5] The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts], 726.

[6] “Rifle Match,” Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XII, Issue 3819, 26 May 1891.

[7] “Masterton,” New Zealand Times, Volume LVI, Issue 2285, 15 August 1894.

[8] Alfred would manage the Eketahuna store, his brothers Lancelot and Marcus would manage Pahiatua and Alfredton stores. Herbert Brothers would be incorporated as A.H Herbert and Company Limited on 6 March 1905 and dissolved on 1 July 1992.

[9] Peter Best, Eketahuna: Stories from Small Town New Zealand (Wairarapa Archive, 2001), Non-fiction, 30-31.

[10] “The Eketahuna Mounted Rifles,” Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XXVI, Issue 6703, 8 November 1900.

[11] D. A. Corbett, The Regimental Badges of New Zealand: An Illustrated History of the Badges and Insignia Worn by the New Zealand Army (Auckland, N.Z.: Ray Richards, 1980, Revised enl. edition, 1980), Non-fiction, 160.

[12] Irene Adcock, A Goodly Heritage; Eketahuna and Districts 100 Years, 1873 – 1973 (Eketahuna Borough and County Councils, 1973), Non-fiction, 315-16.

[13] “Alfred Henry Herbert “.

[14] M. Soutar, Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Māori in the First World War (Bateman Books, 2019), 185.

[15]  Captain W.T Beck and Sergeant N.J Levien.  “Appendices to War Diaries, I – Lxii,” Item ID R23486739, Archives New Zealand 1914-1915.

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

[17] Sergeants King and Levien to 2nd Lieutenant “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” New Zealand Gazette 8 July 1915.

[18] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), 151.

[19]  Records of the exact manning and organisation of the NZ Division DADOS branch have not been seen, but would have been like the organisation of the Australian DADOS Divisional Ordnance Staff which was comprised of:

1 Officer as DADOS (Maj/Capt)

1 Conductor of Ordnance Stores per Divisional HQ

1 Sergeant AAOC per Divisional HQ

1 Corporal AAOC per Divisional HQ

3 RQMS (WO1) AAOC

3 Sergeants AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades

3 Corporals AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades

As the war progressed additional Ordnance Officers would be included into the DADOS establishment who along with the Warrant Officer Conductor would manage the Ordnance staff and day to day operations allowing the DADOS the freedom to liaise with the divisional staff, units and supporting AOC units and Ordnance Depots. 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), 78.

[20] “Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (Dados) – War Diary, 1 August 1916 – 31 June 1918,” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487667  (1916-1918,).

[21] Wayne McDonald, Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914-1918, 3rd edition ed. (Richard Stowers, 2013), Directories, Non-fiction, 113.

[22] “Lost on the Persia,” New Zealand Herald, Volume LIII, Issue 16127, 15 January 1916.

[23] “Fallen New Zealanders,” New Zealand Times, Volume XLI, Issue 9521, 1 December 1916.

[24] Adcock, A Goodly Heritage; Eketahuna and Districts 100 Years, 1873 – 1973, 225.

[25] Wesley Parker, It Happened in Eketahuna: Four Years in the Life of a Boy (Mount St. John Press, 1990), Non-fiction, Autobiography, 95.

[26] Conference of Senior Officers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force,  (Archives New Zealand, R22550177, 1919).

[27] “Alfred Henry Herbert “.

[28] It Happened in Eketahuna: Four Years in the Life of a Boy.

[29] “Returned Soldiers,” Evening Post, Volume CIII, Issue 136, 12 June 1922.

[30] “Alfred Henry Herbert ”

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources

“Advertisements.” Evening Post, Volume XXXIII, Issue 76,, 31 March 1887.

“Advertisements.” Evening Post, Volume XXXIV, Issue 58, 6 September 1887.

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

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

Conference of Senior Officers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Archives New Zealand, R22550177, 1919.

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]. Victoria University of Wellington, 1908.

“Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (Dados) – War Diary, 1 August 1916 – 31 June 1918.” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487667  (1916-1918,).

“The Eketahuna Mounted Rifles.” Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XXVI, Issue 6703, 8 November 1900.

“Fallen New Zealanders.” New Zealand Times, Volume XLI, Issue 9521, 1 December 1916.

“Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.” New Zealand Gazette 8 July 1915.

“Lost on the Persia.” New Zealand Herald, Volume LIII, Issue 16127, 15 January 1916.

“Masterton.” New Zealand Times, Volume LVI, Issue 2285, 15 August 1894.

Ordnance Manual (War). War Office. London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914.

“Returned Soldiers.” Evening Post, Volume CIII, Issue 136, 12 June 1922.

“Rifle Match.” Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XII, Issue 3819, 26 May 1891.

Secondary Sources

Adcock, Irene. A Goodly Heritage; Eketahuna and Districts 100 Years, 1873 – 1973. Eketahuna Borough and County Councils, 1973. Non-fiction.

Best, Peter. Eketahuna: Stories from Small Town New Zealand. Wairarapa Archive, 2001. Non-fiction.

Corbett, D. A. The Regimental Badges of New Zealand: An Illustrated History of the Badges and Insignia Worn by the New Zealand Army. Auckland, N.Z. : Ray Richards, 1980, Revised enl. edition, 1980. Non-fiction.

Forbes, Arthur. A History of the Army Ordnance Services. London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929.

McDonald, Wayne. Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914-1918. 3rd edition ed.: Richard Stowers, 2013. Directories, Non-fiction.

Parker, Wesley. It Happened in Eketahuna: Four Years in the Life of a Boy. Mount St. John Press, 1990. Non-fiction, Autobiography.

Soutar, M. Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Māori in the First World War. Bateman Books, 2019.

Tilbrook, John D. To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee, 1989.

 


The Songs We Sang

Base on his book The songs we sang,  musician Les Cleveland accompanied by his group the D Day Dodgers released this collection of often very irreverent songs that were sung by New Zealand Servicemen during the Second World War in 1959.

20190823_2039351297790776.jpg

In World War Two, New Zealand sent two infantry divisions overseas and supplied a great many and sailors for the Allied Forces. Though the war has been over for fifteen years, the songs are still with us.  Many of us have half-forgotten them; others will have heard only a few of them and these in a variety of versions – but all will listen to them with new interest, conscious that the songs speak with unfading humour and sentiment of difficult days, conscious too that they occupy a unique place in New Zealand music and folk-lore. they are sings that deserve to live again.

One of the paradoxes of World War Two was that while at any given moment ferocious struggles would be raging at widely separated points on the combined fronts, there would be thousands and thousands of other men who were uncommitted, killing time in bivouacs, camps and garrisons anywhere from Siberia to the Campbell Islands. Singing was one of the ways to fight boredom and relieve nervous tension.

The New Zealand formation, always a clannish, high spirited lot, soon developed their own unit traditions. A great many ballads and choruses emerged. Some of the most popular have been used on this recording.

RED WHITE AND NAVY BLUE

This song was heard in units of the 3rd Divison who were stationed on the assorted Pacific Islands. At one stage their 8th Brigade Concert Party – a devoted group which, when not doing defence platoon duties, rattled around with a piano in a truck giving shows in the jungle – used this course as a theme, it was a wry denouement, for the Pacific troops were much given to irony and satire to relive and express the frustration and monotony of their duties.

“We’re the heroes of the night
And we’d rather drink than fight!
We’re the heroes of Bob Semple’s Fusiliers.”

Semple was a labour politician with a pungent, forthright turn of speech. He distinguished himself on the outbreak of the war by causing the Public Works Department, of which he was head to fabricate a tank out of some old steel plate and a crawler tractor. It took part in one military parade, broke down, and was never seen again.

AIWA SAIDA

A spirited and celebrated song, popular amongst all the troops in the Middle East, Especially the Kiwis.

MY AFRICA STAR

This is a satire base on one of the red-hot grievances of the New Zealand Division in the Middle East. The Eighth Army was formed in September 1941. To qualify for a small metal figure eight which was worn on the Africa Star ribbon, it was necessary to have served in the Eighth Army on or after October 23 1942. But the formation had been fighting for a year prior to that arbitrary date so that all these men who had been knocked out with wounds, invalided out with illness or transferred to non-operational units were denied this small nut significant award. Some of them were veterans of the first desert battles, and their remarks were often voluble and loud when they saw less-worthy soldiers – including girls serving ice-cream in army canteen and “those who were in Palestine” wearing “the eight”.

SAIDA BINT

Another sentimental song widely known and sung by troops in Egypt.

ROLLING WHEELS

A Maori Battalion song which mentions a few of the many places in which they campaigned. Ngarimu was the famous Maori VC.

THE GOOD SHIP “VENUS

The adventures of the crew of this fabulous vessel constitute a saga with as many variations as there are singers and audiences.

MY A.25

A humorous piece about the hazard of deck landing on aircraft carriers. It was essentially a song of the Fleet Air Arm, the flying branch of the Royal Navy in which around 1000 New Zeland pilots and navigators served.  The A.25 was an Admiralty form on which a pilot had to attempt to explain away the circumstances of the crash he had walked- or swum – away from.

Other technical terms;

Batsman, the deck landing signals officer who directed planes in to land.
Goofers, a slang reference to a relatively safe vantage point from which it was possible to watch the sport of deck landing.
Cut, the final signal from the batsman to a pilot making a landing.
Barrier, a wire net to protect aircraft on the bow of the aircraft carrier from the over-enthusiastic efforts of pilots landing.
Booster, an accelerator catapult.
Supermarine, the firm of Vickers-Supermarine, makers of the Spitfire and Seafire aircraft.
Wings, an abbreviated term for the senior flying officer on the carrier.
Lee, Lee on Solent, wartime air station of the Fleet Air Arm.

A clever device combing light and a large curved mirror has now replaced the batsman- automation no less! With the advent of the angled deck, barriers are not normally required except in the event of a hook failure. They are now made of nylon.

THE ARMY IN FIJI

A song which reflects the bitter feelings of many members of the original Eight Brigade Group which was hastily sent to Fiji when it was thought that Japanese Forces might reach that far in their Pacific drive. This garrison force was none-too-well supplied, it saw no action, and most of the men in it were soon tired of existing miserably in the tropics. Some of the weapons that wnt to Fiji were very old and worn. In the early stages, there were shortages of ammunition and other necessities, the song describes a celebrated incident which many soldiers insist actually occurred- a box of ammunition was open and found to contain lead head nails.

THE FIGHTING KIWI, SIDE SIDE MONOWAI SIDE AND THIS IS MY STORY

A kiwi variation of a traditional theme which sailors and troops have applied to a long list of warships and troop carriers. This particular one – The Monawai- was a liner which was used a good deal during the war to move troops. Soldiers always hate being on troop-ships. The food is poor, quarters are crowded and stuffy and some starch old naval type is always apt to demand that mess decks be scrubbed, water rationed or kits stowed in a certain way. The troops invariably felt that the regulations were designed for their personal inconvenience rather than the safety of the ship of the general furtherance of the war effort. The fact that the troops were occasionally wrong in the warmth which they objected to this regimentation did not affect their vehemence.

 

 


Captian W.S Keegan, No 2 Ordnance Depot

Like many of his age group who were keen to serve, William Saul Keegan was too young to see service in the First World War but would volunteer for service in the Second World War. Serving in the Permanent Forces in the early interwar era, Keegan would be transferred into the civil service in 1931 as part of the force reductions brought on by the great depression. Keegan would continue to serve as a civilian in the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham in the years leading up to the Second World War. Volunteering for service the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Keegan was found to have a medical condition which precluded overseas service but allowed him to serve at home. Commissioned into the New Zealand Temporary Staff and attached to the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, Keegan would continue to serve until 1947. Keegan’s service is significant in the history of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps as he was the wartime Officer Commanding of No 2 Ordnance Depot at Palmerston North and the First Officer Commanding of the Linton Camp Ordnance Depot that would remain a vital unit of the Corps until 1996.

William Saul Keegan was born in Wellington on 23 February 1900 to William and Susan Keegan. Keegan had one sibling Francis Martin Keegan who was born on 10 September 1903. Spending his early years in Wellington, Keegan would move with his parents to Otaki sometime after 1906 where he would attend the Otaki State School. In 1913 Keegan came sixth in the Wellington Education Board examinations, gaining him a scholarship to Wellington College.[1] During his time at Wellington College, Keegan would complete three years in the senior school cadets. In January 1917, Keegan passed the university matriculation examination with a pass in Matriculation, Solicitor’s general knowledge and Medical Preliminary.[2]  Despite passing the university entrance exams, Keegan did not attend university but was mobilised into the Temporary Section of the New Zealand Garrison Artillery (NZGA) where he would spend a year working in the Wellington forts.[3]

Keegan would begin his career in the Ordnance Corps on 30 August 1918, when he enlisted as a private into the Temporary Section of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) at Wellington and allocated the NZAOC Regimental Number 213. With the Armistice on 11 November 1918 ending the war, Keegan would miss out on seeing active service, but with the demobilisation of men, the closing down of training camps and the arrival of New Equipment from the United Kingdom to equip the peacetime army, Keegan’s position in the NZAOC was assured for the foreseeable future. Stuck down with influenza during the 1918 outbreak, Keegan would seem to make a full recovery but later in life developed health problems which might have developed as a result of influenza.

Ordnance 1918

The New Zealand Ordnance Corps 1918, Buckle Street Wellington. RNZAOC School

 

Promoted to Lance Corporal on 1 July 1919, Keegan would remain at Wellington until 1 April 1921 when as a consequence of the NZAOC shifting the bulk of its services to Trentham Camp, Keegan was relocated to Trentham Camp. It was during this time that Lieutenant C.I. Gossage returned from service as the DADOS of the NZ Division and introduced a modern cost accounting system based upon the best practices learnt during the war, and it is highly likely that in Keegan’s role in the clerical section he was involved in the introduction and upkeep of the new accounting system.

From 1919 in addition to his military duties, Keegan would also be an active participant in the community by serving on the committees of the Wellington College Old Boy Cricket Club, The Wellington College Old Boys Rugby Club and the Hutt Valley Lawn Tennis Association as a member, Treasurer or Auditor.[4] [5] [6] In the late 1930s, Keegan would also be a coach and president of the Upper Hutt Rugby Club [7] and Auditor of the Upper Hutt Cricket Association.[8]

Promote to Corporal on 1 July 1922, Keegan remained posted to the NZAOC Temporary Section until 1 August 1924 when he was enlisted into the Permanent Section of the NZAOC.  Sitting the two papers for promotion to NZAOC Sergeant (Clerical Section) Keegan attained a score of 82 and 83, leading to accelerated promotion to Sergeant on 1 October 1925. Keegan would sit the four examinations for promotion to Staff Sergeant in June 1926 with a score of 78,90,89 and 68, but would not be promoted to Staff Sergeant until 1 September 1929. The delay in promotion could be attributed to Keegan’s appearance in the Upper Hutt court on 18 April 1927 when he was fined £1 and costs of £10  after being found on the premises of the Provincial Hotel after opening hours by the Police.[9] Passing the four examinations for promotion to Staff Quartermaster Sergeant(SQMS) with a score of 98,76,98 and 80 in June 1930. Keegan would not attain the rank of SQMS as on 6 June 1930 he was convicted in the Wellington Magistrates court after been found in a state of intoxication while in charge of a motor-car receiving a fine of £20, costs £10 and mileage £2.  After a period, Keegan probably would have been promoted to SQMS, but the world-wide depression and economic recession led to the implementation of the Finance Act, 1930 would bring a sudden end to his time in uniform

Due to the world-wide depression and economic recession the Government was forced to savagely reduce the strength of the Army by using the provisions of section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2) where military staff could be either;

  • Transferred to the Civil staff, or
  • Retire on superannuation any member of the Permanent Force or the Permanent Staff under the Defence Act, 1909, or of the clerical staff of the Defence Department whose age or length of service was such that if five years was added thereto they would have been enabled as of right or with the consent of the Minister of Defence to have given notice to retire voluntarily.

Using this act, on the 31st of March 1931 the NZAOC lost;

  • Six officers and Thirty-Eight Other Ranks who were retired on superannuation
  • Seventy-four NZAOC staff (excluding officers and artificers) who were not eligible for retirement were transferred to the civilian staff to work in the same positions but at a lower rate of pay.

For the soldiers who were placed on superannuation, the transition was brutal with pensions recalculated at much lower rates and in some cases the loss of outstanding annual and accumulated leave. For the Soldiers such as Keegan who were transferred to the civilian staff, the transition was just as harsh with reduced rates of pay. The 31st of March 1931 was the blackest day in the History of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.

Keegan would continue to serve at the NZAOC Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) at Trentham in the role of Accountant throughout the 1930s. Keegan would marry Grace Helen Dalton on 27 March 1937 at St. John’s Church, Trentham. The wedding was a double wedding with Graces older sister Margaret.[10]

With the declaration of war in September 1939, Keegan immediate offered up his services, enlisting into the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force(2NZEF) with the rank of Lieutenant t in the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) on 5 October 1940. Selected to be the Ordnance Officer for the Base Ordnance Depot (BOD) for “B” Force (8th Brigade Group) of the NZEF which was destined to provide the garrison in Fiji, Keegan assembled with seven other ranks at Hopuhopu Camp.  A final medical board immediately before departure found evidence of a partially healed tubercular lesion in Keegan’s lungs which made him unfit for active service and he was classified as Grade 2, fit or home service.  Keegan’s appointment of Ordnance Office BOD 8 Brigade group was filled by a co-worker from the MOD, Mr Percival Nowell Erridge who was immediately commissioned as a Lieutenant in the NZEF.

Placed into a holding pattern and still on the strength of the NZEF, Keegan was sent to Waiouru, where he was employed as an advisor on accounting matters to the newly established Motor Transport Branch (MT Branch). Unfit for active Service but with skills that were desirable to the service, Keegan ceased to be seconded to the NZEF on 28 May 1941 and transferred into the New Zealand Temporary Staff (NZTS) and attached to the branch of the Quartermaster General, Army Headquarters Wellington. By April 1942 Keegan had been appointed as the Brigade Ordnance Officer for the 7th Infantry Brigade which had its headquarters at the Carterton showgrounds.

With Japans entry into the war on 7 December 1941, New Zealand mobilised as the threat of invasion loomed. To support the mobilised forces in the lower North Island the Central Districts Ordnance Depot was established at the Palmerston North showgrounds, and as of 1 March 1942 Keegan was appointed Ordnance Officer, Central Military District and Officer Commanding, Central Districts Ordnance Depot. On 1 May 1942 Keegan was promoted to Captain (Temporary) and 20 August 1942 the Central District Ordnance Depot was renamed No 2 Ordnance Depot with an establishment of three officers and eighty-one Other Ranks.

pnorth showgrounds 2

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

Keegan would attend along with one other Ordnance Officer, Two Artillery Officers and Thirteen Infantry Officers the General Knowledge Course7/17 in December 1942. The ten-day course run by the Amy School of Instruction covered the following subjects;

  • Weapon Training – Characteristics of all Infantry Weapons
  • Anti-Gas – War gas, equipment, decontamination
  • Map reading – All lessons, night marches
  • Minor Tactics – Patrols, Day and Night
  • Fieldworks – Field Defences, Obstacles
  • P & RT – Bayonet Fighting
  • Drill – Individual, Mutual
  • Engineering – Bridging, Landmines, Traps, Demolition, Camouflage
  • Camp Sanitation – Field Hygiene
  • Demonstrations – Field Cooking, Live fore of all Infantry Weapons
  • Signals – Organisation and intercommunication in the field
  • Movement by MT – lectures and Practical work
  • Security
  • Discipline and Military Law
  • Patrols
  • Movement by road

By the end of 1944, the threat to New Zealand had passed, and the Territorial Army had been stood down, and their equipment returned to Ordnance.  Much of the Central Districts equipment was stored at No 2 Sub Depots premises in Palmerston North when disaster struck on 31 December 1944. Just after midnight, a fire destroyed a large portion of the Palmerston North Showgrounds display halls which housed much of the Ordnance Depot causing stock losses valued at £225700 ($18,639,824.86 2017 value). Keegan provided evidence to the court of enquiry in March 1945 with the court finding that with no evidence found of sabotage, incendiaries, or any interference the cause was judged to be accidental.

pnorth showgrounds

The aftermath of the December 1944 Showground fire. Evening Post

With the MOD in Trentham establishing a satellite Bulk Store at the new Linton Camp a few kilometres from South of Palmerston North, No 2 Sub Depot was seen to have served its wartime purpose and no longer necessary and the depot was closed down on 14 December 1945, and its functions assumed by MOD Trentham,  with some residual responsibility for finalising the accounts of No 2 Sub Depot, Keegan returned to Trentham as an Ordnance Officer at MOD.

From 31 July 1946 Keegan was placed in charge of a four Warrant Officers from MOD, and an SNCO from No 3 Depot, Burnham to stocktake No 10 MT Stores in Wellington before that units’ hand over to the Rehabilitation Department on 1 September 1946. Concurrent to Keegan carrying out this work in Wellington, recommendations that the MOD Bulk Stores located in Linton and Waiouru Camps were to be combined as a standalone Ordnance Depot were made. This proposal was agreed to by Army Headquarters, and No 2 Ordnance Depot was to be reconstituted on 1 October 1946 with the responsibility to provide Ordnance Support to Linton and Waiouru. Keegan was to return to No 2 Ordnance Depot as its first Officer Commanding on 16 September 1946 while also carrying out the duties of the Ordnance Officer of Headquarters Central Military District.

Keegan’s time in Linton would be short; the pressures of service since 1940 were become to have a toll on Keegan’s personal life and health. His wife had filed for legal separation during June 1946, and Keegan’s health was beginning to fail. Keegan’s health issues saw him medically downgraded and he was required to spend an increasing amount of time at Wellington hospital receiving treatment. On 26 April 1947 Keegan handed over command of No 2 Ordnance Depot to Captain Quartermaster L.H Stroud. Keegan would then assume a position with the War Asset Board on 30 April 1947 and was posted to the supernumerary List on 6 December 1947 and to the retired list with the rank of Captain on 11 November 1956.

Keegan would remain in the Wellington area as a public servant and at the time of his death was employed as a clerk for the Ministry of Works. Keegan passed away on 24 December 1963 and was cremated at the Karori Crematorium.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2019

 Notes

[1] “District News,” Dominion, Volume 7, Issue 1961, 19 January 1914.

[2] “NZ University,” Evening Post, Volume XCIII, Issue 15, 17 January 1917.

[3] “William Saul Keegan,” Personal File, New Zealnd Defence Force Archives 1918.

[4] “Cricket,” New Zealand Times, Volume XLIV, Issue 10396, 29 September 1919.

[5] “Old Boys Football Club,” Evening Post, Volume CI, Issue 59, 10 March 1921.

[6] “Lawn Tennis,” Evening Post, Volume CX, Issue 68, 17 September 1930.

[7] “Annual Meeting Upper Hutt Rugby Club,” Upper Hutt Weekly Review, Volume III, Issue 14, 25 March 1938.

[8] “Upper Hutt Cricket Association Annual Meeting,” Upper Hutt Weekly Review, Volume II, Issue 43, 8 October 1937.

[9] “Upper Hutt Sitting,” Evening Post, Volume CXIII, Issue 90, 18 April 1927.

[10] “Weddings,” Evening Post, Volume CXXIII, Issue 127, 31 May 1937.


Dissection of a 1950s Equipment Tag

A military equipment tag from the1950s is an insignificant and uninspiring piece of military heritage. Mass produced in the thousands, an equipment tag is a disposable item designed to used once and discarded on the completion of its simple task. Now an item of ephemera, this equipment tag which was initially to have a short term use, has been preserved and now provides a snapshot of the activities of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, Central Ordnance Depot during 1955.

Tag 1

AFNZ 513. Robert McKie Collection

The tag examined here is an Army Form NZ-513,[1] and is a tag designed to label small pieces of Army equipment while in transit from one point to another.

The tag measure 122mm long by 60mm high and is constructed of buff coloured manila card. Rectangular in shape the tag has two tapered corners on the edge adjacent to a reinforced aperture allowing the tag to be secured by the use of string or elastic bands.

The tag is divided into three printed areas;

Tag 4

AFNZ 513 -Left side. Robert McKie Collection

  • The left side of the tag is printed with “ARMY DEPARTMENT EQUIPMENT” clearly identifying the Army as the owner of the equipment/item that the tag is affixed to.
Tag 5

AFNZ 513, Top Right. Robert McKie Collection

  • The top right part of the tag is printed with;
    • The Army Form N.Z 513, The system of lumbering military forms is a legacy inherited by the New Zealand Army from Britain where each piece of Army stationery is identified with a unique catalogue number. The inclusion of NZ in the number identifies the form as either a unique New Zealand Army form, or one that has been adopted into New Zealand Army use from British stocks.
    • Following the practice of the time, government departments in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand franked correspondence from government departments with On Her Majesty’s Service, in this case, OHMS is initialised.
    • The remainder of the panel is printed with space for writing the destination/receiver of the item.

      Tag 6

      AFNZ 513, Bottom right. Robert McKie Collection

  • The Bottom right of the tag is printed with From, with space to write the originator.
  • The rear of the tag is blank with no printing.

The tag would have been printed by the hundreds if not thousand in sheets, with tags torn off and used as required, the attachment point to other tags on the sheet can be seen on the bottom left and right corners of the sheet.

This Tag  has been filled out with the following information;

  • The package is addressed; Mr P Eddy of 105 Gallien St, Hastings
  • It is from; ACCOUNTING OFFICER, C.D. ORDNANCE DEPOT, and has the reference number SA/98/1 of 1 written on the bottom of the tag.
    • The ACCOUNTING OFFICER, C.D. ORDNANCE DEPOT has been placed on the tag by a rubber stamp in blue or purple ink, probably a job allotted to a very junior storekeeper on a slow day to keep them occupied.
    • Based in Linton Camp, The Central Districts Ordnance Depot was the Depot responsible to the NZ Army units based in the Central Districts from 1946. Some it’s functions are still carried out by 21 Supply Company, Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment.
    • The reference number would able to cross-refer to the documentation relating to the package.
    • The 1 of 1 part of the reference indicates that it is a single package.
  • On the rear the following stamps have been affixed to allow postage;
    • six 1s (Shilling) Stamps and
    • two 3d (Three Pence)

This equates to approximate postage to the value of NZD$14 in 2019 currency.[2]

Tag 2

  • There are also two postmarks from Linton Camp NZ with the barely legible date of 27 (unclear) 55.

Based on the information on the tag the following can be determined; at some time during 1955, the Central Ordnance Depot at Linton Comp dispatched by post a small package to Mr P Eddy in Hastings. At the time Peter Eddy was a surgical bootmaker located in Hastings specialising in the construction and repair of orthopaedic footwear.[3] Given Mt Eddy’s occupation, it can be assumed that the package was either footwear or materials requiring the attention of Mr Eddys services.

Tag 3

 

This tag is the survivor of thousands of similar tags that were produced, filled out and served their intended purpose and then disposed of. As a survivor, it has become a unique piece of ephemera providing insights into the much larger narrative of the history of the RNZAOC.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2019

 

Notes:

[1] Abbreviated to AFNZ

[2] “Inflation Calculator – Reserve Bank of New Zealand,” http://www.rbnz.govt.nz.

[3] “New Zealand, Electoral Rolls, Hawkes Bay, Hastings “,  http://www.ancestry.com.au.