New Zealand’s Flaming “A” Badge

Since 1971, Ammunition Technical Officers (ATOs) and Ammunition Technicians (ATs) of the New Zealand Army have proudly worn the Flaming “A” Badge, a symbol of the dangerous and skilful nature of the AT trade. The AT trade evolved from managing powder magazines in the 19th century to managing the full range of ammunition and explosives available to the modern New Zealand Army. The Flaming “A” Badge is more than a symbol of the dangerous and skilful nature of the AT trade but an acknowledgement to those who wear it of their trade’s long and proud whakapapa.

In early Colonial New Zealand, Ammunition and explosives were imported from the United Kingdom and Australia. To safely store and distribute powder and shot, Powder magazines were established at Wellingtons Mount Cook and Auckland’s Mount Albert with specialist expertise required for the handling and storing of these stocks provided by qualified and experienced individuals from the British Military Stores Department and Royal Artillery and Engineer officers. As the Imperial Forces completed their withdrawal from New Zealand in 1870, full responsibility for New Zealand’s Magazines and Ammunition was passed to the Defence Stores Department.

From 1873 the powder magazines at Mount Albert and Mount Cook were replaced by new facilities at Auckland’s Mount Eden and Wellingtons Kaiwharawhara, both of which remained in use through to the 1920s. Supporting the dispersed Militia and Volunteer Forces, magazines were maintained by the Defence Stores Department at most provincial centres.

With the formation of the permanent Garrison Artillery in 1884, Frederick Silver and Robert George Vinning Parker, Sergeant Majors with considerable experience in the Royal Marine Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery, then serving as constables in the Armed Constabulary, were transferred to the Garrison Artillery as instructors. Providing a solid base of experience, Silver and Parker would be instrumental in mounting much of New Zealand’s Garrison artillery, compiling books and manuals and, in conjunction with the Defence Storekeeper managing the stocks of Artillery ammunition.

With the government’s encouragement, Major John Whitney established Whitney & Sons as an ammunition manufacturing company in Auckland. With additional investors, this company became the Colonial Ammunition Company (CAC) in 1888, not only the first ammunition manufacturer in New Zealand but the first in Australasia. Entering into a contract with the New Zealand Government to produce Small Arms Ammunition (SAA), the deal was that government would provide the powder with the CAC providing the components for the manufacture of complete cartridges. The Governments retained the right to inspect and conduct quality control inspections on each batch before acceptance by the New Zealand Forces. The testing regime was a simple one which consisted of testing only a small percentage of a batch by test firing. The test results were based on the performance of this percentage that the ammunition is accepted or rejected.

With the production of .577 Snyder Ball Ammunition underway by 1890, the first testing, inspection and acceptance of the initial batches were conducted by Major John Pirie of the New Zealand Militia. Formerly a Major in the Guernsey Militia, Major Pirie immigrated to New Zealand, becoming the Auckland District Musketry Instructor in 1881 and conducting inspections of manufactured Ammunition until July 1891. From July 1891, responsibility for ammunition inspection was then passed to the Officer Commanding of the Auckland District, which at the time was a Major Goring. In 1893, Lieutenant J E Hume of the Permanent Militia was responsible for examining ammunition. Hume would continue to hold this responsibility in addition to his other duties until 1898.

On 6 February 1898, a formal request was placed on the United Kingdom for the recruitment of a suitable Warrant Officer from the Royal Artillery to “Take charge of the testing operations of SAA and the supervision of the manufacture of the same”. Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor Arthur Duvall, Royal Garrison Artillery of the Artillery College, was selected as the Small Arms Testing officer for the New Zealand Forces. To be promoted to 3rd Class Master Gunner on appointment, it was to be a three-year engagement at a rate of Nine Shillings a day with free quarters or a £50 per annum housing allowance. Arriving in New Zealand in July 1898, Duvall was soon at work at the CAC premises at Mount Eden in Auckland. Extending his engagement every three years, Duvall completed twenty years of service with the British Army in 1911. Taking his discharge in New Zealand, Duvall was immediately attested into the New Permanent Staff as an Honorary Lieutenant on 26 April 1912 and then promoted to Honorary Captain on 1 April 1914.

In 1902, Silver was discharged from the Artillery and was appointed as the Assistant Defence Storekeeper. While taking on the duties of Assistant Defence Storekeeper, Silver also retained responsibility for managing all the Artillery’s stores and ammunition. Following the implementation of the Defence Act 1909 and subsequent reorganisation, Silver transferred from the Defence Stores to the office of the Director of Artillery. He was appointed as Quartermaster (Honorary Lieutenant) into the post of Artillery Stores Accountant, retaining responsibility for all artillery stores and ammunition. Retiring in June 1913, Silver was replaced as Artillery Stores Accountant by Parker, who was promoted from Warrant Officer to Quartermaster (Honorary Lieutenant).

With the Colonial Ammunition Company in Auckland manufacturing SAA, thus allowing a measure of self-sufficiency, the same could not be said for artillery ammunition which all had to be imported from overseas. Parker conducted a cost-benefit analysis to assess the virtues of locally made-up artillery ammunition compared to imported items. Parker estimated that by cleaning and refilling casings, inspecting and refurbishing propellant bags, and manufacturing new ones as required, annual savings of £3,333 (2022 NZD$633,605) could be made. To achieve these savings, a recommendation that a specialist Royal New Zealand Artillery Ordnance Corps Section be established to manufacture and modify ammunition was made. General Godley approved the proposal in mid-1914, and on 1 March 1915, authority was granted under New Zealand Defence Forces General Order 90 to raise the New Zealand Army Ordnance Section with effect from 1 April 1915.

On 31 May 1917, regulations constituting the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (NZAOD) and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC), backdated to 1 February 1917, were approved and published in the New Zealand Gazette of 7 June 1917, concluding forty-eight years of service provided by the Defence Stores Department,

Administrative control of the New Zealand Artillery Ordnance Section was passed to the NZAOC, and Parker was commissioned as Captain in the NZAOD as the Inspector of Ordnance Machinery. However, his time in this post was short, as he retired on 30 September 1919.

On 10 January 1918, Duvall was transferred from the Permanent Staff to the NZAOD, graded as an Ordnance Officer Class 3 with the rank of Captain as the Proof Officer SAA. The post of Proof Officer SAA was to be a continuous appointment in the New Zealand Army ammunition supply chain until 1968, when the CAC shifted its operations to Australia, ending its long relationship with the New Zealand Army.

Experience during the 1914-18 war highlighted the need for specialist officers trained in the technical nature of ammunition. Undertaking several courses of instruction in the United Kingdom, Captain William Ivory, RNZA, returned to New Zealand at the end of 1919 to assume the role of Inspecting Ordnance Officer (IOO). Lieutenant A de T Nevill, RNZA, took the post of Acting IOO in 1925 to allow Ivory to undertake regimental duties within the RNZA, with Ivory reassuming the position of IOO on 2 January 1927. On Ivory’s retirement in 1933, Lieutenant Ivan Roberts Withell, RNZA, assumed the appointment of IOO, a role held until his death on 31 August 1946.

On the formation of the NZAOC in 1917, the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA) Ordnance Section at Fort Ballance passed to NZAOC control, continuing with its task of storing, repairing, and refurbishing ammunition under the control of the RNZA. With The Kaiwharawhara Magazines closed in the early 1920s, Watts Peninsular on the north end of Wellingtons Miramar peninsular became the first large-scale ammunition depot of the NZAOC. The ammunition infrastructure consisted of 19 magazines, one store and a laboratory spread out across the peninsula at Shelly Bay, Kau Point, Mahanaga Bay, Fort Ballance and Fort Gordon. These were not purpose-built ammunition magazines but repurposed submarine mining and coastal artillery fortifications dating back to the 1880s. In the case of Kau Point and Forts Ballance and Gordon, the large six- and eight-inch disappearing guns had been removed in the early 1920s, and the gun pits roofed over, becoming ad-hoc magazines. This accommodation was far from ideal as temperature and moisture control could not be adequately controlled, resulting in potential damage t ammunition stocks.

A smaller Ammunition section was also maintained at Mount Eden in Auckland until 1929, when along with some staff from Fort Balance, the Mount Eden Ammunition Section was transferred to New Magazines at Hopuhopu Camp. Envisaged to be the principal ammunition depot for New Zealand, eleven magazines and a laboratory were constructed between 1925 and 1927. Built into the hillside to contain any blasts, the magazines were made of concrete, with double walls forming an inspecting chamber. The intent of the inspection chamber was for sentries to observe thermometers and adjust the ventilation to maintain the stock at optimal temperatures by consulting a chart.

The NZAOC Ammunition sections were civilianised in 1931 when nearly all of the NZAOC military staff were transferred to the Public Service as civilian staff at a lower rate of pay or placed on superannuation as the result of government budgetary restraints.

When New Zealand entered the Second World War in September 1939, the responsibility for ammunition was shared between the RNZA and the NZAOC.

  • The Director of Artillery was responsible to the General Officer Commanding for.
    • The provision and allocation of gun ammunition,
    • The receipt, storage, and issue of gun ammunition and explosives other than small-arms ammunition
  • The Director of Ordnance Services, assisted by the IOO and the SAA Proof Officer, were responsible to the Quartermaster-General for.
    • The inspection and repair of gun ammunition,
    • The provision, receipt, storage and distribution of small arms ammunition.

NZAOC Ammunition facilities and personnel shared by the RNZA and NZAOC in September 1939 consisted of.

  • The IOO, Captain I.R Withell, RNZA
  • The Proof Officer, SAA Mount Eden Auckland, Honorary Lieutenant J.W Fletcher, NZPS
  • 19 Magazines, 1 Store, and an Ammunition Laboratory at Fort Ballance managed by
    • an RNZA WO1 seconded to the NZAOC
    • five members of the NZAOC civilian staff
  • 11 Magazines and an Ammunition Laboratory at Hopuhopu Camp managed by
    • an RNZA WO1 seconded to the NZAOC and
    • two members of the NZAOC civilian staff.
  • Single SAA Magazines at Trentham and Burnham Camps.

From 1940 as the New Zealand Army moved from a peacetime to a wartime footing, the Ammunition trade grew exponentially as new infrastructure was constructed to accommodate the extensive range of ammunition required for training and home defence, with Modern Explosive Store Houses built at.

  • Burnham – 8 Magazines
  • Ohakea – 6 Magazine
  • Papakura (Ardmore)- 28 Magazines
  • Hopuhopu and Kelms Road – 55 Magazines
  • Waiouru – 45 Magazines
  • Makomako – 39 Magazines
  • Trentham (Kuku Valley) – 22 Magazines
  • Belmont – 62 Magazines
  • Glen Tunnel – 16
  • Mount Somers – 10
  • Fairlie – 9
  • Alexandra – 9

In 1942 a conference of the QMG, DQMG2, AQMG5, COO, DCOO and IOO reset the wartime policy and organisation of New Zealand Military Ammunition services in which,

  • The COO and the Ordnance Ammunition Group were responsible for the management and storage of ammunition
  • the Chief IOO (CIOO) was responsible for all technical management and inspection of ammunition.

With the role of the IOO branch now defined, from January 1943, the establishment of the IOO Branch was steadily increased to more robust levels.

From mid-1945, discussions started taking place on the post-war shape of the NZAOC. Some thought was given to returning the NZAOC to its pre-war status as a predominantly civilian organisation. Reality prevailed, and the future of the NZAOC was assured as a permanent component of the post-war Army.

The Proposed establishment of NZAOC Ammunition units would see the first widespread use of Ammunition Examiner (AE) as the ammunition trade name. AEs had existed in the British Army since 1923, evolving from the trade of Military Laboratory Foreman that had been established in 1886. Although the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) authorised the use of a specialist AE badge consisting of an ‘AE in Wreath’ in 1942, permission to wear this badge was not granted to New Zealand AEs.

RAOC Ammunition Examiner Trade Badge 1942 to 1950 with ‘homemade’ Brass Version.

The first New Zealand AE were in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary (2NZEF), where New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) AEs were included as part of the 2nd New Zealand Division NZASC Ammunition Company establishment. Little information is known about the 2NZEF AEs. They were likely recruited from within 2NZEF, given some rudimentary training by the RAOC and set to work.

From 1 June 1945, the Artillery Headquarters element responsible for managing Gun Ammunition, the Ammunition and Equipment Section, was transferred to the control of the Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), ending the RNZA roles in the management of ammunition that had existed since the 1880s and the employment of Parker and Silver. As a result of the transfer, 11 Officers and 175 Other Ranks of the Royal New Zealand Artillery were absorbed into the NZAOC establishment.

On 15 November 1945, the QMG directed that the care, maintenance, accounting and storage of all ammunition and explosives was the responsibility of the COO. Under the COO, these duties were to be undertaken by

  • The IOO Section
  • The NZAOC Ammunition Section

Under the CIOO, the IOO Section was responsible for.

  • The control of all work on ammunition for all purposes other than accounting and storage,
  • Maintenance of Ammunition and explosives in stock in a serviceable condition and ready for use,
  • Provision of personnel for inspection and repair and for working parties to carry out repairs,
  • Provision of all equipment and stores required for the inspection and repair of ammunition,
  • Provision and accounting for Motor Transport necessary for the transport of stock for inspection and repair,
  • Administration and control of Repair Depot Trentham,
  • Maintenance of buildings at Repair Depot Trentham.

The NZAOC Ammunition Section was responsible for.

  • The accounting, storage and care of ammunition and explosives,
  • Maintenance or magazines areas and of buildings and services connected with the storage of ammunition and explosives,
  • Administration of personnel of the IOO Section, while attached to ammunition depots concerning pay, rations, quarters, clothing and discipline,
  • Transport arrangements for the movement of ammunition not connected with the inspection and repair of ammunition at depots.

The provision of suitably trained personnel was a constant problem for the CIOO. A course for IOOs was conducted over November/December 1945 to provide sufficient Officers to fill the IOO establishment. Graduates included

  • Captain John Gordon Renwick Morley
  • Captain Gerald Arthur Perry
  • Lieutenant Heaphy
  • Lieutenant W.G Dixon
  • Lieutenant Eric Dudley Gerard

On 1 September 1946, Army Headquarters “Q” Branch underwent a significant reorganisation which included the formation of the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME) and the reorganisation of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services under the Director of Army Equipment (DAE) which became the senior NZAOC appointment.

Under the DAE, Ordnance Services were divided between the,

  • COO, responsible for Headquarters New Zealand Ordnance Services, including the Provision Group
  • CIOO, responsible for the IOO Group

On the retirement of the incumbent DAE, Lieutenant Colonel C.S.J. Duff, DSO, RNZA, on 3 July 1947, the appointment of DEA was renamed Director of Ordnance Services (DOS), with Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Huia Andrews, RNZAOC, appointed as the first post-war DOS on 1 October 1947.

By 1949 the Ammunition organisation had further evolved, combining the IOO and NZAOC Section into a single ammunition organisation, with

  • The CIOO and staff providing DOS with the required technical advice on ammunition
  • District IOOs appointed to each District Headquarters as the Ammo advisor to the District DADOS
  • District Ammunition Sections now renamed as
    • Northern District Ammunition Depot
    • Central District Ammunition Depot
    • Southern District Ammunition Depot
  • Army Ammunition Repair Depot
  • Army Ammunition Supply Depot

To facilitate the further reorganisation and refinement of the Ammunition functions, the DOS hosted the first conference of Senior Ammunition Officers at Trentham Camp from 21-24 June 1949.

RNZAOC IOOs and AEs 1949

With the role of Inspection Ordnance Officers and Ammunition Examiners now embedded into the structure of the New Zealand Army, The Ammunition trade remained an under-resourced trade, struggling to fill its establishments despite having a high operating tempo. Typical activities supported during the 1950s included,

  • Continuous inspection of wartime ammunition held depots
  • Disposal of surplus and obsolete ammunition by
    • Dumping at sea
    • Destruction within depots
    • Sale to the public (SAA natures)
    • Transfer to allied nations
  • Supply of Ammunition to support Compulsory Military Training
  • Disposal of Blinds and unexploded Ammunition discovered in wartime training areas
  • Trials and introduction into service of new natures of ammunition
  • Technical Ammunition support to the Fiji Military Forces

In 1959 a comprehensive review of army dress embellishments was conducted to provide a policy statement on the wear embellishments such as

  • Shoulder titles
  • Formation Patches
  • Service Badges
  • Badges of Appointment
  • Instructors Badges
  • Skill-at-Arms Badges
  • Tradesmen’s badges

In reviewing Badges of Appointment, it was found that in comparison with the British Army, some badges of appointment worn by the British Army were also approved for wear by the New Zealand Army. Worn below the rank badge by WOs and above the chevrons by NCOS, examples of British badges of appointment worn by the New Zealand Army included,

  • Gun, worn by WO2s, SSgts and Sgts of the RNZE
  • Grenade, worn by WO2s, SSgts and Sgts of the RNZA
  • Hammer and Pincers, worn by WO2s, SSgts and Sgts of the RNZEME
  • Lyre, worn by Bandsmen

In the case of RAOC AEs, the “A” in Flames badge, it was felt that there was merit in supporting the use of the same badge for wear by RNZAOC ammunition trades, and the adoption of the “A” in Flames badge was recommended.

Despite the many recommendations for the army dress embellishment review, the only decision was to adopt shoulder titles and formation patches. The Army Dress Committee invited the Adjutant General to prepare a paper on dress embellishment and draw up a policy on Badges of Appointment, Instructors Badges, Skill-at-Arms Badges and Tradesmen’s badges. The wait for a badge for AE’s was to continue.

As the RNZAOC organisation matured in the late 1950s, it became apparent that the system in place of having separate Ordnance, Vehicle and Ammunition Depots located in the same locations but under different command arrangements was impracticable and not an efficient use of resources. Starting in 1961, a reorganisation was undertaken to consolidate administrative, accounting and store functions under one headquarters. The restructuring would ensure that there would only be one RNZAOC depot in each district, which would consist of.

  • Headquarters,
  • Stores Sub-Depot,
  • Ammunition Sub-Depot,
  • Vehicle Sub-Depot
  • Traffic Centre.

To achieve this, all the existing District Ammunition Depots became sub-depots of a District Ordnance Depot, designated as.

  • Ammunition Sub-Depot, Northern Districts Ordnance Depot (NDOD) – Ngāruawāhia,
  • Ammunition Sub-Depot Central Districts Ordnance Depot (CDOD) – Linton,
  • Ammunition Sub-Depot Southern Districts Ordnance Depot (SDOD) – Burnham

Ammunition Sub-Depots now consisted of:

  • Ammunition Inspection Section.
  • Ammunition Repair Section.
  • Non-Explosive Store.
  • NDOD Ammunition Areas.
    • Ardmore
    • Kelm road
    • Ngāruawāhia
  • CDOD Ammunition Areas
    • Waiouru
    • Makomako
    • Belmont
    • Trentham
  • SDOD Ammunition Areas
    • Burnham
    • Glentunnel
    • Fairlie
    • Mt Somers

Concurrent with the 1961 reorganisation, the RNZAOC decided to align the Ammunition Trade with the RAOC and adopt the same trade names, making the following changes.

  • Chief Inspecting Ordnance Officer became Chief Ammunition Technical Officer
  • Senior Inspecting Ordnance Officer became Senior Ammunition Technical Officer
  • District Inspecting Ordnance Officer became District Ammunition Technical Officer
  • Inspecting Ordnance Officer became Ammunition Technical Officer
  • Ammunition Examiner became Ammunition Technician

Up to 1961, Ammunition Technical Officers (ATOs) were usually only employed in Ammunition-related duties. However, as a result of this reorganisation, ATOs were now used across all of the RNZAOC and, as such, were required to balance their regular duties with their Ammunition responsibilities.

1968 saw further reorganisation with the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham was renamed 1 Base Ordnance Depot and the District Ordnance Depots renamed

  • Northern District Ordnance Depot to 1 Central Ordnance Depot
  • Central District Ordnance Depot to 2 Central Ordnance Depot
  • Southern District Ordnance Depot to 3 Central Ordnance Depot

A significant aspect of the 1968 reorganisation was the Disestablishment of The Small Arms and Proof Office co-located at Mount Eden when the CAC closed down, ending the ammunition trades’ long relationship with the CAA. Additionally, the Ammunition Proof and Experimental Centre operations at Kuku Valley was closed down, and its operations moved to the new Joint Services Proof Establishment at Kauri Point in Auckland.

Keen to provide the Ammunition trade with a suitable trade identifier Major D.H Rollo, the CATO, sent a message to the New Zealand Defence Liaison Staff in London in September 1968 requesting the following information from the UK Chief Inspector of Land Service Ammunition (CILSA) on the RAOC AT Badge

  • Do other ranks and officers wear it
  • Conditions of entitlement to wear
  • Cost of badge
  • Possibility of procuring samples
  • Any other pertinent details which may guide in adopting a similar badge

By the end of November 1968, through the New Zealand Defence Liaison Staff, the UK CILSA provided the following information on the RAOC AT badge to the New Zealand CATO,

  • Worn by all Ammunition Technicians on No 1 and No2 Dress. It is not worn with any other form of dress.
  • Price
    • No1 Dress – 7/6d each,
    • No 2 Dress – 5.1/4d each
  • Samples of each badge to be provided

Armed with this information, CATO raised a submission to the 77th meeting of the Army Dress Committee in April 1969 for approval to introduce the Flaming “A” badge for New Zealand ATs. However, it was not a robust submission and was declined because it was contended that there was not sufficient justification for the badge, with the following reasons given.

  • Other trades in the Army were equally deserving of such a badge
  • The low standard to qualify for the badge

The Dress Committee agreed to reconsider the matter if further justification could be supplied.

Based on this setback, the new CATO, Major Bob Duggan, reconsidered the submission and, on 13 July 1970, through the DOS, submitted the following,

CONSIDERATIONS

6.            R & SO Vol II provides for the wearing of qualification badges, and a study of that publication reveals that a large proportion of Army Corps already have these. Many badges require less effort for qualification than would the exacting trade of Ammunition Technician. In addition, and supporting the acceptance of an ATO/AT Badge, these technicians are frequently required to deal with other services and members of the public.

7.            The low standard required to qualify for this badge has been reconsidered in light of information obtained on similar standards received from overseas. In addition, it was never the intention to cheapen the significance of this badge in the RNZAOC or those of any other Corps. The standard required to qualify for the ATO/AT badge would now be as follows:

a. Technical Officers who have practised for a minimum of one year.

b. All Ammunition Technicians, regardless of rank, who have qualified in all ways for four stars in their trade.

8.            The Public Relations side of the duties of ATO/Ats, as mentioned in paragraph 6 above, is further explained. This aspect concerns the collection and disposal of stray ammunition and explosives as well as involvement with the Police and other Government Departments in bomb scares. The average annual number of items, all natures and types of stray ammunition which have been collected over the last three years is 5750, which represents approximately 450 calls by ATOs or four-star ATs. ATO/ATs are requested by Police Stations throughout New Zealand

a. To visit many private homes to identify-stray ammunition.

b. Assess whether or not the items are in a dangerous state, and

c. Remove such items for disposal. If an item is in an armed state, it could mean disposal in situ’.

9.            The request is therefore not for a trade badge, but one of recognition and identification as to the dangerous and skilful nature of their specialist work.

With the Support of the Army Q Branch, the Army Dress committee approved the introduction of the AT Badge for qualified RNZAOC ATOs and ATs on 31 May 1971

Per the submission, the criteria for being awarded the AT badge was for Officers to have completed one year of practical experience after graduating from the ATOs Course in Australia or the United Kingdom. For ATs to qualify, they were required to be qualified in all aspects of the trade, which could take up to six years.

1st pattern Ammunition Technician Badge. Robert McKie Collection
1st pattern Ammunition Technician Badge Mess Kit Badge. Robert McKie Collection

The original AT badge was identical to the RAOC AT Badge. However, in 1988, fern fonds were included in the design to update the badge into one with a New Zealand character.

The AT trade matured into a highly specialised trade that, on the amalgamation of the RNZAOC into the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR) in 1996, had a wide range of responsibilities, including

  • The inspection, storage and maintenance of all ammunition and explosives used by the Army
  • The conduct of technical trials on new ammunition,
  • The conduct investigations into ammunition incidents and accidents,
  • The disposal of unserviceable or obsolete ammunition,
  • The management of Explosive Ordnance Devices and Improvised Explosive Devices.

The AT trade has progressed from storing and managing black powder magazines in the 19th century to managing the many modern ammunition natures available to the 21st century New Zealand Army. Although introduced in 1971 to recognise and identify the dangerous and skilful nature of their specialist work, the flaming “A” badge also represents the progress the AT trade has made.


Defence Preparations – New Zealand Defence Stores 1911

The passing of the Defence Act 1909 heralded a transformation of the Defence Forces of New Zealand, establishing a military system that influenced the organisation, training and recruitment of the New Zealand Army into the early 1970s. Coming into effect on 28 February 1910, The Act abolished the existing Volunteer system, in its place creating a citizen-based Territorial Army from the units, regiments and Corps of the Volunteer Army.[1]  The Territorial Army’s personnel needs would be maintained by a system of Compulsory Military Training (CMT), requiring the registration of all boys and men between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one years of age.[2] The challenge for Captain James O’Sullivan and the staff of the Defence Stores, an organisation already markedly transformed since 1900, was to meet the material need needs of the growing citizen army that New Zealand was creating.

At Buckle Street, Wellington, during the 1913 waterfront strike. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-048786-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22820606

The following article published in the New Zealand Times on 8 December 1911 provides an eyewitness account of the activities of the Defence Stores in support of the growing citizen army.[3]

While politicians are prating about the cost of the defence scheme, and its more direct enemies are peregrinating from street corner to street corner with soap boxes, the scheme itself is being steadily proceeded with. Some people probably fail to realise what it means to inaugurate an entirely new system of military defence. The necessary legislation came first, then the mapping out of the requirements in men and money, then the excitement of enrolling, and now there is proceeding the part, of which the public see little and hear little, but which perhaps is the most troublesome of all, and materially the most important, viz., the arming and the equipment of themen.

This task is being carried out at the Defence Stores in Buckle Street, Wellington. It requires a visit there to realise the thought, the work, the experience, that are necessary to carry out a big work of this description. When you enter the Buckle Street stores and see the busy toilers and the preparations for the distribution of arms and clothing over the Dominion, you realise that a big work is in progress.

For instance, the uniforms for the territorials have for the past week or two been arriving. So far the outfits for about nine thousand men in a more or less state of completion, have come, to hand. These all have to be sorted out and shelved. They are in graded in sizes, an ingenious system of measurement, the product of the brain of Captain O’Sullivan, Director of Defence Stores, has been applied, whereby almost any sized youth be fitted. Measuring has been proceeding in the various centres. A form is filled up by the regimental quartermaster for each recruit, and these forms are now arriving at the depot. Next weak commences the task of sending out the uniforms. Each man also gets an overcoat, a felt hat, and a forage cap. Every branch of the service will wear putties instead of leggings. The uniforms in hand at present fill multitudes of shelves—indeed, the place wears the appearance of a busy warehouse. Every article of clothing is the product of New Zealand mills. There is a absolute uniformity of colour, so that the whole New Zealand defence force, from the North Cape to the Bluff, will on mobilisation, present no spectacle of detached units, but one uniform whole. Distinguishing colour badges and trouser stripes will mark the branches of the service, green denoting the mounted, men, and red the infantry. The senior cadets will have neat blouses and long trousers. So far the uniforms in stock comprise only a small portion of what yet remains to be handled. A new brick building is in the later stages of completion for their safer storage. The felt hats are the product of the National Hat Mills, Wellington, and are really a very excellent article. Many large packing cases are stacked in the yards waiting to be dispatched with these goods to the territorial centres.

But this is only one branch of the industry. In other sheds are stacked camp paraphernalia, tents, marching outfits of the latest pattern, containing, in addition to bayonet, water-bottle, overcoat, etc., a handy trenching tool, bandoliers, field outfits, including telephones and heliographs; much leather goods; service boots, which the department is selling, at option, to the men at a low fee, and many other requisites.  Outside in the yard is a new pontoon bridge, lately come to hand, a rather bulky apparatus that has not yet been used. Elsewhere are stored transit water tanks, a sample transport waggon (from which others will be manufactured in the Dominion). Necessary appliances for the eighteen-pounder guns have also been coming to hand, though the guns themselves have not yet arrived.

In other sheds are many large black cases. These contain the service rifles. It is not permitted that the public should know what stock of these is kept. It is a state secret that not even an Opposition order for a “return” could cause to be divulged. Recently, however, ten thousand were added to the stock. Just at present workmen are spending busy hours cleaning up and inspecting the rifles that have been received from the old volunteer corps. Every Government arm in the Dominion has been called in, and as a result every, man will have issued to him a nice clean rifle. It will be a new start over the whole Dominion. It would grieve the heart of the military enthusiast to see the condition in which some of the rifles have been sent In. There is undoubtedly great need for the new quartermasters in the various regiments, to see that this sort of thing does not recur. Some of the Wellington corps have been rather bad offenders. The comparatively slow process of cleaning these arms has been the cause of the delay in their reissue. Every rifle has 104 parts, and these parts are stocked in large quantities.

Of the Dominion’s ammunition store, also, the outsider can know nothing. This much, however, is for public information, that every Saturday morning the Director of the Defence Stores produces his ammunition balance book, to the Commandant, who then known from glancing over the pages exactly how every packet has been distributed and how each part of the Dominion is served.

The Buckle Street stores do not yet present the aspect of a Woolwich Arsenal, but things are very busy there; the will of the people is being given effect to at as rapid a rate as opportunity will permit; evidences are offered of the effective defence scheme now in active operation; and pleasing, indeed, is the outstanding fact that local industries are benefiting to an enormous degree from a new departure in defence that after all, is an admitted necessity.

Arms and Uniforms,” New Zealand Times, Volume XXXIII, Issue 7978, 8 December 1911

Defence Stores, Bunny Street, Wellington. Goggle Maps/Public Domain
Former Defence Stores Compound, Buckle Street, Wellington The building on the right of the photo is the original 1911 Defence Stores building. The building on the left is the 1916 extension.
Former Defence Stores Compound, Buckle Street, Wellington.
Former Defence Stores Compound, Buckle Street, Wellington The building on the right of photo is the original 1911 Defence Stores building. The building on the left is the 1916 extension.

Notes

[1] Peter Cooke and John Crawford, The Territorials (Wellington: Random House New Zealand Ltd, 2011), 153.

[2] I. C. McGibbon and Paul William Goldstone, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (Auckland; Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, 2000), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 109-10.

[3] “Arms and Uniforms,” New Zealand Times, Volume XXXIII, Issue 7978, 8 December 1911.


Behind the scenes at Takapau

It is said that a picture says a thousand words, and this postcard of the Takapau Divisional Camp of April-May 1914 is such a picture. While It tells part of the story of the neatly 4839 Territorials who attended the camp, it also provides an insight into the tremendous logistical effort by the Defence Stores Department to provide the stores and equipment required by the largest Territorial camp ever held in New Zealand.

Between April and May 1914, 18,882 Territorial Soldiers of New Zealand’s citizen army would attend five main camps across New Zealand. 

  • the Auckland Military Districts camp was at Hautapu, near Cambridge,
  • the Canterbury Military Districts camp was split between Kowai, near Springfield, with the Marlborough and Nelson units camping at Tapawera, near Nelson.
  • the Otago Military Districts Camp was at Matarae, in Central Otago
  • The Wellington Military Districts were held at Takapau in Hawkes Bay.

To oversee the management of the Camp Equipment and other Ordnance Stores required, the District Storekeepers of each Military District were appointed as Ordnance Officers for the duration of the camp and provided with a staff of eighteen Territorial Soldiers trained in the duties required of an Ordnance Depot.

The District Storekeepers were

  • Honorary Lieutenant William Thomas Beck, District Storekeeper, Auckland
  • Honorary Lieutenant Arthur Rumbold Carter White, District Storekeeper, Christchurch
  • Honorary Lieutenant Mr Owen Paul McGuigan, District Storekeeper, Dunedin
  • Mr Frank Edwin Ford District Storekeeper, Nelson
  • Honorary Major James O’Sulllian, Defence Storekeeper Wellington

Based on the numbers that attended the Takapau Camp and the Camp Equipment scale of 1913, the following quantities indicate the Camp Equipment required. Provided from the Defence Stores in Wellington, two trainloads were required to move the stores from Wellington to Takapau to pre-position prior to the camp.

  • Axes, felling, helved, 122
  • Axe. Pick, 160
  • Buckets, Water, 1937
  • Basins, Wash hand, 2023
  • Boilers with lid, 20 Gal, 100
  • Boilers with lid, 9 Gal, 100
  • Candlesticks, bayonet, 2023
  • Choppers, Meat, 100
  • Crowbars (if required) 190
  • Dishes, meat, 1711
  • Kettles, camp, 1543
  • Lantern s, stable, 348
  • Racks, arm, tent (Large loop), 1259
  • Spades, 274
  • Shovels, 274
  • Tents, circular, complete, 1773
  • Marquees, 65
  • Ropes, picket, 20 yards  115
  • Brooms, bass, 128
  • Sheets, ground, 8350
  • Rakes, iron 16in ,128

How much of this equipment was available in the District Storehouses is unknown. However, it is known that in 1914 the NZ Military had a sufficient stock of tents to accommodate the whole Territorial Force at the full establishment, including

  • 3651 tents (circular)
  • 181 marquees,
  • 30 operating tents, and
  • 98 bivouac tents

The concept of the Camp Ordnance Depots was that as the unit advance parties arrived, the required number of camp equipment stores would be issued from the Ordnance Depot to the unit Quartermaster Staff, usually under the control of the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant.

On completing the camp, the RQMS would be required to return all the stores to the Ordnance depot and remain available to finalise any accounts for losses and damages. Following the closedown of the camp, the stores would be loaded onto trains and returned to the District Stores, ready for the next activity.

The Ordnance Depots also held a stock of clothing and equipment available as replacements or for sale. For example, the Takapau Camp Ordnance Depot sold 1000 boots and 250 blankets.

The Divisional Camps of 1914 were only the second time Ordnance Depots had been established at annual camps and proved a success. There is no doubt that they would have been stood up again for the planned camps in 1915. However, the logistical framework of the 1914 Divisional Camps served as a dress rehearsal for the August 1914 mobilisation and contributed to the raising and dispatching overseas of the largest, best trained and equipped force to be dispatched from this country in the 20th century.


New Zealand Arms to Afghanistan

Following the war in South Africa, the British Empire was at the height of its power and prestige. The Royal Navy ruled the oceans, and if British interests were threatened on land, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had proven their commitment to support the empire by contributing men and materiel. As the economic powerhouse of the empire, British India was the most significant jewel in the British Imperial crown. However, British India’s confidence that it had the support of British dominions was put to the test in 1909 when it was discovered that firearms from Australia and New Zealand were being provided to tribes on the North-West Frontier who were actively opposed to the interests of British India. So how did firearms from New Zealand end up in the hands of Pathan Tribesmen on the borders of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan?

As the New Zealand military reorganised and reequipped following the war in South Africa, new uniforms and equipment would be introduced and the .303inch cartridge adopted as the standard calibre for rifles, carbines and machine guns, resulting in the Defence Stores holding over 17,000 Snider, Martin-Henry and Remington Lee rifles, carbines and accoutrements and just under a million rounds of obsolete ammunition. The disposal of this stockpile was the most significant disposal of Arms and Ammunition undertaken by the Defence Stores throughout its existence which would have the unintended consequence of arming Pathan tribesmen on the borders of British India.

Snider rifles had been introduced into New Zealand service from 1868.

Top: Snider Long Rifle, Middle: Snider Medium (Hay) Rifle, Bottom: Snider Short (Sword) Rifle Photo J Osborne New Zealand Arms Register. http://www.armsregister.com/

The Sniders would serve thru to 1890 when they began to be superseded by Martini-Henry rifles and carbines.

Rifle, Martini-Henry, 1896, Enfield, by Royal Small Arms Factory. Gift of the Police Department, date unknown. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (DM000372)

The introduction of cordite or smokeless powder ushered in the introduction of the .303 Martini-Enfield rifle leading to the progressive withdrawal of the Sniders and Martini-Henrys following the introduction of bolt action Lee Metford and Enfield rifles. With sufficient .303 calibre Martini-Enfield’s and an increasing amount of bolt action, magazine-fed Lee Metford and Enfield rifles available to arm the forces and provide a reserve, the Defence Council authorised a Board of Survey to be formed to investigate the disposal of the obsolete Sniders and Martinis in store.[1] In addition to Sniders and Martinis, there was also a quantity of .340 Remington-Lee rifles. In a bold move to provide New Zealand’s forces with the most modern of rifles, these were imported into New Zealand in 1887. However, due to unsatisfactory ammunition, the Remington-Lees were withdrawn from service in 1888.

Sitting in early 1907 and consisting of three officers, the Board of Survey weighed up the options for the disposal of the stockpile of obsolete weapons. Dumping the entire stock at sea was considered, but an anticipated outcry from the New Zealand press, who would have viewed this means of disposal as another example of needless government waste, ruled out this option. A small but guaranteed financial benefit resulted in sale by tender being decided upon as the most practical means of disposal.[2]

The early 20th Century was a turbulent time in world history. The late 19th-century race by the European powers had left them all fighting colonial bush wars to suppress opposition and maintain control in their various colonial possessions. In Eastern Europe, the Balkans were aflame as the former European vassals of the Ottoman empire fought the Turks and each other as they struggled to gain their independence. Closer to New Zealand, as the emerging American and Japanese empires undertook colonial expansion in the Philippines and Korea, conflict and insurrection ensured and would only be quelled by the most brutal measures.

In this environment, the New Zealand Government was cognisant that there was a ready market for firearms, however as the Arms Act of New Zealand limited the bulk export of weapons from New Zealand, the conditions of the tender were clear that for any arms not purchased for use in New Zealand, the remainder were not to be exported to any country or place other than Great Britain.

The entire stock of firearms was stored at the Defence Stores at Wellington and packed 50 to 90 weapons per case. The tender terms allowed tenderers to quote for not less than 100 of any weapon. The quantities and types of weapons were,

  • .577 Snider rifles, short sword bayonets with scabbards – 6867
  • .577 Snider rifles, long – 978
  • .577 Snider carbines, artillery; sword bayonets with scabbards – 1957
  • .577 Snider carbines, cadet – 849
  • .577 Snider carbines, cavalry – 669
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry rifles, sword bayonets with scabbards – 4686
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry carbines – 520
  • Enfield carbines, Sword bayonets and scabbards – 103
  • .340 Remington Lee Rifles – 840
  • Swords, cavalry, with scabbards – 600

The ammunition was all of the black powder types, which, when fired, created a large amount of smoke exposing the rifleman’s position. An interesting ammunition type included in the tender was 106,000 rounds of Gardner-Gatling ammunition. This ammunition had been imported in the late 1880s as part of a demonstration lot, resulting in the purchase of a single Gardiner Machine Gun by the New Zealand Government. The ammunition was stored in the magazines at Wellington and Auckland, with the tender terms allowing bids of less than 50,000 rounds of any mixture of ammunition. The ammunition types tendered were.

  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, ball, rifle, solid case – 189000 rounds
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, ball, rifle, rolled case – 170000 rounds
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, ball, carbine, rolled case – 120000 rounds
  • .577/450 Martini-Henry, blank – 240000 rounds
  • .577 Snider Ball – 150000 rounds
  • .45 Gardner Gatling, ball – 106,000 rounds

Notice of the tender was published by the Director of Military Stores, Captain James O’Sullivan, in the New Zealand press from 4 June 1907, with 14 June set as the final day for bids.[3]

The Tender Board accepted the highest tender in July 1907 with all the arms purchased by a Manchester firm through their New Zealand agents.

Much of the powder within the ammunition had caked and was unsuitable for use, leading to a significant part of the stocks being broken down into salvageable components in New Zealand. Under the supervision of Captain O’Sullivan, a record of each weapon was taken, recording the brands and serial numbers stamped on each weapon. As the weapons were packed into cases, the contents of each case were also recorded. The entire consignment was loaded onto the S.S. Mamari at Wellington, which sailed directly to London via the New Zealand Shipping Company’s usual route.  Included in the mail carried on the same voyage was a notification to the War Office in England providing complete shipment details. Providing these details to the War Office was not obligatory and only made on Captain O’Sullivan initiative. Four months later, the War Office received a reply asking why they had been sent all that information.

Approximately £6000 (2021 NZ$1,095,722) was realised by the entire sale of arms and ammunition.

Captain O’Sullivan’s attention to detail in dispatching the New Zealand firearms to England would prove wise when in May 1909, the Calcutta Englishman, the leading daily newspaper in India, published an article stating that Weapons bearing Australian and New Zealand markings had been smuggled across the Pathan border.[4]

Rifle, Martini-Henry, 1896, Enfield, by Royal Small Arms Factory. Gift of the Police Department, date unknown. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (DM000372)

While the Calcutta Englishman was accurate in its report that weapons bearing Australian and New Zeland Military markings had been found in the hands of Pathan tribesmen. The path the New Zealand weapons had taken to India was not the result of poor accounting by New Zealand’s Defence Stores, but rather the shady dealing of British second-hand arms dealers.


Notes

[1] “Defence Forces of New Zealand: Report by the Council of Defence and Extracts from the Report of the Inspector-General of the NZ Defence Forces, for the Year Ended 28th February 1908,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1909 Session II, H-19  (1909).

[2] “The Smuggled Rifles,” Star (Christchurch), Issue 9546, 19 May 1909.

[3] “Obsolete Arms,” New Zealand Times, Volume XXIX, Issue 6231, 10 June 1907.

[4] “Australasian Arms Smuggled into India,” Evening News (Sydney, NSW ) 12 May 1909.



The bell of the M.V Rangitata

Hidden in an alcove under some stairs at New Zealand’s Army’s Trade Training School is a surprising item of memorabilia not generally associated with the Army, a Ships Bell belonging to the M.V Rangitata.

With no labels or tags identifying its origins, its mounting cradle indicates that it was mounted in a social club or smoko room and used to call the room to attention for important announcements.

The journey of this bell and why it now rests at Trentham has long been forgotten. However, it does hold a surprising place in the whakapapa of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistics Regiment.

Established in 1873, the New Zealand Shipping Company (NZSC) helped pioneer the trade-in frozen goods from New Zealand to England and became one of New Zealand’s premier shipping companies with domestic and international routes.

In the late 1920s, the NZSC undertook a significant investment in its fleet for the Wellington to London route and had the three modern diesel-powered passenger/cargo ships built, the Rangitane, the Rangitiki and the Rangitata.

MV Rangitata

Known as the “Rangi” ships, from 1929, these 16,737-ton diesel-powered vessels would dominate the service between England and New Zealand with a four-weekly service, making the voyage via the Panama Canal and Pitcairn Island in 32 days.

All three Rangis would serve in various war-related roles from 1939.

The Rangitane

whilst transiting from New Zealand to England, was sunk 300 miles east of New Zealand by the German surface raiders Komet and Orion on 27 November 1940.

The Rangitiki

In November 1940, as its sister was facing German raiders in the Pacific, as the largest vessel in the 38 vessel Trans-Atlantic convoy HX 84, the Rangitiki would encounter the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, and although eight merchant vessels were lost, the Rangitiki completed the voyage. In December 1940, as part of Trans-Atlantic convoy WS 5, the Rangitiki would survive an encounter with the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. In 1945 the Rangitiki would return to the New Zealand -England route as it undertook repatriation voyages returning Servicemen and War brides home from Europe. Following 87 peacetimes return voyages between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the Rangitiki was retired and broken up as scrap in 1962.

The Rangitata

In 1937 the Rangitata would transport troops to England for the coronation of King George VI, and in 1939 would be requisitioned for war service.  During the war, some of the Rangitata’s eventful voyages would include transporting 113 child evacuees from England to New Zealand and later in the war. It would transport United States soldiers from the USA to England. Following the war, the Rangitata would be fitted out as a war-bride ship and in 1947 would transport the first post-war draft of immigrants to New Zealand. Returning to peacetime service with its sister ship, the Rangitiki, the Rangitata would also be scrapped in 1962.

The wartime voyage of significance to the RNZALR is the Rangitata’s participation in carrying the First Echelon of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2nd NZEF) from Wellington to Egypt in January/February 1940.

Six merchant vessels would make up Convoy US.1 sailing from Wellington on 4 January 1940, carrying 345 Officers and 6175 other ranks of the Second Echelon of the 2nd NZEF.

As part of Convoy US.1, the Rangitata would transport the following units to Egypt.

  • Divisional Cavalry: A and B Sqns (369 men)
  • NZANS Nursing Sisters (3)
  • Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve ratings.
  • 2 NZEF Overseas Base
  • 13 Light Aid Detachment, New Zealand Ordnance Corps (1 Officer + 12 Other Ranks)
  • 13 Light Aid Detachment, New Zealand Ordnance Corps (1 Officer + 12 Other Ranks)

The following members of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps have been identified as sailing on the Rangitata. As the war progressed, several of these men would hold significant positions in the NZOC, and from November 1942, the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME). A small number would continue to serve in the post-war NZ Army.

  • Lieutenant Donald Edward Harper, NZOC, Base Depot
    • Would finish the war as Lieutenant Colonel and the 2nd NZ Div Assistant Director of Ordnance Services.
Lieutenant Colonel Donald Harper Bull, George Robert, 1910-1996. Lieutenant Colonel D E Harper – Photograph taken by George Bull. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-05919-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23233849
  • 2nd Lieutenant John Owen Kelsey, NZOC, 13 LAD
    • Would serve as an Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME), Senior Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (SOME), Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (ADOS) and acting Chief Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (CRÈME). Completed the war as a Colonel and was awarded an MBE and MID
  • 2nd Lieutenant Robert Hassell England, NZOC, 14 LAD
    • Would be promoted to Captain and serve as OC 3 NZ Field Workshop and NZ Divsional Ordnance Field Park
  • Warrant Officer Class One Kevin Graham Keith Cropp, Base Depot
    • Would remain in the RNZAOC post-war and retire as a Major in 1955
  • Warrant Officer Class One Francis Reid, NZOC, Base Depot
    • Would be commissioned and serve throughout the war. Would remain in the RNZAOC after the war and as a Lieutenant Colonel would be the Director of Ordnance Services from November 1949 to March 1957.
  • Warrant Officer Class Two Andrew Gunn, NZOC, 13 LAD
    • KIA Greece. 18 April 1941
  • Corporal Randal Martin Holmes, NZOC, 14 LAD
  • Corporal Robert William Watson, NZOC, Base Depot
  • Private Rodger Langdon Ashcroft, NZOC, Base Depot
  • Private John Noel Shadwell Heron, NZOC, Base Depot
  • Private Mark Edwin Ivey, NZOC, Base Depot
  • Private Edward McTavish MacPherson, NZOC, Base Depot
  • Private Lionel Edward Campbell, NZOC, 14 LAD
  • Private Lionel John McGreevy, NZOC, 14 LAD

Although this list is not exhaustive, the few highlighted names indicate the logistical talent onboard the Rangitata during its voyage as part of Convoy US.1. Officers such as Harper, Kelsey and Reid would go on and play a significant role in shaping the future of New Zealand Military Supply and Maintenance Support trades.

Although the journey of the MV Rangitata’s Bell and how it ended up in Trentham may never be known, the hope is that given its relationship to the Logisticians of the First Echelon, in the future, the RNZALR will place and display this bell in a position of significance.


NZ Aid to French Indo China 1952-54

Traditionary reliant on the United Kingdom for military equipment. The rapid expansion of New Zealand’s military and the threat of invasion by Japan during World War Two had necessitated New Zealand to seek and receive substantial war material from the United States. As the New Zealand Army reorganised in the post-war era, it soon became apparent that New Zealand’s military warehouses and ammunition depots were overflowing with surplus war material. In a move to enhance New Zealand’s national security by abetting our allies in their efforts to contain Communism in South-East Asia, New Zealand would transfer free of charge to the French authorities in Indochina much of the surplus arms and ammunition held in RNZAOC Depots across New Zealand.

The post-war NZ Army was based on the 2nd NZEF of WW2 and consisted of an Infantry Division with integral Artillery, Armoured and Logistics elements. Based on the era’s strategic thinking, it was expected the NZ force would be deployed to the Middle East alongside British formations. Despite the reliance upon the United States for war material in the previous war and the large stock of American equipment in storage, the NZ Army would be armed with British calibre weapons and uniforms and equipment of British pattern.[1] By 1952 France was struggling to hold onto Indochina, and although receiving 7200 tons of material a month from the United States, it was still falling short of its requirements.[2] Realising that large stockpiles of British and American equipment had been declared surplus or abandoned across Asia and Australasia, the French established purchasing missions to acquire this equipment.[3]

French transport regiment train ct515 Hanoi-Nam Dinh convoy 15/17 May 1950 black and white kodak film on kodak camera http://www.indochine.uqam.ca/fr/la-galerie.html

Responding to French requests, it was announced in September 1952 that New Zealand would be providing at no cost weapons and ammunition of American origin that were of a different calibre used by New Zealand forces. This shipment of firearms and ammunition were lend-lease weapons that had urgently been provided to New Zealand in 1942 and used by the Home Guard and some New Zealand units in the pacific, notably with RNZAF units co-located with American Forces, been lend-lease in origin, concurrence on the transfer had been sought and obtained from the United States. The Minister of External Affairs, T. C. Webb, stated that a substantial part of the consignment had been delivered to Singapore on HMNZS Bellona, where it would be shipped to French Indochina. [4] This first shipment included[5]

  • 13000, .30inch calibre Springfield M1903 rifles
  • 700, .30inch calibre Machine Guns, and
  • 670000 rounds of .30inch calibre Small Arms Ammunition (SAA).

Early in 1953, the Chief of the NZ General Staff, Major General Gentry, met with the French Commander-in-Chief, General Henri Navarre, at Saigon and discussed the transfer of surplus military equipment. Following Gentry’s report on this meeting, the NZ Government offered surplus equipment to the French authorities. With the war going badly for the French with the battle of Dien Bien Phu underway, a French Military mission consisting of Lieutenant-Colonel Cathala and Captain Mugg arrived in Auckland on 10 September 1953 for a two-week visit to examine equipment and consider, with the New Zealand service authorities, its suitability for use in Indochina.[6]

Reinforcements occupying positions in the dugouts during the battle of Dien Bien Phu, March 3 1954

With equipment identified and agreed upon, it would be concentrated that Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham and following final inspections loaded onto a British vessel at Wellington in early March 1954.[7] Equipment dispatched to Indochina included[8]

  • 500 Revolvers,
  • 3000 .30inch calibre Springfield M1903 rifles
  • 750 .30inch calibre Machine Guns,
  • 50 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns and ammunition,
  • 10000 round of 37m armour-piercing shot,
  • Wireless Sets
  • Field Telephones,
  • Charging Sets
  • Assorted Uniform Items
  • 670000 rounds of .30inch calibre SAA
Bofors Guns Trentham, 1 March 1954. Evening Post illustrations file and prints. 1950-2000. (PA-Group-00685). [Series]

With the French surrendering at Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954. and the final withdrawal of French Forces from Vietnam concluded by April 1956; it is doubtful that the small New Zealand contribution of weapon and equipment assisted the French in any way. However, it might have found some utility in the new nation of South Vietnam or on some other French colonial battlefield.

Despite the small quantity of material provided, the French Minister to New Zealand, Mr Noel Henry, conveyed the French Government’s gratitude to New Zealand, acknowledging that New Zealand had done all it could do within its limited means.[9]


Notes

[1] Damien Fenton, A False Sense of Security : The Force Structure of the New Zealand Army 1946-1978, Occasional Paper / Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand: No. 1 (Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, 1998), Bibliographies, Non-fiction.

[2]N.S. Nash, Logistics in the Vietnam Wars, 1945-1975 (Pen & Sword Military, 2020), 63.

[3] Charles R. Shrader, A War of Logistics : Parachutes and Porters in Indochina, 1945-1954, Foreign Military Studies (University Press of Kentucky, 2015), Non-fiction, 134.

[4] “NZ Gives Arms to French,” Press, Volume LXXXVIII, Issue 26838, , 17 September 1952.

[5] New Zealand Foregin Policy: Statements and Documents 1943-1957, Ministry of Foregin Affairs (Wellington: Government Printer 1972).

[6] “Arms for Indo China,” Press, Volume LXXXIX, Issue 27192, , 9 November 1953.

[7] “Arms Aid for Indo-China,” Press, Volume XC, Issue 27332, , 24 April 1954.

[8] Roberto Giorgio Rabel, New Zealand and the Vietnam War : Politics and Diplomacy (Auckland University Press, 2005), Bibliographies, Non-fiction.

[9]“Arms Aid for Indo-China.”


Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps

In British and Commonwealth military doctrine, there has long been a separation of responsibility for Supplies and Stores

  • Supplies – The provisioning, storing, and distributing of food for soldiers, forage for animals; Fuel, Oil and Lubricants (FOL) for tanks, trucks and other fuel-powered vehicles and equipment; and the forward transport and distribution of ammunition. In the NZ Army, Supplies were managed by the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC) from 1911 to 1979.
  • Stores – The provisioning, storage and distribution of weapons, munitions and military equipment not managed by RNZASC. Stores were the Responsibility of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC) until 1996.

Despite the separation of responsibilities, the RNZASC and RNZAOC had a long and cooperative relationship.

During early colonial days, the early actions of the New Zealand Wars proved that the New Zealand bush and the elusive tactics of the Māori presented unfamiliar problems of supply and transport. An Imperial Supply and Transport Service was established and operated with the Imperial troops.

From the end of the New Zealand Wars until 1910, there was no unit of ASC in New Zealand, with the supply functions required by the New Zealand Military provided by the Defence Stores Department. However, in 1911 the formation of the Divisional Trains saw the beginnings of the NZASC as part of the Territorial Army. NZASC units served in World War One, during which the NZASC and NZAOC would, especially in the early years of the war, often share personnel, facilities, and transportation.

In 1917 the NZAOC was established as a permanent component of the New Zealand Military Forces, however, it would not be until 1924 that the Permanent NZASC was formed. The alliance between the NZASC and the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was approved in 1925.

The RASC has its roots much deeper in history. Up to the time of Cromwell, armies lived by plunder. The RASC came into being in 1888. but the work it would perform was being done long before that.

Cromwell and then the Duke of Marlborough, and later Napoleon organised a system of civilian commissaries. The Duke of York established the Corps of Royal Waggoners in 1794. This purely transport organisation continued until 1869 under various names, eventually, as the Military Train, fighting as light cavalry in the Indian Mutiny.

The birth of the Supplies and Transport Service dates from 1869. when the Commissariat and the officers of the Military Train along with the Military Stores Department came under one department called the Control Department, it remained for General Sir Redvers Buller, in 1888, to organise the first Army Service Corps. Since its formation, the RASC has been a combatant corps, trained and armed as infantry and responsible for its own protection. Considered a more technical Corps the NZAOC was not granted the status of a combatant Corps until 1942.

During World War Two, many units and establishments represented the NZASC in all the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) theatres. Again, as in the earlier World War, the NZASC would have a cooperative relationship with New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) Ammunition Examiners (AEs) were on the establishments of the RNZASC Ammunition platoons, with NZASC Warrant Officers attached to the NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park (OFP) to provide technical advice on vehicle spares. As a tribute to the service of the NZASC in WW2, the title, “Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps,’’ was bestowed in 1946.

In the post-war era, the NZASC and from 1946 the RNZASC would serve with distinction in J Force in Japan and then contribute the second-largest New Zealand contingent to K Force in Korea by providing 10 Transport Company.

Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the RNZASC would be an integral part of the New Zealand Army. Its functions ranging from the everyday task of cooking and serving food to the more spectacular operation of dropping supplies by air.

To purchase, store, rail, ship, and otherwise distribute the amount of food, fuels and oils needed to supply a modern army, the RNZASC maintained Supply Depots and employed many kinds of tradespeople, including Butchers. Supply Depots located in Papakura, Waiouru, Linton, Trentham, Burnham, and Singapore, holding supplies in bulk and distributing them as required. A section of the RNZASC would be a feature of every army camp with smaller Supply and Transport depots to handle goods received from the central supply depots and provide drivers and transport for many purposes at Devonport/Fort Cautley, Hopuhopu, Papakura, Waiouru. Linton. Trentham, Wellington/Fort Dorset, Christchurch/Addington, and Burnham.

ANZUK Supply Platoon, Singapore – 1972 Standing L to R: Cpl Parker, RAASC. Cpl Olderman, RAASC, Cpl Mcintyre, RAOC. Sgt Frank, RAOC. Cpl Rangi, RNZASC. Sgt Locke, RNZASC. Sgt Bust, RAOC. Pte Mag, RAASC. Cpl David, RAASC. Sitting L to R: Sgt Kietelgen, RAASC. WO2 West, RAOC. Capt Mcnice, RAOC. Maj Hunt, RAASC. Lt Fynn, RAASC. WO2 Cole, RAASC. WO2 Clapton. RAASC

Following the Macleod report that recommended the streamlining of logistic support for the British Army, the RASC merged in 1965 with the Royal Engineers Transportation and Movement Control Service to form the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT). This would see the RASC Supply functions transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). In 1973, following the British lead, the Australians also reformed their Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RAASC) into the Royal Australian Army Corps of Transport (RAACT).

Acknowledging the British and Australian experience, the RNZASC would also undergo a similar transition, and on 12 May 1979, the RNZASC ceased to exist, and its Supply functions transferred to the RNZAOC, while the Transport, Movements and Catering functions were reformed into the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT).

The RNZASC supply functions would be integrated into the RNZAOC, with the Camp Supply Depots becoming NZAOC Supply Platoons numbered as.

  • 14 Supply Platoon, Papakura/Hopuhopu
  • 24 Supply Platoon, Linton
  • 34 Supply Platoon, Burnham
  • 44 Supply Platoon, Waiouru
  • 54 Supply Platoon, Trentham
  • NZ Supply Platoon, Singapore

In recognition of its long RNZASC service, 21 Supply Company was retained as a Territorial Force(TF) unit, initially as the TF element of 4 Supply Company in Waiouru and later as the TF element of 2 Supply Company, Linton. Today 21 Supply is the main North Island Supply unit of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR).

For a brief period following the RNZAOC assumption of Supply functions, some RF and TF RNZAOC would periodically be employed within the RNZCT transport Squadrons Combat Supplies sections.

The RNZAOC Butcher trade inherited from the RNZASC would be discontinued in the mid-1980s, with the last of the butchers reclassifying as RNZAOC Suppliers. By the mid-1990s, it was decided as a cost-saving measure to allow the RNZCT catering staff to order directly from commercial foodstuff suppliers, effectively ending the RNZAOC foodstuffs speciality. The only RNZASC trade speciality remaining in the RNZAOC on its amalgamation into the RNZALR was that of petroleum Operator.

The RNZASC and RNZCT like the RNZAOC, have passed their combined responsibilities to the RNZALR. However, the RNZASC and RNZCT maintain a strong association that provides many benefits and opportunities for comradeship to RNZASC/CT Corps members and past and present members of the RNZALR. Another role of the RNZASC/CT association is to ensure that the rich and significant history of the RNZASC/CT is not lost to the future generations of the RNZALR.

Copies of the RNZASC/CT association newsletter from issue 92 can be viewed here


Reorganisation of NZ Ordnance Services 1 October 1946

Due to the reorganisation of the New Zealand Army Headquarters “Q” branch and the formation of the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME), new establishment tables for the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) were approved for use from 1 October 1946.

Under discussion since 1944, the 1 October 1946 Establishments provided the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps with a framework within the interim post-war New Zealand Army that woud allow future growth.

Responsibility for the NZ Army’s Logistic Functions fell to the Quartermaster-General who delegated responsibility for Ordnance Services to the Director of Army Equipment (DAE).

Under the DAE the NZ Army Ordnance Services were organised as;

  • Headquarters NZ Ordnance Services
    • Headquarters
      • Chief Ordnance Officer (COO) & Staff
    • Provision Group
  • Main Ordnance Depot, Trentham
  • Three District Sub-Depots
    • No 1 Ordnance Sub-Depot, Hopuhopu
    • No 2 Ordnance Sub- Depot, Linton
      • Sub-Depot Waiouru
    • No 3 Ordnance Sub-Depot, Burnham
  • Inspection Ordnance Group, comprising:
    • Headquarters, Trentham
    • Ammunition Repair Depot, Kuku Valley
    • IOO Section Northern Military District (NMD), Hopuhopu
    • IOO Section Central Military District (CMD), Trentham
    • IOO Section Southern Military District (SMD), Burnham
  • Ordnance Ammunition Group
    • NMD Ammunition Section HQ, Hopuhopu
      • Ammunition Section, Hopuhopu
      • Ammunition Section, Ardmore
      • Ammunition Section, Kelm Road
    • CMD Ammunition Section HQ, Trentham
      • Ammunition Section, Belmont
      • Ammunition Section, Makomako
      • Ammunition Section, Waiouru
    • SMD Ammunition Section HQ, Burnham
      • Ammunition Section, Glentunnel
      • Ammunition Section, Mount Somers
      • Ammunition Section, Fairlie
      • Ammunition Section, Alexandra

Henry Earnest Erridge

Serving the nation for 44 years, Henry Erridge would see service at Gallipoli before being invalided back to New Zealand. Continuing to serve throughout the interbellum, Erridge would assist in shaping the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps for the Second World War. During the war, Erridge would play a significant role in providing New Zealand’s contribution to the collective logistics effort of the British Commonwealth

Henry Earnest Erridge was born in Dunedin on 18 December 1887 to Henry and Jane Erridge. The fifth of seven children, Henry would be educated in Dunedin and received commercial training. A keen military volunteer Erridge had joined the Dunedin Engineer Volunteers as a Cadet in 1904, transferring into the Otago Hussars in 1909, gaining Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Rank.   On 6 April 1914, Erridge joined the New Zealand Permanent Staff (NZPS) with the rank of Staff Sergeant Instructor as the Orderly Room and Quartermaster (QM), No 15 Area Group, Oamaru.[1]

On the outbreak of war in August 1915, Erridge was seconded for duty with the NZEF and left New Zealand with the Main Body, Otago Infantry Battalion. As a Signals Sergeant in the Otago’s, Erridge saw service during the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February 1915 and later took part in the landings at Gallipoli. Stuck down with enteric fever, Erridge would be evacuated from Gallipoli to Alexandria in June, and in August, invalided back to New Zealand for further convalescence.

Returning to duty as a Warrant Officer in the QM Department at Featherston Camp on 10 Jamuary 1916, Erridge was appointed Stores Forman responsible for managing the QM Stores accounts for Featherston and its subsidiary camps. Reclassified as Class “A” fit for overseas service on 5 July 1918, it was intended to attach Erridge to a reinforcement draft and returned to the front. Deemed as essential, the Director of Equipment and Ordnance (DEOS) Stores appealed to the Chief of the General Staff, stating that

The accounts of the Camp Quartermaster, Featherston Camp, have not been completed and balanced. The principle causes for this state of affairs are:


(1) The inferior class of clerks posted for Home Service duties.
(2) And ever-changing staff, thus throwing the bulk of work on SSM Erridge, who has been employed in the capacity of foreman.

It is essential that SSM Erridge be retained until 1 November at least

Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores to Chief of the General Staff. 14 August 1918

The DEOS appeal was successful, and Erridge was granted authority to delay his placement into a reinforcement draft until November on the proviso that every endeavour was to be made to have all accounts in connection with the QM Branch Featherston and subsidiary camps completed to the satisfaction of the proper authority. Following the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Enridges employment was reassessed, and he was provided orders to remain with the QM Department at Featherston. Seconded to the Ordnance Stores in Wellington in June 1919, Erridge was permanently transferred into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) with Conductor rank on 1 October 1919.

Recommended for the Supplies and Purchasing Officer position with the civil administration in Samoa, Erridge was accepted for service with the Samoan Administration for three years from 24 May 1920. Due to a misunderstanding of the secondment rules, Erridge was discharged from the New Zealand Military. However, this was reviewed, and the discharge was rescinded, allowing Erridge to retain his rank and seniority on return to New Zealand.

`Administration Headquarters. “Apia”‘. Moore, Robert Percy, 1881-1948 :Panoramic photographs of New Zealand. Ref: Pan-0422-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/32050069

Completing his service in Samoa in August 1923, Erridge returned to New Zealand and, following three months leave, resumed duty with the NZAOC, where he was posted to the Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) and placed in charge of the Stores on 1 December 1923. In an example of his experience and utility, Erridge would temporally relieve Captain F.E Ford, the Ordnance Officer of Featherston Camp, over the period 4-31 Jan 1924.

During the 1920s, the Quartermaster General (QMG) vested command of the NZAOC to the Director of Ordnance Service (DOS). Assisted by the Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), the Inspecting Ordnance Officer (IOO), and the Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME), the DOS was responsible to the for:[2]

  • The provision, receipt, storage, distribution, repair, examination, and maintenance of small-arms, machine guns, vehicles, clothing and necessaries, equipment and general stores (including medical and veterinary), and camp and barrack equipment,
  • The inspection and repair of armament and warlike stores, and the inspection of gun ammunition.
  • The provision, receipt, storage, and distribution of small arms ammunition.
  • The receipt, storage, issue, and repair of fixed armament, field armament, and artillery vehicles.
  • The organisation and control of ordnance workshops
  • The preparation and periodic revision of Equipment Regulations and barrack and hospital schedules
  • The organisation, administration, and training of the NZ Army Ordnance Corps Forces
  • The maintenance of statistics of the Ordnance Department.

The DOS was also the Commanding Officer (CO) of the NZAOC and was responsible for the interior economy, including enlistment, training, pay, promotion, postings transfers, clothing, equipment, and discharges within the unit.

In 1924 the incumbent DOS, Lt Col Pilkington, was appointed QMG in Army Headquarters. Major T.J King, then acting COO, was appointed DOS, with Major William Ivory acting as the IOO and OME.  By 1925 King recognised that he could not provide complete justice to both the DOS and COO posts, but with no Ordnance Officers immediately available to fill the COO position, he recommended that the QMG give some relief by granting Erridge an officer’s commission. In his recommendation to the QMG, King noted that

Conductor Erridge is a man of wide experience in Ordnance duties and stores works generally and is eminently fitted for appointment as Ordnance Officer with the rank of lieutenant. He is a man of unblemished character, with a very high regard for the interests of the Corps and the services, and in the last few months gained sufficient insight into the duties I propose transferring him to.

Director of Ordnance Stores to Quartermaster General 11 December 1925

The QMG supported King’s recommendation on the proviso that Erridge pass all the required commissioning examinations. On passing the examinations needed, Erridge was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the NZAOC on 23 July 1926.[3] However, the question then arose of where to place Erridge on to the Army List. Technically the COO appointment was still vacant with Erridge for all intents acting as King’s assistant and only performing part of the COO duties with the work of the COO divided between King and Erridge. It was not desired to add to the establishment an Assistant COO, so it was decided to show Erridge as Ordnance Officer (Provision). Following several years as the Ordnance Officer (Provision), Erridge was appointed to the dual roles of Ordnance Officer MOD and Ordnance Officer Central Military District (CMD) on 14 May 1929.[4]

In December 1930, the incumbent Ordnance Officer Southern Military District (SMD)and Camp Commandant of Burnham Camp, Captain A.R.C White, faced compulsory retirement. To allow some continuity while White’s replacement was decided, Erridge was temporarily sent to Burnham. Although initially only a temporary posting, Erridge would remain at Burnham until 1934 in the dual roles of Ordnance Officer SMD and Officer in Charge Burnham Camp (Camp Commandant).[5]

By 1935 in his role of DOS, King was looking forward and preparing his organisation for war. In a submission to the General Headquarters, King requested authority to reorganise his staff. Regarding Erridge, King started.

Owing to the large amount of new equipment that is on order and is likely to be ordered soon, it is essential that the staff of the Ordnance Depot, Trentham, be strengthened to the extent that I should again have the assistance of my most experienced Ordnance Officer.

There is a great deal of work of a technical nature in connection with mobilisation, rewriting of Regulations, etc., which I am unable to find time to carry out myself, and which Mr Erridge, by virtue of his long experience and training, is well qualified to undertake. This work is most necessary and should be put in hand as soon as possible; I have no other Officer to whom I could delegate it.

Again, King’s recommendations were accepted, and on 30 June 1934, Erridge relinquished his Burnham appointments and was appointed as the Ordnance Officer (Provision) at the MOD, with promotion to Captain following on 1 December 1934.[6]

When the war was declared in September 1939, the NZAOC would undergo significant transformation as its mobilisation plans were implemented. The DOS, Lieutenant Colonel King, would be seconded to the 2nd NZEF as the Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (DDOS). Accompanying King would be a small staff drawn from the military and civilian staff of the NZAOC who would form the nucleus of the Ordnance Corps in the 2nd NZEF. Kings’ responsibilities of DOS and COO would be handed over to the Ordnance Officer CMD, Lt Col Burge.

On 2 December 1939, Erridge relinquished the appointment of Ordnance Officer (Provision), was granted the Rank of temporary Major and posted to Army HQ with substantive Major confirmed in February 1940.[7]  In June 1940, the NZAOC would undergo further reorganisation when Lt Col Burge relinquished the appointment of DOS when he was appointed as Deputy QMG in Army HQ with the position of DOS placed into abeyance for the duration of the war. Appointed as Staff Officer Ordnance and CO of the NZAOC, Erridge would take over responsibility for the NZAOC.[8]

With the national economy transitioning from a peacetime to a war footing, the Government would undertake a series of initiatives to ensure international trade and commerce security.  Representing the New Zealand Military, Erridge would accompany the New Zealand Minister of Supply and a small entourage of officials of the New Zealand Munitions and Supply Delegation on a tour of Australia for a series of talks with their Australian counterparts in July/August 1940.[9]

While the mission of the New Zealand Munitions and Supply Delegation to Australia was focused on strengthening cooperation between New Zealand and Australia, the Eastern Group Conference held in Delhi in October 1940 had the broader goal of organising a joint war supply policy for the countries of the “Eastern Group.” The countries represented at the Eastern Group Conference included the United Kingdom, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, East Africa, Palestine, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, and Hong Kong, with the Government of the Netherlands East Indies attending as observers.[10]  The New Zealand delegation would include.

  • The Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Sir John Duigan,
  • Major H. E. Erridge,
  • Mr F. R. Picot, Director of the Internal Marketing Department,
  • Mr J. R. Middleton, assistant-Secretary of supply,
  • Mr B. Taylor, assistant to the chief investigating officer of the Treasury Department.

As a result of the October conference, the Eastern Group Supply Council (EGSC) was established to coordinate and optimise the production and distribution of war materiel in the British colonies and dominions in the Eastern Hemisphere. The New Zealand members of the council who would be based in New Delhi were.

  • Mr F.R Picot, Director of Internal Marketing and Food Controller,
  • Mr W.G.M Colquhoun (Munitions Department).
  • Mr R.J Inglis (Supply Department).
  • Mr R.H. Wade (of the Treasury).

A Central Provisions Office (Eastern) was also set up in Delhi, with national offices established in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, East Africa, Southern Rhodesia and the Middle East.   The Central Provision Office (Eastern) was a military organisation consisting of about 40 to 50 Army officers from all countries constituting the Eastern Group. Headed by the Controller-General of Army Provisions, who was also the military member of the EGSC and acted as the agent of the Imperial General Staff and various Commanders in Chief. The role of the Central Provision Office (Eastern) was coordinating with the controllers of the national provision offices to obtain military stores to maintain the British and Commonwealth war effort.[11] From March 1941, Two NZAOC Officers, Temporary Major D. L. Lewis and Lieutenant D.I Strickland, would be attached to the Central Provision Office (Eastern) staff in New Delhi.[12]

Before the Central Provision Office (Eastern) assumed complete provision control, it would be necessary for all the controllers of the national provision offices to meet to ensure that uniform procedures were adopted. A coordination conference for the various Provision Group Controllers was held at New Delhi in July 1941, with Erridge attending as New Zealand’s military representative. Based on this conference, on 5 August 1941, the New Zealand War Cabinet approved the establishment of the New Zealand Defence Servicers Provision Officer (DSPO), with Erridge appointed as its Controller with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant Colonel. Relinquishing the appointment of Staff Officer Ordnance and handing over the Commanding Officer NZAOC duties to Major E.L.G Bown, the COO MOD.[13]

By  April 1945, the DSPO thought Central Provision Group (Eastern) had shipped for the British Ministry of Supply equipment to the value of £10,000,000 (2021 NZD $8,988,577,362.41) with additional equipment to the value of  £8,520,761 (2021 NZD $765,895,194.35) that was surplus to the requirements of NZ Forces overseas transferred to the War office.[14]  During a visit to New Zealand in January 1946, Major-General R.P Pakenham-Walsh, CB, MC., a member of the Eastern Group Supply Council and the Central Provision Office(Eastern), stated that “Stores from New Zealand which had been made available to the Eastern Group Supply Council had been of great importance in the prosecution of the war” adding that “the Dominion’s contribution had compared more than favourably with that of various larger countries.”[15]  Following the surrender of Germany in April and Japan’s defeat in August 1945, the Eastern Group Supply Council and Central Provision Office, although serving their purpose well, had become irrelevant and were dissolved on 31 March 1946.[16]  However, it would take two years for the DSPO to transition to a peacetime footing. Seconded to the War Asset Realisation Board (WARB) on 1 May 1947, Erridge would start to wind down the work of the DSPO while also coordinating the disposal of equipment through the WARB. On 17 December 1948, Erridge handed over the remaining stocks to the WARB and closed the DSPO.

At 62 years of age and following 45 years of volunteer, Territorial and Regular service, Erridge retired from the New Zealand Army and was placed onto the Retired List with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 29 May 1949.[17] Never marrying, Erridge spent his retirement in his hometown of Dunedin. On 30 March 1962, a resident of the Dunedin’s Ross Home, Erridge, passed away at 74. Following his wishes, he was cremated, and his ashes scattered.

Throughout his service, Erridge was awarded the following decorations

  • OBE (1946)
  • NZ Long Service and Efficient Service (1925)
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal
  • War Medal 1939-45
  • NZ War Medal, 193-45

Notes

[1] Archives New Zealand, “Henry Earnest Erridge- Ww1 8/1004, Nzaoc 888, Ww2 800245, 30293,” Personal File, Record no R24097640  (1904-1948): 2708.

[2] “Regulations for the Military Forces of the Dominion of New Zealand,” New Zealand Gazette, May 19 1927.

[3] “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations and Transfers of Officers of the NZ Military Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 61, 19 July 1926.

[4] “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations and Transfer of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 48, 27 June 1929.

[5] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 16, 5 March 1931.

[6] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 55, 19 July 1934.;”Appointment, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers from the NZ Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 87, 29 November 1935.

[7] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 1, 11 Jan 1940.;”Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 75  (1940).

[8] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 70  (1940).

[9] “Unity in War Effort,” Evening Star, Issue 23622, 8 July 1940.

[10] East Africa consisting of the territories of (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland; Bertram Stevens, “The Eastern Group Supply Council,” The Australian Quarterly 13, no. 3 (1941).

[11] “Eastern Group Supply Council,” Otago Daily Times, Issue 24640, 23 June 1941.

[12] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Retirements of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces.,” New Zealand Gazette, No 30, 9 April 1941.

[13] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Retirements of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces.,” New Zealand Gazette, No 74, 11 September 1941.

[14] “War Supplies,” Evening Post, Volume CXXXIX, Issue 126, 30 May 1945.

[15] “Production Problems,” Evening Star, Issue 25690, 14 January 1946.

[16] “Supplies – the Eastern Group Supply Council,” Northern Advocate, 1 April 1946, 1 April 1946.

[17] “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Resignations, of Officers of the New Zealand Army “, New Zealand Gazette No 37, 16 June 1949.


The Cave

As New Zealand’s Army’s central stock holding unit, 1 Base Supply Battalion(1BSB) was responsible for managing and providing depot-level storage of New Zealand’s Military’s stock of land equipment and spares. Despite having this responsibility since 1920, 1BSB and its predecessors had always struggled with providing suitable warehousing infrastructure and made do with the available storage infrastructure.

With no purpose-built storage accommodation, from 1920 to 1940, the NZAOC Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) would utilise up to one hundred camp administrative and accommodation structures as its primary means of warehousing. Relief was provided in 1938 when contracts were issued to construct a modern warehouse utilising the most modern of methods and materials.[1] The New warehouse, later known as Building 73, would be constructed using reinforced concrete and designed with nine bays that allowed the loading and unloading of Trains on one side and Motor Transport on the other. The design and layout of building 73 would be utilised as the model for new warehouses that would later be constructed at Burnham and Waiouru.

Building 73

Although Building 73 provided a considerable increase in storage capability, wartime demands soon necessitated further increases in storage infrastructure, resulting in the construction of Building 74. Building 74 and the warehouses constructed in Burnham and Waiouru were close facsimiles of building 73, with the main exception that it was constructed out of wood instead of reinforced concrete due to wartime constraints.[2]

The wartime expansion of the New Zealand military would see the MOD exponentially expand to cope with the influx of military material with additional buildings constructed in Trentham and sub-depots also established a Mangere, Wanganui, Linton Camp, Gracefield and Wellington.

Peace in 1945 would bring little respite as stocks were centralised at the MOD, requiring further expansion of the MOD warehousing infrastructure. To meet this need, five warehouses that were built for the United States Forces at Lower Hutt, were disassembled and re-erected at Trentham by September 1945.[3] Additionally, the RNZAF Stores Depot constructed at Mangaroa in 1943 was handed over to the MOD in 1949.

Over the next forty years, the warehousing infrastructure at Trentham would change little, with a 1985 NZDF report identifying many deficiencies leading to significant upgrading of Trentham’s warehousing infrastructure.[4]

Main Ordnance Depot 1966

In one of the most significant warehousing infrastructure investments since 1939 and the first modern warehouse built for the RNZAOC since 1972, Building 75, a high stud warehouse capable of holding 3700 pallets,  opened in 1988. Although a significant advancement in warehousing capability, the new warehouse had limited space for outsized items. Additionally many other warehousing functions such as packing and traffic remained in Building 73, so further work was required to enhance the functionality of 1BSBs entire warehousing capability.

Building 73 (left), Building 74 (Right)

With trains no longer utilised for the delivery and dispatching of stores, the rail lines between Building 73 and 74 had long been redundant. By removing the rail line and raising the ground level between the two buildings, additional storage spect of almost two square kilometres, protected from the elements by a 200 x 13-meter roof, was created. At the southern end, a loading ramp was constructed to allow the loading and unloading of trucks, with angled ramps at either end allowing the movement of vehicles along the length of the new storage area.  Opened on 2 November 1989, the new warehouse was christened as “the Cave.” The Cave allowed the more efficient transfer of stores to and from the storage areas in  Buildings 73, 74 and 75 to the receipt, selecting, packing and issue bays in Building 73.

Lieutenant Colonel P.P Martyn, Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps. Commanding Officer 1 Base Supply Battalion January 1988 – December 1990, Officially opening “The Cave”

The additional storage space allowed the storage of outsized items which had previously been stored at the Mangaroa Depot, which was subsequently decommissioned and handed over to NZDF Property Services.

The optimisation of storage space between the two buildings was so successful a similar modification would be constructed between two of 21 Supply Company’s 1950s era Warehouses at Linton, creating much-needed storage and office space.


Notes

[1] “New Army Ordnance Block Now under Construction at One of the Military Camps,” Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 65, 14 Sept 1939.

[2] F Grattan, Official War History of the Public Works Department (PWD, 1948).

[3] “Organisation – Policy and General – Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1946-1984,” Archives New Zealand Item No R17311537  (1946).

[4] “Assessment and Audit – Audit Files – [1995] – Nzdf Bulk Warehousing,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24596003  (1985).