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 Maori presented new 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 mainly 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 combatant status 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 would be 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 short 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


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.


Tragedy at Tikao Bay

Today Tikao Bay is a calm, peaceful little bay with a laid-back holiday vibe hidden away in Akaroa Harbour with few clues remaining of its military use and the tragic drowning of two Ordnance soldiers.

During World War Two, with the threat of invasion by Japan just over the horizon, the isolated Akaroa Harbour would be fortified to deny its use by the enemy. However, by the time the battery of 6-inch guns,  Naval Armament Depot and controlled minefield was completed in 1943, the threat had diminished, with the defences becoming an expensive white elephant. In early 1944 The controlled minefield was fired, and all the navy stores at the Tikao Bay Naval Armament Depot were transferred to other installations and facilities offered to the army.[1]

Akaroa Harbour Defences. Peter Cooke Defending New Zealand 2000

The extensive facilities at Tikao Bay, including a mine magazine, examination room, primer magazine wharf and accommodation buildings, were taken over by the Southern District’s Ordnance Depot at Burnham Camp in 1944 as a satellite storage depot for Gun and Artillery Equipment.[2] With an initial establishment of seven men in 1944, this had been reduced by 1955 to two soldiers responsible for the storage and maintenance of the equipment held at Tikao Bay.

Former Defence buildings Tikao Bay. Suff.co.nz/Ewen Sargent

Staff Sergeant Frederick Hastings Kirk aged 52, was married with three children and had been the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the Tikao Bay depot since 1950. Staff Sergeant Kirk had joined the Ordnance Depot at Burnham in 1939 as a civilian before enlisting into the 2nd NZEF early in 1940. As a Temporary Warrant Officer Class Two in 23 Battalion, Kirk was taken prisoner at Crete in 1941 and would remain a Prisoner of War for four and a half years. On his return to New Zealand, he joined the temporary staff and was posted to the Ordnance Depot at Burnham. In 1948 he became a member of the Regular Force and transferred to Tikao Bay in 1950. 

Private Donald George Dixon was aged 28 and was married with three children. Private Dixon would initially serve with the ammunition inspection branch after his 1953 enlistment and was transferred to the Tikao Bay Depot in October 1953.

On Tuesday, 10 March 1955, on completion of their daily duties, Kirk and Dixon left the depot at about 7 pm to check a set net approximately 200 yards (183 Meters) from the Tikao bay jetty. Having not returned by 11 pm, the police were notified, and Constable Egan of Akaroa and Mr G Brasell undertook an initial search. At 3 am Wednesday, Egan and Brasell located the missing men’s upturned dingy at the high-water mark near the set net, which was still in position. Reinforced with a party from Burnham Camp, local residents, and the police, the search for the missing men, would continue for the rest of the week.[3]

Private Dixon’s body was located and recovered from the harbour on Saturday morning.[4] The search for Staff Sergeants Kirks body would continue with his body found on 18 March.[5] It was assumed that a southerly wind had risen after the two men left the depot, causing the dingy to capsize with the coroner’s report ruling the deaths as asphyxia by drowning due to misadventure.

Tikao Bay would remain as an Army installation and training area into the early 1970s; however, its role as a storage depot would cease in the 1960s as the army progressively disposed of the remaining artillery equipment held there.[6]


Notes

[1] Sydney D. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs War History Branch Waters, The Royal New Zealand Navy (Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Dept of Internal Affairs, 1956), 229-36.

[2] “Establishments – Ordnance Corps “, Archives New Zealand No R22441743  (1937 – 1946).

[3] “Two Soldiers Missing,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27606, , 12 March 1955.

[4] “Unsuccessful Search for Body,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27608, , 15 March 1955.

[5] “Soldiers Body Recovered,” Press, Volume XCI, Issue 27612, , 19 March 1955.

[6] “Army Sells Guns,” Press, Volume C, Issue 29469, , 22 March 1961; “Tikao Bay Depot,” Press, Volume XCIX, Issue 29331, , 10 October  1960.


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).


Belmonts Chemical Weapon Stockpile

Of all the Ammunition magazine areas constructed in New Zealand during the Second World War, the Belmont magazine area was nestled in the hills north of Wellington between the Hutt and Porirua was the largest and closest to a large population area. In the early 1970s, following the removal, disassembly for scrap, and destruction of its stocks, Belmont’s life as an magazine area concluded with the land was reverting to civilian use.   As with any retired military facility kept out of the public eye during its operational life, urban legends and rumor’s thrive about secret tunnels and forgotten caches of buried military material.  In this respect, Belmont is no different as items such as empty 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft projectiles are occasionally discovered, fueling such rumor’s. Although there is little evidence to support the stories and urban legends, Belmont does have some secrets from its wartime past. The most significant is that Belmont was the home to the bulk of New Zealand’s chemical weapon stockpile.

As the threat of war with Japan became inevitable in 1940, the New Zealand Government would begin a progressive mobilisation of New Zealand’s home defence forces. By early 1942 this mobilisation would see two Infantry Brigades deployed to Fiji and Three Divisions and several independent Brigades mobilised for home defence.

This massive mobilisation initiated a rearmament program resulting in vast amounts of war material from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States being delivered to New Zealand. Included as part of the infusion of new weapons and equipment was the required scales of ammunition required for each type of weapon system. Ammunition scales used by New Zealand were based upon the standard British scales. They included all the ammunition natures needed by New Zealand for use in the Pacific and home defence, including Anti-Tank, High-Explosive, Smoke and a stockpile of Chemical rounds consisting of,

  • 112,770 25-Pounder Chemical rounds, and
  • 10,300 4.2-inch B4 (Tear) and Y4(Blister) chemical mortar bombs.

With consignments of ammunition due to arrive in New Zealand from late 1942, construction of the new ammunition magazine areas had been initiated in 1940, with the construction of the Belmont Magazine Area beginning in September 1942.[1]  The Belmont Magazine Area would consist of sixty-two Magazine buildings, with buildings 28 and 29 dedicated to holding chemical rounds from late 1943.

All the 4.2inch Bombs were stored at Belmont with the recommended distribution of the 25-Pounder chemical rounds been,[2]

  • 30,000 rounds to the Northern Military District
  • 30,000 rounds to the Southern Military District
  • 52,770 rounds to the Central Military District Belmont Depot

However, records are uncertain if this distribution occurred, so it is quite probable that the entire stock of 25-Pounder ammunition was held at Belmont.

The New Zealand Stockpile was significant as a lethal percutaneous dose of mustard was 4.5 gm. With 300 tons of the agent in the NZ stockpile, the potential lethal doses held in Belmont was approximately 60 million. To put the size of the stockpile in context, it was equal to 5% of the United States Stockpile in 1993.

The use of Chemical Weapons was highly controlled and only to be used in retaliation if the enemy used it first. Although US forces on Guadalcanal had captured some Japanese Chemical Weapons, the NZ Deputy Chiefs of Staff was confident that there did ‘not appear to be any other or greater evidence that the Japanese propose to use gas in this area’. However, it is believed that 3 NZ Div did deploy with Chemical rounds for their 25-pounders just in case.

If Chemical rounds were deployed with the 3 NZ Div, they would have been returned to New Zealand in 1944 and stored at the Kelms Road Depot at Ngaruawahia alongside the other natures of ammunition utilised by the Division.

Following the war, the disposal of wartime ammunition would become a standing task for the RNZAOC Ammunition functions as damaged, obsolete, and surplus stocks were disposed of by a variety of methods.

Ammunition that was damaged would often be disposed of by demolition, with, for example, the destruction of 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft ammunition issued to units and returned to Depots would take up to 1957 to complete.[3]

The stockpile of chemical munitions would be dumped at sea, with two dumping operations found in archival sources.[4]

  • Two hundred tons of chemical shells scuttled on the tug Maui Pomare at the 100-fathom line in the Hauraki Gulf in April 1946.
  • One thousand five hundred tons of 25-Pounder chemical shells and twenty tons of bombs had been dumped by the Marine Department steamer Matai off the Wellington coast by October 1946.

Stock from the Belmont magazine area was delivered by Army personnel to the wharf at the RNZAF base at Shelly Bay in lots of 250 Tons and loaded onto the Marine Department steamer Matai. All possible safety precautions were applied with each crew member was issued protective capes, respirators and gloves. With special chutes constructed, cases of shells were jettisoned fifty Nautical miles off the Wellington coast in the Cook Strait Canyon, which reaches depths of three kilometres.[5]

N Z Government S S Matai, on patent slip at Evans Bay, Wellington. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-049255-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22744146

The dumping of the Chemical munitions was well publicised with newspaper articles describing the disposal operation;[6]

Stored since 1943, 1500 tons of gas shells are to be dumped at sea by the Matai.  Fuses have been removed from the 25lb shells that contain the gas, but to ensure that there is no risk to those carrying out the work, full Admiralty and War Office safeguards will, be taken. The gas is of the blister variety. The boxes containing the shells will be filled with sand to guard against possible leakages. Each box is painted with a substance that will indicate even a pinpoint of escaped gas.

Northern Advocate, 18 September 1946

Although the archival records that at least 15,220 tons of Chemical munitions had been dumped at sea by the end of 1946, there is no accurate reconciliation of the actual number of rounds disposed of. However, it would be a reasonable assumption that New Zealand had no desire to maintain a contingency stock of Chemical weapons and that all wartime stocks were disposed of by the end of 1946.


Notes

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

[2] “Defence Works – Magazine – Belmont Hills,” Archives New Zealand Item No R22435088  (1942).

[3] “H-19 Military Forces of New Zealand Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding, for period 1 April 1957 to 31 March 1958,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (3 July 1958 1958).

[4] “Ammunition – Disposal of unserviceable ammunition 1945-1952,” Archives New Zealand Item No R21465842  (1945).

[5] A Hubbard, “Chemical War: Our seabed legacy,” New Zeland Listner, 16 January 1993.

[6] “Gas Shells to be Dumped at Sea,” Northern Advocate, 18 September 1946, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NA19460918.2.17.


MT Stores – 1939-1963

The Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC) and its predecessor’s primary storekeeping responsibility was providing Clothing, Camp Equipment, Ammunition, Arms and Accessories to New Zealand’s Military Forces. From the Second World War, the technical nature of military Storekeeping evolved to include a host of military equipment such as vehicles, communications equipment and mechanical plant. These new types of equipment were utilised in large quantities, and all required accessories and a complex range of repair parts to keep them operational. To provided a comprehensive and optimal measure of control from 1963, RNZAOC Stores Sections were raised as part of Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (RNZEME) workshops. The Stores Sections were complimented by the standing up of the Auto Parts trade in 1965. This article provides a broad and introductory overview of how the Motor Transport Branch (MT Branch) and the RNZAOC managed Motor Transport Stores (MT Stores) from 1939 to 1963.

As in the First World War, the New Zealand Army mobilised in 1939 would be equipped and organised to allow near-seamless integration into a larger British army. The British army of 1939 was one whose doctrine had embraced modern technology so that. ‘By the time of the invasion of Poland, the British Army in Europe was rather more motorised than the German Army.’[1] Aspects of the advanced British doctrine had filtered through to New Zealand in the later 1930s, with modern equipment such as Bren Guns and Universal carriers arriving in New Zealand and some rudimentary experiments in motorising the Army had taken place. However, as a legacy of interwar defence policies and financial constraints, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC), unlike the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) in the United Kingdom, was not organised effectively and, as a result, unprepared to function effectively when the war began. It could be said that during the Second World War, New Zealand maintained two separate armies. First, the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2nd NZEF), with its combat units, supporting arms and logistic units, organised against modified War Office Establishment tables with G1098 stores directly drawn from British Stocks.[2] Secondly, there was the NZ Army at home. Although also organised against War Office Establishment tables, its equipment needs, and G1098 Stores would be provided from a New Zealand Logistical base.

The NZAOC of 1939 was a Corps that had suffered under the defence restraints of the interwar years and was primarily concerned with the supply and maintenance of clothing, equipment, ammunition, and weapons. Although the army had 56 vehicles, the NZAOC had little experience supporting Motor Transport (MT) on a scale required by a growing army.  A significant factor limiting the growth of the NZAOC in the critical early wartime years was that nearly all its senior leadership had been seconded to the 2nd NZEF. Given the need to rapidly expand and manage the capacity of the Army’s MT fleet, the Quartermaster General (QMG) decided in a significant break from the doctrine that to allow the NZAOC to focus on its key responsibilities, a separate MT Branch would be established.[3]

New Zealand Temporary Staff. Robert McKie Collection

The MT Branch was established in late 1939 to manage and maintain the thousands of purchased or impressed vehicles required by the military. Taking a similar approach to the RAOC in the United Kingdom, the MT Branch would leverage off the experience of the New Zealand Motor industry.[4]  Many of the MT Branch’s staff would be directly recruited from the motor industry into the New Zealand Temporary Staff (NZTS). By December 1942, the MT Branch consisted of,[5]

  • MT Workshops
    • 1 MT Workshops, Trentham
    • 2 MT Workshop, Waiouru
    • 3 MT Workshops, Papakura
    • 4 MT Workshops, Whangarei
    • 5 MT Workshops, Palmerston North
    • 6 MT Workshops, Wellington
    • 7 MT Workshops, Blenheim
    • 8 MT Workshops, Burnham
    • 9 MT Workshop, Dunedin
  • MT Depots providing pools of vehicles
    • 1 MT Depot, Auckland
    • 2 MT Depot, Hamilton
    • 3 MT Depot, Napier
    • 4 MT Depot, Wanganui
    • 5 MT Deport, Christchurch
  • MT Stores Depots providing MT spares, tools and equipment for MT Workshops and Depots
    • 1 Base MT Stores Depot, Wellington
    • 2 MT Stores Depot, Auckland
    • 3 MT Stores Depot, Wellington
    • 4 MT Stores Depot, Christchurch
    • 7 MT Stores Depot, Blenheim

As most vehicles utilised by the NZ Military in the early years of the war were impressed from civilian service, initial scaling of MT spares were achieved by simply purchasing the existing stock held by New Zealand motor manufacturers and dealerships. As the war progressed, new vehicles, equipment and spares arrived from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States, requiring further expansion of the MT Branch.

Freed from the burden of managing MT, the Chief Ordnance Officer (COO) with NZAOC, Territorial units of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) and personnel from the NZTS would provide.

  •  All natures of stores and equipment other than rations, forage, and fuel.
  • The repair and maintenance of armaments and equipment, including
    • Light Aid Detachments and mobile workshops providing 1st and 2nd line support across Field Force Units
    • Armament and General Engineering Workshops.
      • Main Ordnance Workshop, Trentham
      • 11 Ordnance Workshop, Whangarei
      • 12 Ordnance Workshop, Devonport
      • 13 Ordnance Workshop, Blenheim
      • 14 Ordnance Workshop, Burnham
      • 15 Ordnance Workshop, Dunedin

Post War Developments

Before the war, the NZAOC had not been organised to carry out its functions effectively. The conclusion of the war provided the opportunity for the NZAOC to be reorganised to bring it into line with RAOC organisational structures and procedures, including the management of vehicles and MT Spares. The MT Branch, which had only been intended as a temporary wartime organisation, would, as a result, have its wartime responsibilities absorbed into a reorganised NZAOC and newly established NZEME. [6] When the MT Branch was established in 1939, it had 62 vehicles at its disposal. By the end of the war the Branch had handled over 30000 vehicles, with 21000 disposed of by March 1946.

MT Workshops

The MT Branch Workshops along the Ordnance Workshops would, from 1 September 1946, be absorbed into a new organisation, the NZEME.[7]

MT Vehicle Depots

With many of the vehicles impressed earlier in the war returned to their original owners or disposed of during the war, the MT Vehicle Deports still held thousands of military vehicles. From 1 September 1947, responsibility for the MT Vehicle Depots was transferred to the RNZAOC, establishing the RNZAOC Vehicle Depots at Sylvia Park, Trentham, and Burnham.[8]

MT Spares Depots

Following several audits and stocktakes, spare parts, tools, and accessory s were handed over from MT Stores to the RNZAOC on 1 April 1948. To continue the management of MT Stores, the RNZAOC established MT Spares Groups at the Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) at Trentham and at the Northern and Southern District Ordnance Depots. The system of supply for MT Stores was that the RNZEME workshops held a small stock managed by RNZEME Stores Staff. Replenishment was by either Local Purchase or through the supporting District Ordnance Depot, MT Group. The exception was that the Central Districts Workshops at Waiouru and Linton demanded off the MOD MT Stores Group at Trentham. This anomaly was rectified in 1954 when the Central Districts Ordnance Depot at Linton was authorised to establish an MT Stores Depot.

By 1961 the NZ Army vehicle fleet was in transition as the older World War Two era fleet of vehicles, including Chevrolets, Fords and GMCs, where been replaced with a fleet of modern Bedford’s and Land Rovers. As the vehicle fleet transitioned, the management MT Stores were also reviewed, and several changes would be implemented during 1961and 1962.

Workshop Stores Sections

RNZAOC Workshop Stores Sections were to be raised at the following RNZEME Workshops,

•             Northern Districts Workshops,

•             Central Districts Workshops,

•             Central Districts Armament and General Workshops

•             Central Districts MT Workshops

•             Southern District Workshops

50% of the staff for the new Stores Sections would be RNZEME personnel transferred into the RNZAOC.[9]

Ordnance Deport MT Stores Groups

With raising the RNZAOC Stores Sections, the District Ordnance Depot MT Stores Groups were rerolled as Technical Stores Groups and ceased to hold MT Stores. Stock of MT Stores was redistributed to the new Stores Sections whose initial scaling for 1962 was to have six months of inventory; this was reduced to three months after January 1963. The balance of the District Ordnance Depots stock not required by the Stores Sections was to be transferred to the MOD.

By the end of 1963, RNZAOC Stores Sections had been firmly established as part of the RNZEME Workshops, providing not only MT Spares but the full range of repair parts and spares required by the workshops. Developing their own unique culture within the RNZAOC, the stage was set to introduce an RNZAOC Auto Parts and Accessories trade in 1965.


Notes

[1] Jonathan Fennell, Fighting the people’s war : the British and Commonwealth armies and the Second World War, Armies of the Second World War, (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Non-fiction, 32.

[2]  Army Form G1098, the Unit Equipment Table giving the entitlement to stores and equipment.

[3] The Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 and mobilisation regulations stated that all A and B Vehicles less those driven by the RASC were to be maintained by the RAOC, RASC vehicles were to be maintained by the RASC. Ordnance Manual (War), ed. The War Office (London: His Majestys Stationery Office, 1939), 12.

[4] P.H. Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War (History Press Limited, 2016), 42-54.

[5] “Staff – Motor transport branch,” Archives New Zealand Item No R22438851  (1942).

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

[7] The NZEME would gain royal status in 1947 as the Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME).

[8] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, RNZEME 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 189.

[9] “Organisation – Policy and General – Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1946-1984.”


Rickshaw Military Research

Rickshaw Military Research specialises in the research and transcription of New Zealand Military Service Records to allow families to learn of their families military experience in peace and war. Services offered by Rickshaw Military Research include;

  • Interpretation of military records,
  • Assistance with military research,
  • Identification of medals, badges and insignia, and sourcing of replacements.
  • Regiment and unit identification.

Often, descendants of New Zealand Servicemen have some inkling that their ancestors served in the military. Knowledge of a relative’s service will often be a source of pride with some evidence such as photos of the relative in uniform, medals, unit badges, diaries, and other souvenirs existing. However, for many, any connection to their relative’s military service is long-forgotten and a mystery. For some, the only link to a relative is an inscription on one of New Zealand’s many War Memorials.

For all those interested in discovering more about their ancestors military service, accessing the individual’s service record and understanding what is written in it can be a daunting exercise,first in gaining the service record and then interpreting the peculiar language used by the military and making sense of the many abbreviations used, reading a service record often leads to more questions than answers.

Rickshaw Military Research provides a service where we work with the family and after some preliminary questions, access the relevant military service record from the archives and produce a transcript of the relative’s service record into an easy to read format, including;

  • Personal details of the individual.
  • Brief description of activities prior and after service.
  • Record of service, from enlistment to demobilisation, including;
    • Formations/Units served in.
    • Campaigns and battles that were participated in.
    • Locations visited.
  • Record of Promotions.
  • Record of Illness and Injuries.
  • Records of medals and awards, including citations.
  • Brief description of post-service activities.
  • Illustrations will be provided where possible and could include;
    • Photos of the serviceman.
    • Medals.
    • Badges and patches worn.
    • Maps.
    • Equipment used, i.e. if a serviceman was a tank driver, an illustration of the type of tank driven.

Services offered

Pre 1921 Records

Service records prior to 1921 including the South Africa and First World War.

  • Basic one-page summary of service: $100*
    • Basic service information from attestation to discharge edited to fit on a single A4 sheet.
  • Full transcript of service : $250*
    • Transcript of service relating to target serviceman with additional information on units served in and campaigns participated in presented as a booklet or interactive Web App.

Post 1921 Records

Service records from 1921 including the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, South Vietnam, CMT & National Service, Peacekeeping and Territorial and Regular service in New Zealand)

  • Basic one-page summary of service: $150*
    • Basic service information from attestation to discharge edited to fit on a single A4 sheet.
  • Full transcript of service : $300*
    • Transcript of service relating to target serviceman with additional information on units served in and campaigns participated in presented as a booklet or interactive Web App.

Other Research

Other research outside the scope of researching Personnel Records is charged at a rate of NZD$30 per hour.

*All prices are GST inclusive.

Interested in knowing more? Feel free to contact Rickshaw Military Research and let us know how we can assist.


High hopes for Hopuhopu

Situated just north of the small Waikato town of Ngaruawahia, the Military Camp at Hopuhopu would for Sixty-Two years, be the home of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in the Upper North Island.

Located on the banks of the Waikato River and adjacent to the Main Trunk Railway line, at a glance Hopuhopu, in its remote rural location south of Auckland seems a strange place to locate an Ordnance Depot. However, despite its location, the Ordnance Depot at Hopuhopu was significant in the histography of the RNZAOC.

The significance of Hopuhopu was that it would be the first purpose-built Ordnance Depot for the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, with at the time of its construction the most modern Warehousing and Ammunition Storage infrastructure in use by the New Zealand Military.

Purpose-built Military storage infrastructure had been constructed early in the 20th Century at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin; however, this infrastructure had been built on a small scale to service the pre-war military districts. The Post-Bellum New Zealand Army was in a good position; it had an experienced cadre of men to draw upon to train the building blocks of any future force. Additionally, the Army was flush with enough new and modern equipment to form and sustain an Expeditionary Force of at least one Infantry Division, a mounted Rifle Brigades, Artillery Regiment and Line of Communications troops.[1]

The bulk of the equipment was held by Ordnance at Trentham and Featherston Camps, utilising wartime infrastructure designed to accommodate soldiers and not large quantiles of military material. Smaller amounts to support training and initial mobilisation were distributed to the new mobilisation camp at Burnham in the South Island and the Mount Eden depot in Auckland. Whilst both Trentham and Burnham had room for expansion, the existing infrastructure at those camps was deemed with a few additions, adequate for the time being with no purpose-built infrastructure constructed until 1939/40. However, in Auckland, the depot at Mount Eden was inadequate and unable to support the Northern districts and more robust mobilisation, and storage infrastructure was required.

Storage of ammunition was another concern. Existing ammunition storage across New Zealand consisted of many 19th-century era powder magazines and converted coastal defence batteries, with the bulk of New Zealand’s ammunition supply stored at Wellingtons Fort Balance. These existing ammunition storage arrangements were unsatisfactory and a more permanent solution was needed in the form of a purpose built facility.

By 1921 the site of a new Mobilisation and Ordnance Depot to support the Northern Districts had been decided upon, and in one of the largest defence infrastructure projects undertaken in New Zealand, construction of the new camp at Hopuhopu would continue throughout the 1920s with the Ordnance Depot opening in 1927. A significant project at the time the progress of construction at Hopuhopu was widely reported on with this Auckland Star article from 1925 describing the plans for the camp;[2]

GREAT MILITARY CAMP

WORK AT HOPUHOPU

DOMINIONS’ AMMUNITION DEPOT

A SPLENDID TRAINING GROUND

Midway between Ngaruawahia and Taupiri, bounded by the railway and the Waikato River, is a long strip of land, some 500 acres in area, level excepting for an extensive hill that rises to an elevation of some ninety feet. This is Hopuhopu, site of the old mission station of the name. Once the home of peace, it is now being transformed by the engineers and men of the Public Works Department into a camp of training for war. Acquired by the Defence Department about three years ago, the Hopuhopu mission site has already been used as a camp for trainees, but it is in the rough, and the plans on which the engineers are now working aim at its conversion into a thoroughly equipped permanent military depot, to be officially known as the Ngaruawahia Mobilisation Base. When the plans are completed, it will be the chief military magazine, for the Dominion, and probably the greatest ordnance depot.

Through the courtesy of the Defence authorities and Mr E. K. James, the engineer in charge of the work, a “Star” representative was permitted to inspect the camp in the making yesterday. The site at once suggests itself as an ideal one for the purpose intended, and this idea is backed by expert engineering and military opinion. There has been some criticism of the area on the ground that it is damp, but this has proved to be a matter that can and will be easily overcome. After heavy rain, there is a degree of surface damp, caused by the matting of thick vegetable growth, but the sinking of a number of test holes has revealed a porous, sandy soil beneath, which, when the “matting” is removed, will readily allow all moisture to percolate and leave a dry surface. In fact, the site lends itself readily to perfect draining. About one hundred men are engaged in the work of clearing and building, and they have been greatly hampered in their preliminary operations by the amount of furze and blackberry that ‘successive owners of the land (including the Government) have allowed to grow on it.[3] The furze is not so hard to clear, but an instance of the pertinacity of the blackberry was shown in a patch that was again springing to vigorous growth two months after it had been cut. Over one hundred acres have been cleared, and there remains another 150 acres to be dealt with by hook and fire.

 

A Varied Terrain

The great value of the Hopuhopu site is that it is adaptable to every branch of military training. A detraining platform a quarter of a mile long will be constructed on the main railway line for the embarkation and disembarkation of troops; there are large level areas for parade grounds; there are hills for reconnoitre and signalling; there is the river for bridge-train and pontoon drill, and in fact, the contour of the country will enable training in every department of military tactics. When the camp is completed, its huge stores, magazines and hutments will spread over an area of 200 acres. It is proposed to provide sanitary drainage from the latrines by a large pipe running along the railway into septic tanks, and thence into the river. The first part of the plan provides for the accommodation of a full battalion, and this will gradually be extended to mobilise and house a brigade of about 5000 men. Next year trainees of the Northern Command will sleep beneath the roofs of solid huts, instead of in tents.

In arriving at the decision to construct this great camp at Hopuhopu, the authorities were doubtless influenced by other considerations additional to the natural suitability of the site for training purposes. It is a reasonable distance from the city; yet not too near. It is not advisable that men in training should have the temptations of a city that is in too close proximity, and it is essential really that a camp containing immense stores of ammunition should be out of range of shelling by a possible hostile fleet operating, for instance, in the Hauraki Gulf. Besides, Hopuhopu is a very handy site for the mobilisation of the thousands of trainees who reside in the closely settled districts of the Waikato.

Some acres of the campsite, between the Old South Road and the river, have been reserved for residences for officers of the permanent staff, the building of which has already been commenced in the corner adjacent to the railway, line. These houses are being constructed of concrete. The whole of the ordnance department is to be transferred to the camp, which will take over a great deal of the stores now housed at Featherston. The extent of the future ordnance department at the new base may be gauged from the fact that the plans provide for five sheds measuring 40 x 500 ft, 40 x 300 ft, 40 x 200 ft, 40 x 100 ft, and 40 x 350 ft. These will lie alongside the camp railway, which runs into the camp for a distance of half a mile from, the mainline, so that stores may be received and dispatched with a minimum of labour and a maximum of speed. From the terminus of this extension, a wooden tramway is to be constructed to the foot of the hill along the base of which the magazines are being built.

The Magazine Section

No fewer than ten magazines for the storage of explosives and ammunition are provided for, and several of these are nearing completion while excavating and banking is being carried out on the site of the great laboratory to be attached to this department. The magazines are built into the hillside. They are constructed of concrete, with double walls, in between which are formed the inspecting chambers. From these chambers’ sentries may see through observation windows the thermometers which register the temperature inside and by this guide check or increase ventilation, as needed, for the explosives must be kept at a certain degree Fahrenheit. Also, the double-wall is a protection against fire. Between each magazine, a pyramid is erected from the spoil taken from the excavation. These are eave high with the roofs of the magazines and are designed to break the force of any possible explosion of one magazine, so that others may not be exploded also. The magazines are also faced by a long embankment, and are, of course, backed by the hill, so that an explosion would be confined as far as possible to the magazine area.

On top of the hill, there has been constructed an 80,000-gallon reservoir for the camp water supply. The water is pumped by a 30 hp motor from a settling tank alongside the river and ten feet below the level of its bed. The water is well filtered and regarded as pure after it has percolated into its tank, but as an additional safeguard, a chlorinating plant is to be installed.

Negotiations are proceeding with landowners on the other side of the river for the acquirement of land for a rifle range.

“Great Military Camp,” The Auckland Star, vol. LVI, no. 83, p. 5, 8 April 1925.

The Ordnance Depot would open in 1927. The original plan called for five warehouses measuring 40 x 500 ft, 40 x 300 ft, 40 x 200 ft, 40 x 100 ft, and 40 x 350 ft; what was eventually construed was a single large warehouse measuring 100 x 322 ft.

1938 Military Camp, Hopuhopu, Waikato. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-55972-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23181165

An additional Ordnance warehouse would be constructed adjacent to the original building during the Second World War. The wartime era would also see as part of a nationwide expansion of the NZ Army’s Ammunition infrastructure with additional magazines added to the existing ten magazine at the Hopuhopu Storage area and a new Ammunition Depot established outside of Hopuhopu Camp at the nearby Kelm Road.

1961 Hopuhopu Military Camp from the air. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-55339-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22480584
Aerial oblique view of Ngaruawahia Army Camp, March 1962. Image ref OhG3046-62, RNZAF Official.

Hopuhopu and its Ordnance Depot would survive until 1989 when as part of many rationalisations taking place across the New Zeland Defence Forces, Hopuhopu camp would be closed, and its functions passed on to other locations.

Hopuhopu 2020. Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development

Notes

[1] Mark McGuire, “Equipping the Post-Bellum Army,” Forts and Works 2016.

[2] “Great Military Camp,” The Auckland Star, vol. LVI, no. 83, p. 5, 8 April 1925.

[3] Furze is another term for gorse.


A retrospective view of the Main Ordnance Depot, Trentham

From 1920 to 1996, Trentham Camp in Wellington’s Hutt Valley was home to the New Zealand’s Army’s principle Ordnance Depot. During its 76 year tenure as a Ordnance Depot, also every New Zealand Army Ordnance Officer and Soldier would at some stage of their career work at, pass through or have some interaction with the Trentham Ordnance Depot.

Using a 1983 Depot plan as a reference point , this article takes a look back at how the Trentham Ordnance Depot developed from 1920 to 1996.

Depot Plan, 1 Base Supply Battalion. Robert McKie Collection
Entrance to the Ordnance Depot 1998, Upper Hutt City Library (19th Mar 2020). Trentham Camp buildings, unidentified; barrier in fence. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 11th Oct 2020 08:03, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/29474
Building 73. Upper Hutt City Library (19th Mar 2020). Trentham Camp building; multi-bay warehouse. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 11th Oct 2020 08:05, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/29475

1920

In 1920 the NZAOC had its Headquarters and main depot located at Alexandra Barracks at Mount Cook, Wellington. In the regions Ordnance Stores were maintained at Mount Eden, Palmerston North, Trentham Camp, Featherston Camp, Mount Cook, Christchurch and Dunedin.

As part of the post war reduction of the Army and the rationalization of the the Ordnance Services, the early interwar years would be a period of transition. In the South Island, the Dunedin and Christchurch Ordnance Stores would close and relocate to Burnham Camp. In the North Island the Palmerston North Depot would close and the main depot at Mount Cook would relocate to Trentham Camp to establish the Main Ordnance Depot.

The Featherson Camp and Mount Eden Ordnance Stores would remain in operation until 1928 when a new Purpose built Ordnance Depot at Hopuhopu in the Waikato was constructed.

With no purpose built storage accommodation, the NZAOC Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham Camp would in the years leading up to the Second World War would utilise up to one hundred different existing camp administrative and accommodation structures as its primary means of warehousing.

Upper Hutt City Library (31st Mar 2018). Trentham Camp 1920; aerial view looking east.. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 15:04, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/464

1940

Seen here shortly after is construction in late 1940/early 1941, this warehouse (Building 73) was constructed as part of a wider nationwide program of defence works. With the contracts for construction let in 1938 and construction beginning in 1939, Building 73 was 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.

Upper Hutt City Library (5th Mar 2018). Trentham Camp 1938-1943 (approximate). In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 15:28, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/25874

1941

From this November 1941 photo the full size of Building 73 can be appreciated in comparison to the World War One era buildings in which many of the Main Ordnance Depots Stores had been held in during the inter war years. Under construction is Building 68, which in later years would become the Direct Support Section (DSS), Building 87 (Dental Stores) and Building 88 (Detention Block)

Trentham Camp, November 1941. National Archives, AAOD,W3273, Box 19, Record WDO 9811, R18059582

1943

Although Building 73 provided a huge increase in storage capability, wartime demands soon necessitated further increases in storage infrastructure, immediately obvious is Building 74. Building 74 was a near duplicate of building 73 with the main exception that due to wartime constraints it was constructed out of wood instead of reinforced concrete.

Building 86 has been completed and connected to it is Building 70, which would later become the Textile Repair Shop.

Buildings 64, 65 and 66 have been completed with Building’s 60 and 61 under construction.

1944

By 1944, despite the wartime expansion of the Main Ordnance Depot, storage requirements still exceeded available storage at the Main Ordnance Depot, with a large amount of items held in Sub Depots at Māngere, Linton Camp, Whanganui, Waiouru, Lower Hutt and Wellington.

Twelve addition warehouses can be seen to the East of Buildings 73 and 74, and Building 26 is under construction.

Upper Hutt City Library (14th Feb 2018). Aerial view; Trentham Military Camp 1944.. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 14:56, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/625

1945

These two photos from late 1945 show the extent of the wartime expansion of the Main Ordnance Depot.

The latest additions are Buildings 27,28,29. 30 and 31. These buildings has originally been built for the United States Forces at Waterloo in Lower Hutt by the Public Works Department. Surplus to the United States requirements due to their downsizing in New Zealand, the buildings had been transferred to the NZ Army. The first building was disassembled and re-erected at Trentham by the end of September 1945 with the follow-on buildings re-erected  at a rate of one per month, with all construction completed by February 1946

Upper Hutt City Library (27th Feb 2018). Trentham Camp overall view 1945; Carman block, 1945. Panoramic view.. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 10th Oct 2020 14:57, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/565

1966

Twenty Years later much of the wartime infrastructure constructed for the Main Ordnance Depot and much of the First World War camp accommodation remains in use. During the 1950’s the compound at Dante Road had been developed for the Central Districts Vehicle Depot. When that unit relocated to Linton in 1958 the compound became the Main Ordnance Depot Vehicle Sub-Depot. On the right side of the photo, the large building the Ordnance Depot is the General Motors Plant.

1974

By 1974, much of the central infrastructure remains, however, the eleven sheds constructed in 1943/44 have been demolished.

1980

1n 1979 the Main Ordnance Depot was renamed as as 1 Base Supply Battalion, RNZOAC. There has been little change to the WW2 Infrastructure.

1988

In one of the largest infrastructure investments since 1939 and the first modern warehouse built for the RNZAOC since 1972, a new warehouse was opened in 1988. Designed to accommodate 3700 pallets and replace the existing WW2 Era Storage, the new award winning warehouse was constructed at a cost of $1.6 million. In addition to the high rise pallet racking for bulk stores, a vertical storage carousel capable of holding 12,000 detail items would be installed at a later date.

2020

On 8 December 1996 the RNZAOC was amalgamated into the the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment, bringing to an end the Ordnance Corps association with Trentham Camp that had existed since 1920.

Further developments would occur in January 1998 when the the entire military warehousing and maintenance functions in Trentham camp were commercialised and placed under the control of civilian contractors.


Donald Edward Harper

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

Buried beneath a weathered brass plaque in the graveyard of Trentham’s St John’s church is a former Commander of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. A veteran of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force North Africa and Italian campaigns, he was wounded in action and continued to serve as a Territorial Force officer after the War.

Born in Petone, Don Harper attended Wellington College, where he was exposed to military life as a member of the school’s cadet corps for six years. After leaving school and graduating from Victoria University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in accounting, he joined the public service as a clerk with the National Provident Fund in 1932.

When the Second World War broke out Don was living with his parents in Russell Street, Upper Hutt and working as an auditor with the Government’s Audit Department. He enlisted straight away, entering camp at Trentham on 3 October 1939 as a Private with the 4th Reserve Motor Transport Company. A week later he was sent on the Potential Officers Course, and after six weeks training was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Don was subsequently posted to the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham for training and departed Wellington for the Middle East on 5 January 1940. He was attached to the headquarters of the 2nd New Zealand Division as they established themselves at Maadi in Egypt, and at the beginning of June 1940 was promoted to Lieutenant.

The New Zealand Division had seen little action up to this point and Don was active helping establish the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s Base Ordnance Depot at Maadi Camp in September 1940. Promoted to Temporary Captain to fill the Base Ordnance Officer post, he remained with the Depot in Egypt for almost a year, missing out on the campaigns in Greece and Crete.

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

Then at the beginning of August 1941, Don was posted back to the headquarters of the 2nd New Zealand Division to be Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) in the rank of Temporary Major. This was a critical logistics role resupplying the Division and marked a stunningly quick progression from private to major in less than two years.

Don experienced the realities of warfare for the first time in November 1941, when the Division was attached to the newly formed 8th Army and attempted to relieve the beleaguered garrison at Tobruk. Despite losing all their tank support the Kiwis succeeded in reaching Tobruk, but suffered horrendous casualties in what was described as some of the hardness fighting of the War at Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed, when Rommel’s Africa Corps counterattacked.

Withdrawn to Suez to recover and retrain, Don and the 2nd New Zealand Division were subsequently rushed to Syria in February 1942, to protect against an Axis invasion of the Northeastern flank. But in April he was back in Cairo, where he married Elisabeth Rothschild in a short ceremony. Don and Elisabeth were fortunate to be able to spend time together, as in May he was posted back to Maadi.

Don took over command of the New Zealand Engineers and Ordnance Training Depot, where he was responsible for training reinforcements. Then two months later he was posted as Deputy Director Ordnance Services with 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force headquarters and base depot. His efforts in helping establish and maintain the New Zealand contribution to the campaign were recognised with a mention in despatches on 15 December 1942.

After the fighting in North Africa came to a close, Don was deployed to Italy in October 1943. He arrivied at Taranto as the Kiwis began operations against the Germans, and was tasked with conducting a review of New Zealand Division ordnance support. He recommended a significant reorganisation, including establishing a new base deport at Bari, as an extension of the main depot back in Egypt.

Promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel, Don was appointed Assistant Director Ordnance Services in March 1944, and worked in resupplying the 2nd New Zealand Division in action at Cassino. In early June he was caught in an enemy artillery barrage and received shrapnel wounds in his back. Fortunately, the wounds were light, and once the small chunks of metal were removed under local anesthetic he returned to his unit.

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

At the end of 1944 Don was told that due to his lengthy war service and changes to the furlough scheme he would be returned home. Appointed commander of the returning draft he boarded ship with his wife and their young child, arriving in New Zealand on 3 January 1945, where he reverted in rank to Major.

Don was advised that his services were no longer required and that he could return to civilian life. However, he chose instead to be the posted to the New Zealand Temporary Staff in the rank of Captain in April 1945 and continued contributing to the war effort. In July he was advised he had received a second mention in despatches, this time for his services in Italy.

Considered unfit for deployment to the tropics due to service induced hearing loss, Don served at the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham Camp until the end of the War, when he was posted to the retired list in the Rank of Major. He then returned to his life as an accountant and auditor, and moved his family to Lower Hutt.

Continuing to serve in the Territorial Army, Don was formally promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 December 1948 and appointed Commander Royal New Zealand Ordnance Corps. He served in this part time role with the headquarters of the 1st New Zealand Division based out of Linton until October 1951, when the death of his business partner and failing health forced his resignation.

Don remained proud of his time in the military throughout his life, and after passing away in 2002 he was buried in a family plot at St John’s Church with his wife, under a plaque commemorating his war service. A key member of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force for an extended period of the North Africa and Italy campaigns, his grave gives little indication of the scale of this contribution. Lest we forget.

References

https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/…/online…/record/C136496
https://rnzaoc.com/2020/08/31/rnzaoc-1950/
https://rnzaoc.com/…/new-zealand-base-ordnance-depot…/
P.J. Beattie & M.J. Pomeroy, Gallant Acts & Noble Deeds: New Zealand Army Honours and Awards for the Second World War, Fair Dinkum Publications: Auckland, NZ, 2016.