The evolution of NZAOC ammunition responsibilities 1939-1945

With Japan expanding into China and war clouds brewing over Europe, Defence in New Zealand had by 1938 started to pull itself out of the years of forced inactivity and neglect that had been the hallmark of the early 1930’s. By mid-1939 re-equipment and rearmament was underway with many new weapons in the process of being introduced into service with more on order. With so many new armaments coming into service alongside the existing inventory, there was also ammunition which required correct storage and accounting. Responsibility for the management of ammunition was divided between the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA) and the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC). To meet the growing needs of the New Zealand Army, both organisations rapidly expanded in manpower and infrastructure from having a minimal ammunition capability in 1939, finally combining to form a single NZAOC organisation charged with responsibility for managing New Zealand Army ammunition depots in 1945.

Pre War Situation

Fort Ballance

On the formation of the NZAOC in 1917, the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA) Ordnance Section at Fort Ballance passed to NZAOC control. Becoming the NZAOC Ammunition Section, it continued with its task of storing, inspection repairing and refurbishing Ammunition as a uniformed branch of the NZAOC under the control of the RNZA. Located at Watts Peninsular on the north end of Wellingtons Miramar peninsular, the ammunition infrastructure consisted of 19 magazines, one store and a laboratory situated 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 as far back as the 1880’s. In the case of Kau Point and Forts Ballance and Gordon, the large 6 and 8inch disappearing guns had been removed in the early 1920’s and the gun pits roofed over to become ad-hoc magazines. This accommodation was far from ideal as temperature, and moisture control was not able to be adequately controlled, resulting in potential damage to ammunition stocks.[1][2][3]

watts map

Fort Ballance Ammunition Area

 

HopuHopu Camp

A smaller Ammunition section was also maintained in Auckland during the 1920’s, who along with some staff from Fort Ballance Ammunition Section was transferred to the New Magazines at HopuHopu Camp[4] on the competition of their construction in 1929.[5] Envisaged to be the principle ammunition depot for New Zealand, Eleven magazines and a laboratory were constructed between 1925 and 1927. Built into a hillside, the magazines were constructed of concrete, with double walls, which formed an inspecting chamber. The intent of the inspection chamber, was for sentries to observe thermometers, and by consulting a chart, adjust the ventilation to maintain the stock at optimal temperatures. Entirely reverted into the hill and faced by an embankment the Hopuhopu magazine s designed in such a way so that if there were an explosion, the blast would be contained.[6]

20180412_164813-190082474.jpg

HopuHopu Camp Ammunition Area 1945. Public Works Department

The NZAOC Ammunition sections were disestablished in 1931 when nearly all of the NZAOC military staff, were as part of government budgetary restraints transferred to the Public Service as civilian staff at a lower rate of pay or placed on superannuation.[7]

When New Zealand entered the war in September 1939, The responsibility for ammunition was shared between the RNZA and the NZAOC;[8]

  • 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 Inspecting Ordnance Officer 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 personnel consisted of;[9]

  • The Inspecting Ordnance Officer (IOO), Captian I.R Withell, R.N.Z.A
  • The Proof Officer, Small Arms Ammunition (SAA) Mount Eden Auckland, Honorary Lieutenant J.W Fletcher, N.Z.P.S
  • 2 Civilian Staff at Ngawahawia
  • 5 Civilian Staff at Fort Ballance

Ammunition Facilities shared by the RNZA and NZAOC consisted of ;

  • 19 Magazines, 1 Store, and an Ammunition Laboratory at Fort Ballance managed by an RNZA WO1 seconded to the NZAOC and 5 civilian Staff
  • 11 Magazines and an Ammunition Laboratory at HopuHopu Camp managed by an RNZA WO1 seconded to the NZAOC and 5 civilian Staff
  • Single SAA Magazines at Trentham and Burnham Camps.

1940-41

As the New Zealand Army moved from a peacetime to a wartime footing, Ammunition responsibilities were split between the Assistant Quarter Master General (2) (AQMS(2)) and Assistant Quarter Master General (5) (AQMS (5)).[10]

AQMS(2)

  • With Lieutenant Colonel T.J King, Director of Ordnance Services (DOS) transferred to the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), under the auspices of the AQMS(2) the position of DOS was parked for the duration of the war and the responsibilities of the DOS divided as follows;
  • The Chief Ordnance Officer assuming responsibility for the Supply functions of DOS, including the management of NZAOC Ammunition Sections whose primary responsibility was SAA.
  • Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OEM) assumed responsibility for Ordnance Workshops.
  • The Inspecting Ordnance Officer and the Proof Officer SAA came under the responsibility of the Chief Munitions Officer as the Army Inspection Department with the technical responsibility for the management and inspection of Ammunition.

AQMS(5)

  • The AQMS(5) was responsible for the Army Headquarters Gun Ammunition and Equipment Section.

Ammo responsibility 1941-45

With a significant amount of ammunition being received from overseas, it became a matter of urgency that the establishment of the NZAOC Ammunition section is increased and additional magazine accommodation constructed. Immediate relief was gained by the construction of eight magazines at Burnham Camp and the taking over of 6 Magazines and a Store at the Ohakea Airforce Base in the Manawatu. Both the Burnham and Ohakea magazines had been constructed as part of a prewar expansion plan. Ten magazines had been built at Ohakea, with their construction completed in 1940 and construction of eight magazines at a location north of Burnham Camp was started in 1940 with building completed by May 1941. [11]

By October 1941 the NZAOC Ammunition Section establishment and Magazine situation was;[12]

NZAOC Staff at Army Headquarters

  • 1 Captain
  • 1 Lieutenant
  • 1 Other Rank

Fort Ballance

  • NZAOC Strength: 4 Military Staff
    • Lieutenant Edkins
    • Staff Sergeant Eastgate
    • Sergeant Anderson
    • Corporal Bagley
    • 10 Civilian Staff
  • Buildings: 19 Magazines, 1 Store, 1 Laboratory
  • Ammunition held: Grenades, Bombs, Pyrotechnics and explosives
  • Work Carried out: Receipt and Issue of Ammunition, preservation of Ammunition held, major repair to Gun Ammunition, Manufacture of Blank Gun Ammunition

Hopuhopu (including Mount Eden SAA Magazine)

  • NZAOC Strength: 2 Military Staff
    • WarrantOfficer Class One Little
    • Sergeant Waters
    • 2 Civilian Staff
  • Buildings: 13 Magazines, 1 Laboratory
  • Ammunition held: Gun Ammunition, Grenades, Bombs, Pyrotechnics and explosives
  • Work Carried out: Receipt and Issue of all Ammunition, preservation of Ammunition held, minor repair to Ammunition,

Burnham

  • NZAOC Strength: 1 Sergeant employed as part of the New Zealand temporary Staff
  • Buildings: 7 Magazines, 1 laboratory (on magazine converted to a lab, the purpose-built laboratory would not be construed until 1945)
  • Ammunition held: Gun Ammunition, Grenades, Bombs, Pyrotechnics and explosives
  • Work Carried out: Receipt and Issue of Ammunition, preservation of Ammunition held, major repair to Gun Ammunition,

Ohakea

  • NZAOC Strength: 1 Sergeant employed as part of the New Zealand temporary Staff
  • Buildings: 6 magazines, 1 Store
  • Ammunition held: Gun Ammunition only
  • Work Carried out: Receipt and Issue of Ammunition, preservation of Ammunition held, major repair to Gun Ammunition

Further construction of magazines was planned with the War Cabinet granting expenditure in September 1941 for an extensive magazine building programme at the following locations;

  • Papakura (Ardmore)- 8 Magazines
  • Hopuhopu – 11 Magazines, 1 Laboratory, 3 Stores
  • Waiouru – 13 Magazines, 1 laboratory and 1 Store
  • Manawatu – 10 Magazines, 1 laboratory and 1 Store
  • South Island – 8 Magazines, 1 laboratory and 1 Store

1941 Magazine Design

Designed by the PublicWorks Department consultation with Army Headquarters, six designs were utilised, known as type A to F;[13]

  • Type A – 12.19m x 6.70m, Double brick walls with a corrugated asbestos roof, with entrance porch.
  • Type B – 12.19m x 6.70m, Double brick walls with a corrugated asbestos roof, no entrance porch.
  • Type C – 6.70m x 57m, Brick cavity walls with a corrugated asbestos roof.
  • Type D – 15.24m x 9.75m, Brick cavity walls with a corrugated asbestos roof, with entrance porch
  • Type E – 15.24m x 9.75m, Single timber walls with exterior cement fibre boards with a corrugated asbestos roof.
  • Type F – 15.24m x 9.75m, Double timber walls with exterior cement fibre boards with a corrugated asbestos roof.

Significant establishment changes were also proposed with an increase of the NZAOC establishment to 3 Officers and 62 other ranks including all civilian ammunition staff being placed into uniform retired.

1942

Although New Zealand had been at war for just over two years, up to December 1941, it had been a distant European war not requiring the full mobilisation of New Zealand. The near-simultaneous attacks by Japan against Malaya, the Philippines and speed of the Japanese advance southwards forced New Zealand on to a total war footing with the full mobilisation of the territorial army and the formation of additional Divisions for home defence and service in the Pacific.[14]

To meet immediate requirements for the storage of ammunition at Waiouru, authorisations for the construction of 16 temporary ammunition stores was granted in April 1942. Completed on the 18th of July 1942 the 9m x 6m temporary wooden ammunition stores were located south of the main camp.[15]

1942 Magazine Design

With the entry of Japan into the war, new magazines were approved. Due to the increased threat posed by Japan, the new magazines were designed with the intent of providing additional protection and were known as types M, P, R1, R2 and R3;[16]

  • Type M – 7.18m wide of variable length, precast concrete walls and roof supported by interior pillars.
  • Type P – 7m or 14m wide of variable length, precast concrete walls and roof supported by interior pillars.
  • Type R1 – 7.62m wide of variable length. Concrete walls and roof supported by interior pillars.
  • Type R2 – 7.62m wide of variable length, Brick walls with a Concrete roof supported by interior pillars.
  • Type R3 – 7m wide of variable length, Concrete outer wall with an inner brick wall with a concrete roof supported by interior pillars.

In addition to the 295 magazines constructed, numerous non-explosive stores, guard accommodation, garages and cookhouses, external and internal roads were also built. The non-explosive stores were generally 6m x 9m, constructed of unlined timber wall with an asbestos roof. The laboratory were 13m x 6m with cavity walls with an asbestos roof.

With construction started in early 1942, wartime conditions, competition for material and manpower priorities and the challenging and isolated locations of some of the sites saw that the final construction was not completed until late 1944. The final tally of magazines constructed across eleven locations was;[17]

  • Papakura (Ardmore)- 20 Magazines
  • Hopuhopu and Kelms Road – 55 Magazines
  • Waiouru – 45 Magazines
  • Makomako – 39 Magazines
  • Trentham(Kuku Valley) – 22 Magazines
  • Belmont – 62 Magazines
  • Glen Tunnel – 16
  • Burnham Camp – 8
  • Mount Somers – 10
  • Fairlie – 9
  • Alexandra – 9

During the same period, magazines and other ammunition infrastructure was also constructed for the Navy, Air Force and United States Forces in many locations across the country of which some would also be utilised by the NZAOC

The increase of Ordnance Depot Establishments

As of the 22nd of July 1942, the approved establishment of the NZAOC Depots was 435, consisting of 18 Officers, 47 other ranks and 370 civilians. Approval was granted on the 8th of August 1942 to increase and fully militarise the establishment of the NZAOC. The increase in the establishment was required to provide adequate staff for the four Ordnance Depots, with an ability to surge personnel into Advanced Ordnance Depots at Whangarei and Blenheim, in support of the Home Defence Divisions. The authorised establishment for NZAOC Depots (including Ammunition Sections), was increased to be a fully militarised establishment of 1049 Officers and Other Ranks.[18]

Officers Other Ranks Total
Main Ordnance Depot 19 556 575
Ordnance Depot Northern District 4 182 186
Ordnance Depot Central District 3 81 84
Ordnance Depot Southern District 4 200 204
Total 30 1019 1049

1943

Waiouru

  • Construction of the following ammunition infrastructure was completed on the 5th of February;[19]
  • One type B magazine
  • Eleven type D magazines
  • Laboratory
  • Non-Explosive Store

Followed by the completion of the following magazines in October 1943;

  • Two type D magazines
  • Four type E magazines
  • Four type F magazines
20180412_164447808026669.jpg
Waiouru Ammunition Area C1945. Public Works Department

Mokomoko

Construction of Mokomoko completed in March 1943.[20]

20180412_164357-1310043622.jpg

Mokomoko Ammunitiion Area C1945. Public Works Department

Mount Somers

Construction of Mount Somers completed in March 1943.[21]

Glentunnel

Construction of Glentunnel completed in August1943.[22]

Fairlie

Construction Authorised in Decemberr1942 with construction completed during 1943.[23]

Alexandra

Construction of nine 18m long R2 Type magazines, Laboratory and a non-explosive store completed on November 1943.[24]

Kaikorai Valley (Dunedin)

Selected as the site of an ammunition Depot in early 1942. Seventeen temporary Wooden Ammunition Shelters and five temporary wooden explosive stores were constructed along with a quantity of supporting infrastructure including a road aptly named “Ammunition Track” which is the only trace left today. Possibly due to it close proximity to the coast and the threat of Japanese Air raids, the permanent Ammunition depot was built further inland at Alexandra.[25]

Dates for the completion of the construction of the Ardmore, Ngawahiwaia, Kelms Road and Kuku Valley magazines is not detailed in the Public Works history but would have been during 1943.[26]

Army Inspection Department adopt NZOC Badge

Due to the close asocial of the to Army Inspection Department to Ammunition the Chief Munitions Officer made a request to the Ch.ief Ordnance Officer that the Army Inspection Department be granted permission to were the Cap Badge and puggaree of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC). Records are unclear if this request was granted.[27]

1944

Waiouru

Construction of the following was completed by May 1944;

  • Five type R1 magazines
  • Fourteen type R2 magazines
  • One type R3 magazine

Belmont

With a storage capacity of 17310 tons, the Belmont ammunition area was the largest ammunition depot ever constructed in New Zealand. The Belmont Depot covered an area of  320 acres with a 13km internal road network.  Construction of the Belmont Ammunition area was completed by November 1944.[28]

1945

From mid-1945 discussions start to take place on the post was the shape of the NZAOC. Some thought was given to returning the NZAOC to its pre-war status as a predominantly civilian organisation. Reality prevailed the future of the NZAOC was assured as a feature of the post-war army. It was estimated that there was at least three years of work required in inspecting and refurbishing ammunition returned from units that had been demobilised, that was in addition to maintaining existing stocks of unused ammunition.[29] Proposed establishment for NZAOC Ammunition units would see the first widespread use of the terms IOO (In the context of the modern Ammunition Technical Officer) and Ammunition Examiner (Ammunition Technician). 1945 would see the completion of the ammunition infrastructure works first authorised in 1941.

Burnham

Construction of Non-explosive store and Laboratory completed

Transfer of Ammunition and Equipment Section to NZAOC

Since before the Defence Act of 1909 which created the framework of the modern New Zealand Army, there had long between a division of responsibilities for the Managment of Ammunition. Traditionally the provision, allocation, receipt, storage and issue of Gun (Artillery) Ammunition had been an Artillery responsibility, with the Managment of Small Arms Ammunition the responsibility of the Defence Stores/Ordnance Corps. 1 June 1945 the NZAOC assumed responsibility for the management of all Army ammunition. The Artillery element responsible for the management of Gun Ammunition, the Ammunition and Equipment Section was transferred from the control of Army Headquarters to the Chief Ordnance Officer. As a result of the transfer, 11 Officers and 175 Other Ranks of the Royal New Zealand Artillery were absorbed into the NZAOC establishment.[30]

Ordnance Takes Full Control

On the 15ht of November 1945, the Chief Ordnance Officer took up responsibility for the care, maintenance, accounting and storage of all ammunition and explosives.

Control of ammunition would be undertaken by;

  • The IOO Section, and
  • The Ammunition Section

IOO Section

The IOO Section, administered by the CIOO was responsible for;[31]

  • The control of all work on ammunition for all purposes other than accounting and storage,
  • Maintenance of ammunition and explosives in stock in serviceable condition 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 f Repair Depot Trentham,
  • Maintenance of buildings at Repair Depot Trentham.

Ammunition Section

The Ammunition Section was responsible for;[32]

  • 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.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Notes

[1] Russell Glackin, In Defence of Our Land : A Tour of New Zealand’s Historic Harbour Forts (Auckland, N.Z. : Penguin Group (NZ), 2009, 2009), Bibliographies

[2] Kiri Petersen Cathryn Barr, “New Zealand Defence Force Heritage Management Plan Forts Ballance and Gordon,” (Hamilton: Opus International Consultants Limited 2009), 2-5.

[3] Tony Walton, “Wellingtons Defences: A Reconnaissance Survey of the Fortifications or 1884-1945,” Archaeology in New Zealand 33 (1990): 87-99.

[4] At different times refered to as Waikato or Ngawahawia Camp

[5] “Modern Military Camp,” New Zealand Herald, Volume LXVI, Issue 20324, 3 August 1929.

[6] “Dominions Ammunition Depot,” Auckland Star, Volume LVI, Issue 83, 8 April 1925.

[7] Joseph S. Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Wellington: RNZAOC, 1992), 84.

[8] “Regulations for the Military Forces of the Dominion of New Zealand.,” New Zealand Gazette no. 32 (1927).

[9] “Establishments – Ordnance Corps Ad1 493 / 228/2/6,” Defence Archives, Archives New Zealand (1937).

[10] Ibid.

[11] F Grattan, Offical War History of the Public Works Department (PWD, 1948), 529.

[12] “Establishments – Ordnance Corps Ad1 493 / 228/2/6.”

[13] , 517.

[14] Peter D. F. Cooke, Defending New Zealand: Ramparts on the Sea 1840-1950s (Wellington, N.Z. : Defence of New Zealand Study Group, 2000, 2000), Bibliographies

[15] Grattan, 521.

[16] Ibid., 518.

[17] Ibid., 517.

[18] “Establishments – Ordnance Corps Ad1 493 / 228/2/6.”

[19] , 521.

[20] Ibid., 523-24.

[21] Ibid., 528.

[22] Ibid., 527.

[23] Ibid., 530.

[24] Ibid., 532.

[25] Ibid., 519.

[26] Ibid., 520.

[27] “Badges and Buttons – Regimental, Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1936-1967, 92 / 213/12/19,” Defence Archives, Archives New Zealand (1936).

[28] , 524-26.

[29] “Establishments – Ordnance Corps Ad1 493 / 228/2/6.”

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

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