Anti-Aircraft Ammunition Disposal 1955-57

During the Second World War, New Zealand had utilised approximately one hundred and thirty British Ordnance QF Mk 3 3.7inch Mark 3 Anti-Aircraft guns.[1]

Deployed across New Zealand at fixed and mobile sites with wartime scales of ammunition, these guns sat ready during the wartime years in anticipation of Japanese Air raids. New Zealand’s anti-aircraft defences were never tested, and with the immediate threat removed, the guns were placed into storage with the ammunition returned to ammunition depots for refurbishment. However, due to the considerable amount of ammunition returned to New Zealand’s Ammunition depots at the war’s end, the capacity to hold all of the returned stock soon be outstripped with large amounts required to be stored under tarpaulins in field conditions.

Valentine Tank at Trentham, stacks of Ammunition can be seen in the background. NZ National Library Ref EP/1955/1794-F

By 1954, 17000 rounds of 3.7-inch anti-aircraft ammunition had been stored in unsuitable conditions at the Liverpool Range outside Trentham Camp. With sufficient 3.7-inch stocks available to meet training needs in other depots, the Liverpool range stocks were considered surplus. Although initially intended to be inspected and refurbished at the Kuku Valley Ammunition Repair Depot, inspections revealed that the Liverpool Range stocks had deteriorated to the state where destruction was the only option.

Examination of deteriorated shell at Trentham, Upper Hutt. National Library of New Zealand Ref: EP/1955/1792-F

A plan was formulated to transport the 17000 rounds of unstable 3.7-inch ammunition from its storage area at the Liverpool range across the valley approximately 1.4 kilometres to the demolition area at Seddon Range, where the explosive content was destroyed, and recoverable components such as the brass casings recovered and sold as scrap.

To create a safe working area around the stacks and provide access between the Liverpool and Seddon ranges, the Royal New Zealand Engineers undertook the engineering task of creating access to the stacks and constructing a road between the ranges.

Due to the detonation of the ammunition and its storage containers and the likelihood of an explosion, a modified armoured truck and trailer was constructed to facilitate the transportation.

Army vehicles at Trentham, Upper Hutt. Ref: EP/1955/1793-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23078184

The 3.7-inch round was a 12.7kg single piece of ammunition consisting of a cast steel projectile with a tapered nose filled with Amatol, TNT or RDX/TNT explosives, mounted in a brass casing. The brass case consisted of an explosive primer and a cordite propellant charge that could propel the projectile to a maximum ceiling of 9000 meters or a horizontal range of 15000 meters. Each 3.7-inch round was packed in a fibre cylinder, with two rounds packed into a C235 steel case.[2]

Examples of 3.7-inch rounds
C235 Ammunition Tin (2 x 3.7-inch rounds per tin)

With 17000 rounds in 8500 cases, ten cases (twenty rounds) were transported from the Liverpool range to the Demolition area at a time. The cases were the unloaded at the demolition range, and in batches of four, the rounds were detonated.

From June 1955, five or six detonations occurred daily, with the frequency and strength of the explosions causing some distress to local residents, with the Upper Hutt Council questioning the Army on the reasons for the explosions.[3] Another resident forwarded a strongly worded protest letter to the editor of the Upper Hutt Leader Newspaper.[4]

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sir, The terrific explosions at the Trentham Camp which have wrecked our nerves for some considerable time, are the subject of this letter. Mr Editor. The world is at peace, yet we are at war (by the sound of things) in this beautiful valley in which we live. Every day these loud blasts shake our houses, waken our babies end sleeping little ones also elderly people having an afternoon nap, have a rude awakening, It takes very little imagination to realise the effect this bombing has on the nerves of bed-ridden patients at the Silverstream hospital. I ask you to publish this letter in the hope that the authorities will cease-fire, or at least explain why and how long this blasting is to be endured.

I am etc.,

ATOMIC BOMB

However, the explosive destruction of the old ammunition continued with the daily explosions becoming an accepted and routine feature of life in Upper Hutt.[5]

The demolition of the 17000 rounds of unsafe 3.7inch ammunition was concluded in December 1957. The destruction had proceeded without incident, with the local residents thanked for their considerable forbearance in putting up with the noise of explosions nearly every day.


Notes

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

[2] Great Britain. War Office, Anti-Aircraft Ammunition: User Handbook (War Office, 1949).

[3] “The “Boom” from Trentham Camp,” Upper Hutt Leader, Volume XII, Number 28, , 28 July 1955.

[4] “Letters to the Editor,” Upper Hutt Leader, Volume XII, Number 29, , 4 August 1955.

[5] Howard Weddell, Trentham Camp and Upper Hutt’s Untold Military History (Howard Weddell, 2018), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 187-88.


The Hunter Brothers

nz-army-ordnance-corps-badge-2
NZ Army Ordnance Corps Badge 1917-1937. nzhistory.govt.nz/Public Domain

The Hunter Brothers’ service was unassuming, and when looked at as part of the broader history of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps, their service was uneventful. The only significant event of their service is that they are one of the few sets of brothers to be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. What their service does provide is a snapshot of the activities of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in the 1920s

The children of Irish Immigrants who were farming a small property near the Marlborough town of Tuamarina, John was born on the 13th of August 1880 and Thomas on the 20th of December 1881.

John and Thomas joined what was then the New Zealand Permeant Militia, spending considerable time as Gunners in the Artillery before transferring to the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps soon after its formation in 1917. John’s time in Ordnance was spent in the Ammunition Section based out of Fort Balance on the Northern Miramar peninsular in Wellington. Thomas ordnance Service was at the Ordnance Store at Mount Eden and the then brand-new Waikato Camp (Hopuhopu/Ngawahawia Camp).

Both brothers served for more than 30 years and, under normal circumstances, retired at 55 with a comfortable pension, but this was not to be. Due to the worldwide depression and economic recession, the Government was forced to savagely reduce the strength of the Army by using the provisions of section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2), where military staff could be either;

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

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

  • Six officers and Thirty-Eight Other Ranks were retired on superannuation
  • Seventy-four NZAOC staff (excluding officers and artificers) who were not eligible for retirement were transferred to the civilian staff to work in the same positions but at a lower pay rate.
Hunter retirement letter
Notice of Retirement sent to Serving soldiers in December 1930

For the soldiers placed on superannuation, the transition was brutal, with pensions recalculated at much lower rates and, in some cases, the loss of outstanding annual and accumulated leave. The 31st of March 1931 was the blackest day in the History of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps

John Francis Hunter

John Hunter attended the local school until Standard 5 and then spent a year at St Patricks College at Silverstream in Wellington. On leaving school, John Hunter took up a farming job in Bulls.  At Eighteen years of age, John enlisted at Alexandra Barrack in Wellington into the New Zealand Permanent Force (NZPF) and was attested as a 3rd Class Gunner into No 1 Company in Wellington on the 23 of November 1898. John Hunter Passed the Small Arms Drill Course on the 6th of January 1899, followed by the Recruits Drill Course on the 1st of May and was promoted to 2nd Class Gunner on the 1st of September 1899.

alexandra-barracksC
Alexandra Barracks, Mount Cook Wellington (Colourised). Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library.

With the reorganisation of the NZPF in 1902, the small permanent artillery force was designated the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA), with John Hunter remaining with the Wellington Detachment. While serving as the “Servant to the General Officer Commanding,” John Hunter unsuccessfully applied for a transfer to the New Zealand Police in 1902. John Hunter was to spend a short period detached to Lyttleton on Police duty during the New Zealand International Exhibition held in Christchurch in 1906/07. John Hunter was promoted to 1st Class Gunner on the 1st of September 1907. With the reorganisations of 1907 and 1911, John Hunter remained in the Gunnery Section of the RNZA Wellington Detachment working in the various Wellington Coast Defence Forts.

Marrying Edith Taylor in Fielding on the 28th of January 1911, John Hunter was still based in Wellington when the Great War was declared in 1914, but at 34 years old, was then considered too old for war service.

Since 1911 there had been concerns in Army Headquarters about the supply of Artillery ammunition and the associated costs of importing all of the required stocks to maintain training and operational needs. Studies had found that by refurbishing by cleaning, inspecting and refilling cartridge casings, and inspecting and refurbishing in-service propellant bags and manufacturing new ones as required, considerable savings could be made instead of importing new items. Recommendations were made that as part of the RNZA, a specialist Ordnance Stores Corps be established to manufacture and modify Ammunition. Ordnance Stores Corps was under the supervision of the Master Gunner and entitled to the same pay and allowances as other members of the RNZA, as they were just another section of the RNZA.

Although envisaged in 1911, the formation of this Ordnance Stores Corps had an extended gestation period, and it was not until mid-1914 that General Godley, the Commander of the New Zealand Forces, approved the proposal and work could begin in establishing the Artillery Ordnance Stores Corps. Orders were placed on Great Britain for the required machinery, components and most importantly, cordite, with some of the machinery received in good time, the remainder was promised to be delivered as soon as possible by the British suppliers. Given that war had broken out, setting up this capability and securing New Zealand’s immediate supply of Artillery was of the utmost importance.

The new Corps was to be another uniformed section of the RNZA, such as the Field Artillery or Electric Light Company. It was to be under the administration and control of the OC RNZA and not the Quartermaster General, and on 1 March 1915, authority was granted under New Zealand Defence Forces General Order 90 to raise the New Zealand Army Ordnance Section with effect 1 April 1915.  Located at Fort Ballance at Mahanga Bay on Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula, the section’s primary duties were assembling ammunition components for the artillery, with care and upkeep of the magazines becoming part of their responsibilities. John Hunter Transferred into the RNZA Army Ordnance Section on the 1st of July 1915.

fort-ballanceC
Fort Ballance (including associated positions at Fort Gordon) (Colourised). Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand,

With the Formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) on the 1st of February 1917, the RNZA retained operational day-to-day control of the Ammunition Section, with the NZAOC taking up administrative control of its personnel. The personnel of the Ammunition Section, including Gunner John Hunter, transferred into the NZAOC on the 15th of March 1917. On the 8th of February 1917, John Hunter was awarded the New Zealand Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

RMS Niagara
RMS Niagara

December 1917 saw John Hunter’s experience as a gunner called upon when he was seconded to the NZEF as an Acting Corporal. Embarking on the RMS Niagara on the 13th of February 1918 as Corporal Gunner of the Gun Crew. Returning to New Zealand in September 1918 and replaced by Naval gunners, John Hunter spent a short time with the RNZA in Featherston Camp before re-joining the NZAOC in February 1919. Interestingly the RMS Niagara on which John Hunter served and disembarked in September 1918 is the vessel attributed by some sources as the source of the 1918 influenza pandemic that had a devastating effect on New Zealand.

Returning to his duties at the Ammunition Section at Fort Ballance, John Hunter was the newest member of the Ammunition Section and was identified as the only suitable understudy for the then NCO In-Charge Sergeant J Murray and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 1 November 1919. 1921 saw John Hunter awarded; the New Zealand Efficient Service Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal and was also issued with his war service medals; the British War Service 1914-1918 Medal and the Victory 1914-1919 Medal.

Promoted to Temporary Corporal on the 1st of January 1921, John Hunter was made the NCO I/C at the Ammunition Laboratory at Shelly Bay. By August 1921, on the retirement of Sergeant Murray, Hunter was promoted to Corporal and appointed as IC of the Ammunition Section.

The immediate post-war years into the mid-1920s were a busy time for the NZAOC Ammunition Section. The Kaiwharawhara Powder Magazines close to the city were closed. The Mahanga Bay facilities expanded from the original magazine and laboratory building on the foreshore to include Fort Balance, Fort Gordon and the Kau Point Battery as their guns were decommissioned. With armaments removed, gun pits covered over with roofs and turned into additional magazines, the once impressive forts went from being Wellington’s premier defensive location to quite possibly the first large-scale ammunition depot of the NZAOC, a role held until 1929 when purpose-built facilities were constructed at Hopuhopu Camp in the Waikato.

He was promoted to Sergeant on the 1st of July 1922, further promotions followed on the 1st of June 1926 when he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and then again on the 1st of June 1929 when promotion to Staff Quarter Master Sergeant (Warrant officer Class 2) was gained.

After spending most of his 32-year career on the Miramar Peninsular of Wellington. Warrant Officer Class Two John Hunter was discharged from the Army on the 31st of March 1931 at the age of 52 under the provisions section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2) where members of the military were forced to retire under superannuation at a much lower rate than they should have usually been entitled too. WO2 John Hunter also lost;

·         21 days approved annual leave

·         22 days accrued leave

John Hunter’s forced retirement in 1931 might not have been his final Military service. Census and voter lists from 1935 to 1954 list his occupation as Solder, with the Census and voter from 1957 as retired. Further examination of service records is required, but an assumption is that given his ammunition experience, he was re-engaged in a lesser rank and continued in the military during the war years into the mid-1950s.

Records show that John and his wife Edith had no children and remained at the same address at 57 Kauri Street Miramar until his death on the 23rd of March 1967 at the age of 87 and is buried at Karori Cemetery, Wellington

 Thomas Alexander Hunter

Completing school at Standard 4, Thomas entered the workforce and worked as a Grocers Assistant at Foxton before enlisting into the NZPF. At 18, Thomas attested into the NZPF on the 2nd of August 1900. Thomas completed the Recruit Drill and Arms Cours at Alexandra Barrack in Wellington and was posted to the Artillery as a Pre-Gunner for his probation period. On completion of probation on the 1st of February 1901, Thomas was posted to the No 1 Company in Wellington.

With the reorganisation of the NZPF in 1902, the small permanent artillery force was designated the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA), with Thomas Hunter remaining with the Wellington Detachment. With the reorganisation of 1907, Thomas continued working in the Gunnery Section of the RNZA Wellington Detachment in the various Wellington Coast Defence Forts.

On the 10th of May 1908, Thomas married Maude Taylor at Newmarket in Auckland and was posted to the RNZA Auckland detachment on the 16th of November 1908. Thomas’s first child Edward was born on the 15th of February 1909. Further Children followed with the Birth of Bernard on 20 February 1910, Bambara on 28 March 1911 and Veronica on 21 November 13

Thomas was transferred into the Field Artillery Section on the 1st of August 1911 and back into the Gunnery Section on the 1st of May 1912. When the war was declared in 1914, Thomas was 33 years old and considered too old for war service. Thomas was stuck with tragedy in September 1915 when his daughter Bambara died due to illness.

Like his brother, Thomas was seconded to the NZEF in February 1918 as an Acting Corporal. Embarking on the SS Makura as gun crew. Returning to regular duty in June 1918, when the Army gunners were replaced by Naval gunners.

New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal
New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal, 1887-1917, New Zealand, by George White. Gift of Mr Dollimore, 1956. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (NU006152)

Awarded the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Medal in December 1918, with the formal presentation on the 1st of February 1919. Thomas was promoted to temporary Bombardier on the 1st of February 1920, attaining Full Bombardier rank on the 1st of February 1921. Further recognition of his service followed with the award of the Meritorious Service Medal on the 21st of November 1921 and the New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal on the 6th of February 1922. Thomas was also presented with British War Service 1914-1918 medal and the Victory 1914-1919 Medal.

With many of the Coastal Defenses nearing the end of their usefulness, (Fort Victoria, where Thomas had one stage been attached to, had only ever fired one proofing round and was promptly taken out of action because of complaints from its neighbours who had suffered many broken windows) resulted in the decommissioning of many of the older batteries. As Thomas was then the senior Bombardier in the Auckland region, instead of being forcibly made redundant, he was transferred to the NZAOC and posted to the Ordnance Store at Mount Eden on the 31st of July 1922. Living at Devonport at the time, the move to the new position at Mount Eden worried Thomas. As Mount Eden was then a Suburb on the far side of Auckland, the travel costs were a concern to Thomas. The strain on his family was also a concern, his children were beset with ill health, with one child passing away due to illness in 1915 and another with infantile paralysis. To make matters worse, Thomas was forced to reduce rank to Lance Corporal on the 1st of August 1922.

Auckland Gun
Disappearing Gun, North Head Auckland. Robert McKie Collection

The early 1920s were a busy time for the Mount Eden Ordnance Store. After the First World War, the New Zealand Territorial Army undertook a major re-equipment project with two Infantry Divisions and one Mounted Brigade’s worth of equipment arriving from the United Kingdom. Initially stored at Trentham and Featherston Camp, with a purpose-built Ordnance Store to service the Northern region under construction at Ngawahawia, storage space was at a premium. With Featherston Camp closing down, the Mount Eden Ordnance Store had to receive, sort and distribute much of the equipment for the Northern Region units well over its storage capacity, as well as providing support to the territorial Army Annual Camps.

By 1928 The development of Ngaruawahia Camp was now in its final stages, with the large Ordnance Store building completed and the stores from the Ordnance Depot at Mount Eden progressively being transferred to it. Two high-explosive magazines were completed, with an additional three high-explosive magazines and a laboratory, and the provision of mains and equipment for fire prevention nearing completion. With the removal of stores to Ngaruawahia Camp, the buildings at Mount Eden were no longer required, so they were disassembled and re-erected at Narrow Neck Camp.

Thomas was promoted to Temporary Corporal on the 1st of February 1926, followed by promotion to Sergeant on the 1st of March 1928. Up to June 1929, Thomas was the NOC IC Camp Equipment, but with the Ordnance Depot now at Ngawahawia, Thomas was transferred onto the Small Arms Proof Office staff, allowing him to remain at Mount Eden.

After spending the majority of his 30-year 141-day career in Auckland, Sergeant Thomas Hunter was discharged from the Army on the 31st of March 1931 at the age of 49 under the provisions section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2), where serving members of the military were forced to retire under superannuation at a much lower rate than normally entitled too. Sergeant Thomas Hunter was fortunate that before the notification of the redundancy on the 17th of December 1930, he had already applied for and had approved the use of his annual and accrued leave.

Moving on from a life in the military, Thomas settled at 88 Sandringham Road and took up the trade of confectioner. Thomas passed away at 84 years of age on 5 October 1965.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018


Ammunition Technician Origins

From the formation of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps in the early years of the First World War, the Corps has been the primary agency for the supply and maintenance of weapons, munitions and other military equipment. An essential commodity requiring specialised skills, munitions were the responsibility of the Ammunition Technician Trade group.  The requirement for the safe storage, inspection and distribution of munitions had existed in New Zealand from the earliest years of the nation. It was not until the 1890s, with the manufacture of advanced Small Arms Ammunition types in New Zealand that a specialist was employed to conduct the proof testing and oversee the production of small arms ammunition. This article will examine the initial manufacture of Small Arms Ammunition in New Zealand and the specialist who laid the foundations for the modern Ammunition Technician Trade.

For many years in early Colonial New Zealand, ammunition and explosives were imported from the United Kingdom and Australia. Powder magazines were established in the main centres, and Magazine keepers were appointed. Any specialist expertise required for the handling and storing of these stocks was provided by qualified and experienced individuals from the British Military Stores Department (Until 1870) and Royal Artillery and Engineer officers attached to the New Zealand Forces, who provided expertise on an as-required basis.

In 1885 the Russians repositioned elements of their naval fleet into the North Pacific, establishing a naval base at Vladivostok, creating for British Imperial possessions the “Russian Scare” of 1885. It was thought that Tsar Alexander had ambitions to expand his empire. Feeling vulnerable at the edge of the British Empire, the New Zealand Government embarked on a programme of fortification construction and urgently sought independent sources of supply for ammunition to become independent of the supplies from Britain. With the encouragement of the government, Major John Whitney established Whitney & Sons as an ammunition manufacturing company in Auckland, with additional investors, this company became the Colonial Ammunition Company (CAC) in 1888, not only the first ammunition manufacturer in New Zealand but the first in Australasia. Entering a contract with the New Zealand Government to produce small arms ammunition, the deal was that government provide the powder with the CAC providing the components for the manufacture of complete cartridges. The Governments retained the right to inspect and conduct quality control inspections on each batch before acceptance by the New Zealand Forces. The testing regime was a simple one which consisted of testing only a small percentage of a batch by test firing. The results of the test were based on the performance of this percentage that the ammunition is accepted or rejected.

reduced_1_W01057_mm

Colonial Ammunition Company works on the lower slopes of Mount Eden in Normanby Road, Mount Eden, 1902.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1057.

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

By 1896 the New Zealand colony was mostly equipped with the .450 calibre Martini-Henry series of rifles and carbines. Ammunition was still provided under contract with the Colonial Ammunition Company but with additional stocks produced by the Kynoch ammunition company in the United Kingdom. The conditions of the original contract with CAC remained extant, with the Government responsible for providing the powder and the CAC the components. As this system had been in place for some time, it was recognised that this division of responsibility was flawed. There had been many incidents of ammunition failure, but due to this procurement division, it was often difficult to attribute fault to any specific party. It was recommended by the Defence Department to Parliament that the CAC should be responsible for the entire end-to-end process for the manufacture of complete cartridges The Government retained the right to examine and test all components (powder, caps and cases) and complete cartridge cases. Testing was conducted by an official with the required training and experience for such work. Given that no such individual existed in the colony at the time, one needed to be recruited.

Ballistic Chronograph

Ballistic Chronograph

During 1896/97, units from all over New Zealand continued to complain about the quality of the ammunition supplied to the Defence Force by CAC. Although CAC was contracted to be the sole source of supply of small arms ammunition, powder and components were still provided from the United Kingdom. The powder passed the same tests as powder supplied for manufacturing UK-manufactured ammunition. CAC continued to argue that the powder was not good and attributed the failures of the ammunition chiefly to that cause.  Lacking the expertise to test the powder in New Zealand, five hundred rounds from each batch manufactured in 1896 were sent to the United Kingdom for proof and examination by Government experts. The proofing process attributed that the failure of the ammunition was not due to the powder but to irregularities in manufacture. With few facilities then available in New Zealand for the correct proofing of the specification of finished ammunition, testing equipment, including velocity instruments such as Ballistic chronographs, were ordered from the United Kingdom. As there was no individual in the Colonial Forces who possessed sufficient knowledge to set up and operate these instruments, it fell onto the Chief of the Defence Force to, as far as possible, personally supervise and set up the testing apparatus providing the necessary instruction until a suitably qualified individual could be recruited from the United Kingdom.

The CAC refused to accept the return of suspect stocks as they argued that as per the current contract, it had passed the required tests and been approved by the Government, ending their responsibility. The ammunition that was in store was to be used up and replaced by a competent and serviceable supply. It was accepted that the testing officers had done their testing conscientiously and that the percentage of rounds tested had been in accordance with the terms of the specification. But as the very existence of the colony might one day be at stake, it was imperative that every step should be taken to ensure a supply of reliable ammunition.  As the Government was bound by contract to obtain their supply of small-arms ammunition from CAC, the following recommendations were made.

  • CAC should supply their own powder and all component parts,
  • Production of the current “rolled case” pattern of ammunition to be ceased as this type had ceased to be used by other Imperial forces, and by switching production to the more reliable ” solid drawn” would bring New Zealand Forces into line with the rest of the Imperial Forces.

MH BALL

Plate showing the construction of the Rifle Ball Mark III from “Treatise on Ammunition 1887”.

On the 67th of February 1898, a formal request was forwarded to the United Kingdom for the recruitment if a suitable Warrant Officer from the Royal Artillery to “Take charge of the testing operations of Small Arms Ammunition and the supervision of the manufacture of the same”.

On the 6th of April 1898, Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor Arthur Duvall, Royal Garrison Artillery of the Artillery College, was selected and took up the offer to be the Small Arms Testing officer for the New Zealand Forces. To be promoted to 3rd Class Master Gunner on appointment it was to be a three-year engagement at a rate of Nine Shillings a day with free quarters or a £50 per annum housing allowance. Arriving in New Zealand in July 1898, Duvall was soon at work at the CAC premises at Mount Eden in Auckland.

Under the administrative command of the Officer Commanding No 1 Company Permanent Militia, Auckland Duvall was immediately put to work. With the introduction of the .303 Martini Enfield rifles in 1898, CAC started production of the Mark II C and Mark IV .303 rounds. Providing a level of expertise never available before, Duvall was holding the CAC to account and providing the Defence Force with a reliable product.

Coming under the command of Headquarters of the New Zealand Permanent militia in 1903, Duvall had his engagement with the New Zealand Forces extended by an additional three years in 1903 and then another three years in 1907. Duvall oversaw the introduction of the .303 Mark IV round in 1904.

CAC MAchinery

Machinery for the production of Military ammunition, CAC Factory Auckland 1903

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Bullet-making machinery at the Colonial Ammunition Company’s works, Mt Eden. Auckland War Memorial Museum, DU436.1243 C718.

Completing Twenty years of service with the British Army in 1911, Duvall took his discharge and was immediately attested into the New Permanent Staff as an Honorary Lieutenant on the 26th of April 1912 and then promoted to Honorary Capitan on 1 April 1914.

With Honorary Captain Duvall overseeing the manufacture and testing of Small Arms Ammunition in Auckland, ensuring New Zealand was self-sufficient in the supply of Small Arms Ammunition. Moves were underway at Fort Ballance in Wellington to provide New Zealand with some self-reliance with artillery ammunition with the formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Section of the Royal New Zealand Artillery in 1915. The RNZA Ordnance Section was responsible for the refurbishment by cleaning, inspecting and refilling QF Casings, inspecting and refurbishing service propellant bags, and manufacturing new ones as required, resulting in considerable savings made instead of importing new items.

On the 10th of January 1918, Duvall was transferred from the Permanent Staff to the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department, graded as an Ordnance Officer Class 3 with the rank of Captain. His appointment as Testing Officer Small Arms Ammunition was renamed as Proof Officer, Small Arms Ammunition, as part of the Ordnance Corps Technical branch

On the 4th of July 1919, Duvall arrived at the premises of the CAC at about 930 am, after speaking to a member of his staff Mr B.E Lambert, Duvall then retired to the laboratory. At approximately 1040am, Duval was found in the laboratory, deceased, lying on his face with a service rifle across his body. In the Coroner’s report published on the 16th of July 1919, the coroner found that the cause of death was a gunshot wound, self-inflicted, while in a state of nervous depression]. Duvall was interred with military honours at Purewa cemetery on 5 July 1919.

Despite the sudden death of Duvall, The Small Arms and Proof Office remained an essential component of the New Zealand Army ammunition supply chain until 1968, when the Colonial Ammunition Company shifted its operations to Australia, and the Army ended its long relationship with the Colonial Ammunition Company.

Administrative control of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Section of the Royal New Zealand Artillery was passed to the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps on its formation if 1917. Technical control of Artillery ammunition remained with the RNZA until 1946, when responsibility for all ammunition was handed over to the Inspection Ordnance Officers Branch of the NZAOC. The Inspecting Ordnance Officers Branch, which had only consisted of a few staff officers during the interwar period, rapidly expanded during the Second World War with Ammunition Depots established at Ngaruawahia, Waiouru, Makomako, Kuku Valley, Belmont, Mount Sommers, Alexandra, Glen Tunnel (Hororata) and Fairlie. The ordnance Ammunition trades consisted of.

  • Inspecting Ordnance Officers (Officers) and
  • Ammunition Examiners (Other ranks).

These roles remained extant until 1961 when following UK practice, the following changes were made.

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

Over the next thirty years, the ammunition trades matured into a highly specialised trade that, on the amalgamation of the RNZAOC into the RNZALR in 1996, had a wide range of responsibilities, including.

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

By 1996 the Ammunition trade had progressed from rudimentary black powder magazines in the 19th century to the management of many modern ammunition natures. Although many individuals had been involved in the handling and storage of ammunition up to the appointment of Arther Duvall in 1898, Duvall stands out as the first individual specially trained and employed solely in the field of ammunition management and, as such, deserves recognition as the founding member of what became the Ammunition Technician Trade.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Archives New Zealand/Te Rua Mahara o Te Kawanatanga Wellington Office
Military Personnel Files D.1/420/1 Arthur Duvall – Captain, New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps

New Zealand Gazette
Testing-Officer for Small-arms Ammunition appointed. New Zealand Gazette No 17 Page 412 28 February 1895

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)
1896 H-19 Report on the Defence Forces of New Zealand
1897 H-19 Report on the Defence Forces of New Zealand
1898 H-19 Report on the Defence Forces of New Zealand

Auckland Star
“THE LABORATORY FATALITY,” Auckland Star, p. 4, 5 July 1919.
“CORONER’S INQUEST,” Auckland Star, vol. L, no. 168, 16 July 1919.

Secondary Sources

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