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 Ammunition 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 December 1942 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 its 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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Major Eric Dudley Gerard

Transfering into the RNZAOC from the Artillery in 1946, Eric (Gumboots) Gerard would become a well-known officer throughout the RNZAOC. In the time up to his retirement in 1972, Gerard would serve in all three of the ‘Districts’; Northern, Central and Southern.  During his service, he would have been witness to the construction of the various Ammunition Areas during the War years; the creation of the standalone Ammunition Depots in the late 1940’s; and then their absorption into the Ordnance Depots as Ammunition Sub-Depots during the 1960’s. Gerard Acquired the nickname “Gumboots” because of the many hours he spent in the wet and mud blowing up ammunition.

Gerard was born in Wellington on the 26th of April 1917. In 1938 when working as a Hardware assistant at Palmerston North[1], Gerard joined the Territorial Force New Zealand Artillery (NZA). Due to the worsening war situation and the growing threat from Japan, Gerard was called up by ballot for full-time service with the Territorial Force in 1940[2].  Gerard was serving with 10th Heavy (Coast) Regiment when he was selected for Officer Training in 1941. Graduating from 11 Officer Cadet Training Unit (11 OCTU) as a 2nd Lieutenant on the 1st of July 1942[3]. On Graduation, Gerard was posted to the New Zealand Temporary Staff and promoted to Lieutenant on the 9th of October 1945[4]  in 1946 Gerard was based at Wellington[5] serving with the RNZA Ammunition and Equipment Section.

Up to 1946, the RNZA managed ammunition, explosives, Coast Artillery and specialist equipment and stores with the Ammunition and Equipment Section based in Army Headquarters, during 1946 this responsibility including some manpower, including Gerard were transferred to the NZAOC[6].

From 1946 Gerard was based out of Trentham spent time working at the Belmont and Waiouru Ammunition Areas, when in 1949 he became the District Inspecting Ordnance Officer (DIOO) at Headquarters Central Military District.

Posted to Ngaruawahia in 1953, Gerard would remain there as the Northen Districts DIOO until 1957 when he was posted to the Southern Military District(SMD) as DIOO.

It is during his tenure as SMD DIOO that Gerard became regarded as the most “Confederate” of Ordnance Officers, proudly displaying the confederate ‘Stars and Bars’ flag in his office.

WO in Office

In 1961 the modern Ammunition Technician trade speciality was created when new titles were adopted and[7];

  • ‘Ammunition Technical Officer’ (ATO) replaced that of ‘Inspecting Ordnance Officer’ (IOO) and
  • ‘Ammunition Technician’ (AT) that of ‘Ammunition Examiner’ (AE).
  • ‘District Ammunition Techincal Officer’ (DATO) replaced that of ‘District Inspecting Ordnance Officer’

Remaining as DATO SMD until the reorganisation of 1968[8], Gerard was then posted to 3 Central Ordnance Depot (3COD) as the Second in Command (2IC). During his last year of’ service, he was the Officer Commanding 3 COD.

On Friday 24 March 19721 the RNZAOC farewelled Major E.D Gerard on his retirement from the New Zealand Army after 30 years service as an Officer plus two more years in the ranks. Gerard remained in Christchurch and passed away on the 21st of July 2003.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Notes

[1] “Palmerston North General Roll,” New Zealand Electoral Roll, Palmerston North, Page 84  (1938).

[2] Peter D. F. Cooke and John Crawford, The Territorials: The History of the Territorial and Volunteer Forces of New Zealand (Auckland, N.Z.: Random House, 2011, 2011).

[3] World War II Appointments New Zealand, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations, 1939–1945. [Extracted from the New Zealand Gazette.] CD-ROM. Ravensbourne, Dunedin, New Zealand: Colonial CD Books, n.d.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Karori General Roll,” New Zealand Electoral Roll, Wellington, Page 88  (1946).

[6] N.W.Mcd Weir, “Report on the Defence Forces of New Zealand,” AJHR H-19 (1946).

[7] “Redesignation of Titles of Inspecting Ordnance Officers and Other Ammunition Personnel Army 209/5/3/Sd,” Defence Archives, Archives New Zealand  (1961).

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


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 more advanced 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 in from the United Kingdom and Australia. Powder magazines were established in the main centres, and Magazine keepers appointed. Any specialist expertise required for the handling and storage for these stocks would have been 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 would provide 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 manufacture in New Zealand but the first in Australasia. Entering into a contract with the New Zealand Government for the production of small arms ammunition, the deal was that government would provide the powder with the CAC providing the components for the manufacture of complete cartridges. The Governments retained the right to inspect and conduct quality control inspection on each batch before acceptance by the New Zealand Forces. The testing regime was a simple one which consisted 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 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 has immigrated to New Zealand, becoming the Auckland District Musketry Instructor in 1881. Conducting inspections of manufactured ammunition until July 1891. From July 1891 responsibility 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 inspection of ammunition passed to Lieutenant J E Hume of the Permanent Militia. Hume would continue 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 would retain the right to examine and test all components (powder, caps and cases) and complete cartridge cases. Testing would be 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 would have 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, the powder was still provided by the Government from the United Kingdom. With the powder passing the same tests as powder supplied for the manufacture of 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 was 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 operated 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 accepted 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 possible 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 be ceased as it was inherently “Rolled Cases” had ceased to be used by other Imperial forces and by switching production to the more reliable ” solid drawn” would bring the 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 ArmsTesting 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 had started production in 1898 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

c224c5d0-4982-4457-ad42-58a7a7ef4ffa

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

Completing Twenty years 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, and inspecting and refurbishing in 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 and it would be 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 Coroners report published on the 16th of July 1919, the coroner found that the cause of death was a gunshot wound, apparently 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 would remain as an essential component of the New Zealand Army ammunition supply chain until 1968 when the Colonial Ammunition Company shifted its operations to Austalia, 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 would mature 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 trades 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 specifically trained and employed  solely in the field of ammunition management and as such deserves recognition as the foundation member of what would in later years become 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

NewZealand 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

IPENZ, “Engineering Heritage of New Zealand,” IPENZ Engineers New Zealand, 11 December 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.ipenz.org.nz/heritage/itemdetail.cfm?itemid=2228. [Accessed 12 December 2017].
J. Osborne and P. Cregeen, “Martini Enfield Rifle MK I, I,” New Zealand Arms Register, 21 October 2010. [Online]. Available: http://www.armsregister.com/arms_register/arms_register_documents/nzar_63_martini_enfield_mki.pdf. [Accessed 13 December 2017].
J. Osborne and P. Cregeen, “Martini Enfield Rifle MK I, I,” New Zealand Arms Register, 21 October 2010. [Online]. Available: http://www.armsregister.com/arms_register/arms_register_documents/nzar_63_martini_enfield_mki.pdf. [Accessed 13 December 2017].
Osborne, “Chronology of the British & New Zealand Military .303” Cartridge,” 7 March 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.armsregister.com/arms_register/arms_register_documents/nzar_250_british_nz_303_cartridge.pdf. [Accessed 13 December 2017].