Defence Preparations – New Zealand Defence Stores 1911

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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


Auckland Defence Store, 1861 – 1903

Throughout the early 1860s, elements from the Militia and Volunteers supported the Imperial troops undertaking the bulk of the military operations in the early years of the New Zealand Wars. In 1861 as George Grey assumed the role of Governor for a second term, Grey undertook a policy of conciliation while also preparing for war.  As General Cameron built up his Imperial forces, Gray reviewed and overhauled the citizen forces of New Zealand. In January 1862, new regulations for the volunteer force were issued, followed on 18 September,  by the Colonial Defence Act of 1862.  This Act saw the formation of the Colonial Defence Force, the first regular Force in New Zealand. Under the Quartermaster General of the Colonial Defence Force, Captain Robert Collins, the Colonial Store Department and the Militia Store Department assumed the store’s responsibility for the Militia, Volunteer and Regular Forces of New Zealand.

In Auckland, the Colonial Store Department and the Militia Store Department initially operated out of offices in Princes Street. However, approval was granted in October 1863 for the erection of a store adjacent to the Imperial Armoury near the Symonds street entrance to the Albert Barracks.[1]  The two Store Departments essentially carried out the same functions, and in 1865 the post of Superintended of Militia Stores held by Mr E.D King was disestablished with the responsibility for colonial defence stores centralised under the Colonial Storekeeper, Captain John Mitchell.

Military Store Albert Barracks 1871

A review of colonial defence with a reliance on local forces taking over from Imperial Forces saw the passing of the Armed Constabulary Act of 10 October 1867. This Act combined police and military functions into the regular Armed Constabulary (AC) Force. The AC Force would be supported by loyal natives, Militia and Volunteer units with Defence Storekeepers in Auckland, Whanganui and Wellington providing the required logistic support.[2]

In April 1869, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Gorton was appointed as the Inspector of Defence Stores, establishing his office at Molesworth Street in Wellington, bringing all New Zealand’s Defence storekeepers under his control.  By January 1869, as the withdrawal of Imperial units became imminent, the dismantling of their central logistic hub at Auckland’s Fort Britomart and Albert Barracks had commenced, with military stores, including guns and ammunition that were not auctioned off to the public or purchased by the New Zealand Government, shipped to the United Kingdom. The departure of the British Military Storekeeper Joseph Osbertus Hamley in July 1870 marked the final withdrawal of Imperial Forces from New Zealand, with the Auckland Defence Store taking over ownership of the Armoury and Magazines located in Albert Barracks.

In May 1869, Captain John Mitchell was suspended as the Auckland Storekeeper due to unauthorised absences. Resigning in July, Mitchell was replaced by Major William St Clair Tisdall as acting Storekeeper. Tisdall was assisted by a small staff, some of whom had served in the stores since 1861, including

  • John Blomfield, Clerk
  • John Price, Clerk
  • D Evitt, Armourer Sergeant
  • Arms Cleaners
    • Mr’s F Gibbons,
    • J Penligan and
    • C.C Rockley

Following the departure of Imperial units, the future of Albert Barracks came under debate. In addition to the Defence Stores, the only other military use of the former barracks was by the local Militia and Volunteers who retained a drill hall and utilised the parade round. The Auckland Improvement (Albert Barrack Reserves) Act 1872 repealed previous Acts relating to the status of Albert Barracks and placed responsibility for the management and disposal of the land under the Auckland Improvement Commissioners.[3] The Auckland Improvement Commissioners would draw up and oversee plans to develop the bulk of the Barracks into a recreational reserve with other areas subdivided into roads and plots of land for further development.

By 1871 the growth of Auckland now placed the ageing powder magazine in the centre of a built-up area, raising concerns about its safety. New powder magazines were constructed at Mount Eden, with the first stocks transferred from Albert Park to Mount Eden in September, following which the Albert Barracks magazines were demolished.[4]  With the Auckland districts supply of ammunition now safety stored at Mount Eden under the care of the Defence Stores magazine keeper, Tisdall and the remaining staff of Storemen and Armourers would remain at Albert Barracks.[5] Initially located in the old Imperial Armoury building at the Symonds Street entrance of Albert Barracks, it was considered an obstruction to the Commissioners projected improvements.[6] To allow the extension of Princes Street and subdivision of the land between Princes and Symonds Street, in July 1873,  the Defence Stores had been moved into the well-constructed stone building that had previously been the Barracks hospital.[7] The new building included ample accommodation for warlike stores, including small workshops and a forge.[8] The only remnant of the site of the old Armoury were two Russian 18-pounder guns taken at the Crimea and presented by the Imperial Government to the colony of New Zealand in the late 1850s.[9]

The Defence Stores building in Albert Park was described by the Auckland Star as the “hideous eyesore in Albert Park’ and considered a blight on the skyline as it obstructed the view from the park that had been established to replace the Barracks.[10]  By 1883 an agreement was reached between the Auckland Council and the Government, with a plot of land in O’Rourke Street provided to allow the relocation of the Defence Stores.[11] 

Queen St with Albert Barracks on the left hillside C1870-1979. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 898-9969

When the proposal was first mooted to relocate the Defence Store, plans were prepared in the Auckland Public Works office for a three-storied building equal in space to the present location. However, as it was the intention to centralise the operations of the Defence Stores in Wellington, the original design was countermanded with a design for a smaller building substituted. Tenders for the erection of the new Defence Stores building were published on 10 May 1883 for a building meeting the following specifications,

  • to be constructed of brick, two storeys in height, with concrete foundation,
  • to have a frontage of 25 feet with a depth of 36 feet.
  • the ground floor was to have
    • a passage seven feet wide,
    • two 18×18 apartments,
    • a staircase leading from the ground floor to the upper storey
  • upper floor subdivided into
    • An 18×8 office,
    • compartment with lift,
    • a 14×18 room
    • an 11 x 18 room
  • To the rear of the building
    • a 14×25 shed with an asphalted floor for gun carriages
    • a 6×14 coal shed,
    • a 14×20 Armourer’s shop.

Due to the considerable amount of material accumulated in the old Defence Stores over its many years of operation, Captain Sam Anderson, the Chief Defence Storekeeper, assisted in a stocktake of the old store as it was decommissioned, ensuring only essential materials were transferred to the new building.  Surplus stores were disposed of by tender or redistributed, including over 2000 obsolete muzzle-loading muskets relocated to the Defence Store in Wellington.[12] The old Stores building was soon demolished with much of the material used in the construction of the new building, with the only reminder of the military’s residence of Albert Park being a small portion of the Barracks wall and a few old cannons on display in the new ornamental gardens.

The New Defence Store in O’Rourke Street would be one of the earliest purpose-built Storehouses built for New Zealand’s Military. Up to this period, many of the buildings utilised by the Defence Stores were inherited from the Imperial Forces or requisitioned commercial premises.

By 1888, the cost of maintaining a peacetime military had reached the point where cutbacks and savings across the Defence budget had to be made. As part of several reductions across the Defence Department, the Auckland Defence Store would be drastically downsized, resulting in the retirement or redundancy of most of the staff. The closure of the Auckland Defence Stores was met with dismay with the press questioning it as an absurd decision, with the New Zealand Herald noting in an editorial that the closure of the Auckland Defence Store was” solely arising from the Wellington authorities having a want of local knowledge and of the requirements of the place.” This pushback on the closure of the Auckland Defence Store resulted in a short reprieve for  James Bloomfield, the Defence Storekeeper in Auckland, who had served since 1861, was granted a reprieve from redundancy and allowed to extend his tenure, retiring in December 1888 handing over the responsibilities of Defence Storekeeper for Auckland to Major John William Gascoyne of the New Zealand Permanent Militia.[13] Following Gascoyne’s departure in 1891, the responsibilities of Auckland Defence Storekeeper would be assumed by the Adjutant of the Auckland Brigade Office, who would oversee the duties of the Magazine Keeper at Mount Eden, Mr J Hawthorn.[14]

Concurrent with the Adjutant taking over the Defence Storekeepers responsibilities, the Auckland Brigade Office was moved from its offices in the Auckland Supreme Court into the Defence Store O’Rourke Street building, from where the Adjutant would conduct his duties related to the Auckland Volunteers and the Defence Stores.[15] This shared arrangement would remain in place into the early years of the twentieth century and would even see a telephone installed in 1902.

Routine activities conducted by the Auckland Defence Stores in O’Rourke Street included various tender for the provision of uniforms and repair of equipment. Following the bloodless Dog Tax War of 1898, the Defence Store in O’Rourke street took custody of the surrendered arms, including,[16]

  • one Winchester repeating rifle
  • one Winchester carbine
  • two Green’s American patent Snider breech-loading rifles
  • one Snider rifle
  • one muzzle-loading carbine
  • one Lee Bolt shotgun, single barrel
  • three breech-loading single barrel guns.
  • three double-barrel breech-loaders (nearly new)
  • ten double-barrel muzzle-loading guns
  • two single barrel guns
  • four bundles of ammunition (various)

 In 1903 the Police expressed an interest in taking over the building as accommodation for the Auckland Police Commissioner. Following an inspection by the Defence Storekeeper, Mr James O’Sullivan, arrangements were made to transfer the Defence Stores from the O’Rourke Street Property to Mount Eden and hand the building over to the Police.[17] During 1904 the handover of the Defence Stores building the Police was concluded, ending the sixty-year relationship between Auckland’s Albert Park and the Military.

The Police would fully refurbish the former Defence Store Building into a residential villa. The building would survive into the 1960s when it was demolished to allow the construction of  Auckland University.

1905 view of the refurbished Defence Store building(Center of the photo next to Police Station)

Despite the construction of new buildings for the Defence Stores in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin during the early 1900s, no new permanent buildings would be constructed for the Auckland Defence Stores as the existing powder magazines at Mount Eden constructed in 1871, were deemed sufficient enough to meet current and projected needs. Following the transition of the Defence Stores into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in 1917, a new Ordnance Depot was constructed for the Northern Region to replace the infrastructure at Mount Eden in the late 1920s. However, it would not be in Auckland but at Hopuhopu in the Waikato. Ordnance Stores would be established in Auckland during World War Two utilising rented commercial premises.  In the post-war era, ordnance warehouses established at Syliva Park utilised buildings constructed for the United States Forces. Other than Explosive Store Houses at Ardmore, no permanent dedicated storage infrastructure would ever be constructed for the RNZAOC in Auckland. 

The significance of the Defence Store building in O’Rourke Street is that excluding smaller unit storehouses and ammunition storehouses, it remains the only purpose-built military warehouse constructed for the New Zealand Army in Auckland.


Notes

[1] Queen’s Redoubt Assistant Military Secretary, “Correspondence Stating That There Is No Objection to the Erection of a Store for Colonial Purposes Adjoining Armoury Albert Barracks,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24075932  (1863).

[2] M. R. Wicksteed, The New Zealand Army: A History from the 1840s to the 1980s ([Ministry of Defence, 1982), Non-fiction, 2-3.

[3] Under the provisions of the Public Domains Act 1860, the Auckland Military Reserves Act 1871 established the land that Albert Barracks occupied as Crown land.

[4] “New Power Magazine at Mount Eden,” New Zealand Herald, Volume VIII, Issue 2377, 7 September 1871.

[5] The Magazine Keeper was Mr J Broughton, Tindall’s other staff consisted of his Clerk Mr J Blomfield. Armourer Mr D Evitt and Three Arms Cleaners Mr’s F Gibbons, J Penligan and C.C Rockley. “D-13 Nominal Roll of the Civil Establishment of New Zealand on the 1st July 1872,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  (1872); “Nominal Return of Officer in Defence Department and Armed Constabulary Force on 1 July 1872,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1873 Session I, H-24a  (1872).

[6] “Deputation from the Auckland Improvement Commissioners,” New Zealand Herald, Volume X, Issue 2859, , 28 March 1873.

[7] “Militia Store Move,” Auckland Star, Volume IV, Issue 1087, 17 July 1873.

[8] “Wooden Building in Albert Barracks,” New Zealand Herald, Volume X, Issue 09, 30 September 1873.

[9] “Russian Guns,” New Zealand Herald, Volume XI, Issue 3927, , 13 June 1874.

[10] “Albert Park Armoury,” Auckland Star, Volume XII, Issue 3523, 22 November 1881.

[11] Linking Princes and Symonds Streets, O’Rourke Street is now occupied by Auckland University,  Captain Anderson, “Old Defence Store to Be Sold by Tender, All the Muzzle Loading Rifles to Be Sent by “Hinemoa”,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24280543  (1883).

[12] “Flashes,” Wanganui Herald, Volume XVII, Issue 5047, 27 April 1883.

[13] “Reductions in Civil Service,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1888 Session I, H-30, 11 May 1888.

[14] A. H. McLintock, ” Frederick John William Gascoyne,”  http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/1966/gascoyne-or-gascoigne-frederick-john-william.

[15] “Volunteer Gossip,” Observer, Volume XI, Issue 656, (1891).

[16] “The Maori Trouble,” Auckland Star, Volume XXIX, Issue 114, , 16 May 1898.

[17] Wellington Defence Storekeeper, ” Subject: Report of Inspection of Defence Stores Auckland. Again Urges Removal of Store from O’Rourke [O’rorke] Street to Mount Eden Cost to Be Met by Police Department ” Archives New Zealand Item No R24743403  (1903).



John Henry Jerred

Located in Wellington’s Karori cemetery is the long-forgotten grave of John Henry Jerred, Assistant Defence Storekeeper, died 20 December 1902.  John Henry Jerred had served in Government service for twenty-two years from 1880 as a Police Constable, Engineer on Torpedo Boats, and as a storekeeper in the Defence Stores. However, losing a leg while in the Police had adversely affected his ability to gain life insurance, join a Friendly Society, or earn a fair wage leaving his family financially unprepared for his early death. Such was the standing and high esteem of John Jerred that his friends erected a fitting memorial to John’s life. Sadly, now in disrepair, John Jerred’s graveside and the life he had lived has long been forgotten. Thanks to the keen eyes of members of the NZ Remembrance Army, John Jerred’s resting place has been rediscovered and is on the path to refurbishment.

Born in London in 1860, John was an engineer by profession and arrived in New Zealand around 1879 and commenced his career in Wellington.

Joining the Armed Constabulary on 1 February 1880, John would undertake the initial training required and then settle into the Depot Routine at the Armed Constabulary’s Mount Cook Depot in Wellington. In September 1880, John was one of many Armed Constabulary men sent to Ripapa Island in Lyttelton Harbour as guards for 160 Māori’s from Parihaka.

Ripapa Island had briefly been utilised as a quarantine station with purpose-built accommodation for over 300 immigrants. However, with the more spacious Quail Island designated a quarantine station in 1875, Ripapa’s barracks were largely devoid of purpose until the government found a use for it as a prison for Māori Ploughmen that had been imprisoned without trial due to the Parihaka Māori settlements passive resistance campaign against the surveying and selling of its land by the government, which would lead to the 1881 Parihaka invasion.

[Medley, Mary Catherine] 1835-1922 :[Quarantine Island Port Lyttelton. 1880s or 1890s], Alexander Turnbull Library. the new Ripapa (known as Ripa) Island quarantine station included barracks, a hospital, service buildings, a barrack master’s cottage and a jetty.

Each guard was issued with a Snyder repeating rifle with 40 rounds of ball ammunition and an Adams revolver with 18 Rounds. A typical guard shift would be for 24hours starting at 9 am. Daily routine allowed the prisoners out of their barracks for recreation from 9 am to 1 pm, and following lunch, from 2 pm to 6 pm, after dinner, they would be secured in their barracks for the night. Throughout the night, the guards would be on shifts to ensure that two were always awake. Following relief at 9 am, the old guard would be required to unload the streamer from Lyttelton of provisions and coal before cleaning their weapons and standing down for the rest of the day.

He was completing such a shift on 10 December 1880, when before standing down, John cleaned his revolver. On completion of cleaning his revolver, he reloaded it. However, he noticed a spot on the chamber that he had missed in his exhausted state, which he then cleaned and, distracted with tiredness, accidentally discharged the revolver into his leg, shattering the thigh bone.

Admitted to Christchurch hospital, the leg was set. It was expected that John would after a period of recovery keep his leg, with only a limp to remind him of the accident. Unable to return to full duty, John would remain on light duties and, in July 1881, was posted to Wellington, where he took up duties as a librarian. However, John’s recovery was not going well, and in November 1881, he was admitted to Wellington hospital, with the only option being the amputation of his leg on 13 November. Now permanently disabled, John returned to his role of a librarian.

From the late 1870s, New Zealand had been under the spectre of incursion by Russia into the Southern Seas prompting what has become known as the Russia Scare. Cognisant of the potential threat, the New Zealand Government decided to construct fortifications and purchase torpedo boats to protect the harbours at Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. With Torpedo boats ordered and due for delivery in 1884, John’s skills as an Engineer became useful. On 17 May 1883, he was attested as an Artificer in the Permanent militia, taking charge of the machinery of the torpedo boats allocated to Wellington.

 

Example of a spar torpedo boat, http://navymuseum.co.nz/spar-torpedo-boats/

With the torpedo boats used on alternative weekends by the Wellington and Petone Naval volunteers, John could not remain on the torpedo boats when they took to the sea for their weekend exercises due to not holding the correct certification. To rectify this and increase his utility, John sat and passed the examination on 8 October 1883, gaining the required certification.

To service the construction of fortifications on the then remote Miramar peninsula, the Defence Department purchased the motor launch the SS Ellen Balance in 1885, with Jarred placed in charge of its engines in November 1885. However, with the ongoing maintenance of the Torpedo boats proving troublesome, John was put back in charge of them in January 1886.

Star Boating Club Submarine Mining Volunteer Corps, Shelly Bay, Wellington. Andrews, C J, fl 1979 :Photographs of the Star Boating Club Submarine Mining Volunteer Corps. Ref: 1/2-091774-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23233117

The Torpedo Boat SS Waitemata had been transferred to Auckland during 1885 and required an experienced engineer to keep it operational, so Jarred was transferred to Auckland on 20 April 1886 to take charge of the SS Waitemata. On 4 August 1886, John was attested for a further three years’ service in the Permanent Militia.

Auckland’s climate was favourable for Jarred, but his time in Auckland would be short and in May 1887, he was recalled to Wellington to take charge of the Defence vessel the SS Isabel as the Engineer & Stoker.

In 1887, John married Mary Ann Bell, and they would have two children, Ida Isabel, born in 1888 and Harold Vincent, born 1 December 1894.

Despite John’s experience as an engineer, he was considered because of his disability a liability. In a cost reduction exercise typical of the Defence Department, John was dismissed from the service under a scheme of only keeping physically able men employed on 22 February 1888. This dismissal did not sit well with John. He appealed the decision highlighting that the savings made in dismissing him were negated because it cost more to employ civilian engineers to fill the void left by his dismissal. John’s appeals, although supported by many, was ultimately unsuccessful in reversing his dismissal. However, he has offered the caretaker position for the Ministerial Residence on Tinakori Road in Wellington in compensation.

Returning to the employ of the Defence Department on 9 December 1889, John was appointed as Arms Cleaner in the Defence Stores. Under the Defence Storekeeper, Captain Sam Anderson, John was not utilised as an Arms Cleaner but was employed in Clerical and General Store Work. On the death of William Warren, one of the Defence Stores Storeman on 28 January 1894, John was appointed as Acting Storeman.

On 28 September 1899, the New Zealand Premier’ King Dick’ Seddon offered to the Imperial Government in London, in the event of war with the Boer Republics, the services of a contingent of Mounted Infantry for service in South Africa. The offer was accepted, and when war broke out on 11 October 1899, New Zealand was swept up in a wave of patriotic fervour. This mobilisation would push the Defence Stores Department to its limits as it equipped the New Zealand Contingents to the war in South Africa. From 6 to 21 October 1899, under the direct supervision of the Under-Secretary for Defence, Sir Arthur Percy Douglas, the Defence Storekeeper Captain Anderson and his small staff spent up to 16 hours daily, receiving, recording, branding and then dispatching all manner of essential items to the assembled Contingent at Karori Camp.

The Defence Stores were located at the Military reserve in Wellingtons Mount Cook, then known as Alexandra Barracks. The Actual Stores building were old and not fit for purpose as they leaked and were cold and draughty. The hours worked by the Defence Stores Staff and the poor infrastructure would take its toll on the Staff of the Defence Stores.

Scene in Mount Cook, Wellington, taken between 1882 and 1931 from Tasman Street, showing Mount Cook Prison/Alexandra Barracks (top, to left). Photographer unidentified.Ref: 1/2-066816-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22855721

On 7 December 1899, the Defence Storekeeper, Captain Sam Anderson, suddenly died. This was at a critical time as the Defence Stores Department, which after years of neglect, was at breaking point due to the mobilisation. Captain James O’Sullivan, a long time and experienced member of the Defence Stores, succeeded Anderson as acting Defence Storekeeper.

Anderson Death was followed by the death of the Assistant Defence Storekeeper, Mr Thomas Henry Sewell, in June 1900. John replaced Sewell.

With further contingents sent to South Africa, the pace of work at the Defence Stores did not lessen. Despite his disability, John had a robust constitution. Still, the strain of long hours and a poor working environment took a toll on his system, leading to an attack of acute pneumonia, and after four days of illness, John died on 20 December 1902 at the age of forty-six.

Johns death was unfortunate for his family and placed them in a dire financial position. Having lost one of his legs, John was ineligible for life insurance and could not join a Friendly Society. His salary was so small that it prevented him from making adequate provisions for his family’s future. To make ends meet, Mary attempted to find work but illness and hospitalisation requiring surgery incapacitated her further. Some relief was found when on two occasions, she partitioned the Premier and the House of Representatives for assistance. Her petitions were supported by Johns long service and supporting statements from prominent members of the Defence Department and Government. The Under Secretary of Defence stated to the House that John “was highly valued as a most efficient Clerk and thoroughly zealous and painstaking officer by his immediate superiors.” Also assisting Mary in her petitions were several articles in the press that highlighted the poor working conditions in the Defence Stores and how those poor conditions had contributed to the poor health of many of the Defence Stores staff. Mary’s petitions were successful, and she was granted two grants, each of €50 (2021 NZ$9,319.35).

Considering John’s service, when Mary decided to relocate her family to Woolston in Christchurch in 1903, the Minister of Railways covered the expenses for her household removal from Wellington to Christchurch.

A wide circle of friends deeply regretted johns’ death. As a tribute to their departed friend, they covered the costs of erecting a memorial stone at Johns grave in the Karori Cemetery.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2021