The evolution of NZAOC ammunition responsibilities 1939-1945

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

Pre War Situation

Fort Ballance

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

watts map

Fort Ballance Ammunition Area

 

HopuHopu Camp

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

20180412_164813-190082474.jpg

HopuHopu Camp Ammunition Area 1945. Public Works Department

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

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

  • The Director of Artillery was responsible to the General Officer Commanding for;
    • The provision and allocation of gun-ammunition,
    • The receipt, storage, and issue of gun ammunition and explosives other than small-arms ammunition
  • The Director of Ordnance Services, assisted by, the Inspecting Ordnance Officer and the SAA Proof Officer were responsible to the Quartermaster-General for;
    • The inspection and repair of gun ammunition,
    • The provision, receipt, storage and distribution of small arms ammunition.

NZAOC Ammunition personnel consisted of;[9]

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

Ammunition Facilities shared by the RNZA and NZAOC consisted of ;

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

1940-41

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

AQMS(2)

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

AQMS(5)

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

Ammo responsibility 1941-45

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

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

NZAOC Staff at Army Headquarters

  • 1 Captain
  • 1 Lieutenant
  • 1 Other Rank

Fort Ballance

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

Hopuhopu (including Mount Eden SAA Magazine)

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

Burnham

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

Ohakea

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

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

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

1941 Magazine Design

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

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

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

1942

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

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

1942 Magazine Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

The increase of Ordnance Depot Establishments

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

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

1943

Waiouru

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

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

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

Mokomoko

Construction of Mokomoko completed in March 1943.[20]

20180412_164357-1310043622.jpg

Mokomoko Ammunitiion Area C1945. Public Works Department

Mount Somers

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

Glentunnel

Construction of Glentunnel completed in August1943.[22]

Fairlie

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

Alexandra

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

Kaikorai Valley (Dunedin)

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

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

Army Inspection Department adopt NZOC Badge

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

1944

Waiouru

Construction of the following was completed by May 1944;

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

Belmont

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

1945

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

Burnham

Construction of Non-explosive store and Laboratory completed

Transfer of Ammunition and Equipment Section to NZAOC

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

Ordnance Takes Full Control

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

Control of ammunition would be undertaken by;

  • The IOO Section, and
  • The Ammunition Section

IOO Section

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

  • The control of all work on ammunition for all purposes other than accounting and storage,
  • Maintenance of ammunition and explosives in stock in serviceable condition ready for use,
  • Provision of personnel for inspection and repair and for working parties to carry out repairs,
  • Provision of all equipment and stores required for the inspection and repair of ammunition,
  • Provision and accounting for Motor Transport necessary for the transport of stock for inspection and repair,
  • Administration and control f Repair Depot Trentham,
  • Maintenance of buildings at Repair Depot Trentham.

Ammunition Section

The Ammunition Section was responsible for;[32]

  • The accounting, storage and care of ammunition and explosives
  • Maintenance or magazines areas and of buildings and services connected with the storage of ammunition and explosives,
  • Administration of personnel of the IOO Section, while attached to ammunition depots concerning pay, rations, quarters, clothing and discipline
  • Transport arrangements for the movement of ammunition not connected with the inspection and repair of ammunition at depots.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[10] Ibid.

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

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

[13] , 517.

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

[15] Grattan, 521.

[16] Ibid., 518.

[17] Ibid., 517.

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

[19] , 521.

[20] Ibid., 523-24.

[21] Ibid., 528.

[22] Ibid., 527.

[23] Ibid., 530.

[24] Ibid., 532.

[25] Ibid., 519.

[26] Ibid., 520.

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

[28] , 524-26.

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

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

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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 1920’s

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 both 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. Johns 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 would have retired at the age of 55 with a comfortable pension, but this was not to be. Due to the world-wide 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 NZAIOC lost;

  • Six officers and Thirty-Eight Other Ranks who 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 rate of pay.

 

Hunter retirement letter

Notice of Retirement sent to Serving soldiers December 1930

 

For the soldiers who were 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 at 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 Barracks

Alexandra Barracks, Mount Cook Wellington. 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 during 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 with importation 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, 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 for the manufacture and modification of Ammunition. Ordnance Stores Corps would be under the supervision of the Master Gunner and would be entitled to the same pay and allowances as other members of the RNZA as they would just be another section of the RNZA.

Although envisaged in 1911, the formation of this Ordnance Stores Corps would have an extended gestation period, and it would not be 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 supply of the required machinery, components and most importantly cordite, with the some of the machinery received in good time, the delivery of the remainder was promised to be delivered as soon as possible by the British suppliers. Given that war had broken out the importance of setting up this capability and securing New Zealand’s immediate supply of Artillery was of the utmost importance.

As 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 Fort Ballance at Mahanga Bay on Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula, the section’s primary duties was the assembling of 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 Ballance

Fort Ballance (including associated positions at Fort Gordon). Permission of the 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 Hunters 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 from in September 1918 is the vessel that is 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, 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 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-1920’s were a busy time for the NZAOC Ammunition Section. The Kaiwharawhara Magazine close to the city was closed, and the Mahanga Bay facilities expanded from the original magazine and laboratory building on the foreshore to include as their guns were decommissioned Fort Balance, Fort Gordon and the Kau Point Battery. With armaments removed, gun pits covered over with roofs and turned into additional magazines the once impressive forts went from been Wellingtons premier defensive location to quite possibly the 1st large scale ammunition depot of the NZAOC, a role it would fill until 1929 when purpose-built facilities were constructed at Hopuhopu Camp in the Waikato.

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 the majority 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 military were forced to retire under superannuation at a much lower rate than they would have usually been entitled too. WO2 John Hunter also lost;

·         21 days approved annual leave

·         22 days accrued leave

John Hunters 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 would be 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-1950’s.

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 was working as a Grocers Assistant at Foxton before enlisting into the NZPF. At the age of 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 the duration of his probation period. On completion of probation on the 1st of February 1901, Thomas was posted to 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 in the Gunnery Section of the RNZA Wellington Detachment working 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 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

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

Like his bother, 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 a one stage been attached to, had only ever fired one proofing round and was promptly taken out of action because of complaints from its neighbors 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 then located at Mount Eden on the 31st of July 1922. Living at Devonport at the time the move to the new position at Mount Eden was worrying for 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

Dissapearing Gun, North Head Auckland. Robert McKie Collection

The early 1920’s 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 Brigades 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 in excess of 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 been transferred to it. Two high-explosive magazines were completed with an additional three high-explosive magazines and 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 staff of the Small Arms Proof Office 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 they would have normally been entitled too. Sergeant Thomas Hunter was fortunate that prior to 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 the 5th of October 1965.

 

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018


The First Cohort – Ordnance Soldiers of 1917

Who were the first Ordnance Soldiers on the formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in 1917?  The names of the original New Zealand Ordnance Officers are well recorded, Major McCristell, Captains King, Beck and White are names familiar to those knowledgeable in the History of the RNZAOC, but who were the original men of the Permanent Force NZAOC that came into life in 1917?

Not to be confused with New Zealand Expeditionary Force NZAOC which was formed in 1915/16 as a  unit of the NZEF. The formation of the Permanent Force NZAOC had been under discussion since 1904 and was finally established by regulations published in the NZ Gazette on 1 February 1917 and would continue to serve the nation until 1996, when its successor the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps was absorbed into the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment,

The NZAOC was to be organised to completely replace the existing Civil Service run Defence Stores Department, additionally incorporating many of the Ordnance functions carried out by the New Zealand Permanent Forces. Using Ordnance personnel records held by Archives New Zealand, I have reconstructed the  1917 NZAOC nominal roll. This identifies information of who the soldiers were, their previous military service, dates they were transferred if already serving, or attested into the NZAOC if previously a civilian and a raft of other information on promotions, postings and discipline issues. These records are not complete but do provide enough information when combined with other sources to build a picture of the events of 1917.

Once the regulations authorising the formation of the NZAOC were published in the NZ Gazette on 1 February 1917, I am of no doubt that much of the planning for the establishment of the new Corps had already been undertaken. Between March and November 1917, approximately 140 men were either transferred or recruited directly into the NZAOC from four manpower pools consisting of:

  • Serving soldiers of the Permanent Forces,
  • Members of civil service employed by the existing Defence Stores Department and other Government departments,
  • Returned servicemen from the NZEF who had to be returned to New Zealand as unfit for overseas service but suitable for home service, and
  • Direct Entries from civilian occupations.

The available records indicate that the men initially required to form the NZAOC were identified in February/March 1917. The first cohort of men was drawn from the Permanent Force and transferred into the NZAOD starting on the 15th of March 1917, followed by the Defence Stores Department civilian Staff who had been selected for militarisation, beginning in July 1917.

For the Men of the new NZAOC apart from some administrative changes, new cap badges for the serving soldiers and uniforms, military rules and regulations for the civilian staff, there probably was not much change to their daily routine, just a change in names and appointments. The NZAOC was organised into Clerical, Stores, Ammunition and Maintenance sections located at:

  • Wellington; with NZAOC Headquarters, Stores and Workshops at Alexandra Barracks. Stores Depots at Te Aro,  Taranaki Street and Trentham. Ammunition Section at Fort Ballance at Mahanga Bay.
  • Auckland, Mt Eden and Narrowneck
  • Palmerston North,
  • Featherston Camp,
  • King Edwards Barracks, Christchurch and
  • Dunedin, Otago Districts Stores Depot,  St Andrews Street.

So who were the first Ordnance Soldiers?

The first 10 Soldiers of various trades and ranks who joined the NZAOC were transferred from the Permanent Forces on the 15th of March 1917, they were:

  • Auckland
    • NZAOC No 17 Quartermaster Sergeant Artificer George Bush, Armaments Artificer.
    • NZAOC No 20 Armament Sergeant Major (WO) Thomas Edward Bryce, Armaments Artificer.
  • Palmerston North
    • NZAOC No 132 Armourer Staff Sergeant Andrew Archibald Young, Armaments Artificer.
  • Wellington
    • NZAOC No 1 Private Hugh John Adams, Ammunition Section.
    • NZAOC No 58 Staff Sergeant Artificer Thomas Reid Inch, Armaments Artificer.
    • NZAOC No 68 Private Patrick Keeshan, Ammunition Section.
    • NZAOC No 75 Private Charles William Marshall, Ammunition Section.
    • NZAOC No 82 Artificer Sergeant Major (WO) William Edward Moore, Armaments Artificer.
  • Dunedin
    • NZAOC No 23 Armament Sergeant Major (WO) William Carroll, Fitter.

Many of these men had served in the Permanent Force for some years, some as far back as the days of the Army Constabulary. Some would reach retiring age in a few years some would continue to serve into the early 1940’s, but although advanced in years they would provide a strong experience base in not only trade but also military experience for the fledgeling Corps.

Dress Embellishments

The NZAOC was authorised to wear the following dress embellishments;

  • Cap and Collar Badges.  The home service NZAOC badge was possibly based on the UK Army Ordnance Department badge. The New Zealand version modified the UK AOD badge by Having the letters NZ replace the centre cannonball in the top panel of the shield and with the inscriptions Army Ordnance Department on the scroll beneath the shield.This New Zealand Pattern Ordnance Corps Badge is unique in the world as it is the only Ordnance cap badge where the cannons face in the opposite direction to all other ordnance badges. Current evidence indicates that this badge was produced in Brass and Bronze
    The Collar badge was a simple version of the Cap badge without the scroll with the cannons facing inwards.

    nz-army-ordnance-corps-badge-2

    NZ Army Ordnance Corps Badge 1917-1923. nzhistory.govt.nz/Public Domain

  • Brass Shoulder Titles. Although not authorised for wear until 1923, there is some photographic evidence showing that the brass NZAOC shoulder titles were worn as early as 1918.
NZAOC STAB

NZAOC Brass Shoulder Titles. Robert McKie Collection

  • Puggaree with Ordnance Flash. The Puggaree worn at the time was Black/Khaki/Black. (The Red/Blue/Red Ordnance Puggaree would not be adopted until 1923) Soldiers of the NZAOC would wear this with the Ordnance badge and a 1.5 Inch x 1.5 inch Blue and red distinguishing patch on the left-hand side of the hat. Due to a shortage of Lemon Squeezer hats in early 1918, forage caps were substituted and the Puggaree and patch were unable to be worn.

    NZAOC HOME SERVICE PATCH

    NZAOC Home service patch (Reproduction). Robert McKie Collection

 

Soldier Profile

One member of the original cohort who I have decided to profile is the soldier who was allocated NZAOC Service Number 1.

NZAOC No 1 Private Hugh John Adams

Although technically not the first member of the NZAOC, but as a member of the first cohort to join the NZAOC and having NZAOC Service Number 1, it could be said that NZAOC No 1 Private Hugh John Adams was the first New Zealand Ordnance soldier and possibly one of the first Ammunition Technicians.

Hugh Adams was the son of Irish/Scottish immigrants Adams was born at Lyttelton on the 21st of July 1874. Adams only completed school up to Standard Four (today’s year 6) and was working as a labourer in Blenheim at around 1892 when at 18 years of age he enlisted in the Blenheim Rifles Volunteers (B Company of the First Battalion of the Nelson Infantry Volunteers.

Serving in the volunteers for five years, Adams resigned from the Blenheim Rifles in March 1897, moved to Wellington and was attested for service as a Gunner 3rd class into the Wellington Detachment of No 1 Company of the New Zealand Permanent Forces, Based at Fort Balance at Mahanga Bay Wellington.

Over the next few years, Adams would consolidate himself in the Artillery earning promotion to Gunner 2nd Class on  1 sept 1899 and then promotion to Gunner 1st Class on 11 March 1901.

Around 1900 Adams married Ada Charlotte McKenzie, with whom he would have three children May, Cyril and Hina.

1902 saw the reorganisation of the New Zealand Forces when on the 15th of October the Wellington Detachment of  No 1 Company of the New Zealand Permanent Forces, became the Wellington Detachment of the Royal New Zealand Artillery.

As a measure to assure some self-sufficiency in the inspection and supply of Artillery Ammunition the decision was made in 1914 to create as part of the Royal New Zealand Artillery an Ordnance Section to inspect and manufacture artillery ammunition. On 1 April 1915 authority was granted under New Zealand Defence Forces General Order 90 to raise the New Zealand Army Ordnance Section.

The section was very small, and Adams along with 7 other members of the Royal New Zealand Artillery were the foundation members whose primary duties were the assembling of ammunition components for the artillery.  With the creation of the NZAOC in 1917, the responsibility for the Ordnance Section passed from the Royal New Zealand Artillery to the NZAOC with Adam and the other members becoming Ordnance soldiers.

The immediate post-war years into the mid-1920’s were a busy time for the NZAOC, large amounts of equipment from mobilisation camps in New Zealand and returned from Europe as the NZEF was demobilised needed to be sorted, graded, repaired, disposed of, redistributed or placed into storage. For the Ammunition Section based at Mahanga Bay, it was a time of expansion. The Kaiwharawhara Magazine close to the city was closed, and 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 these were decommissioned. Their armaments removed, gun pits were covered over with roofs and turned into additional magazines. The area went from been Wellingtons premier Defensive location to quite possibly the 1st large scale ammunition depot of the NZAOC, a role it would fill until the 1940s when purpose-built facilities were constructed at Belmont and Kuku Valley.

Mahanga Bay, Miramar, Wellington, ca 1910

Mahanga Bay, Miramar, Wellington, c1910. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

 

Adams remained employed in the Ammunition Section and was primarily the 2IC of the Section during the busy years of the early 1920’s,  his duties included making up ammunition, and he was generally responsible for the care of the magazines and surrounding areas. In a 1921 review of the Ammunition Section, Adams was deemed necessary for the operation.

Few if any photographs exist of the work carried out by Adams and the Ammunition Section at Mahanga Bay, but these examples from the Australian War Museum provide some perspective.

newington_laboratory_1949_b

Removing primer from a round of fixed QF ammunition. Australian War Memorial

cordite_bundling_001636

RAN personnel inspecting cordite then tying it into bundles. Australian War Memorial

newington_laboratory_1949_a

Base fuze or plug being removed from, or replaced in a large calibre BL projectile. Australian War Memorial

Reaching the retiring age of 55 Adams retired on 21 Feb 1929 after 31 years and 343 Days service.

Remaining in the rank of Private all his career, possibly due to his lack of education past standard 4, Adams was recognised as a competent soldier in his role in the Ammunition Section and was no novice when handling explosives. Adams was awarded the following medals:

  • New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal

  • Long Service and Good Conduct medal

Adams passed away in August 1955 aged 81 years and is buried at the Karori cemetery in Wellington.

 

 

 

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017