The evolution of the RNZAOC Petroleum Operator

RNZAOC Petroleum Operators were a specialist sub-trade that was open to any regular or Territorial member of the RNZAOC. Petroleum Operations worked as part of 47 Petroleum Platoon or in small sections attached to regional Supply Companys, Combat Supplies Platoons, or at times working alongside Royal New Zealand Air Forces Aviation refuellers.  Petroleum Operators performed a wide range of technical fuel functions, including.

  • The management of Static and field fuel facilities
  • Refuelling of aircraft and vehicles
  • Operate vehicles, including.
    • RT-25, Hough 60c, Matbro and Sktrak forklifts,
    • RL Bedford or Unimog U1700 Truck mounted Unit Bulk Refuelling Equipment’s,
    • M131 18000 litre Trailer Tanker Fuel or Lowes 23000 Litre Tailer tanker Fuel
  • Field and laboratory testing of fuel,
  • Jerrycan inspection and refurbishment programmes,
  • Accounting for fuel as a supply item,
  • First Aid Firefighting,
  • Pollution Control

The RNZAOC assumed the responsibilities for Petroleum Operators in 1979 when the Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps (RNZASC) was disbanded, and the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT) formed with the Supply functions (Rations and Fuel, Oils and Lubricants) of the RNZASC transferring to the RNZAOC.

World War Two

With the army’s total number of motor vehicles in 1939 sitting at around 86 vehicles of all types, it should be no surprise that no unit was specially formed or trained to supply a modern fighting force with Fuel, Oil and Lubricants. Understanding that the next war was to be one of mobility, the decision was made to form a specialist Petrol Company for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force overseas.

2 Composite Company, NZASC of the Territorials (today’s Reserves), was on a weekend Training course when the war was declared. Many members of the soon-to-be-raised Petrol Company were present, including the 1st OC and CSM. On the 4th of September, Volunteers from the Territorials of 2 Composite Company were immediately required to deliver supplies to hastily mobilised Vital Points. And so, more than a week before recruiting opened for the NZEF, about twenty citizen-soldiers of the ASC had begun their war effort, many of whom served in Petrol Company for the duration of the War. From 1939 to 1945, the Petrol company provided sterling services to the NZEF, finally being disbanded in late 1945.

1945 – 1964


Although the general organisation of the RNZASC is well documented during this period, the records examined so far do not shed light as to the organisation of the Petroleum assets.

Truck Mounted tank and bowser, 1 Battalion Wellington Regiment Annual Camp, Daba Camp, Waiouru, summer 1953-53

It is known that within 10 Transport Company in Korea from 1951 to 1955, there was a composite platoon which held specialist vehicles and was also responsible for the running of Petrol points, so it is assumed that Petroleum assets were dispersed throughout the various Transport units of the time.

1964 – 1979

1964 sees the appearance of 7 Petroleum Platoon, 21 Supply Company, RNZASC onto the ORBAT. Based at Waiouru as a combined Regular and Territorial unit, the following equipment was transferred from the RNZASC School to HQ 21 Supply Company for the use of 7 Petroleum Platoon,

  • 5340-00-268-8186 Tank, Petroleum Collapsible 900Gal, Qty three
  • 4320-00-271-1858 Pumping Assy Flammable Liquid Bulk Transfer Gasoline 50 Gal PA, Qty One
  • 4720-00-375-1523 Hose and Fitting Kit for Pimp Gas Dispensing, Qty one

Known Headquarters Staff of 7 Petroleum Platoon were.

  • Captain Anthony William Ancell, Officer Commanding 1966
  • Lieutenant Rodney Johnston McGill, Officer Commanding 1967
  • Major F.W MacDonald, Officer Commanding 1969
  • Captain G.T Field, Officer Commanding 1974
  • Sergeant D.M.L Knapp, QM 1974

The original concept for 7 Petroleum Platoon was for the Platoon to hold and distribute POL in the field using fuel in 100,000-gallon fabric pillow tanks. However, these tanks only had a service life of 6 Months once used and a storage life of 5 Years if not used. The QMG branch felt in 1965 that it would be unwise to purchase these tanks and avoid heavy expenditure on tanks and pumps.  Until a better understanding of modern POL distribution methods was gained, receiving POL from contractors in 44 Gallon Steel drums and decanting into Jerrycans remained the primary POL distribution method. To allow the filling of Jerrycans, filling and washing machines were ordered in 1965.

Pet Op1
7 Petroleum Platoon (7 Pet Pl) at Annual Camp 1975 Waiouru Airfield
7 Petroleum Platoon (7 Pet Pl) at Annual Camp 1975 Waiouru Airfield – (Cpl Harris (TF) & Cpl Jack Tai (RF))

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the introduction of new equipment purchased from the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and items manufactured in New Zealand, Including.

  • One 5000 Gallion Fabric Tank
  • Two 10,000 Gallon Fabric Tanks
  • 2000Litre Rigid Fuel Tanks
  • POL Fire Fighting Equipment
  • Collapsible and Rigid 4-inch Pipeline equipment
  • three additional Gasoline Can Cleaning Machines
  • Dispensing Equipment including
    •  6 x Pump Gasoline Engin Driven Positive Displacement 15-GPM
    • 3 x Pump Gasoline Engine Driven Centrifugal 2″, 35GPM, 80ft Head for Light Aircraft
    • 8 x Pump Gasoline Engine Driven Centrifugal 2″, 35GPM, 80ft Head
    • 6 x Pump Gasoline Engine Driven Centrifugal 4″, 150/200GPM, 120ft Head
    • 2 x Pump Gasoline Engine Driven Centrifugal 4″, 400GPM, 370 Head Trailer Mounted
    • Filters
    • Meters
  • Three Lowes 23000Litre Trailer Tanker Fuel (TTF) (Introduced 1982)
  • Three M131A 18000Litre TTF (Introduced 1973)

Trailer Tanker Fuel 18000Ltr (Vietnam era US M131 Semi Trailer, Tank, Fuel, 5000-Gallon). Fitted four compartments and a 200 GPM pump which could either pump fuel from an external source and dispense fuel thru bulk hoses or hose reels.

One of the stalwarts of the Pet Trade from the 1970s and ’80s, A.J Weston. The pump unit is a 35GMP self-contained Pump/Filter/Meter unit powered by a Briggs and Stratton motor. This type of pump unit was originally used for aircraft refuelling but was often used for dispensing MT

1979 – 1996

In 1979, 7 Petroleum Platoon RNZASC was transferred to the RNZAOC. Remaining a Regular and Territorial Force unit, it remained as a subunit of 21 Supply Company, which became the Territorial Force element of 4 Supply Company. The designation ‘4’ was added to its name, and it became 47 Petroleum Platoon RNZAOC.

From 1979 47 Petroleum Platoon became fully bedded into the RNZAOC organisation, recruiting internally from within the Corps.

The RNZAOC Petroleum Operations were not a separate trade but a speciality within the RNZAOC Supplier trade. In order to qualify as a Band Four Supplier, Suppliers needed to have completed at least one specialist trade course. These courses aimed to ensure that personnel had some specialized knowledge of the various RNZAOC functions that they could be called upon to perform. The specialist courses covered ammunition storage, rations procedures, field services (shower and laundry), and fuel.

If a supplier wanted to pursue the petroleum path, they would first need to complete the Phase 1 Petroleum Operators Course, which provided training on the basic functions required of an RNZAOC Petroleum Operator. After qualifying on the Phase 1 course, selected RNZAOC Petroleum Operators could attend the Phase 2 Petroleum Operations course, which provided a set of POL management skills. The first Phase 2 course was conducted in October 1986.

On completion of the Phase 1 course, suppliers could be employed as Petroleum Operator in one of the RNZAOC Supply Companies within New Zealand and NZAOD in Singapore.

To provide a layer of specialist petroleum knowledge, selected officers qualified on the year-long Royal Army Ordnance (RAOC) Officers Petroleum Course in the United Kingdom.

Petroleum Operators served across the RNZAOC and were transferred to the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment upon its creation in 1996.

Unimog mounted Unit Bulk Refuelling Equipment C1992. RNZAOC School

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017