The Historiography of the New Zealand Wars and the Military Store Department

The study of the New Zealand Wars has created an extensive Historiography focused on the political and warfighting aspects of the campaign, providing much information on the causes, effects, commanders, battles and units that participated in the New Zealand Wars. If the narrative has chosen to include the logistic services, the general Historiography has been biased towards the larger of the Logistic Services- the Commissariat – while neglecting to cover the contribution of the Military Store Department. This essay will examine the Historiography of the New Zealand Wars as it relates to the logistics and the activities of the Military Store Department from 1857 to 1870.

The Military Store Department was the department of the British Army responsible for providing weapons, munitions and military equipment to the British Army and Colonial Forces from 1857 to 1870.[1]  The origins of the Military Store Department lie with the Board of Ordnance, which under the Master General of the Ordnance existed between 1597 and 1855. The Crimean War (16 October 1853 – 30 March 1856) had seen the British Army suffer many privations due to the failure of its Logistic Services, including the Ordnance Board, which saw their functions placed under the supervision of the War Office while reformation of the British Army’s administrative system took place.[2] By 1857 the reforms had resulted  in the formation of specialised departments to manage the British Army’s logistics:[3]

  • The Commissariat, responsible for land transport services and the provision of food and fuel for soldiers and forage for animals;
  • The Purveyors Department, responsible for the setting up, equipping and the maintenance of hospitals and;
  • The Military Store Department, responsible for Weapons, Munitions and Military equipment not managed by the other departments.[4]

The Ordnance Board had existed in New Zealand since the 1840s, in 1857 its staff and infrastructure were amalgamated into the Military Store Department and would support the Imperial Forces for the duration of the conflict.[5]

Much of the Historiography about the New Zealand War Logistics is related to General Cameron and his staff and how they had learnt the lessons of the Crimean War and were determined not to make the same mistakes. Matthew Wright describes Cameron as a veteran General, “with a reputation for, discipline, ‘reticent and auster’ who understood Logistics.[6]  James Belich agrees with Wright on Cameron’s Logistical appreciation and expands on the logistical challenges that the Imperial Forces faced, such as the length of the Supply Chain and the reliance on imports from England and Australia.[7] Wright and Belich do not delve deeply into the organisational structures of the Imperial Forces, so the omission of the Military Store Department is to be expected.

The Military Store Department is noticeably missing from Tim Ryan and Bill Parham’s book on the New Zealand Wars, which furnishes a full chapter on the British Regiments and Corps involved in the New Zealand Wars from 1845 to 1870. Despite detailing all the Imperial Units, including the Medical and Commissariate units, Ryan and Parham neglect to mention the Military Store Department.[8]  Richard Taylor’s 2004 thesis, ‘British Logistics in the New Zealand Wars, 1845-66’ provides a comprehensive review of British Logistics during the New Zealand Wars. Taylor does mention in brief, the activities of the Board of Ordnance in the 1840s and 50s, but provides no mention of their successor, the Military Store Department. Focused on the Medical, Commissariat, and Transports Corps, Taylor’s work provides little understanding of mechanisms responsible for the supply of arms, munitions and other military stores.

Adam Davis, in his 2004 thesis, ‘The Imperial Garrison in New Zealand, 1840-1870 with Particular Reference to Auckland’, examines the social interactions between the Imperial Forces and New Zealand Colonial Society. Drawing on many primary sources such as newspapers, Davis examines the activities of the Board of Ordnance before 1857 and then the Military Store Department post-1857. Davis states how the Military Store Department was existing in 1861 and includes it in a list detailing the distribution of Imperial units in 1864.[9]  Davis also mentions several times in his text that the Military Store Department was also the primary occupant of Britomart Barracks.

The lack of the Military Store Department in the historiography of the New Zealand Wars it not surprising. The Regimental history of the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT) records the history of the Commissariat and Transports Corps.[10] The Successors to the Military Store Department, the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps(RNZAOC), discusses the New Zealand Wars in their regimental history but makes no mention if the Military Store Department.[11] The History of the British Royal Army Ordnance  Corps (RAOC) makes no specific mention of the New Zealand Wars, but does describe how department officers would be attached to flying columns and clerks, artificers and labourers would be provided to accompany the force.[12] This description of responsibilities is supported by news articles relating to the Military Store Department found in the Papers Past Website. A 2018 article in the New Zealand Military History Society of New Zealand Journal, the Volunteers: ‘Ordnance Services in Colonial New Zealand 1840 to 1871’ weaves together a variety of primary and secondary sources outlaying the history of the Military Store Department in New Zealand and identifies many of its essential personnel and locations that it occupied.[13]

It is surprising that the Military Store Department does not have a broader profile in the Historiography of the New Zealand Wars. Given its responsibility for the provision and maintenance of weapons, munitions and military equipment, it was a key enabler for the maintenance of the Imperial and Colonial Forces in the field. There are many examples in the media of the day of the high esteem in which the Miliatry Store Department was held. At the Colonial level, Chapman’s New Zealand Almanac of 1860 lists the Military Store Department and its Staff as part of the Imperial Military Hierarchy,[14] whereas similarly the Royal Kalanders issued between 1860 and 1862 provide listings of the Military Store Department Officers. Hart’s Army list also provides a wealth of information on the officers of the Military Store Department. Hart’s Army list was produced annually and provided detailed information on each officer of the British Army including the Military Stores Department. [16] The notes contained in the Army list also provide biographical details which add to the Historiography of the New Zeland Wars, for example, the Army List of 1869 shows the following:[17]

  • Mr Hamley served in New Zealand from 1846 including two Native Wars;
  • Mr Haldane served during the late war in New Zealand;
  • Mr Le Geyt served in the New Zealand War of 1863-66 and was present at the attack of the Orakau Pah, assault and capture of the Gate Pa, and action at Te Ranga;
  • T. Timbrell and James White served in the New Zealand War in 1864-06.

The Historiography provided by these primary sources contrasts with the database held on the Soldiers of Empire Website.[18]  The Soldiers of Empire website contributes a digital element to the Historiography of the New Zealand Wars. With a database of Imperial troops who served in New Zealand and several interactive articles detailing different aspects of the conflict. At this stage, despite being a gazetted unit of the British Military,[19] the Military Store Department has not been included on the Soldiers of Empire database. While continuing the trend of not including the Military Store Department, the Soldiers of Empire Website includes in its articles many of the watercolours painted by Joseph Osbertus Hamley who in his duties as Head of the Military Store Department took part in many of the Imperial Military Operations.[20] Moreover, Hamley would also be the last Imperial officer to depart New Zealand in 1870.[21]

The absence of the Military Store Department from much of the Historiography is an enigma, and can be attributed to its small size, and also the successful conduct of its duties with little or no fuss. Davis stated that in 1864 the department consisted of four staff and ten sergeants,[22] collaborated by the list of the Department collated by Mckie.[23]  Given its small numbers, the Military Store Department seldom operated independently outside of Auckland, and the men of the department for administrative and tactical reasons were often attached to the strength of the Commissariat while in the field and hence appeared in many records as part of the Commissariat,[24] which has helped to keep the department out of the historiography. Despite the size of the department and the vagueness of its existence in the historiography, in the 1860s the work of the department was well known and appeared regularly in the media of the time. An 1864 article in the New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian describes in detail the duties and organisation of the department, and also the praise it had received from General Cameron for its contribution to the war.[25]

In conclusion, the Historiography of the New Zealand Wars is in a state of continual evolution and although the narrative has generally remained  focused on the causes, effects, commanders, battles and forces that participated in the New Zealand Wars, modern advances in archival management have opened up access to many records which have previously remained out of reach. Until recently the Military Store Department was not part of the New Zealand Wars Historiography, for some accounts, this is acceptable as such details do not add to the narrative. However, any New Zealand War history discussing details of Imperial and colonial units and the logistics required is only telling a portion of the history if they do not include the Military Store Department.  Despite there being a raft of primary sources providing positive information on the existence of the Military Store Department, the Department is a victim of its success and as such has become unknown. If it had made a few errors or failed to provide ammunition on time the historiography might be different.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2019

Notes:

[1] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), 149.

[2] Many on the Officers and men who had served in the Crimean war, would also serve in the New Zealand Wars applying many of the tactical and Logistical lessons learnt to good effect.

[3] J.M. War office Bannatyne, Royal Warrants, Circular, General Orders and Memoranda, Issued by the War Office and Horse Guards, Aug. 1856- July 1864 (1864), 302-10.

[4] Brigadier A H Fernyhough, A Short History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (First Edition) (RAOC Trust 1965), 14-15.

[5] Robert McKie, “Ordnance Services in Colonial New Zealand 1840-1871,” The Volunteers: New Zealand Military Historical Society 44, no. 2 (2018): 42. , H.G Hart, “Annual Army List as at December 1857,”  https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/102696001.

[6] Matthew Wright, Two Peoples, One Land: The New Zealand Wars (Reed, 2006), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 113.

[7]James Belich, The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict, This edition 2015 ed. (Auckland University Press, 2015), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 127.

[8] Tim Ryan and W. T. Parham, The Colonial New Zealand Wars, Rev. ed. (Grantham House, 2002), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 159-64.

[9] Adam Davis, “The Imperial Garrison in New Zealand, 1840-1870 with Particular Reference to Auckland” (University of Bedfordshire, 2004), 79.

[10] Julia Millen, Salute to Service: A History of the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport and Its Predecessors, 1860-1996 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1997, 1997), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 15-30.

[11] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 44-49.

[12] Fernyhough, A Short History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (First Edition), 15.

[13] McKie, “Ordnance Services in Colonial New Zealand 1840-1871,” 36 – 53.

[14] Chapman’s New Zealand Almanac – New Zealand Official Directory,  (1860).

[15] The Royal Kalendar, and Court and City Register for England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Colonies,  (1860)., The Royal Kalendar, and Court and City Register for England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Colonies,  (1861)., The Royal Kalendar, and Court and City Register for England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Colonies,  (1862).

[16] Colonel H.G Hart, “Hart’s Army Lists – 1839-1915,” National Library of Scotland,, https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/100739612.

[17] H.G Hart, “Annual Army List as at  December 1868,”  https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/102696001.

[18] Victoria University of Wellington, “Soldiers of Empire,”  http://www.soldiersofempire.nz/database.html.

[19] “Commissions Granted to Officers Serving in the Military Store Department,” London Gazette No 22567, 19 November 1861.

[20] Una Platts, Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook (Christchurch, N.Z.: Avon Fine Prints, 1980, 1980), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, Collective biography.

[21] “Projected Departure of Mr Hamley,” Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 4007, 25 June 1870.

[22] Davis, “The Imperial Garrison in New Zealand, 1840-1870 with Particular Reference to Auckland.”

[23] McKie, “Ordnance Services in Colonial New Zealand 1840-1871.”

[24] Deputy Assistant Superintendent of Stores  A.R Tribe served in NZ from 1861 to 1866 and although confirmed as an officer in the Military Store Department in the London Gazette and Harts Army List is listed in the Soldier of Empire Database as belonging to the Military Train. soldiersofempire.nz, “Imperial Soldiers Serving in New Zealand Database: A.R Tribe Record Info,”  http://www.soldiersofempire.nz/database.html.

[25] “Fort Britomart,” New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian, Volum XIX, Issue 1942, 12 March 1864.

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