New Zealand Ordnance Depot, Farringdon Road, London

The New Zealand Ordnance Corps in the course of its 80-year history established and maintained Ordnance Depots in many unique locations. The Base Ordnance Depot in Trentham became acknowledged as the home of the Corps; the New Zealand Advance Ordnance Depot in Singapore the most exotic, and all Corps members have fond memories of the depots in Ngaruawahia, Waiouru, Linton and Burnham. This article will examine one of the least known of New Zealand’s Ordnance Depots, the First World War Farringdon Road Depot.

The NZEF of the 1914-1919 war was organised and equipped in such a way so that when mobilised it could comfortably fit into the British Imperial Army alongside British, Australian, Canadian and other troops from throughout the British Empire. In the early days of the war Ordnance support was provided by British AOC[1] Divisional/Corps depots, and although satisfactory the need for the NZEF to have an internal Ordnance organisation to cater for New Zealand specific items was recognised. Subsequently, regulations formally announcing the establishment of the NZAOC[2], as a unit of NZEF[3] were published in February 1916[4]. Moving with the NZEF to Europe the NZAOC consisted of three distinct elements;

  • NZAOC Administrative staff based at the NZEF headquarters at Bloomsbury Square, London consisting of
    • the NZEF Assistant ADOS[5], who was also the Officer Commanding NZEF Ordnance Corps.
    • Chief Ordnance Officer for the NZEF in the United Kingdom.
    • A staff of clerks, storekeepers and
  • The New Zealand Division DADOS[6] and Staff, including personnel attached to Brigades.
  • NZAOC Staff of the ANZAC Mounted Brigade in Palestine.

As the NZEF NZAOC staff in the United Kingdom became established, taking under its wing support responsibility for the numerous the New New Zealand Camps, Hospitals and convalescent facilities dispersed throughout the United Kingdom. To centralise and manage Ordnance support it became necessary to establish a New Zealand Ordnance Depot to support all New Zealand units based in the United Kingdom.

 

NZEF in UK

‘NZEF in England 1916-19 map’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/nzef-england-1916-19-map, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Dec-2016

 

What was required was a depot in a central location, near the NZEF Headquarters and with road and railway access to the New Zealand Camps and establishments and the ability to quickly link into the AOC logistic infrastructure and RAOC depots such as;

On the 25th of October 1916, the Officer Commanding, London District Authorised the NZEF, under the Defence of the Realm Act to take over the premises of Mr H Fisher and Mr J Fisher at 30 and 32 Farringdon Road[7] as an Ordnance Store. Located 1.5km from the NZEF Headquarters, the NZ Ordnance Depot was well situated on one of the leading north/south roads through London, with easy access to other arterial routes. Adjacent to the Metropolitan Railway, the Ordnance depot had easy access to Farringdon Passenger station and the Metropolitan Railway Goods Station[8]. The intent was to occupy the building from the 7th of November 1916, but due to issues securing the key and having the utilities such as water and electricity connected, final occupation did not occur until the 27th of November. Records indicate the Depot started operations on the 1st of December 1916.

NOTE:  Originally numbered as part of Farringdon Road, Nos 30 and 32 were renamed as  30 Farringdon Lane in 1979.

Faddingdon

Faddingdon 3D

New Zealand Ordnance Depot, 30-32 Farrington Road, London. Map data ©2018 Google, Imagery ©2018 Google

Overall command of the Depot rested with the Chief Ordnance Officer for the NZEF in the United Kingdom, Captain (later Major) Norman Levien. The Officer in charge of the Depot for most of its existence was Warrant Officer Class One (Conductor), Arthur Gilmore[9]. Posted to the Depot in November 1916 Conductor Gilmore would, apart from a six-month secondment to the Ordnance Depot at Sling Camp and three months sick leave due to Influenza would remain at the Depot until its closure in late1919[10]. Conductor Gilmore was promoted to Second Lieutenant on the 1st of February 1919.

The bulk of the stocks held by the depot consisted of clothing and necessaries of all descriptions. Clothing was a mixture of;

  • New items purchased from the RACD[11] at Pimlico,
  • New items purchased for civilian manufactures, often at a cheaper rate than from the RACD, In the year up to December 1917 total savings of £31532.7.10(approximately 2018 NZD$3,763,454.27) were made by establishing contracts for clothing with civilian suppliers rather than purchasing from the RACD.
  • Cleaned and repaired items from Salvage stocks,

As members of New Zealand Division started leave rotations to the United Kingdom from the front lines in Belgium and France, the condition of their clothing was found to be unsatisfactory. Under the instructions of the NZ General Officer Commanding, further accommodation for the Depot was secured for the reception of troops from the front on leave. This facility allowed troops as they arrived from the front, to rid themselves of their dirty, often vermin-infested uniforms, have a hot bath and receive a fresh issue of underwear and uniforms. As troops arrived on leave with their spare kit, ammunition, arms and equipment, A secure kit store was available for the holding of these items. As this reception store was developed, the New Zealand Soldiers Club and the New Zealand War Contingent Association set up facilities to provide hot drinks and the option to receive instruction on the use of prophylactic outfits[12].

20180426_220053-999293972

 

Thye following items are an example of the types and quantities of the stores received by the Farringdon Road Depot over the Period 1 December 1916 to 1 August 1919;

stock

 

With the Armistice in November 1918, the activities of the depot started to wind down. Undergoing a full audit in July 1919, outstanding orders cancelled, stocks either returned to New Zealand, returned to RAOC Depots for credits, sold or destroyed with the depot closed by November 1919 ending an early chapter of the New Zealand Ordnance story.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

nzaoc patt1

New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Badge, 1916-1919. Robert McKie Collection

Notes

[1] Army Ordnance Corps

[2] New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps

[3] New Zealand Expeditionary Force

[4] “Road to Promotion “, Evening Post, Volume XCI, Issue 29, 4 February 1916.

[5] Assistant Director of Ordnance Service

[6] Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Service

[7] Now Farrington Lane  “Insurance Plan of London Vol. Vi: Sheet 128,” ed. British Library (Chas E Goad Limited, 1886).

[8] “”Farringdon Road,” in Survey of London: Volume 46, South and East Clerkenwell, Ed. Philip Temple (London: London County Council, 2008), 358-384. British History Online, Accessed April 25, 2018, Http://Www.British-History.Ac.Uk/Survey-London/Vol46/Pp358-384..”

[9] “Personnel Records “Arthur Gilmore”,”  (Wellington: Archives New Zealand, Archive Reference AABK 18805 W5568 0135616).

[10] Arthur Gilmore, “Audit Farringdon Road Ordnance Stores for Period Ended 17th July 1919,” (Wellington: Archives New Zealand  Record Group WA1 Record No 2/13, 1919).

[11] The Royal Army Clothing Depot, Pimlico, was the main supplier of Uniforms for the British Army from 1855 until 1932.

[12] Captian Norman Levein, “Report of Ordnance Officer on Administration of Ordnance Department for 1917,” (Wellington: Archives New Zealand Record Group WA1 Record No 2/13, 1918).

 

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