Dunedin Ordnance Depot Fire

A warehouse is usually a building of ample space, filled with commodities of all descriptions packed high and often close together making them conducive to the spread of fire. In the short history of the New Zealand Army Ordnance services, the risk of warehouse fires has always been taken seriously. As a small army at the end of a very long supply chain, the loss of expensive and hard to replace stores is something the Army could ill afford, not to mention the loss and replacement of infrastructure. Shortly after the formation of the New Zealand Ordnance Services in 1917, the Dunedin Ordnance Depot experienced a fired which although destroying some stock, was prevented by the fast response of the Dunedin Fire Brigade from becoming a catastrophic event.

The Dunedin Ordnance Depot started its life in 1907 as a purpose-built Mobilisation Store at 211 St Andrews Street. With a Civilian storekeeper Mr O.P McGuigan employed under the technical control of the Defence Stores organisation, the store was under the day to day control of the Officer Commanding of the Otago and Southland Military District, becoming part of the new Ordnance organisation on its formation in 1917.[1]  Mr McGuigan was granted Honorary rank as a Captain in 1914 and commissioned as a Captain in the New Zealand Army Ordnance Department (NZAOD) in 1917, holding the appointment of Assistant Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores, with responsibility for the existing Territorial Army units, the various army establishments in the Otago and Southland Military District and the providing of Ordnance Stores to troopships.[2] The Dunedin Ordnance Depot is known to have a staff of at least 6 Other Ranks.

mob store Dunedin

Dunedin Mobilisation Stores, 211 St Andrews Street, Dunedin. Google Maps/ Public Domain

At around 5 pm on Monday the 11th of June 1917, Captain M’Guigan conducted a final check of his ordnance store, ensuring that all the fireplaces had been extinguished and satisfied that the building was safe to secure for the night, locked the doors. At approximately 5 am on the morning of the 12 of June, a policeman on his rounds passed the building and saw nothing suspicious. At 5.15 am the alarm was raised from the alarm on the corner of St Andrews street that there was a fire underway in the upper floors of the Defence building.[3]

At the time the Dunedin Fire Brigade consisted of the central fire-station and substations at Maori Hill, Roslyn, and Mornington. The Dunedin Brigade had retired its horse-drawn appliances in 1913 and had just recently received three modern Dennis 60 h.p. motor hose-tenders, each fitted with a telescopic trussed ladder and first-aid pumping outfits and was at the time was a well-equipped brigade.[4],[5] As the central station was located less a Kilometer from the defence buildings, it fell upon Superintendent Napier and the men of the central fire station to respond to the fire alarm.

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Dunedin Fire Brigade appliance No5 C1917. Courtesy of Dunedin Fire Brigade Restoration Society

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Dunedin Fire Brigade appliance No6 C1917. Courtesy of Dunedin Fire Brigade Restoration Society

Promptly arriving at the defence buildings, the responding fire brigade found an active fire emerging from the front portion of the second floor of the Defence Stores. The ferocity of the fire indicated that it had been alight for some time and had a firm grip of the contents. Described as “a very hot and Stubborn little fire”, the blaze proved challenging to overcome requiring three lines of hose and an hour and a half of hard and smart work by the fire brigade to bring the fire under control and extinguish the blaze.[6]

Postfire examinations revealed severe damage to the stock including;

  • Khaki overcoats,
  • forage caps,
  • saddlery,
  • uniform jackets, and other assorted

The damaged stock was confined to items stacked close to the window on the second floor, while stock close to the fireplace located on the rear wall was limited to smoke damage, eliminating embers from the fireplace as the cause. Surprisingly the damage to the building was superficial except for the roof which was beyond repair. With a total loss valued at £1237 (NZD 155422.62).[7] The Cause of the blaze was never determined, and as there was no insurance on the property, the cost was born by the crown with final appropriations for the losses made in 1921.[8]

How the fire affected the work at the Dunedin Ordnance Depot is unknown, but it would continue to service the Otago and Southand Military district until 1921 when the South Island military districts amalgamated into the Southern Military Command. To support the new Southern Military Command, a single Ordnance Depot was established at Burnham Camp, combining the stores and staff of the Ordnance Depots of Christchurch and Dunedin.[9] The Dunedin fire was a close call, with the risk of fire to Ordnance stores well recognised by the Ordnance leadership fire pickets would remain an essential regimental duty for Ordnance Other Ranks in Ordnance Depots for many years.[10] The most severe fire to strike a New Zealand Ordnance Store was the 1944/45 New Year’s Eve fire which resulted in the loss of £225700 (2017 NZD 18,639,824.86) of stock from No2 Ordnance Depot in Palmerston North.[11] The Palmerston North fire led to a review of all New Zealand Ordnance Depots to ensure the robustness of fire prevention measures.[12]

Despite the initial fire in Dunedin in 1917 and the Palmerston North fire in 1944 the spectre of fire would remain constant. Fire prevention and precautions would remain a continuous component of Ordnance training and procedures until the amalgamation to the RNZAOC into the RNZALR in 1996, and because of such diligence, there would be few fire-related incidents in New Zealand Ordnance Depots.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

 

Notes

[1] Joseph S. Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Wellington: RNZAOC, 1992), 53.

[2] “Annals from a Forgotten Ordnance Depot (Author Unknown),”  https://rnzaoc.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/no-2-72.pdf.

[3] “Fire at Dunedin Defence Store,” Evening Star, Issue 16448,, 12 June 1917, 4.

[4] “H-06a Fire Brigades of the Dominion (Report on the) by the Inspector of Fire Brigades for the Year Ended 30 June 1917,” AJHR  (1917): 4.

[5] Shawn McAvinue, “Party Time for Old Dennis Fire Engines,” Otago Daily Times, 28 March 2016.

[6] “Fire at Dunedin Defence Store,”  4.

[7] “Appropriation Act,” General Assembly of New Zealand  (1920): 29.

[8] Ibid.

[9] John J. Storey and J. Halket Millar, March Past: A Review of the First Fifty Years of Burnham Camp (Christchurch, N.Z.: Pegasus Press, 1973, 1974 printing, 1973), Non-fiction, 127.

[10] “Ordnance Corps Circulars 1928-1940  Ad1 1235 /256/10/4,” Defence Archives, Archives New Zealand  (1928).

[11] “Fire in Army Stores,” Press, Volume LXXXI, Issue 24524, 24 March 1945.

[12] “Army Stores in Christchurch Fire Protection Report,” Press, Volume LXXXI, Issue 24515, 14 March 1945.

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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).

 


NZEF NZAOC Conductors 1916 to 1920

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Warrant Officer Class One, Conductor Badge 1915-1918. Robert McKie Collection

The Honourable and Ancient Appointment of Conductor has origins dating back to 1327 where they are mentioned in the Statute of Westminister as the men whose job it was to conduct soldiers to places of assembly.  The “Conductor of Ordnance” is also mentioned in the records of the siege of Boulogne in 1544. Surviving as an appointment directly related to the handling of stores in the British army until the late 19th century, the appointment was formalised by Royal Warrant on 11 January 1879 which established conductors of supplies (in the Army Service Corps) and conductors of stores (in the Ordnance Stores Branch) as warrant officers, ranking above all non-commissioned officers.

The need for a New Zealand Ordnance Corps had been discussed since the turn of the century so when war came in 1914 New Zealand was without an Ordnance Corps. Once the lead elements of the NZEF disembarked and established itself in Egypt, a New Zealand Ordnance Organisation was hastily created from scratch. Growing from the New Zealand DADOS staff the embryotic New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) was created as an NZEF unit during 1915 and was formally established as a unit of the NZEF establishment in January 1916.

Following the British model, the NZAOC included Warrant Officers Class One appointed as Conductors and Sub-Conductors as part of its organisational structure. Drawn from across the units of the NZEF and with an average age of 23, many of the men who were NZAOC Conductors had seen service at Gallipoli during the Dardanelles Campaign. Learning the hard lessons because of the administrative failures during that campaign, there is little doubt that these men understood the importance of their appointments in assuring that Ordnance stores were sourced and pushed directly forward to the frontline troops of the NZ Divison.

The wide recognition in many historical sources that the New Zealand division was one of the best organised, trained and equipped Divisions in the British Army during the war in Europe is in part due to the contribution of the NZAOC and its conductors, with at least 4 four Conductors awarded Meterous Service Medals for their work.

 

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Warrant Officer Class One, Sub-Conductor Badge. 1915-1919 Robert McKie Collection

 

William Coltman

ColtmanWH

12/1025 Acting Sub-Conductor William Hall Densby Coltman, NZAOC. Auckland Weekly News/Public Domain

The first New Zealander to hold a Conductor appointment was Company Sergeant Major William Coltman. Enlisting into the Auckland Infantry Regiments in Sept 1914, Coltman served in the Dardanelles where he was injured. Transferring into the NZAOC in February 1916 as a Company Sergeant Major with the appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor. Coltman remained in this role with the NZAOC until March 1917 when he was commisioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and spent the rest of the war as an Infantry Quartermaster officer in the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps.

Charles Gossage

20171005_164430Charles Gossage enlisted in the Otago Mounted Rifles in September 1914. Serving in the Dardanelles, Gossage transferred into the NZAOC in February 1916. On the 24th of July 1916 with the rank of Company Sergeant Major,  Gossage was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the Appointment of Conductor.  Gossage would hold this appointment until the 24th of Jan 1917 when he was commisioned as a Lieutenant. Gossage would remain on the New Zealand Division DADOS staff, finishing the war as a Major and NZ Div DADOS. Awarded the OBE, Gossage would continue to serve in the Home Service NZAOC as an Accounting Officer until December 1922.

Arthur Gilmore

Arthur Gilmore enlisted in the Auckland Infantry Regiment in September 1914. Serving as part of the DADOS Staff at Gallipoli. Gilmore was formally placed on the strength of the NZAOC on the 8th of April 1916.  In Dec 1916 Sergeant Arthur Gilmore was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor. Gilmore would remain as a Conductor in the NZEF until Feb 1919 when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. For his services as a Conductor, he was awarded the MSM.

Walter Geard

Mulheim 2

Lieutenant Geard, NZAOC

Walter Geard enlisted in the Auckland Infantry Regiment in August 1914. Seeing Service in the Dardanelles. Staff Sergeant Geard was attached to theNew Zealand Mounted Brigade Headquarters for Ordnance duties where he was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on 1 Jan 1917. Geard’s tenure as a Conductor was short as he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 20 June 1917. Transferred from Egypt to France, Geard spent the rest of the war on the staff of the NZ Division DADOS, demobilising as a Lieutenant in 1919.

William Simmons

 William Henchcliffe Simmons was a railway clerk who enlisted in D Battery of the New Zealand Field Artillery in August 1914. Seven days later Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons embarked as part of the NZEF Samoa Advance Force. Returning to New Zealand in March 1915, Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons was transferred into the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade which was then training a Trentham Camp. In October 1915 Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons deployed with the  1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade to Egypt. Disembarking in Egypt in November 1915 Quartermaster Sergeant Simmons was attached to Brigade Headquarters as with acting rank of Warrant Officer as the clerk NZAOC.  Transferring into the NZAOC on the 26th of February 1916 with the rank of Company Sergent Major. Promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on the 1st of January 1917. Simmons tenure as a Conductor was short as he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in June 1917. Simmions remained in the NZAOC filling various staff roles in France and England for the duration of the war, finally being appointed Honorary Capitan in Feb 1920 when he was appointed as the Officer in Charge of NZ Ordnance in England, a post he held until October 1920 when he was demobilised. For his services as a Conductor, Simmons was awarded the MSM.

Clarance Seay

seay

6/3459 Warrant Officer Class 1 (Conductor) Clarence Adrian Seay, MSM. NZAOC Archives New Zealand/Public Domain

Clarance Seay was a farm cadet who enlisted in C Company on the 8th Reinforcements on the 20th of August 1915. Arriving at the New Zealand Base depot in Egypt in November 1915, Seay was transferred into the NZAOC in February 1916. With the pending promotion of Conductor Simmons, Sergeant Seay was promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of acting Sub-Conductor on the 23 Mar 1917. Attaining substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on 28 April 1917. Seay was promoted to full Conductor on the 22nd of September 1917. Seay remained with the NZ Division for the remainder of the war. In May 1918 Seay suffered a personal loss when his younger brother Gordon Seay, was killed in action. Sadly died of Influenza on the 20th of February 1919 in Cologne, Germany. Intered in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Cologne. Based on his performance Seay was awarded the MSM

“For long and valuable service. This NCO has done continuous good work and has performed his duties in a most excellent manner. As Senior Warrant Officer, with the New Zealand Ordnance Department, his work has been of a most arduous character and has frequently involved him in situations which have called for a display of energy and initiative. In an advance the necessity of clean clothing and socks etc., for the fighting troops is sometimes very acute. Conductor Seay on his energy and ability has at times been of \the greatest assistance to the DADOS in administrating a very important branch of the service.”

 

Walter Smiley

Enlisting into the Canterbury Infantry Regiment in August 1914. Injured in the Dardanelles, Smiley was evacuated to Malta, then England returning to ANZAC Cove on the 7th of December 1915,, where he was transferred into the NZAOC and attached to the Canterbury Battalion. Sergeant Walter Smiley was promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of acting Sub-Conductor on the 23 April 1917.  Gaining Substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on the 20th of December 1917. Smiley would carry out his role as a Conductor first in France,  then England from October 1918 until he was demobilised in October 1919.

Frank Hutton

Frank Hutton enlisted in the Otago Infantry Regiment in August 1914. After service in the Dardanelles, Hutton was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to the NZAOC on the 1st of December 1915. Sergeant Frank Hutton was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 1st of December 1917. Remaining with the NZ Divison for the remainder of the war, Hutton was demobilised in September 1919.
Hutton was re-enlisted into the NZAOC as a Lance Corporal on the 14th of December 1942 as an Ammunition Examiner in the Inspecting Ordnance Officer Group in the Northen Military district based at Ngaruawahia. Hutton was discharged from the RNZAOC on the 6th of June 1948 when he was 69 years of age.

Edward Little

Enlisting in the 5th Wellington Regiment on the 9th of August 1914, Little was transferred into the Otago Infantry Battalion on the 23rd of March 1915. Injured in the buttocks and shoulder in the Dardanelles after a recovery period Little was transferred into the NZAOC on the 17th of February 1916, moving with he NZ Divison to France. On the 15th of April 1917, Sergeant Edward Little was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor. promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor on the 31st of August 1918.  Transferred to the Middle East in October 1918, Conductor Little spent the remainder of the war attached to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade Headquarters and was demobilised in October 1919.

John O’Brien

Private John O’Brien left New Zealand with the 6th Reinforcements on the 14th of August 1915. After service in the Dardanelles, O’Brien was transferred into the NZAOC in February 1916. Serving in France for 2 years O’Brien was transferred to London Headquarters in March 1918 as the Chief Clerk. Staff Sergeant John O’Brien was Promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the Appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 18 October 1918.  Gaining Substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 25th of November 1918. O’Brien was appointed as a Conductor on the 1st of Feb 1919. O’Brien was awarded the MSM and was the senior Warrant Officer NZAOC EF when he was demobilised in March 1920. His final duties included the indenting of new equipment for two divisions and a Mounted brigade that would equip the New Zealand Army until the late 1930’s.

Edwin Green

GreenES

8/1484 Sub Conductor Edwin Stanley Green, NZAOC. Auckland Weekly News/Public Domain

Enlisting into the Otago Infantry Regiment in December 1915, Green served in the Dardanelles where he was wounded. Transfering into the NZAOD in December 1916 Staff Sergeant Edwin Green was Promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the Appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 20 October 1918.  Gaining Substantive rank as a Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 26th of November 1918. Green was demobilised in Dec 1919.

Charles Slattery

A member of the Royal New Zealand Artillery since February 1898, Slattery was transferred into the New Zealand Permanent Staff as a Quartermaster Sergeant for the Wellington Railway Battalion on the 7th of October 1913. Joining the 2nd Battalion of the Wellington regiment in November 1918 and was then transferred to the NZAOC on the 6th of January 1919 and promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Conductor. Sadly Slattery died of Influenza on the 25th of February 1919 in Cologne, Germany. Intered in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Cologne.

Harold Hill

Enlisting into the Wellington Infantry Regiment in February 1915, Hill would see service in the Dardanelles before transferring into the NZAOC in February 1916. Promoted to Corporal in April 1916 and then Sergeant in September 1916. Sergeant Hill was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Sub-Conductor on the 21st of Feb 1919. Hill was demobilised in October 1919.

Arthur Richardson

Originally enlisting in the Royal New Zealand Artillery in 1913. Serving with the NZEF from June 1917 to August 1919, Sergeant Artcifer Richardson was temporarily transferred from the New Zealand Artillery into the NZAOC in Feb 1918. Promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 3rd of Feb 1919. Richardson was demobilised from the NZEF on the 13th of Feb 1919 and returned to service with the Royal New Zealand Artillery. In 1928 Richardson was Transferred back into the NZAOC counting to serve until the creation of the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, retiring in 1951.

Hubert Wilson

Enlisting into the New Zealand Field Artillery in August 1914, Wilson was wounded in the thigh whilst serving in the Dardanelles. Remaining with the Artillery for several years Staff Sergeant Wilson Transferred into the NZAOC in October 1918.  Promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 with the appointment of Acting Sub-Conductor on the 3rd of March 1919. Wilson was demobilised from the NZEF in May 1920. For his actions prior to joining the NZAOC Wilson was awarded the Military Medal.
Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Captian William Thomas Beck, DSO MID

Unlike Ordnance Depots in New Zealand, the New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot (NZAOD) in Singapore had little affiliation with Henry Tucker, the first New Zealand Storekeeper. Given its location in Singapore and small numbers, it was decided that instead of having a Henry Tucker Club, which was an Officer, Warrant Officer and Senior Non-Commisioned Officer gathering, that some other type of social gathering was required for the Singapore based RNZAOC Personnel. The solution was found in 1986, when a small club for RNZAOC Military members was established and named “Billy Becks’ in tribute of Captain William Thomas (Billy) Beck, attributed as the first New Zealander of Godleys Force ashore at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915.

Meeting once a month on the rooftop of RSDS from August 1986, the “Billy Beck” club soon became an RNZAOC institution where all ranks could meet for a barbeque lunch and a few drinks until 1989 when the NZAOC closed and the name “Billy Beck” was soon forgotten.

Who was Billy Beck?

William Thomas (Billy) was the son of Sarah Beck (Taylor) and her husband Richard Beck and was born in Castlemaine, Australia on 7 May 1865.  shortly after his birth, the Beck Family including his two brothers and sister migrated to New Zealand, Settling at Kanieri, Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island. Becks father was a butcher and his mother was in 1895 appointed as the first full-time Police Matron at Wellingtons Lampton Quay Headquarters, where she was responsible for handling female prisoners. She was also involved in enforcing the Infant Life Protection Act in New Zealand.

Beck Family

1917 Portrait of the Beck Family

At the age of 31, Beck married Edith Chick on 8 June 1896, in Port Chalmers, New Zealand and would have three children;

  • Ellen Edith, born 8 September 1895
  • Thomas Nathan, born 1 January 1897
  • Olive Ivy, born 10 March 1903.
spar topedo boat

Thorncroft Spar Torpedo bat of the type used by the NZ Permnant Millita, which as a torpedoman, something Beck would have been familiar with.

Serving in the New Zealand Permanent Militia during the 1890’s, Beck was a Torpedoman Second Class with No 2 Service Company, Permanent Militia, based at Port Chalmers.

By 1904 Beck had relocated to Auckland and was employed as a civilian by the Defence Stores Department as the Defence Storekeeper for the Northern Military District, located at  Goal Reserve, Mount Eden. Around 1907 Beck was granted the rank of Honorary Lieutenant in the New Zealand Staff Corps followed soon afterwards by promotion to Honorary Captian.

Starting with the annual camps of 1913, a new management system for Camp Equipment was implemented. Temporary Ordnance Stores Depots were established prior to the camps and stores assembled based on the strength and role of the units attending the camps. The initial trial of the new system was a success and was to be refined and repeated for the 1914 camps. For the 1914 camping season, Beck was the Officer in charge of the Camp Ordnance for the Auckland Divisional Camp at Hautapu near Cambridge in April 1914. The Camp ran from 28 April to 11 May. With a staff of 6 clerks and 12 issuers he was responsible for managing store issued from the Auckland Defence Stores, including;

  • 66 indicating Flags,
  • 80 Axes,
  • 100 picks and handles,
  • 800 water buckets,
  • 800 wash basins,
  • 82 picket ropes,
  • 81 brooms,
  • 5000 groundsheets,
  • 13 Roberts cookers,
  • 13 horse troughs,
  • 20 overall suits,
  • 1320 yards galvanised iron piping,
  • a 2000gal water tank,
  • 1 large swimming bath,
  • 11 flagstaffs,
  • 500 nose-bags,
  • 566 pairs of boots,
  • 455 Mattress covers,
  • 500 blankets”.

On the 21st of August 1914, Beck was enlisted in the Auckland Infantry Battalion with the rank of Honorary Captian. After a short mobilisation period, Beck departed Wellington on 3 December 1914  with the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, on the troopship TSS Maunganui.

Arriving in Suez, Egypt on the 3rd of December 1914 and was soon attached as the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services to the New Zealand & Australian Headquarters Ordnance (NZ & Aust HQ Ordnance) of the New Zealand and Australian Division.

Deploying to the Dardanelles in April 1915, Beck as a key member of  General Godley’s Headquarters was amongst those in the initial landings at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsular on 25 April 1915. The Assistant Director Medical Services, Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick, another New Zealander, was also part of the Headquarters landing party and describes the events of that day:

“we were all ready to land but were kept waiting and waiting until about 9.00am. Some barges were moored alongside and a string of boats outside of these on the starboard side. Colonels Braithwaite, Chaytor and Manders, Major Hughes and Captain Beck and I got into the first boat. We were frightfully hampered by our kit – overcoat, revolver, glasses, map case, haversack, three days rations, firewood, Red Cross satchel, water bottle – like elephants. It was certainly that we would drown if we got sunk. After waiting, a steam picket boat came along in charge of a very fat rosy midshipman. he took our string of boats in tow and we were off. Our boat grounded about 50 feet from the shore and we all hopped out. Of course I fell into a hole up to my neck. I could hardly struggle ashore and when I did the first thing I saw was Beck sitting on a stone, roaring with laughter at us.”

Although there were New Zealanders serving with the Australian Division and in other roles as part of the landings,  Billy Beck was the first New Zealander of Godley’s New Zealand and Australian Division to land on Gallipoli.

 

Beck ANZAC Cove

Captain Beck and Lieutenant Lawless- Gallipoli 1915. Auckland War Memorial Museum

So not only was Beck one of the first New Zealanders ashore it would appear that he was also a bit of a character and The Hawera & Normanby Star, 24 June 1916 had this to say about Captain Beck’s service at Gallipoli:

“Finally, there was Captain William Beck, an ordinary officer. “Beachy Bill” was in charge of the store – a miserable little place – and whenever he put his nose out of the door bullets tried to hit it. The Turkish gun in Olive Grove was named after him, “Beachy Bill.” The store was simply a shot under fire and Bill looked out and went on with his work just as if no bullets were about. He was the most courteous and humorous, and no assistant at Whiteley’s could have been more pleasing and courteous than the brave storekeeper on Anzac Beach. General Birdwood never failed to call on Captain Beck or call out as he passed on his daily rounds, asking if he were there, and they all dreaded the that some day there would be no reply from a gaunt figure still in death. But Captain Beck was only concerned for the safety of his customers. He hurried them away, never himself.”

The 14th of June 1915 saw Beck commissioned as a Captian into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. On the 13th of July 1915, Beck was listed as a casualty on Casualty list No 50. Replaced as DADOS on 1 August 1915 by Lieutenant Norman Levien, NZAOC, Beck left Galliopi for duty in Alexandria.

Mentioned in Dispatches by the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, Sir Ian Hamilton on the 26th of August 1915, this was followed up with the awarding of the Distinguished Service Order for distinguished service in the field during operations in the Dardanelles, which was recorded in the London Gazette of 8 November 1915

With a Medical Board finding him “incapacitated for military duty” Beck was invalided back to New Zealand on the RMS Tahiti 20 November 1915 and struck off the strength of the NZEF on 19 February 1916, and transferred to the reserve list of officers with the rank of Captain. Resuming his pre-war duties at the Northern District Ordnance Depot as the District Storekeeper and in 1917 with the formation of the Home Service NZAOC, Beck became the Assistant Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores for the Northern Military District, a position he held until his resignation in March 1918.

BeckWT

William Thomas Beck Circa 1921

Taking up employment with the Public Works Department in Apia, Samoa, Beck remained there until his retirement in 1922.

Divorcing his first wife Edith in the mid-1930’s, Beck remarried in the late 1930’s.

Retiring in Wellington, Beck passed away on the 15th of  January 1947 and is interned in the soldiers’ section of the Karori Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand.

Beck’s medals are now on display in the Gallipoli Room of the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum, Queensland, Australia.

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Captian W.T Beck whose medals and memorabilia, belonging to the Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum, Maryborough, Queensland, Australia

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The first meeting of the Billy Beck Club August 1986. Back Row: Hiroti, Finlay, Marshall, Rangi, Canton, Newton, Ellis Middle Row: Sweetman (PTI), Brit exchange Officer, Crafts, Goddard, Juno, Pook, Le Gros. Front: McIntosh, Haewera, Clarke, Govan, Christie, Madgwick.

 

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The Final Billy Becks, 1989 Back Row: Watmuff, Kearney, Davis, Ngatai, Tombleson, Tyler, Bourne Middle Row: Tamehana, Wiersma, McKie, Coleman, Carver. Front Row: Thomas, Clarke, Simonsen, Theyers, Reid

 

Sources

New Zealand, Marriage Index. 1896.

“Gunner W T Beck”. archway.archives.govt.nz.

New Zealand, Electoral Rolls. Waikouaiti Otago. 1896.

New Zealand, Electoral Rolls. Waikouaiti Otago. 1900.

Glackin, Rusell (2009). In Defence of our land. Penguin. p. 71. ISBN 9780143011866.

“W T Beck Defence Storekeeper,”. archway.archives.govt.nz.

New Zealand, Electoral Rolls. Eden Auckland. 1905–1906.

“AUCKLAND TERRITORIALS” (VOLUME LI, ISSUE 15594). NEW ZEALAND HERALD,. 28 April 1914.

Bolton, Major J.S (1996). History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. p. 53. ISBN 0477015816.

Pugsley, C (1998). Gallipoli: the New Zealand Story. Reed New Zealand. ISBN 9780790005850.

Harper, Glyn (2015). JOHNNY ENZED: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914–1918. Exisle Publishing. ISBN 9781775592020.

“Brave New Zealanders”. The Hawera and Normanby Star. 24 June 1916. p. 5.

Stowers, Richard (2015). Heros of Gallipoli. John Douglas Publishing. ISBN 9780994105950.

“Military personnel file”. archives.govt.nz.

“TERRITORIAL NOTES” (VOLUME XLVII, ISSUE 100,). AUCKLAND STAR,. 27 April 1916.

Reports of the Defence Committee. 1 January 1922. p. 4.

Beck, William Thomas. “Cemeteries Search”. wellington.govt.nz/.

“New Zealander Decorated and Mentioned in Despatches”. nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/.

The London Gazette. 4 November 1915.

“Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum”. maryboroughmuseum.org.

RNZAOC Pataka Magazine. December 1986. p. 38.

 

Copyright © Robert McKie 2017


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.

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    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.

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

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

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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