Hidden in an alcove under some stairs at New Zealand’s Army’s Trade Training School is a surprising item of memorabilia not generally associated with the Army, a Ships Bell belonging to the M.V Rangitata.
With no labels or tags identifying its origins, its mounting cradle indicates that it was mounted in a social club or smoko room and used to call the room to attention for important announcements.
The journey of this bell and why it now rests at Trentham has long been forgotten. However, it does hold a surprising place in the whakapapa of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistics Regiment.
Established in 1873, the New Zealand Shipping Company (NZSC) helped pioneer the trade-in frozen goods from New Zealand to England and became one of New Zealand’s premier shipping companies with domestic and international routes.
In the late 1920s, the NZSC undertook a significant investment in its fleet for the Wellington to London route and had the three modern diesel-powered passenger/cargo ships built, the Rangitane, the Rangitiki and the Rangitata.
Known as the “Rangi” ships, from 1929, these 16,737-ton diesel-powered vessels would dominate the service between England and New Zealand with a four-weekly service, making the voyage via the Panama Canal and Pitcairn Island in 32 days.
All three Rangis would serve in various war-related roles from 1939.
whilst transiting from New Zealand to England, was sunk 300 miles east of New Zealand by the German surface raiders Komet and Orion on 27 November 1940.
In November 1940, as its sister was facing German raiders in the Pacific, as the largest vessel in the 38 vessel Trans-Atlantic convoy HX 84, the Rangitiki would encounter the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, and although eight merchant vessels were lost, the Rangitiki completed the voyage. In December 1940, as part of Trans-Atlantic convoy WS 5, the Rangitiki would survive an encounter with the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. In 1945 the Rangitiki would return to the New Zealand -England route as it undertook repatriation voyages returning Servicemen and War brides home from Europe. Following 87 peacetimes return voyages between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the Rangitiki was retired and broken up as scrap in 1962.
In 1937 the Rangitata would transport troops to England for the coronation of King George VI, and in 1939 would be requisitioned for war service. During the war, some of the Rangitata’s eventful voyages would include transporting 113 child evacuees from England to New Zealand and later in the war. It would transport United States soldiers from the USA to England. Following the war, the Rangitata would be fitted out as a war-bride ship and in 1947 would transport the first post-war draft of immigrants to New Zealand. Returning to peacetime service with its sister ship, the Rangitiki, the Rangitata would also be scrapped in 1962.
The wartime voyage of significance to the RNZALR is the Rangitata’s participation in carrying the First Echelon of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2nd NZEF) from Wellington to Egypt in January/February 1940.
Six merchant vessels would make up Convoy US.1 sailing from Wellington on 4 January 1940, carrying 345 Officers and 6175 other ranks of the Second Echelon of the 2nd NZEF.
As part of Convoy US.1, the Rangitata would transport the following units to Egypt.
Divisional Cavalry: A and B Sqns (369 men)
NZANS Nursing Sisters (3)
Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve ratings.
2 NZEF Overseas Base
13 Light Aid Detachment, New Zealand Ordnance Corps (1 Officer + 12 Other Ranks)
13 Light Aid Detachment, New Zealand Ordnance Corps (1 Officer + 12 Other Ranks)
The following members of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps have been identified as sailing on the Rangitata. As the war progressed, several of these men would hold significant positions in the NZOC, and from November 1942, the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME). A small number would continue to serve in the post-war NZ Army.
Lieutenant Donald Edward Harper, NZOC, Base Depot
Would finish the war as Lieutenant Colonel and the 2nd NZ Div Assistant Director of Ordnance Services.
2nd Lieutenant John Owen Kelsey, NZOC, 13 LAD
Would serve as an Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME), Senior Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (SOME), Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (ADOS) and acting Chief Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (CRÈME). Completed the war as a Colonel and was awarded an MBE and MID
2nd Lieutenant Robert Hassell England, NZOC, 14 LAD
Would be promoted to Captain and serve as OC 3 NZ Field Workshop and NZ Divsional Ordnance Field Park
Warrant Officer Class One Kevin Graham Keith Cropp, Base Depot
Would remain in the RNZAOC post-war and retire as a Major in 1955
Warrant Officer Class One Francis Reid, NZOC, Base Depot
Would be commissioned and serve throughout the war. Would remain in the RNZAOC after the war and as a Lieutenant Colonel would be the Director of Ordnance Services from November 1949 to March 1957.
Warrant Officer Class Two Andrew Gunn, NZOC, 13 LAD
KIA Greece. 18 April 1941
Corporal Randal Martin Holmes, NZOC, 14 LAD
Corporal Robert William Watson, NZOC, Base Depot
Private Rodger Langdon Ashcroft, NZOC, Base Depot
Private John Noel Shadwell Heron, NZOC, Base Depot
Private Mark Edwin Ivey, NZOC, Base Depot
Private Edward McTavish MacPherson, NZOC, Base Depot
Private Lionel Edward Campbell, NZOC, 14 LAD
Private Lionel John McGreevy, NZOC, 14 LAD
Although this list is not exhaustive, the few highlighted names indicate the logistical talent onboard the Rangitata during its voyage as part of Convoy US.1. Officers such as Harper, Kelsey and Reid would go on and play a significant role in shaping the future of New Zealand Military Supply and Maintenance Support trades.
Although the journey of the MV Rangitata’s Bell and how it ended up in Trentham may never be known, the hope is that given its relationship to the Logisticians of the First Echelon, in the future, the RNZALR will place and display this bell in a position of significance.
In the period between the world wars, Britain analysed the lessons of the Great War and, looking forward, realised that the next war would not be one of attrition-based warfare, but a war of speed, mobility and surprise utilising modern technologies such as armoured vehicles, motorised transport and communications. By 1939 the British Army had transformed from the horse-drawn army of the previous war into a modern motorised force fielding more vehicles than their potential opponents, the Germans. Britain’s modernisation was comprehensive with new weapons and equipment and robust and up to date doctrine, providing the foundation for the employment of the army. The modernisation of the British Army included the Logistical services, with both the Army Service Corps and the Army Ordnance Corps on the path to becoming doctrinally prepared, equipped and organised for the upcoming conflict. New Zealand would take Britain’s lead and, from the mid-1930s, began to reorganise and reequip New Zealand’s Military in tune with emerging British doctrine. New Zealand’s entry into the war in September 1939 would initiate a massive transformation of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services with new units raised and personnel recruited to support New Zealand’s forces at home and overseas. In addition to Ordnance Deports and Workshops, the most numerous Ordnance unit would be the Light Aid Detachments (LAD). Providing first-line repair to formations and Units, LAD’s would provide the backbone of New Zealand repair and maintenance services keeping the critical material of war operational in often extreme conditions. This article provides background on the role and function of the LAD in overseas and home defence roles between 1939 and 1945.
Throughout the interwar years, the British Military establishment analysed the lessons of the previous war and interpreted contemporary developments. Updating doctrine throughout the 1930s, the British Military would progressively transform into a mechanised force armed with some of the era’s most advanced weapons and equipment. The tactical bible of British Commonwealth armies, the Field Service Regulations (FSR), was updated with at least four editions issued, proving that the British Army was willing to learn from the mistakes learned in the previous war. Concurrent to the tactical doctrine of the FSR Anticipating the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) spent the 1930s creating the infrastructure and doctrine to support the mechanisation of the British Army by creating essential relationships with the British motor industry that would smooth the path to mobilisation. In addition to the doctrine published in the FSR’s, the wartime doctrine for the operation of British and Commonwealth Ordnance Services was detailed in the Ordnance Manual (War) 1939.
Authorised for use from 13 September 1939, the Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 was intended to “Guide all concerned and particularly to assist, at the beginning of a campaign, those who have no previous war experience of the duties that they are called upon to undertake.” The Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 detailed all the responsibilities that were expected of the British and Commonwealth Ordnance Services, with the repair and maintenance responsibilities as follows;
8. The organisation for carrying out, in the field, repairs (including replacement of component and complete assemblies) to units’ equipment (other than ammunition) consists of:- (a) Light aid detachments, which are attached to certain units and formations to advise and assist them with their
“first line” repair and recovery duties. (b) Mobile workshop units, equipped with machinery, breakdown and store lorries, which are allotted to certain
formations for carrying out “second line” repairs and recovery. (c) Stationary base ordnance workshops, which are established on a semi-permanent basis at, or adjacent to, the
base ordnance depot or depots. (d) Ordnance field parks from which replacement of components and complete assemblies can be effected. These
ordnance field parks also hold a proportion of replacement vehicles.
The Ordnance Manual (War) 1939 then details the role of the Light Aid Detachment:
2. In order to assist units with their first line repair and recovery work, and to provide- expert diagnosis and technical experience, light aid detachments are permanently attached to certain formations and units, for example: • Artillery regiments. • Cavalry regiments and Tank battalions, Royal Armoured Corps. • Infantry brigades. • Machine-gun battalions. • Tank battalions. • Royal Engineer field parks. • Divisional Signals. The LADs. attached to RE field parks and to divisional signals (whose establishments of vehicles are comparatively small) are required to look after other small mechanised units not provided with LADs.
3. The personnel of a LAD consists of an Ordnance Mechanical Officer (OME), an armament artificer (fitter), an electrician, and a few fitters, and the necessary storemen, driver mechanics, drivers, etc., for their vehicles. Its transport usually consists of two lorries (one store and one breakdown), a car and a motorcycle.
4. Its functions are: – (a) To advise units how best to keep their equipment and vehicles in a state of mechanical efficiency; to help them to
detect the causes of any failures or breakdowns, and to assist them in carrying out first line repairs up to their full
capacity. (b) To assist units with first-line recovery of breakdowns. (c) To maintain a close liaison between the unit and formation workshop.
During rest periods LADs may be able to carry out more extensive repairs. If the time is available, the necessary parts and material can be brought up from the ordnance field park to enable them to carry out jobs which would normally be beyond their capacity when on the move.
In such circumstances, repair detachments of recovery sections may be brought up to assist them).
5. LADs do not form part of the workshops in any sense. They are definitely an integral part of “B” echelon of the unit to which they are attached, and the OME. is directly under the orders of OC unit, in the same way as the regimental medical officer. The OC unit is the accounting officer for the vehicles and stores of the LAD. When an LAD serves more than one unit, as in the case of an infantry brigade, the OME. is the accounting officer for all purposes.
The New Zealand LAD’s
When New Zealand committed forces to the war effort in 1939, the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, despite having the doctrinal foundations provided by the Ordnance Manual (War), did not have the Regular or Territorial Force personnel available to provide LADs immediately. Therefore, like the United Kingdom, New Zealand would rely on its civilian motor industry to provide the bulk of the tradesmen for the LADs. However, despite the challenges in forming a specialised unit from scratch, the New Zealand Army would raise fifty-six Light Aid Detachments, in three distinct tranches between 1940 and 1943, consisting of
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force – Eighteen LAD’s
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific – Seven LAD’s
Home Defence – Thirty-One LAD’s.
Created as part of the newly constituted 2NZEF in 1939, the 2NZEF NZOC was described in the Evening Post newspaper as consisting of “11 Light Aid Detachments of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps. These are numbered 9 to 19, and their part is to render assistance and effect repairs to mechanic transport and the anti-tank units”.
The was initially some confusion between the use of the designation NZAOC and NZOC in the context of the NZEF. This was clarified in NZEF Order 221 of March 1941, which set NZOC as the title of Ordnance in the NZEF.
1942 saw the separation of maintenance and repair functions from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) with the formation of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) in the Brutish Army. The New Zealand Division followed suit and formed the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME) on 1 December 1942, separating the repair, maintenance and ordnance stores functions of the NZOC.
The New Zealand Tank Brigade was an NZEF unit formed at Waiouru in October 1941 to be deployed to the Middle East after Training in New Zealand for six months. The entry of Japan into the war in December 1941 necessitated the rerolling of the NZ Tank Brigade into a home defence role. After reorganisations, the Brigade was ordered to be redeployed in April 1942, with its Headquarters and Battalions dispersed to the South Island, Northland, Manawatu and Pukekohe.
November 1942 saw further changes which would start the gradual disestablishment of the NZ Tank Brigade.
No 1 Tank Battalion and 32 LAD remained in the Home defence roll in the Auckland/Northland area.
No 2 Tank Battalion, the Army Tank Ordnance Workshop and Ordnance Field Park were dissolved and became part of 3 NZ Division Independent Tank Battalion Group for service in the Pacific.
No 3 Tank Battalion and 33 LAD were deployed to the Middle East for service with the 2nd NZ Division, where it was dissolved, forming the nucleus of the 4th NZ Armoured brigade and 38, 39 and 40 LADs.
34 LAD was stationed with the Independent Tank Squadron at Harewood in the South Island.
By June 1943, the final units of the 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade, including 32 LAD and 34 LAD, were disbanded.
NZOC units also were formed for service with the NZEF in the Pacific (NZEFIP). Initially, 20 LAD was formed to support the 8 Infantry Brigade Group in Fiji from November 1940. 14 Infantry Brigade Group would reinforce the force in Fiji with 36 and 37 LAD formed to provide additional support. With the redeployment of the New Zealand Brigade from Fiji in late 1942, 36LAD would remain as the LAD for the new Fiji Brigade that was about to be formed. In March 1943, eight members of 36 LAD would deploy with the Fijian Brigade to Bougainville. On 1 May 1944, 36 LAD would be renamed the Recovery Section, Brigade Mobile Workshops, Fiji Military Forces.
The bulk of the NZEFIP would be reorganised as the 3rd New Zealand Division, with the NZOC commitment expanding into 23 units and detachments, including six LAD’s serving in operations in New Caledonia, The Solomon Islands and Tonga. The formation of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1942 was not followed through in New Zealand and the Pacific, with repair and Maintenance functions remaining part of the Ordnance Corps for the duration of the war.
On concluding successful campaigns in the Solomon Islands in 1944, 3 NZ Division and its equipment were returned to New Zealand and formally disbanded on 20 October 1944. On return to New Zealand, many NZOC members were graded unfit due to the rigours of the tropical campaign and returned to their civilian occupations. Those fit enough were redeployed as reinforcements to 2NZEF in Italy, with the LAD men joining NZEME units.
With the NZAOC and the New Zealand Permanent Army Service Corps (NZPASC) existing as part of the Permanent Army, only the NZPASC had a Territorial Army component, known as the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC). From the 1930s, workshop sections had been included on the establishments of ASC unit for activation on mobilisation. With the onset of war in 1939 and the mobilisation of the Territorial Army in 1940, the Quartermaster General, Col H.E Avery, made the decision that LADs were an Ordnance responsibility, and the NZOC was established as the Ordnance Component of Territorial Army in December 1940.
By late 1943 the mobilisation of the Territorial Forces had ceased to be necessary, and most units had been stood down and placed on care and maintenance status with a small RF Cadre. By 1 April 1944, all wartime home defence units had been disbanded. Although not part of the pre-war Territorial Army, the NZOC remained on establishments. In 1946 a Reorganisation of New Zealand Military Forces removed the distinction between Regular and non-Regular soldiers, and the NZOC ceased to be a separate Corps with the supply functions amalgamated into the NZAOC and the Workshops functions, including the LADs (21, 23, 25, 28, 30 and 53) amalgamated into the NZEME.
 This compared with the two editions of German and French doctrine produced during the same period. Jonathan Fennell, Fighting the People’s War : The British and Commonwealth Armies and the Second World War, Armies of the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Non-fiction, 32.
 P.H. Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War (History Press Limited, 2016).
Ordnance Manual (War), ed. The War Office (London: His Majestys Stationery Office, 1939), 9.
 Robert A. Howlett, The History of the Fiji Military Forces, 1939-1945 (Published by the Crown Agents for the Colonies on behalf of the Government of Fiji, 1948), Non-fiction, Government documents, 257-8.
 Oliver A. Gillespie, The Tanks : An Unofficial History of the Activities of the Third New Zealand Division Tank Squadron in the Pacific (A.H. and A.W. Reed for the Third Division Histories Committee, 1947), Non-fiction, 137-227.
 Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 55.
 “H-19 Military Forces of New Zealand Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding, for Period 1 June 1949 to 31 March 1950 “, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (1950).;”Reorganisation of the Territorial Force,” New Zealand Gazette No 55, 21 October 1948.
 “Formation of New Units, Changes in Designation, and Reorganization of Units of the Territorial Force. ,” New Zealand Gazette, No 127, 19 December 1940, 3738-39.