Influenza 1918

Natural calamities in New Zeland have proved the worth of the military, which with a trained and disciplined workforce and access to resources can respond efficiently in a manner that civilian organisations can match. Be it floods, heavy snow, cyclones or earthquakes the men and women of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps have often been found at the front line of relief efforts.

One of the earliest examples of New Zealand’s Ordnance Services providing emergency relief was during the Influenza epidemic of October 1918, when the most massive public health crisis ever to strike New Zealand occurred when the worldwide influenza epidemic reached New Zealand shores. Between October and November 1918, an estimated 9000 New Zealanders would perish as a result of the Influenza epidemic.[1] In the capital city of Wellington, the onset of the Influenza epidemic caused the existing medical facilities to be overwhelmed and unable to cope with the unprecedented number of people struck down with Influenza.  Stepping up to assist the Public Health Department, The New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps based at Alexandra Barracks were mobilised to establish emergency hospitals around the Wellington region.

McCristell

Major Thomas James McCristell, Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores, 10 April 1916 – 20 January 1920.

Under the management of the Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores, Major Thomas McCristell, the 123 men of the Ordnance Corps equipped the various emergency hospitals with over 300 beds, supplied the stores and supervised the hospital arrangements and general machinery of each establishment  in and about Wellington, so that by 20 November the following hospitals and convalescent hospitals had been established:[2]

  • Hospitals
    • Normal School, 91 women,
    • Sydney street Schoolroom, 41 men.
    • Missions to Seamen, 65 men.
    • John’s Schoolroom, 67 men and women.
    • Alexandra Hall, 20 men.
    • Wellington College, 105 men and women.
    • Patrick’s College, 48 men.
    • Brooklyn Hall, 32 men and women.
    • Johnsonville, 23 men and women.
    • Seatoun, 10 men and women.
  • Convalescent Hospitals
    • Thomas’s Hall, 35 men.
    • Wellington Convalescent Home, 24 women.
    • Salvation Army Training College, 16 women.
    • Anne’s Hall, 30 men.
  • Untended Children’s Home
    • Miramar Golf Club, 56 children

The 1916 census listed the population of Wellington as 95235, deaths in Wellington attributed to the influenza were 795 which gave Wellington a death rate of 7.9 per 1000. This rate was slightly higher than Auckland but well below the death rate found in other North Island Locations which was as high as 43 per 1000.[3] It would be optimistic to believe that the work carried out by the Ordnance Corps in establishing emergency hospitals contributed to Wellingtons low death rate.

hero_wellington-ambulances

Emergency ambulances alongside the Wellington Town Hall during the 1918 flu pandemic. Ref: PAColl-7489-69 Alexander Turnbull Library

The Ordnance men were not immune to the effects of the Influenza, and at one stage 7O men were laid up with influenza, placing extraordinary demands onto the very much reduced staff.[4] Private F.W  Maynard, a 35-year-old Ordnance Soldier, died as a result of the complications caused by Influenza on the 28 November.[5]

By December 1918 the influenza epidemic was under control, and the crisis has passed with the emergency hospitals progressively shut down. Much of the credit to the success of the setting up and management of the emergency hospitals were placed directly on Major McCristell and his team from the Ordnance Corps.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

flu-poster

Influenza instructions for nurses.Ref: Eph-B-HEALTH-1918-01, Alexander Turnbull Library

 

 

Notes

[1] Manatū Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage, “100 Years since Influenza Pandemic, 28 September 2018,”  https://mch.govt.nz/100-years-influenza-pandemic.

[2] “Revelations,” New Zealand Times, Volume XLIII, Issue 10133, 22 November 1918.

[3] “North Island Influenza Death Rates, 11 January 2018,”  https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/influenza-pandemic/north-island-death-rates.

[4] “Under Control,” New Zealand Times, Volume XLIII, Issue 10131, 20 November 1918.

[5] “Soldiers Deaths,” Evening Post, Volume XCVI, Issue 131, 29 November 1918.

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NZEF Ordnance 1914-1915

20180605_195417-190082474.jpg

New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Badge, 1916-1919 (Robert McKie Collection 2017)

From the turn of the twentieth century, the New Zealand Army had transformed from small permanent militia and volunteer force, into a modern citizen army, organised for integration with a much larger British Imperial Army. When New Zealand entered the First World War, the New Zealand Army did not have not have a Regular or Territorial Army Ordnance Corps from which to expand into a wartime Ordnance organisation. The creation of a New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps had remained a topic of discussion and indecision, but appetite to make a decision was lacking until the war necessitated the formation of a New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps as a unit of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).

Ordnance functions in support of the New Zealand Forces had since 1907 been a civil/military responsibility under the control of the Defence Council with responsibilities divided between the civilian Defence Store Department and the Royal New Zealand Artillery;[1]

  • The Director of Artillery Services (Ordnance): Responsible for Artillery armament, fixed coast defences, and supplies for ordnance, and
  • The Director of Stores: Responsible for clothing and personal equipment, accoutrements, saddlery, harness, small-arms and small-arms ammunition, machine guns, material, transport, vehicles, camp equipment, and all stores required for the Defence Forces.

As this created a division of roles and responsibilities, there were many calls for the establishment of a New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps along the lines of;

  • The Army Ordnance Corps, established in Britain in 1895,
  • The Australian Army Ordnance Department, established in 1902, and
  • The Canadian Ordnance Corps, established in 1907.

On 27 December 1907, James O’Sullivan head storekeeper of the Defence Sores Department was confirmed as the Director of Stores, with the Rank of Honorary Captain in the New Zealand Staff Corps.[2] [3]  Further progress was made on the creation of an Army Ordnance Corps in 1913 with the selection and appointment of Brigade Ordnance Officers (Territorial) in each district with the intent of forming a Central Ordnance Depot to support each Brigade Camp during the 1913 camping season. Under the Director of Equipment and Stores,[4] a fortnight course of instruction on Ordnance duties was conducted at Alexandra Barracks in January 1913 for the selected Brigade Ordnance Officers. In the field during the 1913 Annual Camps, each Brigade Ordnance Officer was allocated a staff of 2 clerks and 4 issuers, who were also selected before the camps and had undertaken training on Ordnance duties.[5] [6]]

From an Ordnance perspective, the1913 camps were a revolution in Ordnance planning. For the first time, The issue of camp equipment was effectively managed with issues direct from Brigade Ordnance Depots directly to Regiments as they marched in. Issues were based against set scales, removing any doubt as to quantities taken into use and ensuring units were not holding excessive equipment and obviating any losses that were a feature of the previous system of direct consignment in small lots. On the completion of the camps, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeants assembled all equipment for return or made the necessary arrangements to rectify deficiencies without any delay. To facilitate the closing of camp stores accounts, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeants were placed under the orders of the Brigade Supply Officer and would if necessary remain post the departure of their Regiments, remaining until the completion of checking and adjusting of accounts for rations and equipment. The Brigade Ordnance Officers would then ensure the return of all camp equipment to the respective mobilisation stores.[7] An organisational success, the 1913 Ordnance Depot concept was carried over for use in the 1914 camps. The significant difference between the 1913 and 1914 camp’s was that they were to be much larger Divisional camps. To manage the increase of dependency the size of the Ordnance Depot Staff was increased to 6 clerks and twelve issuers.[8]  Moreover, some of the regional Defence Storekeepers participated as the camp Ordnance Officers[9].

Based on many of the logistical lessons learned by the British Army in the Anglo/Boer war, the British Army published their doctrine for the provision of Ordnance Services to the British Army in the 1914  ‘Ordnance Manual (War)’. The concept of operations for British Ordnance Services was that they were to be organised depending upon the general nature of operations and lines of communication. Arranged within convenient distances of Corps and Divisions, Ordnance Depots would be located to allow units to draw their stores and ammunition from that source. If lines of Communication became extended, the establishment of intermediate, advanced, and field depots on the lines of communication was authorised. The composition of Ordnance Depots was to consist of personnel of each trade, of sufficient numbers necessary for the operation of a small ordnance depot and workshop.[10] Assistant Directors Ordnance Services (ADOS) would be responsible for each Corps, with Deputy Assistant Directors Ordnance Services (DADOS) accountable for each Division.[11]

The doctrine Britain had in place at the beginning of the First World War was for forces to be fully equipped with everything necessary to enable them to undertake operations. [12]  Included in the plan was the daily maintenance of Combat Supplies,[13] [14] but no provision for the replacement of weapons, equipment or clothing was allowed. Re-equipment would happen upon the withdrawal of forces for rest[15]. New Zealand’s contribution as part of the British Empire was to be the NZEF based around an Infantry Division and a Mounted Infantry Brigade. Given the doctrine, New Zealand’s Ordnance requirements were minimal and would initially consist of no more than a DADOS, A Senior NCO clerk and a box of Stationary.[16]

Detailed in Section 5 of General Order 312 of August 1914, the initial establishment of the NZEF was; 1 Officer, 1 Clerk and a horse.[17] The NZEF DADOS was New Zealand Staff Corps Honorary Captain William Thomas Beck, Defence Storekeeper for the Northern Districts. [18] [19] Beck was an experienced military storekeeper, who had been a soldier the in the Permanent Militia before his appointment as Northern Districts Defence Storekeeper in 1904. Beck was the Officer in charge of the Camp Ordnance for the Auckland Divisional Camp at Hautapu near Cambridge in April 1914 so was well prepared for the role of DADOS.[20][21][22]

The Senior Non-Commisioned Officer assisting Beck was Norman Joseph Levien.[23] A general storekeeper, Levien enlisted into the 3rd Auckland Regiment immediately on the outbreak of war, appointed as a Temporary Sergeant and transferred to the Ordnance Department as the IC of Stores and Equipment, assisting in equipping troops for overseas service. Beck and Levien embarked with the main body of the NZEF, departing Wellington for England on the troopship TSS Maunganui on 3 December 1914.[24]

The main body of the NZEF was initially destined for England, but the Canadian Expeditionary Force had suffered an exceptionally bitter winter on Salisbury Plain resulting in a change of plans for the main body of the NZEF to spare them the rigours of an English winter. Diverted to Egypt and disembarking on 3 December 1914. The New Zealanders would join with the Australians as the ‘Australasian Army Corps’.[25] The Corps comprised two divisions; the 1st Australian Division, and the New Zealand and Australian Division. Based at Based Zeitoun Camp on the outskirts of Cairo the New Zealanders trained and acclimatised to the local conditions, with preparations made for potential operations against the Ottoman Empire. The New Zealanders would see their first action in February 1915 when Ottoman forces raided the Suez Canal.

British Army Ordnance Corps 1915_zpsaibxjzox

New Zealand Supply Depot Staff at Zeitoun Camp, 1915. Note Ordnance solder front row 3rd from left. National Army Museum of New Zealand

By 10 December Beck had established himself as the DADOS of the NZEF with an Ordnance office and a shared depot with the Army Service Corps at Zeitoun Camp. NZEF Order No 9 of 10 December 1914 stated that all indents for Ordnance Stores, including petrol and lubricants were to be submitted to the DADOS Ordnance Depot.[26] Beck and had much to work ahead to bring the New Zealand units to scale and come to terms with the British Ordnance Systems. Britain had maintained occupation forces in Egypt since the 1880’s and as such had peacetime Ordnance depots in Alexandra and Cairo.[27] To understand the British systems and how best to utilise them Sergeant Levien was attached to the British Ordnance Corps Depot at the Citadel in Cairo to study the Ordnance systems in use and the Ordnance procedures the New Zealand Forces would have to adopt.[28]

plan of camp

Plan of Zeitoun Camp

Divisional Order 210 of 28 December transferred the following soldiers to the Ordnance Depot;

  • Private Walter John Geard,[29]
  • Private Arthur Gilmore,[30]
  • Private Gavin Hamilton,[31]
  • Private Lewis Crozier,[32]
  • Private Horace Frederick Lofts,[33]
  • Private Joseph Roland Henderson.[34]
f7012f760426cc6df115bf14d6f87977

Rue de la, Porte Rosette, Alexandria, Egypt. Public Domain

By March 1917 Levien had secured premises for a New Zealand Ordnance Depot and warehouse at  No. 12 Rue de la, Porte Rosette and a warehouse at Shed 43, Alexandra Docks. From these premises, the New Zealand Forces would be provided support before and during the Dardanelles campaign. The Australians established a similar Depot at Mustapha Barracks and in No 12 Bond Store on Alexandra Docks.[35]

On 3 April 1915, Beck received a boost to his DADOS organisation. Commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant, Thomas Joseph King a qualified accountant transferred into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.[36] King was appointed as the Officer in Charge of the Ordnance Depot at Zeitoun Camp,[37] and Levien, also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant assumed the position of Officer in Charge of Equipment, Small Arms and Accoutrements (SAA) and Clothing.

Order 122

Order No 122 promoting King and Levien into the NZAOC on 4 April 1914

Early in January 1915 planning began for operations in the area around the Dardanelles, with the ambitious goal of forcing the Ottoman Empire out of the war. Now well known as the Gallipoli Campain, the Australians and New Zealanders were committed to being critical participants in the planned amphibious assault and ground offensive. The Ordnance plan for the campaign included the establishment of an Ordnance Base Depot in Alexandria, and a floating Ordnance Depot set up on the cargo ship the ‘SS Umsinga’. The Umsinga was fitted out in the UK with all the Ordnance Stores required, all carefully laid out by vocabulary with detailed plans produced to locate the stock quickly. With Lieutenant Colonel McCheane in command as the Chief Ordnance Officer, he had a complement of one hundred and fifty men of the AOC to manage the stocks.[38]

The invasion fleet loaded with the ANZAC, British and French concentrated off the Island of Lemnos from April 10. The Assault would be at two locations on the morning of 25 April. The British 29th Division would land at Cape Helles on the southern tip of the Gallipoli Penisula, and the ANZACs at locations on the west coast of the Peninsular that would become known as ANZAC Cove. The division of the landing force made the concept of having the ‘Umsinga’ as the offshore ordnance Depot unworkable. To rectify the situation, the ‘SS Anglo Indian’ became the second floating Ordnance Depot. Half the stocks of the ‘Umsinga’ were cross-loaded to the ‘Anglo Indian’ on the night of 23/24 April, with British Ordnance Officer Major Basil Hill appointed as Chief Ordnance Officer on the Anglo Indian, along with haft the AOC men from the “Umsinga”.[39]

The 1st Australian Divison started landing at around 4 am on the morning of 25 April, followed by the Australian and New Zealand Division several hours later. Soon after the beachhead was secured but still under considerable enemy fire, the ‘Anglo Indian’ drew close to the shore and started to cross-load Ammunition and other Ordnance Stores for transfer to an Ordnance dump established at the southern end of the beach.  Lt Col J.G Austin,[40] the 1st Australian Division DADOS, supervised the unloading of the lighters into the Ordnance dump and established forward ammunition dumps close to the front lines.[41]

ANZAC Cove

Supplies on the beach at ANZAC Cove 1915. Athol Williams Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

As DADOS of the Australian & New Zealand Division, Beck landed with Godley’s Headquarters at ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.[42] Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick, ADMS, another New Zealander, was part of the Headquarters landing party describes the events on that day: [43]

we were all ready to land but were kept waiting and waiting until about 9.00 a.m. 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 certainty 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. Billy Beck was the first New Zealander of Godley’s force (there were New Zealanders serving in the Australian Division) to get onto Gallipoli”.

The landings were not a successful as planned with the Ottoman troops providing a more robust defence than expected; the campaign soon developed into stalemated trench warfare. By July the Island of lemmos 40 miles from the peninsula had become the logistics hub supporting the campaign.  The Ordnance command structure underwent a shakeup, the DOS for the entire campaign was Colonel Perry of the AOD, ADOS’s were made responsible for Ordnance support in the individual Corps areas of Helles and ANZAC Cove, Lt Col Austin assumed the position of the ANZAC Corps ADOS. The much larger “SS Minnetonka” was charted to act as depot ship, making regular round trips from Lemmos, Helles and ANZAC. The “‘Umsinga’ and ‘Anglo Indian’ continue to support their respective areas as ammunition tenders.

NZ ordnance depot_zpszcwmk2tk

Ordnance Depot Shrapnel Gully, Gallipoli. Alexander Turnbull Libary

Beck remained as the DADOS of the Australian & New Zealand Division withStaff Sergeant Major Elliot Puldron, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant of the Auckland Mounted Rifles transferred into the division headquarters to be his assistant. For the next three months, Puldron would assist Beck with the strenuous work of landing and organising stores and managing the depot staff.  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:[44]

“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 that someday 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.

 

 

 

Back in Egypt, with reinforcements arriving from New Zealand, King remained fully occupied at the Zeitoun Ordnance Depot. Ensuring new drafts of troops were brought up to scale and troops departing for ANZAC cove were fully equipped, on 2 May, King received additional assistance in the form of Trooper Reginald Pike. Pike 39 years old and a veteran of the Boer war was promoted to Temporary Sergeant and appointed as Ordnance Clerk. Pike would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war.[45]

By mid-July illness was taking its toll on Beck and Puldron and during August both men were transferred to the hospital in Alexandria, after some time in Alexandra, both would be invalided back to New Zealand.[46]  Levien embarked for the Dardanelles on 2 August to replace Beck as DADOS, with King taking over the management of the Alexandra Depot on 12 August. At ANZAC Cove Private Arthur Gilmour transferred into the NZAOC as acting Sergeant on 24 August.[47]

On 6 October Levien and King both received promotions to Lieutenant[48]. King took over as DADOS of the Division and Levien was appointed the Chief Ordnance Officer at Sarpi camp, with responsibility for re-equipping the depleted Australian & New Zealand Division. Having been in action since April, the Division was in need of some rest and reorganisation. From mid-September 1915, most of the depleted division withdrew to the Island of Lemnos. Spending seven weeks at Sarpi Camp, the Division returned to the Gallipoli peninsula in early November with King remaining as DADOS. November also saw the promotion of Acting Sergeant Gilmour to Sergeant.

By mid-October, it was apparent that the situation in the Dardanelles had become hopeless, with operations against the enemy reaching a stalemate and offensive options exhausted. After extensive planning, evacuation orders were issued on 22 November. Starting on 15 December, withdrawing under cover of darkness, the last troops departed ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay by dawn 20 December, with the final evacuations of the French and British forces at Helles completed by 9 January.

Returning to Egypt the Australians and New Zealand Division regrouped, and with enough New Zealand reinforcements now available to form a third Brigade, the NZEF became a standalone New Zealand Division. The bulk of the Australian and New Zealand forces separated, but the Mounted Rifle Brigade joined with the Australians to establish the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division, which would remain in the Middle East for the remainder of the war. Elements of the New Zealand Division detached for operations against the Senussi in Western Egypt, returned to the Division in February and by March the New Zealand Division started to depart for France, joining the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.

Herbert

Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert, NZAOC. Auckland Museum/Public Domain

From late 1915 the need for a more robust NZAOC was recognised, and expansion of the NZAOC as a unit of the NZEF began in December, and Private Frank Percy Hutton[49] and Sergeant Kenneth Bruce MacRae[50] transferred into the NZAOC. On 1 January 1916 Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert, who had previously served as Commanding Officer of the Pioneer Battalion was transferred into NZAOC and appointed New Zealand Division, DADOS and Officer Commanding of the NZEF NZAOC.[51]  Also on 1 January Staff Sergeant Geard who had been with Ordnance since December 1914 formally transferred into the NZAOC.[52]

The NZAOC would officially become a unit of the NZEF in February,[53]  with a commensurate influx of personnel transferred into the NZAOC, including;

  • 2nd Lieutenant Alfred James Bond,[54]
  • Company Sergeant Major William Henchcliffe Simmons,[55]
  • Company Sergeant Major William Hall Densby Coltman, promoted to Acting Warrant Officer Class One (Acting Sub-Conductor),[56]
  • Temp Sergeant Edward Cullen Little,[57]
  • Corporal John Goutenoire O’Brien,[58]
  • Corporal John Joseph Roberts
  • Private Clarence Adrian Seay, [59]
  • Sergeant Charles Ingram Gossage,[60]
  • Armourer Charles Alfred Oldbury.[61]

On 22 March Sergeant MacRae was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant

King and Levien would not travel with the Division to France. King was struck down with Enteric (typhoid) fever and would be invalided back to New Zealand on 10 May. King would remain in the Military, initially taking up a posting in the Defence Stores and transferring into the NZAOC on its formation in New Zealand in 1917. Levien oversaw the closing down of the Alexandra depot, disposing of the vast stockpile of stores that had accumulated over the year. Levien would embark for England in May 1916, taking up the post of NZEF Chief Ordnance Officer in the UK.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Notes

[1] “Defence Forces of New Zealand Report by the Council of Defence and by the Inspector-General of the New Zealand Defence Forces for the Year 1907.,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representives  ( 1907).

[2] “Personal,” Otago Daily Times, Issue 13786  (1907).

[3] “Director of Ordnance Stores,” Dominion, Volume 9, Issue 2741 8 April  1916

[4] The Director of Stores title was changed to Director of Equipment and Stores early in 1911

[5] “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand for the Period 28 June 1912 to 20 June 1913,” Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representives  (1913).

[6] “Territorials,” Evening Star, Issue 15018, 29 October 1912.

[7] “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand for the Period 28 June 1912 to 20 June 1913.”

[8] “H-19 Report on the  Defence Forces of New Zealand Fir the Period 20 June 1913 to 25 June 1914,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representives  (1914).

[9] “Auckland Territorials,” New Zealand Herald, Volume LI, Issue 15594 28 April 1915.

[10] Ordnance Manual (War), War Office (London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914), Appendix 1.

[11] Ibid., Page 3.

[12] Ibid., Page 4, Para 8.

[13] Rations, water, fuel, ammunition, and animal feed

[14] Ordnance Manual (War), Page 4, Para 9.

[15] P.H. Williams, Ordnance: Equipping the British Army for the Great War (History Press, 2018), Page 13.

[16] Ibid.

[17] ” Troopships; Embarkation Orders; Daily Field States; and a Large Chart of ‘New Zealand Expeditionary Forces – Personnel’ as at 1 June 1915),” Item ID R23486740, Archives New Zealand 1914-1915.

[18] “Main Expedition,” Evening Post, Volume LXXXVIII, Issue 73, 23 September 1914.

[19] “Officers of Dominions Contingent,” Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIII, Issue 8951, 24 September 1914.

[20] “Auckland Territorials.”

[21] “The Hautapu Camp,” Waikato Argus, Volume XXXV, Issue 5575, 4 April 1914.

[22] “Camp Preparations,” Evening Post, Volume LXXXVII, Issue 22 27 January  1914.

[23] “Norman Joseph Levien,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914-1924.

[24] “William Thomas Beck,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[25] the ‘Australasian Army Corps’. The designation; Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’ was soon adopted and abbreviated to ANZAC, but would not enter the common vernacular until after the Gallipoli landings.

[26] “Appendices to War Diaries, I – Lxii,” Item ID R23486739, Archives New Zealand 1914-1915.

[27] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), Page 211.

[28] “Norman Joseph Levien.”

[29] Geard would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war “Walter John Geard “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[30] Gilmour would remain with Ordnance for the duration of the war “Arthur Gilmour “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[31] Worked At Alexandra Depot until returned to New Zealand in October 1915 “Gavin Hamilton,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[32] Promoted to Sergeant 18 Feb 16, returned to NZ Aug 1917 “Lewis Crozier,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[33] Transferred to NZASC October 1917 “Horace Frederick Lofts,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[34] Transferred to NZASC 25 Feb 1916 “Joseph Roland Henderson,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[35] John D Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army (Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee, 1989), Page 43.

[36] “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotion of Officers in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” New Zealand Gazette, No 81 8 July 1915.

[37] “Thomas Joseph King,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914-1946.

[38] Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services, Pages 221-23.

[39] Ibid., Page 222.

[40] Lt Col Austin was a British Army Ordnance Department officer on secondment to the Australian Army as DOS prior to the war and served with the AIF on Gallipoli as the DADOS 1st Australian Division.

[41] Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army Page 45.

[42] Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story (Auckland [N.Z.] : Sceptre, 1990, 1990).

[43] Glyn Harper, Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War 1914-1918, First World War Centenary History (Auckland, New Zealand: Exisle Publishing Limited, 2015, 2015).

[44] “Brave New Zealanders,” The Hawera and Normanby Star, Volume LXXI, Issue LXXI, , 24 June 1916.

[45] “Reginald Pike,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[46] “William Thomas Beck.”

[47] “Arthur Gilmour “.

[48] “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotion of Officers in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (Europe),” New Zealand Gazette, No 5, 20 January 1916.

[49] “Frank Percy Hutton,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[50] “Kenneth Bruce Macrae,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[51] “Alfred Henry Herbert “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[52] “Walter John Geard “.

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

[54] “Alfred James Bond “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[55] “William Henchcliffe Simmons “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[56] “William Hall Densby Coltman “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[57] “Edward Cullen Little “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[58] “John Goutenoire O’Brien  “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[59] “Clarence Adrian Seay  “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[60] “Charles Ingram Gossage “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[61] “Charles Alfred Oldbury “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.


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.

Old Picture-124

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

Old Picture-171

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.


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).

 


The Hunter Brothers

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NZ Army Ordnance Corps Badge 1917-1937. nzhistory.govt.nz/Public Domain

The Hunter Brothers service was unassuming and when looked at as part of the broader history of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps their service was uneventful. The only significant event of their service is that they are one of the few sets of brothers to be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. What their service does provide is a snapshot of the activities of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps in the 1920’s

The children of Irish Immigrants who were farming a small property near the Marlborough town of Tuamarina, John was born on the 13th of August 1880 and Thomas on the 20th of December 1881.

John and Thomas both joined what was then the New Zealand Permeant Militia, spending considerable time as Gunners in the Artillery before transferring to the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps soon after its formation in 1917. Johns time in Ordnance was spent in the Ammunition Section based out of Fort Balance on the Northern Miramar peninsular in Wellington. Thomas ordnance Service was at the Ordnance Store at Mount Eden and the then brand-new Waikato Camp (Hopuhopu/Ngawahawia Camp).

Both brothers served for more than 30 years and under normal circumstances would have retired at the age of 55 with a comfortable pension, but this was not to be. Due to the world-wide depression and economic recession the Government was forced to savagely reduce the strength of the Army by using the provisions of section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2) where military staff could be either;

  • Transferred to the Civil service, or
  • Retire on superannuation any member of the Permanent Force or the Permanent Staff under the Defence Act, 1909, or of the clerical staff of the Defence Department whose age or length of service was such that if five years was added thereto they would have been enabled as of right or with the consent of the Minister of Defence to have given notice to retire voluntarily.

Using this act, on the 31st of March 1931 the NZAIOC lost;

  • Six officers and Thirty-Eight Other Ranks who were retired on superannuation
  • Seventy-four NZAOC staff (excluding officers and artificers) who were not eligible for retirement were transferred to the civilian staff to work in the same positions but at a lower rate of pay.

 

Hunter retirement letter

Notice of Retirement sent to Serving soldiers December 1930

 

For the soldiers who were placed on superannuation, the transition was brutal with pensions recalculated at much lower rates and in some cases the loss of outstanding annual and accumulated leave. The 31st of March 1931 was the blackest day in the History of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps

John Francis Hunter

John Hunter attended the local school until Standard 5 and then spent a year at St Patricks College at Silverstream at Wellington. On leaving school, John Hunter took up a farming job in Bulls.  At Eighteen years of age, John enlisted at Alexandra Barrack in Wellington into the New Zealand Permanent Force (NZPF) and was attested as a 3rd Class Gunner into No 1 Company in Wellington on the 23 of November 1898. John Hunter Passed the Small Arms Drill Course on the 6th of January 1899, followed by the Recruits Drill Course on the 1st of May and was promoted to 2nd Class Gunner on the 1st of September 1899.

Alexandra Barracks

Alexandra Barracks, Mount Cook Wellington. Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library.

With the reorganisation of the NZPF in 1902, the small permanent artillery force was designated the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA) with John Hunter remaining with the Wellington Detachment. While serving as the “Servant to the General Officer Commanding” John Hunter unsuccessfully applied for a transfer to the New Zealand Police in 1902. John Hunter was to spend a short period detached to Lyttleton on Police duty during the New Zealand International Exhibition held in Christchurch during 1906/07. John Hunter was promoted to 1st Class Gunner on the 1st of September 1907. With the reorganisations of 1907 and 1911, John Hunter remained in the Gunnery Section of the RNZA Wellington Detachment working in the various Wellington Coast Defence Forts.

Marrying Edith Taylor in Fielding on the 28th of January 1911, John Hunter was still based in Wellington when the Great War was declared in 1914, but at 34 years old was then considered too old for war service.

Since 1911 there had been concerns in Army Headquarters about the supply of Artillery ammunition, and the associated costs with importation all of the required stocks to maintain training and operational needs. Studies had found that by refurbishing by cleaning, inspecting and refilling cartridge casings, and inspecting and refurbishing in service propellant bags, manufacturing new ones as required, considerable savings could be made instead of importing new items. Recommendations were made that as part of the RNZA, a specialist Ordnance Stores Corps be established for the manufacture and modification of Ammunition. Ordnance Stores Corps would be under the supervision of the Master Gunner and would be entitled to the same pay and allowances as other members of the RNZA as they would just be another section of the RNZA.

Although envisaged in 1911, the formation of this Ordnance Stores Corps would have an extended gestation period, and it would not be until mid-1914 that General Godley, the Commander of the New Zealand Forces approved the proposal and work could begin in establishing the Artillery Ordnance Stores Corps. Orders were placed on Great Britain for the supply of the required machinery, components and most importantly cordite, with the some of the machinery received in good time, the delivery of the remainder was promised to be delivered as soon as possible by the British suppliers. Given that war had broken out the importance of setting up this capability and securing New Zealand’s immediate supply of Artillery was of the utmost importance.

As the new Corps was to be another uniformed section of the RNZA such as the Field Artillery or Electric Light Company. It was to be under the administration and control of the OC RNZA and not the Quartermaster General, and on 1 March 1915 authority was granted under New Zealand Defence Forces General Order 90 to raise the New Zealand Army Ordnance Section with effect 1 April 1915.  Located Fort Ballance at Mahanga Bay on Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula, the section’s primary duties was the assembling of ammunition components for the artillery, with care and upkeep of the magazines becoming part of their responsibilities. John Hunter Transferred into the RNZA Army Ordnance Section on the 1st of July 1915.

Fort Ballance

Fort Ballance (including associated positions at Fort Gordon). Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand,

With the Formation of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) on the 1st of February 1917, the RNZA retained operational day to day control of the Ammunition Section, with the NZAOC taking up administrative control of its personnel. The personnel of the Ammunition Section, including Gunner John Hunter, transferred into the NZAOC on the 15th of March 1917. On the 8th of February 1917, John Hunter was awarded the New Zealand Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

RMS Niagara

RMS Niagara

December 1917 saw John Hunters experience as a gunner called upon when he was seconded to the NZEF as an Acting Corporal. Embarking on the RMS Niagara on the 13th of February 1918 as Corporal Gunner of the Gun Crew. Returning to New Zealand in September 1918 and replaced by Naval gunners, John Hunter spent a short time with the RNZA in Featherston Camp before re-joining the NZAOC in February 1919. Interestingly the RMS Niagara on which John Hunter served and disembarked from in September 1918 is the vessel that is attributed by some sources as the source of the 1918 influenza pandemic that had a devastating effect on New Zealand.

Returning to his duties at the Ammunition Section at Fort Ballance John Hunter was the newest member of the Ammunition Section and was identified as the only suitable understudy for the then NCO In-Charge Sergeant J Murray and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 1 November 1919. 1921 saw John Hunter awarded the New Zealand Efficient Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and was also issued with his war service medals the British War Service 1914-1918 medal and the Victory 1914-1919 Medal.

Promoted to Temporary Corporal on the 1st of January 1921, John Hunter was made the NCO I/C the Ammunition Laboratory at Shelly Bay. By August 1921 on the retirement of Sergeant Murray, Hunter was promoted to Corporal and appointed as IC of the Ammunition Section.

The immediate post-war years into the mid-1920’s were a busy time for the NZAOC Ammunition Section. 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 as their guns were decommissioned Fort Balance, Fort Gordon and the Kau Point Battery. With armaments removed, gun pits covered over with roofs and turned into additional magazines the once impressive forts 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 1929 when purpose-built facilities were constructed at Hopuhopu Camp in the Waikato.

Promoted to Sergeant on the 1st of July 1922, further promotions followed on the 1st of June 1926 when he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and then again on the 1st of June 1929 when promotion to Staff Quarter Master Sergeant (Warrant officer Class 2) was gained.

After spending the majority of his 32-year career on the Miramar Peninsular of Wellington. Warrant Officer Class Two John Hunter was discharged from the Army on the 31st of March 1931 at the age of 52 under the provisions section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2) where members of military were forced to retire under superannuation at a much lower rate than they would have usually been entitled too. WO2 John Hunter also lost;

·         21 days approved annual leave

·         22 days accrued leave

John Hunters forced retirement in 1931 might not have been his final Military service. Census and voter lists from 1935 to 1954 list his occupation as Solder, with the Census and voter from 1957 as retired. Further examination of service records is required, but an assumption would be that given his ammunition experience, he was re-engaged in a lesser rank and continued in the military during the war years into the mid-1950’s.

Records show that John and his wife Edith had no children and remained at the same address at 57 Kauri Street Miramar until his death on the 23rd of March 1967 at the age of 87 and is buried at Karori Cemetery, Wellington

 Thomas Alexander Hunter

Completing school at Standard 4, Thomas entered the workforce and was working as a Grocers Assistant at Foxton before enlisting into the NZPF. At the age of 18, Thomas attested into the NZPF on the 2nd of August 1900. Thomas completed the Recruit Drill and Arms Cours at Alexandra Barrack in Wellington and was posted to the Artillery as a Pre-Gunner for the duration of his probation period. On completion of probation on the 1st of February 1901, Thomas was posted to No 1 Company in Wellington.

With the reorganisation of the NZPF in 1902, the small permanent artillery force was designated the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA) with Thomas Hunter remaining with the Wellington Detachment. With the reorganisation of 1907, Thomas continued in the Gunnery Section of the RNZA Wellington Detachment working in the various Wellington Coast Defence Forts.

On the 10th of May 1908, Thomas married Maude Taylor at Newmarket in Auckland and was posted to the RNZA Auckland detachment on the 16th of November 1908. Thomas first child Edward was born on the 15th of February 1909. Further Children followed with the Birth of Bernard on 20 February 1910, Bambara on 28 March 1911 and Veronica on 21 November 13

Transferred into the Field Artillery Section on the 1st of August 1911, Thomas was transferred back into the Gunnery Section on the 1st of May 1912. When the war was declared in 1914, Thomas was 33 years old and at the time considered too old for war service. Thomas was stuck with tragedy in September 1915 when his daughter Bambara passed away due to illness.

Like his bother, Thomas was seconded to the NZEF in February 1918 as an Acting Corporal. Embarking on the SS Makura as gun crew. Returning to regular duty in June 1918 when the Army gunners were replaced by Naval gunners.

 

New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal

New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal, 1887-1917, New Zealand, by George White. Gift of Mr Dollimore, 1956. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (NU006152)

Awarded the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Medal in December 1918, with the formal presentation on the 1st of February 1919. Thomas was promoted to temporary Bombardier on the 1st of February 1920, attaining Full Bombardier rank on the 1st of February 1921. Further recognition of his service followed with the award of the Meritorious Service Medal on the 21st of November 1921 and the New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal on the 6th of February 1922. Thomas was also presented with British War Service 1914-1918 medal and the Victory 1914-1919 Medal.

With many of the Coastal Defenses nearing the end of their usefulness, (Fort Victoria where Thomas had a one stage been attached to, had only ever fired one proofing round and was promptly taken out of action because of complaints from its neighbors who had suffered many broken windows) resulted in the decommissioning of many of the older batteries. As Thomas was then the senior Bombardier in the Auckland region, instead of being forcibly made redundant he was transferred to the NZAOC and posted to the Ordnance Store then located at Mount Eden on the 31st of July 1922. Living at Devonport at the time the move to the new position at Mount Eden was worrying for Thomas. As Mount Eden was then a Suburb on the far side of Auckland the travel costs were a concern to Thomas. The strain on his family was also a concern, his children were beset with ill health with one child passing away due to illness in 1915 and another with infantile paralysis. To make matters worse Thomas was forced to reduce rank to Lance Corporal on the 1st of August 1922.

Auckland Gun

Dissapearing Gun, North Head Auckland. Robert McKie Collection

The early 1920’s were a busy time for the Mount Eden Ordnance Store. After the First World War, the New Zealand Territorial Army undertook a major re-equipment project with two Infantry Divisions and one Mounted Brigades worth of equipment arriving from the United Kingdom. Initially stored at Trentham and Featherston Camp, with a purpose-built Ordnance Store to service the Northern region under construction at Ngawahawia, storage space was at a premium. With Featherston Camp closing down the Mount Eden Ordnance Store had to receive, sort and distribute much of the equipment for the Northern Region units well in excess of its storage capacity, as well as providing support to the territorial Army Annual Camps.

By 1928 The development of Ngaruawahia Camp was now in its final stages with the large Ordnance Store building completed, and the stores from the Ordnance Depot at Mount Eden progressively been transferred to it. Two high-explosive magazines were completed with an additional three high-explosive magazines and laboratory, and the provision of mains and equipment for fire-prevention nearing completion. With the removal of stores to Ngaruawahia Camp, the buildings at Mount Eden were no longer required, so they were disassembled and re-erected at Narrow Neck Camp.

Thomas was promoted to Temporary Corporal on the 1st of February 1926, followed by promotion to Sergeant on the 1st of March 1928. Up to June 1929, Thomas was the NOC IC Camp Equipment, but with the Ordnance Depot now at Ngawahawia, Thomas was transferred onto the staff of the Small Arms Proof Office allowing him to remain at Mount Eden.

After spending the majority of his 30-year 141-day career in Auckland, Sergeant Thomas Hunter was discharged from the Army on the 31st of March 1931 at the age of 49 under the provisions section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2) where serving members of the military were forced to retire under superannuation at a much lower rate than they would have normally been entitled too. Sergeant Thomas Hunter was fortunate that prior to the notification of the redundancy on the 17th of December 1930 he had already applied for and had approved the use of his annual and accrued leave.

Moving on from a life in the military, Thomas settled at 88 Sandringham Road and took up the trade of confectioner. Thomas passed away at 84 years of age on the 5th of October 1965.

 

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018


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

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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

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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.

beck display

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.

 

20171115_143333-645022912.jpg

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