Accounts of New Zealand Ordnance Units’ wartime activities are rare, with one of the few accounts from the Second World War found in the wartime publication Prelude to War.
Prelude To Battle was the first of ten surveys on the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (2 NZEF) produced by the New Zealand Army Board during the Second World War to provide short articles on the activities of 2 NZEF.
Prelude To Battle was published by Whitcombe & Tombs, in 1942 and covers the first Libyan Campaign of June -December 1940. Prelude To Battle includes chapters on
NZASC, 4th NZ Mechanical Transport Company (4RMT), and
New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC), 10 Light Aid Detachment (10 LAD) attached to New Zealand Engineers (NZE), 5 Field Park Company
The chapter Water Supplies covers explicitly the activities 10 LAD during Operation Compass, which was the first significant British military operation of the Western Desert Campaign (1940–1943), during which British, Empire and Commonwealth forces attacked Italian forces in western Egypt and Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya, from December 1940 to February 1941.
10 LAD was one of 11 LADs, numbered 9 to 19, raised as part of the NZOC in late 1939 to render assistance and repair mechanic transport and the anti-tank units of 2 NZEF. Raised at Hopuhopu Camp, 10 LAD was commanded by Second Lieutenant George D Pollock, and attached to 5 Field Park Company, NZE. 10 LAD sailed as part of the Main Body of 2 NZEF in January 1940, Disembarking in Egypt in February 1940.
In late 1940 New Zealand units, including the Fifth Field Park Company, with 10 LAD attached, Divisional Signals, 4 RMT and other specialist troops, had been seconded to General Archibald Wavell for Operation Compass. The official War History New Zealand Engineers, Middle East states, “but beyond guarding the water pipeline and establishing water points and forward dumps at Charing Cross, the Company was not much affected. The British Army seemed to do very well without its assistance”. However, as this Prelude To Battle chapter describes, 10 LAD played a critical role in ensuring water supply to the advancing allied units.
The Prelude to Battle chapter, Water Supplies, reads:
Concerned with the maintenance of water plants to supply the troops advancing into Cyrenaica and the servicing of Royal Engineers’ equipment, the 10th Light Aid Detachment of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps entered each town almost immediately after its capture to attend to the water installations and pumping appliances.
Before the British assumed the offensive, the 10th LAD has succeeded in drawing water from about ten feet below the surface at Burbeita and in the sandhills at Baggush. When Fort Nibeiwa was attacked on 8 December, the 10th LAD were in caves in the escarpment at Charing Cross, several miles inland from Mersa Matruh. As soon as the last of the Sisi Barrano forts was captured, Major G. D. Pollock, who commanded the 10th LAD went to Sidi Barrani to attend to the water works there. He found in perfect order a Fiat diesel pumping engine capable of 250 litres an hour and a plant for distilling salt water. The remainder of the 10th LAD entered Sidi Barrani two days later. The Italians also left a large pumping station almost at Buqbuq, half way between Sidi Barrani and Sollum .
As the Australians concentrated for the Battle of Bardia, the 10th LAD were filling and working water wagons for Sollim. At this stage they began to operate closely with the 5th Field Park Company and on 10 January they moved with them to the harbour at Bardia. A fortnight later they were in Tobruk at work on the large distilling plant. After the Battle of Derna and the subsequent Italian withdrawal towards Benghazi, the 10th LAD were given a special job. The British command had made the decision to cut across the plateau south of Benghazi: the success of this plan depended on getting a supply of water quickly to Msus, some 500 miles south-west of Derna. it was the responsibility of the 1Oth LAD to have ninety-five tons of water at this point for the armoured division. This was accomplished. The operation succeeded, Benghazi fell, and the whole of Cyrenaica was subsequently occupied. In northern Cyrenaica, the water problem ceased. West of Derna lies a region of small streams, trees and green countryside decorated with fresh white buildings. When the British consolidated in this area in February 1941 the work of the 10th LAD ended and they followed the New Zealand signallers. Transport driver and engineers back to Helwan, where the New Zealand Division had taken up its station preparatory to its departure for Greece.
Prelude to Battle Page 32-34
Following this brief excursion into Libya, 10 LAD continued to be attached to 5 Field Park, NZE for the remainder of the war. In November 1942, the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME) was formed as part of 2 NZEF and 10 LAD transferred from the NZOC to the NZEME. 10 LAD was disestablished in late 1945.
At approximately 2135 hours on 5 December 1941, an Italian bomber launched a torpedo sinking the SS Chakdina, a vessel evacuating 380 wounded men, including ninety-seven New Zealanders from Tobruk. Included in the list of New Zealanders lost that fateful evening was Major William Andrew Knox, the Officer Commanding of the New Zealand Divisional Ordnance Field Park.
William Andrew Knox was the second of three sons born to William and Jessie Knox in Auckland on 14 November 1893.
From 20 March 1911, Knox undertook his Compulsory Military service obligation, serving with “A” Battery of the New Zealand Field Artillery (NZFA) until his enlistment into the NZEF on 13 August 1914. Embarking on the Main Body of the NZEF on 15 October 1914, Knox served at Gallipoli, where he was slightly injured. Continuing to serve in the NZFA for the duration of the war, Knox attained the rank of Lieutenant on 16 October 1916 and was Mentioned in Dispatches. Struck off the Strength of the NZEF on22 May 1919, Knox was transferred to the Reserve of officers but did not undertake any further military training until 1939. Knox’s brother Trevor served within the NZ Rifle Brigade during this conflict and passed away due to disease on 9 July 1918.
Working as a commercial traveller during the interbellum, Knox applied and was accepted for the Special Force assembled in 1939. Posted as a troop Subaltern in the 5th Field Regiment and despite being a fit and able 46-year-old, unlike most younger officers who had remained current through Territorial service, Knox struggled to learn and adapt to the more modern weapons and gunnery practices. Unable to cope, Knox applied to be released from the Special Force and be reassigned to an administrative role.
As the Special Force was in the early stage of its training Knox was released on 6 December 1939 and was reassigned to the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment as the Quartermaster departing from New Zealand to the Middle East as part of the Second Echelon. Diverted to Britain to strengthen the invasion defences, Knox and the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment did not reach Egypt until February 1941.
Following the Greek Campaign, the New Zealand Division was concentrated together in Egypt, undertaking rebuilding and expansion. As part of the expansion of the Division was the inclusion of an Ordnance Field Park (OFP), which was formally stood up 28 July 1941. The New Zealand OFP had a strength of 4 Officers and 81 Other Ranks. Organised into a Headquarters and three sections, the NZ OFP was equipped with twenty-seven 3-ton Lorries in different configurations optimised for the carriage of OFP Stores. On 4 August 1941 Knox was transferred into the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) as the Officer Commanding of the NZ OFP and granted the rank of Temporary Major whilst holding that appointment.
An OFP was a mobile mini Ordnance Depot with its stock held on vehicles (on wheels) consisting of;
Assemblies and spare parts of “A” and “B” vehicles and equipment’s required by mobile workshops for repair purposes, and
Advanced holdings of certain “A” and “B” vehicles for replacement purposes
An OFP’s holdings constituted a forward portion of the stocks of the Base Ordnance Depot.
The NZ OFP war diary for August and September records that those months were spent receiving intakes of scalings from various Base Ordnance Depots and receiving personnel and vehicles.
On 7 October, the NZ OFP deployed from the comfort of Maadi Camp into a new position in the location in the vicinity of Bagush. The NZ OFP undertook routine duties interspaced with rifle and Bren gun training periods for the remainder of October.
During November 1941, the NZ OFP operated in support of the NZ Division during Operation Crusader. Operation Crusade was a significant allied operation to destroy Axis armoured forces in the Cyrenaica region of Libya and lift the siege of Tobruk.
Attached to the NZ Div Workshops as part of the admin group under the NZ Div CRASC, Operation Crusader was a harsh introduction to the realities of mobile logistics in the harsh terrain and climate of the Western Desert.
Throughout November, the NZ OFP was on the move every couple of days, and after a final push of seven days of hard desert travel, entered the outer defences of Tobruk at 0730 on 29 November 1941. Under enemy shell fire for two days, Knox placed the NZ OPF into dispersal locations and confirmed with 70 Div HQ the final placement of the NZ OFP. At about 0930, while conducting a recce of the final dispersal area, Knox’s vehicle ran over a mine. The vehicle was a complete wreck with Knox injured in the leg and immediately evacuated to Casualty Clearing Station and then to 62 General Hospital. At about 1430, the NZ OFP moved to a new location in a derelict vehicle park on the edge of Tobruk township. The NZ OFP remained in Tobruk until 7 December, when it redeployed back to Baghish.
On 5 December 1941, alongside 380 wounded allied soldiers, of whom ninety-seven were New Zealanders, 100 German and Italian Prisoners of War and 120 crew, Knox was evacuated on the SS Chakdina. Unfortunately, several hours after clearing Tobruk, the SS Chakdina was attacked by an Italian S.79 torpedo bomber. A torpedo hit the SS Chakdina, exploding in one of the after holds sinking the vessel in three and a half minutes. Around 400 men were drowned, with only eighteen of the ninety-seven New Zealanders were rescued, with the remainder, including Knox, presumed drowned.
Lost at sea, Knox has no known grave and is commemorated at the Alamein Memorial in Egypt. Listed as a member of the New Zealand Artillery until 2019, he has been recognised as a member of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
For his cumulative WW1 military service, Knox was awarded the following medals.
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 of 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 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 dominated 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 served in various war-related roles from 1939.
whilst transiting from New Zealand to England was sunk three hundred 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 thirty-eight vessel trans-Atlantic convoy HX 84, the Rangitiki encountered 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 then survived an encounter with the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. In 1945 the Rangitiki returned to the New Zealand -England route as it undertook repatriation voyages returning Servicemen and War brides home from Europe. Following eighty-seven peacetime return voyages between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the Rangitiki was retired and broken up as scrap in 1962.
In 1937 the Rangitata transported troops to England for the coronation of King George VI, and in 1939 was requisitioned for war service. During the war, some of the Rangitata’s eventful voyages included transporting 113 child evacuees from England to New Zealand. Later in the war, it transported United States soldiers from the USA to England. Following the war, the Rangitata was fitted out as a war-bride ship and, in 1947, transported the first post-war draft of immigrants to New Zealand. Returning to peacetime service with its sister ship, the Rangitiki, the Rangitata was also 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 made 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 transported 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 held significant positions in the NZOC and from November 1942, the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME). A small number continued to serve in the post-war NZ Army.
Lieutenant Donald Edward Harper, NZOC, Base Depot,
finished the war as Lieutenant Colonel and the 2nd NZ Div Assistant Director of Ordnance Services.
2nd Lieutenant John Owen Kelsey, NZOC, 13 LAD
Served 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
Promoted to Captain and served as OC 3 NZ Field Workshop and NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park
Warrant Officer Class One Kevin Graham Keith Cropp, Base Depot
Remained in the RNZAOC post-war and retired as a Major in 1955
Warrant Officer Class One Francis Reid, NZOC, Base Depot
He was commissioned and served throughout the war. Remained in the RNZAOC after the war and as a Lieutenant Colonel, was 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 went 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 British and Commonwealth military doctrine, there has long been a separation of responsibility for Supplies and Stores
Supplies – The provisioning, storing, and distributing of food for soldiers, forage for animals; Fuel, Oil and Lubricants (FOL) for tanks, trucks and other fuel-powered vehicles and equipment; and the forward transport and distribution of ammunition. In the NZ Army, Supplies were managed by the New Zealand Army Service Corps (NZASC) from 1911 to 1979.
Stores – The provisioning, storage and distribution of weapons, munitions and military equipment not managed by RNZASC. Stores were the Responsibility of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC) until 1996.
Despite the separation of responsibilities, the RNZASC and RNZAOC had a long and cooperative relationship.
During early colonial days, the early actions of the New Zealand Wars proved that the New Zealand bush and the elusive tactics of the Māori presented unfamiliar problems of supply and transport. An Imperial Supply and Transport Service was established and operated with the Imperial troops.
From the end of the New Zealand Wars until 1910, there was no unit of ASC in New Zealand, with the supply functions required by the New Zealand Military provided by the Defence Stores Department. However, in 1911 the formation of the Divisional Trains saw the beginnings of the NZASC as part of the Territorial Army. NZASC units served in World War One, during which the NZASC and NZAOC would, especially in the early years of the war, often share personnel, facilities, and transportation.
In 1917 the NZAOC was established as a permanent component of the New Zealand Military Forces, however, it would not be until 1924 that the Permanent NZASC was formed. The alliance between the NZASC and the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was approved in 1925.
The RASC has its roots much deeper in history. Up to the time of Cromwell, armies lived by plunder. The RASC came into being in 1888. but the work it would perform was being done long before that.
Cromwell and then the Duke of Marlborough, and later Napoleon organised a system of civilian commissaries. The Duke of York established the Corps of Royal Waggoners in 1794. This purely transport organisation continued until 1869 under various names, eventually, as the Military Train, fighting as light cavalry in the Indian Mutiny.
The birth of the Supplies and Transport Service dates from 1869. when the Commissariat and the officers of the Military Train along with the Military Stores Department came under one department called the Control Department, it remained for General Sir Redvers Buller, in 1888, to organise the first Army Service Corps. Since its formation, the RASC has been a combatant corps, trained and armed as infantry and responsible for its own protection. Considered a more technical Corps the NZAOC was not granted the status of a combatant Corps until 1942.
During World War Two, many units and establishments represented the NZASC in all the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) theatres. Again, as in the earlier World War, the NZASC would have a cooperative relationship with New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) Ammunition Examiners (AEs) were on the establishments of the RNZASC Ammunition platoons, with NZASC Warrant Officers attached to the NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park (OFP) to provide technical advice on vehicle spares. As a tribute to the service of the NZASC in WW2, the title, “Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps,’’ was bestowed in 1946.
In the post-war era, the NZASC and from 1946 the RNZASC would serve with distinction in J Force in Japan and then contribute the second-largest New Zealand contingent to K Force in Korea by providing 10 Transport Company.
Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the RNZASC would be an integral part of the New Zealand Army. Its functions ranging from the everyday task of cooking and serving food to the more spectacular operation of dropping supplies by air.
To purchase, store, rail, ship, and otherwise distribute the amount of food, fuels and oils needed to supply a modern army, the RNZASC maintained Supply Depots and employed many kinds of tradespeople, including Butchers. Supply Depots located in Papakura, Waiouru, Linton, Trentham, Burnham, and Singapore, holding supplies in bulk and distributing them as required. A section of the RNZASC would be a feature of every army camp with smaller Supply and Transport depots to handle goods received from the central supply depots and provide drivers and transport for many purposes at Devonport/Fort Cautley, Hopuhopu, Papakura, Waiouru. Linton. Trentham, Wellington/Fort Dorset, Christchurch/Addington, and Burnham.
Following the Macleod report that recommended the streamlining of logistic support for the British Army, the RASC merged in 1965 with the Royal Engineers Transportation and Movement Control Service to form the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT). This would see the RASC Supply functions transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). In 1973, following the British lead, the Australians also reformed their Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RAASC) into the Royal Australian Army Corps of Transport (RAACT).
Acknowledging the British and Australian experience, the RNZASC would also undergo a similar transition, and on 12 May 1979, the RNZASC ceased to exist, and its Supply functions transferred to the RNZAOC, while the Transport, Movements and Catering functions were reformed into the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport (RNZCT).
The RNZASC supply functions would be integrated into the RNZAOC, with the Camp Supply Depots becoming NZAOC Supply Platoons numbered as.
14 Supply Platoon, Papakura/Hopuhopu
24 Supply Platoon, Linton
34 Supply Platoon, Burnham
44 Supply Platoon, Waiouru
54 Supply Platoon, Trentham
NZ Supply Platoon, Singapore
In recognition of its long RNZASC service, 21 Supply Company was retained as a Territorial Force(TF) unit, initially as the TF element of 4 Supply Company in Waiouru and later as the TF element of 2 Supply Company, Linton. Today 21 Supply is the main North Island Supply unit of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (RNZALR).
For a brief period following the RNZAOC assumption of Supply functions, some RF and TF RNZAOC would periodically be employed within the RNZCT transport Squadrons Combat Supplies sections.
The RNZAOC Butcher trade inherited from the RNZASC would be discontinued in the mid-1980s, with the last of the butchers reclassifying as RNZAOC Suppliers. By the mid-1990s, it was decided as a cost-saving measure to allow the RNZCT catering staff to order directly from commercial foodstuff suppliers, effectively ending the RNZAOC foodstuffs speciality. The only RNZASC trade speciality remaining in the RNZAOC on its amalgamation into the RNZALR was that of petroleum Operator.
The RNZASC and RNZCT like the RNZAOC, have passed their combined responsibilities to the RNZALR. However, the RNZASC and RNZCT maintain a strong association that provides many benefits and opportunities for comradeship to RNZASC/CT Corps members and past and present members of the RNZALR. Another role of the RNZASC/CT association is to ensure that the rich and significant history of the RNZASC/CT is not lost to the future generations of the RNZALR.
Copies of the RNZASC/CT association newsletter from issue 92 can be viewed here
Serving the nation for 44 years, Henry Erridge served at Gallipoli before being invalided back to New Zealand. Continuing to serve throughout the interbellum, Erridge assisted in shaping the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps for the Second World War. During the war, Erridge played a significant role in providing New Zealand’s contribution to the collective logistics efforts of the British Commonwealth
Henry Earnest Erridge was born in Dunedin on 18 December 1887 to Henry and Jane Erridge. The fifth of seven children, Henry was educated in Dunedin and received commercial training. A keen military volunteer Erridge had joined the Dunedin Engineer Volunteers as a Cadet in 1904, transferring into the Otago Hussars in 1909, gaining Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Rank. On 6 April 1914, Erridge joined the New Zealand Permanent Staff (NZPS) with the rank of Staff Sergeant Instructor as the Orderly Room and Quartermaster (QM), No 15 Area Group, Oamaru.
On the outbreak of war in August 1915, Erridge was seconded for duty with the NZEF and left New Zealand with the Main Body, Otago Infantry Battalion. As a Signals Sergeant in the Otago’s, Erridge saw service during the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February 1915 and later took part in the landings at Gallipoli. Stuck down with enteric fever, Erridge was evacuated from Gallipoli to Alexandria in June and, in August, invalided back to New Zealand for further convalescence.
Returning to duty as a Warrant Officer in the QM Department at Featherston Camp on 10 January 1916, Erridge was appointed Stores Forman responsible for managing the QM Stores accounts for Featherston and its subsidiary camps. Reclassified as Class “A” fit for overseas service on 5 July 1918, it was intended to attach Erridge to a reinforcement draft and returned to the front. Deemed as essential, the Director of Equipment and Ordnance (DEOS) Stores appealed to the Chief of the General Staff, stating that
The accounts of the Camp Quartermaster, Featherston Camp, have not been completed and balanced. The principle causes for this state of affairs are:
(1) The inferior class of clerks posted for Home Service duties. (2) And ever-changing staff, thus throwing the bulk of work on SSM Erridge, who has been employed in the capacity of foreman.
It is essential that SSM Erridge be retained until 1 November at least
Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores to Chief of the General Staff. 14 August 1918
The DEOS appeal was successful, and Erridge was granted authority to delay his placement into a reinforcement draft until November on the proviso that every endeavour was to be made to have all accounts in connection with the QM Branch Featherston and subsidiary camps completed to the satisfaction of the proper authority. Following the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Enridges employment was reassessed, and he was provided orders to remain with the QM Department at Featherston. Seconded to the Ordnance Stores in Wellington in June 1919, Erridge was permanently transferred into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) with Conductor rank on 1 October 1919.
Recommended for the Supplies and Purchasing Officer position with the civil administration in Samoa, Erridge was accepted for service with the Samoan Administration for three years from 24 May 1920. Due to a misunderstanding of the secondment rules, Erridge was discharged from the New Zealand Military. However, this was reviewed, and the discharge was rescinded, allowing Erridge to retain his rank and seniority on return to New Zealand.
Completing his service in Samoa in August 1923, Erridge returned to New Zealand and, following three months leave, resumed duty with the NZAOC, where he was posted to the Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) and placed in charge of the Stores on 1 December 1923. In an example of his experience and utility, Erridge temporally relieved Captain F.E Ford, the Ordnance Officer of Featherston Camp, over the period 4-31 Jan 1924.
During the 1920s, the Quartermaster General (QMG) vested command of the NZAOC to the Director of Ordnance Service (DOS). Assisted by the Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), the Inspecting Ordnance Officer (IOO), and the Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME), the DOS was responsible for:
The provision, receipt, storage, distribution, repair, examination, and maintenance of small-arms, machine guns, vehicles, clothing and necessaries, equipment and general stores (including medical and veterinary), and camp and barrack equipment,
The inspection and repair of armament and warlike stores, and the inspection of gun ammunition.
The provision, receipt, storage, and distribution of small arms ammunition.
The receipt, storage, issue, and repair of fixed armament, field armament, and artillery vehicles.
The organisation and control of ordnance workshops
The preparation and periodic revision of Equipment Regulations and barrack and hospital schedules
The organisation, administration, and training of the NZ Army Ordnance Corps Forces
The maintenance of statistics of the Ordnance Department.
The DOS was also the Commanding Officer (CO) of the NZAOC and was responsible for the interior economy, including enlistment, training, pay, promotion, postings transfers, clothing, equipment, and discharges within the unit.
In 1924 the incumbent DOS, Lt Col Pilkington, was appointed QMG in Army Headquarters. Major T.J King, then acting COO, was appointed DOS, with Major William Ivory acting as the IOO and OME. By 1925 King recognised that he could not provide complete justice to both the DOS and COO posts, but with no Ordnance Officers immediately available to fill the COO position, he recommended that the QMG give some relief by granting Erridge an officer’s commission. In his recommendation to the QMG, King noted that
Conductor Erridge is a man of wide experience in Ordnance duties and stores works generally and is eminently fitted for appointment as Ordnance Officer with the rank of lieutenant. He is a man of unblemished character, with a very high regard for the interests of the Corps and the services, and in the last few months gained sufficient insight into the duties I propose transferring him to.
Director of Ordnance Stores to Quartermaster General 11 December 1925
The QMG supported King’s recommendation on the proviso that Erridge pass all the required commissioning examinations. On passing the examinations needed, Erridge was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the NZAOC on 23 July 1926. However, the question then arose of where to place Erridge on to the Army List. Technically the COO appointment was still vacant with Erridge for all intents acting as King’s assistant and only performing part of the COO duties with the work of the COO divided between King and Erridge. It was not desired to add to the establishment an Assistant COO, so it was decided to show Erridge as Ordnance Officer (Provision). Following several years as the Ordnance Officer (Provision), Erridge was appointed to the dual roles of Ordnance Officer MOD and Ordnance Officer Central Military District (CMD) on 14 May 1929.
In December 1930, the incumbent Ordnance Officer Southern Military District (SMD)and Camp Commandant of Burnham Camp, Captain A.R.C White, faced compulsory retirement. To allow some continuity while White’s replacement was decided, Erridge was temporarily sent to Burnham. Although initially only a temporary posting, Erridge remained at Burnham until 1934 in the dual roles of Ordnance Officer SMD and Officer in Charge Burnham Camp (Camp Commandant).
By 1935 in his role of DOS, King was looking forward and preparing his organisation for war. In a submission to the General Headquarters, King requested authority to reorganise his staff. Regarding Erridge, King started.
Owing to the large amount of new equipment that is on order and is likely to be ordered soon, it is essential that the staff of the Ordnance Depot, Trentham, be strengthened to the extent that I should again have the assistance of my most experienced Ordnance Officer.
There is a great deal of work of a technical nature in connection with mobilisation, rewriting of Regulations, etc., which I am unable to find time to carry out myself, and which Mr Erridge, by virtue of his long experience and training, is well qualified to undertake. This work is most necessary and should be put in hand as soon as possible; I have no other Officer to whom I could delegate it.
Again, King’s recommendations were accepted, and on 30 June 1934, Erridge relinquished his Burnham appointments and was appointed as the Ordnance Officer (Provision) at the MOD, with promotion to Captain following on 1 December 1934.
When the war was declared in September 1939, the NZAOC underwent a significant transformation as its mobilisation plans were implemented. The DOS, Lieutenant Colonel King, was seconded to the 2nd NZEF as the Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (DDOS). Accompanying King was a small staff drawn from the military and civilian staff of the NZAOC who formed the nucleus of the Ordnance Corps in the 2nd NZEF. Kings’ responsibilities of DOS and COO were handed over to the Ordnance Officer CMD, Lt Col Burge.
On 2 December 1939, Erridge relinquished the appointment of Ordnance Officer (Provision), was granted the Rank of temporary Major and posted to Army HQ with substantive Major confirmed in February 1940. In June 1940, the NZAOC underwent further reorganisation when Lt Col Burge relinquished the appointment of DOS when he was appointed as Deputy QMG in Army HQ with the position of DOS placed into abeyance for the duration of the war. Appointed as Staff Officer Ordnance and CO of the NZAOC, Erridge took over responsibility for the NZAOC.
With the national economy transitioning from peacetime to a war footing, the Government took a series of initiatives to ensure international trade and commerce security. Representing the New Zealand Military, Erridge accompanied the New Zealand Minister of Supply and a small entourage of officials of the New Zealand Munitions and Supply Delegation on a tour of Australia for a series of talks with their Australian counterparts in July/August 1940.
While the mission of the New Zealand Munitions and Supply Delegation to Australia was focused on strengthening cooperation between New Zealand and Australia, the Eastern Group Conference held in Delhi in October 1940 had the broader goal of organising a joint war supply policy for the countries of the “Eastern Group.” The countries represented at the Eastern Group Conference included the United Kingdom, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, East Africa, Palestine, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, and Hong Kong, with the Government of the Netherlands East Indies attending as observers. The New Zealand delegation included.
The Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Sir John Duigan,
Major H. E. Erridge,
Mr F. R. Picot, Director of the Internal Marketing Department,
Mr J. R. Middleton, assistant-Secretary of supply,
Mr B. Taylor, assistant to the chief investigating officer of the Treasury Department.
As a result of the October conference, the Eastern Group Supply Council (EGSC) was established to coordinate and optimise the production and distribution of war materiel in the British colonies and dominions in the Eastern Hemisphere. The New Zealand members of the council who were to be based in New Delhi were.
Mr F.R Picot, Director of Internal Marketing and Food Controller,
Mr W.G.M Colquhoun (Munitions Department).
Mr R.J Inglis (Supply Department).
Mr R.H. Wade (of the Treasury).
A Central Provisions Office (Eastern) was also set up in Delhi, with national offices established in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, East Africa, Southern Rhodesia and the Middle East. The Central Provision Office (Eastern) was a military organisation consisting of about 40 to 50 Army officers from all countries constituting the Eastern Group. Headed by the Controller-General of Army Provisions, who was also the military member of the EGSC and acted as the agent of the Imperial General Staff and various Commanders in Chief. The role of the Central Provision Office (Eastern) was coordinating with the controllers of the national provision offices to obtain military stores to maintain the British and Commonwealth war effort. From March 1941, Two NZAOC Officers, Temporary Major D. L. Lewis and Lieutenant D.I Strickland were attached to the Central Provision Office (Eastern) staff in New Delhi.
Before the Central Provision Office (Eastern) assumed complete provision control, it was necessary for all the controllers of the national provision offices to meet to ensure that uniform procedures were adopted. A coordination conference for the various Provision Group Controllers was held at New Delhi in July 1941, with Erridge attending as New Zealand’s military representative. Based on this conference, on 5 August 1941, the New Zealand War Cabinet approved the establishment of the New Zealand Defence Servicers Provision Officer (DSPO), with Erridge appointed as its Controller with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant Colonel. Relinquishing the appointment of Staff Officer Ordnance and handing over the Commanding Officer NZAOC duties to Major E.L.G Bown, the COO MOD.
By April 1945, the DSPO thought Central Provision Group (Eastern) had shipped for the British Ministry of Supply equipment to the value of £10,000,000 (2021 NZD $8,988,577,362.41) with additional equipment to the value of £8,520,761 (2021 NZD $765,895,194.35) that was surplus to the requirements of NZ Forces overseas transferred to the War office. During a visit to New Zealand in January 1946, Major-General R.P Pakenham-Walsh, CB, MC., a member of the Eastern Group Supply Council and the Central Provision Office(Eastern), stated that “Stores from New Zealand which had been made available to the Eastern Group Supply Council had been of great importance in the prosecution of the war” adding that “the Dominion’s contribution had compared more than favourably with that of various larger countries.” Following the surrender of Germany in April and Japan’s defeat in August 1945, the Eastern Group Supply Council and Central Provision Office, although serving their purpose well, had become irrelevant and were dissolved on 31 March 1946. However, it took two years for the DSPO to transition to a peacetime footing. Seconded to the War Asset Realisation Board (WARB) on 1 May 1947, Erridge started to wind down the work of the DSPO while also coordinating the disposal of equipment through the WARB. On 17 December 1948, Erridge handed over the remaining stocks to the WARB and closed the DSPO.
At 62 years of age and following 45 years of volunteer, Territorial and Regular service, Erridge retired from the New Zealand Army and was placed onto the Retired List with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 29 May 1949. Never marrying, Erridge spent his retirement in his hometown of Dunedin. On 30 March 1962, a resident of the Dunedin’s Ross Home, Erridge, passed away at 74. Following his wishes, he was cremated, and his ashes scattered.
Throughout his service, Erridge was awarded the following decorations
NZ Long Service and Efficient Service (1925)
British War Medal
War Medal 1939-45
NZ War Medal, 193-45
 Archives New Zealand, “Henry Earnest Erridge- Ww1 8/1004, NZAOC 888, Ww2 800245, 30293,” Personal File, Record no R24097640 (1904-1948): 2708.
 “Regulations for the Military Forces of the Dominion of New Zealand,” New Zealand Gazette, May 19, 1927.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations and Transfers of Officers of the NZ Military Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 61, 19 July 1926.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Resignations and Transfer of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 48, 27 June 1929.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 16, 5 March 1931.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 55, 19 July 1934.;”Appointment, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers from the NZ Forces,” New Zealand Gazette No 87, 29 November 1935.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 1, 11 Jan 1940.;”Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 75 (1940).
 “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Retirements of Officers of the NZ Forces “, New Zealand Gazette No 70 (1940).
 “Unity in War Effort,” Evening Star, Issue 23622, 8 July 1940.
 East Africa consisting of the territories of (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland; Bertram Stevens, “The Eastern Group Supply Council,” The Australian Quarterly 13, no. 3 (1941).
 “Eastern Group Supply Council,” Otago Daily Times, Issue 24640, 23 June 1941.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Retirements of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces.,” New Zealand Gazette, No 30, 9 April 1941.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Retirements of Officers of the New Zealand Military Forces.,” New Zealand Gazette, No 74, 11 September 1941.
 “War Supplies,” Evening Post, Volume CXXXIX, Issue 126, 30 May 1945.
 “Production Problems,” Evening Star, Issue 25690, 14 January 1946.
 “Supplies – the Eastern Group Supply Council,” Northern Advocate, 1 April 1946, 1 April 1946.
 “Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Resignations, of Officers of the New Zealand Army “, New Zealand Gazette No 37, 16 June 1949.
Today Tikao Bay is a calm, peaceful little bay with a laid-back holiday vibe hidden away in Akaroa Harbour with few clues remaining of its military use and the tragic drowning of two Ordnance soldiers.
During World War Two, with the threat of invasion by Japan just over the horizon, the isolated Akaroa Harbour was fortified to deny its use by the enemy. However, by the time the battery of 6-inch guns, Naval Armament Depot and controlled minefield was completed in 1943, the threat had diminished, with the defences becoming an expensive white elephant. In early 1944 The controlled minefield was fired, and all the navy stores at the Tikao Bay Naval Armament Depot were transferred to other installations and facilities offered to the army.
The extensive facilities at Tikao Bay, including a mine magazine, examination room, primer magazine wharf and accommodation buildings, were taken over by the Southern District’s Ordnance Depot at Burnham Camp in 1944 as a satellite storage depot for Gun and Artillery Equipment. With an initial establishment of seven men in 1944, this had been reduced by 1955 to two soldiers responsible for the storage and maintenance of the equipment held at Tikao Bay.
Staff Sergeant Frederick Hastings Kirk aged 52, was married with three children and had been the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the Tikao Bay depot since 1950. Staff Sergeant Kirk had joined the Ordnance Depot at Burnham in 1939 as a civilian before enlisting into the 2nd NZEF early in 1940. As a Temporary Warrant Officer Class Two in 23 Battalion, Kirk was taken prisoner at Crete in 1941 and remained a Prisoner of War for four and a half years. On his return to New Zealand, he joined the temporary staff and was posted to the Ordnance Depot at Burnham. In 1948 he became a member of the Regular Force and transferred to Tikao Bay in 1950.
Private Donald George Dixon was aged 28 and was married with three children. Private Dixon initially served with the ammunition inspection branch after his 1953 enlistment and was transferred to the Tikao Bay Depot in October 1953.
On Tuesday, 10 March 1955, on completion of their daily duties, Kirk and Dixon left the depot at about 7 pm to check a set net approximately 200 yards (183 Meters) from the Tikao bay jetty. Having not returned by 11 pm, the police were notified, and Constable Egan of Akaroa and Mr G Brasell undertook an initial search. At 3 am Wednesday, Egan and Brasell located the missing men’s upturned dingy at the high-water mark near the set net, which was still in position. Reinforced with a party from Burnham Camp, local residents, and the police, the search for the missing men continued for the rest of the week.
Private Dixon’s body was located and recovered from the harbour on Saturday morning. The search for Staff Sergeants Kirks’ body continued with his body found on 18 March. It was assumed that a southerly wind had risen after the two men left the depot, causing the dingy to capsize with the coroner’s report ruling the deaths as asphyxia by drowning due to misadventure.
Tikao Bay remained as an Army installation and training area into the early 1970s; however, its role as a storage depot ceased in the 1960s as the army progressively disposed of the remaining artillery equipment held there.
 Sydney D. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs War History Branch Waters, The Royal New Zealand Navy (Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Dept of Internal Affairs, 1956), 229-36.
 “Establishments – Ordnance Corps “, Archives New Zealand No R22441743 (1937 – 1946).
As New Zealand’s Army’s central stock holding unit, 1 Base Supply Battalion(1BSB) was responsible for managing and providing depot-level storage of New Zealand’s Military’s stock of land equipment and spares. Despite having this responsibility since 1920, 1BSB and its predecessors had always struggled with providing suitable warehousing infrastructure and made do with the available storage infrastructure.
With no purpose-built storage accommodation, from 1920 to 1940, the NZAOC Main Ordnance Depot (MOD) utilised up to one hundred camp administrative and accommodation structures as its primary means of warehousing. Relief was provided in 1938 when contracts were issued to construct a modern warehouse utilising the most modern of methods and materials. The New warehouse, later known as Building 73, was constructed using reinforced concrete and designed with nine bays that allowed the loading and unloading of Trains on one side and Motor Transport on the other. The design and layout of building 73 were utilised as the model for new warehouses constructed at Burnham, Hopuhopu and Waiouru.
Although Building 73 provided a considerable increase in storage capability, wartime demands soon necessitated further increases in storage infrastructure, resulting in the construction of Building 74. Building 74 and the warehouses constructed in Burnham and Waiouru were close facsimiles of building 73, with the main exception that it was constructed out of wood instead of reinforced concrete due to wartime constraints.
The wartime expansion of the New Zealand military saw the MOD exponentially expand to cope with the influx of military material with additional buildings constructed in Trentham and sub-depots also established a Mangere, Wanganui, Linton Camp, Gracefield and Wellington.
Peace in 1945 brought little respite as stocks were centralised at the MOD, requiring further expansion of the MOD warehousing infrastructure. To meet this need, five warehouses that were built for the United States Forces at Lower Hutt were disassembled and re-erected at Trentham by September 1945. Additionally, the RNZAF Stores Depot constructed at Mangaroa in 1943 was handed over to the MOD in 1949.
Over the next forty years, the warehousing infrastructure at Trentham changed little, with a 1985 NZDF report identifying many deficiencies leading to significant upgrading of Trentham’s warehousing infrastructure.
In one of the most significant warehousing infrastructure investments since 1939 and the first modern warehouse built for the RNZAOC since 1972, Building 75, a high stud warehouse capable of holding 3700 pallets, opened in 1988. Although a significant advancement in warehousing capability, the new warehouse had limited space for outsized items. Additionally, many other warehousing functions, such as packing and traffic, remained in Building 73, so further work was required to enhance the functionality of 1BSBs entire warehousing capability.
With trains no longer utilised for the delivery and dispatching of stores, the rail lines between Building 73 and 74 had long been redundant. By removing the rail line and raising the ground level between the two buildings, providing additional storage space of almost two square kilometres, protected from the elements by a 200 x 13-meter roof, was created. At the southern end, a loading ramp was constructed to allow the loading and unloading of trucks, with angled ramps at either end allowing the movement of vehicles along the length of the new storage area. Opened on 2 November 1989, the new warehouse was christened “the Cave.” The Cave allowed the more efficient transfer of stores to and from the storage areas in Buildings 73, 74 and 75 to the receipt, selecting, packing and issuing bays in Building 73.
The additional storage space allowed the storage of outsized items which had previously been stored at the Mangaroa Depot, which was subsequently decommissioned and handed over to NZDF Property Services.
The optimisation of storage space between the two buildings was so successful a similar modification was constructed between two of 21 Supply Company’s 1950s-era Warehouses at Linton, creating much-needed storage and office space.
 “New Army Ordnance Block Now under Construction at One of the Military Camps,” Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 65, 14 Sept 1939.
 F Grattan, Official War History of the Public Works Department (PWD, 1948).
 “Organisation – Policy and General – Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1946-1984,” Archives New Zealand Item No R17311537 (1946).
 “Assessment and Audit – Audit Files –  – NZDF Bulk Warehousing,” Archives New Zealand Item No R24596003 (1985).
Of all the Ammunition magazine areas constructed in New Zealand during the Second World War, the Belmont magazine area nestled in the hills north of Wellington between the Hutt and Porirua was the largest and closest to a large population area. In the early 1970s, following the removal, disassembly for scrap, and destruction of its stocks, Belmont’s life as a magazine area concluded with the land reverting to civilian use. As with any retired military facility kept out of the public eye during its operational life, urban legends and rumours thrive about secret tunnels and forgotten caches of buried military material. In this respect, Belmont is no different as items such as empty 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft projectiles are occasionally discovered, fuelling such rumours. Although there is little evidence to support the stories and urban legends, Belmont does have some secrets from its wartime past. The most significant is that Belmont was the home to the bulk of New Zealand’s chemical weapon stockpile.
As the threat of war with Japan became inevitable in 1940, the New Zealand Government initiated a full mobilisation of New Zealand’s home defence forces. By early 1942 this mobilisation saw two Infantry Brigades deployed to Fiji and Three Divisions and several independent Brigades mobilised for home defence.
This massive mobilisation initiated a rearmament program resulting in vast amounts of war material from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States being delivered to New Zealand. Included as part of the infusion of new weapons and equipment were the required scales of ammunition required for each type of weapon system. Ammunition scales used by New Zealand were based upon the standard British scales. They included all the ammunition natures needed by New Zealand for use in the Pacific and home defence, including Anti-Tank, High-Explosive, Smoke and a stockpile of Chemical rounds consisting of,
112,770 25-Pounder Chemical rounds, and
10,300 4.2-inch B4 (Tear) and Y4(Blister) chemical mortar bombs.
With consignments of ammunition due to arrive in New Zealand in late 1942, construction of the new ammunition magazine areas had been initiated in 1940, with the construction of the Belmont Magazine Area beginning in September 1942. The Belmont Magazine Area consisted of sixty-two Magazine buildings, with buildings 28 and 29 dedicated to holding chemical rounds from late 1943.
All the 4.2inch Bombs were stored at Belmont with the recommended distribution of the 25-Pounder chemical rounds,
30,000 rounds to the Northern Military District
30,000 rounds to the Southern Military District
52,770 rounds to the Central Military District Belmont Depot
However, records are uncertain if this distribution occurred, so it is quite probable that the entire stock of 25-Pounder ammunition was held at Belmont.
The New Zealand Stockpile was significant as a lethal percutaneous dose of mustard was 4.5 gm. With 300 tons of the agent in the NZ stockpile, the potential lethal doses held in Belmont were approximately 60 million. To put the size of the stockpile in context, it was equal to 5% of the United States Stockpile in 1993.
The use of Chemical Weapons was highly controlled and only to be used in retaliation if the enemy used it first. Although US forces on Guadalcanal had captured some Japanese Chemical Weapons, the NZ Deputy Chiefs of Staff were confident that there did ‘not appear to be any other or greater evidence that the Japanese propose to use gas in this area’. However, it is believed that 3 NZ Div did deploy with Chemical rounds for their 25-pounders just in case.
If Chemical rounds were deployed with the 3 NZ Div, they were returned to New Zealand in 1944 and stored at the Kelms Road Depot at Ngaruawahia alongside the other natures of ammunition utilised by the Division.
Following the war, the disposal of wartime ammunition became a standing task for the RNZAOC Ammunition functions as damaged, obsolete, and surplus stocks were disposed of by a variety of methods.
Ammunition that was damaged was often disposed of by demolition; for example, the destruction of 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft ammunition issued to units and returned to Depots took up to 1957 to complete.
The stockpile of chemical munitions was dumped at sea, with two dumping operations found in archival sources.
Two hundred tons of chemical shells scuttled on the tug Maui Pomare at the 100-fathom line in the Hauraki Gulf in April 1946.
One thousand five hundred tons of 25-Pounder chemical shells and twenty tons of bombs had been dumped by the Marine Department steamer Matai off the Wellington coast by October 1946.
Stock from the Belmont magazine area was delivered by Army personnel to the wharf at the RNZAF base at Shelly Bay in lots of 250 Tons and loaded onto the Marine Department steamer Matai. All possible safety precautions were applied with each crew member was issued protective capes, respirators and gloves. With special chutes constructed, cases of shells were jettisoned fifty Nautical miles off the Wellington coast in the Cook Strait Canyon, which reaches depths of three kilometres.
The dumping of the Chemical munitions was well publicised, with newspaper articles describing the disposal operation;
Stored since 1943, 1500 tons of gas shells are to be dumped at sea by the Matai. Fuses have been removed from the 25lb shells that contain the gas, but to ensure that there is no risk to those carrying out the work, full Admiralty and War Office safeguards will, be taken. The gas is of the blister variety. The boxes containing the shells will be filled with sand to guard against possible leakages. Each box is painted with a substance that will indicate even a pinpoint of escaped gas.
Northern Advocate, 18 September 1946
Although the archival records that at least 15,220 tons of Chemical munitions had been dumped at sea by the end of 1946, there is no accurate reconciliation of the actual number of rounds disposed of. However, it is a reasonable assumption that New Zealand had no desire to maintain a contingency stock of Chemical weapons and that all wartime stocks were disposed of by the end of 1946.
 F Grattan, Official War History of the Public Works Department (PWD, 1948).
 “Defence Works – Magazine – Belmont Hills,” Archives New Zealand Item No R22435088 (1942).
 “H-19 Military Forces of New Zealand Annual Report of the General Officer Commanding, for period 1 April 1957 to 31 March 1958,” Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (3 July 1958 1958).
 “Ammunition – Disposal of unserviceable ammunition 1945-1952,” Archives New Zealand Item No R21465842 (1945).
 A Hubbard, “Chemical War: Our seabed legacy,” New Zeland Listener, 16 January 1993.
This article is republished with the permission of the Facebook page “Upper Hutt War Stories“. Upper Hutt War Stories is a Facebook page dedicated to commemorating the war service of Upper Hutt’s citizens and those with strong connections to the City. It remembers those who put their lives on the line for the defence of our Nation.
Buried beneath a weathered brass plaque in the graveyard of Trentham’s St John’s church is a former Commander of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. A veteran of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force North Africa and Italian campaigns, he was wounded in action and continued to serve as a Territorial Force officer after the War.
Born in Petone, Don Harper attended Wellington College, where he was exposed to military life as a member of the school’s cadet corps for six years. After leaving school and graduating from Victoria University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in accounting, he joined the public service as a clerk with the National Provident Fund in 1932.
When the Second World War broke out Don was living with his parents in Russell Street, Upper Hutt and working as an auditor with the Government’s Audit Department. He enlisted straight away, entering camp at Trentham on 3 October 1939 as a Private with the 4th Reserve Motor Transport Company. A week later he was sent on the Potential Officers Course, and after six weeks training was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Don was subsequently posted to the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham for training and departed Wellington for the Middle East on 5 January 1940. He was attached to the headquarters of the 2nd New Zealand Division as they established themselves at Maadi in Egypt, and at the beginning of June 1940 was promoted to Lieutenant.
The New Zealand Division had seen little action up to this point and Don was active helping establish the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s Base Ordnance Depot at Maadi Camp in September 1940. Promoted to Temporary Captain to fill the Base Ordnance Officer post, he remained with the Depot in Egypt for almost a year, missing out on the campaigns in Greece and Crete.
Then at the beginning of August 1941, Don was posted back to the headquarters of the 2nd New Zealand Division to be Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) in the rank of Temporary Major. This was a critical logistics role resupplying the Division and marked a stunningly quick progression from private to major in less than two years.
Don experienced the realities of warfare for the first time in November 1941, when the Division was attached to the newly formed 8th Army and attempted to relieve the beleaguered garrison at Tobruk. Despite losing all their tank support the Kiwis succeeded in reaching Tobruk, but suffered horrendous casualties in what was described as some of the hardness fighting of the War at Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed, when Rommel’s Africa Corps counterattacked.
Withdrawn to Suez to recover and retrain, Don and the 2nd New Zealand Division were subsequently rushed to Syria in February 1942, to protect against an Axis invasion of the Northeastern flank. But in April he was back in Cairo, where he married Elisabeth Rothschild in a short ceremony. Don and Elisabeth were fortunate to be able to spend time together, as in May he was posted back to Maadi.
Don took over command of the New Zealand Engineers and Ordnance Training Depot, where he was responsible for training reinforcements. Then two months later he was posted as Deputy Director Ordnance Services with 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force headquarters and base depot. His efforts in helping establish and maintain the New Zealand contribution to the campaign were recognised with a mention in despatches on 15 December 1942.
After the fighting in North Africa came to a close, Don was deployed to Italy in October 1943. He arrivied at Taranto as the Kiwis began operations against the Germans, and was tasked with conducting a review of New Zealand Division ordnance support. He recommended a significant reorganisation, including establishing a new base deport at Bari, as an extension of the main depot back in Egypt.
Promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel, Don was appointed Assistant Director Ordnance Services in March 1944, and worked in resupplying the 2nd New Zealand Division in action at Cassino. In early June he was caught in an enemy artillery barrage and received shrapnel wounds in his back. Fortunately, the wounds were light, and once the small chunks of metal were removed under local anesthetic he returned to his unit.
At the end of 1944 Don was told that due to his lengthy war service and changes to the furlough scheme he would be returned home. Appointed commander of the returning draft he boarded ship with his wife and their young child, arriving in New Zealand on 3 January 1945, where he reverted in rank to Major.
Don was advised that his services were no longer required and that he could return to civilian life. However, he chose instead to be the posted to the New Zealand Temporary Staff in the rank of Captain in April 1945 and continued contributing to the war effort. In July he was advised he had received a second mention in despatches, this time for his services in Italy.
Considered unfit for deployment to the tropics due to service induced hearing loss, Don served at the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham Camp until the end of the War, when he was posted to the retired list in the Rank of Major. He then returned to his life as an accountant and auditor, and moved his family to Lower Hutt.
Continuing to serve in the Territorial Army, Don was formally promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 December 1948 and appointed Commander Royal New Zealand Ordnance Corps. He served in this part time role with the headquarters of the 1st New Zealand Division based out of Linton until October 1951, when the death of his business partner and failing health forced his resignation.
Don remained proud of his time in the military throughout his life, and after passing away in 2002 he was buried in a family plot at St John’s Church with his wife, under a plaque commemorating his war service. A key member of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force for an extended period of the North Africa and Italy campaigns, his grave gives little indication of the scale of this contribution. Lest we forget.
In the period between the world wars, Britain analysed the lessons of the Great War and, looking forward, realised that the next war was not to 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 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 took Britain’s lead and, from the mid-1930s, began reorganising and reequipping New Zealand’s Military in tune with emerging British doctrine. New Zealand’s entry into the war in September 1939 initiated 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 was the Light Aid Detachments (LAD). Providing first-line repair to formations and Units, LADs provided 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 progressively transformed 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 smoothed the path to mobilisation. In addition to the doctrine published in the FSRs, 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 LADs
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 relied 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 raised fifty-six LADs in three distinct tranches between 1940 and 1943, consisting of
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force – Ninteen LADs
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific – Seven LADs
Home Defence – Thirty-One LADs
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 saw 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 the 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 in November 1940. 14 Infantry Brigade Group reinforced 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, 36 LAD remained as the LAD for the new Fiji Brigade that was about to be formed. In March 1943, eight members of 36 LAD deployed with the Fijian Brigade to Bougainville. On 1 May 1944, 36 LAD was renamed the Recovery Section, Brigade Mobile Workshops, Fiji Military Forces.
The bulk of the NZEFIP was reorganised as the 3rd New Zealand Division, with the NZOC commitment expanding into 23 units and detachments, including six LADs 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.