Australian Mobile Laundry Trailers

In the early years of the Second World War, the United Kingdom was unable to provide Australia with the necessary military hardware to equip a rapidly expanding Australian Army.  The following two articles; For Want of Clean Socks: The Australian Mobile Laundry Trailers and And More Clean Socks: The Australian Light Laundry Trailer by Australian military historian and authority on the technical history of vehicles and equipment,  Michael K Cecil, examine how Australian industry stepped up to provide the Australian Army Ordnance Corps with a Mobile Laundry capability. First published in the Australian  Khaki Vehicle Enthusiasts Newsletter the KVE News of March 2013 these articles are Published with the permission of the author, Michael K Cecil.Copyright Michael K Cecil

For Want of Clean Socks: The Australian Mobile Laundry Trailers

1

Laundry the hard way: scrubbing by hand in a basin of water.

Keeping clothing and bedding clean is only second in importance to good food and clean water when it comes to maintaining an Army’s health and morale. To this end, Laundry Units have been an integral part of the Australian Army’s Order of Battle since the First World War. But the early days of the Second World War heralded a change from the semi-static trench warfare of the First World War to a much more mechanised and fluid war – a war on wheels and tracks where gains or losses might be measured in tens of kilometres in a day. Any unit operating in a forward area had best be prepared to move quickly in response to changes in the tactical situation.

Mobile laundry facilities were first given serious consideration by the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (2AIF) in mid-1940, and by the Australian Military Forces (AMF) later the same year. Initial equipment was to be provided by purchase from Britain in line with the policy of adopting British Army standardised equipment wherever possible. However, Britain was unable to supply the laundry equipment in a timely manner or in the quantities required, so the Army turned to local industry to bridge the gap.

By late 1940, orders had been placed for the supply of various commercially available laundry equipment, in order to assemble a pilot model mobile laundry for trials. Several Australian companies from across the nation were contracted – Robert Bryce for the washing machine, Robert Lilley and Co. for the hydro-extractor and the soap and soda dissolver, Burtons Ltd for the tumble dryer, Cameron and Sutherland supplied centrifugal pumps, and a clarifier was supplied by the Perth-based firm Boltons Ltd. An entirely new device, a continuous drying machine, was being designed by the Land Headquarters Experimental Workshop, who would also assemble the pilot model laundry trailers. Power for each complete laundry was to be supplied by a 25kva, 415 Volt, three-phase AC generator mounted on a four wheel trailer. This was already an issue item, so procuring one for the pilot model laundry did not present a problem.

The equipment had all arrived at the workshop by the close of July 1941, except for the trailers. These were in extremely short supply owing to a higher priority demand for machinery trailers. The workshop went ahead and began assembling the laundry as a static unit – at least the components could be tested and their inter-relationship could be worked out within the trailer’s known dimensions in the interim.

And they were desperately needed. By February 1941, sixteen mobile laundry units were allowed for on the Australian Army’s Order of Battle – six for the 2nd AIF, and ten for a fully mobilised AMF, each one attached to an individual higher formation. Of those for the 2nd AIF, 5 were needed overseas. The 8 th Infantry Division in Malaya were in the greatest need, so the pilot model laundry – still not mounted on trailers – was sent to Malaya, along with some additional commercially available equipment, to provide a static laundry facility. Tropical conditions were already proving to be particularly hard on troops, and regular changes of clothing and bed linen helped keep tropical diseases, particularly skin rashes, in check.

By the time the pilot model’s equipment left for Malaya in September 1941, the mobile laundry design was well advanced. In anticipation of receiving trailers, contracts for the supply of the various major components were issued to suppliers. There was even a contract for the woven rattan trolley baskets, with Lawries Ltd engaged to manufacture enough sets for 11 mobile laundries.

Assembly of the first mobile laundry was to be undertaken by Robert Lilley and Co., but the supply of the trailers was still proving something of a problem. It was overcome by supplying machinery trailers that then had to be converted: hardly an ideal solution, but the only one available under the prevailing circumstances. The stripped machinery trailers were delivered to Lilleys in late April, 1942.

2

A Mobile Hospital laundry set up, with the boiler trailer set at right angles to the other 4 trailers. The trailer sides are dropped to the horizontal and used as the walkways and working area. The boiler trailer is the specially built McGrath model with the stepped bed construction to provide maximum height for the vertical boiler. AWM140751. Copyright expired.

By mid June 1942, good progress was being made on the construction of the pilot model mobile laundry at Robert Lilley and Co in West Melbourne. Trailer brake modifications were well advanced at Patons Brakes, and the McGrath Trailer Co had completed a new trailer specifically for the boiler assembly after the converted machinery trailer proved unsatisfactory. In anticipation of successful trials, contracts had also been placed with various manufacturers for laundry components, such was the urgent need to supply completed laundries to field units. The contractors list was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the Australian light manufacturing industry at the time: Andrew & Higgs, Gordon Brothers, Lawries Ltd, Johnsons Tyne Foundry, and L Horscroft & Co., to name a few.

A fully equipped divisional mobile laundry consisted of 9 trailers of equipment, each one towed by a 3- ton truck or lorry. There were four washing machine trailers, two boiler and feed water trailers, two trailers equipped with a generator and tumble dryer (the dedicated generator trailer had been abandoned in favour of combining it with a dryer in a more compact layout), and a continuous drying room trailer. They were designed to be parked in a line and interconnected by the various pipe work and electrical cabling. The trailers’ lower sides were designed to fold out horizontally to provide working room and facilitate movement of staff and trolleys laden carrying washing between trailers. The upper wire mesh sides were hinged at the top, allowing them to be raised to the horizontal to provide an all round awning over the workspace.

3

Feeding the laundry boiler to provide hot water and steam for washing, and heat for the continuous dryer. The boiler had the versatility to be fired by wood or, in the tropics where dry wood was not available, quickly converted to a petrol-fed ‘hydra burner’. AWM055382 Copyright expired.

4

Baskets full of linen waiting to be washed. A mobile laundry’s work was never done! The near trailer houses the drum-type washing machine and to its right, a ‘hydro-extractor’ is being loaded from the trolley basket. The hydro-extractor was a machine that performed the ‘spin’ cycle of a modern washing machine. AWM026376. Copyright expired.

The Unit was manned by 3 officers and 118 other ranks, and the washing capacity was 400 pounds weight (181 kilograms) of dry clothing and linen per hour. Manning was based upon a sustained operation of two 8 hour shifts per day, 6 days per week, but greater output was possible if operated with more staff on a three shift rotation. For attachment to hospitals, a Hospital Mobile Laundry Unit was created. This was essentially a ‘half laundry’, consisting of five trailers: 2 washing machine, 1 each boiler and generator/tumble dryer trailer, and a drying room.

By early 1943, mobile laundry equipment manufactured by Australian industry was flowing to field units. Divisional Units were attached to higher formations located across Australia and in New Guinea, and Hospital laundry units were taking over from the older and far less efficient technology being employed at General Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations in Northern Australia and New Guinea.

5

A ‘flat head’ V8 working hard to spin the generator to provide all the power needs of the Mobile Laundry Unit. The other end of the same trailer housed a tumble dryer unit. AWM027631. Copyright expired

While these large capacity laundries were hard at work satisfying the never-ending requirements for clean linen and uniforms in larger formations and medical facilities, experience in the tropics during 1942 had demonstrated a need to constantly provide front line troops with clean clothes whenever possible, both for health and morale reasons. But the Mobile and Hospital laundries were just too far in the rear and too unwieldy to be safely moved further into the combat zone. Consequently, there was a desperate need for a lighter, more compact laundry for deployment as far forward into the combat zone as possible. Consequently, there was a desperate need for a lighter, more compact laundry for deployment as far forward into the combat zone as possible. The following article covers the Australian ‘Light Laundry’,

 

And More Clean Socks: The Australian Light Laundry Trailer

While the multi-trailer Mobile and Hospital laundries served the rear areas well, there was still a desperate need for a lighter, more compact laundry for deployment as far forward into the combat zone as possible. Troops operating anywhere need to maintain their clothes and equipment, but suffice to say, combat conditions often preclude anything more than the most basic of attention to this. While troops could survive quite well operating in the dry conditions of the Middle East, Greece and North Africa, the tropics meant dealing with a whole new regime of endlessly wet, muddy and humid conditions, together with the prevalence of some debilitating tropical diseases. Such conditions could rapidly reduce an army’s fighting effectiveness. Hence, the provision of clothes washing and decontamination facilities for front line troops and forward medical facilities such as Casualty Clearing Stations became almost as important as good food and shelter.

To provide washing facilities, the mobile showering unit, wholly mounted in a ¼ ton truck, was invented. To wash and decontaminate their clothes, the Australian Light Laundry was devised. The design work commenced in earnest in December 1942, and a pilot model was put together during January 1943. It was a somewhat radical design, as it dispensed with the steam pressure boiler altogether, opting for a direct-fired water heater to provide the hot water directly to the washing machine. This had the advantage that a qualified pressure vessel (boiler) attendant was not required: the simple system could be operated by almost anyone with a minimum of training. The drying system was also a departure from the conventional, as it too used a system of direct firing to heat the air exchanger that forced heated air into the tumble dryer. The complete laundry was mounted on a single four-wheeled 14 foot x 7 foot flat bed trailer. Initial trials of the pilot model during January and February 1943 proved the rugged simplicity of the design.

6

The Light Laundry (Aust) used a radical design to achieve compactness, but not sacrifice efficiency. Built by L. Horscroft, they were an instant success in forward areas. (Image reproduced from the MGO Equipment Memorandum)

The US Forces had also come to the realisation that a light mobile laundry was needed, but when shown the Australian pilot model, expressed some dismay at its unconventional features. The US Army Services of Supply (USASOS) opted for a different, more conventional design much to the disappointment of the Australian authorities. This design, which utilised a conventional 100 psi steam pressure boiler, was to be manufactured in Australia under the Reciprocal Lease Lend agreement. By refusing to standardise, Australian industry would effectively be required to split their efforts and produce two light laundry designs in parallel. Australian authorities considered this division a waste of precious manufacturing resources, but the USASOS were not to be swayed.

The Light Laundry (Aust) was geared toward the washing needs of a small hospital or casualty clearing station of up to 200 beds. With this capability, it could also be used for the washing and decontamination of the clothing of front line units when withdrawn to secure areas a short distance behind the lines. In addition to consumables such as soap and fuel, all the Light Laundry (Aust) needed was a reliable supply of water. Delivery of water to the washer and water heater was handled by a small petrol engine driven pump which was included as part of the laundry’s basic equipment.

The oil-fired water heater provided hot water to the washing machine, with the residual heat used to provide the primary supply of warm air to the tumble dryer. A booster burner was also provided to heat the air-exchanger for times when the water heater was not in full operation. Power to operate the dryer and washer was provided by a 10hp Ford petrol engine connected to a counter-shaft running the full length of the trailer. Flexible couplings enabled any one part of the system to be temporarily disengaged, such as when emptying or filling the dryer or washing machine, and power was transferred from the countershaft by belts and pulleys. The fully integrated system was designed to wash 60 lbs dry weight of clothing per hour, but early trials exceeded all expectations by consistently processing more than 70 lbs per hour, and an experienced crew could complete more than 80 lbs per hour for short periods if needed.

With the success of the pilot model, and in anticipation of an early delivery of the production equipment, Army Headquarters authorised the addition of 22 Light Mobile Laundry Units onto the Order of Battle in February 1943. The units were designed to operate with any type of formation or unit as required, and were manned by members of the Australian Army Ordnance Corps (AAOC). To equip them, contracts were raised with L Horscroft and Co. for 25 Light Laundries (Aust) in April 1943, which was later raised to 40. L. Horscroft and Co. were experienced in the manufacture of laundry and oven equipment, and were already handling several military contracts for cleaning and drying equipment, including ovens for heating explosives. Within a few months, Light Mobile Laundry Units AAOC were in operation within Australia and on their way to several locations in New Guinea.

The Light Laundry (Aust) was one of the more successful collaborative projects undertaken by Australian industry during the Second World War. From the Army’s articulation of the requirement in late 1942, it took only until mid-1943 to equip, raise and deploy the new units into forward areas. Truly a fantastic effort.

Copyright Michael K Cecil

 

Biographical Details Michael K Cecil

Michael K. Cecil was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1955. His tertiary studies were at Monash University (Clayton campus) where he graduated with two degrees: a Batchelor of Science with Honours and a Batchelor of Arts. He later studied at Canberra Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a Certificate IV in Museum Practice.

Following graduation from Monash University, he held various positions in both the public service and in private consulting. These included research assistant to the ‘Atlas of Victoria’ project, various tertiary teaching positions, and technical administration appointments.

Always passionate about history, he has been researching Australian military history – particularly the technical history of vehicles and equipment – since the early 1970s. This translated into publication of articles in the late 1980s, and his first book in the early 1990s.

Advertisements

The New Zealand Ordnance Puggaree

From 1914 to 1958 the sight of New Zealand Soldiers in felt slouch hats was commonplace. In addition to providing a practical form of headdress,  by the use of a coloured headband, it became easy to identify the Regiment or Corps of the wearer.

This article will provide a brief background on the use and history of Puggarees in New Zealand service with a focus on their use by the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps.

 

rnzaoc puggaree

RNZAOC Puggaree. Robert McKie Collection

Origins

The Puggaree origins lay in the Hindu word, ‘Pagri’ which is used to describe a wide range of traditional headdress worn by men and women throughout the Indian Sub-Continent, one of the most recognisable been the Dustaar or Sikh turban.

Soldiers by their nature are creatures of innovation and British troops serving India soon found that by wrapping a thin scarf of muslin around their headdress, not only could additional protection from sword blows be provided, but the thin cloth scarf could also be unravelled to provide insulation from the heat of the sun. Like many Indian words “Pagri” became anglicised into Puggaree.

By the 1870s the functional use of the puggaree had become secondary and the puggaree evolved into a decorative item on British Army headdress, which when used with a combination of colours could be used to distinguish regiments and corps. First used by New Zealanders in the South African war, the use of puggaree on slouch hats was formalised in the New Zealand Army 1912 Dress Regulations. These regulations detailed the colours of the distinctive puggaree used to indicate different branches of the service; [1] [2]

 

 

 

World War One

When first New Zealand Troops went overseas in 1914, the NZ Slouch hat was one that had been first used in the South Africa War and had a crease running down the crown from front to rear. From 1914 the Wellington Battalion wore their hats with the crown peaked and after a short period where cork helmets were also worn, General Godley issued a directive that all troops, other than the Mounted Rifles would wear the slouch hat with the crown peaked, in what became known as the “Lemon Squeezer”.[3]

20190518_121151594458500.jpg

New Zealand felt slouch hat with New Zealand Mounted Rifles Puggaree. Robert McKie Collection

20190518_121038675710407.jpg

New Zealand felt “lemon Squeezer” hat with Ordnance Puggaree and NZEF Ordnance Badge. Robert McKie Collection

 

Worn with both the Mounted Rifles Slouch hat and the Lemon Squeezer, the puggaree became a distinctive mark of the New Zealand soldier, identifying them as distinct from soldiers from other parts of the Empire who in general used only plain puggaree on their headdress.[4]  [5] From 1917 the New Zealand puggaree also proved useful in distinguishing New Zealand troops from the Americans who wore headdress similar to the New Zealand Lemon Squeezer hat.[6]

As the war progressed, additional units that did not exist in the pre-war New Zealand Army were created, both as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) and as part of the Home Service forces in New Zealand. This would include the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) which was formed as a unit of the NZEF in early 1916 and as part of the New Zealand Permanent Forces in 1917.[7]

It is assumed that as a new unit a distinctive puggaree was adopted for the NZAOC, but the limited photographs of NZAOC personnel are black and white, making identification of colours difficult. The following photo of NZ Army Service Corps staff at Zeitoun Camp in Egypt taken in either later 1915 or early 1916, shows a soldier wearing a Lemon Squeezer hat with a coloured Puggaree with a British Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) Badge, possibly the first example of an NZ Ordnance Puggaree.

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

British Army Ordnance Corps_zpshkmjkhxu

Ordnance Soldier with Lemon Squeezer, Puggaree and AOC Badge, New Zealand Supply Depot Staff at Zeitoun Camp, 1915. National Army Museum of New Zealand

A later photograph of the NZAOC at taken at Buckle Street in 1918 the Puggaree are distinctive.

Ordnance 1918

The New Zealand Ordnance Corps 1918, Buckle Street Wellington. RNZAOC School

1918

Taken from the 1918 Buckle Street picture this blown up image shows two soldiers, on with a Lemon Squeezer Hat the other with a Mounted Rifles slouch hat, both puggarees could be of the NZ Ordnance pattern.

In a 1919 Photo of the NZAOC staff taken in Germany, the Puggaree of the Ordnance Staff are less distinctive and look to be a single colour, possibly red or Blue.

NZ Ordnance Staff 1919

New Zealand Ordnance Corps demobilisation Staff at Mulheim, Germany, Febuary1919. Alexander Turnbull Library/Public Domain

t falvey

Ordnance Corporal (Possibly TY Falvey) London 1918

A Newspaper article from December 1918 does provide evidence that an Ordnance puggaree of red/blue/red existed. The article published in the Press on 5 December 1918 states the following;[8]There are only two units in the New Zealand Division with red in the puggaree. They are the Artillery and Ordnance, and in both units, the colours are red and blue”. Although slightly incorrect in that only two units of the NZEF wore red in the puggaree, The Infantry also has red in their Puggaree, this sentence does identify that the Ordnance Puggaree was red and blue.

The Inter-War Years

The red/blue/red Puggaree would formally be adopted as the Puggaree of the NZAOC in 1923 when the New Zealand Army updated its Dress Regulations for the first time since 1912.[9]

Ordnance Puggaree would have been a common sight around New Zealand Military establishments up to 1931, where with the virtual disestablished of the NZAOC their use would have shrunk to twenty or so remaining NZAOC Soldiers.

World War Two

The onset of war in 1939 would see an explosive growth of the New Zealand Army from a few hundred personnel to thousands, with articles published in newspapers to educate the public on the different coloured puggaree and which units they belonged to.[10] The red/blue/red Ordnance puggaree would be worn throughout the war years by the NZAOC and the New Zealand Ordnance Corps, the Ordnance component of the NZEF and the Territorial Army.[11]

ww2

Lemon Squeezer as worn by members of the 2nd NZEF NZOC, Middle East, Italy 1939-44.

20171001_205837-65594957.jpg

Ordnance soldier of the NZOC, New Zealand 1942-44.

Post War

The Lemon Squeezer Hat and puggaree would remain a fixture of the New Zealand Army until 1958 when the Lemon Squeezer was withdrawn from services and replaced with a new Battle Dress cap and the use of puggaree within the Ordnance Corps would fade away from memory.

tf 3rd intake waikato camp 1951

RNZAOC Territorial Force 3rd intake Ngaruawahia Camp 1951. RNZAOC School Collection

camp commandants bodyguard 1954

RNZAOC Camp Commandants Bodyguard, Trentham Camp 1954. RNZAOC School Collection

Copyright © Robert McKie 2019

Notes:

[1] The original MZ Slouch hat had been first used in the South Africa War and had a crease running from front to rear. From 1914 the Wellington Battalion wore their hats peaked

[2] Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord, New Zealand Army Distinguishing Patches, 1911-1991 (Wellington, N.Z.: M. Thomas and C. Lord, 1995, 1995), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, Part One, 128-29

[3] D. A. Corbett, The Regimental Badges of New Zealand: An Illustrated History of the Badges and Insignia Worn by the New Zealand Army (Auckland, N.Z. : Ray Richards, 1980

Revised end. edition, 1980), Non-fiction, 47-48.

[4] Australian and Canada would both use coloured puggaree on their respective headdress, just not to the same extent as New Zealand.

[5] “Local and General,” Dominion, Volume 9, Issue 2610,, 4 November 1915.

[6] “Visit to Paris,” North Otago Times, Volume CV, Issue 14001, 11 December 1917.

[7] “New Zealand Army Ordnance Department and New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps Regulations,” New Zealand Gazette, No 95, June 7 1917.

[8] “Soldiers and Dress – Ordnance Pugaree,” Press, Volume LIV, Issue 16387, 5 December 1918.

[9] Thomas and Lord, New Zealand Army Distinguishing Patches, 1911-1991, 35.

[10] “New Zealand Troops Wear Turbans,” Evening Star, Issue 23432  (1939).

[11] The NZOC was formed as a unit of the NZED in 1939 and a unit of the Territorial Army in 1941.


New Zealand Base Ordnance Depot, Egypt and Italy 1940-46

The 2nd NZEF Base Ordnance Depot(BOD) was the primary Ordnance organisation supporting the 2nd NZEF in its operations from Egypt to Italy from 1940 to 1946. Unlike the Infantry, Artillery, Engineers and even the Army Servicer Corps, New Zealand did not have an Ordnance component in the Territorial Army from which to draw upon when establishing the Ordnance services of the 2nd NZEF, this led to the NZ BOD having to be built from scratch. The two senior ordnance officers, King and Andrews were from the regular Army, some of the personnel were drawn from the civilian staff of the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) with others having a clerical or warehousing background. With this diversity of experience, the men of the NZ BOD with the assistance of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) Depots in Egypt underwent a crash course in the intricacies of British military stores accounting, warehousing and distribution operations. Initially based at Maadi Camp on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt, the NZ BOD would eventually grow into two Depots, one in Egypt and one in Italy. Not entirely a Base organisation the NZ BOD would also deploy an Advanced Ordnance Depot and conduct stores convoy operations. This article provides an introduction to the NZ BOD, another forgotten New Zealand Ordnance unit of the Secoend World War.

When given command of the NZDF, General Freyberg as the General Officer Commanding had been given a mandate and authority to “establish such administrative headquarters and base and line of communication units as are necessary for the functions of command, organisation, including training, and administration with which he has been invested”, with “the authority to procure equipment (shown on equipment tables) that cannot be supplied through official channels. Such equipment to be bought through Ordnance channels where possible”,[1]  this included the establishment of a Base Ordnance Depot to support the growing New Zealand Force

As the New Zealand Forces arrived in Egypt, the logistical situation was dire. The Middle East Command was in a period of transition from a peacetime to a wartime footing. The German victory’s in the low countries and France which saw the loss of much of the British Armies equipment in the subsequent evacuation resulting in the Middle East placed on a low priority for personnel and resources as the United Kingdom rearmed and prepared for invasion. The RAOC resources which the NZEF could draw upon were limited and consisted of;[2] [3]

  • A combined Ordnance Depot and Workshop at Abbassia
  • A Clothing and mobilisation sub-depot at Kasr-el-Nil
  • A sub-depot at Alexandra
  • Forward dumps of tentage, accommodation stores and ammunition at El Daba and Mersa Matruh.

The first Director of Ordnance Services (DOS) for the Middle East would not be appointed until late 1940 when Colonel W.W Richards was transferred from France to Egypt as a Brigadier.[4] Cognisant of the supply situation and also the international composition of the Middle East Command, Brigadier Richards would  oversee the rapid upgrade of infrastructure, personnel and capability of the combined Ordnance services of the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa ,India and New Zealand, creating effective Ordnance Field Force units supported by robust base facilities, shaped to meet the national requirements of each contributing nation.

Known as the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC), The embryotic New Zealand Ordnance organisation that arrived in Egypt with the 1st Echelon included;[5]

  • Lieutenant Colonel T.J. King NZAOC, DADOS
  • Captain A.H Andrews NZAOC, Ordnance Mechanical Engineer,
  • Lieutenant D.E Harper NZOC. OO Base Depot
  • Lieutenant G Langslow NZOC, 9 LAD, 4 Field Regiment NZA
  • Lieutenant G.D Pollock NZOC, 10 LAD, 5 Field Park Company, NZE
  • Captain J.H Mander NZOC, 11 LAD, HQ 4 Infantry Brigade,
  • Captain N.P Manning NZOC, 12 LAD, 27 Machine Gun Battalion,
  • Lieutenant J.O Kelsey NZOC, 13 LAD, Divisional Cavalry Regiment,
  • J.H England NZOC, 14 LAD, Divisional Signal Units
  • NZOC tradesmen, Clerks, Storemen and Drivers held under the Base Depot organisation.

The initial Base Depot found in the embarkation rolls was not the Base Ordnance Depot but a convenient use of the War Establishment to place personnel who were not allocated to existing units on the establishment. On mobilisation Army headquarters was sure that a base function would be required, and Base Depot was the only suitable unit that could be found on British War Establishments that could be used for the personnel filling many if the anticipated base roles in the NZEF. Under General Freyberg’s mandate to “establish such administrative headquarters and base and line of communication units” The Base Depot was disestablished in April 1940 and Headquarters NZEF Base formally established as a unit of the NZEF with personnel distributed to functional subunits, including NZOC Stores and clerical staff to the NZ BOD.[6] At this stage, NZ BOD would also manage some of the Base Workshop functions in conjunction with 31 LAD (Base)

Maadi Camp 1941

View of the working area of the Ordnance Depot at Maadi Camp in 1941. Photo H.J Gilbertson

Maadi Camp 1941.1

View of the working area of the Ordnance Depot at Maadi Camp in 1941. Photo H.J Gilbertson

The 2nd NZEF had arrived in Egypt with the bare minimum of equipment, but by August 1940 the NZ BOD was in the routine of receiving and issuing new equipment to the force; and in fact, the equipping of New Zealand Forces was proceeding far better than with comparable United Kingdom units in the area. As the accounting system was still in a peacetime system the British authorities were most generous in providing what equipment was available to the Commonwealth. At this time issues of equipment had to be checked and signed for, with the arrangement with the United Kingdom that the initial issues to the New Zealand Forces would be paid for at the actual value.

The 2nd NZEF had arrived in Egypt with the same uniforms and web equipment as the NZEF of 1918. As stocks became available the NZ BOD began to issue the new 1937 pattern ‘Battledress’ and ’37 pattern webbing’ to all New Zealand Troops. Additionally, as each draft arrived issues of theatre specific clothing and equipment had to be issued to each soldier;

  • Helmets steel 1,
  • Respirators Anti Gas 1,
  • Armbands (white) 1,
  • Shorts Khaki Drill 2,
  • Shirts tropical 2,
  • Drawers cellular short 2,[7]
  • Hosetops (long socks) (prs) 1

This was a considerable amount of clothing and equipment to bring into stock for issues and for stockholding, not forgetting that the old uniforms and equipment that was been exchanged had to be sorted, stored and disposed of. To manage the workload, infrastructure would be required along with additional personnel. To supplement the NZOC military personnel, civilian labour would be utilised. Under the control of a supervisor know as a Rais (Arabic: رئیس‎; also spelled Raees), teams of workers known as Fellaheen (Arabic: فلاحين‎, fallāḥīn) would come into the BOD each day,[8] Over time locally employed civilians would not only carry out labouring work but also more complex warehousing and clerical functions providing a level of continuity that soldiers because of the demands of soldiering are often unable; to maintain.

Liaison with the RAOC depots was the key to the success of the NZ BOD. Held on the establishment of the NZ BOD, NZOC Liaison staff were attached to RAOC depots for the duration of the war, NZOC liaison staff would serve in both clerical and stores positions with a dual role; first the NZOC had no combined corporate history of ordnance procedures so the attachment would enable NZOC members to become familiar with current RAOC procedures, and secondly it allowed NZOC staff in RAOC depots to directly manage and process New Zealand demands.[9]

In June 1940, Lt Col King departed for England where he would facilitate the Ordnance support for the 2nd Echelon of the 2NZEF which had been diverted to England rather than Egypt, this would leave Major Andrews managing all the NZOC maintenance and supply functions in Egypt. With the 3rd Echelon arriving in Egypt in September 1940 planning on the future of the NZ BOD and the overall NZOC commitment to the NZEF with the drafting of new establishments underway. Correspondence between Andrew and King describes the growth of the NZ BOD into a quite large depot.[10]

BOD October 1940

Base Ordnance Depot Staff, Maadi, October 1940. Back Row clerks: G Gilbert-Smith, LCpl W.W Thomas, G Duane, O McKibbon. Front Row Storemen: M Ivey, R Watson, W Mooney. Photo W.W Thomas

By March 1941 the 2nd Echelon had arrived in Egypt from the United Kingdom and the New Zealand Division was complete for the first time. Although some units had been involved in operations against the Italians, the Divisions first real taste of battle would be the disastrous Greek and Crete campaigns. Although ad hoc NZOC workshops would be sent to Greece to support the LAD’s, the NZ BOD would only play a supporting role in these campaigns. In the months after the Greek and Crete campaign, the NZ Division would retrain and reorganise.

From April 1942 the DOS for the Middle East was weighing up the option of pooling all British and Dominion Base Ordnance units into one organisation under the DOS GHQ Middle East. Whilst retaining their national identity’s they world services all units regardless of nationality on a geographic basis. Stocks of common items would be demanded from the main British BOD, provisioned for and demanded by the DADOS (P) from the United Kingdom or the Eastern Supply Group. Items peculiar to each nation would be demanded independently by each national BOD. The NZEF replied that the NZ BOD at Maadi Camp had materially reduced the work of the RAOC Depots and that excellent liaison between the RAOC and NZOC existed and the proposed system was in effect the system in place and working quite satisfactorily.[11]

As a consequence of the NZ Divisions reorganisation, Divisional NZOC units were to be formed, with personnel from the NZ BOD, NZOC reinforcements and transfers from within the 2nd NZEF transferred to the following NZOC Field Force units prior to their formation; [12]

  • The New Zealand Divisional Ordnance Field Park (NZ OFP), formed 28 July 1941,
  • The NZ Divisional Salvage unit, formed 16 August 1941.
  • The New Zealand Divisional Mobile Bath Unit, formed 6 September 1941,
  • The New Zealand Divisional Mobile Laundry and Forward Decontamination unit, formed 22 September 1941.

Concurrent with the reorganisation of the 2nd NZEF after the Greek Campaign, the NZOC maintenance services would start to be formalised into a fully functional workshop system of Base, Divisional and field workshops. Following closely behind the British who with the increased mechanisation of the battlefield reformed its maintenance and repair organisations and form them into a single Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) on 1 October 1942 assuming responsibility for all RAOC, ASC and Royal Engineer Workshops, Recovery Sections and LADs.  New Zealand and Australian would follow suit on 1 December 1942, followed by India on 1 May 1943 and Canada on 22 February 1944.[13]

Maadi 1941

An Italian trailer put to use in the NZ BOD at Maadi in 1941. Soldier is Jack Thompsom. Photo: H.L Gilbertson

In addition to the Divisional NZOC units, a New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot (NZAOD) was formed as sub-unit of the NZ BOD to facilitate the holding of stock closer to the forward areas. No additional personnel was authorised for the NZAOD, so when raised its personnel and equipment would be drawn from NZ BOD resources.[14]

BOD 41

The NZ AOD was initially located with an RAOC AOD at El Daba during Operation Crusader, [15]  with the NZ Division withdrawn back to Egypt in December 1941 the NZAOD had just unloaded its stock at the Tura caves when it was ordered to move with the Division to Syria where it set up in the vicinity of Baalbeck.

March 1942 would see the establishment of the NZ BOD increased to five Officers and 95 other ranks.

BOD MAR 42

Returning to Egypt with the NZ Division in June 1942, the NZAOD would gradually morph into a mobile depot and accompany the NZ Division the pursuit of the Axis forces into Tunisia.[16] On three occasions it would ground its stocks, at Bardia, Tripoli and Enfidaville. Due to its mobile nature, the NZAOD ended up utilising many of the NZ BOD’s limited holding f vehicles

Replenishment for the NZAOD would be direct from the NZ BOD for NZ specific items of supply. For items of a generic nature, replenishment would be from the closest supporting RAOC AOD, Forward Depot or Dump, if those units were unable to satisfy the indent, it would be pushed to the supporting RAOC BOD. New Zealand liaison staff in the RAOC depots would process the New Zealand indents and forward on the next available transport for delivery.

An example of the efficiency of the replenishment system is that when at Enfidaville the NZAOD sent a signal to RAOC 557 AOD, then at Tripoli, over 600km away. Within five days those stores were being issued to units if the Division.

Sys of Sup

 

October 1943 would see the NZEF begin operations in Italy as part of the 8th Army. The NZAOD would remain deployed forward in support of the NZ Division. Major Harper the DADOS of the NZ BOD also deployed into Italy to conduct an appreciation of the future NZ Ordnance Support required.  At the time of Major Harper’s appreciation, there was only one RAOC depot operating in support to the 8th Army. This was an ad hoc organisation called Eight Army Field Stores and was operating using stocks from the initial Ordnance Beach Detachments. The RAOC 500 AOD was in the process of getting organised at Bari on the Adriatic coast, with its limited stocks steadily been built up, few demands could satisfactory be met.[17] To improve the situation for the NZ Division and the NZEF, Harper recommended that rather rely on already stretched RAOC depots the NZ BOD be reformed into two Depots;

  • One part to service the NZEF in Egypt and to hold reserves of clothing for the whole NZEF,
  • The other part to be in Italy to service the NZ Division and other NZEF units in Italy, such as hospitals and the advance base.

Major Harper envisaged only a small increase in personnel and that the liaison staff with RAOC Depts remain incorporated in the new establishment.

As one of the factors of the NZ Divisions good equipment state was that it had always had its own BOD, which was now located far away in Egypt, and to maintain the NZ Division in a comparable manner as it had been in North Africa, Harper’s recommendation that the BOD be split into two sections was approved by the GOC  2 NZEF on 4 Nov 1942. Major Harper was instructed to make arrangement to obtain the required buildings and stores accommodation in Bari and then return to Egypt to assist in the arrangements to split the NZ BOD for the move to Italy.[18]

From 10 November 1943, the NZ BOD split into three distinct sections

  • Ordnance Depot at Base (Egypt)
  • Ordnance Depot at Advance Base (Italy), and
  • NZAOD

The significant change is that the NZAOD was established as a standalone section, whereas in the previous year’s its personnel and equipment had been taken out of the establishment the NZ BOD, the NZAOD was now recognised separate section with its own personnel and equipment.

A change in the boot repair contract in Maadi had also necessitated an increase on the establishment of Shoemakers and Bootmakers to enable the NZ BOD to become self-sufficient in the area in boot repair.

The NZ BOD would also be the reinforcement depot for the NZOC. Reinforcements from NZ or individuals injured in units and withdrawn to the rear to convalesce would be held in the reinforcement depot until appropriate vacancies became available in forward units.

NZOC personnel on liaison duties with ROAC depots also cease to be held in the establishment of the NZ BOD.

BOD NOV 43

BOD Staff Dec 1943

Main Office Staff, 1 Base Ordnance Depot, Maadi, Egypt, December 1943. Standing: Ike Dabscheck, Stone, Lieutenant Stroud, Major Cordery, Lieutenant Barwick, Unidentified. In front: Jack Picot, Geff Rees, Falloon. Photo: J.D Picot

Early in 1944, it was decided that given the distance between Egypt and Italy that the NZ BOD Ordnance Depot at Advance Base in Bari should be upgraded to full Base Depot Status. With effect 16 February the following changes to establishments were made;

  • NZ BOD was renamed 1 NZ Base Ordnance Depot, (1 NZ BOD)
  • 2 NZ Base Ordnance Depot was formed as a unit of the NZEF (2 NZ BOD)
  • The NZAOD was disbanded.

Change to 1BOD

2 BOD Formed

Changing from NZ BOD to 1 NZ BOD, this unit’s establishment would be reduced to two Officers and 37 Other ranks, retaining responsibility as the bulk holding depot for items peculiar to NZ and the reaming base units in Egypt, No1 NZ BOD would be the Reinforcement Depot for NZOC and would also include Includes a Officers shop detail.  An Officers Shop detail was also added to the responsibilities of 1 NZ OFP. Officers shops were an organisation developed by the British in North Africa. Centrally provisioned by the Central Provision Office, Officers Shops allowed Offices to buy at reasonable rates, authorised items of kit such as clothing, camp kit, travel bags, Leather jerkins and shoes.[19]

The NZAOD would be also disbanded and its functions absorbed into the NZ OFP mobile AOD section.[20]

NZAOD DISBANDED FEB 1944

From the existing NZ BOD Ordnance Depot at Advance Base in Bari, 2 NZ BOD would be formed as a unit of the NZEF. Carrying out the same role as the NZ BOD in North Africa 2 NZ BOD would be a Reinforcement Depot for NZOC Personnel and include a Stores Convoy Unit.

Stores Convoy Units were a capability that was generated by the early lessons of the desert war, and although utilised by both the NZ OFP and NZAOD during 1942/43 the system was not formally organised as a unit in the NZEF until 1944. The supply and transportation of Ordnance Stores is something which was not always understood and more complex than the supply and transportation of Rations, Fuel and Ammunition. Except for a small range of fast moving items, Ordnance stores consist of a very large range of stores, for which the actual need of the users cannot be anticipated with any certainty. It is impractical to hold stocks close to the forward units as the assets required to move these stocks are not realistic, therefore a reliable and fast service was required to supply urgent requirements from the nearest stock holding unit – often the BOD. Rail had many limitations which made urgent deliveries impactable as was the use of Army Service Corps (ASC) assets who on regular runs failed to meet the delivery requirements. Therefore, it became necessary to introduce a road convoy service dedicated to the transportation of Ordnance Stores. Originally operated by using reserve vehicles from the RAOC 1 OFP and 1st Cavalry Division OFP, the system originally operated between Cairo and Mersa Matruh supplementing the existing rail system. The system proved successful and was extended to the delivery of vehicles other urgent fighting stores direct to divisional OFP’s across the Middle East theatre form Persia to Tunisia. [21]  The New Zealand Stores Convoy Unit would operate from 1944 into 1945 along the entire axis of the New Zealand’s Divisions advance through Italy from Bari to Trieste.

2NZEF Ordnance

A group of NZAOD personnel Italy 1944. Front Row: H.D Bremmer, R.G James, 2nd Lieutenant H.J Mackridge, N.G Hogg, G.P Seymour. Back Row: WO2 Worth, D.S Munroe, G Caroll, C Moulder, E.W.T Barnes, H Rogers, C.W Holmes, W Wallace, N Denery Photo: Defence Archive Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library.

As the NZ Division advanced up the Italian peninsular HQ 2 NZEF also wised to shorten the lines of communication and remain close to the Division, and on 11 September HQ 2 NZEF relocated to Senigallia. The headquarters move to Senigallia was soon followed by many of the administrative units including 2NZ BOD which established an Advanced Section of Depot of one Officer and 20 Other Ranks.

2 BOD OCT 44

Although the Officers shop details have been active since February 1944, formal approval for the establishment of Officers shops was not granted in April 1945 with the following officer’s shops to be added to establishments;

  • 1 NZ BOD – One Officer Shop Detail
  • 2 NZ BOD – Two Officer Shop details, (Bari and Senigallia)
  • NZ OFP, AOD Section – One Officer Shop Detail.

Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945, bringing hostility’s in Europe to a close, but in the Pacific and South East Asia the war against Japan was still in progress and discussion of the future of the NZEF and its future in the war was underway. By June 1945 the decision had been made to maintain NZOC units in the NZEF at full strength to facilitate the handing back of vehicles and equipment by Divisional units as they were demobilised or reorganised for service against Japan. In June 1945 103 personnel from Divisional NZOC units were placed on the establishment of 2 NZ BOD but attached to RAOC units, the bulk to the RAOC 557 BOD at Naples to facilitate the handing back of equipment and also the distribution of new equipment for the force been raised for operations against Japan

2 BOD NOV 45

The August atomic bombing of Japan and their subsequent surrender in September 1945 brought what was going to be a long war to a sudden end. Japan would be occupied by allied forces and New Zealand would contribute a Brigade group (J Force) based on the 9th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd NZEF.[22]

By November the 2 NZ BOD Advanced Section of Depot at Senigallia had been disbanded and the establishment of 2 NZ BOD reduced to five Officers and 42 Other ranks. The personnel of the 2 NZ BOD Advance Section of Depot were transferred to Florence where they married up with the NZ OFP to form a final NZAOD to support the demobilisation of the 2nd NZEF. The liaison staff to the RAOC depots had also been reduced from the original 103 to five Officers and thirty-eight Other Ranks.[23]

Both 1 and 2 NZ BOD would spend the remaining months of 1945 packing and returning equipment to New Zealand, clearing Depots and returning stocks to the ROAC. By 1 February 1946 after close to six years of providing Ordnance support to the 2nd NZEF the Base Ordnance Depots and the NZAOD of the NZOC were formally disbanded and the final NZOC troops headed for home or to Japan for service with J Force.

1946

Like all of the NZOC units of the 2nd NZEF, the role that the NZ BOD played in supporting the 2nd NZEF has hardly rated a mention in many of the contemporary histories of the 2nd NZEF. But considering that it was a unit started from scratch and had to learn its trade on the job under wartime conditions it is a unit worthy of recognition. Providing the 76000 New Zealand Troops that passed through Maadi Camp, and maintaining the NZ Division over vast distances with all manner of war material was a huge achievement and one never to matched in the history of the New Zealand Army.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

Notes

[1] W. G. Stevens, Problems of 2 Nzef, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 (Wellington, N.Z: War History Branch, Dept of Internal Affairs, 1958, 1958), Non-fiction, 93.

[2] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945 (London: Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 1965), 110-11.

[3] 1939-1948 New Zealand Army WWII Nominal Rolls, “Roll 1: 1939 – 31 Mar 1940,”  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1832/31839_224118__0001-00003?backurl=https%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fsearch%2fdb.aspx%3fdbid%3d1832%26path%3d&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnBrowsing#?imageId=31839_224118__0001-00042.

[4] Frank Steer, To the Warrior His Arms: The Story of the Raoc 1918–1993 (London: RAOC, 2005), 73.

[5] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017), 72.

[6] Stevens, Problems of 2 Nzef, 21-22.

[7] Short cellular drawers or underwear were issued to British and Commonwealth troops for wear in summer and for general wear in tropical areas. They were white open-weave ‘cellular’ fabric, featuring a two-button fastening to the front opening and a pair of horizontal cloth loops to either side of the front waistband.

[8] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 106.

[9] Ibid., 102-03.

[10] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base, Item Idr20107591 Record No  Da 1/9/Sd81/22 (Wellington: New Zealand Archives, 1941).

[11] Ibid.

[12] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field Item Idr20107590 Record No  Da 1/9/Sd81/21 (Wellington: New Zealand Archives, 1941).

[13] Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996, 72-122.

[14] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base.

[15] Listed in some records as the RAOC 508 AOD it might actually be 500 AOD as no record exists of an RAOC 508 AOD.

[16] It is assumed that the NZAOD was co-located with the NZ OFP when in the mobile role.

[17] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 243.

[18] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base.

[19] History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 205.

[20] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[21] History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 120.

[22] Matthew Wright, Italian Odyssey: New Zealanders in the Battle for Italy 1943-45 (Auckland, N.Z: Reed, 2003, 2003), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 166.

[23] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Base.


NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park 1941-1945

20170929_150757-740050609.jpg

Badge of the 2nd NZEF

The New Zealand Divisional Ordnance Field Park (NZ OFP) was the primary stores holding organisation working in support of the 2nd Division of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force(2 NZEF) from July 1941 until December 1945. Following closely behind the NZ Division the NZ OFPs main role was to provide a holding of spares for the NZ Divisional Workshop, and often as the Workshop deployed elements forward to support individual brigades, sections of the NZ OFP would also be detached forward. Mentioned in passing in many of the war histories produced since the war, the story of the NZ Divisional OFP has remained untold in any detail.

British experimentation in mechanisation during he the 1920s had identified the need for mobile Field Workshops and OFP’s to support the mechanised forces that would fight the next war. Added to British Army War Establishments (WE) in the 1930s but due to the financial depression of the time, it would not be until July 1939 when Britain formed a number of new Field Workshops and OFPs as part of the Territorial Army, setting out to recruit 150 officers and 5000 other ranks to bring the new units to war strength.[1]

A 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 as are normally required by mobile workshops for repair purposes, and
  • Advanced holdings of certain “A” and “B” vehicles for replacement purposes

An OFP’s holdings would constitute a forward portion of the stocks of the Base Ordnance Depot(BOD) and would be modified due to experience gained as the war progressed and equipment changed. [2]

Stockholding would normally consist of fast moving or essential items essential to maintain equipment vital to the dependency, including MT spares, Weapon spares and signal stores,[3] with scaling for each Divisional OFP against a scale set to represent 2.5% of the supported division’s vehicles.[4] Scaling of OFP’s was centrally controlled by the British Army’s Scales Branch of the Central Provisioning Organisation, which developed standard “Middle East” scaled for OFP’s taking into consideration the long lines of communication from the factory to the foxhole and the diversity of equipment sources such as for Britain, India, Canada and the United States.[5]

When New Zealand committed forces to the war in September 1939, an Infantry Division with supporting arms was to be recruited and sent overseas in three Brigade Group echelons.

  • The first echelon consisting of the 2NZEF Headquarters and a Brigade Group arrived in Egypt in February 1940.
  • The second echelon was diverted to Britain and would not join the NZ Division in Egypt until March 1941.
  • The third echelon would arrive in Egypt in September 1940.

Given the title of the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC), the initial Ordnance contribution would only consist of Headquarters Staff and Light Aid Detachments (LAD) attached to each Infantry Brigade and Artillery Regiment. Within a short period of time, New Zealand Ordnance personnel would work closely with the existing Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) Base Stores Depots and Workshops in Egypt to establish the NZOC Base Ordnance Depot and Workshops at Maddi Camp. With the arrival of the 3rd echelon in Sept 1940 and the final arrival of the 2nd echelon from England in March 1941 was the NZ Division fully able to be consolidated as a unit. NZOC units consisting of Three Independent Brigade Workshops and 11 Light Aid Detachments were sent to Greece in March 1941 as part of New Zealand contribution to that campaign.[6] The NZOC workshops were supported in this campaign by the RAOC 1 OFP.[7] A lack of consultation prior to the operation saw that the attached British OFP was not scaled correctly to support the New Zealand units. 1 OFP held sufficient spares for Internationals and Crossley’s but this would be problematic as with the NZ Division not equipped with Internationals and only held two Crossley’s. Fortunately, 1 OFP held sufficient quantities of Ford, 25 pounder and 2 pounder spares, spring steel, sheet and rod metals, compressed air and many general items and with supplementation from local sources was able to provide some useful support to the NZ Workshops.[8] The Greek Campaign would ultimately be a defeat for the British Forces who would lose the Island of Crete to German airborne forces in May 1941.

NZ OFP July 1941 – January 1943

OFP October 1941

Alf Beale of the OFP sorting out his stock for the bin vehicle. Maadi Camp, October 1941. Photo W.W Thomas.

NZ Division Ordnance Field Park (1941)

Vehicle Tactical Sign NZ Division Ordnance Field Park 1941

Evacuated to Egypt, the New Zealand Division would undertake a period of rebuilding and expansion. 1 NZ Field Workshop war reformed as1 NZ Divisional Ordnance Workshop on 16 June 1941 followed by the formation of 2 and 3 NZ Field Workshops on 27 June. Taking on board the lesson of the Greek campaign a New Zealand Divisional OFP was formed on 28 July 1941. The NZ OFP would spend August and September assembling its personnel and equipment and bringing its stock to scale with the personnel learning the intricacies of Ordnance accounting. With a strength of 4 Officers and 81 Other Ranks, the OFP was equipped with 27 3-ton Lorries in different configurations optimised for the carriage of OFP Stores.[9]

OFP Formed 41

OFP Sept 41

Four Ordnance Sergeants of the Divisional OFP in the Western Desert, September 1941. L to R: W.W Thomas, E.M McSherry, A Wilkin, R Smith. Photo W.W Thomas.

OFP ESTB 1941

Organised with a Headquarters and three sections, the NZ OFP would participate in Operation Crusader in November 1942 and its subsequent operations. Like any unit of the NZ Division, the NZ OFP was not immune to casualties and would see Major William Knox, Officer Commanding of the NZ OFP injured after driving over a landmine leading to his evacuation from Tobruk, during which it is suspected that he drowned when the ship he was on was sunk.[10] [11] Withdrawn to Egypt in December 1941 the NZ OFP would then accompany the NZ Divison to Syria in March 1942 as a precautionary measure to guard against a German thrust from the North.

Recalled to the Western Desert during June 1942, the NZ Division was urgently called forward to help counter the Axis advances into Egypt. The NZ Division would transit the 1500 kilometres from Syria to Minqar Qiam on Egypt’s western frontier in just over a week and was immediately in the fight.  Forced into a fighting withdraw the NZ Division soon withdrew to new positions in the vicinity of the Egyptian town of El Alamein where the 8th Army would hold fast and hold the line.

Lessons learned in the recent campaign identified the need for the New Zealand Division to have its own armoured element. This led to the converting of the 4th Infantry Brigade into the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade on 5 October 1942.[12] [13] Concurrent with the reorganisation of the 2nd NZEF, the increased mechanisation of the battlefield saw the British Army reform its maintenance and repair organisations and form them into a single Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) on 1 October 1942.[14] The EME would assume responsibility for all RAOC, ASC and Royal Engineer Workshops, Recovery Sections and LADs.  New Zealand and Australian would follow suit on 1 December 1942, followed by India on 1 May 1943 and Canada on 22 February 1944. The formation of the New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NZEME) would see the NZ OFP remain with the NZOC,[15] whilst assuming the additional responsibility for the provision of MT Spares to the ASC workshops which had transferred to NZEME, and the scaling of spares for the new armoured component of the Division.

As New Zealand Division had converted to a mixed Infantry/Armoured Division, the NZ OFP was reorganised on 20 November 1942 from a modified Infantry Division OFP of a Headquarters and three Sections into a modified OFP structure of a Headquarters and three task orientated sections consisting of ;[16]

  • A Headquarters Holding Section – responsible for holding reserve stocks of all OFP Stores
  • An Infantry Section – responsible for serving the workshops and LAD’s both of the Infantry Brigades and Divisional troops with MT Stores, weapon spares and signal stores
  • an Armoured Section – Responsible for workshops and LAD’s of the Armoured brigade for armoured specific MT Stores, weapon and signal stores.

The positions of Driver-Mechanics and Electrician were removed from the establishment with the affected personnel transferred to NZEME units and replaced with NZOC Storeman-Drivers, The Fitters were retained as attached NZEME personnel.

RAOC9

RAOC Ordnance Field Park 1944/45 (RAOC, public domain)

February 1943 – January 1944

2 NZ Division Ordnance Field Park

Vehicle Tactical Sign NZ Division Ordnance Field Park 1944-45

On in February 1943, the establishment was again modified with an increase of the strength to 5 Officers and 99 Other Ranks with the structure changed to include an additional section, the Reserve Vehicle Park Section whose role was to hold reserves of the Divisions vehicles.

Further adjustment to the role and establishment of the OFP were facilitated on 7 March 1943 when Controlled Stores became an OFP responsibility’ Included as part of the OFP Headquarters, whose strength grew by one Warrant Officer Class One and one Private.

OFP ESTB 1943

Following the second Battle of El Alamein, the NZ OFP would continue to support the NZ Division in the advance across Libya and into Tunisia until the final defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa in May 1943. During this advance, there were periods when a New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot (NZAOD) was attached to the NZ OFP from the NZ Base Ordnance Depot (BOD) in Egypt. The role of the NZAOD was to provide holding of General stores and consumables not held by the OFP, mainly clothing and personnel webbing equipment.

The New Zealand Division would not participate in the invasion of Sicily but would spend the next few months reorganising and refitting as the 4th Armoured Brigade completed its training and was fully integrated into the NZ Division, and it would not be until October 1943 that the Division would re-enter the war in Italy.

February 1944 – December 1945

After several months in Italy, the NZ OFP undertook another reorganisation in February 1944. The NZ BOD at Maadi camp in Egypt had been split into two parts; No 1 NZ BOD, which would remain in Egypt and No 2 NZ BOD which was based at Bari on the South Adriatic coast of Italy.  With No 2 NZ BOD in Italy, the shortened and narrow lines of communication made the need for the NZAOD less necessary than in North Africa. The NZAOD that had been supporting the NZ Division in Italy prior to the establishment of 2 BOD was disbanded on 16 February 1944. With a requirement for the stores that the NZAOD held remaining forward, some its functions were absorbed into the NZ OFP as a mobile AOD section, increasing the strength of the NZ OFP by one Officer and fifteen Other Ranks and 10 additional lorries. [17]

OFP ESTB 1944

One of the functions that the AOD section brought to the NZ OFP was a Mobile Officers Shop. Officers shops were an organisation developed by the British in North Africa. Centrally provisioned by the Central Provision Office, Officers Shops allowed Offices to buy at reasonable rates, authorised items of kit such as clothing, camp kit, travel bags, Leather jerkins and shoes.[18] In Italy, the Officers Shop organisations were similar to that in the Middle East, but also stocked a range of locally obtained items. Although the Officers shop function was included as part of the AOD Section from February 1944 it would not officially be formalised and added to the establishment of the NZ OFP until 11 May 1945.

Further changes to the NZ OFP happened in August 1944 when an NZASC Warrant Officer Class Two was included in the Headquarter establishment to assist in the coordination of supplies to NZASC units from the NZ OFP.[19]  Additional equipment in the form of a truck-mounted crane to assist with the handling of heavy tank spares and engines in the Armoured Section was also approved during August 1944.[20]

In April 1945 the stockholding of signals stores in Division OFP’s was authorised to be increased. With the increase of holdings estimated to be around six tonnes, an additional three 3-ton Lorries was approved along with an increase of two Storeman and one Clerk.

Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945, bringing hostility’s in Europe to a close, but in the Pacific and South East Asia the war against Japan was still in progress and discussion of the future of the NZEF and its future in the war was underway. By June 1945 the decision had been made to maintain NZOC units in the NZEF at full strength to facilitate the handing back of vehicles and equipment by Divisional units as they were demobilised or reorganised for service against Japan. The August atomic bombing of Japan and their subsequent surrender in September 1945 brought what was going to be a long war to a sudden end. Japan would be occupied by allied forces and New Zealand would contribute a Brigade group (J Force) based on the 9th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd NZEF.[21]

In October 1945 it was decided to disband the NZ OFP, its men and equipment would be absorbed into an NZAOD, a Vehicle and Equipment Handling Depot and attached to 557 BOD, RAOC. The NZAOD and Vehicle and Equipment Handling Depot would receive and sort the equipment, with the best of it going to the J Force elements forming at Florence and the remainder returned to the RAOC. The NZOC personnel seconded to 557AOD who would receive and process the equipment back into the RAOC system, whilst also collection and dispatching new equipment from RAOC stocks for delivering to J Force.[22] [23]

OFP DisbandmentThe NZ OFP was functionally disbanded on 26 October 1945 and formally disbanded after 4 years and 5 months of service as a unit of the 2nd NZEF on 29 December 1945.[24]

During the NZ OFP 4 years of service, the following members died while on active service;

  • Temporary Major William Andrew Knox, 5 December 1941, No Known Grave, commemorated at Alamein Memorial.
  • Sergeant Ronald Roy Moore, 13 February 1942, now resting at the Fayid War Cemetery in Egypt.
  • Private Ivan James Curin, 24 March 1945, now resting Ravenna War Cemetery in Italy

OFP Storage and Accounting

Prior to the beginning of the war of the war, the standard system of field storage was the humble disused ammunition box. As Britain mobilised the influx of men from the automotive industry into the RAOC saw the introduction of the latest in storage techniques and how to maximise space which would be utilised to maximise storage in the OFP’s.[25]

Morris C8 15cwt 4 X 4 GS

Morris C8 15cwt 4 X 4 GS

The heart of the OFP was its store’s vehicles. The NZ OFP used a mixture of 15-cwt (.75-tone) trucks for administration tasks and 3-Ton lorries for the carriage of stores. The 3-ton lorries were generally of two types;

  • GS Lorries for the carriage of large items such as engines, gearboxes and differentials, and
  • Bin Lorries for the carriage of smaller compact items such as nuts, bolts, gaskets, fan belts, brake linings, windscreen wipers

GS Lorries were fitted with a flat floor body with fixed sides and headboard, and a drop tailgate. Usually fitted with a canvas canopy on a tubular frame. At times the tubular frame would be lined with chicken wire to limit pilferage.

Binned vehicles were lorries and trailers fitted with fixed racking made up of bins of different dimensions. Early designs consisted of full-length benches on both sides of the vehicle with storage bins under the benches and compartments for small items above the benches and a writing desk. Stores inside the bins were kept secure on the move by a mesh screen which could be removed when the vehicle was stationary to allow access to the stores. As the war progressed, the design of binned vehicles became more sophisticated with later models having solid bodies with internal lighting. The following illustrations provide an example of different types of bin trucks.

Polish OFP 2

Bin Lorry of the Polish Corps Italy 1943-45. The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

Polish OFP 1

Bin Lorry of the Polish Corps Italy 1943-45. The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

stores NO1 aust binned

Bin Truckc60l

Ledger CardStores accounting was managed by the Visidex system. The Visidex system was introduced in the late 1930’s by the RAOC as simple ledger card system to replace mechanical ledger posting systems which had proved to be unsatisfactory.[26] Adopted for wartime service the Visidex system was ideal as it was a simple system that required a minimum of staff training. Using carbon backed posting slips it allowed checks to easily carried out. Each OFP section would maintain a control office for which all indents from units would be received, the stock record would be checked, the location where the stock held identified (in an OFP each truck was a stock location) and the stock record updated. If the stock was available, it would immediately be issued. If the stock was not available, it would be recorded as a Dues Out, and an indent would be placed on the supporting Depot for replenishment which would be marked as a Dues In.[27] Each truck in an OFP would also maintain stock records that that would be reconciled with each issue and receipt and stocktake. The robustness and simplicity of the Visidex system would see it remaining as the primary field stores accounting system in the New Zealand Army well into the 1990s.

Summary

The New Zealand Division was one that was heavy in motor transport, and the close of the war in Europe as General Freyberg canvassed for the Division to be employed in South East Asia, British commanders welcomed the thought of the NZ Divisions participation, but concerns were raised that there would not be sufficient road space for the many thousands of vehicles on the NZ Division.[28]  With vehicles from motorcycles to tanks, weapons from pistols to howitzers and hundreds of other pieces of technical equipment requiring maintenance and repair,  the 2n NZEF developed first under the NZOC and then NZEME a world-class maintenance and repair system based on LAD, Field and Base workshops, which in the NZ Division was kept supplied with MT and other technical spares by the NZ OFP.

In the post-war NZ Army, OFP’s would exist in various iterations from 1948 until the late 1970s, but these would be training units that would never be deployed as standalone units such as the NZ OFP. The direct descendent s of the NZ OFP would be the RNZAOC Stores Sections attached to each RNZEME Workshop. Carrying specialised spares, assemblies and workshops materials to suit the particular requirement of its parent RNZEME workshops, Stores Sections became an RNZAOC responsibility in 1962 when RNZEME Technical Stores were transferred to the RNZAOC. A familiar sight on any RNZEME workshop exercise from the 1960s to 1996, the spirit of the NZ OFP would be well represented by RNZAOC Workshops Stores Sections with their RL Bedford Bin trucks and later Unimog mounted Binned 13’ Containers.

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

OFP Mascot

Sergeant Harry Gilbertson of the OFP with the section mascot. ‘Sergeant Two Bob’ was brought as a pup from a ‘WOG’ for two bob and stayed with the section until the end of the war. Maadi, September 1943. Photo H.J Gilbertson

Notes

[1] “Technicians for Army,” Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 22, 26 July 1939.

[2] The War Office, Ordnance Manual (War) (London: His Majestys Stationery Office, 1939), Chapter IV, Section 35, Page 79.

[3] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945 (London: Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 1965), 153.

[4] Major J.S Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (Trentham: RNZAOC, 1992), 95.

[5] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 184.

[6] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 94.

[7] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 141.

[8] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 95.

[9] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field Item Idr20107590 Record No  Da 1/9/Sd81/21 (Wellington: New Zealand Archives, 1941).

[10] A commercial traveller, Major Knox had served in the Field Artillery in the Great War attaining the rank of Lieutenant. Enlisting in the 2NZEF in 1930, Knox was posted to the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment as the Quartermaster. On 4 August 1941 Knox was transferred into the NZOC as the Officer Commanding of the NZ OFP and granted the rank of Temporary Major whist holding that appointment. Injured as the result of driving over a landmine, Knox was admitted to a Casualty Clearing Station on 29 November 1941. Evacuated alongside 380 other wounded soldiers, of whom 97 were New Zealanders on the SS Chakdina on the afternoon of 5 December 1941. Torpedoed by enemy aircraft, only 18 of the New Zealanders were rescued with the remainder including Knox presumed drowned. “William Andrew Knox,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1939.

[11] J. B. McKinney, Medical Units of 2 Nzef in the Middle East and Italy, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 (Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch Department of Internal Affairs, 1952, 1952), Non-fiction, 179.

[12] I. C. McGibbon and Paul William Goldstone, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (Auckland; Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, 2000), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 37.

[13] D. J. C. Pringle and W. A. Glue, 20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 (Wellington: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1957, 1957), Non-fiction, 292.

[14] Peter Cooke, Warrior Craftsmen, Rnzeme 1942-1996 (Wellington: Defense of New Zealand Study Group, 2017).

[15] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 103.

[16] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[17] Ibid.

[18]  Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 205.

[19] NZASC Units were; 4 & 6 Reserve Mechanical Transport Company, Ammunition Company, Petrol Company, Supply Column, NZ Field Bakery, 18 Tank Transporter Company, NZ Mule Transport Company. Julia Millen, Salute to Service: A History of the Royal New Zealand Corps of Transport and Its Predecessors, 1860-1996 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1997, 1997), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 441.

[20] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[21] Matthew Wright, Italian Odyssey: New Zealanders in the Battle for Italy 1943-45 (Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 2003, 2003), Bibliographies, Non-fiction, 166.

[22] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[23] Bolton, A History of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 120.

[24] 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field

[25] P.H. Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War (History Press Limited, 2016), 73.

[26] Brigadier A.H Fernyhough C.B.E. M.C, History of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1920-1945, 40.

[27] Williams, War on Wheels: The Mechanisation of the British Army in the Second World War, 73.

[28] Wright, Italian Odyssey: New Zealanders in the Battle for Italy 1943-45, 166.


NZ Divisional Salvage Unit 1941-1942

20170929_150757-740050609.jpg

Badge of the 2nd NZEF

During the Second World War, the New Zealand Ordnance Corps (NZOC) provided a variety of Ordnance Services to the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). The most well know of the Ordnance Service proved are those of the Base Ordnance Depot, Advanced Ordnance Depot. Ordnance Field Park, Laundry and Bath Units, and up to the end of 1942, the Base and Field Workshops and Light Aid Detachments which separated from the NZOC to form the New Zealand Electrical And Mechanical Engineers (NZEME). However, there remains one Ordnance unit which although appearing on the 2nd NZEF Order of Battle, only rates a very obscure mention in only one of nine official campaign histories published after the war, and has mostly been forgotten; this is the NZ Divisional Salvage Unit.

World War One Origins

New  Zealand’s first experience of Salvage units was during the 1914-18 war. Each British formation (including Dominion forces) was required as part of an army salvage plan to appoint a Salvage Officer for each brigade, and a Division Salvage Company, which in turn was supported a Corps Salvage Company.  Formed on 5 May 1916 the NZ Divisional Salvage Company was under the command of Lieutenant  Macrae, NZAOC. The duties of the NZ Divisional Salvage Company were:

  • The care and custody of packs of troops engaged in offensive operations.
  • The care of tents and canvas of the Division.
  • The salvage of Government property, and also enemy property, wherever found.
  • The sorting of the stuff salved, and dispatch thereof to base.
events-WW1-salvage-v2a

WW1 salvage dump notice. Photo by British Pictorial Service; public domain image taken from The Business of War at the Internet Archive website

An indication of the type of work carried out by the NZ Division Salvage Company can be found in the work of the British Army’s 34th Divisional Salvage Company which was active on the Somme during July 1916. During this period the 34th Divisional Salvage Company recovered;1

Rifles – 12,998
Bayonets – 6,050
Revolvers – 8
Very Pistols – 28
Machine Guns – 51
Trench Mortars – 12
Small Arms Ammunition – 1,580,000 rounds
S.A.A. fired cases – 145,000
Bombs – 40,000
Sets of equipment complete – 5,500
Groundsheets – 700
Steel Helmets – 9,869
Gas Masks – 13,280
Picks & shovels – 2,000
Wire Cutters – 950
Bully Beef Tins – 16,000
Bagpipes – 6 sets

Total value of one months salvage = £1,500,000.

events-WW1-Salvage-of-the-battlefield-near-Bapaume

Salvage of the battlefield near Bapaume: Photo by David McLellan; taken from the National Library of Scotland’s First World War ‘Official Photographs’ website; adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence

American author Isaac F Marcosson, writing in 1918, described this recycling operation in some detail.2

“At the ‘sharp end,’ there was “Battle Salvage, which deals with the debris of actual fighting and includes all trench materials such as wood and iron, shell-cases, guns, rifles, equipment, clothing, tools and other stores that have been damaged in actual fighting.” There was also “so-called Normal Salvage, which is material such as empty packing cases, [fuel] cans and other articles which never reach the battlefield.”

The Salvage system proved to be a success with statistical records published of what each unit had recovered, with competition between units not uncommon. To outdo the New Zealand Division, one of the Australian Divisions went to the effort of stealing copper appliances and hardware from a derelict brewery to accrue additional credits.3 Following the success of the Salvage system in the First World War, provision was made on war establishments for Salvage units on a ratio of one Salvage unit per Division and one Salvage unit as Corps troops.

Western Desert 1941

As the New Zealand Divison became established in Egypt in early in 1941, General Headquarters (GHQ) the Middle East requested information on 2 April 1941 on the establishment of the New Zealand Divisional Salvage Unit and when its equipment would be ready. With no Salvage Unit yet formed an establishment for an NZ Salvage Unit, consisting of 1 Officer and 43 Other Ranks was published on 18 April 1941, with no further action towards the formation of the NZ Divisional Salvage Unit taken until August of 1941.4

Estab 18 April 41

NZEF, NZ Divisional Salvage Unit Establishment 18 April 1941

The role of Field Salvage Units was to sort salvage. All RASC motor transport units serving divisions and corps were tasked with carrying salvage on the return journey. This included containers which could be reused, small equipment which could be recycled and ammunition that had been unpacked but not used. T

With Australian and SouthAfrican Salvage units already operating in the Middle East and with Indian and New Zealand units expected to begin operating shortly, GHQ Middle East called a conference to define the relationship of these units with the Salvage Directorate GHQ.

At the conference held on 13 August 1941, it was established that the Dominion  Divisions were formed with a war establishment of one Salvage unit per Division and one per Corps troops. No Salvage units were provided for at present for British Divisions, or Corps, although they were allowed for in the War Establishment.

The pressing question of the conference was if the Dominion Salvage units would be part of the Middle East Salvage Organisation, or regarded as separate units working under their own headquarters.

The Australians were satisfied with existing arrangements and stated that full cooperation from the AIF could be expected.

The representatives the  1st and 2nd South African Divisions stated that they were willing to cooperate and that the available Salvage units should be used for the common good, but wished that the SA Salvage units remain administered by their Headquarters, and the unit s should accompany their Divisions into action.

The Representatives of 4 and 5 Indian Division stated that when formed, they would prefer it to be used as a GHQ asset rather than as Div troops.

New Zealand, represented by its DDOS Colone King, stated that a New Zealand Salvage unit was not yet formed, but could be if requested. As a Divisional unit, it was expected that the unit would remain with the Division, but the Salvage Directorate could rest assure that the NZ Division would cooperate in every possible way.

Base Salvage Depots under the control of GHQ would receive all Salvage irrespective of the unit that it was collected from. GHQ would conduct all sales with the proceeds credited to His Majestys Government. The War Office would be approached to take into account the value of salvage collected in the future when setting capitation rates for equipment.

The consensus was that Salvage Units would remain with their Divisions but that the Salvage Directorate would exercise technical control.

Armed with the knowledge that the Salvage unit would remain with the New Zealand Divison, approval for the formation of the NZ Divisional Salvage unit as a unit of the NZEF was granted by Headquarters 2 NZEF on 16 August 1941. The NZ Divisional Salvage unit was to be a unit of the NZOC and the NZEF DDOS in conjunction with the Military Secretary, HQ NZEF and HQ Maddi Camp were to arrange for a suitable officer and Other Ranks to be posted to the unit and equipment to be assembled.

Formation

On 12 September 1941 the New Zealand Division begun to move into Baggush in the Western Desert as it began to assemble for the upcoming Operation Crusader. On 11 November the New Zealand Division together for the first time joined at an assembly point near the Matruh-Siwa road. On 18 November Operation Crusader began with the New Zealand Division crossing the Libyan frontier into Cyrenaica and after some hard fighting linking up with the garrison at Tobruk on 26 November. It is in Tobruk that the Salvage unit would get it only mention in the New Zealand War history series of books in the volume “The Relief of Tobruk” it stares: 5

“The NZASC companies provided working parties at the ammunition depot, and the docks, Workshops and Ordnance Field Park overhauled vehicles, and the Salvage Unit for the first time found plenty of work to do.”

On 23 December 1941 the NZ Salvage Unit lost a member of the unit when Private Leo Gregory Narbey died as the result of an accident. Private Narby now rests in the Commonwealth War Grave Commission Alamein cemetery.6

3920030

Western Desert, Egypt, 12 August 1942. Men of the 9th Australian Divisional Salvage Unit checking over captured arms at El Alamein. Public Domain Australian War Memorial

Operation Crusader was a success but one that inflicted heavy losses on British and Dominionarmour and Infantry, as the Axis forces withdrew under pressure, large quantities of enemy equipment and war material was abandoned leaving the battlefield to the battered 8th Army. Due to the magnitude of the Salvage work to clear the battlefield, GHQ request that all Divisional Salvage units be placed under 8th Army control as Army troops to allow their coordinated use. This request was agreed to by the GOC 2 NZEF on 1 January 1942 on the condition that the Salvage would be released back to the NZ Divison if required. As the NZ Salvage unit was at Baggush, its transfer to 8th Army control was immediate.

Libya and Syria 1942

Badly mauled in Operation Crusader and the subsequent operations, the New Zealand Division had suffered 879 dead, and 1700 wounded and was withdrawn from Libya back to Egypt and then at the instance of the New Zealand government moved to Syria during February to recover but also prepare defences for a possible German offensive through Turkey.

As the NZ Divison rebuilt itself in Syria the NZ Divisional Salvage unit remained in Libya under 8th Army command. During March the delay in receiving reinforcements from New Zeland hastened the need to make estimates for replacement drafts, and HQ 2NZEF approached GHQ Middle East with an enquiry on the expected release dates of 2NZEF units including the NZ Salvage Unit who were under direct 8th Army command. The presumption was that the detached units would remain under 8th Army control until the operational situation would allow their release.

013351

Australian 9th Div Salvage Unit under fire 5th October 1942. El Alamein, Egypt. image 013351 Australian War Memorial.

Remaining detached from the Division the NZ Salvage units establishment was increased to a strength of 1 Officer and 45 Other Ranks, its transport assets were also increase to include one car and five trucks and given the tactical situation ammunition allocation per man was increased from 20 rounds of .303 to 50 rounds per man.

Estab 28 May 42

NZEF, NZ Divisional Salvage Unit Establishment 28 May 1942

With the NZ Divison rushed back into the fight in the Western Desert in June 1942, the NZ Salvage unit remained detached. August 1942 would find the NZ Salvage Unit in Syria and under the command of the 9th Army and operating as Army Troops rather than a Divisional unit as initially intended.  On 24 August 1942, the ADOS of 2 NZ Div sent a submission to HQ 2NZEF recommending the disbanding of the NZ Salvage unit. The main point of the submission was that the NZ Salvage Unit since its formation had always been employed as Arny troops outside of the Division. Also given the reinforcement situation its personnel could be better employed within the main NZOC Divisional organisation.  The GOC 2NZEF approved the proposal in principle but felt that the NZ Salvage Unit might still be usefully employed by the 8th Army in the current theatre. 8th Army rejected the offer, and the decision was made by HQ NZEF to recall the unit from Syria to Maadi Camp while a decision could be made on its future employment or disbandment.

Rolling through to September 1942 the NZ Salvage Unit was still detached to the 9th Army in Syria when on 19 Sept HQ NZEF sent a warning order to Headquarter 9th Army of the interesting to recall the NZ Salvage unit to Egypt for disbandment. Final Order instructing the Unit to return to Egypt was issued on 3 October 1942 with the NZ Divisional Salvage Unit formally disbanded as a unit of the NZEF on 20 October 1942.7

Disbandment

After 15 months of service, the NZ Divisional Salvage Unit was disbanded and its men distributed to other NZEF and NZ Divison Ordnance Units. The Salvage units contribution to the war effort in the Middle East alongside the other Dominion Salvage Units provided an essential function, collecting, sorting and dispatching battlefield salvage, captured allied and enemy equipment to Workshops and Salvage Depots for repair, recycling and redistribution fighting units. It is unfortunate that this crucial administrative war work carried out by one of New Zealand forgotten Ordnance units have been forgotten and it is hoped that future research into this unit will expand on their story.

Video

British Pathe Newsreel providing an example of Salvage work carried out in the Western Desert.  Desert Salvage

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

 Notes

1 Marc Barkman-Astles, “The Archaeology of Star Wars Strikes Back!,”  https://www.heritagedaily.com/2016/05/the-archaeology-of-star-wars-strikes-back/111007.

2 Steve Atcherley, “Llewellyn Atcherley’s World War One,”  http://www.atcherley.org.uk/wp/remembrance-day-seven/.

3 Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), 76.

4 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field Item Idr20107590 Record No  Da 1/9/Sd81/21 (Wellington: New Zealand Archives, 1941).

5 473W. E. Murphy, The Relief of Tobruk, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 (Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1961, 1961), Non-fiction.

6 “Leo Gregory Narbey,”  http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C30146?n=Leo%20Gregory%20Narbey&ordinal=0&from=%2Fwar-memorial%2Fonline-cenotaph%2Fsearch.

7 2nzef – Organisation and War Establishments – Ordnance – Field


Gordon Cumming Bremner

Gordon Cumming Bremner was born at Wanganui on 30 October 1891. Completing his schooling, Gordon took up a career as a farm hand in the central North Island of New Zealand. Fulfilling his obligation to participate in Compulsorily Military Training, Gordon enlisted in the 6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles of the Territorial Army on 1 March 1911. Serving in the Territorial Army for three years Gordon would enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in January 1915.

Taking his attestation on 11 January 1915, Gordon would spend three months training at Trentham before embarking on Troopship No 23 the SS Waitoma on 17 April 1915 as part of the 4th Reinforcements for the voyage to Egypt. Disembarking at Suez on 25 May 1915, Gordon would undergo further training at Zeitoun Camp. Early in June Gordon departed Alexandra, joining the 11th (Taranaki) Company of the Wellington Battalion in the Dardanelles on 9 June.

Bremner GC 01 B Coy 4th Reinfs

Gordon Bremner with B Company 4th Reinforcements, Norm Lamont Collection

Bremner GC 01a B Coy 4th Reinfs

Gordon would have spent the uncomfortably hot months of June and July with the Taranaki Company rotating between Courtney and Quinn’s Posts at Gallipoli as the Wellington Battalion consolidated its position. Participating in the Battle of Chunuk Bair and wounded in action on 8 August,  the injury saw Gordon evacuated from Gallipoli on HMS Alaunia.  Gordon arrived back in Alexandra on 13 August and admitted to the 1st Australian (No.3 Auxiliary) Hospital at Heliopolis on 14 Aug where in addition to his battle injuries Gordon received treatment for appendicitis. Diagnosed with neurasthenia, the term used to describe “shell shock” or what is referred to in modern times as a Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) saw the transfer of Gordon to the New Zealand General Hospital at Abbassia on 13 September. With Gordon’s condition classifying him as unfit for service, he was transferred to the Lady de Walden’s Hospital at Alexandria on 8 October in preparation for his repatriation to New Zealand, departing on the SS Tahiti on 20 November. Arriving in New Zealand on boxing day 1915 and admitted to a convalescent home at Rotorua, Gordon would spend several months recuperating. Recovery was slow, and although his health had improved, Gordon remained classified as medically unfit for military service resulting in his discharge from the NZEF on 19 April 1916.

Bremner GC 07a Otago Witness Sep 1915

Motivated to continue serving, Gordon re-joined the Territorial Army on 1 June 1916 and applied for enlistment into the NZEF on 10 December, but his C2 medical grading precluded his reenlistment into the NZEF. Gordons records do not record his activities during 1917, but in February 1918 Gordon was medially reclassified as C1 – Likely to become fit for active service after special training. Gordon’s medical upgrading was well timed, as on 15 September 1917 authorisation for men medically unfit for active service was granted so they could replace Territorials who remained on duty at the coast defence forts in the main centres. Gordon was ordered to report to the Officer Commanding of the RNZA Wellington on 26 Feb 2018 and on 27 February 1918, Gordon was enlisted as a guard with the Garrison Artillery at Fort Ballance at Wellington.

Bremner GC 09 Garrison Artillery

Gordon Bremner Garrison Artillery. Norm Lamont Collection

On 31 December 1918 Gordon married Irene Pearl Williams at Wellington. Their marriage would see the birth of eight children and the adoption of another;

  • Zita Millicent (adopted), born 27 Dec 16 Christchurch,
  • Jean Kathleen, Born 21 Sept 20 Wellington,
  • James Alexander Gordon, born 31 Jan 22 Taumarunui,
  • Allan Duff, born 21 Apr 24 Wellington,
  • Jessie Elizabeth, born 20 Sept Wellington,
  • Louise Gladys, born 29 Sept Wellington.
  • Nancy Irene, born 1930,
  • John Keith, born 1934,
  • Joyce Kay, born 9 Feb 1936

After four years, the armistice of 11 November 1918 brought the First World War to a close, and by late 1919 Gordon was at a crossroads regarding his future. As a Bombardier (Corporal) in the Artillery, he was well placed to transfer from the Territorials into the Permanent Force and with his savings purchase a comfortable house and pursue a career in the peacetime army, or he could take his discharge and seek fresh pastures. Gordon chose to seek fresh pastures and with his pre-war experience as a farm hand decided to become a farmer. Utilising the Soldiers Resettlement Scheme, Gordon invested his savings in a farm in the King Country. With marginal and isolated land allocated to returned servicemen, Gordons attempt to develop and farm the land was an experience shared by many other returned servicemen and was a futile and hopeless endeavour. After two years of backbreaking and heartbreaking work, Gordon and his family abandoned their farm and now homeless with savings expended returned to Wellington in October 1922.

Attempting to find work with the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham in October 1923 and again in March 1924, Gordon was initially unsuccessful, but did secure work at the Trentham Racecourse and later as a foreman with the Public Works Department in Trentham Camp. Gordon eventually secured a position as the relieving Camp Firemaster and in charge of the night patrol, with accommodation for his family provided in a target shed adjacent to the rifle range. The delivery of the first motorised ambulance to Trentham Camp saw Gordon appointed as the driver. In July 1925 Gordon’s luck changed as he was accepted for service into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) and was attested as a Private into “E” Section of the Main Ordnance Depot on 21 July. Up to his enlistment in the NZAOC Gordon had remained efficient in the Territorial Army with his service between 1916 and 1925 equalling four years and 211 days.

Bremner GC 14

Gordon Bremner as Trentham Camp Ambulance Driver C1925. Trentham News 1 September 1955 Norm Lamont Collection

Gordon’s enlistment into the NZAOC would in normal circumstances allowed him to retire 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)  military staff could be either;

  • Transferred to the Civil service, or
  • Retired on superannuation.

Using this act, Gordon was discharged out of the NZAOC and transferred to the Civil Service on 31 January 1931 to work in the same position as a lorry driver but at a lower rate of pay.

Discharge 1930

Less than a week after Gordon’s transfer to the NZAOC Civilian staff, a disastrous earthquake struck Napier and Hastings on 3 February 1931. The NZAOC was called upon at short notice to supply tents, blankets, bedding, cooking and eating utensils, for use in the stricken areas. As part of the civilian ordnance staff, Gordon’s skills as a lorry driver were put to full use delivering these stores and equipment to Napier and Hastings. All military employees including the civilian staff such as Gordon who engaged in the relief effort were deserving of great credit for the manner in which they carried out their duties under trying conditions.

Gordon’s wounds continued to cause him issues, and in February 1933 Gordon was admitted to hospital for an operation on a duodenal ulcer which was causing him some discomfort. As a result of the surgery a souvenir of Chunuk Bair, a piece of Turkish shrapnel was removed from Gordon’s stomach.

Gordon would continue to serve with the NZAOC in a civilian capacity for the remainder of the 1930’s. Although New Zealand entered the Second World War in 1939, the NZAOC would not transition into a full wartime footing until 1942 when, with the threat of invasion by Japan perceived as possible, saw the mobilisation of the full military potential of New Zealand. The NZAOC would transition from an organisation primarily staffed by civilians into one with a predominately military establishment, with many of the NZAOC civilian staff including Gordon returning to uniform. Gordon was attested into the Temporary Service of the NZAOC at Trentham on 24 August 1942 and allocated the service number 814628. Promoted to Corporal on 1 September 1942 with promotion to Sergeant following on 1 August 1944.

 

Bremner GC 15 1950s

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

Bremner GC 14b

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

With the end of the Second World War, Gordon transitioned into the post-war Interim Army as a Sergeant on 26 June 1946 and then into the Home Service Section (HSS) of the Regular Force as a Sergeant in the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC). As a driver in the Receipts and Issues Group of the Main Ordnance Depot, Gordon would often be out on runs around the Wellington region collection and delivering store to units and to transports agencies such as the railway, his pleasant manner, willingness to oblige and friendly ways ensured that he was a respected and popular member of Trentham Camp. Gordons activities were not limited to Trentham Camp and throughout his post-war service at Trentham, he would undertake many tours of duty to the other Ordnance depots at Linton, Waiouru and Hopuhopu. Receiving three extensions to his service Gordon would serve throughout the 1950’s.

Bremner GC 14 1950s

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

In 1955 a review of Gordon’s service was undertaken, and in acknowledgement of his Sixteen Years and Nineteen days qualifying service in the Territorial Army, NZEF and NZAOC from 1911 to 1931, Gordon was awarded the New Zealand  Long & Efficient Service Medal on 12 May 1955. The New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal was rendered obsolete with the standardisation of awards on 23 September 1931 and Gordons award of this medal is notable as due to its late claim, Gordon’s award was the last one of this type awarded.

LSES Medal Bremner

Reaching retiring age in 1956, Gordon was discharged from the New Zealand Army on 6 August 1956 after close to Forty-Five years service, the majority of which spent at Trentham Camp to which he had been a witness of its growth form a rudimentary Training Camp in 1915 to a modern Military Camp.

Gordon retired in Upper Hutt and passed away at the age of 76 on 28 November 1967. Gordon now rests at the Wallaceville Cemetery, Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tombstone

Gordon Bremner Tombstone, Wallaceville Cemetery, Upper Hutt. Courtesy Dave Morris

During his service Gordon was awarded the following medals;

  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal War Medal 1939-45
  • New Zealand. War Service Medal.
  • New Zealand Long & Efficient Service Medal

Gordon had also been issued with the Silver War Badge. The Silver War Badge, also known as the “Wound Badge” or “Services Rendered Badge” was issued during the First World War to personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service.

In August 1967 Gordon received his Gallipoli lapel badge in the post with a letter apologising for the delay in sending out the Medallion. Gordons Gallipoli medallion would arrive a  week after his funeral.

Gordon’s son James would also pursue a military career in the Ordnance Corps. Working a civilian storeman at the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham, James would be attested into the Army on 12 June 1940. Serving in Italy with the New Zealand Ordnance Corps with the 2nd NZEF from 1943 to 1945. Remaining in the NZAOC at the Main Ordnance Depot, James would retire from the RNZAOC as A Warrant Officer Class Two on 21 April 1961.

Bremner JA 06

 

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018

 

.


New Zealand Ordnance Roll of Honour

20171110_185346-1496398472.png

The Roll of Honour lists those individuals who have died on operational service with New Zealand’s Ordnance Services and rest in foreign fields.

 

Australia

Perth War Cemetery and Annex

  • Lance Corporal Donald James McInnes MID,  2/07/1943

Egypt

Alamein Memorial

  • Temporary Major William Andrew Knox, 5/12/1941, OC Divisional Ordnance Field Park
  • Serjeant Allan Edward Agnew, 2/02/1945 Divisional Ordnance Workshops
  • Private Maurice Thompson,  28/11/1941 16 L.A.D
  • Private Samuel Victor Viall, 23/11/1941 19 L.A.D
  • Captain Frank Daniel Barry MC, 30/10/1942 15 L.A.D
  • Captain Robert George Brasell,  27/06/1942 16 L.A.D
  • Private Leo Gregory Narbey, 23/12/1941 Divisional Salvage Unit
  • Staff Serjeant Walter Jack Perry, 9/10/1941, Attached to 25 Battalion
  • Private Fredrick Albert Single, 16/07/1942

Cairo War Memorial Cemetery

  • Serjeant Hubert Joseph Edward Avery, 12/06/1941, Attached 18 Infantry Battalion
  • Private Berkeley Kristian Bunbury, 5/01/1941, 18 L.A.D.
  • Private Clive George Savage Cross, 23/02/1941 19 L.A.D.
  • Private Roderick Mcleod Matheson, 2/06/1941

Fayid War Cemetery

  • Serjeant Ronald Roy Moore, 13/02/1942, NZ Divisional Ordnance Field Park

Heliopolis War Cemetery

  • Serjeant Allan John Jamieson, 2/08/1943. 2 Divisional Workshops
  • Private David Porter, 15/05/1942, Base Ordnance Depot
  • Private Alan James Robinson, 28/08/1942, Base Ordnance Depot

Fiji

Suva Military Cemetery

  • Second Lieutenant Augustus Henrickson Brown, 4/01/1944

France

Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord

  • Serjeant Percy Clarence O’Hara, 11/04/1917

Germany

Cologne Southern Cemetery

  • Conductor Clarence Adrian Seay MSM, 20/02/1919
  • Staff Serjeant Major Charles Slattery, 25/02/1919

Greece

Athens Memorial

  • Private Nigel Felix Daniel A’court,  27/04/1941
  • Lieutenant Harry Duncan Arthur Bauchop, 20/04/1941, 9 L.A.D.
  • Serjeant Thomas Morris Drummond, 26/04/1941
  • Warrant Officer Class I Andrew Gunn, 18/04/1941, 13 L.A.D.
  • Private Norris Cochrane Kerr, 25/05/1941
    Private Daniel William Neil, 20/04/1941, 9 L.A.D.

Italy

Ancona War Cemetery

  • Corporal Ivan Lawrence Fairbrother, 29/10/1944 16 L.A.D.

Caserta War Cemetery

  • Private Oscar Harold Maxted, 5/07/1944 Adv. Base Workshops.

Florence War Cemetery

  • Private Alister Alexander Phillips, 18/10/1945 38 L.A.D.

Padua War Cemetery

  • Corporal Albert Walter Findlater, 1/05/1945 2 Divisional Workshop
  • Lance Corporal John William Merson, 1/05/1945 10 L.A.D.

Ravenna War Cemetery

  • Private Ivan James Curin, 24/03/1945, Divisional Ordnance Field Park

Rome

War Cemetery

  • Lance Corporal Owen Earle Penny, 28/06/1944

Sangro War Cemetery

  • Private Trevor James Cunningham, 26/11/1943 16 L.A.D.

New Caledonia

Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery

  • Serjeant Richard John Keebel, 8/11/1943
  • Serjeant William James Pearson MID, 27/10/1943

Palestine

Ramleh War Cemetery

  • Serjeant Alexander Charles Wisnofski, 6/11/1918

Tunisia

Sfax War Cemetery

  • Private Alan Norman Head, 6/03/1943 9 L.A.D.
  • Corporal Alexander McCorkindale, 29/03/1943 Workshop Sec.

United Kingdom

Tidworth Military Cemetery, Wiltshire, England

  • Armourer Sergeant John William Allday, 9/01/1917