The Royal New Zealand Navy
CHAPTER 26 — Recruiting and Training…
Recruiting and Training
FOR some months after the outbreak of hostilities no special recruiting effort was made by the Naval Board. Its peacetime policy had been to build up a corps of New Zealand long-service ratings sufficient to man the ships of the New Zealand Naval Forces,1 recruiting being undertaken chiefly by Army Area offices throughout the Dominion. In practice, it was found that young New Zealanders did not take kindly to being bound to serve for so long a period as twelve years. In September 1939 New Zealand ratings made up rather more than one-half of the complements of the two cruisers and HMS Philomel, the base ship and training establishment. The rate of expansion had been limited by the shortage of accommodation in the Philomel and the small number of men re-engaging.2
At the outbreak of war it was decided that every effort should be made to replace as many as possible of the ratings on loan from the Royal Navy with New Zealanders by retaining time-expired men, calling up reservists, and entering artificer and artisan ratings for ‘hostilities only’. No steps were taken to increase the normal inflow of long-service ratings or to explore ways and means to recruit and train the considerable number of yachtsmen and seaminded lads who were keen to see war service in the Navy, but who, if they were not sought after, would inevitably be taken by the Army or the Air Force. Some of them made their way to England and found naval service there.
1 The Pacific Conference on defence in 1939 had recommended that New Zealand should undertake to maintain a third cruiser and two sloops.
2 Steps were taken during 1939 to encourage men to re-engage.
The Government replied that very few trained naval reserves and no trained civil air pilots were available for service in the Royal Navy, but it was thought that a substantial number of yachtsmen and ex-merchant marine officers could be found. It was not thought that many men in the third category surplus to requirements would be available, but the possibility of increasing the number of such trained men was being investigated.
That the Naval Board failed to anticipate the great demand for men that was bound to arise in a great maritime conflict is evident from an official statement in the name of the Minister of Defence, published in the newspapers on 22 September 1939. This said that officers and men of the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, including officers on the retired list, were being called up by personal summons as and when required. Retired officers, pensioners, and Royal Fleet Reserve men of the Royal Navy would also be called up if and when required. In due course those not required for service in the New Zealand Naval Forces would be placed at the disposal of the Admiralty and sent to England or elsewhere as directed from London.
Regarding former ratings of the Royal Navy, not pensioners and not Royal Fleet Reserve men, there was at present no service for which they could be re-entered. The naval authorities were well aware that there was a large number of these men in New Zealand keen to offer their services. Due announcement would be made should there be an opportunity to enter some of them. When New Zealand requirements had been settled it was intended to ask the Admiralty whether it wished the remainder, if volunteers, to be sent overseas for service in the Royal Navy. In the meantime, these men should continue in their ordinary occupations, unless they wished to volunteer for military service, which they were quite free to do.2
2 Author's italics.
Emphasis to this clear discouragement of eager volunteers for naval war service was given by the concluding passage of the statement, that ‘the Naval Department is working at very high pressure and the naval authorities, therefore, hope that the public will be good enough to refrain from writing to offer their services.’ Events were soon to be more compelling than easy words. Within a few months Navy Office had been obliged to start several recruiting schemes to meet not only the needs of the New Zealand naval forces but the calls of the Admiralty as well. As the pressure on New Zealand's limited resources of manpower increased, the Navy found itself competing with the other services.
The modern method of increasing the manpower of the Navy in time of war and reducing it when peace comes without inflicting unnecessary hardship is to do the expanding, not in the ranks and ratings of the service itself, but in the far more elastic and temporary Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. In the 1914–18 war this was done to some extent, but not sufficiently, as was evident from the drastic retrenchment of Royal Navy officers by means of the ‘economy axe’ in the nineteen-twenties. In the Second World War, such was the numerical expansion of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve that towards the end of the conflict the percentages of executive officers in the three categories were approximately: Royal Navy, 14 per cent; Royal Naval Reserve, 12 per cent: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 74 per cent. In the case of ratings, the needs of the Navy were largely met by the enlistment of men for the period of ‘hostilities only’.
1 This announcement appeared in the New Zealand newspapers of 22 September 1939.
Following this announcement, Navy Office called for applications from young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years, qualified to hold technical ratings as engine-room artificers, electrical artificers, shipwrights, joiners, blacksmiths, plumbers, painters, telegraphists, and signalmen. This produced a fair response and, on 3 November 1939, the Naval Secretary reported to the Minister of Defence that 367 applications had been received, from whom 68 ‘possibles’ had been provisionally selected. The Minister was also informed that some 800 other applications for naval service ‘previously received had also been sorted and classified.’
The opinion that ‘no appreciable claims upon the manpower of the Dominion will be necessary for naval purposes in New Zealand’ was expressed by the Chief of Naval Staff (Commodore Horan) in a memorandum for the Council of Defence at the end of November 1939. The requirements of men for service in the New Zealand naval forces were limited by the warships and auxiliary vessels and defended port services maintained by the New Zealand Government. The vessels for which manning must be provided were the Leander, Achilles, Monowai, and Wakakura, two groups of three minesweepers and three danlayers (partly manned by merchant service hands), and HMS Philomel, depot ship and training establishment. The seagoing ships were fully manned and as much dilution of active-service officers and ratings on loan from the Royal Navy by reservists as was possible had been effected. As RNVR personnel became more experienced and training reached a more advanced stage, further dilution would be made. Since an increase in the number of warships maintained by the New Zealand Government was not contemplated, except the three small vessels (Kiwi, Moa, and Tui) under construction in the United Kingdom, and as the staffs of the various naval services at the main ports were ‘now stabilised’, it was not anticipated that there would be any major naval requirements which could not be met from the existing reserves and the normal annual intake of approximately 140 recruits for long service.page break
The explosion of a depth-charge dropped by a destroyer in the Hauraki Gulf
The remains of the Japanese submarine I-1 sunk off Guadalcanal by the New Zealand corvettes Moa and Kiwi
Burial service at sea, after Kolombangara
The Gambia bombarding Kamaishi in Japan, August 1945
The escort carrier HMS Nairana in heavy winter seas during a convoy to Russia
A Hurricane making low-wind speed trials in the Mediterranean
The smoke is from a German bomber destroyed by two Wildcat fighters piloted by New Zealanders from the escort carrier HMS Biter, in the Atlantic, February 1944
A near miss on HMS Victorious by a kamikaze, as seen from HMS Indomitable
After outlining what was being done to meet the requests of the Admiralty, the memorandum stated that of the 60 officers and 662 ratings of the New Zealand Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 30 officers and 187 ratings were available to be placed at the Admiralty's disposal. It was very desirable that early action should be taken because these men were extremely keen to serve and felt strongly that their peacetime training was not being made use of. They were inclined to resent the offer of commissions in the RNVR to yachtsmen and ex-merchant service officers.
The Admiralty was informed to that effect on 5 December 1939 and it was suggested that, as far as possible, the RNVR officers and ratings should be employed as a New Zealand unit to man a group of minesweepers or other small craft or, alternatively, that the lower seamen ratings, who were new entries, should serve as guns' crews in defensively equipped merchant ships. The message emphasised the ‘undesirability of recruiting men from civil life for RNVR commissions until the surplus of New Zealand RNVR had been absorbed.’ Regarding the Admiralty's request for telegraphists, signalmen, artificers, and artisans, it was not thought that more than fifty would be available after selected applicants had undergone trade tests and medical examination.1
About three weeks later the Admiralty asked whether ten experienced yachtsmen could be selected from those in New Zealand wishing to serve in the Royal Navy. The Admiralty explained that it was desired to form a pool of ten temporary officers suitable as first lieutenants in minesweepers and patrol craft in Malaya, and no suitable RNVR officers could be spared from the United Kingdom for this purpose.2 A reply was made that this request had been ‘received with surprise’ and drew the attention of the Admiralty to the previous message, which laid special stress on the desire of the Government and the Naval Board to mobilise and appoint New Zealand RNVR officers before calling for civilian volunteers for commissions in the Imperial Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. The Naval Board, therefore, proposed forthwith to nominate ten lieutenants or sub-lieutenants from the twenty executive officers who were available.3
1 Governor-General to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, telegram of 5 December 1939.
3 Prime Minister to High Commissioner, telegram of 2 January 1940.
Four days later a reply was received that the Admiralty would take over the surplus New Zealand RNVR personnel. All officers should be sent to the United Kingdom as soon as possible. As the majority of lower ratings were comparatively new entries who had done no sea training, it was unlikely that they could be employed as a unit. The Admiralty wanted experienced yachtsmen as temporary officers for service with minesweepers and other craft in Malaya, not officers of the New Zealand RNVR who could all be employed to greater advantage in the United Kingdom. The Admiralty confirmed that ten yachtsmen should be selected and appointed as ‘probationary temporary sub-lieutenants RNVR’. Trained ratings should be sent to the United Kingdom as soon as possible; but it was preferable that new entries and RNVR ratings should complete their early training and technical courses in New Zealand before going to England.
Meanwhile, considerable dissatisfaction with the delay and uncertainty was being voiced by yachtsmen and other volunteers for naval service. The feeling of many was expressed by a newspaper correspondent, who said there were sufficient men in New Zealand with years of seafaring and yachting experience to supply to England ‘at least 1000 of the 10,000 men said to be required for service in small craft’. Were ‘all these fully qualified men of the sea to be forced to join the infantry and cast aside their years of specialised training when England was asking for just such men?’ The Minister of Defence, in a public statement on behalf of Navy Office, replied that New Zealand's naval requirements and the requests of the Admiralty so far had been fully met. If, and when, the Admiralty asked for more men, New Zealand would comply to the best of her ability.
At a conference at Wellington on 13 February 1940 to prepare plans for a national recruiting campaign, the acting Prime Minister said the people would have to participate in the greatest effort the country had ever made. The Government had decided that the page 417 situation could be met by voluntary enlistment. The problem of man-power had to be dealt with efficiently and effectively. There was to be no exempted industry, but men might have to be told they could not be spared. A National Register was to be compiled on the basis of information obtained by means of special Social Security forms. Naval requirements were very briefly mentioned by the Minister of Defence in his survey of recruiting for the armed forces. The total registrations for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to date were more than 27,000 and the Third Echelon was nearly completed. Already 4300 had applied to join the Air Force. No figures were given for the Navy, but the Minister said Great Britain's request for men for naval service was being met.
Actually, the number about to be sent overseas, including the RNVR officers and ratings, was approximately 300. In addition to these and the men already serving in the New Zealand naval forces, sixty-five ratings of the RNVR had been drafted to twenty-five defensively equipped merchant ships by April 1940. But the period of ‘twilight war’ was nearly ended. The Admiralty was soon to step up its requests for men, and in a few months half a dozen naval recruiting schemes were in operation in New Zealand.
A draft of 28 officers and 357 ratings under the command of Commander R. Newman, RNZNVR, sailed from Wellington on 2 May 1940. The draft included 25 officers and 219 ratings of the RNZNVR and 56 artisan and signal ratings recruited for service in the Royal Navy, as well as 3 officers and 82 ratings from the Achilles who were reverting to the Royal Navy.
The ten experienced yachtsmen asked for by the Admiralty were entered under what was called Scheme ‘Y’ and commissioned as sub-lieutenants RNVR. More than 250 affirmative replies were received by Navy Office to a circular letter sent to each of the 500-odd yachtsmen who had already volunteered, and selection committees were set up to interview applicants. Unfortunately, owing to the high cost of living in Malaya, the matters of private means and the relatively low rates of pay and allowances were factors that had to be taken into account. Much misunderstanding and heartburning arose when a number of candidates had to withdraw on that account, and baseless charges of ‘old school tie’ and ‘bank balance’ favouritism were made against the selection committees, whose duty it was to appraise applicants of the position. Actually, the final selection was made by the Minister of Defence, in his capacity as chairman of the Naval Board, assisted by the Second Naval Member. The ten yachtsmen so chosen were five from Auckland, two from Wellington, and one each from Napier, Dunedin, and Hokitika. They sailed from Auckland on 29 April 1940 for Australia and thence to Singapore.page 418
At the beginning of September 1940 the Rear-Admiral, Malaya, asked for a further twelve yachtsmen. They were selected from the list of volunteers and sailed from Wellington for Singapore on 25 October. When, in February 1941, he asked for another twelve yachtsmen, Rear-Admiral, Malaya, said ‘it had been a most successful experiment and it is estimated that we could take about twelve similar gentlemen every four months as long as the Singapore building programme continues…. The present system of training is six weeks ashore and then to sea. If space is available, as many as possible are sent to cruisers for a short period.’
It was not thought practicable to send twelve experienced yachtsmen every four months. Scheme ‘A’ had taken thirty-three men and the delay in announcing a definite recruiting policy had allowed the Army and Air Force to benefit at the expense of the Navy. A full quota of twelve men for the third draft was authorised and selected but at the eleventh hour two withdrew and only ten sailed on 29 April 1941. In November 1941 another twelve yachtsmen were asked for and chosen, but when the Japanese invaded Malaya their departure was postponed and finally cancelled after the fall of Singapore. They saw service elsewhere. Of the thirty-two ‘Y’ scheme officers who saw service in Malayan waters during those distressful days, fourteen died and seven as prisoners of war suffered at the hands of the Japanese.
The first clear-cut proposal for recruiting men in New Zealand on a broader basis came from the Admiralty in May 1940 and led to the institution of Schemes ‘A’ and ‘B’, so called because the sections outlining the proposal were marked ‘A’ and ‘B’ in the Admiralty memorandum sent to New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.1 Under Scheme ‘A’ the Admiralty wanted men between the ages of 30 and 40 holding yachtmasters' certificates, or having equivalent knowledge and being otherwise suitable, who would be granted direct commissions in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Scheme ‘B’ proposed the ‘enrolment of potential candidates for commissions as ordinary seamen with a view to their promotion to commissioned rank after a period of service.’
1 Admiralty memorandum C. W. 8452.40 of March 1940.
After the Naval Board had discussed the Admiralty's proposal, several important matters were referred to the Minister of Defence. One was whether the principle of supplementing Royal Navy rates of pay, allowances, disability awards, and pensions to New Zealand rates, which was being done for New Zealanders already in the Imperial forces, should be maintained. Another question was whether the cost of passages to England should be defrayed by the United Kingdom or by New Zealand. A further point was the position of ratings already serving in the New Zealand Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Officer rank in that force was invariably reached from the ‘lower deck’, which was the principle on which Scheme ‘B’ was based. It was, therefore, only fair that RNVR ratings at present serving should be given an opportunity of reaching officer rank through Scheme ‘B’ equal to that offered to civilians now to be recruited. War Cabinet authority to supplement Royal Navy rates of pay, allowances, etc., to New Zealand rates by payment in New Zealand, and for the costs of passages of men to the United Kingdom to be borne by New Zealand, was given on 27 August 1940.
1 Governor-General to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, telegram of 7 June 1940.
Under Scheme ‘A’ the Admiralty had asked for fifty fully qualified yachtsmen, but only thirty-three were actually selected and commissioned as probationary temporary sub-lieutenants RNVR. They sailed in four drafts between 11 August 1940 and the end of that year. On arrival in England they went to HMS King Alfred, a shore training establishment, where they went through various courses before receiving seagoing appointments. At the end of three months they were promoted lieutenants RNVR, with the exception of some under the age of 30 years who had to wait rather longer.
When recruiting for Scheme ‘B’ closed at the end of June 1940, 1039 had applied, of whom 608 were eligible and 592 were interviewed. Of these, 307 were not recommended and 150 finally accepted. Between 11 August 1940 and 18 January 1941, five drafts, totalling 157 and including ten RNVR ratings, sailed for the United Kingdom, thus completing the quota asked for by the Admiralty.
In the third week of August 1940 messages were received by Commodore Parry from the First and Second Sea Lords of the Admiralty suggesting that New Zealand should, if possible, supply crews for some of the fifty old destroyers which were being obtained from the United States of America in return for 99-year leases of naval and air bases in British possessions in the Atlantic. Australia and Canada were being asked for similar assistance.
On 22 August the Government replied that the New Zealand naval force would be proud to have the opportunity to man some of the destroyers, but no fully or partly trained officers and men were available. From the beginning of the war it had been the Government's policy to replace as many as possible of the men on loan from the Royal Navy by New Zealand reserves, re-entries, and new entries. It was commissioning HMS Monowai entirely by New Zealand officers and men, except the captain and two other officers, as well as minesweepers and other small craft. The Government had also made available the whole of the New Zealand RNVR not required for service in New Zealand and had retained only a small number to provide reliefs in case of casualties and for further manning requirements for small craft. As, however, the Government desired to do everything in its power to assist the Royal Navy to the maximum possible extent in respect to personnel, it suggested that a special recruiting scheme might be started.1
1 Governor-General to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, telegram of 22 August 1940.
Expressing its gratitude for the ‘considerable number of men already sent to England’ the Admiralty said the recruitment in New Zealand of certain tradesmen ratings, telegraphists, and signalmen for the Royal Navy might be expanded to cover the entry of seamen and stokers and, possibly, cooks, writers, and supply ratings, within the maximum capacity of Philomel to give ‘hostilities only’ training. The probable intention would be to employ such men in Eastern and Near Eastern waters and so save shipping transport for United Kingdom ratings.1
A realistic and forward-looking recruiting and training policy was initiated by Commodore Parry as Chief of Naval Staff in August 1940. He pointed out that the normal flow of active-service ratings had not been increased and that from the war point of view it was most desirable that this should be done. Apart from the probability that additional ships would be commissioned in New Zealand for local defence purposes, the United Kingdom was ‘crying out’ for trained men. To the possible objection that the entry of untrained men would not relieve the situation for some time, he replied that the Prime Minister of Great Britain had said that the war would be a long one, and therefore trained ratings a year or two hence would be of great value. Whether additional entries should be for long or short service or for ‘hostilities only’ would depend upon the strength of the post-war forces to be maintained by New Zealand. It was of the utmost importance that New Zealand should continue to expand her naval forces after the war, one of several reasons being the ‘inevitable exhaustion of Great Britain and her consequent inability to maintain a post-war Pacific Fleet.’
Summing up, Commodore Parry said that New Zealand should immediately increase her capacity for training naval ratings, the building of new barracks should be expedited, the necessary instructors selected or obtained from the United Kingdom, and that long-service ratings only should be entered (this was modified later) and the time under training reduced to a minimum.
At a conference at Auckland on 1–2 October 1940, attended by the First and Second Naval Members, the Director of Recruiting, the Director of Naval Reserves and other officers, it was agreed that, while the recruitment of ‘hostilities only’ ratings for service in the Royal Navy would be additional to the entry and training of continuous service ratings for the New Zealand naval forces, the two systems could be dovetailed into each other so far as training was concerned.
1 Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Governor-General, telegram of 5 September 1940.
Six weeks passed before War Cabinet ‘approved in principle’, and on 11 December 1940 the Chief of Naval Staff was given authority to proceed with the scheme. It was not before time, for in January 1941 the Admiralty advised that steadily increasing manning requirements arising from the new contruction programme and heavy unforeseen commitments, all involving severe strain on the resources of trained ratings, were causing concern. The Admiralty would therefore be ‘extremely grateful for further assistance, particularly as the manning of a third cruiser by New Zealand was envisaged; but it was fully realised that provision of the necessary personnel would require strenuous and sustained effort over a considerable period.’ In the meantime, the Minister of Defence had approved entries of about twenty stokers, twenty telegraphists from the Post and Telegraph Department, and thirty-six signalmen.
The name chosen for the new training establishment was Tamaki, a shortened form of Tamaki-Makau-Rau, the ancient Maori name of the Auckland isthmus. Commander Dennistoun, DSO, RN (retd)1 was appointed in command of HMNZS Tamaki, which was commissioned on 20 January 1941. The old wooden steamer Onewa of 75 tons was purchased for use in transporting men and stores between the island and the Devonport base. She was renamed Tamaki and gave good service for the next five years. The dual task of organising the new establishment and training the first entries of recruits was carried through in the face of many difficulties. The accommodation in the existing buildings was satisfactory neither in degree nor in kind, and much improvisation was necessary to make the best of it. During the next two years new buildings and equipment, an adequate water supply, drainage, roading, and other amenities were provided at a cost of about £90,000. When training started the total staff was only 42, but by September 1941 that number had been more than doubled, and in March 1945 the complement was 150.
1 Captain G. H. Dennistoun, DSO, OBE, RN (retd); born Devon, England, 23 Sep 1884; entered RN 1899; transport officer, SS Tahiti (Main Body, 1 NZEF) 1914; Senior Naval Officer, Lake Nyasa Gunboat Flotilla (Central Africa), 1915–18; retired 1922; HMNZS Tamaki, 1941–46.
As the principal shore training establishment, HMNZS Tamaki was conspicuously successful and an important part of the country's war effort. From January 1941 till the end of hostilities, more than 6000 lads, all volunteers, passed through Tamaki. They represented about 60 per cent of the New Zealanders who saw active naval service in many parts of the world. Their number could and should have been very much greater in what was the greatest maritime struggle in the troublous history of mankind. At the outbreak of war eager volunteers for naval service were positively discouraged, and a whole year allowed to pass before a policy of recruiting and training was adopted.
1 A CW form is a record sheet used in the case of a rating recommended for promotion to commissioned rank.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force was willing to undertake final selection and medical examination and the Chief of Air Staff thought it could supply twenty a month by calling for volunteers from its own lists of approved candidates waiting to be called up, without prejudice to the flow of men to the Air Force. Accordingly, the Admiralty was offered twenty candidates a month for twelve months, with the proviso that no training could be given in New Zealand. A few days later, the Chief of Air Staff informed Navy Office that ‘the Government were anxious to expedite the despatch of candidates for entry as Naval Airmen and would be prepared to send up to 250 in one or more drafts, if and as required.’ This was passed to the Admiralty, who gratefully accepted the offer of twenty a month as a permanent figure, but asked that the second and third drafts should be stepped up to forty each.
The Admiralty message also contained two important policy statements. First, it was made clear that it was not intended to train any rating pilots and the new entries would have to measure up to allround officer standards. Second, candidates who failed to qualify as either pilot or observer would be offered transfer to air gunner or some other technical rate in which they would be eligible to earn commission by service.
On 24 June 1940 a recruiting circular for what was later designated Scheme ‘F’ was drafted. On entry, recruits would be rated Naval Airmen, 2nd class, and go to England to join HMS St. Vincent, a training establishment at Gosport, Portsmouth. After initial naval training there they would be advanced to acting Leading Airmen and selected to undergo training as pilot or observer. All who successfully passed these courses would be granted temporary commissions in the Air Branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Those not qualifying either as pilots or observers would be offered transfer to air gunner or some other technical rating and be eligible to gain commissioned rank under the conditions applicable to the Navy generally.
The New Zealand Air Board had a long waiting list for entry for the Royal Air Force. As the qualifications for the Fleet Air Arm were in most respects identical, it was decided to select air entries for the Navy from those RAF candidates who wished to be considered. Pay and allowances would be at Royal Navy rates, but the Government would supplement them by payment in New Zealand of the difference between them and the higher New Zealand rates. The first draft of twenty sailed on 9 July 1940, and was followed by a draft 38 strong in August, a third of 37 in September, and a fourth of 22 in October.page 425
A draft of eighteen sailed in the Rangitane from Auckland on 25 November. The ship was sunk by the German raiders Orion and Komet two days later and her passengers and crew taken as prisoners. The naval air ratings were travelling in civilian clothes, but were booked and shown in the passenger list as naval personnel. They had been instructed: (a) if boarded by enemy warships, no attempt should be made to conceal their naval status; and (b) if naval personnel are survivors of a torpedoed ship and are picked up by an enemy ship, an attempt to conceal naval status may be made.
When the raiders and their supply ship went to Emirau Island and landed some 500 of their 675 prisoners, the Komet released all hers except twelve Royal Air Force men in uniform, who were transferred to the Orion, in which five of the naval air ratings were held. She later transferred all her prisoners to a ship which took them to Europe. The other thirteen naval air ratings were released on parole from the Komet, whose captain regarded prisoners as a hindrance. They returned to New Zealand with other survivors of the sunken ships.1
In October 1940 the Admiralty asked that the monthly quota of Fleet Air Arm entries be increased to forty, provided this could be done without relaxation of the general standard for potential officers. This was arranged with the Air Department, and by the end of May 1941 five more drafts, totalling 234, had sailed for England. Over the ten months to September 1941, the commitment of forty a month had been met. In July 1941 the High Commissioner reported that eight New Zealand airmen had been discharged as unfit for pilot duties. Fleet Air Arm trainees were required to be up to Royal Navy ‘officer standard’. Consequently, the weeding out at the training establishments left those who did not measure up to that standard without the prospect of pilot training for the Fleet Air Arm and there was no provision for a rating equivalent to the sergeant pilot of the Royal Air Force.
A Naval Board memorandum of 26 March 1941 gave authority for the award of temporary commissions in the New Zealand naval forces to ‘hostilities only’ ratings under conditions similar to those approved by the Admiralty for the Royal Navy. Although the ratings under training in Philomel and Tamaki would be those primarily concerned, the avenue of promotion to commissioned rank would be open to all ratings serving under ‘hostilities only’ engagements. Ratings so recommended would be drafted to sea if not already serving afloat, and would be eligible to appear before a selection board provided they had served at least three months at sea and were still recommended by their commanding officer.
Selected candidates would undergo an officers' training course of sixteen weeks in Australia, at the conclusion of which those successful would be commissioned sub-lieutenants RNZNVR. Those unsuccessful would be drafted to sea without a second chance for a commission, though with every opportunity for a higher rating. This was almost identical with Scheme ‘B’ except that it provided for service only in the New Zealand naval forces.
On 15 May 1941 War Cabinet approval was given to reopen recruiting for Scheme ‘D’ at the rate of twenty-five a month, the position to be reviewed at the end of six months. The first draft of twenty-five ratings under this dispensation sailed for the United Kingdom on 22 July 1941. By the end of that month advertisements had drawn only about seventy-five suitable candidates and the scheme was expanded to take in married men with one child. The quota of 150 had been filled by December 1941, making a total of 335 Scheme ‘B’ men sent overseas since August 1940. When the Admiralty indicated that it would welcome twenty-five a month for 1942, the Minister of Defence approved of Scheme ‘B’ being continued.
Approval was given by War Cabinet on 13 October 1941 for increased numbers of ratings to be entered for hostilities only to a total of 2300 a year. They included 375 ordinary seamen, 75 stokers, 190 wireless mechanics, 240 ordinary seamen (RDF), 36 writers, 36 supply assistants, 36 cooks, 600 signalmen and telegraphists, 300 Scheme ‘B’ and 240 Scheme ‘F’ ratings.
The needs of local defence measures after the entry of Japan into the war, however, compelled considerable recasting of manpower allocations. On 31 March 1942 the Naval Secretary informed the Minister of Defence that the numbers of extra officers required for local defence totalled 110 for sea service and 105 for harbour and shore service. Since it was clear that recourse to direct entry must be made to meet local needs, he proposed that Scheme ‘B’ be page 427 diverted for this purpose. This was approved by the Minister, who expressed the view that ‘preference should be given to serving men to qualify for commissions.’ During the year only two drafts of Scheme ‘B’ ratings, totalling forty-eight, were sent to the United Kingdom.
In July 1942 the High Commissioner reported that the Admiralty would welcome further drafts of Scheme ‘B’ ratings. He was informed that it was doubtful if many more would be available ‘as all males outside essential industry and within Scheme “B” age group have been conscripted for military service’. The Naval Secretary, however, suggested to the Army Secretary and the Air Secretary that details of the scheme might be made known and applications invited for transfer to the Navy. He also asked the Air Secretary that those awaiting entry into the Fleet Air Arm scheme should be given an opportunity to transfer to Scheme ‘B’. The reply was made that a considerable overseas expansion programme proposed for the RNZAF would strain its manning position to the utmost and make it impossible to release any men for the Navy. The Army was more co-operative in facilitating transfers of men to Scheme ‘B’ and there was a fair response to an appeal for recruits made in the newspapers.
When the High Commissioner reported in August 1942 that to meet the expansion of the Fleet Air Arm it had become necessary to increase the intake of naval airmen for training as pilots and observers, Scheme ‘F’ drafts, suspended since March, were recommenced forthwith. The Minister of Defence, however, reduced Fleet Air Arm commitments to a total of 100, to be sent away at the rate of ten a month. The flow of applicants was not sufficient to maintain the quota at the previous standard. From September 1942 to the end of March 1943 the authorised total was 70 and the number actually drafted 49, though 69 were entered. From April 1943 to March 1944, during which period the monthly quota was again twenty, a total of 159 was drafted, making a total deficit over both periods of 102.
It seems incredible that the Navy's modest requirements could not be filled, especially in view of the Air Force's expansive recruiting programme for 1943. The Air Force's proposed intake for pilots' courses was 3040 and the estimated output of partly trained pilots was 2080, of whom well over half would go to Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme and the others complete their training in New Zealand. The intake of observer recruits would be 800, of whom 676 were expected to reach the required standard in initial training and go to Canada.
There is evidence that in 1943 the Air Force did not comb its resources very thoroughly for volunteers for the Fleet Air Arm or, page 428 at least, that its attitude towards many would-be volunteers was not encouraging. The Director of Naval Recruiting pointed out that, during the first six or seven months of the current recruiting year, it had been necessary to cancel five of the nine Scheme ‘F’ classes scheduled and that only ninety recruits had been entered. He thought that the annual quota could ‘easily be met if either the Navy did its own recruiting or the RNZAF took more active steps to meet our requirements.’
Without informing the Air Department of its intention, the Navy then decided to do its own recruiting for Scheme ‘F’. At the same time the Naval Secretary in a memorandum to the Air Secretary hinted that there had been a lack of co-operation on the part of the RNZAF. It was believed that there was an ample supply of men to meet the Navy's requirements, but ‘if it became a known fact that volunteers for the Fleet Air Arm were liable to be held in the Air Force it would deter those men who wish to join the Navy from applying for the Fleet Air Arm.’ As the RNZN was a voluntary service, it did not appear equitable that a man who volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm should be retained in the RNZAF against his will. A few days later the RNZAF Director of Manning got approval for forty-three applicants for the Fleet Air Arm to appear before the naval selection committee.
On 24 January 1944 the Air Department cabled RNZAF headquarters in London that, owing to the manpower situation, the ‘competition’ of the RNZN in recruiting for the Fleet Air Arm was being felt and would ‘eventually affect our ability to carry out Empire Air Training Scheme commitments.’ It was suggested that the British Air Ministry should be consulted ‘as to necessity for maintaining priority for RAF requirements over Fleet Air Arm.’ Navy Office had no knowledge of this till April 1944, when it was informed that the Admiralty was reducing pilot entries for the Fleet Air Arm for 1944; but ‘in view of the quality of New Zealand candidates, the Admiralty would gladly accept the full quota or a reduced number.’
The Navy's Scheme ‘F’ recruiting advertisements brought a good response, and by the end of April 227 applications had been received. From then on there were always sufficient recruits to fill the quota of 240 a year. For administrative reasons the full commitment for Scheme ‘F’ was not met during the year 1944–45, for which the total naval recruiting quota was reduced from 2300 to 1300. When a further reduction to 770 was proposed for 1945–46, it was suggested that the full quota for Scheme ‘F’ should be maintained.
The strain on the manpower of New Zealand at that time was severe. The total strength of the armed forces (including 124,000 page 429 in the Home Guard) in May 1943 was 262,160, or 16 per cent of the mean population. The Army (excluding the Home Guard) had reached its maximum at nearly 125,000 in July 1942 and stood at 94,000 in May 1943. The Royal New Zealand Air Force numbered 36,700 at the latter date and attained a peak of nearly 42,000 a year later. It is remarkable, however, that from October 1942 to August 1945 the number of RNZAF personnel in New Zealand was never fewer than 20,000, and from June 1943 to August 1944 was well in excess of 30,000. The New Zealand naval forces, which numbered 8460 in May 1943, passed the 10,000 mark in February 1944 and reached a peak of 10,649 in July 1945.
In July 1943 the commanding officer of Philomel reported that it was no longer practicable for ratings recommended for commissioned rank to get seagoing training in a cruiser on the New Zealand station.1 The Naval Board decided that ratings who passed the selection board at the beginning of September would go to Australia for training courses at Flinders Naval College. Other recommended ratings who had not had the necessary sea training would be sent to the United Kingdom as Scheme ‘B’ candidates. During the twelve months ended March 1944, a total of 314 Scheme ‘B’ ratings was recruited and drafted overseas.
In August 1944 the Minister of Defence received reports of dissatisfaction amongst Scheme ‘F’ ratings training in the United States. It was stated that only 22 out of 66 had passed a course at St. Louis and that the authorities had indicated their intention to eliminate more, and possibly half of those training at Pensacola. It was also reported that the elimination of Scheme ‘B’ ratings training in the United Kingdom was excessively high. The Minister expressed doubt that the sending of further drafts was justified.
It was pointed out to the Minister that, while all recruits sent overseas were medically fit and appeared likely to qualify for commissions, some were bound to be found unsuitable during their training. Of 988 Scheme ‘F’ men entered up to April 1944, 522 had been commissioned and 241 were still under training. That 79 per cent of those who had completed training had been commissioned was regarded as satisfactory.
Because of a shortage of trained pilots in the Naval Air Arm, the Admiralty had arranged to get volunteers from the Royal Air Force. It suggested that if there were surplus pilots in New Zealand they should be offered transfer to the RNZNVR on loan to the Naval Air Arm. Accordingly, War Cabinet authorised the Naval Board to call for up to one hundred volunteers from the RNZAF in the United Kingdom and Canada. By the end of March 1945, eighty-eight New Zealand pilots had been transferred.
The end of Scheme ‘F’ came in June 1945, when the High Commissioner reported that there were seventy-six New Zealand ratings in barracks. As the Admiralty was about to close down the training of ‘hostilities only’ recruits, the continuance of Scheme ‘F’ was not justified. The Admiralty expressed its thanks for the great assistance given by the scheme, which had ‘provided a large number of flying officers of the very highest character and fully justified its inception.’
From July 1940 to June 1945, 1066 Scheme ‘F’ recruits were drafted overseas. The maximum number of New Zealand pilots and observers shown as on active service in the Fleet Air Arm at any one time was 456 in May 1944, when a number must have been on foreign-service leave and a proportion of the 145 casualties recorded had been lost. Assuming that none of the 260 recruits drafted from New Zealand after January 1944 was in time to reach active service and that 75 per cent of those who went through the training courses were successful, it would appear that at least 605 New Zealanders served as first-line pilots and observers in the Fleet Air Arm.
Recruiting for Scheme ‘B’ ceased at the beginning of August 1945 when a draft awaiting passage was cancelled. During the five years from August 1940, forty-six classes totalling approximately 1100 Scheme ‘B’ ratings were sent overseas. Nine ratings transferred in England to the Fleet Air Arm, in which they gained commissions. Conversely, forty-four Scheme ‘F’ ratings were transferred to Scheme ‘B’ classes and there gained commissions. Scheme ‘B’ commissions totalled approximately 690. Three ratings transferred to the engineering branch and four to the Special Branch, RNZNVR, were also commissioned, and two others were appointed schoolmasters in Royal Navy training establishments.
The recruitment of women for naval service was first discussed by the Naval Board in May 1941, but approximately twelve months passed before the organising of what became the Women's Royal page 431 New Zealand Naval Service was started. Hitherto all women in the Navy Department were employed in a civilian capacity, mainly on clerical duties (but some on highly responsible work) under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. Some had already replaced naval ratings, notably in the offices of the naval officers-in-charge at the four main centres and in the supply and secretariat branches in HMNZS Philomel. Proposals for staffing the new sick quarters in Philomel to a greater extent by women had been prepared, and the replacement of some of the male staff in the Naval Stores Office and the Armament Supply Depot was in progress. A proportion of these civilian employees afterwards joined the Wrens and were given an antedated seniority which made them eligible for earlier promotion. Those who did not join the WRNZNS were moved to other branches in accordance with the general principle that uniformed and civilian employees should not be mingled.
There was considerable discussion of the conditions of service in the WRNZNS, which was finally modelled largely on the British pattern. At a conference in August 1941, one of the main points discussed was whether women could be asked to work at night. If night employment were approved, it would be possible to replace a considerable number of telegraphists and signal ratings by Wrens. In the event, Wrens were employed with no limitations on the times of duty in approximately forty-four hours a week, which if considered necessary might be extended with no additional payment.
The establishment of the WRNZNS was approved by War Cabinet on 11 April 1942 and the appointment of Miss R. Herrick, of Hastings, as Director, and of Miss F. H. Fenwick, of Wellington, as Deputy Director, on 18 May. The Prime Minister was informed on 15 October that the King had been graciously pleased to approve the designation of the service as the Women's Royal New Zealand Naval Service.
The WRNZNS Emergency Regulations of 18 November 1942 set out the basis on which the organisation was constituted part of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Wrens were required to serve for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter unless previously discharged, and they might volunteer to serve overseas. Members of the WRNZNS were subject to the provisions of the Naval Defence Act 1913, the Naval Discipline Act, and King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions. The regulations for the general administration of the WRNZNS were contained in Navy Order 769 of 18 March 1943. Many of the privileges enjoyed by RNZN officers and ratings in respect of leave, travelling warrants, fare concessions, etc., were granted to the WRNZNS.page 432
From the start the build-up of even such a small organisation as the WRNZNS was hampered by the cumbersome and, to the naval authorities, unsatisfactory system of recruitment. At first this was carried out through the Women's War Service Auxiliary, and from November 1942 by manpower officers of the National Service Department, which had to balance the demands of ‘essential industry’ against the needs of the armed services. One factor which made it difficult to give the WRNZNS all the women it needed was the high standard of selection.
Up to January 1943, 870 applications for the WRNZNS had been received, of which 350 had been rejected for various reasons and 330 were under consideration. In September 1943 an acute shortage was developing. There were some 4000 vacancies for women in essential industry and the release of women within the age group for the armed forces had to be restricted. By October an additional 300 Wrens were required and only 183 applications were held by the Navy Department.
Government approval for the recruitment of 189 more women for the WRNZNS was given in February 1944, but even this small quota was not filled. A year later nearly every establishment in which Wrens were employed was short of its complement. Manpower officers were directed to give priority to volunteers for the WRNZNS, but owing to the shortage of recruits and losses by discharges, the Wrens continued to be about 200 below the authorised establishment of 700. They attained a peak strength of 519 in October 1944; approximately seven hundred served during the war.
The first WRNZNS rating was entered as a writer at Lyttelton on 4 July 1942. By the end of that year the number had grown to 155. Nearly all entrants underwent a short disciplinary course in HMNZS Philomel ‘to learn something of naval customs, traditions, procedure and generally acquiring the art of behaving like a Wren.’ As their numbers increased, mainly at Auckland and Wellington, it became necessary to have superintendents to control the administrative side of the service in those areas. Miss J. Duthie was appointed to Auckland and Mrs E. Fitch at Wellington, both with the rank of second officer. At Wellington a hostel was established for Wrens working away from their home towns. At Auckland a private hotel was taken over for the same purpose, and later additional accommodation was provided in the former Army barracks at Mount Victoria. Some Wrens working in small, isolated groups in other districts lived in small houses bought or rented for the purpose and did their own housekeeping.
The Wrens quickly settled into the routine of the Navy and proved themselves able and adaptable in their varied and exacting duties. page 433 Their morale was always high and the men did all they could to help them over the difficult stages. In the first issue of the Wrens' magazine in November 1943, the Chief of Naval Staff, Commodore Sir Atwell Lake1 wrote: ‘Wrens are playing a fundamental part in many spheres of naval activity and have applied themselves to the work that they are efficiently carrying out with zeal and enthusiasm…. By their bearing and loyalty and sincere dedication to duty they have proved that they take a pride in themselves, in their uniform, in their ship and in the Service…. I am very proud of the Wrens.’
At the four main centres Wrens served as signal distributing and regulating officers and as writers, supply assistants, motor-transport drivers, coders, book correctors, cooks, stewards, and dental and sick-berth attendants. Those in the last-mentioned category underwent a three months' qualifying course and wore the Geneva Cross badge. At Auckland the commodore's barge was manned entirely by Wrens and its spick and span turn-out was the admiration of the Navy and the city. From the writers' branch a few Wrens were promoted fourth officer as captains' secretaries, and a third officer became secretary to the Chief of Naval Staff. In Navy Office Wrens were employed as plotters in the operations branch. Four were commissioned and took over the important day and night watch-keeping duties as merchant shipping officers.
Wrens proved themselves efficient visual signallers, coders, and telegraphists at the various ports and at Waiouru naval wireless telegraph station. The degaussing ranges and radar and visual signalling stations at Wellington and Auckland were staffed by Wrens, who also manned the launches under the technical and administrative control of their own officers. Others carried out highly specialised work in the torpedo servicing branch at Auckland. Wrens also operated the DEMS cinema projector and a Leading Wren was instructor in the ‘dome’, in which films were shown to male ratings in training as gun crews of merchant ships. Wrens worked in three daily eight-hour watches as plotters in the Wellington control room of the radio direction-finding network, and eight others manned a wireless station near Blenheim where ‘very highly specialised and secret’ work was performed.
1 Captain Sir Atwell Lake, Bt, CB, OBE, RN, US Legion of Merit; born England, Feb 1891; entered RN Jan 1904; Grand Fleet, 1914–18; Captain, Dec 1942; Chief of Staff, C-in-C Portsmouth, 1939–41; Chief of Naval Staff, NZ, Jun 1942–Jul 1945.
A scheme for the direct entry of New Zealand cadets for future service as commissioned officers in the Royal New Zealand Navy was started in 1940, the lads selected being sent to England for training in the Royal Navy. The first entries were one in the executive branch and two in the supply branch. Of these, Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant Watkinson, RNZN,1 lost his life when HMS Hood was sunk in action with the German battleship Bismarck on 24 May 1941, and Midshipman McPherson, RNZN,2 was lost in HMS Neptune when that ship was sunk by mines in the Mediterranean on 19 December 1941. The total number of direct-entry cadets from 1940 to 1944 was eighteen, of whom eleven were in the executive branch, four in the engineering branch, and three in the supply branch. This system of direct entry has been continued since the war.