Problems of 2 NZEF
It took a little time at the beginning to impress on units the importance of strength and casualty returns. There was a tendency, perhaps a natural one, to regard returns as just so much paper work which had to be done to propitiate an impersonal body at ‘the base’. It was soon realised that the returns governed such things as promotions, pay, and casualty returns, and they took their place as an essential element in military administration.
The war establishment of Second Echelon included an unusually large number of staff-sergeants and sergeants. Initially they came out from New Zealand with substantive ranks, so that when later on we thought it desirable that they should have some field service, it was difficult to force them on units. It was laid down at an early date that replacements for the personnel of Second Echelon must come from men who had had field service, and little by little the difficulty disappeared. It is a mistake to send a unit such as this overseas staffed with a lot of perfectly fit senior NCOs. It would be preferable, at least in the early stages, that this unit should be staffed either by personnel of a grading just below the highest, or by women, or by some of each.
Among the tasks of Second Echelon is the collecting of the effects of deceased personnel, and their despatch to Base Records in Wellington, a task requiring care and sympathy. It was important enough for us to issue a special instruction, which included the setting up of what was called, not very happily, the ‘Standing Committee of Adjustment’, to supervise the disposal of effects. The name came from the British regulations on the subject, and was a relic of the days of a purely regular army, when all sorts of military obligations and privately owned goods had to be taken into account – elaborate mess bills, gambling debts, polo ponies and so on. We should have introduced a name of our own. However, the essential part of the constitution of the committee, whatever its name, was and must be the inclusion of a representative of the deceased's unit. Tales regarding the alleged improper disposal of kits spring up easily and are readily believed. The more that can be done to make it all fair and above board the better.
When HQ 2 NZEF moved to Italy, the main part of Second Echelon remained in Maadi, as it was thought better not to disrupt the office. An advanced office was formed, however, and was established with Headquarters in each of the sites we occupied. The main office in Maadi at its maximum was something over 200 strong.page 128