The War Effort of New Zealand
The Supply of Reinforcements during the War
The Supply of Reinforcements during the War
"Per mare per terras longinqua in caede jacemus Sic Pax est vobis reddita perpetua."
New Zealand's brilliant record on the battlefields of the great war is comparable with the highest traditions of British history. The gallant deeds and the self-sacrifice of her sons are emblazoned upon the scroll of fame, and must ever live in the memory of the nation.
It is not, however, of the deeds of the expeditionary force alone that the Dominion has cause to be justifiably proud. The gallantry of a fighting force avails little in a vast and lengthy war unless there is an uninterrupted supply of well-trained reinforcements. These cannot be provided without the loyal support of the general public. Indeed reinforcements bear the same relation to a fighting army as does a healthy blood supply to the human body. In all essentials New Zealand emerged from the greatest trial in the history of the world with a record which stands high in the mighty Empire to which she belongs. The farthest outpost of the Empire and the farthest removed from the many theatres of war, she subordinated all interests to the one great cause, and maintained her generous response to the end of the great war. The ties of kinship to the Mother Country were proved to be of the finest and strongest material by the searching test of war. Where all, both men and women, both soldiers and civilians, have done so well, it would be invidious to mention individuals. It is the team spirit which prevents wars, or compels defeat of aggressors of liberty and civilisation.
When war began in August, 1914, the New Zealand defence system had been in operation for three years. It had been estimated that seven years would be necessary for its complete development, so the scheme had not reached the point page 2of maximum effectiveness. Some 26,000 territorials and a similar number of cadets were undergoing training and had reached various stages of efficiency. The organization and administrative arrangements had, however, reached a higher degree of efficiency than the training, and it was this which made possible the rapid mobilisation, equipment and despatch on a war footing, of effective expeditionary forces.
The Samoan expeditionary force, 55 officers and 1,358 other ranks, well equipped and drawn almost entirely from the territorial force, left Wellington on August 15th, 1914, eleven days after the outbreak of the war, and the Expeditionary Force (main body) with its first reinforcements, 360 officers and 8,139 other ranks, left on October 15th, a little more than two months after the declaration of war. The total strength of these forces was 415 officers and 9,497 other ranks, the equivalent of over 400,000 men for a country with the population of Great Britain. The prompt despatch of these forces would have been impossible without pre-war organization. If the defence force had been less efficient in 1914 greater time would have elapsed before either these expeditionary forces or further reinforcements could have left New Zealand. This was fortunately not the case and the 2nd reinforcement, 61 officers and 1,913 other ranks, actually left on December 14th, 1914; and there was no break in the continuity of reinforcements right to the end of the war. Further, on the signing of the Armistice in November, 1918, New Zealand held the proud distinction of having the strongest division on the western front in consequence of the steady and sufficient supply of reinforcements—a magnificent achievement and one which amazed those Powers best in a position to judge its difficulties.
The strain placed upon the territorial and cadet forces was considerable. Not only were these forces unexpectedly called upon to supply large numbers of officers and other ranks for immediate service abroad, but they were continually drained throughout the war of large numbers of trained officers and non-commissioned officers for instructional and administrative duties in the expeditionary force training camps and in the four military districts. At the same time rifles and other page 3essential equipment were taken from the home units for the expeditionary force. The training, in these circumstances, was carried on under conditions of exceptional difficulty.
No permanent military training camps existed in the Dominion when the urgent call to arms was first sounded in August, 1914, for the universal system of training in New Zealand did not include a permanent army. Thanks to the energy and foresight of all responsible, the establishment of excellent reinforcement camps, possessing adequate accommodation and facilities for training an aggregate number of 14,000 at one time, during a period of abnormal strain, constitutes a record of the greatest magnitude.
Semi-permanent reinforcement camps were established in New Zealand during the war at Trentham (Wellington), Featherston (Wairarapa), Narrow Neck and Avondale (Auckland), Awapuni (Palmerston North), and Papawai (Wairarapa). Commencing as canvas camps these centres ultimately became model hutment encampments, equipped with all essentials for the instruction, accommodation, messing and entertainment of those undergoing training. It is safe to assume that there were no more up-to-date camps in any part of the Empire.
At Trentham camp the greater part of the training of all arms was carried cut until December, 1915. Temporary subsidiary canvas camps were at the same time established at Tauherenikau, Rangiotu, Waikanae and Maymorn (all in the vicinity of Wellington), during the building of hutments at Trentham and Featherston respectively. Trentham camp was ultimately constructed to accommodate 4,500 men and page 5possessed a relief canvas camp to hold from 1,200 to 2,000 men. From January, 1916, Trentham camp became the principal training ground for the infantry and engineer reinforcements, the training of the mounted rifle, artillery and specialist reinforcements being carried out at Featherston.
In January, 1916, Featherston camp was established with accommodation for 7,500 men, 4,500 of whom were in huts and 3,000 under canvas.
By a system of exchange of troops the infantry reinforcements who were mobilised and equipped at Trentham, were, after five weeks preliminary training and elementary musketry, moved by rail to Featherston camp. Here they remained for eight weeks undergoing further infantry and musketry training, after which they returned by a route march of thirty miles over the noted Rimutaka Mountain road to Trentham camp for the final musketry course and equipment for service prior to embarkation.
Narrow Neck camp at Auckland was used to train the page 6Tunnelling Company, the Maori reinforcements and the reinforcements from Rarotonga, Samoa, Niue, and other of the British Islands in the Pacific. This camp could hold 400 men.
Under the system of control which was adopted reinforcements were equally apportioned the man-power available in all parts of the Dominion, and the drafts were called into camp as required. Prior to September, 1915, these reinforcement drafts entered camp at intervals of two months; after page 8that date, however, the recruits were despatched to camp at monthly intervals.
The supply of reinforcements by the voluntary system was comparatively easily maintained for the first two years of the war. Admirable as the response was, experience re-taught an important lesson which had been learnt in past wars. This lesson was, that, although a voluntary system possesses many good points, and discloses a magnificent spirit, its disadvantages outweigh its advantages. For example, a voluntary system of recruitment in time of war must necessarily accept all fit men who come forward. It is, therefore, practically impossible to classify recruits into grades of married and single men or to place them in a satisfactory categorical order of essential and non-essential industries. A moment's reflection will show that to permit married men with children to take the risks of war, while single men without responsibilities are available, or to allow experts in essential industries to leave the country while others remain behind in non-essential industries, is neither economical, wise, nor just. Putting aside all questions of sentiment, the death of a married man with children when on active service means a heavy financial burden on the State for many years.
It is possible that New Zealand could have met her liabilities in regard to the supply of reinforcements until the end of the war under the voluntary system. Fortunately, however, by a wise act of statemanship, it was decided to replace it with a compulsory system, which remedied the drawbacks inherent in all voluntary schemes of peace training and war reinforcement.
On the 1st August, 1916, therefore, a Military Service Act became law, brought about by a general feeling that compulsion for all alike was more just in a democratic country than the voluntary system it supplanted. Under this Act all eligible males were registered and classified and could be compelled to serve when called upon. In November, 1916, the first ballot of the first division (single men) was drawn under this Act, other ballots being periodically held from this date in order to complete drafts.page 10 page 11
Diagram showing percentage of total Population and of Male Population of military age mobilised and embarked.
In all, New Zealand supplied 91,941 volunteers and 32,270 under the Military Service Act from the outbreak of war to the 12th November, 1918. When the Armistice was granted by the Allied Powers, a total of 124,211 of the pick of New Zealand's manhood, from an eligible male population of under 250,000, had been called to serve with the expeditionary force. This record speaks for itself. It is conclusive proof that, in the World's greatest fight for freedom and civilisation, New Zealand did her full share and nobly earned the laurels of praise bestowed on her by the great Empire to which she belongs.