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The War Effort of New Zealand


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A number of the chapters comprising this volume had already been written when the Hon. Sir James Allen, who was then Minister for Defence, left for London to become High Commissioner for New Zealand, and the Hon. J. G. Coates, his successor in office, became responsible for its production. Later, the Hon. Sir R. Heaton Rhodes succeeded to the Defence portfolio, and has been the Minister in charge of the work. The intention of the history, as set out by the Hon. Sir James Allen in the preface of Volume I., is: "To deal with (a) the minor campaigns in which New Zealanders took part; (b) services which are not fully dealt with in the campaign volumes; (c) the story of the work at the bases—the efforts of our women abroad and in New Zealand, our hospitals, and the raising and the training of the men."

Some of the chapters were not completed by those to whom they were allotted and for these the editor, who was appointed after the departure of Sir James Allen, has had to be responsible.

It is considered advisable to include in this preface a brief outline of the Dominion's state of preparedness at the outbreak of war, and, also, a few facts regarding some sections of our war activities outside the defined scope of the chapters of the volume.

New Zealand may be described as having been in a state of semi-preparedness when war broke out; she was still in the midst of her work upon a newly-inaugurated scheme for the organisation of her defence resources. This scheme had its foundation in the Defence Act of 1909 which established the principle of universal training. The declaration of war found the Dominion with her territorial organisation complete and her forces fairly well trained, her coast-defences effective, the details well forward in connection with the despatch of an expeditionary force (on a purely voluntary basis) which had been promised the Mother Country in the event of war; but with work still to be done in the organisation of other branches of the service. Especially was this so in page xiithe matter of equipment for the field forces. For much of the material that New Zealand required she was dependent upon Great Britain, and supplies on the outbreak of war became unobtainable. Of military clothing, which was producible by her own mills, she had provision for immediate requirements. The Defence Act, 1909, which displaced the old volunteer system, had remodelled the defences of the Dominion on a territorial basis embodying the principles of universal service between certain ages. It provided for a territorial force, or fighting strength, fully equipped for modern requirements, of thirty thousand men. These troops, with the territorial reserve, formed the first line; and the second line comprised rifle clubs and training sections. Under the terms of the Act every male, unless physically unfit, was required to take his share of the defence of the Dominion. The Act provided for the gradual military training of every made from the age of fourteen years to twenty-five, after which he was required to serve in the reserve up to the age of thirty. From the age of twelve to fourteen every boy at school performed a certain amount of military training, and on leaving was transferred to the senior cadets, with whom he remained, undergoing training, until eighteen years of age, when he joined the territorials. After serving in the territorials until twenty-five (or less if earlier reliefs were recommended), and in the reserve until thirty, a discharge was granted; but the man remained liable under the Militia Act to be called up, until he reached the age of fifty-five. As a result of the visit to New Zealand in 1910 of Lord Kitchener, slight alterations were made—chiefly affecting the general and administrative staffs—and the scheme was set in motion in January, 1911. Major-General Sir Alexander Godley, of the Imperial General Staff, was engaged as Commandant. The Hon. Sir James Allen (Minister for Defence) during a visit to Great Britain in 1913 completed arrangements with the War Office in regard to the strength and composition of the expeditionary force authorised under the Act. In 1914 General Sir Ian Hamilton inspected the forces and submitted further advice in regard to certain details. For the administration of the defence page xiiischeme the Dominion was divided into four military districts, each of which had its headquarters staff; and each district was divided into smaller groups. General Headquarters were located at Wellington. In July 1914 the New Zealand Staff Corps numbered 100, and the Permanent Staff (warrant officers and non-commissioned officers) 211. The strength of the forces at that date was: Territorials 29,447, senior cadets 26,446, general training section 2,075, rifle clubs 8,770—total 66,738. The population of New Zealand numbered 1,095,994. The camp equipment held in stock immediately prior to the war was as follows:—Circular tents 3,577, marquees 145, ground sheets 19,986, operating tents 30. The military organisation, when war broke out, had not sufficiently progressed to supply the administrative brances of:—an Army Pay Corps, Base Records, Ordnance Department, and an Army Service Corps. The scheme, however, provided for these branches, and the completion of their formation was immediately undertaken.

When war broke out New Zealand had no warships worthy of the name in her immediate waters. The unsatisfactory state of her naval affairs had been exercising the minds of the Dominion leaders; indeed it was a subject of keen debate in the Houses of Parliament at the very time that the war clouds were gathering in Europe. At the Imperial Defence Conference in London in 1909 an agreement had been arrived at with the Home Government for the establishment of a section of the Imperial Fleet, to consist of three units, in the East Indies, Australia and the China Seas. Under this agreement it was arranged that the Dominion's gift ship New Zealand, should be the flag-ship of the China unit, and that seven vessels of this unit should be stationed in peace time in New Zealand waters, the ships to be manned, as far as possible, by New Zealand officers and men. Subsequent events made it necessary to revise the arrangement entered into, and H.M.S. New Zealand was stationed in English waters. Only three small and almost obsolete vessels of the former Australasian Squadron had their headquarters in New Zealand waters. In 1913, the New Zealand Minister of Defence, during his visit to England page xivdiscussed the situation with the Admiralty. They offered him two light vessels of the old Australasian Squadron. The New Zealand Government, however, decided that this was too great a departure from the 1909 agreement and asked that two ships of the Bristol type he substituted, offering, if that were done, to increase the annual subsidy. This proposal was not agreed to, the Secretary for State cabling that the Bristol cruisers were required elsewhere, and that they would be superfluous in New Zealand waters. Mr. Massey, the Prime Minister, then (in 1913), announced that if nothing were done by the Admiralty in 1914 Parliament would be asked by the Government to agree to the building of a fast cruiser, probably of the Bristol type, for the protection of New Zealand's trade in her own waters. At the same time New Zealanders were being trained for the navy, and H.M.S. Philomel was taken over. With the Philomel came a Naval Adviser to New Zealand. The other old cruisers sent to New Zealand were the Psyche and Pyramus.

Such, in brief, was the degree of military and naval preparedness when war broke out. It should also be mentioned that virtually the only rifles in the Dominion at the time were old pattern .303 Lee Enfield weapons which had been procured in Canada by the Minister for Defence the previous year, at the price of one dollar each. These were the only British rifles obtainable at the time and were intended for the use of the senior cadets. They were destined to be the arm of the New Zealanders at Gallipoli, for the Mother Country had found it impossible to re-equip the New Zealand force in time for that offensive. The rifles were without the charger loader. Until 1917 no other weapon was available for training purposes in New Zealand; the troops made their first acquaintance with the service rifle in training camps in England. The Dominion, also, was considerably denuded of field guns, howitzers, machine guns and ammunition in order to equip the Main Body and early reinforcements. Small arms ammunition was manufactured within the Dominion.

The New Zealand War Expenses branch came into existence on August 8th under special legislation in the page xvPublic Revenues Amendment Act, 1914, which provided for the establishment of a "War Expenses Account," from which moneys were to be expended "for such purposes as the Minister of Defence thinks fit in connection with the defence of New Zealand or any part of the British Empire, or for the purpose of assisting in the carrying on of any war in which His Majesty is for the time being engaged." The New Zealand Treasury Department was drawn upon for a controlling officer. No previous experience existed upon which to build the necessary organisation. Space was allotted the branch in a small corner of the Wellington military barracks, and operations were commenced with a staff of one typist and three clerks. But growth, as can easily be imagined, was extremely rapid. At the end of the war the staff had increased to 400, and long before that time a special building had had to be erected to provide adequate accommodation. The ramifications of the pay office developed along much the same lines as in other armies, though the distance of the over-seas pay branches from the Dominion base at times added new problems. On December 31st, 1918, there had passed through the office in soldiers' pay and allowances, and allowances to dependents, £21,523,218 7s. 10d., while the total sum disbursed for all authorised purposes was £54,448,804 19s. 0d. At that date demobilisation work had yet to be attended to and the payment of gratuities.

A Base Records section was established in the first days of the war, but not until June, 1915, was adequate attention given to this very important branch of military organisation. The serious difficulties of the office commenced when the first Gallipoli casualty lists arrived. In August, 1915, a Staff officer took charge, but in the month following, in view of the probable prolongation of the war, a civilian was engaged to act as Director and to organise a suitable system. Improved methods of cable touch with the Base Records in Egypt were also instituted, which enabled earlier defects to be remedied, and rendered possible the more prompt publication of casualty lists. Many ladies with office experience, and public servants and others rendered the office gratuitous assistance. The Women's page xviNational Reserve, a body which gave most valuable public service during the war, was to the fore in organising this work. In May, 1917, the office staff had increased to 160, of whom 62 were women. This growth continued until the end of the war when slightly over 99,000 overseas soldiers' files were being dealt with, and 16,200 files relating to various other matters arising out of the war. Later, Base Records assisted in demobilisation work, and controlled the educational and vocational activities.

Because of her great distance from the seat of war New Zealand had difficult problems and anxieties to meet in regard to the transportation of her troops. Fortunately the Dominion has been served for some years with magnificent lines of steamers, and many of these were requisitioned as transports. This service required to be considered conjointly with the carriage of the Dominion's produce to Great Britain—goods which comprised a considerable proportion of the food of the British Isles during the war, and which, also, assisted to maintain the troops in France. It is a remarkable record that the transport arrangements, during the years of the war and also in the succeeding demobilisation period, worked without any serious hitch. Worries there were for those who controlled affairs and who had to make calculations ahead, and difficulties were increased by the necessity for the utmost secrecy regarding the movements of ships. Frequently, also, Imperial requirements in men entailed unexpected increases in the size of the reinforcements to be transported, and at other times a curtailment. In the very first days of the war a Transport Board was set up to deal with all troop transportation matters. The Board consisted of the master of the Government steamer, an officer from each of the military, medical, and veterinary services, a representative of the Marine Department, a Lloyd's surveyor, a marine engineer and any naval officers available. Within a week of the declaration of hostilities two transports had been fitted up and had embarked the Samoan force. On the same day, August 11th, 1914, ten steamers, ranging in size from seven thousand to twelve thousand tons, were engaged for the transportation of the Main Body of the Expeditionary Force and their horses; page xviiand by the end of the month the authorities were able to cable the War Office that all was ready for the embarkation and departure of these troops. The shipowners had given the utmost assistance and had been largely responsible for this achievement. The experience of some of the shipmasters who had previously been engaged in trooping was most valuable. It surely must stand as a tribute to the thoroughness and excellence of the fitting out of the vessels in those early days, that in most instances the accommodation aboard sufficed, without alteration, for the continuous carriage of troops right through the war. The ships were hired on a charter, under which there was entire transference to the Government of New Zealand either for a definite or indefinite period. This system was continued until about the middle of 1917, when it was supplemented by the carriage of the troops on a per capita basis. In April, 1918, when the shipping position became rather precarious, and the utmost co-ordination of available resources was necessary, New Zealand transferred her remaining chartered vessels to the one Imperial control, and arranged for the whole of her troops to be carried on a per capita basis. Under this arrangement the Dominion was relieved of the expense of the final reconditioning of the ships at the conclusion of the war. Throughout the whole period of transportation no phase of this service received more rigorous attention than the provisioning of the troops aboard. In each regular transport a permanent ship's quartermaster was placed, and it was part of his duty to see that regulations regarding food were carried out. At the end of each voyage detailed returns were required showing the fulfilment of the provisioning obligations. On the journeys from New Zealand a high standard of provisioning was maintained, but on the return voyages, owing to the food shortage in the United Kingdom, it was difficult to achieve the same satisfactory results. Liquor was strictly prohibited aboard all New Zealand transports. It would be very easy to compile an interesting volume solely upon the records of the New Zealand transport service during the war. Experiences were many and varied. Some of the troopships made as many as eleven voyages. Each page xviiiwas known only by its transport number. The reinforcements were despatched in convoys, and either rendezvoused somewhere en-route, or, before entering the submarine or raided areas, became attached to other convoys under naval escort. Each transport carried at least one gun, mounted at its stern, and in submarine waters the troops with loaded rifles maintained continuous watch for the dreaded periscope. The strictest discipline was observed, and life-belt, boat, and raft drills were constantly practised. It was both Providential, and a unique experience, that not one New Zealand troopship with troops aboard was sunk during the war. For this the vigilance and ceaseless care of the well-remembered diminutive destroyers, stretched out in escort on either horizon, were chiefly responsible. What affection there grew up among the men, in those watchful hours, for those wonderful little grey boats! Until the evacuation of Gallipoli the convoy route for the European reinforcements was via the West Coast of Australia and the Suez Canal, after that and until early in 1917 by way of the Cape of Good Hope, and then, when America entered the war, through the Panama Canal. Occasionally, as the naval situation dictated, there were departures from these general routes.

Another problem of almost equal importance and difficulty was the maintenance of a steady transfer of the Dominion's foodstuffs to Great Britain. Insulated ships were withheld from transport work as much as possible, but in all instances every available foot of cargo-carrying space on vessels so employed was utilised. For the first few months of the war shipping was ample for requirements. On March 3rd, 1915, an Imperial requisition of all exportable meat supplies took place by arrangement with the Dominion producers, and an organisation was set up, with the Prime Minister at its head, to deal with this matter. Export to countries other than Britain "or such places as may be specified by the Government" had already been forbidden. Later the requisition extended to dairy produce, and certain other commodities, satisfactory terms regarding prices, payments, storage and carriage being agreed upon. The Mother Country had thus to make her own arrangements for page xixtransporting the Dominion's produce, duties which were carried out by a Shipping Controller in London. In the Dominion, representatives of overseas shipping lines set up a committee which controlled and allotted the available tonnage from time to time. Warned by one experience early in 1915, when there was a considerable blockage of works, the freezing companies rapidly set about providing additional storage capacity. The supply of ships continued fairly satisfactory notwithstanding that at June 1st, 1917, twelve insulated vessels engaged in the New Zealand trade, with a total carrying capacity of 1,103,800 sixty-pound carcases, had been sunk by the enemy. Many times the Prime Minister had to make urgent representations to the British Shipping Controller in order to obtain relief for the New Zealand stores. There was always an adequate response. On the whole the Dominion came extremely well through the war in the matter of shipping, and there is to her credit, and to the credit of her merchant service, and equally to the British Navy, which guarded the waterways, the record of 160 million pounds worth of produce shipped to Great Britain from these distant ports during the war. At the termination of hostilities nineteen insulated New Zealand steamers had been sunk.

In the first chapter of this history mention is made of the Dominion's successful fulfilment of all her undertakings in regard to the supply of men. For the first two years of the war the volunteer system more than sufficed for all requirements, and probably would have continued to do so, but its unfairness, and the necessity for conserving the interests of essential industries within the Dominion, led to the adoption of the ballot system. Under the volunteer system the names and addresses of applicants were recorded at the recruiting offices and the men were urged to continue at their avocations until called up, the desire being to dislocate industry as little as possible. The enlistment of married men was discouraged. A National Registration Act was passed in 1915 authorising a compilation of the names of males between the ages of 17 and 60 years with the view of ascertaining the resources of the Dominion both in page xxregard to fighting strength and for the maintenance of industry. Men between the ages of 19 and 45 years were required to state in their returns their willingness or unwillingness to serve beyond New Zealand. The results of the Register were available by March 16th, 1916. From it rolls were prepared for each county, borough, or town, with which local recruiting committees were supplied. Public opinion, however, moved strongly in the direction of universal service and on August 1st, 1916, the Military Service Act was passed. This legislation entailed enlistment upon males between the ages of 20 and 45 years, The eligible men of the Dominion automatically became a "Reserve," and were divided into two divisions. The First Division consisted of unmarried men, those who had been married subsequently to May 1st, 1916, and widowers with no children. The Second Division comprised all other reservists, who were sub-divided into six classes according to the number of children. The Act provided for calling up by public ballot as men were required, but each man so called up had the right of appeal on certain defined grounds. To hear these appeals special boards were appointed. The men were called up to be medically examined, and according to their physical condition were classified: "A" fit for active service; "B1" able to be made fit by medical attention; "C1" likely to become fit for service overseas after special training; "C2" permanently unfit for active service but fit for service in New Zealand; "D" permanently unfitted for any service whatever. Voluntary enlistments were still accepted, and many men so offered themselves. The organisation for the administration of the Act was supplied chiefly by the Government Census and Statistical Department, which was assisted by certain auxiliary committees. The whole was under the direction of the Minister for Defence. The Post and Telegraph Department, the Police, and other departments, gave valuable assistance. Operating conjointly with the organisations set up under the Military Service Act was a National Efficiency Board appointed in February, 1917, for the purpose of organising industries during the war. The Board was required "to report page xxiupon industries essential, workers necessary to be retained, to recommend such measures as might be considered necessary to reduce the cost of living, to advise as to the organisation of all labour in the community should occasion require it, and to initiate proposals for carrying on farms or businesses of men called to the colours."

In October, 1915, a Board of Trade, under the Minister for Finance (the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Ward) was established, the chief function of which was to enquire into the cost of living and to make recommendations to the Government in regard thereto.

To control the purchase of defence stores, etc., the Government, in August, 1915, established a Munitions Board and appointed the Hon. A. M. Myers Minister-in-Charge. The Board obtained honorary assistance from leading business men, and other expert advisers. Its first work was to overcome a temporary shortage of military supplies, chiefly of clothing and boots, which threatened towards the end of 1915. Valuable work was done in co-ordinating and organising the available manufacturing resources, and considerable economies were effected in consequence. A clothing and boot reserve was built up, and standardisation in manufacture was generally encouraged. Early in 1918 the Dominion was able to ship to the New Zealand forces abroad a very large supply of all articles of military clothing and footwear.

A very great convenience to soldiers in New Zealand during the war was the opportunity afforded by the Public Trust Office of having wills drawn up for them by one of its solicitors who regularly attended the camps. In all 9,364 wills were so drawn up and deposited with the Public Trustee. This Office also acted as attorney for soldiers, and administered deceased soldiers' estates.

No chapter has been included in this history recounting the experiences of the New Zealand Pack Wireless Troop which rendered valuable services in Mesopotamia and Persia, This unit was formed in New Zealand entirely from the Post and Telegraph Service and it sailed on March 4th, 1916, reaching Basra on April 16th. In May a move was made page xxiiup into the interior. Fever, diarrhoea, and dysentery were early foes, four of the troop died, and the majority passed through hospital. On July 4th the unit was amalgamated with the Australian Squadron. The New Zealanders became so prostrated with sickness—the temperature often stood at 126 degrees in the shade—that they were unable to furnish two full stations, and it was not until reinforcements arrived in December, 1916, that they became again a full troop. Splendid work was done. In Mesopotamia the men were in the thick of the fighting, especially at the memorable crossing of Shumran in March, 1917, and during the pursuit of the Turks to Bagdad. Later they were sent to Persia where life was quite fresh to them and full of interest. Kermanshah was ultimately reached. In June, 1918, when the enemy became subdued in the East, the troop was withdrawn and sent to France, where it became merged in the New Zealand Divisional Signallers. Several of the personnel received commissions and a number of decorations were won.

The narrative of the New Zealand war effort is by no means exhausted. There is for instance a wealth of detail available regarding the training of the troops in New Zealand, the general organisation of the camps and their early vicissitudes, the rapid development, as Imperial requirements become stabilised, of an effective and orderly system of military preparation. There is also, apart from the special sections of war activities dealt with in this volume, the magnificent work done in New Zealand and abroad by the Churches' organisations, the Y.M.C.A., the Salvation Army, the assistance rendered at home by the National Reserves, and various women's organisations. Fortunately much data relating to these matters has been collected by the Government with a view to its possible publication at some future date.

The photographs which illustrate events connected with the seizure and occupation of Samoa were kindly supplied by Mr. A. J. Tattersall, photographer, of Apia, Samoa.