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Story of the 34th

Commanding Officers

page 118

Commanding Officers

Lieutenant-Colonel F. W. Voelcker, Dso, Obe, Mc

At Sandhurst when war broke out in 1914, Colonel Voelcker joined the King's Shropshire Light Infantry at the age of 18. He went to France as a lieutenant, won the Military Cross, and was severely wounded by enemy bayonets and was captured. While posted as 'dead' by the British authorities, he made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, on one occasion reaching the coast of the Baltic. Remaining in the British Army after the war, Colonel Voelcker served in Aden, Ireland and India before retiring to civil life in New Zealand in 1928. In 1940 he was appointed second-in-command of the newly-formed 30th Battalion, B Force, but was transferred to the command of the infantry reinforcements before leaving New Zealand. On arrival in Fiji these were formed into the Training Battalion, later re-named Reserve Battalion, and finally 34th Battalion. Colonel Voelcker relinquished command of the 34th in June 1942. Subsequently he commanded a battalion of the Fiji Military Forces, which saw service in the Solomons. He was decorated with the OBE and Dso in 1944.

Lieutenant-Colonel J. A. M. Clachan, Nzsc

Colonel Clachan joined the New Zealand Staff Corps in December 1920 with the rank of lieutenant, after graduating from the Royal Military College at Duntroon. For the next five years he was area officer at Napier and Masterton, until in 1926 he went to India as an officer attached to a battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment. Returning to New Zealand after two years, Colonel Clachan became area officer at Hamilton, with several appointments as adjutant to Territorial regiments. He served on the staff of Duntroon Military College for over two years, until December 1941, when he was withdrawn for special duties at Army Headquarters, Wellington. In June 1942 he took over command of the 34th Battalion for a period of two months. Subsequent appointments were as Instructor at the New Zealand Tactical School, Wanganui, and as GSO for the Central Military District.

page 119

Lieutenant-Colonel R. J. Eyre, Nzsc

Colonel Eyre was seconded to the New Zealand Permanent Staff in the early days of the last war, but proceeded overseas with the Expeditionary Force in 1917, where he saw active service with both infantry and artillery and gained a commission. After the war he rejoined the Royal New Zealand Artillery, relinquishing his Expeditionary Force commission, and served at various stations in New Zealand until 1928. He was then commissioned in the New Zealand Staff Corps and appointed area officer at Nelson, with attached appointments as adjutant to several territorial regiments. After commanding the Southern District School of Instruction, Colonel Eyre was posted to Fiji in 1941 as brigade major of 8th Brigade, during which time he acted as the military representative of the Governor's Civil Defence Council. On return of the division to New Zealand he assumed command of the 34th Battalion in August 1942, retaining that appointment during the battalion's service in Tongatabu, New Caledonia, and the Solomons. He relinquished command in December 1943, and returned to New Zealand where he became Commandant of Burnham Military Camp.

Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Reidy

After holding a commission in a territorial regiment prior to the war, Colonel Reidy took a short-service commission in the New Zealand Staff Corps in 1939, with the rank of captain. He held various appointments in New Zealand, including commandant of the Central District School of Instruction, adjutant of Trentham Mobilisation Camp, commandant of Dannevirke Military Camp, A and Q Army Reserve Field Force, and Staff Officer (Movements) at Army Headquarters. On Japan's entry into the war, Colonel Reidy was sent to Fiji as brigade major of 14th Brigade, and later as second-in-command of 37th Battalion. Returning to New Zealand, he became brigade major of the Brigade. In New Caledonia, he commanded the 1st Ruahine Battalion and the 29th Battalion for periods, before ultimately becoming second-in-command of 34th Battalion in May 1943. On 1 December 1943 he assumed command of 34th Battalion, and held that appointment until the final dissolution of the division.