- New Zealand Advanced Ordnance Depot
The ANZUK Ordnance Depot was established in 1971. It was commanded by a RAOC Lieutenant Colonel and staffed by Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom personnel and Locally Employed Civilians. This organisation operated for only a short period. Australia changed Government in 1972 and the incoming Labour Government decided to withdraw Australia’s commitment to the region. This took effect in 1974 and was followed later by the withdrawal of the British forces. It was then decided that New Zealand should form its own Advanced Ordnance Depot.
NZAOD came into being to support the New Zealand Force which was to remain behind alone. It was a self-contained and independent depot with all the normal Ordnance supply functions. It was the first such depot raised by New Zealand since World War II.
The establishment of NZAOD was a most interesting but unusual task. It was interesting because it offered the opportunity to raise a major supply unit overseas. It was unusual because it was being raised out of the ANZUK resources. Although Australia was leaving, at this stage it was planned that. the United Kingdom would also remain and there was intense competition between New Zealand and the United Kingdom for the stock, locally employed personnel, plant and materials handling equipment and warehouse accommodation of ANZUK Ordnance Depot.
The New Zealanders working in the ANZUK Ordnance Depot were very keen to join NZAOD. The difference between when they said they were available, and when the OC of ANZUK Ordnance Depot said they were available was remarkable. Personnel also arrived from New Zealand and in the early stages had to work long and hard in the heady days of ‘freedom from ANZUK’ to set up the New Zealand unit.
The creation of the two Forces developed a healthy rivalry between the RAOC and the RNZAOC. The ability of the RNZAOC to move rapidly to deal with the usual range of problems was constantly measured against how the ‘Brits’ were managing. New Zealand always seemed to do well. However, before the first of the NZAOD staff had completed their full tour, the RAOC was on its way home with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from Singapore. As with the Australians who left earlier, many good friendships had been made and it was sad to see them depart.
At first HQ NZFORSEA, 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR), and the host of supporting units were scattered all over the island but now they were concentrated in the Sembawang area in the former Royal Navy Singapore Naval Base, leaving 1 RNZIR in Dieppe Barracks located next to Sembawang Airbase just a few miles down the road. This was the start of a commitment which was to last until December 1989.
The activities of NZFORSEA covered a wide range of training exercises, exchanges, formal functions, as well as assistance to the Singapore and Malaysian Armed Forces. There were also New Zealand Government nonmilitary requests such as logistic assistance to trade delegations, the attendance of the band at receptions, support to the local school and a host of sporting engagements. NZAOD support to the force developed over the years and at its peak the strength of the depot was over 100 personnel. This number was made up of approximately 25 military and more than 75 civilians.
The civilian staff were the most loyal and supportive group that a depot commander could hope to employ. The majority of the staff came direct from service with the British forces when 3 BOD closed, and they brought with them a wealth of experience which was of great assistance when the depot was being established. It was unfortunate that only a few hundred civilian employees were required because the withdrawal of the British and the Australians made many thousands of Singaporeans redundant. There were many outstanding tradesmen, clerks and storekeepers in NZAOD and all served the New Zealand Army for very long periods. Mr Vince Kunju, a one time Chief Storekeeper, and Mr Simon Khng, the Chief Clerk of many years, were but two of these highly valued Ordnance Depot staff members.
NZAOD drew its supplies from New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Singapore and Malaysia. Electronic accounting machines were installed to link into the New Zealand supply chain to ensure a quick and accurate resupply. The organisation of the depot was based on a New Zealand Ordnance depot with a few additions to meet the needs of the force. The control office was initially equipped with NCR33 accounting machines, but these literally wore out and were not replaced as their demise coincided with the planned withdrawal of the force. In 1984 the depot reverted to a manual system of accounting while a stand alone computer system was developed. A totally manual system was labour intensive, but it was accurate and the stock figures held in the control office were seldom too far out. The local purchase office had one of the most interesting jobs driving all over the Island, which was a shoppers’ paradise, trying to locate stores.
There was a main warehouse adjacent to the HQ NZFQRSEA housing approximately 10,000 lines of general stores including furniture. Stock holdings were based on six months consumption but this varied in some cases where quite considerable stocks had been inherited from the 3 BOD days. The initial planners of the depot obviously thought New Zealand was to be in Singapore for some time, or they were being true Kiwis and making the most of abundant supplies and stocking up for the future.
A separate clothing store was established in Dieppe Barracks to meet the needs of the battalion and this two man section became the clothing store for the force. An Ordnance Officer was, on occasion, posted to 1 RNZIR as the Quartermaster or Assistant Quartermaster. When these RNZAOC Officers were with the battalion the liaison between AOD and 1 RNZIR was excellent.
When the New Zealand Army rationalised the supply service in line with the RAOC and the McLeod report, the AOD inherited the ration platoon cold stores, two static POL points and the responsibility for field supply of rations and POL to all force activities, including the refuelling of helicopters. The supply of rations in Singapore was a challenging and varied task. Local contractors supplied the cold stores with fresh rations every day and local items such as rice, noodles, tinned fruit and drinks were purchased and packaged into a local ration pack, known as the Gerber pack which was made up especially for tropical conditions. The cold stores were often a pleasant place to visit after a session of PT or when the heat of the tropical day became too much.
As they were in the Naval Base, the cold stores were alongside the wharfs used by friendly navies when passing through Singapore, and NZAOD was frequently requested to assist in the supply of foodstuffs to the visiting warships. This became quite a task when the Falklands fleet was coming home and New Zealand warships were coming and going from the Indian Ocean. NZAOD was also requested to assist the British Army on occasions when the Hong Kong garrison troops came down to Malaysia for training. It was at such times that the Gurkha troops would arrive and live goats would be requested for consumption.
There was a POL point at the Naval Base and another at Dieppe Barracks. While on exercises, refueling was achieved by converting an RL Bedford truck into a makeshift UBRE by loading it with 44 gallon drums or with an aluminum tank and pump unit. Aircraft were also refuelled by 44 gallon drums being manhandled at the landing zones. Although this was labour intensive and rather crude, it did work.
In the latter stages of the life of NZAOD it took on the responsibility for barrack services. This was a departure from the norm for an RNZAOC unit as the married quarters in New Zealand are not furnished. Barrack Services organised the replacement of household items that had been damaged or worn-out in the married quarters. There were over 330 fully furnished married quarters in Singapore when NZAOD took over the responsibility in 1984. The inspection of out going and in coming houses, the inspection, repair and maintenance of all household lines and the task of satisfying every customer was not an enviable task. It was often remarked that it was easier to satisfy’ the troops than their wives. ‘When a new item was introduced into the inventory such as a toaster, iron, or vacuum cleaner, it was amazing how quickly so many of the old model would breakdown and supplies of the new be demanded at the store.
The Returned Stores and Disposal Group of NZAOD was unique in the number of tradesmen it employed. There were carpenters who looked after all the wooden furniture and fittings, rattan workers to repair the cane furniture, a seamstress for curtains, cushion covers etc., textile refitters to repair tentage and leather goods, and storemen to handle the host of unit camp equipment returns. The majority of the staff were civilians with one or two military in control.
Ammunition supply was extremely difficult. Singapore is a densely populated island, smaller in size than Lake Taupo. The safety regulations which applied in New Zealand, had to be applied with a lot of common sense in Singapore, or restrictions would have made it impossible to operate. As it was, receiving ammunition shipments by sea and air was a nightmare of paperwork and security precautions for the Ammunition Technical Officer (ATO). NZAOD occupied three ammunition warehouses in the nearby Singaporean Ammunition depot located at Attap Vally which was an ideal arrangement.
A separate RNZA0C Stores Section was attached to the Force Workshops for the supply of technical spares. This unit had two military staff and at one time four civilians.
Life in Singapore was a rich experience for the Ordnance soldiers who averaged 25 in number. Females were part of the military establishment and these women fulfilled their roles well. The total number of New Zealand soldiers overall was small, but the Force HQ conducted many training exercises at various levels and supplied manpower assistance to fill enemy party positions and provide umpires, logistic backup in refueling or rationing, and staff appointments for Command Post exercises. Participation in these exercises, tours of duty to the British Army in Hong Kong, attachment to naval vessels sailing the South China Sea, and unit visits to famous places like Changi Prison all made for an exciting two year posting.
The Force was withdrawn from Singapore in 1989 and the AOD was disbanded, ending a colorful chapter in the history of the RNZAOC.
- J.S. Bolton, A History Of the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, 1992, ISBN 0477015816
- F. Steer, To The Warrior His Arms, The Story of the RAOC 1918-1993, ISBN 1844153290
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