NZ Volunteer Enlistment Badge

vol-badge-1Introduced 31 May 1940 ,under emergency regulations, this badge was intended to stop incidents like those that had happened in World War One of many men in civilian clothing receiving a white feather. The badge had a short life, as on 22 July 1940 under the National Service Emergency Regulations, volunteer service ended, conscription being introduced for all males between 18 to 46.

The regulations as outlined by the Minister of Defence for the issue of the badge were published in the NZ newspapers on 1 June. They were that a badge may be issued to a man ; 1) who had been honourably discharged from His Majesty’s Naval or Air Force or the Second NZ Expeditionary Force (2nd NZEF);2) volunteered for service in His Majesty’s Naval or Air Forces or the 2nd NZEF and have been accepted or provisionally accepted, but whose service has not commenced or has been temporarily suspended; 3) volunteered for service and had been rejected because they are not up to the medical standard of fitness required.

A further stipulation was that only men within the age categories laid down for each service and who were not suffering some obvious physical or mental defect would receive the badge.

Every badge was issued with a certificate which had a corresponding number to that stamped onto the back of the badge. And the men issued with the badge had to carry the certificate on them at all times as there were several penalties provided for the unlawful wearing of the badge and illegal manufacture or sale or possession of this badge.

It is interesting to note that while in use the badges remained the property of the Crown and had to be returned at the time of the expiry noted on the issued certificates. Or if no expiry date noted then on the death of the holder or when notification of recall is received from the issuing authority.

The fact that they were not issued to men that had been declared unfit for overseas service but fit for home defence did cause a bit of unease at the time as it was felt that these men could still be targeted by others as “ballot dodgers”.

Interestingly in looking through the Papers Past website for info about this Volunteers badge I came across an organistaion that I never heard of that had its own badge, the “Discharged Volunteers Association” or DVA. The badge is described as a “round silver disc the size of a sixpence, bearing the letters D.V.A. over a fern leaf which carries the initials N.Z.” I will be keeping an eye out for one now though.

The back of the badge showing the number 5542, unfortunately I do not have the corresponding certificate giving authority to wear. The MK mark on the back is for the Wellington badge manufacturing company of Mayer & Kean. The company has been going since 1902 and is now known as Mayer & Toye.vol-badge-2



Silver War Badge

A commonly seen item is the lapel badge frequently called the ‘wound badge’ or ‘discharge badge’, but more accurately known as the Silver War Badge (SWB). Authorised on 12 September 1916, it was granted to anyone in British and Imperial forces who was discharged from the services on the grounds of wounds, injuries or sickness while on war duties at home or abroad. The convex badge, fretted in silver, is fitted with a pin to the plain reverse, which is stamped with an individual number – though it is not the recipient’s service number. It is frequently claimed that these badges, intended to be worn on civilian dress, were conferred to stop men being harassed by women offering them white feathers for failing to do military service, but there is no foundation for this. It is much more to be seen as a simple and immediate recognition of ‘services rendered’ – as it says- before any other general awards were available.

Below is the SWB as it was issued to former NZ service men.swb1On the rear of the badge you can see the stamped number. The NZ prefix is found on all badges issued to former 1st NZEF men.swb2You can see that this example has the number NZ22695 stamped into it. As previously mentioned this number is not a service number but is a unique number that is found on the certificate that was issued to the former soldier that they were required to carry while the were in civilian dress to show they had authority to wear the badge.

An example of this certificate is below.swb-certYou can see that the number written above the name of the Director of Base records, minus the NZ, is the same number that is stamped onto the back of the SWB.swb-cert-clseFor SWB issued to British troops it is possible to trace the recipient via the reverse number using files held at UK National Archives unfortunately as far as I know there is no way of tracing the NZ number. There must have been a register of these numbers in NZ but I have not been able to find any trace of it at NZ National Archives or NZ Defence Force Archives.

If anyone does know, or suspects, where this roll might be please feel free to leave a comment.


36 Survey Battery NZ Artillery

This common service dress is badged to a fairly un-common unit within the NZ Artillery.

This captain belonged to the 36th Survey Battery of the NZ Artillery.36th-survey-sd-sideIn the photo above the colours are a bit dark, they are the traditional artillery colours of red and blue.

The 36th Survey Battery was a sound-ranging unit whose job was to pinpoint enemy guns so that the artillery could neutralise them. They did this from observation posts 2000 yards back from the enemy using recently-introduced sound ranging microphones set in drums. The microphones had a wire grid that was wired back to the equipment at headquarters. When the enemy guns fired, the observation post would press a button to start the unit recording sounds going through the grid. Shell waves and gun waves were recorded on the Headquarters machine. Allowance had to be made for the difference in meteorological air pressure and temperature. Strength (11 May 1944): 13 Officers, 259 Other Ranks.

36 NZ Survey Battery left New Zealand in February 1941 arriving in Maadi Camp, Egypt in March. For the next eighteen months, the Battery had a non-Divisional role, carrying out surveying duties in far flung localities. At various times the Battery had personnel in Egypt, Transjordan, Cyprus, Safaga (on the Red Sea coast of Upper Egypt), Aden and Syria. In December 1942 the Battery became a unit of 2 NZ Divisional Artillery, boosted in numbers by the addition of 1 Survey Troop. The composition of the Battery was then:

Battery Headquarters
X Troop Survey
R Troop Sound-Ranging
S Troop Flash-Spotting

Except for R Troop, which was completing its training, the Battery joined the Division’s conquest of Libya and the advance to Tunis (Dec 42 – May 43), playing its full part in the advance across North Africa.

Following the success in North Africa, the Battery returned to Maadi with the Division and prepared for the Italian campaign. When the Battery moved to Italy in November 1943, its strength was 284 all ranks. During the fighting in the Sangro-Orsogna region, six men from the Battery were wounded. The Battery continued its surveying, flash-spotting and sound-ranging throughout the Italian Campaign losing three dead. When 2 NZ Divisional Artillery was reorganised the Battery was disbanded (along with 14 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment) in September 1944. One hundred and fifteen men went home, 67 were posted to other artillery units as reinforcements, and 25 were formed into 5 Survey Troop which became part of 7 Anti-tank Regiment. The Survey Troop was able to do ordinary surveying and fix bearing pickets but the tasks of flash-spotting and sound-ranging were done by outside survey regiments.

The above is taken from the excellent RNZA website:

Memorial Register

Along with the Memorial Scroll and Memorial Plaque families also had the opportunity to purchase, for around 3 shillings, a register for the cemetery where their loved one was buried or commemorated. In each cemetery that was maintained by the Imperial war Graves Commission (Latter the Commonwealth War Greaves Commission) there is a cemetery register. A complete bound copy of the registers was sent to the NZ Government. The next of kin of the deceased were each contacted by the NZ War Graves Committee in order to confirm the details of the service man that would be entered in the register. Below is one of the letters sent to the family.cemetery-reg-1cemetery-reg-2 For details of William Edward YOUNG see my post on the Golden Roll of Honour.

The registers contain information on the memorial or cemetery the register relates to and also details the major engagements where the soldiers commemorated, died.cemetery-register-1cemetery-register-2Here is the letter, and receipt for 3 shillings, that was sent to the family of a NZ soldier commemorated at Grevillers Memorial.cemetery-reg-letter-1cemetery-reg-letter-2Notice the address of Mrs R DICKSON, ironic that the Somme area was where her son lost his life in the 1918 Spring Offensive.cemetery-register-7The entry in the register for Herbert Alexander DICKSON (notice the initials of the serviceman in the above letter are wrong).


World War Two Railwaymen

The 16th and 17th Railway Operating Companies along with a 9th Survey, 10 & 13 Construction Company were formed in 1940 after the British Government asked for railwaymen to run trains in the European campaign.
Because France was overrun before they could arrive, they were diverted to the Western desert. Their job was to help run and extend more than 400 miles of railways moving troops and supplies.
The Railway Operating Companies and the Survey and Construction Company extended railway lines 275 miles into Lybia, almost to the port of Tobruk. At one stage, the Kiwis set a record for the length of track constructed in a day.
They also operated lighters in Tobruk, often without any maritime experience.
When the desert campaign ended in May 1943, the Railway Operating Companies were disbanded and the men returned to help cope with the workload created by the influx of United States troops stationed in New Zealand to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific.
Have had an interest in Railwaymen for a while and have managed to collect a few bits and pieces belonging to these brave chaps.
Below is a group photo taken at Hopu Hopu Camp, Nagruawahia dated July 1940 of the 17th Railway Operating Company before they left NZ. First noticeable thing about this photo is the spread of age of these chaps there seems to be more than usual sprinkling of guys that look as though they are at the thick end of 40.  And there is a good smattering of troops, both enlisted and officers, who are wearing WW1 ribbons.
17th Railway op company.JPG
17th Railway op company name.JPG
17th Railway op company 3
Towards the centre of the photo the group of servicemen show a large number of WW1 veterans evidenced by their ribbons. The two officers each have a fairly long ribbon bars and the Captain looks like he is wearing the ribbon for the Military Cross.
17th Railway op company 4
Christmas cards of the 16th and the 17th Railway Operating Company.

railway op company 6.5

railway-op-company-5railway-op-company-5-5The job of crewing these trains was a dangerous one. Not only was there the threat of having your train strafed and blown up by the Luftwaffe but there were the less obvious threats inherent with operating a railway at a time of war. The following paragraph from the official history of the NZ Engineers explains how a young fireman by the name of Henry Sommerville Boyd Leighton was killed in an accident at the station at Fuka;

At Fuka…. an Egyptian engine driver who was at the throttle of a heavy goods train failed to notice, first, that he had arrived at Fuka, and secondly that there was a petrol train standing on the main line at the station. The accident cost us one of our young firemen who was killed instantly. The brakesman of the standing petrol train, a 16 Company man, did a few somersaults in company with his brake van which immediately caught alight, having been sprayed with petrol. Without knowing exactly how it came about the brakesman stepped unharmed from the blazing and derailed vehicle. His escape was miraculous as the brake van took the first blow from the heavy engine of the colliding train, the total weight of which was over 800 tons. As mentioned previously there were no signals at stations, no headlights on engines and no tail lights on the brake vans.

From my collection of items is this photo of Henry SB Leighton’s grave markerrailway-op-company-4

 railway op company 4.5

Another little item that once belonged to Sargent O.R. Nelson of the 16th Railway operating company.railway-op-companyFrom the Australian War Memorial website here is a photo of the front of the Fleet Club, Alexandria.

Last item is for a reunion held in 1960 in Dunedin NZ.railway-op-company-1


The Railway men

Around 5000 New Zealand Railways (NZR) permanent employees would serve overseas during the war, almost 40% of the 1914 workforce; several thousand of NZR’s casual workers are also known to have joined up. In 1919 the Department reported that a total of 7529 permanent and casual employees had been released for war service.

The price was high: NZR’s death toll of 450 employees was the heaviest loss suffered by any New Zealand employer. The majority of those who served overseas did so as infantrymen – 85% of those who died were in infantry regiments – but significant numbers were distributed throughout the NZEF. Twenty-four NZR staff died serving in the Engineers Corps, sixteen in the artillery, thirteen as machine-gunners, nine as mounted riflemen, eight in the medical services, three with the (Maori) Pioneer Battalion, two in the Cyclist Corps and one in the New Zealand companies of the Imperial Camel Corps.

Two specialist New Zealand railway units served overseas. The first was swiftly assembled in August 1914 to take part in the occupation of German Samoa. A second specialist unit was formed in January 1917, when the British War Office requested that New Zealand provide a Light Railway Operating Company (LROC) to serve in Flanders, Belgium. This was to be a non-divisional unit of 272 officers and other ranks, with its members recruited from men of the NZEF who were temporarily unfit for front-line duty due to illness or injury; a number of them were former NZR or Public Works Department (PWD) employees.

Railway badge 2

Railway badge bck.JPG

Cap and collar badges.

Railway badge set