Problems of 2 NZEF
CHAPTER 8 — Headquarters 2 NZEF – the Services
Headquarters 2 NZEF – the Services
WE now come to what have been called the 2 NZEF ‘Controls’ or ‘Authorities’, i.e., those officers or units whose authority extended throughout the force. Some authorities, in fact the greater part, existed from the beginning of the force to the end; some did not appear until various later points in the life of the force; and one disappeared after the first two years. The list given below is the maximum. It does not appear that there was ever an official order of precedence of this miscellaneous group of offices, and the order given is adopted from various orders of battle.
List of Authorities
Military Secretary (MS)
Director of Medical Services (DMS)
Matron-in-Chief (later Principal Matron)
Assistant Director of Dental Services (ADDS)
Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (DDOS) – until 1942, then merged with ADOS 2 NZ Division.
Assistant Director of Mechanical Engineering (ADME) – representative of CREME 2 NZ Division after 1942.
Chief Paymaster (also Financial Adviser)
Deputy Judge Advocate-General (DJAG)
Public Relations Officer (PRO)
Second Echelon (2 Ech)
Assistant Director of Education and Rehabilitation Services (ADERS)
Assistant Director of Postal Services (ADPS)
Commissioner National Patriotic Fund
Senior Secretary Church Army
Commissioner Red Cross
Printing and Stationery Unit
WAACS – three divisions, welfare, hospital and clerical. Camp Commandant
At the risk of reiteration, it must be pointed out that part of the justification for the existence of HQ 2 NZEF was the need for some measure of co-ordination among all these varied offices.
Of the ‘corps’ in the army, the heads of medical, dental, chaplains, pay, postal, and educational were stationed at HQ 2 NZEF. In all other cases, the heads of corps were the senior officers of that corps in the Division. They all had a certain amount of ‘NZEF’ work to do, especially for promotion of officers, manpower and war establishments. The list is as follows:
Armoured Corps – Commander 4 Armoured Brigade (after 1942)
Cavalry – CO Divisional Cavalry (until 1942)
Artillery – CRA
Engineers – CRE after 1943 (see next paragraph)
Signals – CRSigs
Infantry (including MG and Maori) – GOC personally
ASC – CRASC
Ordnance – ADOS
EME – CREME
Provost – DAPM
Ciphers While not strictly speaking ‘corps’, the GSO I of the Division was looked on as the head.
Field Security While not strictly speaking ‘corps’, the GSO I of the Division was looked on as the head.
During 1941, 1942, and 1943, when we had a large number of non-divisional engineer units, we had no head of the corps of engineers in 2 NZEF. There were more non-divisional companies than divisional ones; and the work was so varied that it was impossible to appoint either the CRE or the head of any non-divisional group as the head of all engineer units. There was no justification for a separate officer as head of the corps. In the end a combination of OICA and the Military Secretary – the latter an engineer officer as it happened – kept a watchful eye on the interests of the corps of engineers as a whole. When in late 1943 the non-divisional engineers were disbanded, the CRE of the Division was appointed Chief Engineer for 2 NZEF, and all was well thereafter.
The list of authorities given on page 114 now merits some attention. As was stated in the Introduction, it is proposed to mention here only those things that caused problems to HQ 2 NZEF, i.e., to the office of OICA. Every authority had problems of his own within his particular sphere, some of them being mentioned in other volumes of our War History.
Some aspects of the Military Secretary's work are discussed in Chapter 13 under ‘Officers’.page 116
DIRECTOR OF MEDICAL SERVICES
It is not proposed to say more than a few words here about medical matters, as the work and difficulties of the DMS are being adequately covered in other volumes. At the beginning of the war his title was ADMS NZ Division; but when HQ 2 NZEF was organised as a separate authority, his title was changed to DDMS 2 NZEF and another officer was appointed to the Division. DDMS (Deputy Director of Medical Services) was the appropriate title in the circumstances, being next in the hierarchy above an Assistant Director; but the habit of British authorities of looking on a deputy as a subordinate, combined with the desire to improve the status of such an important authority, caused us in early 1942 to change the title to Director.
The greater part of the medical work in 2 NZEF was outside the Division, so that there was every justification for placing the medical head at HQ 2 NZEF. The DMS was the one adviser to the GOC whose advice of necessity nearly always prevailed, for matters of health and medical treatment are so specialised and the medical personnel so highly skilled that any commander must think long and deeply before overriding any advice given him. The responsibility remained that of the GOC nevertheless. In view of the importance of his work, the DMS dealt direct with the GOC on all matters of medical policy.
Officer ranks in the Medical Corps are on the high side at any time, so that it is perhaps not surprising that Headquarters was resistant to applications for an increase in senior ranks. The question was admittedly difficult, owing to the combination of administrative and specialist officers in any hospital, and to the shortage of the specialists. It often happened that when a specialist became due for promotion into one of the senior administrative vacancies available in a hospital, he could not be spared from his specialist work. In the end, to be fair to specialists, we had to agree to an additional number of senior ranks for hospital staffs.
It can be claimed with complete justification that our standards of medical treatment and administration were high, and indeed were the admiration of other Allied troops, including British. We were better served than were most national armies.
MATRON-IN-CHIEF - PRINCIPAL MATRON
The work of the Matron-in-Chief is covered in the Medical volumes of the War History. The title was changed from Matron-in-Chief to Principal Matron when the first holder of the appointment retired in November 1943, the true Matron-in-Chief being at Army Headquarters in New Zealand.page 117
Throughout the war we arranged for the Matron-in-Chief or Principal Matron to live in quarters of her own, and not with any medical unit. Both in Egypt and in Italy she had either a flat or small house, where she not only lived but also had her meals. In Egypt, for obvious reasons, she lived outside Maadi Camp, but near at hand in Maadi village; but in Italy she was within the circle of HQ 2 NZEF accommodation. Right up to the end of the war, Headquarters was conservative to the extent that it did not embark on mixed messes, although by that time even the British Army had admitted WAAC officers to area messes. Once we moved to Italy the Principal Matron should have messed with Headquarters, despite any grumblings that might have been voiced by some of the older officers.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF DENTAL SERVICES
The ADDS was independent of the DMS, but naturally had to co-operate with him in matters of dental health in the broadest sense; and a similar position prevailed in a hospital between the dental officer and the heads of the surgical and medical divisions. At the beginning there was a certain amount of friction, and on occasion Headquarters was asked to lay down clearly where the division of duties came, a task which was a little invidious; and in any case this was difficult, for all the words that can be written to define dividing lines in such cases cannot take the place of cooperation and good will. If these relations do not exist, all the directives in the world will not replace them. The saving factor was that both sides were actuated by commendable motives, namely to find the best method of restoring patients quickly to complete health.
The work of the Dental Corps is being covered in another volume, but it must be said here that the standards it set overseas were much above those of the British service generally. Our mobile dental units were unique.
ORDNANCE - ELECTRICAL AND MECHANICAL ENGINEERS
For the first two years of the war the head of the Ordnance Corps was stationed at HQ 2 NZEF. Like the medical head, he was first appointed as head of the corps in the Division (ADOS) but very soon became DDOS of 2 NZEF, and another officer took up the divisional appointment. At the outset there was ample justification for a separate 2 NZEF head, for all our initial equipment had to be drawn and there were developments in the maintenance of mechanical transport, the Ordnance Corps at that time being responsible for mechanical work also. Once issues of equipment were governed page 118 by battle losses or by wear and tear, the work of the Ordnance Corps became more routine and there was not the same justification for keeping a senior officer at Headquarters. The DDOS at the time voiced this opinion himself. His services were then accepted in a senior appointment with the British Army, and the responsibility for all ordnance work in 2 NZEF passed to the ADOS of the Division. An assistant to this officer was stationed at HQ 2 NZEF. When the subdivision of the Ordnance Corps took place in late 1942 - see below - a separate ordnance officer did not stay with Headquarters, the duties being largely taken over by the officer in charge of our expanding base ordnance depot.
In 1942 the British Army split up the Ordnance Corps into two portions - one, retaining the name of Ordnance, to confine itself to provision, and the other, a new ‘Electrical and Mechanical Engineers’, to be responsible for technical maintenance. After some slight hesitation, we decided to follow suit, and the new corps of NZEME was formed in December 1942, its head being the senior officer with the Division, the CREME. An assistant to this officer was stationed at HQ 2 NZEF.
As far as Headquarters was concerned, the only real trouble we had with pay matters came from extra-duty pay. It was an intractable problem; but it was a complication created in New Zealand and was in no way the fault of anyone in 2 NZEF, certainly not of the Chief Paymaster.
When the first issue of Pay and Allowance Regulations was made late in 1939, one paragraph was as follows:
EXTRA DUTY PAY
Cooks 2/6 per diem
Privates and lance-corporals whilst carrying out one of the duties stated below will be granted 1/- per diem extra duty pay: Armourer, baker, bootmaker, butcher, dental mechanic, farrier, fitter, engine-driver, motor mechanic, orderly-room clerk, saddler, shoeing-smith, tailor, wheeler.
Up to the time of the departure of the First Echelon, the text of Pay and Allowance Regulations had not been scrutinised by any appropriate member of the Expeditionary Force, and in fact the bulk issue of the regulations was only placed on board the transports while they were in Wellington harbour. It was not until we had been in Maadi for a few weeks that this paragraph struck home to units, and then the complaints came thick and heavy.
Sub-paragraph (a) was not in question. The trouble was with sub-paragraph (b). As far as is known, the paragraph had been page 119 lifted bodily from the regulations for the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force. There had been no time to examine it closely, nor to relate it to the new force, and it was allowed to stand. It would be unfair to blame anyone for this, for Army Headquarters was working under extreme pressure; but it was unfortunate to the highest degree. The paragraph as worded was largely inapplicable, and was in general unsuited to the force. It had been designed for a force whose transport was almost entirely horsed, and in which the amount of mechanical transport or mechanical appliances was so small as to be something exceptional. The new force had no horses, was entirely mechanised, and was equipped with a mass of complicated arms and machinery. There were no ‘farriers, saddlers or shoeing-smiths’, whereas there was an army of skilled tradesmen most inadequately covered by the terms ‘armourer, fitter, engine-driver, or motor mechanic’. Our war establishments included tradesmen under a profusion of titles; but what was even more important was that the skilled tradesman of the First World War had ceased to be exceptional in the Second, and was just an ordinary member of the force and a reflection of the mechanical age in which we live. To have given all these tradesmen and skilled personnel the extra shilling would have been absurd, for in some corps – the armoured corps for instance – tradesmen were between one-third and half of the unit on 1940 establishments.
Egyptian laundry, Maadi
Inter-unit relay race, Maadi baths, 1940
2 Echelon Records Section, Maadi Camp, December 1943
Christmas parcel mail being sorted at the New Zealand Chief Post Office, Cairo, December 1943
Rev. J. W. McKenzie (Senior Chaplain) and Rt. Rev. G. V. Gerard at Maadi, June 1943
Brigadier K. MacCormick, Director of Medical Services, 2 NZEF, 1940-43
Troops in the Western Desert receive National Patriotic Fund Christmas parcels, January 1942
Colonel F. Waite, National Patriotic Fund Board Commissioner, hands over to the YMCA a mobile canteen, the gift of the New Zealand Returned Soldiers' Association
New Zealand Broadcasting Unit, Maadi. Troops queue up to broadcast messages to New Zealand, May 1942
Early in 1940 we held a conference to see what could be done and what recommendation we could make to New Zealand, for rates of pay and allowances were not within the powers of the GOC to alter. We tried to separate the sheep from the goats and decide out of the mass of tradesmen which ones really deserved an extra shilling, and in the end we did get the list slightly extended by including such trades as artificer, electrician, and instrument mechanic. The result was still unsatisfactory, however, and became more so as the war went on and equipment became even more technical. When the first non-divisional engineer units reached us from New Zealand, the issue became more complicated owing to some ill-considered promises made to the units by members of the Government, to wit that they would all get extra-duty pay. There was trouble with this paragraph repeatedly in the first few years, units asking from time to time that the list should be extended by such and such a trade; but the fact was that it was wellnigh impossible to draw a clear dividing line between what was truly exceptional, and what was just the normal duty to be expected from a trained soldier in a mechanical age. In the end we had to say firmly that complaints must cease and the position be accepted. It would have almost been better if in early 1940 we had asked that the paragraph be cancelled for future enlistments, for the number page 120 of men receiving the pay at the moment was not so great as all that, and would have diminished with the years. However, such action would have appeared to us at the time as too drastic, for we had not appreciated how bad the position was, and how much worse it would get. When at a much later stage we were told that the Government was considering a rise in pay, we suggested (somewhat half-heartedly) that the opportunity should be taken to abandon extra-duty pay; but by that time no one in New Zealand was prepared to take away an allowance that had existed for so long, and the original position continued to the end.
There was no doubt about the justice of the extra-duty pay for cooks. Many thought that it should be given also to clerks, because they were hard to find, and some inducement might have helped. Beyond that we were floundering in a morass and never found a way out. Probably it would have been better to give the allowance to no one, on account of the difficulty of determining who was carrying out exceptional work of a technical nature, and because no extra allowance was given to the poor infantryman for taking the great risks that were his daily share. The allowance could have been given to all tradesmen appearing in war establishments, but with the result that far too high a proportion of men would have been receiving it. Probably we did not grapple with this problem firmly enough; but there was no encouragement from the New Zealand end.
It has already been mentioned in Chapter 6 that in the last year or so there were many cases of men producing large rolls of Italian lire notes and asking that they should be credited to their accounts. There was a strong suspicion – indeed more than a suspicion – that the money had been gained illegally. The Pay Office, in any case, was under no obligation to handle moneys other than pay, nor was the Government under any obligation to grant the exchange concession except for pay. Men were sometimes embarrassed over the disposal of legitimate gains such as those coming from wins on the totalisators at the races; but the obligation was on the man to prove that the money was legitimate, and the Pay Office was within its rights in refusing to handle money that was believed to have come from Crown and Anchor winnings or from black-market activities.
The Chief Pay Office at its maximum was about 200 all ranks. The Chief Paymaster and the main office moved to Italy when Headquarters moved, and remained with Headquarters throughout. A rear office remained at Maadi.
The Chief Paymaster was also Financial Adviser to the GOC. It cannot be claimed that his work under this heading was extensive, but there were occasions when the GOC needed some guidance about the propriety of certain expenditure.page 121
The work of the Chaplains has already been covered in a separate volume. From the point of view of Headquarters their work went smoothly, and we had no form of crisis or major trouble. The first Senior Chaplain came from the Anglican church, the largest church body in New Zealand. When a replacement was called for, however, we turned to the next senior Protestant chaplain, who was in any case the next senior among the totality of chaplains. He happened to be a Presbyterian. This might have caused some trouble from the Anglican church, so we thought it advisable to ask Army Headquarters to sound out that church before making the appointment. There was, however, no objection from the Anglican church, and the appointment was made. When next a replacement was due, it happened again that the most suitable chaplain was a Presbyterian; but this time we went ahead and did not consult New Zealand.
Headquarters 2 NZEF was, of course, not concerned with the spiritual functions of the chaplains, but only with their administration. The earliest problem was the proportion to be maintained among the various churches and denominations. The basis for our calculations was the proportions as shown in the individual records held by Second Echelon, for which purpose a special count was taken in early 1941 and at one or two intervals thereafter. The percentages varied very slightly from count to count. In the beginning of 1943, for instance, they were:
|Church of England||44|
The total number of chaplains in the force varied also, in the direction of a steady increase as the war went on. At the period under consideration the total had been set at 50, of which 26 were with the Division and 24 with hospitals, depots, and scattered units. Applying the percentages to this figure of 50, we arrived at the following number of chaplains:
|Church of England||22|
Taking the figures to the nearest whole number they became:
|Church of England||22|
In view of certain difficulties in the work of the smaller denominations, in particular the Roman Catholics, it was agreed by the senior chaplains of the churches affected that the Church of England and the Presbyterian figures should each be reduced by one. In this case the Roman Catholics and the Methodists were each increased by one, the final figures being:
|Church of England||21|
Similar calculations took place at other intervals. At a later stage, while the figures of chaplains in the Division and outside it remained the same, we carried three chaplains extra for emergencies – reinforcements in other words.
It was agreed from the first that Roman Catholic chaplains should serve the needs of their communion throughout the force, and that they should not be considered as unit chaplains in the usual sense. There were some difficulties with the units to which they were attached, and to clear up the position the following instruction was issued by Headquarters in November 1942:
Roman Catholic chaplains in 2 NZEF number seven. For various reasons it has been found advisable at the present stage to place them with medical units; at later stages they may be located elsewhere.
It must be made clear that in any circumstances they are placed in order to serve the needs of RC members of 2 NZEF as a whole. The RC community is scattered throughout the force. The unit to which an RC chaplain is attached is thus his base, from which he operates over an area of country.
He is not allocated to the unit as a unit chaplain; but on the other hand all RC chaplains have been instructed to take part in unit activities subject to their duties under para 2 above. Chaplains will also comply with the ordinary rules of reporting ‘marchings in and out’.
The vehicles with which RC chaplains are provided are authorised army vehicles and are entitled to normal servicing in every way, including supplies of petrol.
Thereafter there was no trouble.
Originally chaplains fourth class, ranking as captains, were promoted to third class, ranking as majors, after three years' service overseas, i.e., from date of embarkation. There was nothing sacred in this period, which had been the one used in the first war. In the middle of 1942, i.e., about two and a half years after the sailing of the First Echelon, we reviewed the position, and found that there page 123 was only one combatant or medical officer left who had sailed with the First Echelon as a captain, was fit for promotion, and had not yet received it. In other words, with this one exception, all captains had been promoted, a great number of the vacancies being due to casualties. Taking it all in all, we thought that chaplains should be promoted on the same scale, and so altered the qualifying period to two years and six months.
Towards the end of 1942 we had to take up with New Zealand the question of the medical standards to be applied to chaplains destined for service overseas. In the few months preceding our representations there had been a lamentable record of sickness among recently arrived chaplains, several having to be sent back without any service with the force. It seemed to us that there was an idea in New Zealand that because chaplains were non-combatants lower medical standards than the best would suffice, especially as many chaplains served with hospitals. This was a false argument. Hospital vacancies were reserved for chaplains who needed a spell from field service, or who had served an adequate period in the field; and field service was strenuous for anyone, chaplains and all. Their medical standards must be the same as for combatant officers. We asked that this should be watched in the future, and Army Headquarters agreed to take action accordingly. The position thereafter did show an improvement.
Early in 1940, one chaplain, speaking on behalf of a number, suggested to Headquarters that chaplains should be allowed to visit Palestine as a definite part of their military training, the implication being that all their expenses should be paid by the Government. Speaking with all reverence, it did appear to Headquarters to be slightly bizarre that a visit to the Holy Land should be equated with the training that was then going on all over Maadi Camp. At that time there was no military transport to Palestine, but only civilian trains, indiscriminate travel was frowned on, we thought that everyone should stick to his last in Maadi, and, so it must be said, were not sympathetic. As it happened, leave to Palestine became possible later on in 1940 at small cost; still later, there was such a mass of military transport passing between Egypt and Palestine that no one had any difficulty in getting a lift, and later still in 1942 the Division was in Syria and our line of communication ran through Palestine. Doubtless all chaplains, at least until we went to Italy, did manage to pay a visit there.
Our field chaplains were ultimately all self-contained with transport. It is an impossible position to ask a chaplain to carry on his work in modern, fast-moving war if he is to be dependent upon chance lifts in miscellaneous vehicles.page 124
Some few remarks affecting the Deputy Judge Advocate-General's branch are contained in Chapter 15, under discipline.
If trials and troubles are any justification, then the various bodies that made up our Public Relations Service merit a chapter to themselves. The service comprised the Public Relations Officer, war correspondents, broadcasting unit, cinema units, still photographer, official artist, newspaper and archivist, all, except perhaps the last, ‘organs of publicity’.
It must be said at once that the trouble referred to, save in the very early period, had little or no effect upon the work of the various parts. We had every reason for thinking that the results were good. All parts of the force had their initial troubles, extending over a long or short period; but with Public Relations the period was longer than most.
Our difficulties in getting any war correspondents at all have been mentioned in Chapters 2 and 3 above. We never knew the exact reasons which led to the outcome that all correspondents were military personnel paid by the Government, and were not representatives of the New Zealand press; but discussions, not to say controversy, between the Government and the press, difficulties in selecting personnel, and basic suspicion in the Government of any outside publicity caused absurd delays before any proper appointments were made. We were forced to make one or two interim appointments ourselves; and it may be said now that after a few correspondents had come out from New Zealand, later appointments came from competent newspapermen from the Expeditionary Force itself.
A qualified war correspondent arrived from New Zealand in early 1941, the intention being that he should be our Public Relations Officer; but he was unlucky enough to be captured in Greece. A cinema and a broadcasting unit arrived about the same time, and meanwhile the GOC had appointed an official artist out of hand.
One way and another they were a difficult lot, all showing some degree of temperament, and cumulatively they caused more work at Headquarters than did any other branch of 2 NZEF services; but at the same time it must be said that Headquarters was not always very clever in the way it dealt with them. Figuratively speaking, the staff at Headquarters were always rubbing the bruises they had incurred through getting mixed up in the problems of the Public Relations Service. Sooner than have to deal with them all individually, we decided to go on with the idea of a Public Relations Officer, and to make him responsible for all the branches. The PRO page 125 was intended to keep his finger on the pulse of the force, have a full knowledge of what was happening, or going to happen, throughout the force, and decide where and when any of the units or individuals should go at any one time. The PRO was to ensure that all the activities of the Division and the other NZEF units were adequately covered and reported to New Zealand – and it has already been indicated that despite troubles this object was achieved.
Unfortunately we had difficulty in finding a suitable officer for the appointment of PRO, and most unfairly thrust it upon officers unskilled in publicity, who struggled manfully with a task that might wellnigh have driven them to distraction. It was not until the middle of 1943 that the service settled down into a steady routine. Part of the blame rested with Headquarters. We had not appreciated the degree of specialisation and technical training required in publicity, but had thought that conscientiousness and hard work would alone be sufficient. Good work was done, and some foundation established for the future; but a thorough knowledge of all the aspects of publicity was really an essential for the appointment.
Our public relations staff, being military personnel and paid accordingly, were prevented from having the free roving commissions, with apparently inexhaustible expense accounts, of the representatives of great British or American publicity agencies. Association with these men, some of them world famous, went to the heads of a few of the members, and we had to take firm steps to bring them down to earth again.
The broadcasting unit had an unfortunate start owing to differences of opinion among the members, and took a little time to get into its stride; but thereafter it did excellent work, including the much-appreciated scheme by which men could record short messages to their families to be broadcast later over the air in New Zealand. This unit had throughout a very good liaison with its parent department in New Zealand.
The cinema unit was sometimes accused, most unfairly, of being merely a recorder of travelogues. The force operated throughout the war in photogenic areas – Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Libya, Italy – and it was part of the duty of the unit to film scenes in these areas. It fulfilled its duty of taking scenes in the field also, and could not be accused of neglecting war for peace.
Probably it is in the nature of still photographers to be less obtrusive and more subdued than their more mobile brethren. This was one part of publicity which seemed to keep out of trouble and merely got on quietly with the job.
The status of war correspondents and of the personnel of the broadcasting and cinema units was not satisfactory. They were page 126 appointed ‘with the status of lieutenants or captains’. It would have been better to give them military ranks outright – better for their work, and better for them if they were captured. The same point will be made when speaking of our welfare staff.
The official artist was taken closely under the wing of the GOC personally. The results of his work were good, and met with the commendation of the troops, the highest praise of all, but sometimes he did get away from the control of the PRO.
The NZEF Times was started in 1941 and continued till the end of 1945. From the first it was a ‘news’ paper only, and did not open its columns to correspondence, nor did it express any views on the problems of 2 NZEF – other than humorously. It tried to include a lot of news from New Zealand, and published war correspondents' articles and other matter about the happenings within the force. It was subjected to some criticism from the troops for not publishing letters to the editor and other contributions; and it must be admitted that there was a difference of opinion about the policy adopted. There was no doubt that the paper lost a bit of life thereby and gave no opening to contributions that would have come from all over the force; but when we used to read about the turmoils that were stirred up from time to time by army papers, both British and American, we were thankful that we were well out of it. ‘Fair comment’ so easily merges into indiscipline, or is unsettling to morale. It is probable that the policy we adopted was too rigid, and that it was only the difficulty of framing satisfactory rules for an alternative that led to our taking the line of least resistance.
The Archivist is discussed below on page 129.
Headquarters never looked on its handling of publicity as one of its successes. The main requirement is a thoroughly qualified Public Relations Officer; and provided that care is taken to have a suitable officer ready to step into the post, a future Headquarters will be spared many worries.
Unfortunately, as will be mentioned again in Chapter 10, we never had a satisfactory liaison with the Director of Publicity in New Zealand. We had the greatest difficulty in obtaining material from New Zealand – film scenes of the old home town and so on – and such New Zealand news as was sent us was poorly chosen and did not keep us in touch with what was happening in the homeland. Moreover – and this was most disheartening – we could never find out what use was made in New Zealand of the press, cinema, and photographic material which we sent back. We knew that the broadcasting unit's messages to next-of-kin were put on the air; but this was only learnt through subsequent letters from the next-of-kin, and not because of official advice. Taking it all in all, it was a regrettable state of affairs.page 127
It took a little time at the beginning to impress on units the importance of strength and casualty returns. There was a tendency, perhaps a natural one, to regard returns as just so much paper work which had to be done to propitiate an impersonal body at ‘the base’. It was soon realised that the returns governed such things as promotions, pay, and casualty returns, and they took their place as an essential element in military administration.
The war establishment of Second Echelon included an unusually large number of staff-sergeants and sergeants. Initially they came out from New Zealand with substantive ranks, so that when later on we thought it desirable that they should have some field service, it was difficult to force them on units. It was laid down at an early date that replacements for the personnel of Second Echelon must come from men who had had field service, and little by little the difficulty disappeared. It is a mistake to send a unit such as this overseas staffed with a lot of perfectly fit senior NCOs. It would be preferable, at least in the early stages, that this unit should be staffed either by personnel of a grading just below the highest, or by women, or by some of each.
Among the tasks of Second Echelon is the collecting of the effects of deceased personnel, and their despatch to Base Records in Wellington, a task requiring care and sympathy. It was important enough for us to issue a special instruction, which included the setting up of what was called, not very happily, the ‘Standing Committee of Adjustment’, to supervise the disposal of effects. The name came from the British regulations on the subject, and was a relic of the days of a purely regular army, when all sorts of military obligations and privately owned goods had to be taken into account – elaborate mess bills, gambling debts, polo ponies and so on. We should have introduced a name of our own. However, the essential part of the constitution of the committee, whatever its name, was and must be the inclusion of a representative of the deceased's unit. Tales regarding the alleged improper disposal of kits spring up easily and are readily believed. The more that can be done to make it all fair and above board the better.
When HQ 2 NZEF moved to Italy, the main part of Second Echelon remained in Maadi, as it was thought better not to disrupt the office. An advanced office was formed, however, and was established with Headquarters in each of the sites we occupied. The main office in Maadi at its maximum was something over 200 strong.page 128
EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION AND POSTAL SERVICES
The work of these two services is covered in Chapter 16, Welfare.
The auditor was appointed at the request of the GOC, who thought it desirable that any financial transactions in which we might be engaged should be open to review by a skilled inspector. The GOC had expected to get an auditor who would be responsible to him, or at the least to the army; but what we did get was an auditor who was a member of the staff of the Controller and Auditor-General, and responsible to that officer only – who, it will be realised, is in turn responsible to Parliament and the people of New Zealand only. This was slightly dampening, and meant that we would have to come to some arrangement with the auditor to obviate his comments going all the way out to New Zealand and later, through devious channels, coming back to us for a ‘please explain’. Such a roundabout procedure seemed foolish.
At an early point, therefore, we arranged with the auditor that if he had any adverse comments in his reports to his chief he would let Headquarters have a copy, so that if necessary – or if we thought it desirable – our own answer could go out to New Zealand at the same time. As it happened there were few comments of any moment; and after a while the auditor adopted the custom of coming to Headquarters first with his comments and discussing the matter before he ever made his report at all. This was most satisfactory and, after all, was the reasonable thing to do considering that New Zealand was so far away. Nothing was ever done on our part to interfere with the auditor's right to report to his own chief, but in effect he became the keeper of our conscience as well as the keeper of the public conscience.
In 1940 and 1941 there was an attempt made to conduct a stores audit. The moment appeared to be a suitable one, for at that stage our equipment was still being issued to us item by item, and was being checked and signed for. However, stores audit implies some fixed point round which to conduct it; and the course of events prevented anything like a fixed point being found. Before the initial issue was complete the First Echelon was scattered all over Egypt and the Desert; and when it came back to Helwan the Second and Third Echelons joined it, and soon afterwards the whole Division moved to Greece; and from then on enemy action and emergency replacements on the battlefield had complicated the tale beyond any clarification.
Stores audit in a combatant force in a theatre of war is an page 129 impossibility. Financial check is another matter, and the auditor was an insurance, welcomed by both staff and services, that our financial transactions, pay or otherwise, were in order.
The auditor also checked regimental funds accounts, a task which from time to time disclosed some surprising results, as will be mentioned in Chapter 16.
After the First World War the war diaries and other records left by units had been of little help, so that historians had to start afresh to collect material. It is not suggested that war diaries provide all the material required in the compilation of a history, but they do at least provide, or should provide, some sort of foundation.
In an endeavour to improve on this situation for the future, an archivist was appointed early in 1941. Initially he was placed under the Public Relations Officer, largely for administrative reasons, but partly so that he could be put into the picture and know on what aspects of his work he should concentrate at any one time. Later in the war he was made an independent authority. His work was first to see that war diaries were kept in a proper manner, and then to collect material which might be of value to historians after the war. As part of this latter duty, he was the supervisor of unit historians; but as all we did was to exhort units to keep some sort of unit history, and as practice varied, his influence in this connection varied also. He subsequently produced a short series of provisional accounts – of the ‘popular’ variety – of the various campaigns, which had a good reception.
War History Branch has reported since the war that the Archives Branch unquestionably justified itself, but that it could with advantage have been expanded to become a proper Historical Section, with powers to collect battle narratives from units. It does seem that we were not firm enough about unit historians; but it will always be difficult to get units which are involved in the heat of battle to give any thought to possible advantages for historians in the future. The staff of a central historical section, carefully chosen as suitable for the interrogation of battle personnel who are probably very tired at the time, might have gone far to replace unit historians.
COMMISSIONER NATIONAL PATRIOTIC FUND
SENIOR SECRETARY CHURCH ARMY
COMMISSIONER RED CROSS
These are all dealt with in Chapter 16.page 130
PRINTING AND STATIONERY UNIT
The printing unit did not begin its work until January 1942, which was two years too late. It is a commonplace that the printed word is easier to read than the cyclostyled one, partly because of the variety of type available, and partly because of the greater contrast between the colour of the print and the colour of the paper. A less obvious advantage is that for the same number of copies of any document, printing uses less paper than cyclostyling. From the point of view of the recipient, there can be no two opinions about the advantages of printing; and in order to be merciful to recipients in the early stages of a specially formed force, the printing unit should be available from the first. It is not just a luxury.
The unit began by printing orders only, but soon blossomed out into printing standing instructions and army forms. It never lacked work. At a later stage it was expanded to handle stationery supplies also. It would have been better if the unit had been designed so as to be able to work on trucks without unloading. Its mobility would have been increased thereby, and the labour involved in loading and unloading the machinery and establishing it on a satisfactory firm base would have been eliminated.
The cipher staff was recruited from suitable personnel of any arm of the service. There were cipher sections at HQ 2 NZEF, HQ 2 NZ Division, and HQ Maadi Camp, the first-named being concerned mainly with traffic to and from New Zealand. The GSO I of the Division was looked on as the controlling officer of the cipher service, and issued such instructions as were necessary. The number of men employed was not great, but the standard required was high.
Our first censor section was formed in December 1941 to work in Egypt, and the second after we went to Italy for work in that country. They were formed at the request of GHQ in both cases, the intention being to help the overworked British sections, which previously had carried out the work without any help from 2 NZEF; but it had already become clear that it would be better if our own people performed for us this necessary but invidious task. The sections worked within the British framework and were under the control of GHQ and not of 2 NZEF. It was by arrangement with GHQ that the greater part of their work should be the censoring of 2 NZEF mail.page 131
Their reports were sent to GHQ, but with copies to the GOC and to OICA. They took the form of brief extracts from letters, the names and the units of the writers being omitted. The extracts were selected in order to give a fair summary of the morale and opinions of the force for the preceding month, each subject being prefaced by a brief paragraph giving the general impression gained by the censor staff of the views of the force on that particular subject. It must be repeated that no names appeared in the reports.
Other than by recording their conclusions, the censor staff took no action, any steps that might be necessary to improve morale or to obviate irritations being for the GOC to take; but the censor staff did make definite reports, including details of names and units, where there had been clear breaches of censorship regulations – locations of units, future activities, particulars of losses and so on. The implication in these cases was that disciplinary action was called for. However, the responsibility of the censor sections ended with bringing the breach to notice, and further action was for the CO of the unit.
The censorship reports were of interest to the limited number of officers who saw them; but it must said that there were very few cases where any explicit action was taken on a report. Morale fluctuated a little, which was only to be expected, but only once called for action throughout the force. The return of the Australian troops to their homeland in early 1942, combined with the knowledge that United States troops were in New Zealand, caused the greatest uneasiness of any incident in the war, and did impel the GOC to issue a personal message to all ranks. In other cases the most that would happen would be that the GOC or OICA would remember what had appeared in a report, and would perhaps speak to a few appropriate subordinates about it. Very often the opinions held throughout the force came to notice without the need for reading the reports.
Some remarks on the above subject appear in Chapter 14.
In an agglomeration of headquarters offices such as has been described in this and the preceding chapter, some central administrative office was necessary to co-ordinate domestic routine. To control such a mixed collection was not easy, and called for patience and, on occasion, great tact. The Camp Commandant's staff included units for signals, field security, supply and transport, workshops, medical and dental, etc., much as in any camp organisation.