Topic: 1939 and onwards... by Hugh Harrison

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This article appeared in the 1996 July edition (part 1) and 1997 No 4 edition (part 2) of the 6th Hauraki Association. It is reprinted with permission. Due to the OCR conversion some errors may be present.

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6th Hauraki Insignia

Writes Hugh Harrison...

Within three minutes of receiving word that Great Britain was at war with Germany, New Zealand took her stand beside the mother country, and the Dominion declared war as from 9.30pm Sunday 3rd September 1939. The Governments action was unanimously approved by Parliament on 5th September.

The Government’s plan to meet an emergency had been built up during the years before the war and they were swiftly made effective: coastal defences were manned within six hours; the Navy and Air Force were at action stations, and war departments, such as Supply with its various controllers, were immediately in working order.

Until July. 1940, the Cabinet exercised the sole direction of the war effort, and during that period the principle of compulsory military service was agreed to as the best means of ensuring equality of service and the most efficient use of manpower.

The Prime Minister during early months of the war was the late Right Hon. M.J. Savage.

In 1939 invasion was a possibility infinitely remote from the ordinary citizen: in 1940-41 it was a possibility slowly and incredibly becoming a probability; in 1942 it was clear that Auckland might suffer the horrors of Nanking and Wellington go the way of Rotterdam.

To meet this threat every man was needed. All who could be spared from the work of producing food, equipment, and supplies for war joined the Home Guard or the Emergency Precautions scheme.

The National Military Reserve was established in May, 1939, to reinforce the Territorial Force in the event of a national emergency. When that emergency came, its members, mostly middle aged men gave invaluable and ungrudging service.

Home Defence:

The Home Guard was formed in august, 1940. In those days New Zealand was desperately short of equipment and only the perseverance and ingenuity of guardsman enabled them to make headway with their training. Invaluable work was done in constructing vital defence works, thus enabling mobilised men to continue their training without interruption.

After Japan's entry into the war registration for Home Guard service was made compulsory for men of military age not already in the Army and for men aged forty-six to fifty. By May, 1943, the Guard was 124,000 strong, equipped with uniforms, rifles, machine guns, and Tommy-guns.

In December, 1943, the war situation had improved sufficiently for the Home Guard to be placed on the Army reserve. It had been a visible expression of this country's determination to fight against all odds to the last.

Members of the Territorial Force including the 1st and 6th Hauraki and many other units played a major part in the training and instruction of all the aforementioned personnel in preparation for overseas service, as well as home defence. This article is an introduction to following Newsletter items where we will retrace the exploits of the Hauraki and provide true stories and anecdotes from present and past soldiers who served or are still in the Battalion.

 

Part 2 (appearing in the No 4 Newsletter 1997).

1939 and ONWARDS!

'We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may he, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills: we shall never surrender."

Winston Churchill, 18th June 1940.

Within three minutes of receiving word that Great Britain was at war with Germany; New Zealand took her stand beside the Mother-country and the Dominion declared war as from 9.30pm Sunday 3rd September 1939.

How ready was New Zealand prepared for its own defence at that time?

This question can perhaps be more clearly answered after reading the following extract from:-"THE NEW ZEALAND ARMY"  Government Printer - 1982.

"In 1921 compulsory military training was resumed on a modified scale. Defence expenditure was cut and for a period the Government ceased sending officer cadets to the Royal Military College at Duntroon, however a few cadets were sent to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in England during the period between the Wars”.

In the mid-twenties the Territorial Force expanded but this revival was brief, for in 1931 the Government decided to suspend the compulsory clause of the Defence Act. Service thereafter became voluntary and the Territorial Force strength dropped from 17,000 to 3,700: the Regular Force was reduced in size to less than 600.

In the mid-thirties after the worst effects of the Depression were tapering off, recruiting for the Permanent staff recommenced and in 1934, after a lapse of 12 years, officers again attended overseas military courses.

In 1937 a Council of Defence was formed to co-ordinate the activities of the three Services and to advise the Government on defence policy.

An Army Board, consisting of the Minister, three military members and the Army Secretary (formerly the Under Secretary for Defence), was charged with the control and administration of the Army. The "General Officer Commanding" became the "Chief of General Staff' and the three military "Commands"(Northern, Central, and Southern) became "Districts". The Territorial Force was reorganised and emphasis was placed on training leaders, to enable rapid expansion to meet any emergency.

However, in 1939 New Zealand was less ready for an impending war than she had been in 1914. The Regular Force numbered only 578, the Territorial Force 10,364 and the Special Reserve 374."

This was the time when the Territorial's took part in weekend parades and occasional evening drill training or lectures.

Our uniforms and equipment were mainly left overs from the First World War or provided by ourselves. There were brass buttons, badges and belt buckles to polish and puttees to wind on correctly. Happily these were all replaced later with battle-dress blouses, trousers and anklets which were far more practical, especially on field exercises. The army boots were generally comfortable and strong but with the considerable marching we did I believe it was our feet that required 'breaking in' rather than the boots during those early months of Army initiation.

We were all volunteers in 1939 and employers generally accepted and assisted the soldiers towards their National effort. Part of camp training continued until the 25th September 1940 when with others from the local areas I was sent as part of the Advance Party which entered the Racecourse at Te Aroha to set up a Training Camp for "1 Hauraki", which would consist of a battalion of men from the Coromandel to Opotiki coastal areas, and inland to parts of the Waikato and Rotorua districts. These men came into camp shortly afterwards in October.

I was from Tauranga in HQ Coy and became a Signaler in the platoon led by the late Lt Colin Johnson, who also came from Tauranga. I remained with the Platoon until September 1942 when I was posted to Trentham Camp for overseas service.

In the following articles there will be some stories from the Signal Platoon and more importantly, experiences and anecdotes, humorous and otherwise, from members who were in Te Aroha and followed through or joined 6 Hauraki from that time on.

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