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New Zealand Chief of Army Writing Competition Finalist for the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Category June 2020

By Mr R. McKie

As it is the nature of Military Logisticians to labour behind the scenes, the measure of their success is the successful conduct of the primary mission and that “no one is talking about them.”  Therefore, it is not surprising that Military Logisticians are noticeably absent from New Zealand’s military histography. When New Zealand entered the First World War, it was with a well-equipped and lean force but one with limited logistical support mechanisms. The expectation was that it would be a short war with all logistical needs met by the British. As the nature and the duration of the war became apparent, New Zealand’s logistical functions expanded to support and maintain the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). This article provides a biography of the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) of the New Zealand Division (NZ Division) for the bulk of the war, Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Henry Herbert. Herbert was a Territorial Army officer from Eketahuna, who by utilising his civilian experience as a businessman would manage the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) within the NZ Division, ensuring the provision of its Ordnance needs from February 1916 to March 1918.

Alfred Henry Herbert was born at Newbury, Berkshire, England on 4 October 1867 to William and Kathrine Herbert. The Herbert family emigrated to New Zealand in 1877 settling in Wellington. Herbert attended Mount Cook School, and on completion of his studies found his calling in the grocery, plumbing and drapery trades where he gained clerical and accounting experience.[1]  Herbert gained his first military experience in October 1885 when he joined the Volunteer unit, the Wellington Guards. As a private soldier, Herbert excelled in shooting, gaining prizes in several of the shooting competitions that were a popular aspect of the volunteer experience. [2]

July 1887 would find Herbert working at the Cuba Street Branch of the Wellington Meat Preservation Company. Herbert also undertook several charitable and civic activities during 1887, such as becoming a member of the Loyal Antipodean Lodge of Oddfellows,[3] and Secretary of the Wellington Tradesmen’s Athletic club.[4] In later years Herbert also became a Freemason and a Justice of the Peace.[5]

Relocating to the growing North Wairarapa town of Eketahuna in 1888, Herbert soon became an active and respected member of the community. At the time, Eketahuna did not have a Volunteer unit. However, it did have the Eketahuna Rifle Club, which Herbert joined in 1891 as a Member and treasurer where he continued to maintain his skill in shooting.[6] On 14 August 1894. Herbert married Lizzie Toohill, eldest daughter of Mr D. E. Toohill the Eketahuna chemist.[7] On 2 March 1895, Herbert’s only child Arthur Lancelot was born. Having spent three years as a General Storekeeper with Jones and Company of Eketahuna, Herbert branched out in 1895 with his brothers Lancelot and Marcus, establishing the business of Herbert Brothers with their anchor store in Eketahuna and branches in Pahiatua and Alfredton.[8]

New Zealand’s participation in the South Africa War that began in 1899 encouraged a wave of militarist enthusiasm to sweep across New Zealand, and Eketahuna wanted to play its part. Seventy men from Eketahuna banded together and formed the Eketahuna Mounted Rifle Volunteers and applied to the Defence Department for recognition, which was initially declined, with the men encouraged to join Masterton or Pahiatua units. The Eketahuna locals persisted, and despite many of the original seventy men already seeing service or serving in South Africa, the Eketahuna Mounted Rifle Volunteers gained acceptance into service as part of the New Zealand Volunteer Force on 10 September 1900.[9]  Fifty-Seven men were sworn into the unit on 8 November 1900 and officers elected, including Herbert as a Second Lieutenant.[10] The Eketahuna Mounted Rifles became C Squadron of the Second Regiment, Wellington (Wairarapa) Mounted Rifles in 1901, but would still be referred to as the Eketahuna Mounted Rifles.[11]

Herbert was promoted to Captain in 1903 and assumed the role of Officer Commanding of the Eketahuna unit, a role he retained until 5 April 1907 when he resigned and transferred into the reserve of officers on the active list as unattached. Herbert unsuccessfully attempted the Captain to Majors promotion examination in September1909, and successfully re-sat the examination in December 1909 and was promoted to Major as at 1 December 1909.

Taking an interest in local politics and furthering the prosperity of Eketahuna, Herbert was one of several local business owners who banded together to establish the Eketahuna Town Board on 19 July 1905, with Herbert elected as the chairman. Herbert continued to lead the town board until 1907 when despite not having the required population base, Eketahuna gained the status of a borough. In the elections of the Eketahuna Borough Council held on 25 April 1907, with Herbert elected as the first Mayor of Eketahuna, a position he held until 1909 followed by a term as a borough councillor from 1912 to 1914.[12]

With the formation of the Territorial Army in 1911 the Eketahuna Mounted Rifles were amalgamated into the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles and Herbert transferred into the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles as the Second in Command on 15 March 1911.[13]

Herbert took command of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles as part of the third reinforcements departing New Zealand on 14 February 1915. Included in the third reinforcements was the first Maori Contingent under the command of Major Henry Peacock. During the voyage to Egypt, Peacock contracted typhoid and was hospitalised in Albany and then repatriated to New Zealand. Herbert was selected as the replacement Commanding Officer of the Maori contingent and granted the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 26 March 1915.

Unlike Peacock who had trained with the Maoris, understood their needs and had their confidence, Herbert was an outsider. Like many Pakeha of his era, Herbert had had little or no contact with Maori, and his relationship with the Maori contingent would be a difficult one. Despite the enthusiasm of the Maori contingent, there was still many in command who still doubted the utility and usefulness of the Maori troops, and the Maori Contingent would undertake training and Garrison roles in Egypt and Malta. It would not be until late June that they were called forward for service in Gallipoli. Landing in Gallipoli on 3 July 1915, the Maoris would participate in much of the hard fighting that took place during July and August. As the Maoris fought hard and impressed many with their martial prowess, their relationship with Herbert was deteriorating and came to a head in early August. A series of incidents and allegations would see three Maori Officers suspended and later returned to New Zealand but reinstated into the NZEF in December. By the end of August, the Maori Contingent was broken up, and the men distributed throughout the other New Zealand units with Herbert seconded to a British unit.

On 20 August Herbert took up temporary command of a British Battalion, the 9th (Service) Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and then was placed in command of the Otago Infantry Battalion on 30 August. Herbert would remain with the Otago’s on Gallipoli, during their period of rest and reconstitution on Mudros, and on their return to Gallipoli in the final weeks leading up the final Gallipoli evacuation. Herbert’s service with the Otago’s was according to Godley “with great success”.[14]

Herbert’s future was uncertain, the Maori Committee of the House of Representatives had made it clear in a letter to the Minister of Defence that “Herbert was not to have anything more to do with the Maoris in the future” so Herbert retuning to command the Maoris was out of the question. Therefore, Herbert was struck off the strength of the Maori Contingent and posted to the Headquarters of the NZEF as the Officer Commanding of the Cairo Base Depot. Herbert’s tenure in this role was short as a DADOS for the NZ Division was required.[15] The previous incumbent Captain William Thomas Beck service at Gallipoli had taken its toll, and in November a Medical Board found him “incapacitated for military duty” resulting in his repatriation to New Zealand.[16] The NZAOC had two other officers; Lieutenants Thomas Joseph King and Norman Joseph Levien, who had both performed the duties of the DADOS after Beck’s evacuation from Gallipoli. However, a more experienced officer was required to fill the vacant position of DADOS and Herbert with his military, and civilian experience was the best match for the role. It is interesting to note that of all the officers initially posted to the NZ Division “Q Branch” Herbert was one of the few New Zealanders.[17]

On 22 November 1915, despite being on active service Herbert was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and Commanding Officer of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles, a position he would not fill until his demobilisation from the NZEF in 1919.

By 31 January 1916, Herbert had been transferred into NZAOC and appointed as the NZ Division, DADOS and Officer Commanding of the NZEF NZAOC.[18] Although the NZAOC was not a feature of the pre-war New Zealand Military, a small Ordnance Staff consisting of Captain Beck as DADOS and Sergeant Levien as SNCO clerk became the foundation staff of the NZAOC on mobilisation in 1914.[19] The Ordnance Manual (War) of 1914 detailed the role of the DADOS as to “deal with all matters affecting the Ordnance services of the Division. The DADOS would manage the state of the clothing and equipment on the charge of the units composing the Division and would from time to time advise the officers in charge of the stores which in all probability would be required for operations”.[20]  As the NZEF arrived in Egypt and settled down to the business of preparing itself for war, the need for a larger New Zealand Ordnance organisation was recognised, leading to the commissioning of King and Levien from the ranks to be the first NZAOC officers on 3 April 1915.[21]  Soldiers and NCO’s were attached to the nascent Ordnance Depots at Zeitoun, Alexandra and Gallipoli throughout 1915 and into 1916. The expansion of the NZAOC in early 1916 was as a result of organisational changes across the British Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) as the scale of the war, and the support required became apparent.[22] In line with all British Divisions, the DADOS of the NZ Division would assume responsibility for a small Ordnance organisation complete with integral transport.[23] Herbert spent February to March 1916 coming to grips with the roles and responsibilities of the DADOS in addition to preparing the NZ Division for service in France. Herbert departed for France on 6 April 1916.[24]

On arriving in France, the task ahead for Herbert and his men must have been tremendous. Much of the Division’s original equipment that had survived the Gallipoli campaign remained in Egypt and the NZ Division re-equipped against new scales that had evolved to meet the conditions on the Western Front. The Divisions DADOS Staff would have spent hours compiling indents based upon returns furnished by Regimental Quartermasters. Once raised, the indents would have been checked by Herbert to ensure that no unit was exceeding their requirements and then forwarded to the supporting British ordnance unit in the Corps Area. Herbert soon learnt the responsibilities of Ordnance were more than the ordering, accounting and management of stores but also the management of the Divisional Baths and Laundries, the Divisional Salvage Company, Divisional boot repair shops and Divisional Armourers Shops.[25]

An indication of the success of Herbert’s efforts in managing the diverse Ordnance functions in the NZ Division is recorded in the citations for his two Mentioned in Dispatches (MID) and Distinguished Service Order (DSO).[26]

MID citation 4 January 1917

“Has practically organised this Department from the bottom and has done NZ very good work. At all times he has spared no pains to satisfy the demands made on him.”

MID Citation 1 June 1917 (Field Marshal Haig Dispatch)

“For distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty.”

DSO Citation 4 June 1917

“This officer has paid the greatest attention to his work and by his care and attention to detail has very considerably reduced the wastage in the Division, thereby effecting very material economy.”

Like many New Zealand families, Herbert’s would be directly affected by the war. On 30 December 1915, Herbert’s brother Frank was lost at sea when the P&O vessel the SS Persia, which he was an officer on, was torpedoed and sunk without warning off the island of Crete by the German U-boat U-38.[27] A further loss would strike the Herbert family when Herbert’s only son Edward Lancelot Herbert was Killed in Action on 16 November 1916.[28] Soon after the notification of their son’s death, Herbert’s wife travelled to London and set up a flat which became a home away from home for many of the homesick soldiers from the Eketahuna District.[29]

Herbert remained with the NZ Division until late March 1918 when in the wake of the German Spring Offensive, or Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle) of March 1918, Herbert was seconded to XI Corps of the British Fifth Army. The Fifth Army had borne the brunt of the German Spring Offensive and took the blame for failing to hold the German advance. Relinquishing the appointment of NZ Division DADOS and Officer Commanding of the NZAOC on 31 March 1918, Herbert Transferred into XI Corps as the Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (DDOS). The Fifth Army, including the XI Corps, would rebuild and have its reputation vindicated by its actions in the 100-day offensive.

On the competition of the war, Herbert returned to New Zealand relatively fast, sailing from Plymouth on 17 March 1919. Herbert’s return to Eketahuna was a festive affair with most of the community gathering at the railway station to greet him. An observer noted, “He was the best known soldier in the district and on his return from the front he dismounted the train to be with his wife, who was known in the war areas for her services to the troops, to a tumultuous welcome, the school children all being allowed to join the crowd at the station”.[30]

With his return to civilian life and resumption of his Territorial Army career as Commanding Officer of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles, Herbert’s association with the NZAOC seems to have ended. However, at the NZEF Senior Officer Conference of November 1919, Herbert was appointed as the convenor for the NZAOC war history.[31] It seems out of character for Herbert to not follow through on the task of convening the NZAOC War History, but no official wartime history of the NZAOC was ever published leaving a significant gap in New Zealand’s historiography of the First World War. Why this happened could be attributed to Herbert’s falling out with the Army over his placement onto the retired list. The New Zealand Gazette of 18 March 1920 published a notice that Herbert had relinquished command of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles and posted to the retired list. This notice came as a surprise to Herbert, who subsequently submitted an objection through the command chain. Ultimately Herbert’s complaint was dismissed by the Commander of New Zealand’s Military Forces on 8 April 1920. It was considered that Herbert had already exceeded his time in the position and although his service as the DADOS of the NZ Division was well recognised and appreciated, it did not give him the experience in handling troops during a war which was essential in the role of Regiment Commanding Officer.[32]

With the war behind him, Herbert returned to manage his business concerns and remain an active member of the community with an appreciation of him stating that “He certainly did not bring back to his business any show of army rank …… he was a gentleman …. and well-known as he owned three stores in the district. He was thoughtful, business-like and strict”.[33] Herbert took an interest in the welfare of returned soldiers and would spend time as President of the Eketahuna Returned Servicemen’s Association. Herbert would also be a speaker for many public functions where he would reminisce on his experiences as DADOS, providing humorous accounts of the trials and tribulations he endured in France in trying to see that all units were adequately equipped, at the same time endeavouring to ensure that no one “put it across him” for extra issues.[34]

For his military service since 1885 Herbert was awarded the following medals and awards;[35]

  • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order
  • 1914-1915 Star
  • British War Medal (1914-1920)
  • Victory Medal with oak leaf
  • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal
  • New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal

Herbert remained a stalwart of the Eketahuna community for the remainder of his life and passed away on 14 May 1946 at the age of 77 years and now rests in the Mangaoranga Eketahuna cemetery.

Like most of the Military Logisticians who have contributed to the success of New Zealand’s military endeavours over the years, apart from his tenure as Commanding Officer of the Maori Contingent, Herbert’s contribution to the NZ Division is anonymous.  As an officer in the Territorial Army and a successful businessman who managed a chain of General Stores, Herbert was the most qualified individual available within the NZEF to fill the role of NZ Division DADOS. At the time the New Zealand Military had no organisational experience in supporting such a large force, Herbert’s contribution provides an excellent example of how the civilian skills and experience of the Territorials can provide operational skills not maintained by the Army in peace. The measure of Herbert’s success in his role of DADOS is his absence from the histography, an indication that Herbert and his team had done such an excellent job in supporting the NZ Division that “no one was talking about them.”


[1] The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts],  (Victoria University of Wellington, 1908), 726.

[2] “Alfred Henry Herbert “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[3] “Advertisements,” Evening Post, Volume XXXIII, Issue 76,, 31 March 1887.

[4] “Advertisements,” Evening Post, Volume XXXIV, Issue 58, 6 September 1887.

[5] The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts], 726.

[6] “Rifle Match,” Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XII, Issue 3819, 26 May 1891.

[7] “Masterton,” New Zealand Times, Volume LVI, Issue 2285, 15 August 1894.

[8] Alfred would manage the Eketahuna store, his brothers Lancelot and Marcus would manage Pahiatua and Alfredton stores. Herbert Brothers would be incorporated as A.H Herbert and Company Limited on 6 March 1905 and dissolved on 1 July 1992.

[9] Peter Best, Eketahuna : Stories from Small Town New Zealand (Wairarapa Archive, 2001), Non-fiction, 30-31.

[10] “The Eketahuna Mounted Rifles,” Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XXVI, Issue 6703, 8 November 1900.

[11] D. A. Corbett, The Regimental Badges of New Zealand : An Illustrated History of the Badges and Insignia Worn by the New Zealand Army (Auckland, N.Z. : Ray Richards, 1980, Revised enl. edition, 1980), Non-fiction, 160.

[12] Irene Adcock, A Goodly Heritage; Eketahuna and Districts 100 Years, 1873 – 1973 (Eketahuna Borough and County Councils, 1973), Non-fiction, 315-16.

[13] “Alfred Henry Herbert “.

[14] M. Soutar, Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Māori in the First World War (Bateman Books, 2019), 185.

[15] As part of Divisional Headquarters, the DADOS was part of the “Q” Branch. The “Q” Branch was controlled by the Assistant Adjunct and Quarter Master General (AA & QMG).  Logistic responsibilities within the Branch were divided between;

  • The Deputy Assistant Quarter Master General (DAQMG) – responsible for supply, transport and accommodation, and
  • The Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (DADOS) – responsible for weapons, equipment and maintenance.

Military Board of Allied Supply Allied and Associated Powers, Report of the Military Board of Allied Supply (Washington: Govt. Print. Off., 1924).

[16] “Beck, William Thomas,” Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[17] The AA and QMG and DAQMG were both seconded from the British Army— AA and QMG Major (Temp. Lt.-Col.) H. G. Reid, R.A.S.C and the DAQMG—Capt. M. H. Jackson, 29th Lancers.

  1. Stewart, The New Zealand Division, 1916-1919 : A Popular History Based on Official Records, Official History of New Zealand’s Effort in the Great War: V. 2 France (Whitcombe & Tombs, 1921), Non-fiction.

[18] “Hq New Zealand and Australian Division – NZ Division – Administration – Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General (Daqmg) – War Diary, 1 January – 31 January 1916,” Archives New Zealand  (1916).

[19]  Captain W.T Beck and Sergeant N.J Levien.  “Appendices to War Diaries, I – Lxii,” Item ID R23486739, Archives New Zealand 1914-1915.

[20] Ordnance Manual (War), War Office (London: His Majesties Printing Office, 1914).

[21] Sergeants King and Levien to 2nd Lieutenant “Grants of Temporary Rank, Appointments and Promotions of Officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” New Zealand Gazette 8 July 1915.

[22] Arthur Forbes, A History of the Army Ordnance Services (London: The Medici society, ltd., 1929), 151.

[23]  Records of the exact manning and organisation of the NZ Division DADOS branch have not been seen, but would have been like the organisation of the Australian DADOS Divisional Ordnance Staff which was comprised of:

1 Officer as DADOS (Maj/Capt)

1 Conductor of Ordnance Stores per Divisional HQ

1 Sergeant AAOC per Divisional HQ

1 Corporal AAOC per Divisional HQ


3 Sergeants AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades

3 Corporals AAOC, 1 to each of 3 Brigades

As the war progressed additional Ordnance Officers wold be included into the DADOS establishment who along with the Warrant Officer Conductor would manage the Ordnance staff and day to day operations allowing the DADOS the freedom to liaise with the divisional staff, units and supporting AOC units and Ordnance Depots. John D Tilbrook, To the Warrior His Arms: A History of the Ordnance Services in the Australian Army (Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps Committee, 1989), 78.

[24] “Herbert, Alfred Henry “, Personal File, Archives New Zealand 1914.

[25] “Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services (Dados) – War Diary, 1 August 1916 – 31 June 1918,” Archives New Zealand Item No R23487667  (1916-1918,).

[26] Wayne McDonald, Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914-1918, 3rd edition ed. (Richard Stowers, 2013), Directories, Non-fiction, 113.

[27] “Lost on the Persia,” New Zealand Herald, Volume LIII, Issue 16127, 15 January 1916.

[28] “Fallen New Zealanders,” New Zealand Times, Volume XLI, Issue 9521, 1 December 1916.

[29] Adcock, A Goodly Heritage; Eketahuna and Districts 100 Years, 1873 – 1973, 225.

[30] Wesley Parker, It Happened in Eketahuna : Four Years in the Life of a Boy (Mount St. John Press, 1990), Non-fiction, Autobiography, 95.

[31] Conference of Senior Officers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force,  (Archives New Zealand, R22550177, 1919).

[32] “Alfred Henry Herbert “.

[33] Parker, It Happened in Eketahuna : Four Years in the Life of a Boy.

[34] “Returned Soldiers,” Evening Post, Volume CIII, Issue 136, 12 June 1922.

[35] “Alfred Henry Herbert “.