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CRA stands for 'Commander Royal Artillery', the senior operational commander of the New Zealand artillery. The rank is now obsolete.

World War 1

Our one and only appointee as CRA in the Great War was Brigadier General GN Johnston who held that appointment from 1915 to 1919. [Johnston was a Canadian commissioned from Kingston Military College whence he joined the Royal Artillery. In 1904 as a Major on loan from UK he had been Staff Officer Artillery at GHQ Wellington, in 1907 he became Director of Artillery with the rank of Lt Colonel in 1911, he became Director of Artillery and Ordnance and in 1914 Inspector of Artillery was added.] He arrived in Egypt in late 1914 as Lt Colonel in command of the NZ Field Brigade. As the artillery expanded he was promoted to Colonel and appointed CRA NZ Division at Gallipoli in July 1915. His command included:

  • 1 Artillery Brigade commanded by Lt Col F Symon and comprising 1st and 3rd 18-pr Field Btys plus 6th 4.5-in Howitzer Bty and 1 Bde Ammunition Column.
  • 2 Artillery Bde commander by Lt Col FB Sykes and comprising 2nd and 5th 18-pr Field Btys plus 4th 4.5-in Howitzer Bty and 2 Bde Ammunition Column
  • Divisional Ammunition Column [British attached].

When the New Zealanders moved to France Johnston was promoted to Brigadier-General as CRA of the expanded force. From time to time the Artillery Brigades were designated Artillery Groups as additional batteries were placed under brigade command. At one stage Johnston was commanding four Artillery Groups plus a Divisional Ammunition Column:

  • 1 Arty Bde Gp commanded by Lt Col F. ('Bats') Symon CMG DSO and comprising 1st, 3rd, 7th Field Btys and 15th How Bty.
  • 2 Arty Bde Gp commanded by Lt Col Sykes DSO RA and comprising 2nd, 5th, 9th, Field Btys and 6th How Bty.
  • 3 Arty Bde Gp commanded by Lt Col IT Standish CMG DSO and comprising 11th, 12th, 13th, Field Btys and 4th Howitzer Bty
  • 4 Arty Bde commanded by Lt Col NS Falla CMG DSO and comprising 8th, 10th, and 14th Field Btys.
  • Divisional Ammunition Column commanded by Lt Col MM Gardner DSO

At some stage Lt Col Falla set up the Divisional Artillery Intelligence branch which worked in concert with the Field Survey Company in collating and recording Target etc data particularly relating to hostile guns and mortars. This information was passed to the Artillery Groups which prepared Counter Bombardment programmes.

Between the Wars.

Although the post-war ORBAT in New Zealand included both Field Brigades and Artillery Groups I believe that training was usually carried out at Battery level and I know of no reference to the existence of a peace-time field force HQRA such as that set up at Linton post-WW2

Up to about the mid-Thirties the principal Artillery staff officer at Army Headquarters was known as Director of Artillery, last held by Lt Colonel F Symon who also held the appointment of Commander Central Command based on Wellington. Lt Colonel RS Park succeeded Symon with the new title of Commander RNZA [CRNZA] in 1937. This title was held by his successors based at Army HQ through to the end of WW2 - GB Parkinson, AB Williams, HG Wilding, and JP Joyce.


Post WW2 the title reverted to Director RNZA, the first being LtColonel JP Joyce OBE DCM.

WL Ruffell

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