Civilian into Soldier
Part 4 Basic Training
373649 Arthur H Paddison, 2nd Field Regiment, NZA
After the initial clash over Poland the land war in Europe settled into a stalemate although much frantic effort in Britain and the Dominions was going on. At sea and in the air things were fairly lively at times. Recruiting and training at home for overseas forces in the Army, Navy and Air Force was proceeding apace. New Zealand's armed forces in peace time were extremely small and to come to war footing would take time. The Government brought in National service as it was becoming obvious that the war was going to go on for some time and the numbers couldn't be raised voluntarily.
Everyone was given a National Service Number. I don't know whether this just applied to men or if women were included. 373649 that's me. Previously my regimental number was 2/10/209.
Most of our equipment was dated by modern standards of that time. Besides much new stuff was being produced as fast as the factories could be tooled up with new or modified equipment. New Zealand had limited capacity for industrial goods. Our main contribution was as a producer of foodstuffs and fighting men.
At the beginning of September 1940, the 2nd Field Regiment New Zealand Artillery as we were now constituted was mobilised for intensive training over a period of three months. Numbers had been steadily building up; that is, the number of men and equipment to make a workable fighting unit. Training would bring efficiency.
We moved into the Winter Show Buildings in Wellington City for starters. I don't know the actual numbers, about two hundred plus I think, according to a group photograph taken at the time. I don't seem to have any snaps taken there. Mainly because of the way events unfolded. Every morning we were paraded for inspection and then Routine Orders were read out by the Regimental Sergeant Major. We then engaged in some massed drill manoeuvres so that we could be moved about in an orderly military fashion and not shamble along like a pack of raw civilians.
Every soldier whatever his speciality goes through some basic training in the handling of small arms. In the military one never knows what emergency may arise and a certain basic small arms skill is always handy. From time to time the civil power has need of reinforcement.
Movement in and out of camp was controlled by sentries posted at all entrances and at the vehicle and gun parks. Guard duty started at six o'clock each evening and lasted for twenty four hours. The guard was commanded by a Sergeant and one Bombardier with three gunners for each post. Thus a guard manning 4 posts, consisted of 2 NCO's and 12 men. The relieving Guard would be paraded, inspected by the Orderly Officer, and marched to the Guardhouse where the old Guard would be drawn up in two ranks. With the two guards facing each other, orders would be handed over and the new Guard commander signed on. The first shift would then be fallen out and marched away led by the Bombardier of the old guard, around the posts. When the old shift returned they fell in with the rest of the old guard, who were then marched away and fallen out.
Shifts were four hours each. Changes were effected by the Bombardier falling in the shift in single file, when they would be inspected by the Sergeant and then marched around the posts by the Bombardier and each sentry changed observing the procedure as laid down in Guard Orders.
In the main, overall responsibility was born by the senior officers, the unit commander for the standard of training and fitness, the 2/IC for domestics and housekeeping. There was also the Adjutant, office work and a Quartermaster, supplies, both commissioned officers. However, responsibility for the smooth running of the camp each day fell on the shoulders of the Orderly Officer assisted by the Orderly Sergeant and a gunner, who acted as runner to carry messages and find people if required.
The duties as laid down consisted of inspecting the guard and sentries at odd intervals to see that they were alert. Supervise the hoisting and lowering of the flag at the correct times and the bugle calls sounded. Inspect the messes at meal times and take action on any complaints. Check the various fatigue parties were on the job and the duties carried out correctly. Duties commenced at reveille each day, about 6 a.m., for a 24 hours period.
Fatigue partiesThese are required daily to carry out the housekeeping tasks such as, spud barbering and other similar food preparation tasks, cleaning up, helping the cooks as required in the cookhouses and messes. A Sanitation NCO (permanent) allotted the fatigue party to ablution block and latrine cleaning and servicing, rubbish disposal etc. etc. Good housekeeping is a must. Neglect can bring on big trouble such as mass diarrhoea.
By happy circumstance, I was never required to perform many of these lowly duties. All the ORs (other ranks) had each been issued with a large white canvas kit bag to keep their gear in and it was decided by the powers that be, that to save confusion and to provide uniformity etc., each kit bag would have its' owners number, name and rank painted on it in 2 inch black letters. A pair of stripes, red and blue on the base denoted an artillery unit. For once, good sense prevailed on how this was to be carried out. The records were consulted and up came the information, that Gnr J.Delmonte was a ticket writer and that Gnr A.H.Paddison was a sign writing apprentice To facilitate the rapid completion of this important task, the above two soldiers were relieved of all other duties except parades, issued with suitable paint and brushware and told to attack the job with speed and diligence. It was a piece of cake. Everyone couldn't wait to get their bag back.
We became the best known of all the ORs. Also, we were in a unique position as ORs, in that we were able to dispense favours to our superiors. Officers with anonymous metal trunks to keep their belongings in, senior NCOs with barrack boxes, were keen to to have their property readily identifiable. It was no trouble to oblige.
It is a fact of life, that when faced with the necessity of selecting a single body from a mass of people all dressed the same," Hey you!" is not a viable option. A familiar face that one can readily put a name to is a godsend. Having such a face can get one extra work, it also gives a chance to shine by demonstrating willingness, ability and reliability. Qualities the Army values highly and generally rewards by promotion as wastage occurs.
AH Paddison, 2007