Ken Foote – Hawke’s Bay Battalion RNZIR

Joyce Barry introduces Ken Foote, ONZM, CO of 7th Wellington & Hawke’s Bay Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, who gives a powerpoint presentation showing slides throughout.

Joyce: Over to you; [applause] half an hour at least.

Ken: Sure we can fill half an hour. So thank you, Joyce. Yes, it was quite, I guess a pleasure, to be asked to come and talk about the Regiment. It’s one thing being part of something where your history is just part of who you are; you just tend to live it, you don’t actually sit down necessarily and write it, or read it and go over it in a chronological way that you might in terms of having to do this. So I found it quite fascinating to actually sit down and try and document a lot of stuff that’s just been in my head and been part of what I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been with 7th Battalion in particular, and subsequent to that.

So the theme tonight I’m talking about is the Hawke’s Bay Regiment, but in actual fact I’ll be talking about various iterations of local army … army units. So I’m probably going to cover … I’ll try to explain a few things as we go along because it’s all too easy to fall into army lingo or the army jargon; but please, if I do confuse you along the way, please sing out. But I’ll try and explain [cough] a few things up front [cough] that’ll create a bit of context for you, and cover off a few definitions; then I will run through the history, if you like, of the Hawke’s Bay Regiment as it’s known, and bring it right up to date; talk a little bit about the Colours, and I’ll explain what they are as well because they [cough] really embody the history of the unit; talk about some key appointments, particularly through the time of the Hawke’s Bay Regiment, as it was known, and just end up with a few comments about the 5th/7th Battalion RNZIR [Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment] which is the current unit to which all local part time Infantry Soldiers belong.

So just a bit of terminology. When we talk Hawke’s Bay and the Hawke’s Bay Regiment, the area that the Hawke’s Bay Regiment covers has varied over time but in general we are talking about the whole of the East Coast, Hawke’s Bay – the greater Hawke’s Bay as it’s known as a province – and the Wairarapa. Now you’ll see as I go through that the Wairarapa has sometimes been in, sometimes been out, sometimes under a different name, but in essence when we talk about the Hawke’s Bay Regiment I’m talking about that whole area.

We use the term ‘regiment’. It’s not a term that we use in terms of any military formations today, but essentially the formal definition is ‘a military formation varying in size’, and as you’ll see as we go through the history it has varied in size tremendously over the years. So it’s not part of our combat structure but what it actually means to us is that it’s our military whānau; it’s our home; it’s where we belong. So when you actually join the army, you tend to join a unit which has a history, a regimental history; and that history becomes yours, so it becomes your family. It has both historical and spiritual significance of being your home. So if you think about your own family … think about your roots and your ancestors … that’s what the Regiment means to a soldier. And like families, you can join the Regiment by birth – in other words you can join it from scratch as a private soldier; you can come in at a later date, like being adopted; or you can marry into it through an amalgamations and mergers. So it’s just a concept to think about when I talk about regiment, think family; it’s the best analogy I can think of.

What we’re talking about with the Hawke’s Bay Regiment is that it’s an Infantry Unit. So in army terms, what the Infantry are – they’re the foot soldiers. We’re the ones out there on the ground with rifles and with machine guns doing the hard, dirty work. So that doesn’t include the Mounted Rifles from the days gone by, although there’s a little bit of a mix in the history as some of our soldiers did go mounted, particularly to the Boer War and the likes, but Mounted Rifles tended to evolve into cavalry, and now known as the Armoured Corps. So in terms of people like Sir Andrew Russell and so on, they came up through that route, so you won’t see his name mentioned tonight. So we’re talking about Infantry – foot soldiers; doesn’t include all those other corps within the Army like Artillery, Logistics and those sorts of things. Not them … just Infantry, just foot soldiers.

The other concept I want you to understand is what we’re talking about tonight – is a unit of citizen soldiers. These are part-time soldiers. We all have working lives, careers. As you’ve heard tonight I’ve had a civilian career here in Hawke’s Bay from 1974 onwards; I’ve run a military career in parallel. So I’ve been a part-time Territorial Soldier, in the past often called Militia, or volunteers; today we tend to use the term ‘Reserves’. At times, in days gone by perhaps when things were a little different, we’ve been called other things. [Chuckles] We’ve been called Sunday Soldiers and Weekend Warriors. We don’t really subscribe to those terms today because they really imply amateurists; just playing with things, doing it as a hobby. That’s not the case; we are part-time professionals. But it’s interesting that those terms are used, because our history now has been recorded from the two parts, and you’ll see why I refer to the Wellingtons a little later on. But Peter Lee who was the Drum Major of the 7 Battalion band at one stage, sat down and wrote a book, and he called it, ‘Sunday Soldiers’. That was a history of the Wellington Regiment. So when I was just becoming a CO [Commanding Officer], the outgoing CO and I put a bit of pressure on Peter to write a companion novel, or book rather, called ‘Weekend Warriors’, which is the Hawke’s Bay Regiment. So a lot of what I’m talking about tonight you’ll find referenced in this book. Peter doesn’t just tell a dry historical tale; he talks to people, he has stories, anecdotes, and really goes into quite some detail, so if you really want an understanding of what it was like to be a Territorial Soldier throughout the ages up until 1964 – and that date will become relevant a little later – that’s a great read. Do happen to have some copies we still have ‘bout twenty five [years] after publication; [chuckles] so they’re artifacts, but there and available if anyone wants to pick up a copy later on.

So, I’d best go right back to the beginning. In terms of citizen soldiers in Hawke’s Bay, we can trace our formation back to the 1st July 1863, when the Napier Rifle Volunteers were formed. So these were settlers who were just gathered together and undertook some training, and essentially were called the Napier Rifle Volunteers. They had a headquarters in Napier, and some of the members of that unit were involved in the Land Wars, but mostly up round the East Coast and in Wairoa, although there were a few altercations with Te Kooti that occurred locally around here; but not a great deal of involvement with the Regiment as such, but there was some.

Nationally, things got together in terms of armed forces in 1886 with the Defence Act, which started to coordinate all the defence forces within the [cough] country. And so they grouped all volunteer units and called them all ‘Rifles’, and this was done right throughout New Zealand, through all the regions in the country; so with just in a slight adjustment to what they were called, but they didn’t really change the nature of who they were or the roles that they were performing at that time. On the 9th of July 1898, this was the first time all the local units – ‘cause different groups of Rifles sprung up all around the province, so there were quite a number of them – so in 1898 they actually were grouped together, and at that stage they were called the 3rd Battalion of the Wellington East Coast Rifle Volunteers. So there were a number of units in Clive, and all the different outlying areas and so on; all came together and essentially were formed into this Battalion. So this Battalion had Companies in Napier, Hastings, Waipawa, Dannevirke and Woodville, so you can start to see the reach going down south. And it was at this stage … of course everybody knows the history … the Boer War came along, so from the 11th of October 1899 to the 31st of May 1902, New Zealand were involved in fighting in South Africa. There were ten contingents went across; they went across as Mounted Rifles, and this is where there was a little of blurring of the lines at this stage – that many of the local Rifles had horses, so off they went. They just wanted to get involved. So it was really the first opportunity for members of the Regiment, as it became known, to actually get involved in active service, and as a result of that the Regiment was awarded the battle honour of the Boer War, and you’ll see a little later that that now sits uppermost on our Colours.

After the Boer War, as it was winding down, there was another re-organisation, and you’ll get a recurring theme coming through while I I talk about this; two battalions were formed, one called the 3rd Battalion Wellington East Coast Rifles; now that Battalion dropped Dannevirke and Woodville and picked up Wairoa and Gisborne. And then the 5th Battalion was formed, called 5th Battalion Wellington Central Ruahine Rifles, and that included Dannevirke, Woodville, Pahiatua, Ashhurst, Masterton, Carterton and Greytown. So this will all become relevant – you’ll see it all comes together a little later on, but two Battalions now.

In 1909 the Defence Act replaced the volunteer system with compulsory military training, so up until then, all those units had been filled by guys putting their hands up to say, “We want to be involved.” CMT in 1909 meant all men of an eligible age, normally from between 18 and 24, were required to sign up for military service. At this stage also, the 3rd and 5th Battalions were amalgamated and then redesignated 1st and [coughing] 2nd Battalions of the 9th Regiment Wellington East Coast Rifles. Now it’s really relevant here that 9th for the first time was introduced, and you’ll see the relevance of that if you were looking at the collar dog [collar badge] at the beginning – the Roman numeral IX remains today and is carried on right through the rest of the history. So it was at this stage in 1909, the Defence Act actually termed ‘New Zealand Territorial Forces’ for the first time. So we’ve come together; one Regiment, two Battalions.

Once again, 27th March 1914; appreciate what was going on up until this point – there was a lot of unrest in Europe; I think everybody was [be]coming aware that something was coming. Nothing much had been done within New Zealand to actually prepare for war. A lot of the forces … even though CMT had come in in 1909, which was really the first real response to rumblings in Europe … the training that had been undertaken hadn’t been great at that stage. But leading up to 1914, clearly when it looked as though, very clearly, that New Zealand was going to get involved in the war, that the unit was redesignated the 9th Hawke’s Bay Regiment, so this is where the whole name that we’re founding the talk on came through, [nose blowing in audience] and that’s where the collar dog came from – you’ll see the Roman numeral IX; and the first time [they] coined the phrase, ‘the Hawke’s Bay Regiment’. At the same time the 2nd Battalion was designated the 17th Ruahine Regiment.

So, we’re in 1914; we all know what was happening around that time, so along came World War I, and this is where a great deal of our history was evolved. So the Wellington Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade was formed, based out of Trentham, and become [became] part of the New Zealand Brigade for deployment to Europe. That Battalion was made up of the Hawke’s Bay Company, Ruahine Company, Taranaki Company and West Coast Company. Now I want to just point out … just keep those names in mind; so you’ve got Hawke’s Bay, which is basically covering from here right up the East Coast; you’ve got the Ruahines, which is basically Dannevirke south, down to Wellington; over on the West Coast we’ve got the Taranakis, basically the province as we know it; and the West Coast Company is like Wanganui [Whanganui] down through Kapiti, down to Wellington. So you might ask, “Where were the Wellingtons?” For those who know the history, Wellingtons had actually been deployed to Samoa – to go over and take the wireless station on Samoa to get that out of the hands of the Germans. So the Wellingtons had been deployed already, so when it came to form the Battalion from the Wellington region it drew those four Companies from the regions, and not from the city. So that’s how we came to have those four Companies, and for those that know their First World War history, [they] will know that the Wellington Battalion is part of the New Zealand Brigade. While they were destined for going further to Europe, [they] got as far as Egypt, did a few operations around the Canal … mostly Mounted Rifles at that stage; and then the Infantry units were deployed to Gallipoli; and then the ANZAC [Australia and New Zealand Army Corps] landing, and all this history that we all learnt last year – I won’t need to go over that.

But in terms of the Wellington Battalion in particular, the significant things for us – the way it feeds through into our history – is that it was the Wellington Battalion that took Chunuk Bair, and it was the Hawke’s Bay Company that lead. So when they took Chunuk Bair on the 8th of August it was the Wellington Battalion with the Hawke’s Bays leading that did it, so we remain forever proud of that fact. And as we know with the withdrawal from Gallipoli in December of that year back to Egypt, the Brigade was reformed and the Division created, and they went on to fight major battles in France. Now at that time, because New Zealand Forces basically worked together in so many things, most of the major battle honours awarded during World War 1 were awarded to all the Regiments who contributed men. So the Hawke’s Bay Regiment inherited the battle honours, or were conferred with the battle honours, of all those major battles fought during the First World War in which New Zealand was actively involved, and we’ll cover that a little later as well.

So post-war – of course men returning; not much thought given to the maintenance of a Defence Force at that stage. The war to end all wars had finished; people come back, they just wanted to resettle; not much interest in keeping the uniform alive and maintaining a defence establishment. However in 1921 there was a reorganisation where the Ruahine and Hawke’s Bay Regiments were amalgamated again, back into the Hawke’s Bay Regiment, and that’s what it was called. 1931, apart from the major events here in Hawke’s Bay, there was another change in the Defence Act changing from CMT back to volunteers. So once again it was felt it was appropriate to make that change, and as a result, numbers declined. It’s something you’ll see throughout history – CMT brings the numbers in; voluntary system not quite so strong.

However, we all know our history again – peace wasn’t to last for long; rumblings in Europe again, so on the 1st of October 1940 there was a general mobilisation order, and Compulsory Military Training again instituted within New Zealand. So we had Regimental members who’d been on the Reserve or were still active, were all called up for active service. At that stage the Regiment did still have two Battalions who were basically in training, so there was the 1st and the 2nd Battalions, still based loosely on the old Hawke’s Bay and Ruahine Regiments.

The 1st Battalion came into camp in Napier and they were mobilised into the Infantry Regiments of the 2nd NZEF … Expeditionary Force. Men from the Hawke’s Bays, in the Second World War, served with the 19th, 22nd, 25th, 28th Māori and 36th Battalions. Anybody familiar with their Second World War history will know the sorts of things that they undertook during that time. Once again battle honours awarded to those particular Battalions were also then inherited by the Regiment.

The 2nd Battalion, the old Ruahine Regiment area – they were mobilised into Solway in Masterton. They were redesignated the 1st Battalion of the Ruahine Regiment, so one of the only units in the army that actually had a designation when they were deployed overseas. Everybody else got absorbed into those Battalions I mentioned before. But the Hawke’s Bay Regiment actually deployed to the Pacific as a Regiment, so they were part of the 15th Brigade and 8th Brigade operating throughout the South Pacifc in the Solomons, the Treasuries and others; and once again battle honours from that have been inherited.

Not quite sure why in June ‘43 – I mean the war was still going, but at that stage there was a decision made to absorb the Ruahine Regiment back into the Hawke’s Bay Regiment on the 30th June 1943. That’s basically the end of the Ruahine Regiments, the last time it appeared; it’s had two iterations; come out, formed, back in, out and in. So it’s quite interesting just seeing what has gone on over the years with that amalgamation. So once again, the post-war years – not a lot of enthusiasm for further military involvement so the numbers declined and there was very limited activity.

In 1949, in a relatively peaceful environment there was a Military Training Act passed, which once again provided for CMT. I think there was recognition that regardless of what was perceived to be relative peace, I think the lessons of the two World Wars were essentially, the country was caught out; hadn’t really been prepared, and hadn’t had enough trained personnel ready for deployment, so it was believed that we needed to have a standing army, at least in the Territorial Forces. And so the CMT was brought in and the Regiment resumed its territorial role – just training soldiers for war. So the first annual camp for the new Regiment came in, it started on the 11th of March 1950, and anybody that’s been associated with people that have served in the military will know the infamous annual camp; the two week period every year where those who were in the unit put their gear on, go away for two weeks to somewhere … Waiouru, all over the place … and come home again. It’s quite an infamous part of territorial history, that annual camp period.

In 1953 the Regiment received a great honour, where Field Marshal his Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was appointed as Colonel-in-Chief. This is a high level honorary appointment; he was also Colonel-in-Chief of the Southland Regiment, but it’s really an honour. Normally there’s some high ranking person like the Governor-General in New Zealand, or some ex-General would be appointed as the Colonel-in-Chief, but for the Hawke’s Bays – they got the Duke. So it was quite an honour and it’s something that we’re still very proud of. That appointment actually ceased in 1964, which will become obvious in a moment.

Another significant event in the unit’s history – on the 17th March 1957, the Councillors of the City of Napier granted the Freedom of the City Charter to the Regiment. So that gave the Regiment the right to march through the city with bands playing, Colours flying and bayonets fixed, so it’s just a freedom that we are able to exercise with a parade. The Freedom had a reciprocal right for the Mayor to request two Regimental Officers to attend him on significant civic occasions. That Freedom of the City, that Charter, has once again been passed down to the successive units ever since, and it’s still held by the 5th/7th Battalion.

So 1964 was sort of the end if you like, of what we knew as the Hawke’s Bay Regiment when the Hawke’s Bay Regiment was amalgamated with the Wellington Regiment, and that’s why I refer to the two companion volumes. That amalgamation formed the 7th (Wellington (City of Wellington’s Own) and Hawke’s Bay) Battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. Now at this stage the word ‘regiment’ was passed up to basically all the Infantry within the Army. Right up until ‘64 there had not been a large standing army of Infantry; there were [?], people who were involved in training – training Territorials, but this stage the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, had been established as a regular force Infantry Battalion; so full time professional soldiers; so we all became part of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, but we kept our designations as individual Battalions.

So with the 7th Battalion, during its fifty-odd years of existence, even though in the early years – that has been for the time that I was coming up through the unit – we were very much regarded by the professionals as these Sunday Soldiers and Weekend Warriors, and the powers-that-be in Wellington didn’t actually see a viable role for us other than forming a real expansion base should the need arise for a significant number of troops. So any tasks that New Zealand tended to get involved in, they sent the Regular Force – perhaps in the belief that we weren’t up to it. [Chuckles] But however, that soon changed with the issues that arose in Bougainville and East Timor in particular, and later in the Solomon Islands. vWith unrest in those particular areas, with so many of our Regular Force of personnel already committed in overseas deployments, it was acknowledged that it was the time for Territorial Force to step up, so our Battalion actually provided a significant number of soldiers who did deploy to those three areas on active service on peace-keeping duty, to fulfil a role to serve this country. So I’ve just included the plaque of the 7th Battalion; it brings together some of the history. You’ll see the stag on the right, which was really the symbol of the Hawke’s Bay Regiments as we saw at the beginning, with the collar dog; and the lion on the left. The lion is historically associated with Wellington – still is with the rugby and so on. And most of it came from the Earl of Liverpool’s Coat of Arms, who was the Governor-General at the time; and that’s how a lot of the Wellington Battalion got the lion on its crest, and that was preserved right through. The colours you’ll see represented, the maroon and black, came from an affiliated unit in the UK [United Kingdom] who had some soldiers sent out here to train back in the early years, called the York and Lancs, [Lancashire] as a Regiment; formed of an affiliation with the local area, and we’ve maintained that and inherited some of their traditions and colours – physical colours, not flag Colours.

So that then brought us to December 2013; quite recent – where the 7th Wellington Hawke’s Bay Battalion was amalgamated with the 5th Wellington West Coast Taranaki Battalion. Now the significance of that, you hear me say again, Wellington, West Coast and Taranaki. That amalgamation into the 5th/7th Battalion now covers exactly the same geographic area as the Wellington Battalion that went to Gallipoli. [Chuckles] A hundred years on we’ve gone full circle. So I mean once again, that is really significant to us, and it’s been really essentially a marriage well made because of that history. And it was [there were] no issues bringing the two of us together because we had that mutual history and so we were able just to get on with it. Some of the other areas, the Haurakis and the Auckland/Northlands … not so easy up there; and down south the other two Territorial Force units, the Canterburys and the Otagos … little bit of rivalry there to, coming together. So some of the recent history around amalgamations; never easy as we all know. This one worked, and it has worked. So the 5th/7th Battalion, and I’ll cover a little bit later on, a few more details around it; but essentially it is an Army Reserve Battalion that has a training role – a training role for professional part-time soldiers.

And I’ve mentioned about the common links to the Wellington Regiment with both the rampant lion, because Wellington was the central part of things; and the Wellington Battalion had the lion in its crest, and also a black patch which was inherited from the Rifle Brigade, which I won’t go into too much – you can get carried away with the dress distinctions.

But building on that rampant lion – one of the things that I’ve been involved with as an Honorary Colonel is to come up with a new collar dog for the new unit, in a discussion with my counterpart from the Wellington Taranaki, working with the new Commanding Officer and the Regimental Sergeant-Major, we’ve come up with this new design. So they’re not made yet – that’s basically hot off the press; it’s taken a little while, but you can see 5th and 7th, the amalgamation of the two. And also with the dress distinction now, there’s another blaze that’s been made for wearing on working dress and the like. So it’s 5/7 with a bayonet, Infantry in the middle;  so that’s how we’re now recognising ourselves.

Okay, that’s very briefly the history.  So just turn now to talk about the Colours. The Colours are also called Standards or Guidons. Now interestingly enough, the Artillery don’t have flags, they have guns. That’s their Colours; it’s on their guns. [Cough] Not quite sure of the history of that, but any Artillery men in the audience may help with that later on. But the idea of Colours originated in ancient Egypt where they acted as a rallying point for troops, and it carried on through history from there on. Now they’re a pair of silk flags; whereas the Queen’s Colour which has a unit pressed on it, and the Regimental Colour being the battle honours. Now these Colours … I’ve just got an example here of the 7th Wellington Hawke’s Bay Battalion Colours, just to give you some idea of what the Colours look like. So there’s the Queen’s Colour, and then the Regimental Colour, and you can see each one of these actually has a battle honour that’s been bestowed on the unit on it. So they’re very revered by everybody in the unit; they’re treated as sacred; they’re treated with respect and dignity. No one touches them with the bare hands. If you have to touch the Colours you wear white gloves. Whenever the Colours are out of their case they are guarded with an armed guard with a bayonet; they’re escorted on parade with a Colour Party … fully escorted the whole time; literally protected. So they have real symbolic significance to us – you walk past the Colours, you salute. That’s the sort of thing that they mean; they are such an important part of our history and our heritage.

So just quickly going back into the Hawke’s Bay Regiment – there’s a little bit of history here. The first set of Colours were presented to the 3rd Battalion Wellington East Coast Coast Rifle Volunteers, it was called at that stage, on the 9th of November 1898, in Marine Parade in Napier. They were then laid up in the Napier Cathedral a little later … got destroyed in [coughing] the 1931 earthquake.

The second set was presented to the 1st Battalion of the Hawke’s Bay Regiment, 25th of April 1929, a significant day, at the Waipukurau Racecourse and they have subsequently been laid up in St John’s Cathedral in Napier, and they’re there now; if you want to go to the Cathedral and look up, you’ll find these Colours. Essentially the history with the Colours is when they are laid up they’re hung in a place of worship and they stay there ‘til they turn to dust. They’re not touched – they are that sacred. And so if you’re going over to England to see some of the old units, when you look around you’ll just see Standards poking out of the wall with nothing on them, because the cloth has gone but the Standard stays.

The third set, another momentous occasion for the unit, were actually present by Her Majesty the Queen herself; one of the only occasions in which Colours have been presented to a New Zealand Unit by a reigning monarch. So they were presented to the 1st Battalion of the Hawke’s Bay Regiment on the 10th of February 1963. You’ll recall that unit only lasted another year. Okay? They were amalgamated. We seem to get our timing real right; the lead time on these things is quite significant. The reason for the change of course, is to add new battle honours to the Colours as time has gone on after the First and Second World Wars. But anyway, these ones were presented in February 1963, at Mclean Park in Napier. They’ve subsequently been laid up in St John’s Cathedral as well, so you’ll see the two sets that are there.

Just digress a moment for the Ruahine Regiment; we’ve mentioned it’s checkered history with coming and going, but some Colours were presented to the Ruahine Regiment on the 27th of June 1923 in Masterton, and then they were laid up the next day because the unit no longer existed. [Chuckles] Yeah, so once again, I mean these things do take a lot of time and money and there’s a real long lead time – years, in their making; and unfortunately the Ruahines got caught out. At the time they were presented they didn’t actually exist. So they were presented with the Colours and then they were laid up immediately, and they’re in St Matthews Church in Masterton if you’re going through there.

So then with 7th Battalion, we carried the Hawke’s Bay Colours. And the Wellington Regiment also had Colours, so for a number of years when I first joined the unit there were four Colours to carry, so when we paraded we had to have four Colour subalterns and eight guards, and it was quite a significant issue. But we got our own Colours on the 23rd February 1979, and I was on parade for this one at the Gisborne Showgrounds. And those Colours have subsequently been inherited by the 5th/7th Battalion, as well as the Colours on the 5th Wellington West Coast Taranaki. So the unit now has two sets of Colours again, and it’s unlikely that anybody’s going to want to actually pay for new Colours for the 5th/7th because by the time they’re made we may well be reorganised again.

So very quickly we’ll talk about the battle honours on the Colours. The battle honours are an award of a right by a Government or Sovereign – in our case it’s a Sovereign – to a military unit to emblazon the name on [of] a battle or operations on it’s flags … our Colours in our case. So they represent the unit’s significant historical achievements, so there are the battle honours from the Hawke’s Bays. So as I mentioned, we’ve talked about South Africa … the Boer War; then you’ll see all the major battles of the First World War and the Second World War being listed; you know, right down to Cassino, and then also the South Pacifc. That was also earned by the Ruahines, but after the Ruahines were disbanded a number of Hawke’s Bays did deploy in the Pacific, so the Hawke’s Bays were awarded the battle honour as well. [Shows slides]

There you are, the battle honours for the Ruahines. As you can see, for the two times that the Ruahines existed during the First World War, you can see the Egypt, Gallipoli, France and Flanders; and then during the Second World War when they deployed as a unit in the South Pacific. So those were the battle honours on those Colours that were out in the open for a day before they were laid up.

So very briefly, [I’ll] just quickly cover off key appointments within the unit. You heard me being introduced as the Honorary Colonel of the 5th/7th Battalion. This role is sometimes called Colonel of the Regiment as well. Essentially what I am is the Patron. If any of you belong to organisations where there’s a Patron, [cough] or a father figure or mother figure, or whoever it is, it’s someone whose been around a while who can be looked up to, to give a bit of guidance. Part of our role is to uphold the history and traditions of the unit and remind the young soldiers coming through just what it’s like – what it actually means to be a member of this unit. Just like your family, it’s about talking about your ancestors and what makes your family what it is. And in our case we also act as a mentor to the Commanding Officer. Commanding Officer can be a lonely job at times; you’re up there on your own, so having [coughing] somebody that’s been there and done that, maybe some years ago, but we act as a sounding board and a mentor for the CO. The Commanding Officer himself has the ultimate authority within the unit; has all power, commands and controls, and has all the disciplinary powers to keep a unit in shape.

So very quickly going through some of the appointments within the units – you can see the Colonel and the Chief of the Regiment, the one and only time there was one; that was His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. And we talk about Colonels of the Regiment, so Honorary Colonels if you like of the Hawke’s Bays; just a little interesting thing in there, you’ll see Colonel R F Gamble VD; it was changed to ED, [chuckles] I think for pretty obvious reasons. It was a Volunteer Decoration; it’s now called an Efficiency Decoration. [Chuckles]

Just a little interest there about the first Honorary Colonel, Sir William Russell … interesting the name, a Russell. But he was a British officer who settled in Hawkes’ Bay in 1861; came back here as a Captain with a military unit from the UK. He decided to stay, so he left the army and stayed in Hawkes’ Bay. He subsequently became the Napier Electorate MP in 1875 to 1881, and then again, 1884 to 1905. He’s been appointed to the Legislative Council in 1913 and died in the same year. But he was an interesting character I’m sure for those that know local history; he was a significant [?] man of his time, having estates in Flaxmere, Sherenden, Tunanui Station; and was knighted in 1902. So it was quite an honour I guess, to be the first Honorary Colonel of the Regiment; but an interesting character.

And then we have the Commanding Officers of the Regiment as we’ve known it, from 1898 through to 1964. A couple of names in there I’m sure most of you will recognise, particularly Duncan Macintrye and Sir Richard Harrison, previous MPs [Members of Parliament] for the region.

So very quickly, just to finish up we’ll talk about the current unit, 5th/7th Battalion … combined Battalion as we are now. They have the role of training Reservists for deployment. Their headquarters now is in Trentham, so even though we’ve still got the building over in Napier, in Faraday Street, the Battalion Headquarters is no longer there. The Battalion has three Companies now; has an East Coast Company that is based in Napier at the Faraday Street building; it has a West Coast Company with its headquarters in Whanganui, and a Wellington Company based in Trentham. But there’s about two hundred and eighty personnel in that combined unit now, and many of them are still being deployed from time to time on active service where appropriate.

The one thing that has changed is that the Territorial Force, and these units in particular, are now viewed by ex-Regular Force when they get out – they’ve maybe had enough of being posted around different places, and the sorts of life one leads as a regular soldier. So they’ll leave the Army, but then they’ll join the Territorial Force, so that we still have access to their skills, their knowledge, and their experience, and they still get to put the uniform on occasionally and go and do their thing on a part-time basis. So that’s adding a lot of value to New Zealand Army, and as I’ve said, now the trend to really be calling us Reserves and not Territorial Force any more. We are reserves truly; you can use the analogy of the reserve bench from the All Blacks – they always get to go on the field. They’re there; they have to fill in exactly the same as the guys that come off. So that’s the role that we have.

And just to finish up, as I mentioned, maintaining a lot of history and traditions of the unit is hard sometimes; these guys are fully committed to their role of training. They don’t have a lot of time to look after a lot of the history. So we’ve recently formed what we call the 7th Wellington Hawke’s Bay Regimental Association, so it’s an association of old soldiers like myself, who look after all the historical stuff that we keep in the headquarters in Napier. And I mentioned at the beginning, we are still the lucky custodians of a couple of boxes of books if anybody is interested; but I mean we try to get our young soldiers to buy them because it really is important that they do understand a little bit about where they’ve come from and how things have evolved over the years.

So that’s hopefully a quick run through to give you a bit of a feel as to looking at the part-time soldering, particularly infantry, here in Hawke’s Bay. [Applause]

Joyce: There’s a massive history there, isn’t it? [There] You’ve had more changes than the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board. [Chuckles] I want questions please, but one I’d like to ask first – was [were] there instances where people wanted to change regiments? It didn’t matter?

Ken: Oh yeah – no. But often what happens, you know, if you do spend time … like a family, as I said, we all get married, and get adopted, and things happen you know, and your allegiance might shift, but it’s very hard to forget your home, where you were born, the family you were born into. That’s the sort of feeling the Regiment provides; but for others who might’ve had two or three years, and then go to another area and then have twenty years in that new Regiment – their affiliation might change. But it’s just how you feel, it’s in your heart. The Regimental spirit’s in the heart; it’s nowhere else.

I take it there’s huge comradeship, always?

Absolutely. And that’s the family spirit when your part of the Regiment you’ve got brothers and sisters now, many of them. It just builds that rapport and that comradeship that exists.

Questions please?

Question: Was there any formal relationship between the School Cadet units before World War I?

Ken: A lot of the Cadets were used as a mechanism for getting young guys interested in the military, and they flowed on to the Volunteer Units. But whilst Defence have always taken an interest in Cadets there has often been that clear delineation. Cadets are really young guys undertaking, not military service, but military style service; just learning things around discipline and some of the basic skills, but they would never ever be expected to go and do anything for real.

Question: No, but they designated themselves as Companies of the Wellington Battalion.

Ken: Okay; I couldn’t comment. I mean that might be from an affiliation point of view of having the Cadets under the umbrella of the local unit; I mean our local unit takes an interest in our local Cadet units, which actually is an interesting point, that those from Central Hawke’s Bay will know that the Cadet unit down there’s called the Ruahine Cadet Unit. So that’s sort of kept that Ruahine name alive, and Peter Lee had quite a bit to do with setting it up.

Question: There was Colours presented here in the early nineties, to the Council here.

Ken: You got a Guidon; you got a Guidon from the Queen Alexandra Squadron. A Guidon doesn’t have the same sort of scared, spiritual connection as the Colours do; Guidons are more just flags I guess, as distinct from Colours. And because the QA Squadron never actually deployed as such, as a unit – they’ve got their roots going back through the Cavalry into the Mounted Rifles, yes – but for some reason they just haven’t had the same significance as the Infantry Unit Colours.

Question: You must have been involved with that?

Ken: No, but I’m well aware of what they are down there; so they’re the Queen Alexandra’s Squadron Guidon.

Question: Ken, when does the obligation of a Reservist end?

Ken: Any time you like really; you can quit at any time. There is no legal obligation, no return of service, no nothing now. You join up, you can leave at any time – you’ve got no obligation.

Question: When they formed in 1863 were they, sort of like, from the 65th Regiment or the 18th Regiment, or … and did they have their own buttons?

Ken: Well what tended to happen is, there was [were] British servicemen came over to form the Cadre Staff, the ones who did the training. And so there’re some affiliations with some units, and the 65th in Wellington had quite a number of soldiers providing the training to the Territorials. So I mean the professionalism had to come from somewhere, and in those early years it came from the UK – the scarlet-tunicked British troops who came out here to teach us Colonials how to fire rifles. But that’s how it started; that’s where the trainers came from, as we built up the expertise and then started to develop our own trainers.

Question: Who makes the decisions regarding all the amalgamations?

Ken: Well, I guess at the end of the day it’s government; government sign off on Army structures, but it’s all now within the New Zealand Defence Force structures. So it would be done, like the most recent amalgamations, probably a plan was formed within New Zealand Defence Force, and that was probably just signed off by the government and then by the Governor-General, just to combine the units.

Joyce: Ken, they’re perfectly happy.  I can’t thank you enough. One round of applause for Ken, please. [Applause] Thank you very much.

Original digital file

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Additional information

Landmarks Talk 10/5/16

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453413

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