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Posted on Oct 30, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

When you’ve got a job to do, you do it: A Kiwi Officer in an Army of Volunteers

By Patrick Bronte

Patrick: Did you understand the significance of this woman put the feather in your hand?

Lloyd : At that stage, the Australians were recruiting their first division for overseas and Australians, they didn’t have conscription. In the two wars, they had all been volunteers. So any army man in civilian clothes would be looked upon as cowardly to fight for Australia .

Patrick: So did you go through all the basic training of weaponry and all those sorts of things at the school?

Lloyd: Yes, we did everything. We came back, and met the GOC, General Duigan, who led the graduates to his office, and we asked ‘When can we get to the war?’ And he said, ‘Well the war will last 30 years, they’ll be plenty time for you to get there.’ And we thought, with that sort of thinking, he’s not a very bright fella. However, we were posted and as an officer you never got posted anywhere near your home turf. I was posted in Wellington . First job I was sent to Trentham as an instructor to train these fellas coming in to go overseas.


Patrick: How did you feel about that job?

Lloyd: Well, we were fully trained to do it. No problem. We knew all the answers; these chaps coming in were raw recruits. They came from all walks of life, freezing workers, shearers, Sheppard’s, farm owners, lawyers, accountants, teachers, you name it. Sometimes a whole rugby team would sign up together. It was interesting how some turned up, some would wear a full black tie get up, complete with bowtie, some had bare feet. My first job was training the officers and then from that, training went on to CDSI (Central District School of Instruction), training officers that were coming from the territorials

Patrick: How did the army decide who was going to be trained as an officer from these recruits?

Lloyd: Good question. They took officers who had been in the territorial volunteers, or who had been schoolmasters. Schoolmasters were automatically commissioned into the Army as officers in the school cadets, so they officered all the battalions in the first and second year, which included the second battalion. It was anybody’s guess to how you pick them. So you might say, this chap is a lawyer in Waipukurau, he was captain of his school rugby team, so we’ll send him to officer training. He completes a short course for 6 weeks and comes out as a Second Lieutenant. Second Lieutenant is of a probationary thing and after 12 months there, he will automatically go to 2 pips.

I was in the Central Districts area, which replied to all the Northern and Southern commanders’ role. And each commander is divided into 4 areas. Central command was Taranaki and Wellington West Coast was Wanganui, Palmerston North, Levin, Wellington city and Hawkes Bay , which took in Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay . Each of those areas had commands. As men of volunteers, they’d be asked to send so many men from those areas that had potential NCOs and Officers, so they’d send down from each area, maybe 30 or 40. How they picked those was up to them. So they came down into the CDSI and we’d put them through the hoops. If they looked like athletic men and stood out, we turned them on top to be officers otherwise they’d be sergeant majors, corporals, et cetera.

Patrick: In retrospect, how would you describe yourself as an officer? Were you quite hard? Did you feel that you were quite hard?

Lloyd: Well no, I don’t think so. You can’t allow any nonsense and of course you’ve got a very strict military regimen to back you up.

My first job at CDSI was training the officers and NCOs of the Maori Battalion. As I come from central Otago, I had no contact with a Maori. And about 60 of them came to me, they all looked alike, I couldn’t pronounce their names. I very quickly discovered that these Maori would have you on as far as you would go, but once you jumped on them they respected the discipline. That’s one thing they liked, they didn’t mind being ordered around. A lot of them turned out to be first class officers, one of them came in as a Private, James Henry, who finished up as Colonel of the Maori Battalion and became Sir James Henare. I got to know them very well, and have been friends with them right through life.

Patrick: So coming from a background of never meeting a Maori before, and whilst being an instructor there, how would you compare a Pakeha to a Maori soldier in regards to their view of warfare?

Lloyd: Well, we had two other Duntroon boys there and they had groups against my Maori group. And we had a contest, and my Maori boys outgunned them in every department. They were natural soldiers, their drill was outstanding; they had this perfect timing of arms drill (with a rifle) and presenting arms. They took to soldiering like a duck to water. They were very good on field craft. I very quickly discovered that they were tribal. For instance, the Maori Battalion was divided into 4 companies. A company: Nga Puhi, Auckland – nicknamed the gum diggers, B company: Waikato, Tainui people – known as the penny divers, C company from Ngati Porou, East Coast – known as the cowboys, D company was the smaller tribes from North, South, Taranaki, Wellington, Wairarapa – they were known as the Maori League of Nations. I found that you could not put an officer from Ngati Porou into another company than C; they hated each other’s guts. They would only respond to officers of their own tribe. Most of these officers came to us as potential NCO and were related to kaumatua. Rank counts very highly in the Maori hierarchy. So if you’re the son of a chief/kaumatua you’ve got a bit of standing on the chap who’s not. This applied right through the Maori Battalion.

Cassino Cartoon [GERMAN-propaganda-1944] (from the Alexander Turnbull Library)

Patrick: Would you say that you had more fun training these guys than the Pakeha boys because they were pretty new to you? Having never dealt with Maori before?

Lloyd: No, I had just as much enjoyment out of teaching my fellow Kiwi’s who weren’t Maori. I just happened to be there when the Maori Battalion was being formed. I felt frustrated the whole time, I wanted to get away to the war and I hated being held back to instruct. So after the third Echelon, I trained the NCOs and Officers and then I was sent as Area Officer to Wanganui, West Coast. This became my area to train. Everyday volunteers came in to apply to go to war. So we would give them a medical examination and send them off to Trentham.

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