2NZEF - Basic and general questions re Army structure

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by Hollie, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi there,

    I am quite 'Green' in my WW2 research and understanding.

    I am following my Grandfathers involvement with the NZ Army in WW2.

    My general knowledge is not as 'well rounded' yet as I would like and I'm hoping to further understand some very basic concepts.

    I'm finding in my quest to learn, my mind is at times swimming with with the vast information available online. So I am posting here hoping people might humor me so I can cement my understanding of how things went.

    With that said, I have two initial questions: - One about the structure and the second is about specifics of Batteries/Battalion numbers.

    1. General Structure/Terminology

    Can anyone give a summary (or correct me if I am wrong in my understanding) of the structure of the NZ Army in regards to the difference between Divisions, Regiments, Batteries, Battalions, Platoons, Companies?

    My basic understanding to date (which I might easily have wrong!) is as follows:

    a) All NZ soldiers who served for NZ in WW2 was part of 2NZEF, under that there where then:

    Corps

    b) Men in the 2NZEF were then taken into a particular Corp (based on skill/training/ as needs basis etc.) for my Grandpa for the most part was part of the Artillery Corps

    Divisions

    c) As apart of each Corp (Artillery, Infantry, Calvary Corps etc.) there were then a number of Divisions which came under each Corp, my Grandpa was with the 32nd Field, 4th Field, 14 LAA and then later attached to the 2nd Division Calvary Corp

    Regiments

    d) Regiment (I am a little lost as where this fits in) - as his Army Records state as the heading 'Division/Regiment' (So I am not sure if 4 Field, 32nd Field etc. are Divisions or Regiments)

    Battalions

    e) Battalions - I understand this is a group combined of a number of different types of troops, not necessarily from the same Corps which is compiled together and sent out to cater for all requirements the Army needed during battles.

    Platoons
    f) Platoons - Group of men joined together regardless of Division and sent out/posted somewhere for duty?

    Companies
    g) Companies - ?

    2. My second question relates to Battalions/Batteries

    Throughout my Grandfathers entire War Record there are no detail recorded in relation to what Battery or Battalion's he was with - just the Division/Regiment.

    I do have one known Battery he was with at a certain period of the war simply because he wrote it on a post card home. (1 April 1943 - 25 Bty, 2 NZEF)

    My questions relating to Battalions/Batteries are:

    a) Would I be correct in the assumption that the Battery/Battalion number/s a man fought with would change frequently throughout his service, on account of the movements between Regiment/Divisions throughout their time in service?

    and

    b) If one doesn't know the Battery or Battalion numbers he was with, am I correct that there won't be a way to find that info out now?

    Thanks in advance for any clarity/correction you can provide - to a somewhat green newbie!

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  2. bofors

    bofors Senior Member

    hi

    There is a table here - Military organization - Wikipedia which gives some idea of how they all fit together.
    No doubt someone with more NZ knowledge will give you a more accurate list.

    regards
    Robert
     
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  3. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Great, thanks Robert. Have just taken a look at the link and think that has helped my understanding of how the terms are split out and made up in the broad sense.

    Thanks for your time.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    A complete minefield for the uninitiated , as some terms can have different meanings depending on it's use.

    To help you out , I'll start with this. ''32nd Field, 4th Field, 14 LAA ''
    That is
    32 Field Regiment
    4 Field Regiment
    14 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment

    Artillery Regiments had Battteries, each Battery had Troops.
    See this chart from here
    British Artillery Organisations 1939-45

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Hi Hollie,

    I've tried to answer your questions the best I can - though you may possibly be more confused than when you started! Feel free to ask further questions.I am assuming you have his military personnel file? If so, and you feel comfortable doing so, it might be helpful to post it in this thread as other users can assist with interpreting/translating it.

    1. General Structure/Terminology

    Can anyone give a summary (or correct me if I am wrong in my understanding) of the structure of the NZ Army in regards to the difference between Divisions, Regiments, Batteries, Battalions, Platoons, Companies?

    My basic understanding to date (which I might easily have wrong!) is as follows:

    a) All NZ soldiers who served for NZ in WW2 was part of 2NZEF, under that there where then:

    Corps

    b) Men in the 2NZEF were then taken into a particular Corp (based on skill/training/ as needs basis etc.) for my Grandpa for the most part was part of the Artillery Corps

    Correct but it in the context of 2NZEF's structure it is a grouping of different divisions under the same command. For example When 2NZEF moved to Italy they formed the nucleus of the 'New Zealand Corps' see 2nd New Zealand Division - Wikipedia


    Divisions

    c) As apart of each Corp (Artillery, Infantry, Calvary Corps etc.) there were then a number of Divisions which came under each Corp, my Grandpa was with the 32nd Field, 4th Field, 14 LAA and then later attached to the 2nd Division Calvary Corp

    In the case of your Grandfather he was in the 2nd New Zealand Division. The Divisional Cavalry Regiment was under the 2nd New Zealand Division. As was the different Artillery units he served with.

    Regiments

    d) Regiment (I am a little lost as where this fits in) - as his Army Records state as the heading 'Division/Regiment' (So I am not sure if 4 Field, 32nd Field etc. are Divisions or Regiments)
    As Owen has pointed out above your Grandfather's
    Battalions
    e) Battalions - I understand this is a group combined of a number of different types of troops, not necessarily from the same Corps which is compiled together and sent out to cater for all requirements the Army needed during battles.

    Regiments and Battalions are the equivalent level; however what name they are called depends on their role. Your Grandfather was in the Artillery so his unit at this level would be called a regiment (armoured and cavalry units were also called regiments), whereas an infantry unit of the same level would be called a battalion.

    Companies

    g) Companies - ?

    I've moved Companies here as they are next in order. Companies make up a Battalion and in the case of Artillery I believe they are called Batteries. A number of individual guns and their crews would make a battery.

    Platoons
    f) Platoons - Group of men joined together regardless of Division and sent out/posted somewhere for duty?

    In the infantry platoons make up a company. I'm not sure what the equivalent Artillery unit is called. Perhaps it consists of one gun and its crew?

    2. My second question relates to Battalions/Batteries

    Throughout my Grandfathers entire War Record there are no detail recorded in relation to what Battery or Battalion's he was with - just the Division/Regiment.

    I do have one known Battery he was with at a certain period of the war simply because he wrote it on a post card home. (1 April 1943 - 25 Bty, 2 NZEF)

    My questions relating to Battalions/Batteries are:

    a) Would I be correct in the assumption that the Battery/Battalion number/s a man fought with would change frequently throughout his service, on account of the movements between Regiment/Divisions throughout their time in service?

    Generally no, well at least in my experience of researching infantry units they pretty much stay the same. Unsure what the case with the Artillery is but it is possible he could have changed during the war. Given the numbers you have listed in this post it is possible he was in a couple of different units. As above a battery was roughly the equivalent to a Company, rather than a Battalion.

    From what I can piece together your Grandfather's units look a little something like this;

    2nd New Zealand Division
    Divisional Artillery
    4th Field Regiment - 14th Light Anti Aircraft Regiment (these two are the same level so he couldn't be in both at the same time. So it is likely he was moved from one to the other at some point in time)
    25 Battery (under 4th Field regiment)

    '32 Field' has me a little perplexed. The closest I can find is 32 Anti-Tank Battery under 7th Anti-Tank Regiment.

    The interesting thing to note with all these Regiments is that they are all different types of artillery. 4th Field Regiment were equipped with the famous 25 pounder gun which was used against the enemy's infantry and positions. 14th Light Anti Aircraft Regiment was equipped with 40m Bofors guns used to shoot down enemy planes and 7th Anti-Tank Regiment was equipped with 18 pounders to destroy enemy armoured vehicles. The bottom line being that your Grandfather would have had to learn a lot of different skills if he was in all these units!

    and

    b) If one doesn't know the Battery or Battalion numbers he was with, am I correct that there won't be a way to find that info out now?

    Never say never. It is always possible your Grandfather's units are mentioned in another source. For example I would reccommend searching in here 2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery | NZETC as well as Online Cenotaph


    Hope that helps,
    Andy
     
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  6. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Thanks so much Owen, really appreciate your message and link, I will pour over this too to try and make it all clear in my mind.
    Thanks so much. I'm slowly starting to get certain components of it all cemented in my head....eventually the bigger picture will fall into place for me.

    Cheers
    Hollie
     
  7. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Andy,

    Wow thank you!! I have copied your message in full to print as it is filled with a wealth of context and understanding for me so I will go through that with regard to structure in conjunction with the links the other guys have sent through.

    I would absolutely love to post up his record in case that gives anyone 'in the know' some insight into what I am missing.
    Some are hard to read in quality of image and handwriting and I will have to work out which pages of his record are the relevant ones to post, with the originals I will also post the transcription Mum has done of it (its her father) just for if the official record is hard to read...and we appreciate we may have something transcribed wrongly.

    I have to digest all of your message as I feel there is a lot for me to take away from it - so this reply is my initial response!

    I have made a couple of comments in response to yours in the feed below.- I have put mine in another color text for ease for identifying.

    Again, I really want to fully take in all your info so will probably have more to say on it when I have done that!

    Thank you so much!!!
    Hollie

     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Just to confuse you more.

    Corps can mean different things according to context.
    It can be similar to a regiment as in Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Army Service Corps etc etc or it can mean a grouping of Divisions & Brigades in the field eg. XXX Corps , V Corps etc

    Regiment can also have different meanings, The Wiltshire Regiment, The Essex Regiment etc or as mentioned before it could be a unit of the Royal Artillery as explained above.
     
  9. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Ha ha thanks Owen!

    But in all seriousness, I think I actually understand what your saying - surprisingly! I think maybe because they seem to be terms used in context of the military these days that I have obviously picked up along the way in terms of how current forces refer to their place in the military maybe, in terms of 'Units' being called 'XYZ Corps' for their immediate unit affiliation rather than primary umbrella of the general contexts I was trying to grasp. (appreciate what your saying was relevant for back then too not just in modern day - but I think that is why I can grasp what your saying)

    I feel one may well need a degree to understand war though! Better late than never to start understanding the more in-depth and intricate details. And you have to start somewhere.

    I am really pleased to have found the forum, it is a great platform and it is very much appreciated that all you guys with the knowledge take the time to help those out who don't. As a side note I'm also finding that you learn extra insight that you don't necessarily get by just reading the online information, articles and or historical accounts.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  10. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I think you've had all the questions answered, but I can't resist lumping in on my pet subject of unit and formation organisation. The general outline for British/Commonwealth organisation I would list (from lowest to highest) as;

    Rifle Section - the basic building block of the Infantry, authorised strength normally in the range of 8 to 11 men (dependent upon nation, role of the parent Battalion and date).

    Platoon (or Troop) - for the Infantry three Rifle Sections under a small HQ. For units of a Cavalry or Armoured nature, generally three or four armoured fighting vehicles (for example three Sherman tanks). Reconnaissance units based on armoured cars may have three cars or a mix of two scout cars and two armd cars in a typical Troop, British Recce Regts supplemented their wheeled AFVs with Universal carriers, giving a Troop a wide range of machines. Recce units with an infantry dismount would have something similar to a Rifle Platoon in strength, termed a Troop. In the Artillery arm a Troop would typically serve four guns, 25-prs, anti-tank or light anti-aircraft, dependent upon the parent Regiment. There were exceptions; LAA Tps were latterly increased to six guns for example and the Heavy and Super Heavy Regts would have far fewer guns than a Field Regt, which were exponentially more powerful.

    Engineers had originally used the term Section for a subunit of 50-60 men, but eventually adopted Platoon (or Troop when serving in an Armoured formation). Signals did likewise.

    Company/Squadron/Battery - in the Infantry three Rifle Platoons under a HQ (some types of infantry unit might add extra elements, such as a Scout Platoon in a Motor Company, but for the most part Br/CW Rifle Company type subunits didn't have a distinct support weapons element). Squadron principally for Cav/Armd/Recce units; normally in the range of at least three Troops of the relevant type, up to five. Engineers used Company for three Platoons and Squadron for three Troops. Battery for Artillery, for a minimum of two Troops (became the standard for 25-prs units from 1941) and three or four for Anti-tank or LAA units.

    Battalion/Regiment - this is what causes the most confusion I find. For the Infantry, the Regiment is not a tactical unit, while for the Armoured and Artillery arms it is. In the Infantry arm, the Regiment is the identity, the recruitment organisation, the history. An Infantry Regiment will spawn any number of Battalions, and these are what will take the field. These Battalions may still refer to themselves as 'the Regiment' however, such as an account noting the 'Regiment suffered heavy casualties today', even though the actual unit involved was a Battalion. It identifies the feeling that the Regiment retains its unity, even when its component Battalions are spread over three continents. An Infantry Battalion in Br/CW service had an authorised strength of a Battalion HQ, a HQ Company and four Rifle Companies; supporting weapons were originally included in HQ Company, but eventually consolidated in a separate Support Company. Specialised infantry (Motor, Machine Gun, Parachute and Air Landing roles for example) each had their own structure. An Armoured Regiment (whether it be equipped with tanks or armoured cars) had its own identity, and so was both a tactical organisation and a recruiting body. It normally consisted of three Squadrons under a HQ Squadron and a Regimental HQ. Armoured Car Regts could have four Squadrons, Recce Regiments tended to have mortar and anti-tank gun elements in their HQ Squadron. Artillery Regiments were generally three Batteries under an RHQ for field artillery, Anti-tank Regiments having four Batteries. Regiments serving big guns might have just two Batteries.

    Brigade - three or four Battalions/Regiments, dependent upon type. An Infantry Brigade was almost universally three Battalions, an Armoured Brigade three Regiments, dependent upon role, time and theatre supplemented by a Motor Battalion.

    Division - two or three Brigades, type and mix dependent upon role, time and theatre. 2NZEF for example started with three Infantry Brigades, converted one of these to an Armoured Brigade, then formed a fourth (Infantry) Brigade by turning Recce and Motor units into Infantry Battalions proper.

    Corps - as noted above, a multipurpose term; in the field force a formation of two or more Divisions under a Corps HQ, in recruitment/identity terms an arm of service (such as Armoured Corps, Corps of Engineers, dependent upon the Army involved).

    Army - two or more Corps, Army Group, two or more Armies.

    Cheers,

    Gary
     
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  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Well done all. I have studied this subject for decades and think I understand it but I certainly cannot explain it.

    Mike
     
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  12. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    Great stuff Gary but don't forget that.....

    Some regiments such as the Royal Regiment of Artillery are made up of many regiments. The Rifle Brigade has many more battalions than a Brigade as did the Brigade of Guards, oh, and the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. Ditto the Household division which should not be confused with the Guards Division.....

    Somewhere there was a tongue in cheek paragraph in this vein, possibly written by an American officer about the British Army.

    Gunners typically serve in one battery. They are not individually posted as members of some technical corps. Gunners did occasionally change battery for a range of reasons -e.g. forming a new unit, scarce skills to replace casualties - volunteer for some more interesting role - on promotion - and occasionally. to get rid of someone the battery sergeant major thinks is a nuisance or poor soldier. They tended not to suffer the same level of casualties as the infantry, so the unit did not change over every six months. (But the New Zealand artillery took casualties in some campaigns in which they were on the receiving end. e.g. Crete and Libya.

    Some trades change with the regiment, but driver and to a less extent signalers could be swapped.

    32 Battery was one of the batteries in 7th Anti tank regiment. It was in the second echlon arriving in Britain in early 1940. At some point he must have been posted to the 25 battery of the 4th Regiment - a field artillery unit and was there at the end of the Tunisian Campaign. 14 Light AA is a curious move.

    The 2nd Division Calvary Corps was the divisional armoured reconnaissance Regiment - equipped with armoured cars. There was little call for armoured cars in Italy and the regiment was converted to become the Divisional cavalry battalion - an infantry battalion. By 1944-45 there was little air threat. Many light AA gunners were transferred to the infantry. There is a mention of the 14 Light AA in this history CHAPTER 23 — From Amateur into Professional Infantry | NZETC

    I hope this helps
     
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  13. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Gary,

    Thank you so much, your info is great and organised succinctly for me to follow nicely - very much appreciated.
    I will copy the info and print it along with Andy's and the guys who have added links and info for me and put it all together.
    Appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  14. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Just posting up my Grandfathers Records as suggested in an earlier reply.

    Have included the relevant pages of his official record which are legible - (Attached Pages 1 - 12) some of the general enlistment forms from when he signed up with his personnel details were too light in ink to read the copies.

    Have also attached the transcript mum has put together based on his official record.

    Thanks
    Hollie
     
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  15. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Hi Hollie,

    More than happy to help.

    Your Mum has done a great job of transcribing your Laurence's records, they can be quite difficult to decipher at times due to the handwriting and abbreviations used.

    Given that Laurence was trained as a driver/mechanic, as pointed out by Sheldrake, this could explain why he moved between units. It also appears given your stories that he knew his way around an artillery piece as well - not surprising as I suspect like other trades he was a artilleryman first and foremost and a driver/mechanic second.

    Based on the records and transcription I would say 32nd Field Regiment was likely the training depot as you have identified, rather than an operational unit like 4th Field Regiment or 14th LAA.

    Andy
     
  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I notice they haven't been viewed that many times.
    Maybe best to put them in the 'Service Records' area of the forum if you still need help translating them.
     
  17. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Sheldrake,

    Sorry for my tardy reply!
    Thank you so much for your message and the link to Chapter 23. Your info is certainly helpful in putting a picture together and trying to fill in the gaps.
    Really appreciate your input.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  18. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks again for your reply and taking the time to have a look for me. Your comments are certainly appreciated!!
    One of the pages of his record is stamped "File Purged 1949" - so I am guessing some of the info from the file was destroyed at this time - which may have held some more keys for us.

    Thank you so much.
    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  19. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Thanks very much Owen, I might do that there are a couple of acronyms I am not sure of their meaning, so will put them into the Service Record Section also.

    Thanks for your message.
    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  20. Dave Gibson

    Dave Gibson Member

    Hi Hollie, not sure if you're still frequenting this forum.

    I work in the NZDF Archive where your grandfather's service record is held and I can confirm a couple of things:
    32 Field Regiment was indeed the artillery training unit at Maadi camp where the 2nd NZ Division was based. Pretty much all reinforcements in the Corps of New Zealand Artillery would spend a little time posted to it on arrival in Egypt.
    Almost all First and Second World War service records went through a series of purges in 1949 to reduce the amount of storage space the archive occupied. This was the last formal mass purging of these files that occurred.

    Hey, unless they've been issued in the meantime, your grandfather's records indicate that his service medals were never issued and may still be available to you to claim them, assuming that you are his closest living next of kin.

    Dave
     
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