We would like to wish a happy ‘Gunners’ Day’ to the highly skilled, technically minded, and adaptable Combat Specialists of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery.
The first documented use of an artillery weapon, a cannon, was in 12th century China, and since then variations and advancements have seen artillery used regularly throughout history. The first use of land-artillery in New Zealand was during the Land Wars with naval cannons being hauled land-ward, and from the Second Boer War onwards New Zealand artillery units were stood up (and back down again) as the need arose. It was not until 1947 with the amalgamation of the regular and volunteer corps of artillery that the Regiment as it looks today was formed, and in 1958 granted the ‘Royal’ status. The Regiment has served with distinction in all of New Zealand’s major conflicts, including receiving international honours for their service in the Korean War and Vietnam War.
Gunners of the Regiment do not simply barrage the enemy, as perhaps they once did, but provide a high level of technical skill through offensive support across the entire battle-space. They use direct and indirect fire to suppress the threat, but also protect our own forces, coordinate military fire-power, illuminate the battlefield, gather information, and identify targets. Gunners not only operate sophisticated and complex weapon-systems, at times under tactical conditions, but use specialist equipment to receive and predict radio and digital target information, ensuring they provide accurate fire on the correct target at the correct time. Some are even embedded with the forward most infantry finding, observing, and directing artillery fire. The truly are ‘everywhere’ and ‘lead’ the battle-space in providing effective and accurate offensive support to the New Zealand Army, paying homage to their two Regimental mottoes: ‘Ubique – Everywhere’ and ‘Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt – Whither Right and Glory Lead’.
Here at the Museum we have quite an extensive collection of artillery pieces – from cannons to the trusty 25 pounder, anti-aircraft guns to mortars (including our repurposed donation mortar in the Kippenberger Pavilion). For ‘Gunners’ Day’ this year we decided to showcase the biggest artillery piece in our collection alongside our smallest: the QF 3.7″ Anti-Aircraft Gun Mk III, and a brass New Zealand Artillery tie pin.
The Quick-Firing 3.7″ Anti-Aircraft Gun Mk III
The largest artillery piece in our collection, by sheer size, is the QF 3.7″ AA Gun. They were first received in New Zealand from Britain in 1942 and batteries were placed in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, with a whopping 46 positioned in Auckland alone. Designed to defend New Zealand from air invasion and attack, the typical four gun anti-aircraft sites were manned by up to 70 men and 50 women, giving 24 hour coverage using a three shift rotation. During WWII the Auckland Gunners were infamous for maintaining a 30-second state of readiness, meaning they could target and fire a shot within 30-seconds of the order being given. They stayed in operation, although relegated to coastal defence, until 1961 when the units operating them were disbanded and the guns were donated to Museums, RSAs or scrapped. We are very proud to have one in our collection.
Technical specifications, for those interested:
Click here to see videos of the QF 3.7″ AA Gun.
Brass New Zealand Artillery Tie Pin
Now, to arguably the smallest piece in our collection relating to the Artillery Regiment: a brass tie pin featuring a miniature Artillery cap badge. As this miniature cap badge bears the Tudor Crown, it denotes it as dating circa 1947-1952 (from when the Regiment was formed to the death of King George VI when the crown was replaced with Queen Elizabeth II’s St Edward’s Crown). It really is a beautiful piece that was no doubt cherished by the wearer. We are just as proud to have this in our collection as we are to have the QF 3.7″ AA Gun, although one definitely takes up more space than the other!
So, from all of us here at the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa, thank you for your service and happy ‘Gunners’ Day’ to all past and present of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery.