We would like to wish a happy Corps Day to one of the smallest and youngest corps in the New Zealand Army, but one with an important role in developing and maintaining the Army’s well-being, health, and fitness: The New Zealand Army Physical Training Corps.
The word “PTI” usually sends shivers down the spine of anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting one in the gymnasium, but they are by far one of the most important aspects of a soldier’s life. The sole focus of a Physical Training Instructor is the health, fitness and wellbeing of their fellow soldiers. They ensure soldiers are physically capable to conduct their day-to-day and operational duties, empower soldiers to strive to excel, support mental health and wellbeing, and enable leadership development through team-based activities. A PTI also fosters community spirit through recreational and sports activities, and supports soldiers in rehabilitation to recover from injury. Summed up in one phrase? A PTI ensures our forces are “Fit to Fight”. As well as causing the requisite physical discomfort, they are also our friends and colleagues, with a high level of personal and physical standards, and scientific and technical knowledge, that inspire.
In its earliest form “physical training” for New Zealand soldiers was confined to mainly route marching with the only intent to keep up battle fitness, and post-WWI (pre-WWII) gymnastics was added by platoon sergeants and commanders. It was not until 1949, when two British physical training instructors were sent to New Zealand for a two-year stint, that formalised and scientific-based physical training was introduced. New Zealand owes its world-class military fitness instruction to Warrant Officer Jimmy Page and Sergeant ‘Jacko’ Jackson who, based in Trentham Camp, ran the Assistant Physical Training Instructors Course (that still runs along similar lines today) and the most loved-to-hate profession within the New Zealand Defence Force was born, although the Corps was not officially formed until 1987.
We have some fantastic photos from our archives we want to share with you of Warrant Officer Page in 1949 running the first course and instructing on military fitness techniques that would remain a staple to this day. Pretty sure those logs are still in use, hands up if you’ve done an army-issue log lift lately?
From all of us here at the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa, happy Corps Day to all past and present of the New Zealand Army Physical Training Corps, and to thank you for your dedication and service to your fellow soldiers. Your ongoing (and challenging) mission to keep the NZ Army “Fit to Fight” ensures no two days are the same for you, and although many groan as they see you, you are an incredibly valuable, and valued, profession that ensures our soldiers are fit, healthy, and ready for whatever the job requires of them.
“Mens Sana In Corpore Sano – Sound Mind in a Sound Body” – NZA Physical Training Corps’ motto; a quote from Juvenal’s Satires.