The rise of New Zealand's military tradition : the Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Regiment (5 Battalion RNZIR) 1855-1964 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of M.A. in History at Massey University
A more detailed general account of this thesis appears in the Introduction, where the themes to be developed are more fully explained. The first three chapters are concerned with developing themes derived from the Maori Land Wars : the colonial soldier's assertiveness, his organisation, and tactics. Thus it should be clear this thesis is more a study of military behaviour than a description of wars and battles. It is further argued that the three themes developed are inter-linked. That is because the early settlers successfully resisted conscription into military organisations, in which they had no say. They learned to impose their own views on the military establishment, and this gave rise to the novel system of electing officers. Further the resulting new military organisations proved fairly successful in the field, and challenged military orthodoxy. However, these new volunteer formations lacked any overall unity and in peace time were inclined to become rival social clubs with a fetish for bright uniforms, colourful parades, and garrison balls. The long period of peace in the latter half of the nineteenth century also saw the gradual growth of a regular force established on more orthodox lines by career officers, mostly seconded from the British Army. For a while, therefore, two rival military organisations existed in uneasy alliance and the New Zealand defence force was composed of two disparate wings. Eventually, as a result of several 'scares' and the South African War, the colonial government came to accept the suggestions of the career soldiers,and to reorganise the old volunteer force into a territorial part-time branch of the regular army. The first World war saw the new system working well but the old colonial assertiveness remained and some allowance for this had to be made. For a time most officers were created via the ranks again. But many of the supporters of the old system were swept away at Gallipoli and the links with the past were lost. However out of this holocaust the new Anzac tradition arose, emphasising a certain military style and fighting reputation. The nineteen-thirties saw a decline in the territorial system and the country was little prepared for World War II. Nevertheless the overseas battalions were quickly mobilised and once again some of the old colonial attributes became apparent. The Germans for example noted the New Zealanders seemed to favour particular tactics. World War II also saw New Zealanders overseas becoming more insular and conformist, perhaps to present a more definite national image in an international arena of conflict. Throughout this thesis the Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Regiment has been used as a basis for research, as it fed men into the three major conflicts of New Zealand history. Finally the change in the Regiment's title to 5 Battalion RKZIR, has served to exemplify the trend to centralisation and integration of the whole army at the expense of local affiliations.