A History of the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps

(School of Armour – Communications Wing – 1975)


The New Zealand Armoured Corps was formed on 1 January 1942 and was granted the prefix “Royal” on 12 July 1947. The Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps (RNZAC) is second in seniority of Corps within the NZ Army. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II is the Captain-General of the RNZAC.

Early History

Although the Corps was not formed till 1942 it is the current day successor to the early mounted units raised to meet threats during the Māori Wars of the 1860’s. The first such unit was the Royal Cavalry Volunteers raised in Auckland on 5 April 1860. This unit, together with those formed by other groups of early settlers, took an active part in the wars.

Under the Volunteer Act of 1865 the procedure for raising military units was formalised and those that existed at the time of the Act’s passing were required to register. The Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry was the first unit in New Zealand to register and thus took precedence as the senior cavalry regiment.

In 1895 the role of the cavalry was changed to that of the mounted rifles and after a number of organisational changes and amalgamations, a total of twelve Mounted Rifle Units were formed:

1st Mounted Rifles – Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry

2nd Mounted Rifles – Queen Alexandra’s Wellington West Coast

3rd Mounted Rifles – Auckland

4th Mounted Rifles – Waikato

5th Mounted Rifles – Otago Hussars

6th Mounted Rifles – Manawatu

7th Mounted Rifles – Southland

8th Mounted Rifles – South Canterbury

9th Mounted Rifles – Wellington East Coast

10th Mounted Rifles – Nelson

11th Mounted Rifles – North Auckland

12th Mounted Rifles – Otago

All of these regiments were represented in the New Zealand contingents at the Boer War 1899-1902

The First World War

During the First World War the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade, (Consisting of the Canterbury, Auckland and Wellington Mounted Rifles), and the Otago Mounted Rifles fought in Egypt and then landed in Gallipoli in 1915 with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) as dismounted troops. After Gallipoli was evacuated, they fought as mounted troops in Palestine until the end of the war.

The Second World War

At the beginning of the Second World War the Mounted Rifles were mobilised for home defence. On the formation of the New Zealand Armoured Corps on 1 January 1942 they were converted to Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle, (LAFV), Regiments. These regiments remained in New Zealand for local defence. In September 1941 the 1st New Zealand Army Tank Brigade was raised and trained at Waiouru with the object of serving in the Middle East. Unfortunately, manpower shortages caused this formation to be disbanded in 1942 and its members were used to reinforce the Armoured Brigade which had been raised in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, (2NZEF). A small number of these men, however, reorganised as the 3rd Division Tank Squadron and moved to the Pacific in August 1943. They served with the 3rd New Zealand Division until August 1944, and saw action on Green Island in the Solomons group.

In October 1942 the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade was formed from the 4th Infantry Brigade within 2NZEF in the Middle East. Thus the 18th, 19th & 20th Infantry battalions were converted to Armoured Regiments. This Brigade played a distinguished part in the fighting in Italy from November 1943 to the end of the war, and was eventually disbanded in November 1945.

The Divisional Cavalry was raised as an armoured reconnaissance unit at the beginning of the Second World War and fought throughout the war as part of 2NZEF.

Post War (to 1975)

The post war organisation of the RNZAC was complicated by the need for unit amalgamations to arrive at the Order of Battle then required. Efforts were made to ensure that traditions dating from the early days of settlement in New Zealand or established on the battlefields of two world wars, were passed on. The LAFV Regiments and the 18th, 19th and 20th Armoured Regiments were grouped to form three Armoured Regiments and the Divisional Regiment RNZAC. The New Zealand Scottish Regiment succeeded the Divisional Cavalry of 2NZEF and became the 1st Armoured Car Regiment (NZ Scottish) RNZAC.

For a time, Headquarters 4th Armoured Brigade was raised to command this group of units. Except for some minor changes and a number of redesignations this organisation lasted for the period 1948-1963. Units were manned by Territorial Force soldiers with small Regular Force cadres. Initial training was carried out at the Armoured Depot, (later the School of Armour), established at Waiouru.

In 1963 a major reorganisation took place in the field component of the New Zealand Army. The proportion of combat troops was reduced and that of logistic units was increased in order to meet the requirements of partnerships with our allies. As a result the RNZACV shrunk to one armoured squadron and one reconnaissance squadron in the combat element with partner units in a reserve brigade to support the others in the event of mobilisation. Readiness of the combat units was enhanced by the introduction of a greater proportion of Regular Force personnel.

In September 1970 with the introduction of new equipment and a change in the roles of the RNZAC another reorganisation took place. This resulted in the present organisation, (Note: This history/document prepared in 1975), which is as follows:

  1. Queen Alexandra’s (Waikato/Wellington East Coast) Squadron – A combat brigade unit located at Waiouru and organised as a cavalry squadron. Its Territorial element is drawn mainly from the Waikato and Hastings areas;
  2. 1st Squadron NZ Scottish – A combat brigade unit located at Burnham. It is organised as an Armoured Personnel Carrier, (APC), squadron; and
  3. 2nd Squadron NZ Scottish – A reserve brigade unit located at Dunedin. It has both cavalry and APC elements.

The Badge

The badge of the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps has as its centrepiece an artists impression of a vaguely First World War type of tank, (It does not represent a MK1 as is sometimes thought). The crossed lances of the Cavalry are mounted in the rear and both are surrounded with fern leaves as the national emblem. The whole is surmounted by a crown. When worn the backing of the badge is scarlet derived from the infantry of the 18th, 19th & 20th battalions who subsequently became the 4th Armoured Brigade. The badge when worn on a beret is mounted on a dark green diamond to indicate the Corps origins in the early Mounted Rifle units.

New Zealand Scottish personnel wear their own form of hat badge when wearing regimental highland dress. It consists of a St Andrews cross with Fernleaf, thistle and motto surmounted by a crown. Personnel from Scottish units do not wear the scarlet patch behind the RNZAC badge as they do not trace their origins from the 4th Infantry Brigade.

The School of Armour

The School of Armour remains located in Waiouru, which has been the centre of RNZAC activity since the formation of the 1st New Zealand Tank Brigade during the Second World War.

Corps Day

The Corps Day of the RNZAC is “Cambrai Day”, the 20th of November. This is the anniversary of the battle of Cambrai fought in France from the 20th to the 27th of November in 1917. This was first time that tanks were employed in large numbers.

(School of Armour – Communications Wing – 1975)

A History of QAMR

On 16 September 1864, the Alexandra Troop of the Wanganui Cavalry Volunteers was accepted for service by the New Zealand Government. The Troop was named after Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Wales. The Troop saw active service in the New Zealand Wars, mainly on patrolling and despatch riding duties, before being disbanded in late 1865. Reformed as the Alexandra Cavalry Volunteers, the Troop guarded Wanganui during the Titokowaru campaign (1868), and took part in the Parihaka operation (1881).

In 1868, Trooper William Lingard, a founding member of the Alexandra Troop, won the New Zealand Cross for rescuing a comrade under enemy fire at Titokowaru's pa at Tauranga Ika. In 1897 the unit was renamed the Alexandra Mounted Rifles. Volunteers from Alexandra Mounted Rifles served in South Africa during the Boer War, where Farrier Sergeant MajorWilliam James Hardham won the Victoria Cross at Naauwpoort, in January 1901, where he rescued two wounded comrades while under heavy enemy fire. In 1911 the unit became the 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Mounted Rifles.

In the First World War (1914–1918) men of the Regiment saw active service in the Queen Alexandra's 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Mounted Rifles squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade.

The Squadron of 158 men and 169 horses was initially commanded by Major Jim Elmslie. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was sent from Egypt to Gallipoli in May 1915, without its horses. On Gallipoli the mounted riflemen gained a reputation as excellent scouts and hard fighters. New Zealand's mounted regiments were particularly prominent in battles fought at Outpost No 3, Table Top, Chunuk Bair and Hill 60. For his gallentry on Chunuk Bair, Major Elmslie was recommended for a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Following the Hill 60 battle the 2nd Squadron could only muster 14 fit men. After the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915, the squadron spent the remainder of the war on horseback, fighting the Turkish Army in the Sinai Desert and in Palestine, as part of the ANZAC Mounted Division. Notable battles were fought at Rumani, Rafa, Magdhaba, Gaza, Beersheba, Ayun Kara, in the Jordan Valley and at Amman.

The Regiment received its first Guidon in 1929, at Waverley. During the Second World War (1939–1945) many volunteers from Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles served overseas in various units, particularly in the 2nd New Zealand Divisional Cavalry Regiment. This Regiment fought in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. Some men also served in the Long Range Desert Group.

M113A1 APC and Ambulance in East Timor in 2002.

Later in the war some men of the Regiment saw active service with the 3rd New Zealand Division's Special Army Tank Squadron Group in the Pacific, and with the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade in Italy. Some men of the Divisional Cavalry Regiment performed occupation force duties in Japan after the war. Men of the Regiment also served in New Zealand during the war, firstly on horses and then in a wide variety of light armoured vehicles. In January 1942 the New Zealand Armoured Corps was formed. It included the 2nd Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (Queen Alexandra's Wellington West Coast Mounted Rifles). In 1947 the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps (RNZAC) was formed.

Following the Second World War the Regiment underwent a series of name, role changes and amalgamations. Some men of the unit served with British Centurion-equipped tank regiments during the Korean War. In November 1964 the Regimental Guidon was paraded for Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace, by a composite group of 140 members of the New Zealand Army. In 1992 the unit, as Queen Alexandra's Squadron, RNZAC received a new Guidon.


A year later the unit regained the title of Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles, Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps. From 1994 until 2002 most members of the Regiment gained operational experience operating M113A1 armoured vehicles in Bosnia-Herzegovina and East Timor. Many other officers and soldiers also crewed British armoured vehicles with British Armyregiments in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Over this prolonged period, the Regiment sustained a higher operational tempo than any other unit of the New Zealand Army. In 2004, the unit now down sized to a squadron, began re-equipping with the NZLAV, a version of the LAV III armoured vehicle especially developed for the New Zealand Army. In 2005 the unit moved to BurnhamMilitary Camp.

In December 2011, Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles was formally re-formed as a Regiment from its previous Squadron size, with the sub-unit formally known as QAMR being dubbed NZ Scottish (NZ Scots) Squadron and Wellington East Coast (WEC) Squadron.

A wide range of armoured vehicles have been used by the unit. These include the Valentine tank, Stuart tank, Daimler DingoScout Car, Ferret Armoured Car, Centurion tank, M41 Walker Bulldog, FV101 Scorpion light tank, and M113A1 armoured personnel carriers.

Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles is the oldest serving Regular Force unit of the New Zealand Army.

The Story of Queen Alexandra's Own by Ted Andrews

(extracted from Wikipedia)

A Short History of 1st & 2nd Squadrons (NZ Scottish), RNZAC

(School of Armour – Communications Wing – 1975)

The unit was formed on 17th January 1939 as the 1st Battalion New Zealand Scottish Regiment, an infantry unit of the Territorial Force. The battalion was initially raised in the North Island and only men of proven Scottish birth or descent were admitted to the Regiment.

The 1st battalion NZ Scottish was mobilised at the outbreak of World War two and embarked for New Caledonia in December 1942 as part of 15 Brigade, 3rd New Zealand Division. The battalion was one of only two Territorial Force battalions to be sent overseas.

After a very short existence, 15th Brigade was disbanded in July 1943 due to a shortage of manpower in New Zealand. Many of the members of NZ Scottish later saw service in the Middle East and Italy and No. 4 Company, 27 Machine Gun Battalion 2NZEF was formed from volunteers of NZ Scottish.

During the Second World War a 2nd Battalion was formed in the South Island but it did not deploy overseas.

In 1949 the Regiment was reformed as the 1st Divisional Regiment RNZAC (New Zealand Scottish), and was known as the 1st Armoured Car Regiment. The Regiment was a mixed Regular and Territorial Force unit with Regimental HQ and B Squadron based in Wellington, HQ Squadron in Onehunga, A Squadron in Christchurch and C Squadron in Dunedin.

The Regiment remained as such until 1963 when a reorganisation was carried out involving a reduction in size of the unit. As a result of this retrenchment the unit’s name was carried on by two reconnaissance squadrons. 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (NZ Scottish), based at Burnham and 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron (NZ Scottish), based in Dunedin.

During 1972-73 the NZ Army re-equipped with M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers, (APC), and as a result both Squadrons had a change of role to APC Squadrons. This change was completed in 1975 and the unit’s names changed to 1st and 2nd Squadrons, NZ Scottish, RNZAC. Both Squadrons continued to be a mix of Regular and Territorial Force personnel, with 1st Squadron at Burnham having a larger proportion of Regular Force.

Both Squadrons proudly maintained their Scottish traditions parading in Highland Dress, wearing the Black Watch tartan. In addition, both units are allied to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, with the Squadron Sargent Majors permitted to wear the distinctive grey beret.

The 1st Armoured Car Regiment had inherited the battle honours of the 2nd NZ Divisional Cavalry 2NZEF, and new colours were presented to NZ Scottish at Linton Camp on 23rd February 1963 by His Excellency the Governor General, Brigadier Sir Bernard Ferguson, GCMG DSO OBE.

(School of Armour – Communications Wing – 1975)