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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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The scheme continued until 1957 when altered commitments – the decision, taken in 1955, to provide a division in South-East Asia – caused the Government to reduce the strength of the force required from 33,000 to 23,000 men. As a result the age limit for trainees was raised to 20, the annual intake was reduced to 5,600, and the Reserve liability was cut to three years. Following political changes in 1957 the new Government decided (in 1958) to abolish compulsory military training. New Zealand's strategic interest in South-East Asia indicated that existing arrangements did not provide a sufficiently flexible or mobile force. It was decided to provide a Regular Army field formation (including an armoured regiment) having an establishment strength of 5,600 men. There would be a Regular Force of 2,500 and, as from 1 April 1959, a volunteer Territorial Force of 7,000.

As any war in South-East Asia was likely to require a highly trained force at short notice, the 23,000-strong division was discarded in favour of a compact, highly trained, operational force which could be reinforced from the Territorials. In spite of extensive recruiting campaigns since 1958 it proved impossible to bring the Regular Brigade Group up to the strength authorised. The Territorial Force, although more successful in obtaining recruits, did not achieve a high state of efficiency. This was due, principally, to shortness of training given, to poor attendance at camps, and to the quick turnover of personnel. For these reasons the Government decided in 1961 to reorganise the Army establishment. A group of Regular Force field units, numbering 3,000 men, is to be built up over five years. The Territorial Force, numbering 10,000 men – organised in three smaller brigades, is to be built up over four years, and there is to be a static Regular Force of 3,250 men, including young soldiers under training. Volunteers are still accepted for Territorial service, but deficiencies are being made good by a selective national service scheme. This is expected not only to supply sufficient recruits, but also to allow an adequate standard of training to be maintained.

by Richard Ainslie Barber, N.Z.L.A.CERT., Librarian, Army Department, Wellington.

  • Militia Acts, 1845, 1858
  • The Defence Act, 1909
  • Appendices to Journals of the House of Representatives
  • Defence Department Annual Reports (H. 19 of each year); Statement on Compulsory Military Training (H. 19B of 1949); National Service Department Annual Report (H. 19A of 1945); Statement of Strengths and Losses in the Armed Services in 1939–45 War (H. 19B of 1948); Review of Defence Policy (A. 14 of 1957); Review of Defence Policy (A. 12 of 1958);Population Census, 1945, Department of Statistics (1950), Appendix B – War Service
  • Official History of New Zealand's Effort in the Great War Vol. 4, Drew, H. T. B. (1923)
  • The Maori in the Great War, Cowan, J. (1926).