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Oldest Army Regiment Celebrates 150 Years Service

6 Aug 2008

NZ Oldest Army Regiment Celebrates 150 Years Service

New Zealand’s oldest Army unit the 5th Wellington West Coast Taranaki Battalion Group (5WWCT) marks its 150th year of service to New Zealand this weekend with a series of activities in New Plymouth and around Taranaki.

The celebrations will begin with a Chunuk Bair remembrance dawn service at the Malone Gates in Stratford this Friday morning, followed by a parade through the streets of New Plymouth on Saturday The celebrations finish on Sunday with a service in St Mary’s, New Zealand’s oldest stone church, and where the regiment was garrisoned for short time in 1860.

The charter parade, accompanied by the sounds of blank gunfire, will receive a challenge from the NZ Police as they reach the Puke Ariki Landing where the Charter will be re-affirmed to allow the regiment to march through the streets with swords drawn, drums beating, bayonets fixed, and colours flying. This parade commences at 1:30pm.

During the parade a number of the Regiment’s personnel will be presented with medals for deployments to the Solomon Islands and Sinai as well as efficiency medals.

A powhiri will be held at Owae Marae in Waitara to recognise and acknowledge the presence of the Regiment to Iwi in the Taranaki area. The powhiri will be on the 8th August, commencing at 1:00pm.

“It is very important for us to continue our relationship with the people of the area, with whom we now have had a long relationship, and one which we need to recognise alongside our own history, ” said Warrant Officer Class One Kenny Trinder.

Major Simon Strombom, the Regiments training officer, is continuing the tradition of his family’s military service which began in Taranaki and is currently serving in Afghanistan. Major Strombom says he will be thinking of the province and of the regiment this weekend.

“It would mean a lot to be back in the province with the unit in its 150th year where so much of my family history is tied to. I will be thinking of home when the unit parades.”

Background Information

Events Program

Friday 8 Aug
0700 – 0730 Chunuk Bair remembrance Dawn service in Stratford at Malone Gates
1300 - 1500 Powhiri at Owae Marae in Waitara
1830 - 2030 NPDC Mayoral Cocktail Party for invited guests only.

Sat 9 Aug
1330 - 1530 Charter parade through New Plymouth. Chief of Defence Force Representative and New Plymouth Mayor will unveil Plaques commemorating 150 years of service. Medals will also be presented to Regiment personnel for service in NZ and overseas.

Sun 10 Aug
0930 Regimental church service at St Mary’s Church.

Brief Regimental History

The 5th Battalion (Wellington West Coast and Taranaki) RNZIR (5WWCT) is considered the oldest unit in the New Zealand Army as it traces its history from the early years of New Zealand. It comes from two broad pathways, namely that of the Wellington West Coast Regiment and the Taranaki Regiment, both of which claim an ancestry pre-dating the official raising of armed forces in New Zealand.

The Taranaki Regiment's forbearers include the Taranaki Rifle Volunteer Corps, which is believed to have been the first unit formally raised in New Zealand. This Corps took part in the New Zealand Land Wars and so distinguished itself at the battle of Waireka (being the first British Empire reservist unit ever committed to battle) that it was granted the Battle Honour 'New Zealand'. This is a unique distinction. No other unit has ever been given its country's name as a Battle Honour in the long and colourful history of Britain, her Empire and the Commonwealth. This battle honour was subsequently in the 1960's adopted by the Regular Force Infantry battalions to demonstrate their lineage to the Territorial Force units.

The Wanganui Rifle Volunteers, renamed the Victoria Rifles, the Wanganui Bushranger Volunteers, and the Royal Rangitikei Rifles are a few of the many ancestral units associated with the Wellington West Coast Regiment, a number of which were involved in the New Zealand Wars.

In the First World War men from the Wellington West Coast and the Taranaki Regiments took part in composite battalions due to the government policy that no Regiment would fight as a unit. A similar system applied in the Second World War with soldiers taking part in 19th, 22nd, 25th and 36th Battalions. It was members of this unit, lead by Colonel Malone of the Wellington Regiment that made the now famous stand at Chunuk Bair.

In 1948 The Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Regiments were combined to form the Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Regiment. Then in 1964 the New Zealand Army was again restructured with all the previous Regiments falling under the umbrella of the single Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. At this point the Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Regiment became 5th Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (5 RNZIR). In 1974 the name was changed to 5th Battalion (Wellington West Coast and Taranaki) (5 WWCT) in order to recognise the territorial affiliations of the unit.

Unit Emblem

The old Wellington, West Coast Regiment’s crest was a rampant lion and that of the Taranaki Regiment, Mount Taranaki (Egmont). On the amalgamation of the regiments in 1948 these emblems could not be suitably combined and a new one was therefore designed. The symbol chosen was the phoenix bird, which according to Greek mythology, used to destroy itself by fire when too old to be useful, and then be reborn from its own ashes, young and full of vigour.

The roman numerals to the left and right of the flames at the base of the crest represents the VII Wellington, West Coast and XI Taranaki Regiments - the old bird consumed by flames - whilst the young phoenix rises proudly as 5 WWCT. Brigadier D.S. Thompson MC, ED, MP former Honorary Colonel of 5th (WWCT) Battalion and a former Commanding Officer of the unit was primarily responsible for the design of this unique badge.


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