University of Oxford
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Story of Ormond Alexander Andersen, New Zealand Forces

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 18:03 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Gareth Thomas brought three items from his grandfather's time in the New Zealand Division in North Africa. His grandfather, Ormond Alexander Andersen, was slightly wounded and captured during the campaigns. Thomas did not know whether these were wartime items or, more probably, all from after war. One is a returned services association badge from after war. He is not sure of the significance of the badges. The family has a lot more stuff from him, but it is in New Zealand.

Ormond Alexander Andersen was born in New Zealand and spent whole life before war in New Zealand. When the war started, he signed up, and was sent to the UK for quite a while (months), then shipped off to North Africa.

Initially, he was in the infantry. Anderson had plenty of large machinery experience. He was attached to an armoured regiment later, driving an anti-tank truck in the end, a wheeled truck with gun on the back, of which Thomas has seen pictures.

Thomas guessed that he was in North Africa from 1941. He was near "Tobruk". In one of larger battles, he and both of his brothers were involved in a battle at same time. All three were captured, and one was injured and died. Andersen was briefly in captivity, but the people who had captured him were then overrun.

After being captured and rescued, Andersen was taken out of a combat role, and tasked as a driver, driving commanders around. From then, he had a relatively quiet life.

Andersen didn't go to Italy with the New Zealand forces. After the North Africa campaign, probably after the Germans were defeated, he went back to New Zealand, and didn't go back to the UK. He was due to come back to the Middle East but refused to do so; he was worried about Japanese and so remained in New Zealand.

Thomas wasn't sure if he had been on leave. There was an expectation that he was going to go back to fight in Europe, presumably in Italy; so there must have been some sort of leave.

Thomas's take was that he was worried about Japanese and thought that the threat to his home was the Japanese. He was never sent to the Far East, but was quite prepared to do it if someone had asked. He certainly had lots of stories; Thomas doesn't know the chronology, but he dive-bombed into a ditch at one point, marching to relieve Indians; this was his first interaction with an Indian person, as an Indian had also dived into the ditch.

He didn't really talk about his time in UK. Thomas knew he was involved in a few fights. Apparently, there were fights with Scottish soldiers and he thinks that Andersen had a girlfriend whilst in UK but does not know any more than that; he has seen a couple of photos with an arm around someone. Another story he told was that, whilst at headquarters, he pulled up, having a rest, but didn't realise how close to front they were, as a German armoured column came up. He gained one war wound from this, because he jumped and leapt up at that; he had a light machine gun, a heavy weapon, he ran, tripped, and has a scar from the trigger which caught his finger. It was remarkable to have one single wound. He was close enough to have seen Germans falling with legs up in the air (when he shot them) .

One of the pins Thomas brought signifies 22nd Battalion which was in the Battle of Crete, but Andersen was not in Crete.

During war or after the war, he goes back and becomes a civilian. He grew up in King Country, and his nickname was 'King'. Before the war, he did forestry, probably sheep farming and hunting; he was an outdoorsman. He came back, got married, and built houses.
He took up building with brother.

He went to Returned Services Association club almost every day until he died, at least five times a week. He served with his brother and was captured with him. Maybe relevant to which unit he served with, one of things that is at home in New Zealand is a black beret. This is related to tanks; he was never in a tank, but maybe attached to one.


Item list and details

1. A Lapel Badge of a KIWI - denoting New Zealand Forces 2. A Lapel badge with 87. Probably a local branch or chapter of the Returned Services Association from Palmerston North. 3. A Lapel Badge with 22. This may be a regimental badge of the 22nd Battalion NZF.

Person the story/items relate to

Ormond Alexander Andersen

Person who shared the story/items

Gareth Thomas

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor


Type of submission

Shared at Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, Oxfordshire on 1 April 2023.

Record ID

91809 | WOO016