Railway Battalions badge

Railway Battalions badge

The cap badge and collar insignia of the Railway Battalions, New Zealand Engineers, featured an approaching locomotive, crossed gun barrels and flaming cannonballs or bombs.

Formed in 1911, the North Island and South Island battalions made up a Railway Corps within New Zealand’s new Territorial Force, in which part-time service was compulsory for most teenage boys and young men. They were manned by Railways Department staff who were liable for military service under the 1909 Defence Act. The Corps was organised into two battalions made up of 15 companies with a total establishment (nominal strength) of 1271 men.

On the outbreak of war in August 1914 the Corps, which was commanded by Colonel E.H. Hiley, the department's general manager, was mobilised to guard every bridge and tunnel on New Zealand’s rail system. Later that month 258 of its members formed a Railway Engineers unit for service in German Samoa.

Thereafter the Railway Corps, like the rest of the Territorial Force, effectively became a feeder unit for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). The companies of the corps were led by men who were over-age or unfit for active service overseas, and were staffed mainly by railway workers aged under 20, the minimum age for overseas service. Meanwhile, from August 1914 other Railways Department staff enlisted in all branches of the NZEF.

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