The Kayforce albums

July 27th, 2020 By Jenni Chrisstoffels
Exploring a series of photographs taken by Ian Mackley in the early 1950's documenting New Zealand participation in the Korean War. Scenes of day to day camp life and activities out in the field are shown.

Volunteers called to help fight in the Korean War

Seventy years ago, on 27 July 1950, the Prime Minister, Mr Sidney Holland called for volunteers to help fight the communists in the Korean War. Within ten days almost 6,000 men had volunteered. Of that number an initial 1,000 were selected to be trained to go to Korea to fight with what was to become known as the K Force, or Kayforce.

One of the men was Ian Mackley who was working as a photographer for the Department of Agriculture journal at the time. With his background in photography, Mackley was appointed the official army photographer for the 16 Field Regiment. He remained in Korea from 1950 until June 1952, when Peter Cooper took over.

Shows Mackley standing in arid, hilly terrain wearing combat uniform.
Ian Chappell Mackley taking photographs in the field, Korea shortly before his return to New Zealand. Original caption reads: "Sgt I C Mackley, of Lower Hutt, official photographer with NZ Kayforce, has a look around the infantry positions for some interesting photographs". Photograph taken circa June 1952, probably by replacement New Zealand Army photographer Peter Cooper, shortly before Mackley's return to New Zealand. Ref: K-1109. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Mackley’s photographs from this time period appear in 16 assorted albums held at the Library. The album prints appear along with reasonably detailed captions giving the date (usually), event and names of those pictured in the photos.

Four men seen cleaning a large gun shortly after a heavy snow fall.
Original caption reads: “Kiwi gunners clean up their 25 pdr. after a heavy snowfall. From L to R: Gnr. Ken Mowat, Dunedin; Gnr. Norm Pierson, Christchurch; Gnr. Dick Daken, Gisborne and Gnr. Ludvig Henderson, Auckland”. Ref: PA1-q-311-0664. Alexander Turnbull Library.

These photographs from Korea eventually became part of the War History photograph collection, now held in the Alexander Turnbull Library. The Library has both the original negatives, and the albums of prints.

The K Force albums Ref: PAColl-4161-05

‘First three months were absolute hell’

The earliest photographs in the album are of the men training in Waiouru, and their departure on the Ormonde in late 1950. The first photographs taken in Korea are from July 1951, some months after the first regiment had arrived. There is no official photographic record of the first months after their arrival in Pusan, Korea on New Years Eve. The sight of refugees fleeing from the fighting, and snow on the ground was a shock to the young New Zealanders.

A group of six men posing for photo while holding raw turkeys ready for cooking.
Original caption reads: "Cooks and assistants of 162 Bty pose with some of the turkeys for the Xmas dinner. L to R: Bdr Rex Gibb, Picton; Gnr Ken Schribber, Taumarunui; Back row: Gnr Danny Doyle, Auckland; Gnr Les Clark, Belmont; Gnr Joe Salt, Christchurch; and Gnr Alan Kennedy, Christchurch". Photograph taken in Korea, December 1951, by Ian Mackley. Ref: K-0645-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Mackley recalled in a newspaper interview that "The first three months were absolute hell. Everything was frozen solid. It snowed frequently and things were made worse by the fact we had shocking clothing and equipment initially."

The photographs that we see in the albums are of day to day camp life, visits by VIPs and concert parties, rugby games, new winter uniforms (finally – in 1952), and Christmas dinner in 1951.

Photographs out in the field show them laying wires, testing lines, constructing a pintail bridge, manning observation posts and artillery, and on the move in convoys.

Two large gun emplacements and camp life with jeeps and men drying clothing and making preparations.
Original caption reads: "25pdrs [pounders] of 162 Bty of the 16th NZ Fd Regt go into action. At the time this was taken the whole regiment was under heavy fire". Photograph taken 8 November 1951 by Ian Mackley. Ref: K-0494-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

‘Treat this book with care’

The albums appear to have been made available to ex-servicemen and families. There is a notice on one of them to ‘treat this book with care – it has to be seen by a lot more of the Kayforce yet’.

First two pages of the photo album with handwritten messages in red and black ink including a black and white photo.
"Treat this book with care. It has to be seen by a lot more of Kayforce yet." Korean War official album 6. Ref: PA1-q-316. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Search for and view digitised images on the website

Only a fraction of the more than 3,000 images taken have been digitised — only about 100. The easiest way to search for these on the website is to click ‘Search’, then on ‘More search options’ or use the link below for the Naitonal Libary advanced search.

Search on the term 'Korean'. In the date fields use 'between these years' and 1950 to 1953. For Availability select 'only show items that are available online' and select the Photographic Archive from the 'From this collection' drop down menu.

National Library advanced search

Shows the advanced search page of the National Library's website. Pink highlighting indicates what details are needed to find the digitised images.

Generally, we would use the negative to make the digitised image, but for two years while the National Library building was being refurbished, the negative collection was inaccessible and so the digitised images were taken from the album prints.

Check the record carefully for each one to see the dates and numbers they contain. The number used for each print corresponds to the negative number, so image 1313 found in the album PA1-q-315 is the same image as 1313 found in PA1-f-112- or K-1313.

Two men in military uniform shake hands during a ribbon pinning ceremony.
Original caption reads: "Major General Jim Cassel(s), Divisional Commander, pins a ribbon to a British soldier at a decoration parade held recently for officers and men of the British 1st Commonwealth Division. Among the 37 to be decorated were Major P E King, DSO, MC (Christchurch, Captain R M Reston, MC (Auckland), and Captain H K Griffiths, MID (Christchurch), all of the 16th NZ FD REGT". Photograph taken 27 August 1952 by a New Zealand Army photographer. Ref: K-1313. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Viewing photographs that aren’t digitised

To view the photographs that have not been digitised, you will need to look through the physical albums. There are 16 in total, but several of the albums duplicate prints found in other albums.

The albums in sequence

The most complete sequence is the following eight albums in this order (although there are a few prints missing):

These albums can be ordered to view in our secure reading room. If you are unable to get to Wellington, we can search on your behalf. Just send your query to our ‘Ask a Librarian’ service. Give as much detail as possible. If you want to find images of a particular person then it is really useful to know when he was serving in Korea so we just need to check for those dates.

A page of six photographic prints showing various scenes from the Korean War.
Snapshot of page from album PA1-f-110

Dept of Internal Affairs War History collection

The Kayforce photographs are just a part of the former Department of Internal Affairs War History collection. Albums from World War II, the Jayforce, and the Malayan Emergency are also included in this collection, along with their corresponding negatives.

Gallery view of Department of Internal Affairs War History collection

The collection was donated by the Historical Publications branch of the Department of Internal Affairs in 1967 with the understanding that the library would now answer all inquiries relating to these photographs. We continue to answer many inquiries about these photographs, by researchers writing books, students, or family historians looking for images of members of their family.

Further resources

More information about New Zealand’s involvement in the Korean War can be found at the links below:

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