Officers’ Clubs were founded in the mid 19th century, as a slightly more formal officers’ mess, where military personnel could socialise, eat, drink, and occasionally live. Still to this day, these clubs are centred around food, drink and camaraderie.
The Auckland Officers’ Club has a long and prestigious history. Although the club was not officially formed until 1903, it’s foundations were cemented much earlier. The club originates from the Auckland Regimental Messes which was formed in 1847 and its traditions are heavily rooted in the Imperial Officers’ Mess and Club of the 1860’s.
In 1903, when The Auckland Officers’ Club was formed, Land forces of the Auckland district were not large. New Zealand forces were underpinned by volunteers, and military training wasn’t compulsory until 1909/10. It was younger volunteers who served in the South African War, and later World War One, that became the ‘nucleus’ of the Club. The 1909 Defence Act created the basis of the modern NZ Army, putting the service on a professional footing for the first time.
The first Auckland Officers’ Club was located at the Drill Hall on Rutland Street in Auckland; it was described as a ‘plain but comfortable’ club house. It’s first event was a smoke concert attended by Lord Ranfurly and the Club’s 40 members. This event cemented the clubs relevance within society and was the first of many events to follow.
Over the years, The Auckland Officers’ Club has occupied several different premises. Subsequent to the Drill Hall, the two longest tenures were the rooms above Queens’ Arcade (1929 – 1972) and Edgerly Avenue in Newmarket (1972-2007). In 2007, after careful consideration, the club relocated to The Northern Club on Princes Street. The Northern Club is a thriving community for busy professionals, Affiliates become full members and have use of all facilities.
Interestingly, both Clubs have shared history. In 1869 The Northern Club reserved part of its premises for the use of The Imperial Mess and Club. The reserved rooms were used for ‘dances, for meetings and for use by the Imperial Officers’, not unlike how officers use The Northern Club today.
Sir Keith Park was an important figure in Auckland Officers’ Club history. Park was a Thames-born hero, recognised throughout the world for his pivotal role in winning The Battle of Britain in 1940. Park was in command of No. 11 Group RAF (Royal Air Force), responsible for fighter defense of London and South East England. His command took the brunt of the Luftwaffe’s (German Air Force’s) air attacks, his efficient handling of limited resources enabled the RAF to resist German forces throughout the war.
Park became an Auckland Officers’ Club member in 1944 and was elected, unopposed, as club president in 1955. His celebrity status, confidence and efficiency lifted the club’s standing in the post-war era.