HANSON, Frederick Melrose Horowhenua (1895 - 1979)
C.M.G.. D.S.O.. O.B.E., M.M., E.D., C.Eng.. F.I.C.E.. F.N.Z.I.E., M.N.Z.I.S..
Commissioner of Works 1955 to 1961 and president of the Institution 1955-6, died on July 15, 1979. An old boy of Wellington College, Mr Hanson interrupted his studies at Victoria University College and the University of Canberra to enlist at the age of 19, in the 1st N.Z.E.F*. On his return to New Zealand after two and a half years' service, he qualified as a surveyor with a private Wellington firm, and in 1921 joined the Public Works Department. He worked on hydro-electric developments at Mangahao and Waikaremoana and in the Wellington district office until World War II, when he left New Zealand with the second echelon as a major in command of the 7th Field Coy. Mr Hanson served with considerable distinction, leading the N.Z. Engineers in Greece. Crete, Africa and Italy, and by 1944 he was C.R.E., N.Z. Div., and a brigadier. In Africa much work was done on laying and clearing large minefields, and the technique developed was so successful that it was followed by the rest of the 8th Army. In Italy the engineers were engaged largely on bridging and roading under campaign conditions, using Bailey bridges and mechanical equipment. Under Brigadier Hanson .s leadership, the work resulted in the engineers being used right forward in the attack and contributed largely to the successful breaks through by the N.Z. Division.
After his return to New Zealand Mr Hanson became chief engineer of the Main Highways Board and chairman of the National Roads Board, and in 1951 was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Works, becoming Commissioner of Works on the retirement of E. R. McKillop in 1955. He retired on December 21, 1961. He received two special awards for papers on roading given at N.Z.I.E. conferences in 1937 and 1948.
In 1951 he was offered the position of Assistant Secretary-General in the Middle East for the United Nations, but declined it. In 1952 he was appointed an associate member of the Army Board, becoming the first Territorial officer to join the Board. In 1959 he was a member of the N.Z. Council for Technical Education.
He was awarded the Military Medal in World War I, the D.S.O. and bar, and also the O.B.E., for his services in World War II, and received the C.M.G. in the Queen's Birthday honours in 1961.
In a tribute to Mr Hanson, the President of the Institution, D A. Thorn, said the country would remember Mr Hanson as a top construction engineer, public servant, and soldier, but his contributions to international practice in design methods for roading should not go unrecorded. Mr Hanson's publication in 1935 of the result of his testing and field observations established the fundamental design principles of the chip-sealed road surfacings that are still in use today. Known world-wide, "Hanson's design method" has provided the basis for nearly all currently used design methods for chip seals.
Mr Hanson's combined abilities of clear thinking, simplification, and then getting on with the job, that led to his effectiveness as a soldier and professional engineer: said Mr Thorn, "have also guaranteed him a permanent memorial in world-wide roading practice."
Obituary from NZ Engineering, Sept 1979, p 220
Crawford, J A B “Hanson, Frederick Melrose Horowhenua, 1895 - 1979”, Essay H7, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Vol 5 , pp 206-7 (www.dnzb.govt.nz)
* Note that the detail given here about his time after school and enlistment in the 1st NZEF differs significantly from that given in the DNZB. In fact the reference to University of Canberra probably refers to his time at the Royal Military College in Duntroon.