Post by kiwithrottlejockey on Jul 11, 2015 19:42:10 GMT 12
from the Wairarapa Times-Age....
Military camp ravaged as flu takes its toll
By NEIL FRANCIS of Wairarapa Archive | 6:59AM - Tuesday, July 07, 2015
These 6th Reinforcement soldiers would have completed their training in a Horowhenua camp after evacuating Trentham in July 1915. Rifle range targets are in the left distance.
IN LATE 1918 the unfairly-named Spanish flu hit New Zealand, causing about 8,600 deaths.
Among these were more than 160 at Featherston Military Camp, more than 70 at Trentham Camp and seven at Awapuni Camp. The camp death rate was between 20 and 23 per thousand, well above the national average of six per thousand but well below the Maori rate of 42 per thousand.
Earlier, in mid-1915, another health disaster struck Trentham Camp, with short and long-term consequences which affected the Wairarapa.
In October 1914, the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force left Wellington in 10 troopships, eventually arriving in Egypt in December. These men had trained in four regional camps, replicating the existing Territorial Army model. Army headquarters wanted to centralise training and elected to use the land by the Trentham rifle ranges, which had been a temporary camp for some of the main body before its departure.
The New Zealand Army was exploring unknown territory. Wise heads were preparing for a long war and this required a programme of reinforcement training, which in turn meant building military camps of a type never seen in New Zealand.
There were few existing facilities at Trentham. The first group to enter camp was the 2nd Reinforcement (the 1st having travelled with main body) and by the time the group of about 1,700 arrived from October 19th, newspapers were referring to their training ground as the Trentham camp.
The men lived in tents. The buildings of the nearby racecourse were used as temporary hospitals and the octagonal kiosk was apparently the inspiration for hospital wards at Featherston Camp and military hospitals at Rotorua and Hanmer Springs. Some buildings associated with the rifle ranges were also used.
Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Harry Potter was appointed as camp commandant: this came to be a permanent position for which he was made a CMG (Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George) in 1917.
Through the summer of 1914-1915, the population of Trentham Camp grew. Because the training period exceeded the intervals between reinforcements taking ship, there would be men from several reinforcements in camp together, at different levels of training. The Third Reinforcement came into camp in mid-December and the Fourths gathered in early January 1915.
By February, there were 4,000 men at Trentham which now boasted shops, a cinema, religious institutes and a post office.
An article in the Hawea & Normanby Star of January 12th, 1915, noted: “Defence authorities are considering the question of replacing the present tents with huts in which to accommodate the men more comfortably and economically. This gives an air of additional permanency to the camp. Already military skill has revolutionised the sanitary conditions and general habitableness of the camp and it is now regarded as the finest camp ever made in New Zealand.”
The building of the NZEF continued. The Fifth Reinforcement came into camp in mid-February, while troops in Egypt continued training in a very different environment.
In New Zealand, army leaders decided to raise an entirely new infantry unit — one without geographic origin.
Barracks — called hutments in New Zealand — were in construction at Trentham so by May, when the new “Trentham Regiment” was created, about half the men were housed in buildings. Each hutment held 100 soldiers.
The Trentham Regiment — the Earl of Liverpool's Own — after the Governor of New Zealand — was of two battalions and later expanded to four. In October 1915, it became the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, the 3rd brigade of the New Zealand Division.
The arrival of this contingent raised Trentham's population to 7,000.
Overlooking the “Reinforcement” Military Camp at Trentham, in 1915. — Photograph: National Library of NZ/Ref: 1/2-035323-G.
In spite of newspaper stories reflecting the country's patriotic effort, things were happening under the surface at Trentham Camp. Months of crowding and a lack of medical facilities were creating unhealthy conditions, which the approaching winter compounded.
In May 1915, there had been 180 cases of measles and 126 of influenza, colds and sore throats. This may not sound serious but there were no facilities to isolate groups of ill soldiers. Anything contagious spread quickly in the hutments and tents.
Although more men were housed, other conditions worsened. The site, perfectly adequate in the summer, became increasingly muddy with no laid roads. The ground cut up and some areas were swampy. Soldiers could not dry clothes or boots and, inevitably, mud was tramped everywhere. Even by June, metalling of paths had not taken place.
A letter published in The New Zealand Herald on June 29th, written by “A Trentham soldier” claimed: “The outside public know nothing of how the medical portion of this camp is mismanaged and neglected. There are at the present time over 600 cases in the hospital at Wellington, mostly measles or serious chest and lung complaints. The accommodation there is shockingly inadequate. Measles are sweeping through these long huts with great rapidity…”
“Yesterday (Friday, June 26th) 650 men ‘reported sick’ and some of them had to stand outside in the rain from 8.15am until after 11am.”
“On Wednesday, there was no doctor in attendance at all and, after a two-hour wait, the unfortunate men were forced to return. Three men died of measles last week, and there will be many more ere the winter is out unless the medical side of so large a camp is properly managed. In every tent and hut sick men are lying — some in high fevers, and all with wet coats and clothes hanging around, and some with wet clothes actually on their sick bodies.”
Between December 29th, 1914, and July 2nd, 1915, there had been 18 soldier deaths, mainly from complications of measles. In July alone, 19 died, six of these from cerebro-spinal meningitis. With the camp hospital not yet built, medical facilities in the Wellington area had to be used and temporary hospitals hastily arranged. There were newspaper reports and parliamentary questions on the subject.
In reply to a question in the house, it was revealed about 470 tents were being used for accommodation, 251 having wooden floors. By early July, newspapers were referring to the “Trentham Scandal”.
Post by Dave Homewood on Jul 11, 2015 19:50:40 GMT 12
My Great Uncle Ted trained at Trentham in 1940 and flu ravaged the main camp then too, so they, being newly arrived, were quarantined across near the race course in the hope they'd not get it. He said the place was rough as guts when they got there. He remembered when they were inspected by some high ranking officer their Commander (who happened to be none other than Selwyn Toogood)called for Open Order Ranks for inspection and there was a yell at the back as they did it. The officer spied a man bobbling about at the back and told him to stand still but the bloke said he couldn't as he had a sharp piece of raupo stuck right up his arse! The whole platoon fell about laughing and the effect of the parade was completely shattered.