The War Effort of New Zealand
The Artillery At Ewshot
The Artillery At Ewshot.
Our artillery in England were fortunate enough in August, 1917, to be able to take over a section of an artillery camp at Ewshot. Being a permanent camp, established for the regular army, it had all personal comforts and conveniences for soldiers in residence. It was situated in very pleasant surroundings. Ewshot was in the Aldershot command, a few miles from that very famous military depot. On the south-western run from London, about page 256thirty-six miles from Waterloo railway-station, is a small Hampshire station called Fleet, beside which is a pretty sedgy lakelet, accommodating swan and wild fowl. This was the railway-station for the Ewshot camp, which was three and a half miles off; and the way to the camp was through a bright old English village, and thence along a good road, heavily treed on both sides. Around the camp, were thick pine woods, with here and there broad green meadows, chiefly used for the purpose of cultivation and for playing-grounds for the sporting enthusiasts of the surrounding camps.
Ewshot camp, strange to say, rejoiced—or perhaps blushed—under the one-time name of "Leipsig Barracks," having been opened some years previously on one of his visits to England, by the ex-Kaiser. Little his Imperial majesty guessed that it would later be occupied by troops hostile to him from one of the most distant parts of the world. It covered an extent of 30 acres, being compact and of excellent design. The camp accommodated 1,500 of all ranks and about 1,000 horses. The New Zealand Medical Corps also had its chief depot in the camp.
The head-quarters buildings looked out over a large barrack "square," on one side of which were the eighteen-pounder gun sheds, and on the other, and at the top, the stables. The men's quarters extended away in "streets" behind the stables; and the officers had their more pretentious buildings some few hundred yards away on the other side, behind the gun-sheds. Two-storied brick houses, the married men's rewards in peace time, were occupied by our artillerists. The smaller edifices were also of brick, with stucco ends for appearance sake. Each had its lavatory and bath, and all were heated. Bath-houses were available for all hands, with hot water—big plunge-baths, which in camps were almost unheard-of luxuries.
In the general surroundings, and in the old-fashioned villages round about, the New Zealand artillerist had more to attract and interest him than his less-fortunately camped infantry brethren. Recreation figured prominently in the daily life. There was an excellent canteen equipped with the usual games, comforts and attractions; a "regimental page 257institute" with a good lending library; a recreation-room, run by the War Contingent Association; the Wesleyan Soldiers' Home, a most elaborately fitted up place, with everything comfortable; and the Y.M.C.A., which had one of its usual popular branches run in its capable way.
The course for new men lasted six weeks. It was in some respects a repetition of what was learned in the Dominion, but with a very considerable smartening-up, for speed was everything at the front. Riding was brushed up at an Imperial riding-school adjacent. The camp had its veterinarian, shoeing-smiths, and saddlers. The signallers and other artillery specialists were put through a complete course; and in this respect there was an ingenious and very valuable equipment in the camp, with the help of which an observation officer, operating in one hut Avith signallers could lay, with the aid of a map, an imaginary gun in another hut on an object in a flat model landscape, and his accuracy was tested, with the aid of mechanism, by smoke-puffs, which showed at the point indicated.
New Zealand Medical Corps men when they landed from transports proceeded, like the N.Z.F.A. units, direct to Ewshot. Here they were classified "A" or "B." The "A" class engaged at once in training, and "B" class supplied the details for the Home New Zealand hospitals, hospital ships, and the hospital fatigues at Ewshot and other camps. Training comprised, besides the usual field and hospital work, courses in gas (especially in the use of helmets on wounded men), water duties, the testing of water carts, and general hospital orderly duties. Advanced dressing-station work was practised in a model dressing-station constructed in a trench system, where dug-out conditions were adhered to as much as possible.
Ewshot camp for a time produced at irregular intervals its own camp paper,—a brightly written publication entitled Youshot, which besides its interesting records and camp tit-bits, helped to demonstrate the keen interest of our artillerists in their own affairs, and the esprit de corps existing amongst ail ranks.page 258