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Historic Trentham, 1914-1917: The Story of a New Zealand Military Training Camp, and Some Account of the Daily Round of the Troops within Its Bounds

Sick Parades

page 73

Sick Parades

He was going to explain his plan,
And show us, drawn, in chalk,
His patent kind o' watering can
With tulips on its stalk.
But nurse, she says: "Now, little man,
You know you musn't talk."

Wat Hoe was ill.

"I don't know whether it is rheumatism or influenza I' ve got," he said to Curly. "I'm aching all over and feel crook. I used to have rheumatism bad when 1 worked on the railway job a couple of years ago."

"Better tell the corporal, in the morning, that you want to see the doctor," was Curly's wise remark.

At half-past seven the next morning, Wat Hoe, looking most unlike the man that his cheery name suggested, marched with five others, in charge of their corporal, to sick parade, which was held in the medical inspection hut. Each man carried with him his devotional books and shaving gear—for so it is ordained in the Army, where cleanliness is ever held to be next to godliness. They took these things in case of being ordered into hospital. Hoe joined the little gathering that was seated in the large waiting-room. Each man was given a slip of white paper, on which was written his name and age and the unit to which he belonged. In a little while a medical orderly came along and took all their temperatures, the thermometer being carefully sterilised between patients. The temperatures were entered on the slips of paper, too, and then the sick parade waited to be called, by companies, to appear before the doctors. They were rather a cheery party, on the whole, and some interesting discussions were interrupted from time to time by the men from certain companies being called by the sergeant at the doorway. But Wat Hoe was a dumb dog; his head throbbed and he longed to lie down and shut his eyes. At last the call came and he and his comrades marched in and halted at the table, where a medical officer was seated. Laid out before the officer was the company sick-parade sheet—compiled by the corporal—which gave the names of the sick men and particulars as to their ages and the huts from which they came.

"Private Hoe!" said the medical officer. Wat Hoe saluted. He was asked some leading questions which he answered briefly and truthfully. His white slip had been laid before the medical officer, who noted the entry concerning Hoe's temperature.

page 74

"You have a very bad cold," was the verdict. "You will be excused from duty for twenty-four hours. You must go through the vapouzising-room and attend every four hours at the dispensary for medicine. You will have no leave at night till you are better."

So Wat Hoe went through the vapourising-room and received medicine, and felt better towards evening. But on the next morning he felt much worse; his temperature was over 100 and he was marked "Hospital." Thereupon an n.c.o. of the N.Z.M.C. took charge of him and marched him to the Cottage Hospital. He was told to sit down in a comfortable chair, and the n.c.o. took down the names of his next-of-kin and other items of his personal history. A feeling of rest and comfort began to steal over Hoe, and he was in a day-dream when the n.c.o. told him to come along to the bathroom. A good hot bath followed, he changed into hospital clothing, and was placed in a comfortable bed. In the meantime his work-a-day clothes had been collected, and he signed a voucher showing what clothes and valuables he had handed in and another one which concerned the issue of hospital clothes.

For four days Wat Hoe stayed in hospital. He was treated well by doctors and nurses, and began to mend rapidly. The medical officer in charge decided that a few days at the Izard Convalescent Home would do him good; so he was taken in an ambulance to that place of rest, and found himself among fifteen or twenty other convalescents in what was still a comfortable country house. There was tennis to play, if he chose—which he didn't, as his life had not given him much opportunity to study the game. But croquet and quoits suited him, and there were cards and gramophones and other recreations designed to pass the time pleasantly. A few days of this soon set Wat Hoe up. He returned to the lines feeling distinctly better.

A week later he woke up with severe rheumatic pains, and had to report sick again. For six days he had attended sick parades, when one morning he was suddenly confronted with a medical officer who ordered him to attend at ten o'clock that morning for a special examination by the medical officer of the day. At this examination, which was a thorough one, careful notes were taken of his case.

"You've had rheumatism before?" he was asked.

"Yes, sir, when I worked on the railway jobs, cutting sleepers in the bush. My nerves stood out like red pins' heads all over my arms, I was that bad."

Everything was written down, and at the conclusion of the examination Hoe was told to attend at a sitting of the Medical Board next morning.

page 75

His comrades were concerned when they heard his story.

"Looks as though we are about to lose Wat," Curly said to Long Mac—"rheumatism he says it is."

"Yes, he's full of it, though he hasn't had any signs of it for a couple of years. He should have told the doctor at Gisborne about it when we were being examined. My word, it will break his heart if he gets pushed out!"

Mac was not given to exaggeration; yet in this case he was guilty of it, for Wat Hoe went out, sure enough, but his heart did not break. The reason of this was, no doubt, that other muscles in his body had monopolised the available pain, and he needed his heart to keep his spirits up.

The Medical Board consisted of two medical officers whom he had not seen before. But they evidently had a complete life history of Wat Hoe before them, as well as the report of the Camp doctor concerning his recent illness. What he heard them say was something about "C2"—that was all. On the next day he was paraded and told that he was to be discharged from the forces—to be exact, he was given leave without pay, with permission to wear civilian clothes, until he should be called up for home service.

To the Camp Quartermaster's stores he and a dozen others were marched. They wore civilian clothing and looked a sad little party among the burly men in khaki. They handed their camp kits to men of the C.Q.M. stores, who carefully checked over every item and put their kits away. To Headquarters the squad was taken next. There they were paid in full up to the day of leaving, and given permanent passes and free railway tickets to their homes, with meal tickets to be used on the way. Just at noon, when the troops were coming in from parade, Wat Hoe was ready to go. Curly and Long Mac and Blasty, Bill Race and the Rsooster and Mick Laney, and Jallow and Millie, walked to the gates with him and cheered him up with chaff and promises to come and see him when they got their leave.

"Well, so long mates!" he said at last. "I must be going, and you want to get your lunch. So long!"

"So long, Wat!" they said, and shook hands with him.

It was then that Wat Hoe's heart would have just about broken if there hadn't been so many other parts of him that kept giving him twinges from time to time. Besides, Wat Hoe was game and could take his gruel. But it was tough, all the same.