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
The Camp of Trentham
The Camp of Trentham
The old Camp's lights are burning still,
And brighter than before;
The rifle range below the hill,
Sends out the same old roar;
But you can't hear it, can you, Bill?
And you'll come back no more.
When war was declared by Great Britain against Germany, on August 4, 1914, there was no New Zealand Army, in the strict sense of the word. The outline of one existed, and the country had been fortunate in securing the services of some capable Imperial officers and n.c.o.'s for the training of her citizen army on a Territorial basis. The possibility of the Dominion ever finding it necessary to send an army overseas to fight bad been dreamed of by a few far-sighted military experts, but officially it had never been contemplated seriously. In spite of this, the military authorities faced, undismayed, the problem of mobilising and despatching seven thousand men without loss of time, and of training and sending reinforcements at regular intervals. And it is interesting to record that the first tents to be occupied by this army were pitched by civilians.
Within a week of the declaration of war, camps for mobilisation were established at Awapuni—where the people of Palmerston North provided fatigue parties to pitch the tents—Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Wellington. It was the beginning of a new phase of military work, a new military era in the Dominion. But these early camps were only temporary ones. Trentham, where the Dominion Rifle Association had its fine rifleranges, was in view all the time, and many of the Mounted Rifles of the Main Body completed their brief period of training at Trentham. Thus it has been identified with every draft which has gone overseas, except the Artillery, Mounted Rifles, Divisional Signallers, and A.S.C. drafts which mobilised after the new camp at Featherston had been built. Drafts of reinforcements for these branches of service are now trained wholly at Featherston.
The Main Body and the First Reinforcements sailed on October 14, 1914. On the same day, nearly three thousand recruits and huge quantities of camp equipment arrived at Trentham. The pitching of tents, under the direction of experienced men, was begun, while the issue of clothing and equipment was carried on well into the hours of darkness. The Camp page 13Quartermaster's stores and the supply store were in marquees. The only buildings were those connected with the rifle range, which included the present Expeditionary Force officers' mess, a portion of the present Headquarters, and a small hut. This hut afterwards became the post office. But the first post office at Trentham was in a marquee. As soon as the men entered camp they wanted to write home—it is a practice that is carried out to this day—and the New Zealand Post Office rose to the occasion then as it does to-day.
Day by day the new camp grew prodigiously. Until March, 1915, there were no new buildings put up. Then the building of the huts was put in hand, and the Trentham of to-day began to take shape. These huts were built by the Public Works Department according to plans prepared by the military authorities. But, for the time being, no formation of the ground into streets and pathways was begun, though the huts stood in rows, between which the present roads were eventually made. When the Camp was temporarily vacated in July, 1915, there were about fifty huts completed and in occupation.
All told, in tents and huts at that time there were eight thousand men in camp. Seven thousand of them were sent out in eight hours, with three days' rations per man. That took place on July 9. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade proceeded to Rangiotu; the 6th and 7th Mounted Rifles rode over the Rimutakas to Tauherenikau—an imposing cavalcade; the 7th Infantry went to Waikanae and the 6th Infantry remained at Trentham. None of these emergency camps were branches of Trentham. They were administered from Headquarters, Wellington, and of the three, Tauherenikau is the only one which has continued as a permanent camp, though Rangiotu was used until the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade had completed their training and departed overseas.
Before the end of July, 1915, Trentham had resumed its busy appearance, but, for reasons of health, the number of men in camp was not allowed to exceed five thousand. On July 16 (a Friday) the Public Works officers went over the ground for the purpose of laying-off a draining and roading scheme. The whole area had to be surveyed, and this was sufficiently completed for large gangs of men to begin work on the Monday morning following. A steam plough and a large swamp plough were used to prepare the ground for the drains and water-channels, and numbers of horses and drays were employed, as well as nearly seven hundred men, for some weeks.
At the same time that the grading of the ground was undertaken, certain alterations in the ventilation of the existing huts was made, the new huts page 14being built according to later plane. Every day new huts began to take shape, and as time went on the numbers of tents dwindled and the rows of huts grew. The tents were on the eastern parade-ground, where the 800-yards and 1,000-yards ranges were formerly; the huts were begun in the street behind Headquarters, and extended towards the railway. The removal of the tents and the upraising of the huts moved the Camp towards the railway. To-day it is right up to the boundary fence, and the only permanent tents in the Camp are those of the Engineers, which are built on specially drained and prepared ground.
The question of disposing of the surface-water and drainage from washing-places was one which engaged the attention of the engineers, and the plan which was decided upon and is now in operation provided for a large underground tank, into which the drains were led. This tank is capable of holding twenty-four hours' drainage, and at frequent intervals this accumulation is pumped under pressure to the Hutt River, nearly two miles away, where it discharges into a rapid current. The surface-water flows into a large deep drain, called in Camp parlance the Culebra Cut, which carries it away through Silverstream to the Hutt River at a point further down its stream. For the disposal of the solid waste matter of the Camp, large incinerators have been built, the pattern being one which was designed by the first Camp Quartermaster at Trentham.
It was after Trentham Camp had been in existence for twelve months that May Morn was made, to be an overflow camp in connection with the main camp. The site was at Mangaroa, a few miles north of Upper Hutt. Like the first camp at Trentham, May Morn was a canvas camp, the tents being of the Indian Service pattern. The only wooden buildings were the cook-houses, the Army Service Corps stores, the canteen, and shops and saloons. In every way May Morn was a model camp, especially as regards the sanitary arrangements. The 3rd and 4th Battalions of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade were the troops which first occupied May Morn. In December, 1915, they moved to Rangiotu, and the 11th Infantry Reinforcements then occupied the camp until it was closed in January, 1916.
Trentham Camp to-day contains approximately 300 buildings, of which more than 160 are hutments or barrack-rooms, to use the military term. Since August, 1915, the growth has been remarkable; and in no department has this been more so than in the medical department. The hospital accommodation in those days was very limited and of a makeshift character. The grandstand and tea kiosk in the racecourse, with the jockeys' quarters, were the only buildings available, though the present cottage hospital, provided by a number of New Zealand doctors, was in course of construction.page 15
The Camp medical staff had to work under very difficult conditions indeed, and sick parades were held in marquees. Now all this is altered; up-to-date, well-built and well-equipped wards have been provided, the sickness in the camp is always under control and is much lessened, while the routine of the hospitals is carried on without a hitch.
The cottage hospital, already mentioned, is a self-contained ward of 32 beds, with small operating theatre, dispensary, kitchen, duty rooms, bathrooms, etc. It has one main ward of 12 beds, two two-bed wards, and four single-bed wards. This hospital was equipped by the Base Hospital Committee, with the assistance of several prominent ladies and gentlemen of the Wellington district. Detached a few feet from it are the isolation ward of five single rooms, with bath, lavatory, and duty rooms, and the officers' ward of six beds, four being in single rooms, also with bath and sitting rooms.
After the experience gained in using the octagonal-shaped kiosk in the racecourse, it was decided to adopt the design for Camp hospital works. Private subscriptions to build one of these were given by citizens, chiefly in the Wairarapa, and the new hospital was called the Wairarapa Ward. It has a capacity of 62 beds, and is so built, with movable screens on the windows, that the windows on the sheltered side of the building may be kept open, while the exposed ones are closed. In the centre is a glassed-in office with a raised floor, from which elevation the nurse on duty is able to keep an eye on all her patients without having to visit each bed.
The Wellington Racing Club Ward is a new one, of 24 beds and duty rooms, subdivided into three sections of eight beds each. As its name indicates, this ward was presented by the racing club mentioned, and is used for more acute cases. It has a roomy verandah on the sunny side, so that convalescent patients may lie outside in the daytime.
An important addition to the hospital group of buildings is the new Fever Hospital of 50 beds. It consists of two large pavilions of similar design, and is entirely self-contained. Each block contains three eight-bed wards and three one-bed wards, with offices, duty rooms, etc. In one of the blocks, an eight-bed ward, three single-bed wards, and offices and duty rooms are set aside for cerebro-spinal fever. The remaining wards are disconnected and self-contained, and will be used, when necessary, for convalescent measles cases. The wards all have roomy, glassed-in verandahs facing the sunny side. Of all the hospitals at Trentham, this is the only one which the Government has had to provide, the others being gifts, or partially so, and subsidised only.page 16
Izard's Convalesceut Home is the large and well-appointed home lent by Mr. C. H. Izard to the Defence Department. It is situated in a picturesque spot near Upper Hutt, and contains thirty beds. To it are sent all the convalescent patients from the various wards, thus saving the Department considerable expense which would otherwise be incurred by sending men away for long periods of sick leave. The Home has beautiful grounds, gardens, and tennis and croquet lawns. No anxiety to leave the Home for the arduous rounds of duty is manifested by the patients.
The Casualty Ward is composed of a building of small rooms lent by the Wellington Racing Club, and is used for casual cases, such as epileptics, venereal and skin diseases, and insane patients. The arrangement of the rooms makes the segregation of the patients into groups an easy matter.
The hospital area at Trentham is situated near the main gates, and stretches to the south-west along the railway end of the Camp. A beautification scheme to plant trees and gardens and make the prospect pleasant is well under way, the scheme embracing the approaches to the P.M.O.'s offices and other buildings adjoining, including the laboratory, wherein is conducted the research work necessary in the diagnosing of disease.
Trentham Camp has its own electric light plant, its own water supply from a reservoir in the hills, a complete postal, telephone, and telegraph system connecting it with the civilian world, hot-water baths, many huge stores and sheds, drying-rooms and offices, as well as numerous club-houses and institutes provided by various bodies, and many shops which supplement the service rendered by the large canteen, or provide supplies of items not included in the canteen's schedule. The maintenance department of the Defence Works Branch now attends to the repairs and new works required in the Camp, this responsibility having been taken over from the Public Works Department in July, 1916.
There has been some speculation expressed from time to time as to the amount of money which has been spent in equipping the Dominion's permanent training-camps. It is interesting to know that the sums spent in providing housing and training grounds for the troops represent a very small proportion of the total cost of making the soldiers ready for the firing-line; it is only a fraction of the cost of clothing and equipping them, and the camps still remain and will no doubt prove of great service after the war.page 17
Camp Headquarters Staff, 1915-Standing-Lieut. H. A. Wilson. R.N.Z.A.; Lieut E. Purdon, N.Z.S.C.; Lieut. A. Cheater; Lieut. P. N. Petty; Lieut. W. O. Bradley, R.N.Z.A.; Capt. D. E. Cardale, N.Z.S.C. (Mounted Rifles lnstructor).
Sitting— Capt. N. P. Adams, N.Z.F.A. (Adjutant); Lieut.-Col. H. R. Potter, N.Z.S.C. (Camp Commandant); Col. C. M. Gibbon, I.G.S.(C.G.S.) Lieut.-Col. C. R. Macdonald, I.G.S. (Chief Infantry Instructor); Capt. T. McCristell, N.Z.S.C. (Camp Quartermaster).
Absent-Major J. Mounsey (Assist. Camp Quartermaster); Capt. T. J. Gardiner (Camp Paymaster).
Camp Headquarters Staff, 1916—Standing—Lieut. Shepherd (Paymaster); Lieut. N. W. M. Weir, N.Z.S.C.; R.S.M. Luekham; Staff S.M. (W.O.) J. Cummings; Lieut. C. D. Bridge; S.S.M. (W.O.) L. F. McNair; Capt. J. W. Boon.
Sitting—Lieut. W. Hoar (Infantry Instructor); Lieut. A. Chenter (Infantry Instructor); Capt. W. M. Bell, N.Z.S.C. (Assist Adjutant); Capt. E. C. Dovoy, N.Z.S.C. (Adjutant); Lieut. Col. H. R. Potter, N.Z.S.C. (Camp Commandant); Lieut.-Col. P. O. Andrew, N.Z.M.C. (P.M.O.); Capt. E. Purdon, N.Z.S.C. (Chief Musketry Instructor); Major J. Mounsey (Camp Quartermaster).
Trentham Camp, Early Part Of1915, showing Artillery, Mounted Rifles and Infantry, 4th and 5th Reinforcements, Engineers, Army Service Corps, and Samoan Relief Force in occupation
Trentham Camp, 1915, showing Artillery, Mounted Rifles and Infantry, 6th and 7th Reinforcements, Engineers, Army Service Corps, Nos. 1 and 2 Stationary Hospitals, and 1st and 2nd Battalions N. Z. Rifle Brigade in occupation
Camp Staff, 1917
Back Row - Capt. A. Cheater (Assist. Infantry Instructor); Lieut. Donaldson; Lieut. Carvasso (Assist. Director of Supplies); Lieut. Stevenson (Assist. Musketry Instructor); Lieut. McNair (Ordenance Officer); Lieut. Bridge (Officer in Charge Records); Lieut. Thomas (Officer Commanding Details); Lieut. Hoar (Assist. Infantry Instructor).
Second Row - Lieut Bale (Assist. Engineer Instrutor); Lieut. Galloway (Assist. Infantry Insrutor); Lieut. A. A. Luckham (Adjutant 2); Major F. H. Lampen, D.S.O., N.Z.S.C. (Adjutant); Major Talbot (Investigation Officer); Capt. Boon (Assist. Quarter-master); Lieut. Larsen (Assist. Director of Works); Capt. Wallingford, M.C., N.Z.S.C. (Musketry Instructor).
Sitting-Major D. McKenzie (Chief Record Officer); Major F. Waite, D.S.O. (Chief Engineer Instructor); Major Neave (Assist. Infantry Instructor); Capt. W. M. Bell, N.Z.S.C.; Col. H. R. Potter, C.M.G., N.Z.S.C. (Camp Commandant); Col. C. R. Macdonald, I.G.S. (Chief Infantry Instructor); Lieut-Col. P. O. Andrew (P.M.O.); Major J. Mounsey (Camp Quartermaster); Capt. E. Purdon, N.Z.S.C. (Musketry Instructor).
Absent-Capt. G. H. Woolley (Assist. Musketry Instructor); Lieut. G. C. Felton (Paymaster).
Sergeant-Major Instructors, Permanent Staff, 1914-15.
Back Row—S.M.'s Keble, Lacey, Eastbury, Bale, Henry, Hendy, Blucklin, Bates, Thompson, Dudson, Meecham, Chapman. Second Row—S.M.'s Denman, Burr, Bethridge, Smith, Rayburn, Smell, Donaldson, Spencer, Dorizac, Fraser, Gearing, Watt. Sitting—R.S.M. Luckham, S.S.M. Colbert (W.O.), Capt. N. P. Adams, Col. H. R. Potter, S.M.'s Steadman, Rowe.
Camp Instructional Staff, 1917—Back Row—Sergeant-Instructor R. W. Edwards, S.S.M. (W.O.) J. W. Domney, S.S.M. (W.O.) W. N. Bates, Sergeant-Instructor R. N. Howland, S.S.M. J. S. Thomson, Sergeant-Instructor A. F. Gamage, S.S.M. L. W. Taylor, Sergeant-Instructor M. Hill, S.S.M. J. Ryan, S.S.M. J. H. Keddell, S.S.M. (W.O.) W. H. Donaldson, S.S.M. J. Milroy, S.S.M. (W.O.) H. L. Frank, Sergeant-Instructor S. F. Schanks, S.S.M. W. H. M. Yarrow, S.S.M. R. Meecham.
Front Row-S.S.M. C. E. Rogers, S.S.M. A. J. King, Armourer-Sergeant R. Lyons, S.S.M. (W.O) C. H. Ritzema, S.S.M. (W.O.) R. J. D. Davis, S.S.M. (W.O.) J. Cummings, S.S.M. (W.O.) J. H. Olney, S.S.M. H. Shaw, S.S.M. H. Fretwell, Sergeant-Instructor F. Lyons, Sergeant-Instructor W. Dunlevey, S.S.M. J. Beaumont.