Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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 Peoples' Hospitality

page 181

The Peoples' Hospitality.

For the sake of the son you cherished
Who fell on the fields of France
For the dream of your knight who perished
By battle's blind mischance
Oh! sweethearts, sisters, and mothers,
You have put your griefs aside
To gladden and speed these others
Whose ships are on the tide.

A Feature of the warlike preparations in New Zealand has been the hospitality extended by the civilian communities to the soldier communities in the camps. Whether as individuals, as civic bodies, or as organised institutions, the people's hospitality has not been wanting. Every day, outside of parade hours, and on every evening, the men in khaki have been welcome in the comfortable Institutes, of which there are seven in Trentham Camp—those of the Church of England, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist Churches, the Y.M.C.A. and Salvation Army Institutes, and the Gospel Hall. In these places reading and writing rooms are provided; in some, gymnasiums are extemporised; and in most there are comfortable chairs and fires, while the libraries are more or less a feature. The organising and equipping of these soldiers' halls have involved the outlay of much time and money, and the people who are still in civilian garb should bear in mind that, although this work is carried out by religious and other bodies, it is the people's money that is required to keep them going, and the people's assistance that is needed, in no stinted measure, to make this hospitality to the soldiers a generous, spontaneous thing. Good work has been done by those citizens of Wellington, and people from other cities on a visit to the Capital, who have motored out to Trentham Camp on many page 182occasions in order to give the soldiers an evening's pleasure in the form of concerts and other entertainments. In many of these the men have taken a hand, for the artistic talent among the troops in camp is no slight thing.

The first large function of a civilian nature to be held in Trentham Camp was the Christmas dinner which was given to the Second Reinforcements in December, 1914, by the citizens of Wellington. The chief citizen, J. P. Luke, Esq., C.M.G., Mayor of the City, whose portrait is shown at the head of this chapter, was the host, and the Mayoress was hostess on that day, as they have been at subsequent Christmas dinners, though on these later occasions the whole of the people of the Dominion have joined in the scheme of hospitality, Mr. and Mrs. Luke being their representatives.

The first Christmas dinner at Trentham Camp was held in the open air. The Christmas dinner of 1915 was served in the huts at Trentham and in the open air at May Morn, that camp being then in full occupation as a subsidiary camp. Last Christmas the meal was served on the grass track of the racecourse, the rows of tables curving, in symmetrical perspective, into the distance. The sight of five thousand men in khaki seated at them, on that sunny afternoon, was one to be remembered.

Among the more recent additions to the places of recreation in the Camp is the Soldiers' Club, provided by subscriptions and donations from the Wellington Racing Club, which gave the land for the site and some money, from the Y.M.C.A., which undertook, also, to provide the running expenses and to assist the Camp military committee in its management of the club, by subscriptions collected by the Mayor of Wellington and a strong committee, to whom a great deal of credit is due, and by a subsidy from the Government. This building, with its roomy and comfortable appointments, containing separate quarters for officers, n.c.o.'s, and men, is the finest example in the Camp of the people's hospitality, for, through these various public organisations, it was the people who provided the means, and who must continue to provide.

A circulating library is the latest acquisition to the Camp. Previously the men were expected to read their books in the institutes to which the libraries belonged. Under the new scheme a soldier is able to take a book out and read it in his hut or tent, or by the fireside of the Soldiers' Club.

Outside the Camp's bounds the hospitality of the people has been as liberal as within the Camp. The Soldiers' Club in Wellington is an example of this—a shining example. The idea was evolved by a committee of Wellington ladies, for the purpose of providing a place in the city where, in the evenings and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the men in khaki could rest or read or find entertainment, and, further than that, tea and page 183supper are served free of charge, sometimes to several hundreds of men. The way in which this club is made use of is a pleasant recompense for the efforts of those who provided this form of hospitality.

A similar hearty appreciation is shown by the many soldiers in Wellington on leave who find accommodation at the Soldiers' Hostel provided by the Y.M.C.A. in Boulcott Street.

Before each draft sails, the Mayor and Mayoress and citizens of Wellington entertain the troops at a dance in the Town Hall. This is always a gay and well-ordered event. There the soldiers are able to enjoy a dance with their wives or their sweethearts, their sisters, and their friends, and in many instances with their mothers—for there are many youthful matrons whose soldier boys are going, or have gone, to the war. Individually, as well as collectively, the New Zealand Army is a young army, and it is not only the old mother who watches and waits at this side of the world for news of their fighting sons.

Every man may not go to the war, but every man who stays at home can help in one or other of the many schemes that are at work for promoting the comfort and happiness of the troops in the camp and in the field. Of the New Zealand women it need only be said that their work in this direction, as in many others connected with the war, will stand through all the years to come as a lasting tribute to their unselfishness and tireless energy.