The War Effort of New Zealand
The Home Coming
The Home Coming.
As they were sent to many lands in "the far flung battle line," so they came home from many ports, and by many routes.
The earliest to return were members of the Samoan Advance Party which left New Zealand on the 12th August, 1914. The first boat was the Monowai, which returned with prisoners and escort on the 16th September, 1914. The balance returned three months later by the Talune, leaving a small garrison of approximately 220.
The Athenic arrived from Egypt on the 22nd January, 1915, with men who refused to be inoculated, and a few others. The first ship bringing wounded men was the page 164Willochra, which arrived on the 15th July, 1915. There were 284 wounded from Gallipoli, mostly cot cases—the first of the 41,315 wounded during the war. During 1915 the following boats arrived, bringing invalids: Tahiti, 11th September; Aparima, 15th September; Matai, 13th October; Tofua, 26th October; Willochra, 30th October; Tahiti, 25th December. No hospital ships arrived from overseas during 1915.
During 1916, 28 ships arrived bringing wounded men, including the hospital ships: Maheno, 1st January, 11th April, 19th December; Marama, 22nd October. At the end of 1916, 8,093 men had returned.
In 1917 the wounded continued to arrive in greater numbers from England and Egypt. Thirty-one ships returned, and at the end of the year 14,142 were back.
During 1918 twenty-nine ships came home, and on the 31st December, 1918, 28,182 men had returned. At the time of the Armistice there were 56,684 men to be returned to their homes. It was expected that owing to the shortage of shipping, years would elapse before they could again reach New Zealand. The difficulties, however, had been foreseen by the Demobilization Committee, and all arrangements had been made. During the twelve months succeeding the Armistice no less than 52,833 men were repatriated, and at Christmas, 1919, there were only 792 overseas.
Every effort was made to secure the comfort and well being of returning soldiers on the voyage. Complaints were occasionally made of bad food and of overcrowding. Sometimes these "grousings" were justified, but on the whole there was little ground for dissatisfaction. During the voyages efforts were made to carry out the system of educational training begun in England after the Armistice. In some ships good work was done under the adverse circumstances of slackened discipline and insufficient accommodation; in others a few earnest students derived considerable benefit; but the bulk of the men considered that they were returning soldiers, and not students, and took little interest in the classes held. The fact that most of the educational books used on the voyage were purchased by soldiers before disembark-page 165ation showed that the efforts made had awakened a real interest, and that some of the seed sown had fallen on good soil.