The War Effort of New Zealand
Chapter XI. — War Relief and Patriotic Societies
War Relief and Patriotic Societies.
New Zealand's contribution in man power to the great war has given the Dominion a position of prominence in the list of free peoples of the world. But wonderful as was that achievement, it could not have been possible without the driving force of the splendid co-operation of all classes of the community. One phase of this co-operation was the voluntary provision of the large amount of money necessary to assure comforts and relief, keeping ahead all the time of the demand for more men and still more men. The spirit actuating all classes was not alone the desire to avoid defeat, but to assist in bringing about such a victory as would, for years to come, destroy the war-loving propensities of a nation that had for several decades never ceased to make preparations for plunging the civilised world into a horrifying cataclysm. In partnership, as it were, with the purely mundane activities necessary to carry to ultimate success the gigantic undertaking to which the people of New Zealand had committed themselves, was the truly spiritual force of patriotism that found its outlet in the moral support given to the fighting forces.
In the earliest stages of the war, when it was still hoped that there would be a minimum of bloodshed, it was recognised that to assure the personal comfort of the men of the expeditionary force, and to provide satisfactorily for their dependents, something was required to supplement the ordinary pay of the soldier. In every centre of the Dominion appeals were made to the public, and as a result, large sums were accumulated for the purpose of providing extra comforts, and were judiciously applied to that purpose. Committees were set up, trustees were appointed, and provision was made for administration. The results of the effort in the earlier stages of the war to establish patriotic war funds, were destined to assume proportions that might reasonably have page 177been thought, at the time, to be beyond the means of human possibility in a country the population of which did not exceed one and a quarter million. Every lawful means of raising money that ingenuity could devise, was called into play. Side by side with the mite of the poorest was placed the handsome but not more philanthropic donation of the wealthy. Giving for war purposes was generally regarded as a national duty, and to such a degree was the process of collection systematized, that it is safe now to assert that had twice the sum provided been required, the public of New Zealand would willingly have met the demand.
Towards the end of 1915 the huge aggregate amount of war funds called for legislative action in the matter of control. The number of societies collecting for the various funds totalled some hundreds, and there was little, if any, cohesion between the various districts as regards administration. In the main the money of each district was applied for the relief of men belonging to that district. Thus it was that soldiers from a district rich in man-power, but poor in money, were not as well treated in the matter of additional comforts and relief, as were those who came from centres where there was greater personal wealth and, consequently, larger accumulation of money.
Several conferences were held for the purpose of bringing about, if possible, more equitable distribution. To one of these Mr. C. P. Skerrett of Wellington, submitted a comprehensive and masterly scheme, having for its object the creation of an association to control and regulate the administration of the war relief funds equitably and uniformly over the Dominion without reference to the locality, so that no sailor, or soldier, or dependents, should be without relief.
Mr. Skerrett's scheme was not adopted, the point on which the conference could not agree being that under it the controlling body would have power, under certain circumstances, to compel a solvent society to contribute to one that was insolvent. The need for a common policy in the distribution of the funds was nowhere more manifest than in Wellington, owing to the proximity of the capital city to the two main camps.page 178 page 179
Demands were continually being made upon the resources of the Wellington War Relief Association for soldiers who came from other districts, and over and over again the Wellington Association felt compelled to handle cases the relief of which was clearly the responsibility of other societies, and necessitated requests for refunds from the districts responsible. Subsequently on the setting up of the Advisory Board of the Federation of the New Zealand War Relief Societies, greater cohesion between the various societies throughout the Dominion, in the matter of work and objects, was obtained.
During the Parliamentary Session of 1915 the Legislature passed the War Funds Act, described as "an Act to make provision for the administration and control of moneys raised wholly or in part, by private subscription, for the purpose of, or incidental to the war." The Act described a War Fund as: "Generally any fund that has or may be raised wholly or in part, by public subscription, for any purpose in connection with the present war, or any fund that the Minister may declare to be a war fund. Also any fund raised for the acquisition of a sports ground or a park, in commemoration of services rendered by His Majesty's forces in the present war."
No restrictions were placed upon the formation of societies or committees purposing to establish a war fund. Every society which, up to that time, and any that might be subsequently organised for the purposes, was compelled, however, to comply with the terms of the War Funds Act.
The Act prescribed that only the holder of a permit, issued by a person authorised under the Act, could undertake the collection of any moneys for patriotic purposes connected with the war. Any person who, not being the holder of a permit, directly or indirectly solicited subscriptions, rendered himself or herself liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £20.
The provisions of the 1915 Act were not as widely known as was necessary to ensure the effectual carrying out of their intention, and the Patriotic Societies' Handbook was issued. This brochure set out in plain terms all that was required to comply with the law.page 180
The War Funds Act undoubtedly served a useful purpose. More effective control over irregular collection of money and goods was obtained, in that the law governing the issue of permits was made more stringent. But while unauthorised collections were constituted an offence there was no slackening of individual effort. There was for instance a large sum collected, in small donations, for the purpose of comforts such as cigarettes and tobacco. Without a system of proper control these sums, which were collected by all and sundry, might easily have been misapplied.
The law thus gave those who wished to subscribe in regular small amounts assurance that their contributions would be administered by a legally constituted fund. These remarks apply also in regard to entertainments organised for the augmentation of funds. No entertainment could be legally advertised as organised for patriotic purposes except by permit, and every committee or person organising an entertainment for such purposes was required to furnish a statement of receipts and expenditure within a given period.
Permits to collect or receive money or goods, or to raise money for a war fund were issued by the following:—Mayors of cities or boroughs, chairmen of county councils, town boards and road boards, superintendents or inspectors of police, the chairman or president of any society controlling a war fund incorporated under the Act, and such other persons as were authorised by the Minister of Internal Affairs. The incorporated trustees of a war fund were also similarly authorised.
The month of February 1916 was a momentous one for those interested in the administration of war funds. During this month the then Minister of Internal Affairs (the Hon. G. W. Russell) convened a conference of all patriotic societies. The conference was attended by delegates representing the various funds operating throughout the Dominion and the Minister officiated as chairman. In the course of a comprehensive address, he drew a clear line of demarcation as between the responsibility of the State and the patriotic societies, in regard to the soldier. "I cannot help thinking," he said, "that there is, at the present time, a want of full and complete organisation, page 181unity and uniformity in connection with patriotic effort. In some portions of the Dominion a high condition of excellence in the organisation and distribution of the patriotic funds has already been reached. In others this state of excellence has not, up to the present, obtained, whilst there are other portions of the Dominion where, on account of the sparsity of the population and the fact that wealth is not widely distributed, the possibility of supplementing the State pensions grant is limited."
Another point touched upon by the Minister in his address was the exploitation of funds by undeserving persons. The necessity for preventing this had already been proved by cases that had come before the law courts. A system of intercommunication was advocated between the different societies, so that there might be a monthly, or even a weekly distribution, to every patriotic society, of the names of persons receiving benefits. To accomplish this he (the Minister) advocated a control office in Wellington and one and only one administrative body in each district.
The outcome of a lengthy discussion was the decision to set up the Federation of the New Zealand War Relief Societies. The objects for which the Federation was set up were:—To establish a common basis of responsibility in respect of each society as applied to those entitled to relief; to adopt means to prevent the improper exploitation of funds; to take into consideration all matters affecting the administration of funds raised for the benefit of soldiers and their dependents; to adjudicate upon such matters conducive to the well-being of federated societies.
The conference agreed to define the respective responsibilities of the Government and the patriotic societies as follows:—"That all expenditure necessary to enable the soldier to carry out his duties, to maintain him at the highest point of efficiency, to fully provide for all his needs in the event of his sickness and disablement and to fully restore him, as nearly as possible, to his ordinary position in civil life, is the responsibility of the Government; that the duty of providing in an adequate manner for the dependents of a soldier while on service, or in the event of his death or page 182disablement, is also a responsibility of the Government; that the duty of the patriotic societies is to supplement the provision made by the Government—(1) by supplying any additional assistance needed by soldiers or their dependents; (2) by helping in any manner which will facilitate the complete recovery and restoration to their former station in civil life all sick and wounded soldiers; and (3) by assisting all genuine cases of need arising from the death or disablement of a soldier having dependents."
The War Funds Act of 1915 made provision for the establishment of a National War Funds Council, to consist of the Minister for the time being administering the Act, and such other persons (being not less than three in number), as the Governor-General may, by Order-in-Council, appoint; and having for its object the administration and control of a war fund when requested in writing to take over such administration and control by not less than three-fifths of the trustees of such War Fund and to assist (when requested by the trustees) in the administration or investment of any War Fund not transferred to the Council.
The Federation of the New Zealand Patriotic Societies proved a success. The functions of the advisory board were mainly to give advice, but with no powers of enforcement. Under the board's administration, however, greater uniformity was obtained throughout the Dominion in the granting of relief, and the different societies generally abided by its decisions.
The war relief and patriotic societies undoubtedly rendered services, the value of which it is impossible to estimate. Many men and women in all parts of the Dominion gave a great portion of their time to the work. Being in close touch with the soldiers and their dependents, the committees found that they were often giving relief in instances when it should have been granted by the Government as of right. In a large majority of such cases the Government agreed with the representations made, and the benefits suggested were accepted as a charge upon the State.
It would be difficult to enumerate all the suggestions made by the war relief and patriotic societies for the benefit of page 183soldiers which the Government approved, but a few might be mentioned to indicate their value. The payment of soldiers' rents, rates and insurance, was originally suggested by the war relief and patriotic societies, and in compliance with their recommendations the Financial Assistance Board was formed. The excellent service which that Board rendered is well known.
It was the same body which made representations regarding the necessity of an increase in the pay of the forces, and particularly in respect to wives' and children's allowances. These suggestions were eventually adopted by the Government. From time to time representations have been made to the Government in respect to pensions, and in many cases the suggestions have been complied with.
The societies have very frequently been requested to act as advisers and trustees of the soldiers and their dependents, and they have also become guardians of many of the children. In some cases allowances are paid direct to the war relief societies for disbursement on behalf of widows and children. On many occasions the organisation was the means of keeping intact the property of the soldier at the front.
The present experience of societies in the chief centres is that the war relief societies will have to remain in existence for some years; and, as a matter of fact, to-day* they are performing infinitely more work than they did during the war.
Brief as is this reference to the patriotic effort of the citizens of New Zealand it would fail as a record of historical fact did it not include the excellent services rendered in Britain by the New Zealand War Contingent Association, the Executive of which was presided over by Lord Plunket, a former Governor of the Dominion, and in which the High Commissioner, Chairman of the Association, (Sir Thomas Mackenzie) took a genuinely active and beneficent interest.
The New Zealand War Contingent Association.
Within ten days of the outbreak of war, the New Zealand High Commissioner (Sir Thomas Mackenzie) called a representative gathering of New Zealanders in London, and laid before them his proposals for the purpose of helping and caring for the sons of New Zealand, who were coming to take their part in the great war. The New Zealand War Contingent Association was formed at that meeting, which took place at the Westminster Palace Hotel, Victoria, London S.W., on Friday, August 14th, 1914. Sir Thomas Mackenzie explained that their services would be required to assist New Zealand soldiers by providing them with comforts, visiting them in hospital, securing accommodation for convalescents after they had passed through the hospitals so that might be taken in hand and gradually brought back to health, also by keeping in touch with the soldiers and their relatives. A general committee was formed and sub-committees, one termed an executive committee and the other a ladies' committee. Lord Plunket, an ex-Governor of New Zealand, was elected chairman of the committee, and Lady Islington, wife of another ex-Governor, the head of the ladies' committee.
Early in 1915 the first report was submitted to the Association by the High Commissioner, who, meanwhile, had visited the New Zealand troops in Egypt. Having given an account of his visit, Sir Thomas brought forward certain proposals for future work, which were adopted.page 186
The organisation greatly developed as the calls upon its services increased, and when our soldiers began to be invalided to England as the result of wounds or sickness through the campaign at Gallipoli it became necessary to do a great deal more than had been previously undertaken. It might be stated that the work had up to this date consisted, in the main, of sending large consignments of clothing and other comforts to Gallipoli and Egypt. It was now thought advisable to establish a hospital for our own men, and the Mount Felix property at Walton-on-Thames was secured for this purpose. Lady Islington took a leading part in the selection of this beautiful home, and in furnishing and equipping it as a hospital. It was generally known as the "New Zealand Walton Hospital" and was pronounced by the British military medical authorities a model hospital in England. In August 1915, Their Majesties the King and Queen, and the Prince of Wales, visited the Hospital. They graciously spoke to every soldier, and spent the whole afternoon there, partaking of tea on the lawn. They expressed their enthusiastic appreciation of all the Association had done in equipping and establishing the Walton Hospital. Subsequently (described elsewhere), the Hospital was transferred to the New Zealand military authorities.
During the period of the war, the Association undertook the care of the New Zealand sick and wounded, providing them with comforts, and visiting them during sickness and convalescence. At the same time it catered for the requirements of the "well" men as enthusiastically and effectively as any other overseas organisation. The praise that it earned on all sides was of the highest order.
Next, perhaps, to establishing and conducting the Soldiers' Club in Russell Square, which was opened on the 1st August 1916, the most important work undertaken by the Association was that of the hospitality committee with its two branches—the visiting and the entertainment sub-committees. The title of the visiting committee was later changed to the hospital comforts' committee when this branch of the work was taken over by the New Zealand Red Cross. It had charge of all the sick and wounded in hospitals or convalescent homes and camps. page 187A well-organised and co-ordinated scheme enabled its visitors to get in touch with patients almost immediately after their arrival in hospital; and regular reports were made as to their progress. The needs of every patient were ascertained, and cigarettes, tobacco, stamps, stationery, New Zealand illustrated papers, razors, shaving kits, and changes of under garments were sent with the least possible delay. Sometimes, where a man required it, a special diet was arranged for after consultation with the ward sister.
The lady visitors acted as agents for the patients in cabling to their relatives in New Zealand: they wrote letters for those unable to write themselves, and they also undertook small purchases for them when asked to do so. The Association had over 170 official honorary visitors, all most enthusiastic, sympathetic, and devoted to their work. New Zealand soldiers were always delighted to receive, as visitors in hospital, ladies from their own land. The system of visiting was extended to all hospitals in the United Kingdom where New Zealanders were inmates. Later under the Red Cross management the number of official visitors increased to 200, and the system was extended to France.
Patients well enough to enjoy an outing were cared for by the entertainment committee, which also arranged amusements and outgoings for soldiers who were convalescing, and men and officers who were fit and on leave. Drives in motor cars, entertainments at the Association's club-room in London, and theatre parties were arranged, and very often the soldiers were made the house guests of kind hosts both in London and in the provinces. The entertainment committee also organised frequent concerts at the hospitals. When the New Zealand Division went to France from Egypt it was found necessary to provide clubs at Home for the "well" men on leave, in addition to the recreation huts which had been established at Walton and at Hornchurch. These clubs were all an enormous success. They were located at Codford, Hornchurch, Torquay and Brockenhurst. Afterwards additional recreation huts were built, and conducted, by the Association at Walton and at Oatlands Park. This success was very largely due to the homely page 188"atmosphere" caused by the presence of New Zealand ladies among "the boys" and to the large supplies of home-made cakes and "cookies," which always have appealed to New Zealanders. It would not be fair, however, to say that the work was done altogether by New Zealand ladies. Splendid assistance was given by many kind people of England, who all showed a warm-hearted desire to help in every possible way.
To the many activities of the War Contingent Association was later added that of executing commissions for the men in France, or, in other words, shopping for them in London. At Oatlands Park, the Association took a leading part in the establishment of workshops for those who had lost limbs in the war, and encouraged the men in every possible way to take up some work or study which would enable them to overcome their disabilities when they returned to civil life. In some cases movements initiated by the War Contingent Association were transferred to the military authorities after a certain stage of development had been reached. It was found advisable, for instance, after the New Zealand Headquarters had been established in London, to transfer to the military authorities the Walton Hospital, and the New Zealand convalescent home for officers at Brighton. Then there was the splendid work of willing hands in the packing rooms, established at first at Victoria Street and afterwards in Southampton Row. Ladies were the workers, and at times the strain on their energies must have been very great—how great can be imagined when the extent of the admissions to the hospitals are remembered after the Somme in 1916, the Messines advance in June 1917, and the tragedy of Passchendale in October 1917.
It was very necessary to have a proper system of accounts. The finance committee of the organisation maintained a careful scrutiny on all items of expenditure and this gave assurance that the money which was subscribed or allocated for the soldiers was not wasted.
During the first two years the funds were subscribed chiefly by private donors and by the New Zealand patriotic societies, but after 1916. the New Zealand branch of the page 189British Red Cross Society took an increasingly important position in providing funds and comforts for the sick and wounded. The Society, at first, had the War Contingent Association as its agent for the distribution of goods and the expenditure of money, and in those days the Association had a special sub-committee to deal with Red Cross matters. Afterwards the Red Cross Society distributed its own gifts to the sick and wounded, and to the War Contingent Association were apportioned the care and comfort of the "fit" men. The official honorary visitors who worked for the visiting committee of the War Contingent Association were transferred to the Red Cross.
Magnificent work was done by the New Zealand Soldiers' Club. It was managed from the time of its inception, on the 1st August, 1916, by Mr. R. H. Nolan of Hawera. Mr. Nolan proved absolutely the right man in the right place. It should have been always a comfort to the mothers, wives, and sisters,. of the soldiers to know that such an enticing home was provided in the midst of London, with its temptations and its great loneliness. The Soldiers' Club was never empty. In 1918, with a total accommodation of very little over 200 beds, the daily average number who used the building throughout the year was 185. The daily average of sales in the canteens was 862. The following are some figures for that year:—beds supplied 67,483; breakfasts 41,131; teas 25,545; dinners 29,926; canteen sales (mostly meals) 314,515. These indeed were splendid results and could only be accomplished with able management and supervision.
A memorable visit was paid to the Association's offices in November 1916 by the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Mr. Massey), and Sir Joseph Ward. Mr. Massey in a brief address to the members of the organisation spoke very warmly of the value and importance of the work which was then being done. He said that he had seen a large number of New Zealand soldiers in England and in France, and he had heard nothing but praise for the assistance that had been given so freely and ungrudgingly by the members of the Association. Sir Joseph Ward also said that he had been very much impressed by the figures quoted regarding the page 190ratio of administrative expenses compared with gross expenditure, while the wages expenditure was extremely moderate. The administration generally was a great credit to all concerned. Shortly after this visit a letter was received from Brig.-General G. S. Richardson, Officer-in-Charge of Administration in England as follows:—"I would like to express my gratitude to the War Contingent Association for their kindness to the N.Z.E.F. in England during the past year. We all recognise how strenuous have been the efforts of the members of the Association to help our men. These efforts have not been in vain. You have afforded pleasure to thousands of New Zealand boys. Your work cannot be recognised by honours and rewards; but it may afford you satisfaction in the knowledge that your work is appreciated not only by the military authorities, but by the men themselves and by their relatives. You have filled a gap which military organisation does not provide for, and you have done so with great success."
The Red Cross Society.
It is a difficult, almost an impossible task, to supply any satisfactory account of the work of the Red Cross organisation in New Zealand during the war, so wide-spread were its ramifications and so multitudinous its workers and helpers. But a New Zealand war history would be incomplete—and the tale of the Dominion's home achievements would be minus one of its noblest pages—without a reference, if only by way of bare record, to the work of this organisation. It was through the activities offered by the Red Cross Society that healing came to many suffering hearts, days of apprehension and fear were made endurable by the task of adding hour by hour little items for the comfort of loved ones in distant lands; and patriotic fervour found expression in unremitting toil.
The story of the New Zealand Red Cross Society is the pathetic story of the unfaltering memory of New Zealand's women of their men on active service. Through the thousand-and-one gifts and comforts which percolated to all quarters page 191where men fought or suffered, came these reminders of their womenfolks' regard and appreciation—and it was helpful. There were other New Zealand organisations engaged on similar work, but none so universally representative of the Dominion. The sum total of the work may be described, without exaggeration, as stupendous. The men of the Dominion saw to it that our man-power commitments were maintained, and they were maintained right up to the close of the war when the Division stood at full strength; and similarly, the women of New Zealand were many hundreds of cases of comforts and many thousands of pounds sterling ahead of requirements when the soldiers were withdrawn, and hospitals again empty.
It would be quite impossible to trace the work of the Society during the war period. One is able, however, to supply from the records, the chief features of its organisation. Canterbury was the first centre of activity. Soon after war was declared Mr. A. E. G. Rhodes commenced operations under the St. John Ambulance Association, and formed sub-centres in all the towns of the Canterbury military district. At this time, and for a prior period throughout New Zealand, Red Cross committees were working through the St. John Association. In the spring of 1915 Mr. Bernard Tripp, of Christchurch, went to Australia to study the Red Cross organisations there, and in October of the same year he returned and through the newspapers urged the formation in New Zealand of a similar body with a constitution of its own. He also suggested that His Excellency the Governor-General, the Earl of Liverpool, and Lady Liverpool should be at the head of it. In pursuance of his object Mr. Tripp on October 19th headed a Christchurch deputation to the Minister of Internal Affairs (the Hon. G. W. Russell) and asked for assistance in the formation of the proposed Society, with the necessary official recognition. The Minister promised to confer with His Excellency. The following month, November, Lord Liverpool called a meeting at Government House, Wellington, of delegates from all branches of the St. John Ambulance Society and other organisations engaged in Red Cross work. His Excellency presided, and it was page 192decided that all organisations iu New Zealand, other than the Order of St. John, should be united under the title of "The New Zealand Branch of the British Red Cross Society." Each organisation was to retain its individuality by prefixing the name of the town or district in which it was located. Mr. Sefton Moorhouse accepted the position of officer-in-charge of the central department in Wellington, at which was to be decided (a) what goods were required, (b) the method of despatch and packing, (c) how and where goods were required.
Meanwhile,7 in September 1915, Colonel the Hon. Sir R. Heaton Rhodes, M.P. was at his own expense despatched by the Government to Egypt, Gallipoli, and Malta to report on matters connected with the administration of the N.Z.E.F., and, among these matters, the distribution of the Red Cross comforts. As a matter of fact the Minister's expenses were afterwards devoted to the Kitchener Scholarship Fund. It was only natural, in the case of a force despatched hurriedly from a country without previous war experience, that imperfections in the method of touch between the army in the field, and the home control, should early show themselves. To assist in overcoming these little difficulties was the work of the Minister. He was able officially to reassure the Red Cross Societies of the value of their work and to suggest improvements in regard to the despatch of the goods; and also to state what articles were most required by the men, and the hospitals.
All this time the Red Cross movement was increasing in momentum in New Zealand, and its activities extending. Every little village and every small suburb of the cities had its busy workers. Even these small groups had their auxiliaries in working parties in individual homes. Men unable to proceed on active service gave willing cooperation in whatever capacity they were able. One recalls, now, with wonder those busy rooms, where sometimes many and sometimes only one or two women were gathered together toiling unremittingly. Money also was being collected and was being forwarded to the British Red Cross Society for its general use, on the understanding that the New page 193Zealanders would receive full consideration in its distribution.
In February 1916 His Excellency called another conference of delegates, on this occasion at Christchurch, and in April of the same year Mr. Bernard Tripp was appointed as the New Zealand Red Cross representative to visit Egypt and England. Mr. Tripp's commission was to report on New Zealand Red Cross organisation at these places. He left in May 1916 in the hospital ship Maheno, but when he arrived in Egypt the New Zealand soldiers, with the exception of the Mounted Brigade, had left for England. The only New Zealand institution remaining in Egypt was the Aotea Home, which was doing splendid work. Mr. Tripp did what investigation was required in Egypt, and then proceeded on to England in the Maheno.
Meanwhile Sir Thomas Mackenzie, High Commissioner for New Zealand, had appointed Mr. C. Elgar the New Zealand Red Cross Commissioner in England. Lord Plunket, who was chairman of the New Zealand War Contingent Association, called a meeting of all members of that body, at which Mr. Tripp, by invitation, explained the views of New Zealand as to the organisation that should exist in England. The suggestion was that an executive should be formed in London, that a Commissioner should be appointed each in England, France, and Egypt, and that all gifts from the Dominion should be consigned to one central depot in England. This was agreed upon, and Mr. Tripp went with the General Officer in Charge of Administration (Brig.-General Richardson), and Colonel Parkes, A.D.M.S., to Southampton and there opened stores to receive the New Zealand Red Cross goods. The organisation was put into operation, and in October 1916 Mr. Tripp returned to New Zealand. Arriving home he addressed meetings at the principal towns, and removed any doubts as to the goods, which were being sent, reaching the men in the line, in the hospitals, and in the convalescent homes and camps. It might be mentioned here that Mr. Tripp spoke enthusiastically of the New Zealand War Contingent's work in London. "I cannot speak too highly of this Association," he said "and the good work it is doing in looking after our wounded and sick soldiers arriving in London…. People page 194who have sons fighting for us can rest assured that our wounded and sick have care and every comfort possible."
In June of 1916 Mr. A. E. G. Rhodes who had also been to London, returned and reported upon the work of the British Red Cross. He described things as satisfactory so far as New Zealanders were concerned. Other evidence was coming to hand at this time as to the value to the men of the gifts.
The two hospital ships the Maheno and the Marama (the latter commissioned toward the end of 1916) were the especial charge of the Red Cross Society in regard to equipment in all respects appertaining to the comfort of the soldiers. In November of the same year the preparation and despatch of comforts to New Zealand prisoners of war were undertaken. Ten motor ambulances were also offered to the New Zealand military authorities at Home, and in France, but the Government decided that this provision should be a charge upon itself.
In February 1917 another New Zealand Conference was called at Christchurch by the President, the Governor-General. Mr. Sefton Moorhouse presided. This conference was called to co-ordinate all sections working in New Zealand under one control, and thus to constitute the New Zealand Red Cross Society and Order of St. John. The organisation set up consisted of the President, (the Governor-General) Her Excellency Lady Liverpool, the Officer-in Charge of of Headquarters, and twenty-four members, the latter to be appointed annually by each of the four centres. It was decided that the headquarters should continue to be at Wellington. An executive committee was appointed consisting of the Officer-in-Charge of Headquarters and six other members, two to be appointed by the council and one by each centre. Mr. Moorhouse was elected Officer-in-Charge of Headquarters. (For these details and many others the writer is indebted to that excellent little paper "The New Zealand Red Cross Record," which was edited and published at Christchurch by Mr. O. T. J. Alpers, and which was of great assistance to the Society).
At the end of 1917 it was decided to send Colonel the Hon. Sir R. Heaton Rhodes, M.P. to London as the N.Z. Red page 195Cross Society's special Commissioner in Great Britain and France. The Commissioner allied himself to the London office of the organisation and was the liason officer between the two branches of the body. He was able to forward comprehensive reports as to the distribution of the gifts at Home, knowing the little details which the people at this end required information upon. The system in operation in England was that all the goods from New Zealand went to M shed at Southampton wharves. There they were sorted out, and those specially required for France were despatched across the Channel, and check was kept of them until they reached the unit to which they were addressed. All other goods went to the central store at Southampton town, where they were sorted and classified—some were specially addressed to hospitals at Home—and kept ready to be sent out when called upon. In London was another store or depot, stocked mostly with goods purchased in Britain, where the prices were less than in the Dominion.
Under the Red Cross Society, depots were established in all New Zealand hospitals in England and France for the ready distribution of goods and comforts to the patients. One particular phase of the Society's activities in the hospitals was the encouragement and assistance given to the men in basket-making, raffia-work, and similar forms of profitable employment—profitable because of the men's keen interest in it, and the chance of a future livelihood which it provided for some of them. As a matter of fact in basket-making establishments in New Zealand to-day will be found quite a number of disabled soldiers who served their apprenticeship in the hospitals at Home. Funds were allocated for this work by the Society, and at Oatlands Park an instructional hut was erected for "limmies" who cared to take up the work. The money collected in New Zealand for Red Cross purposes was still sent direct to the British Society, the Dominion drawing upon it for what was required.
On the transports as well as on the hospital ships returning from Britain carrying sick and wounded men, were also placed comforts by the Society. Men will not readily forget the gifts which helped them to bear hardships and page 196irksome conditions. The same thoughtful provision was made later in regard to the transports which brought back the fit men.
It seems miserably inadequate to attempt to indicate in financial terms the sum total of the N.Z. Red Cross Society's effort during the war, yet the figures constitute a remarkable record for a country so small in population. It is estimated that the total value of the gifts despatched was £1.072,000 and that the money sent to the British Red Cross Society was £276,000.
This account is necessarily but a skeleton. It supplies but little evidence of the living organisation which once pulsated with animation, charity, and patriotic fervour. It bestows no credit, even by recording their names, upon those who once figured prominently in this work and whose self-sacrificing labours were so well known to the people of the Dominion; or of those who worked quietly in the background but equally enthusiastically and persistently. It would be an impossible task to do so adequately without embarking upon a detailed record, and such a work can only be undertaken by the Red Cross Society itself from its own records. This account is an endeavour to indicate the manner in which one task of many was undertaken by the Dominion in connection with the war, and how it was carried out.
|The following official statement of voluntary contributions in money and goods made by the Dominion from the outbreak of war to 31st March 1920, was presented to Parliament during the Session of 1920.
|Collected by various patriotic societies
|Received by the Department of Internal Affairs for transmission abroad,
for hospital ships, New Zealand sick and wounded, and other special
purposes (over and above amounts forwarded by patriotic societies)
|War expenses contributed to the Government at the outbreak of war
|Dominion schools' contribution to Belgian Children's Fund
|Total cash collected
|Estimated value of goods, stock, produce, and comforts shipped by
the Government on behalf of donors
|Government subsidy to Belgian Fund
* The article was written in 1919.