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The War Effort of New Zealand



The Hornchurch convalescent depot was as much hospital as camp. Hospital "blues" were more general there than khaki. It was also one of the largest of the New Zealand depots. The camp comprised a considerable number of huts, placed picturesquely beneath the trees of a magnificent park, and clustering round an ancient, ivy-covered manor house—Grey Towers. The distance of the camp from London was about twenty miles, and frequent trains ran there. The villages of Hornchurch and Romford were adjacent, and page 263will long be remembered by many men of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The area occupied by the camp comprised about ninety-three acres. Considering London's proximity, the surroundings were by no means unpleasant, and it was fortunate that so large and important a depot could be located so handily to General Head-quarters.

The neatness of the depot and the trimly-kept flower beds betokened no little camp pride. The staff in 1918 comprised a commanding officer, a second in command, and an adjutant (the two latter of the militant branches), eleven doctors (New Zealanders), twenty-two nurses (also New Zealanders), nineteen masseuses, and 118 V.A.D.'s and other women workers. Wherever possible male orderlies were relieved by women to enable them either to go to France, or, if permanently unfit, to take the place of fit men in the various centres.

Every convalescent had his particular case under the closest scrutiny. The object, of course, was to render men as speedily as possible fit to be trained again for France. The patients were divided into three classes—medical, surgical, and massage—besides the isolation cases. Men, for instance, might be well enough to leave the hospitals to provide accommodation therein for others, but might require further dressings; or, again, massage might be necessary to restore limbs, muscles, and nerves to their proper functions. All this was attended to at Hornchurch by experts. The massage department was very much in demand. Its apparatus and equipment were the best obtainable. When well enough the patients were allotted other courses of treatment. Those requiring limb or body exercise went to the gymnasium or mechanotherapy department. There were regulated finger-grips for wounded or frost-bitten fingers and hands; contrivances for exercising the wrists; grips for forearm or triceps work; a throwing 7-lb. leather ball for the back and shoulder muscles; ordinary weighted developers; a stationary bicycle for leg and thigh muscles; a "flexible foot" which simply compelled a man, no matter how great a "lead-swinger," to use his leg muscles; breathing exercises for the pneumonic and gas cases; a wheel contrivance that page 264
Wool, Classing.

Wool, Classing.

page 265called into play most of the muscles of the body, other apparatus for synovitis cases and knee-stiffness; and games that all must play, designed for special cases. The treatment progressed gradually until, as if by a miracle often (in conjunction with the massage), the use of the limbs returned to normal—all too soon in many cases. In addition to this, men who are able went on route marches each day (with the aid of the camp brass band), starting with small distances, and increasing gradually until a limit was reached. And when the limit was reached and men were fit once more they were sent on to Codford to be hardened.

Life at Hornchurch was by no means monotonous. Everything was done to keep men voluntarily in camp, and to meet that peculiar psychological state of mind of the soldier who had been wounded and now had to face his early return to a life of which he had hoped, when wounded, to have seen the last. The food was nourishing and plentiful, as at the hospitals. The mess-rooms, capable of holding 400 each, had no mess orderlies such as were in the training camps, but were graced by the presence of women specially engaged for the work. Similarly, women in the V.A.D. dress ran the cookhouses and kitchens, and all was scrupulously clean, though, after all, no cleaner than in the training-camps, for that was scarcely possible.

Three comfortably fitted large halls—the Y.M.C.A., the New Zealand War Contingent Association, and the Church Army Hut—vied in their attractions for the men in games, concerts, picture-shows, reading and writing rooms, billiards, and in the sale of food, and articles soldiers required. As in all the camps, there was a "wet" canteen which tended to keep in camp those who liked a glass of beer, and it was interesting to know that the average consumption was only 0.7 of a pint per head. For advanced convalescents football, cricket, and hockey, were played daily; there was pulling in light boats on a small river adjacent; a large concrete swimming-bath near the same river offered further sport; tennis and croquet were played on the lawns; a post and telegraph office was available in the camp; New Zealand ladies visited regularly to say kindly words; and members page 266of the War Contingent Association reported the patient's progress regularly to the outer world—and what more could he done for any hero ?.

Yet there was still another department, and an extremely useful one—the education department. The Y.M.C.A. ran its workshops, where carpentry, elementary engineering, fret-work, carving, leather-work, cabinet-making, and stained-glass-window construction, and certain other arts and crafts were taught, The hospital farm, covering an area of twenty-one acres, was entirely a New Zealand enterprise, a means of employing men in the open air, of instructing those who wished to learn agriculture, and a source of supply to this hospital.