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The War Effort of New Zealand

In New Zealand

In New Zealand.

The mobilising of horses entailed much heavy work. The buying was done principally by stock inspectors on the staff of the Department of Agriculture stationed throughout the Dominion, a method which proved both economical and efficient. The inspectors accomplished excellent results, exhibiting good judgment, combined with the highest standard of integrity. Horses offered for sale were carefully tested, and those showing the slightest signs of unsoundness were rejected. Afterwards came the severe "try-out" at the remount depot as the final safeguard against the shipping of animals unfit in the slightest degree for the hard usages of war. Proof that the buying was well done is supplied by the records which show that the total number purchased was 9,347, at an average price of £17 1s. 10d. for remounts (5,097), and £24 10s. for artillery horses (4,250). Of the page 152total number purchased only 90 died in New Zealand during the war, and only 154 were cast and sold before the Armistice. When hostilities ceased there were 449 horses left on hand in New Zealand, most of which were sold at good prices. A few were retained to complete the establishment of the permanent artillery.

In addition to the horses purchased, many were given to the Government by settlers and others. The total number of these gift horses was 1,437.

The veterinary war work began with the establishment of the concentration camp at Palmerston North, in August, 1914. Captain Dudley Hewitt, then on furlough in Palmerston North, from India, was placed in charge of the horse section of the camp, and he had the assistance of Captain W. Smith, and Mr. R. C. Tilley, a Manawatu farmer well known for his expert knowledge of horses. Mr. Tilley was invited by a Palmerston North committee to help in this work, and he went into camp on 7th August. From all quarters large numbers of horses came—by rail and road. Day and night the trains brought them.

Captain Hewitt being ordered back to his regiment in India, Captain Smith succeeded him in command. Drafts of horses were sent to Awapuni (where the 1st Reinforcement was encamped), to Trentham and to other localities where they were needed for A.S.C. work. This distribution reduced the number of horses at Palmerston to about 400. Of these 200 were turned out to pasture near Palmerston, and the remainder were sent to Upper Hutt (near Wellington) where the remount depot was now established on ground leased by the Defence Department. From this time the concentration of all horses was at this place and not at Palmerston North. Captain Smith went away as remount officer with the 3rd Reinforcements, and Mr. Tilley, now appointed captain, took charge of the remount depot, with Lieutenants Elworthy and McLean as assistants. Captain Burton, N.Z.V.C. was for some time in charge of the veterinary training operations at the Featherston Camp.

In the days and nights when the depot had its busiest times, the township of Upper Hutt did not lack liveliness.

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At one time a thousand horses, with about a hundred attendants, were at the depot, and the lines extended over fifteen acres.

As soon as possible after arrival at the depot, the horses were classified for artillery (light and heavy draught), pack, and troop work. There was also a sixth class—the charger! After classification, came marking. The sign of the State—N broad arrow Z—was set with a hot iron on one fore-hoof, and the horse's number was branded on the other. Identification notes on every horse handled at the depot—the number, colour, sex, height, marks, and other details—were entered in a ledger, and this record also showed subsequently any change of camp or user that the animal might have. The regulations provided that the depot must always be kept in touch with every horse issued for home use. As far as possible the horses of each class retained a uniform appearance by having the same cut of mane and tail.

The remount depot had a field hospital organised by Lieut.-Colonel Reid, with a veterinary surgeon in charge, for the treatment of horses suffering from kicks, colds, or other troubles which were not serious; but the main hospital was at Wallaceville, in the Upper Hutt district, connected with the State Laboratory there, which did all the veterinary dispensing for the depot, and, incidentally, for the camps also.

An early trouble was an outbreak of strangles. The horses affected were promptly removed to Wallaceville, and the epidemic was checked.

When the shipment of horses eased off, owing to mounted troops being required in diminishing numbers, the depot at Upper Hutt was closed, and the concluding remount work was done at Wallaceville.