Base Wallahs: Story of the units of the base organisation, NZEF IP
V — Activities in New Caledonia, August 1943 to May 1944
Activities in New Caledonia, August 1943 to May 1944
The base units left in New Caledonia when the division moved forward were faced with a strenuous period of consolidation. It was apparent now that the base would be occupied for some time and camps took on a more permanent aspect and welfare services were planned accordingly. September saw a commencement made by Lieutenant Hollier and the pioneer platoon on the construction of the Bourail Club. The club building proper had a floor space of 10,400 square feet. In its construction 20 tons of native grass were used for thatching the roof, 11 miles of gaulettes were used as purlins for roofing, and there were 1,020 rafters each 18 feet long of naiouli boughs. The club was officially opened by His Excellency the Governor-General of New Zealand on 12 November 1943.
In addition to the main club building a large mess hut and recreation room was erected nearby for the WAAC personnel who staffed the club. Living accommodation was provided for a limited number of leave personnel and visitors and meals were tastefully served in the dining room at low cost. The club proved a very popular rendezvous for thousands of troops right up to the time the division left New Caledonia. During its period of page 168operation 54,748 cooked meals and 177,851 morning and afternoon teas were served in the club's dining room. The club first opened under the management of Senior-Subaltern Hardcastle, who remained in charge of the WAAC personnel throughout. Later Lieutenant F. Sweeney was appointed manager and he remained in that position until May 1944, when illness caused his retirement. He was replaced by Captain W. N. Mackie. By this time also the prefabricated parts for the club at Anse Vata had arrived from New Zealand, but as the works construction company was engaged in priority work at the 4th New Zealand General Hospital at Dumbea and the hospital and convalescent depot at Kalavere, construction could not be proceeded with immediately.
Towards the end of 1943 the question of the site for this club (to be known as the Kiwi Club) was again raised, and early in 1944 it was decided that in view of the concentration of troops in the Bourail area which would result when the division returned to New Caledonia, it was advisable that the club should be erected at the Bourail Beach. This was easily the best beach in New Caledonia, and on a sandy spur picturesquely located between the beach and a large salt water lagoon a site was chosen on which the construction of the club commenced in February. The main Kiwi Club building had a frontage of 232 feet to the beach with an eight feet verandah running the whole length. The northern wing comprised spacious reading and writing rooms and offices the southern wing a dining room to seat 150 with kitchen, storerooms and a canteen. The central portion of the building comprised a large recreation room complete with stage and dressing rooms. This room was used for indoor games and had a seating capacity of approximately 700 for entertainments and motion pictures. In addition to the main club buildings residential accommodation was provided for 120 visitors to the club in addition to the army and WAAC staff of 53. The club was opened on 14 April 1944 by Mr. E. Brooking, supported by the Hon. Vincent Ward, both members of the National Patriotic Fund Board, who visited New Caledonia for the purpose. The club opened its residential quarters on 2 May, and from then until it was closed at the beginning of August some 3.000 troops enjoyed a few days leave at the beach. During this period 43,287 cooked meals and 39,378 morning and afternoon teas and suppers page 169were served in the dining room. In May a complete soda fountain arrived from New Zealand and was installed in the canteen and from here ice-cream from the board's plant and soft drinks were served. In addition the club staff provided afternoon tea on the beach during week-ends when the beach was thronged with thousands of New Zealanders. Junior-Subaltern Paltridge was in charge of the WAAC staff and the first manager appointed was Lieutenant H. Lubransky. When he returned to New Zealand Captain J. R. Wink was appointed manager, and under his efficient management the club became the most popular resort for New Zealand troops in the island.
Three frost bite yachts which the board supplied for the club added greatly to the attractions there. One of the features on the beach was the work of the life-saving teams for which equipment had been sent over by the board from New Zealand. These teams were in the charge of Major Stowell, officer commanding the base reception depot, and were on duty at the beach constantly. In both clubs WAACs were employed as cooks. This in itself provided some variety from the usual army fare, but efforts were made to improve the menus by obtaining special supplies from New Zealand. One of the problems was to obtain fresh meat and this was largely overcome by obtaining a weekly supply of local beef.
The ice-cream plant which had been purchased by the board at a cost of approximately £5,000 was installed at the site of the field bakery some three miles north of Bourail. Complete with ageing room, hardening room, holding room, churn and pasteurizer, it was the most efficient plant on the island, and commenced manufacture in December 1943. All New Zealand troops on the island were served with ice-cream from this plant twice weekly, the ration being one-fifth of a pound. In addition free rations were issued daily to patients in hospitals and convalescent depots. The issues to units were paid for out of regimental funds, and during the period the plant was in operation in addition to 166,000 free rations, issued to sick and wounded and isolated units and on special occasions, half a million rations were distributed. The plant was most efficiently managed by Sergeant J. A. MacDonald.
While Captain Enright was engaged in planning and controlling these major activities of the board he also had on his hands the normal welfare activities of caring for the sick and page 170wounded, fostering sporting activities, making free issues, servicing recreation centres, and attending to the erection of additional centres. His right hand man was Sergeant W. Young and three WAACs, Corporal R. Soloman, and Privates D. Britt and Buchanan had been posted to the office staff. During the period, in addition to the two clubs, large recreation centres were erected at Nemeara for the 29th Motor Transport Company at Le Clere's farm for the Works Construction Company, at Moindah for Divisional Ordnance Workshops and in Téné Valley for the Base Training Depot. In addition large improvements were made to the original recreation centre of the 1st Scottish Battalion which had been taken over by the Artillery Training Depot. In the hospitals and convalescent depot 11 recreation centres were in all built and furnished, these providing relaxation for patients, sisters, WAACs, and unit personnel. At the 4th General Hospital a beauty parlour complete with hair-waving machine was installed for sisters and WAACs.