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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Compulsory Territorial Training

Compulsory Territorial Training

With the cessation of hostilities in the First World War and the subsequent general demobilisation, the public generally was apathetic towards military training. However, early in 1921, the Government finally decided to introduce compulsory military service for all males in the Dominion between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one years, thus providing a limited measure of training for defence.

After leaving school, boys were enrolled for cadet service until the age of eighteen years. They were then entered for service in a territorial unit until reaching the age of twenty-one when, if they had performed efficient service, they were transferred to the reserve. The amount of service required each year was thirty evenings for drill, twelve half-day parades, and six days' continuous training in camp. The number of evenings for drill was later reduced to twenty-one.

For the New Zealand Medical Corps training depots were formed at Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, each catering for about 150 personnel, and a permanent staff instructor was appointed to each depot for training and administrative purposes. (Previously, there had been an organisation of field ambulance units with sections stationed at various towns throughout New Zealand. For instance, 8 Field Ambulance had sections at Napier, Palmerston North, and Wellington.)

Compulsory military service provided an adequate number of men for training, but the apathy and lack of interest of the majority of medical officers resulted in a steady deterioration of the efficiency of the New Zealand Medical Corps. The Director of Medical Services lived in Auckland, and Major G. A. Gibbs, an ex-RAMC quartermaster, at Army Headquarters in Wellington, was left to carry out the administration for the training of medical units. He even set the examination papers for the promotion of medical officers.

The lack of interest by medical officers in the training of the NZMC can be attributed to the fact that at this time they were settling in again to practices which had been upset during the war years. However, there were a few officers who willingly gave their services as RMOs (Regimental Medical Officers) in camps and gave lectures to NZMC groups at evening parades in the three centres.

Despite the prevailing apathy, good progress was made by both cadets and territorials. Courses of instruction for NZMC officers page 3 and NCOs were held each year at Trentham. Competitions for the NZMC Challenge Shield were revived and decided at these courses.

During the later years of the nineteen-twenties there was a greater interest generally in defence matters. Younger members of the medical profession sought enrolment for service on the active list. Territorial parades, still on a compulsory basis, were well attended and the NZMC depots were turning out a number of very useful NCOs and men. The NZMC territorial force attained a fair standard in spite of the limited training facilities.