Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific
VIII: Convalescent Depots
VIII: Convalescent Depots
In July 1941 War Cabinet decided to establish convalescent depots, each of 300 beds, in the vicinity of the three main mobilisation camps – Papakura, Trentham and Burnham. These depots were to cater for:
Sick and wounded soldiers requiring a period of convalescence after illness.
Those men who broke down during their initial period in camp and who could be made Grade I by special graduated training.
Soldiers evacuated from overseas who were likely to be made Grade I by suitable training and exercises.
(Note: These convalescent depots are not to be confused with the convalescent hospitals at Hanmer and Rotorua, which were under the control of the Department of Health, and in which special medical or surgical treatment was given.)
During 1942 the buildings for the convalescent depots on the sites at Raventhorpe, Silverstream, and Burnham were completed. The depots in the Northern and Southern Military Districts proceeded to function as originally planned, but the Silverstream buildings were handed over to the United States Forces and became 6 US Naval Mobile Hospital. The question of providing a convalescent depot for Central Military District on another site was given consideration, but it was eventually decided that the demand for it was less urgent and no alternative depot was established.
The convalescent depot to serve Papakura Camp was sited at Raventhorpe on the northern side of Bombay Hill, some 26 miles south of Auckland. This location was decided upon because G Branch indicated that tactical considerations necessitated the removal of the unit well south of Auckland, and south also of the bottleneck where the Manukau and Waitemata harbours are separated by a distance of only about two miles. The aspect was sunny and a good water supply was available. Construction was prolonged and it was not until December 1942 that Raventhorpe was opened for patients. The depot consisted of an administration block and ten wooden hutments, each holding thirty patients. Many labour-saving devices page 274 were installed, and a large cold chamber ensured no waste of food from deterioration. Abundant facilities for recreation were provided. There was a large assembly hall with a platform, a cinema, a sports room, a library, a football ground and a small course for clock golf. A team of well-trained physical and drill instructors was selected as part of the staff, and classes, suitably graded, were held to establish physical fitness. For this work there was an excellently equipped gymnasium and well-laid-out drill ground. Route marching was graduated in easy stages. A physiotherapy department was added later. A depot band was available both for training and for entertainment. No military training in the accepted meaning of the term was attempted at Raventhorpe. The depot continued to function until after the war ended and was then taken over by the Mental Hygiene Division of the Health Department.