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Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific

IX: Remedial Training Camp, Rotorua

IX: Remedial Training Camp, Rotorua

The institution of remedial training for those deemed unfit to stand up to the ordinary course of military training was first instituted in New Zealand about October 1941 at Papakura Camp. Men were chosen from the Grade II class, especially those with minor foot disabilities and general physical under-development, and given a special course of graduated training. This proved successful and 25 per cent were graded I.

As a result of the success at Papakura a special remedial training camp was set up at Rotorua, the first men being admitted at the beginning of January 1942. The staff consisted of a medical officer in charge and physical instructors, some with knowledge of remedial treatment, to carry out the special treatment; combatant officers and NCOs were in charge of companies and platoons, the whole administration being on a battalion basis.

The men referred for training were selected from base depots, divisional and district units, and were doubtful Grade I and II. The types chosen as suitable were men of inferior physique; underdeveloped men; men with foot and leg disabilities of minor degree; men with certain nervous disabilities, again of minor degree; and those who had undergone certain types of remedial treatment and who required graduated training.

It was particularly stressed that men of a highly neurasthenic type, men mentally unwilling to serve in the Army and incorrigibles were not to be selected.

A report of the work done in the camp in fourteen months was furnished at the end of February 1943. A total of 2643 men had been admitted, the peak state being 842. The percentage becoming Grade I had steadily increased until it had reached 35 per cent. page 275 Of the cases in camp at one time, the disabilities were: Flat feet, 159; other foot conditions, 112; poor physique and debility, 121; injured knee joints, 63; nervous, 48; back troubles, 20; and 61 others. The types most suitable were the under-developed youth and the soft, untrained sedentary worker. The trier always did well, even though he only passed Grade II. The antagonistic type proved unsatisfactory and such men were discharged to civilian employment.

A later report showed that 37 per cent were marched out Grade I, 57 per cent marched out Grade II, and 6 per cent were boarded out of the Army. It also showed that a large number of men were being retained over three months and a considerable number over six months.

As was to be expected a proportion of the entrants were unsuitable. There was a tendency to keep the men too long and to be over sanguine with regard to the results. There was also an insufficiency of trained physical instructors both in the Rotorua camp and generally throughout the Army.

Eventually, from April 1943, as the demands for men in the Army lessened, only Grade I men were called up, the others being reserved for civilian work, and the camp was no longer required. It closed and some of its functions were undertaken by the new Linton Camp. It had done good work, but in retrospect it would appear that satisfactory results were obtained only in the better class of entrant with very minor disabilities, and in the case of the majority of the men employment in a lower grade in the Army or discharge to civilian employment would have been the better course to pursue. The majority were not worth the time and trouble devoted to them – and they could have been more profitably employed in civilian work.

The right psychological outlook of the trainees is the essential factor in any success in a remedial training camp. ‘With the right attitude of mind a surgeon can practice rehabilitation in a barn, without it he will fail in the most lavishly equipped gymnasium.’