New Zealand had hospitals for its own troops at Brockenhurst, Walton-on-Thames and Codford. It had other medical facilities too, including convalescent hospitals at Hornchurch and Brighton, and a discharge depot in Torquay.
The New Zealand soldiers didn’t particularly enjoy being sent to British hospitals, and New Zealand nurses complained about working at them. Both groups were much happier in New Zealand-run complexes. Here they were surrounded by people from their own country, and camaraderie was strong. One patient, Cecil Malthus, who had his toes amputated, described his arrival at Brockenhurst as ‘almost like a home-coming.’
The New Zealand hospitals had modern facilities, and the staff were known for their attentiveness and compassion. As for the food, almost anything would have been more varied than the standard army rations the soldiers had to put up with on the battlefields – but the fresh eggs, fish, meat, and locally grown vegetables they received at Brockenhurst were a real treat.
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Leslie Sargent's story
"I got very friendly with one nurse that was there, and she was a really nice girl, really nice girl, and she said to me one time, I'd been all her time off. And I could get away from the hospital, I'd be walking about with her and go into the little village and we knocked about quite a bit."
In August 1918, Private Fred Jones wrote, ‘I am in “Blighty”, some 18 miles from Southampton, and even nearer to Heaven, lying in a bed between fresh, clean sheets, tended hand and foot by tireless and sympathetic nurses, and provided with inviting meals, in which stew plays no part…. Although I have not been in hospital 24 hours I feel a hypocrite lying in bed here, for I am as comfortable as possible... ‘
Wairarapa Archive, Reference Number: 10-119/2-26
The YMCA had a presence in Brockenhurst, providing recreational activities in its hall. The hospital also attracted plenty of community support. Local people volunteered for duties, and also generously lent books, board games, clothes, and sports equipment. Children even got involved, sometimes collecting sphagnum moss and cotton grass from the nearby forest, which was used for wound dressings.
As the hospital filled up, local buildings were converted into medical facilities, including the country house Morant Hall, which was managed by a committee of locals. As well as this, many Brockenhurst people rented out their homes to recovering patients or medical staff.
Today, the village of Brockenhurst continues to honour its historical connection with New Zealand. Inside St Nicholas Church, a New Zealand flag hangs, and Māori weavings are displayed on the walls. Brockenhurst also marks Anzac Day.