Training the Troops

Camps were set up to train the newly-enlisted troops.

Men arriving at Trentham Camp in 1917 with bundles of personal items. Once they had completed their training they were usually granted final leave to visit their families before leaving for the War.

Courtesy of Margaret Johns. All Rights Reserved

Camps were necessary to train the newly-enlisted troops. A large central training camp at Trentham near Wellington replaced regional camps such as those at Addington and Sockburn.

When Canterbury carpenter Henry Nicholas enlisted in February 1916, like most recruits, he spent 4 months at Trentham undertaking weapons and fitness training as well as preparing for a life outdoors.

Harold Edgar album 3

Bayonet practice at Trentham Camp, 1917

Courtesy of Margaret Johns. All Rights Reserved

Dear George

Henry Nicholas was drafted into the 13th Reinforcements. He wrote to his friend George Barker about his training experiences at Trentham Camp. He noted the cost of equipping and training the approximately 2,000 men in the 13th Reinforcements. The cost of training just this one draft was £8,000 in wages (about $1 million in today’s money).

Altogether 43 reinforcement drafts were sent. Henry also wrote of his belief that it was important for men to stay behind to work on the land and provide supplies for the war effort.

9604 Beckett Album 19

Twenty year-old Trooper Henry Beckett (fourth from left) of the 42nd New Zealand Mounted Rifles relaxes with fellow recruits at Featherston Camp in 1918. Featherston Camp was opened in January 1916 after overcrowding caused hygiene problems at Trentham Camp.

Canterbury Museum PIC88/86

Harold Edgar left New Zealand at the end of July 1917 and his wife Verona gave birth to the couple’s first child almost exactly 9 months later. By the time Harold returned from Europe his daughter was 15 months old.

Courtesy of Margaret Johns. All Rights Reserved

HaroldEdgar final4

Training in France

Once overseas, many men underwent additional training. Christchurch barrister Harold Edgar was 2nd Lieutenant with the 3rd New Zealand Light Battery in France and spent Christmas 1917 undergoing mortar training at Morbecque.

He kept a notebook now held by his descendants that contains detailed drawings and notes on topics such as the range of different mortars, methods for selecting targets and using mortars in offensive trench operations.