New Zealand soldiers were involved in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. They were redeployed to France suffering mass casualties. Field hospitals ‘patched-up’ soldiers but the severely injured came to Britain. “The aim was to return soldiers to the Front within six months; if the prognosis was longer, it was considered economic to send them back to New Zealand.”1 (my emphasis)
New Zealand’s commitment was stupendous. By Armistice Day, “[there were]…..more than 16,000 New Zealanders dead and tens of thousands more wounded – over 5,300 soldiers died in 1918 alone.“2
Grey Towers, Hornchurch was their centre for convalescence from 1916, which expanded into a 2,500 bed hospital, “A well equipped physiotherapy department with the capability for treating 400 patients daily was set up. By the end of 1918 about 20,000 patients had been treated at Hornchurch.”3
Hornchurch, an Essex village, saw the conversion of Grey Towers from a family home into a military hospital.
This had a huge impact. There was tremendous goodwill towards the New Zealanders. The hospital also provided many job opportunities.
Sadly some patients didn’t live to return to New Zealand and there are graves in St Andrew’s churchyard.
2 New Zealand in 1918 – Armistice Day | NZHistory, New Zealand history online Their population was 1,150,000 New Zealand at War 1914-1918 (presbyterian.org.nz)
All photographs are from Page 1 of 2 | Items | National Library of New Zealand | National Library of New Zealand (natlib.govt.nz) Except the photo of Lydia Philpot which is from a private collection