I join the Army

Dear Peg and Friends,
At the commencement of the second World War, New Zealand and Australia were both in perilous positions. They stood alone and in the path of the victorious Japanese who had brought the War to the South Pacific and so far had swept all before them. New Zealand was in a very vulnerable militarily position as all her able bodied young men, had already been called up, inducted into the Army. Currently they were fully occupied fighting in the Middle East keeping the Germans and Italians from capturing Egypt, and cutting off the sea route the Canal. This would close our food life line to the UK, who without the shiploads of food we were sending them, and  coupled to the effects German submarines in the Atlantic were having, they would soon be starved into submission.
We now had the Japanese headed our way after their incredible capture of Singapore, Thailand, French Indo China, Hong Kong, and the Malaysia Peninsula. The Japanese were a seasoned and a formidable force, who had been fighting in China for some years. So far they hadn’t suffered a defeat in their extensive conquests. But their lines of communication were now becoming extended, for this reason alone, they themselves were becoming vulnerable. Further they had also attacked the Americans, and declared War on that Nation, luckily for us, the Japanese now had another front to occupy them. This gave us some breathing space, plus an Ally who was also able to supply us with arms, and as well we were able to offer our country as a staging post and base. Our humiliating defeats so far, was brought about by very inept and stupid leadership, as we at the time outnumbered the Japanese.
Desperate times, called for desperate measures, and the New Zealand Government of the day now called up all young men starting at eighteen years of age and upwards. This included me. As an eighteen year old. I was told to report to the Dunedin Drill Hall, with a thousand other ‘odd bods’ for processing. I passed their medical exam, and was soon issued with a .303 rifle, bayonet, dress uniform, great coat, fatigues, Webbing, Glengarry, (I had ended up in the Second Scottish regiment) Back pack, water proof ground sheet, woollen underwear, water bottle, two pairs heavy boots socks, and mess gear.
In groups of eight we were each given a vintage Bell Tent (Probably saw service in World War One) and then marched over to the stables where we filled, or stuffed our palliasse with straw. It would seem the days of our pampering with home comforts were rapidly coming to an end. We were as green as grass, and immediately we were embarked on a crash course to turn us into soldiers. Marching, shooting, familiarity with weapons, more marching. Our only illumination at night was by candles set into the base of an old triangle bayonet left over from yet another war. This was stuck into the ground. Much personal time was spent improving our comfort. Looking for wooden boards to sit our palliasse on, and keep our beds off the ground.
As I held a heavy truck licence I was given the task of training some thirty or so, how to drive a heavy vehicles all with ‘crash’ gear boxes. Of course the big problem was, where to house all these men? Our Racecourses first came to mind, and we had many, all under utilised and they were  Exactly what the Army was looking for. Large kitchens and toilets, sufficient to cater for hundreds of race patrons, so ideal for soldiers . As well large covered recreation areas. So suddenly they were all converted into Army camps. Showers and ablution blocks were quickly built, so hygiene standards were maintained. One day many of us were ‘School boys’ next week, sitting in a grandstand listening to the medical Officer deliver a lecture and a warning about our sexual behaviour, and what could happen to you if you didn’t take precautions. That was a surprise to many who as eighteen year olds up until this point haven’t given much thought to the consorting with prostitutes, and women of lower moral behaviour, or even the enthusiastic amateurs. To hear our women described as cess pools of pus, was enough to put the frighteners on any young man.
Food was plentiful, but the cooks too, had a lot to learn, which they did. I never liked eating meat that had been cooked, about an hour or so ahead of time, then carved. By doing this, to me, the meat especially mutton seemed to take on a ‘Taste’ which I didn’t like, but this was a small price to pay against the ability to deliver several hundred hot meals.
It would seem a new life for me was about to take off.
Love from Christchurch,
Wally

At the commencement of the second World War, New Zealand and Australia were both in perilous positions. They stood alone and in the path of the victorious Japanese who had brought the War to the South Pacific and so far had swept all before them. New Zealand was in a very vulnerable militarily position as all her able bodied young men, had already been called up, inducted into the Army. Currently they were fully occupied fighting in the Middle East keeping the Germans and Italians from capturing Egypt, and cutting off the sea route the Canal. This would close our food life line to the UK, who without the shiploads of food we were sending them, and  coupled to the effects German submarines in the Atlantic were having, they would soon be starved into submission.

We now had the Japanese headed our way after their incredible capture of Singapore, Thailand, French Indo China, Hong Kong, and the Malaysia Peninsula. The Japanese were a seasoned and a formidable force, who had been fighting in China for some years. So far they hadn’t suffered a defeat in their extensive conquests. But their lines of communication were now becoming extended, for this reason alone, they themselves were becoming vulnerable. Further they had also attacked the Americans, and declared War on that Nation, luckily for us, the Japanese now had another front to occupy them. This gave us some breathing space, plus an Ally who was also able to supply us with arms, and as well we were able to offer our country as a staging post and base. Our humiliating defeats so far, was brought about by very inept and stupid leadership, as we at the time outnumbered the Japanese.

Desperate times, called for desperate measures, and the New Zealand Government of the day now called up all young men starting at eighteen years of age and upwards. This included me. As an eighteen year old. I was told to report to the Dunedin Drill Hall, with a thousand other ‘odd bods’ for processing. I passed their medical exam, and was soon issued with a .303 rifle, bayonet, dress uniform, great coat, fatigues, Webbing, Glengarry, (I had ended up in the Second Scottish regiment) Back pack, water proof ground sheet, woollen underwear, water bottle, two pairs heavy boots socks, and mess gear.

In groups of eight we were each given a vintage Bell Tent (Probably saw service in World War One) and then marched over to the stables where we filled, or stuffed our palliasse with straw. It would seem the days of our pampering with home comforts were rapidly coming to an end. We were as green as grass, and immediately we were embarked on a crash course to turn us into soldiers. Marching, shooting, familiarity with weapons, more marching. Our only illumination at night was by candles set into the base of an old triangle bayonet left over from yet another war. This was stuck into the ground. Much personal time was spent improving our comfort. Looking for wooden boards to sit our palliasse on, and keep our beds off the ground.

As I held a heavy truck licence I was given the task of training some thirty or so, how to drive a heavy vehicles all with ‘crash’ gear boxes. Of course the big problem was, where to house all these men? Our Racecourses first came to mind, and we had many, all under utilised and they were  Exactly what the Army was looking for. Large kitchens and toilets, sufficient to cater for hundreds of race patrons, so ideal for soldiers . As well large covered recreation areas. So suddenly they were all converted into Army camps. Showers and ablution blocks were quickly built, so hygiene standards were maintained. One day many of us were ‘School boys’ next week, sitting in a grandstand listening to the medical Officer deliver a lecture and a warning about our sexual behaviour, and what could happen to you if you didn’t take precautions. That was a surprise to many who as eighteen year olds up until this point haven’t given much thought to the consorting with prostitutes, and women of lower moral behaviour, or even the enthusiastic amateurs. To hear our women described as cess pools of pus, was enough to put the frighteners on any young man.

Food was plentiful, but the cooks too, had a lot to learn, which they did. I never liked eating meat that had been cooked, about an hour or so ahead of time, then carved. By doing this, to me, the meat especially mutton seemed to take on a ‘Taste’ which I didn’t like, but this was a small price to pay against the ability to deliver several hundred hot meals.

It would seem a new life for me was about to take off.

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