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TRENTHAM New Zealand WWII

Journal by ngairedith

taken from TRENTHAM at NZETC
... written about 1945


Trentham
Hark to the call of war.

Robert W. Service

Dormant beneath the encircling hills from which the winter snows were fast disappearing lay a great camp: Trentham, haunted by spirits yet without a spirit. Twenty-five years of peacetime soldiering had little more than flickered the eyelids of a military camp which in the years 1914-18 had epitomised strength, purpose, and vigour.

But with the spring of 1939 the bugles sounded again and volunteers flocked to answer the call. The ranks of the Territorial units throughout the country all yielded their quotas to the first 6600 men wanted for active servic. The recruits of 1939, however, were by no means confined to those who had already had some soldier training. Out of the cities and towns, off the farms, came men of all shades of opinion and from all walks of life.

From the chaos which marked the assembly of this Special Force order slowly emerged. The citizen turned soldier, quickly adapting himself to the new way of life, became an integral part of the military machine which the old camp was designed to serve. As the shuffle of civilian shoes changed to the measured tread of iron-shod boots, the spirit of Trentham Camp awoke once more. In this atmosphere, charged with the memories of their fathers prowess, young men were again trained for war.

On 27 September 1939 officers and NCOs commenced an intensive course prior to selection and posting to units. Theirs was a heavy responsibility, for the training and moulding of this new force was in their hands. Too few young men had responded to the appeals made since 1929 for volunteers to fill the ranks of Territorial Force units. NCOs, the backbone of any unit, had to be found quicklywe were fortunate in the leaven of ex-Territorials through- page 2 out the Special Force. They responded quickly to the brief intensive course and as instructors themselves undertook recruit training for their own small commands as soon as they were posted.

On 3 October 19 Wellington Rifle Battalion, with its headquarters at Trentham, was born. The principal appointments in the unit were allocated to officers who had given stalwart service to their country for many years and whose energy and efficiency were well known. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel F. S. Varnham, MC, ED,1 had a distinguished record both as an officer in the New Zealand Division during the First World War and subsequently as a Territorial unit and brigade commander. His senior officers were:

Major C. A. DA. Blackburn Second-in-Command
Lieutenant E. W. S. Williams, NZSC Adjutant
Lieutenant J. E. F. Vogel Quartermaster
Major A. B. Ross OC Wellington Company
Major R. K. Gordon OC Wellington West Coast Company
Captain C. M. Williamson OC Hawkes Bay Company
Captain S. F. Hartnell OC Taranaki Company
Captain C. E. Webster OC Headquarters Company

Life for the seven hundred-odd enthusiasts on the battalion roll soon shook down to an orderly routine. Neither the sweat of intensive training nor the vagaries of the spring weather dampened their ardour. The keenest rivalry sprang up between the companies, which retained the names and something of the high tradition of the famous regiments from which they had sprung. The response from all ranks was remarkable. Flags emblazoned with the badges of those regiments under whose colours many men now in the ranks of the 19th had previously served were presented by Territorial associations. These were proudly flown in company lines. Reveille each day was heralded by the Orderly Sergeant breaking out on the battalion flagpole the colours of his own company
... read above link for much more ...


... In camp that same afternoon private farewells were said. Next-of-kin, friends, and wellwishers gathered to say goodbye. Leaving home had at last become a sad reality. The battalion lines, trim tented and subdued, will remain long in the memories of mothers, wives and sweethearts; for them the sorrow of parting did not ride buoyantly on a sea of excitement. Two days later Trentham was deserted.

1 Brig F. S. VARNHAM, MC,* ED, m.i.d.; Gisborne; born Wellington, 1 Nov 1888; newspaper manager; Wellington Regt 1915-19 (Staff Capt 1 NZIB); CO 19 Bn 3 Oct 1939-15 Apr 1941, 9 Jun-20 Oct 1941; comd 7 Army Tank Bde (NZ) May 1942-May 1943; injured 15 Apr 1941.

2 Cpl J. P. FOSTER; Wellington; born Wales, 21 Mar 1906; club steward.

3 Capt H. S. BUDD; Whangarei; born Waihi, 20 Jun 1906; company representative; p.w. 2 Jun 1941.

4 Maj C. S. WROTH, m.i.d.; Christchurch; born Christchurch, 6 Mar 1915; Regular soldier; BM 6 Bde Oct-Nov 1944; Camp Commandant, Burnham MC, 1947-48.

5 WO II S. M. GOLDER; Featherston; born Beckenham, Kent, 23 Jun 1910; joiner; wounded and p.w. 1 Jun 1941.

6 Maj C. W. TAYLOR, EM; Gisborne; born Gisborne, 19 Jan 1912; civil servant; company commander 25 Bn 1944-45; twice wounded.

7 Sgt W. J. H. F. ORAM; Auckland; born Dartford, England, 9 Aug 1912; lorry diver; wounded May 1941.

8 Capt B. W. THOMAS; born Marton, 30 Jun 1914; research chemist; killed in action 26 Sep 1944.

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on 2011-07-08 05:51:13

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