James Alfred Nash (b. 1871) was Mayor of Palmerston North from 1908-1923 and three time MP for the city. He was a local businessman, keen sportsman (especially active in the bowling scene) and involved in a great number of political activities throughout his life. He put together this collection of his memories around 1951, one year before his death at his home in Palmerston North, on 24 July 1952.
During World War I the troops were in residence at Awapuni race course and when on route marches they would invariably come to the Square where large crowds of people congregated to meet them. The race course was a very suitable place for this camp. I received a letter one day from a number of soldiers of the main body requesting our Patriotic Society to purchase instruments for a band but, unbeknown to me, they had already ordered these from Wellington. I informed the society that we should raise the money and could do so on Sunday afternoons by collections from visitors at the camp. I remember Mr Reid McKenzie, of Milson, and how he became our most enthusiastic worker in this respect. He had no difficulty in acquiring more than what was needed. The instruments were taken to France and were badly damaged when a bomb blew up the tent in which they were housed. They were packed and returned to us and I think still exist at the Soldiers' Club.
When the 1st Battalion of Liverpool's Own Rifle Brigade occupied in turn the Awapuni Camp, they made also an application for some instruments. This was granted and the cost came to £500. After they left Palmerston North, a second battalion arrived and they went one better for they had ordered a set and handed us the account for £550 which we duly paid. There was much musical talent among these men and they gave a number of performances in the Opera House which was also filled to capacity. These concerts also helped to increase our funds.
When the second military camp at Rangiotu was established, I received an appeal for Christmas pudding and we decided to advertise this in the Press. The response was wonderful and we received puddings to the amount of 30 cwt. Later appeals for eggs, fruit and so forth also produced the same result.
At the conclusion of the war the Wellington Regiments, in recognition of the kindness bestowed upon it by the people, decided to hold its annual reunions in Palmerston North and these have been maintained ever since. It has been a great pleasure to attend these functions of this association of which I made a LIfe Member.
THE PATRIOTIC SOCIETY
At the commencement of the First World War, I called a meeting of citizens to form a Patriotlc Society. A definite constitution had to be :formulated and it was decided to campaign for funds for the sick and wounded as well as for their dependents
This was quite successful and the town and country were divided into districts and the different committees of men and women who acquired various names - such as the "Kairanga Lancers" [who] raised over £30,000. The society decided that loans could not be entertained. and that any grants could not exceed £100. I was personally most emphatic about this decision as we had to keep the future well in mind. This policy was, I feel, the correct one and the Society has carried on successfully ever since. We have been able to give relief to soldiers and to their dependents particularly during the depression years.
A soldiers' club was eventually established chiefly owing to the generosity of the late Mr. Percy McHardy who donated that magnificent site in Cuba Street as well as a house in the same vicinity foe the custodian. He and his committee raised a .large sum, built the club premises and an endowment of £2,500 was placed at interest as a safety measure.
Mrs E L Nash, M.B.E.
My late wife was a very active worker during the Great War and with her a committee of splendid women promoted bazaars and Paddy's markets to raise funds. The work that was done by them for the Patriotic Society was astonishing. ...
THE INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC
The hospital was soon overcrowded when the the Influenza epidemic descended upon us and we had to actively secure other buildings as temporary hospitals before the situation became
Dr Whittaker and myself, as Hospital Board Members, had charge of the outside arrangements which also included ambulance Service. He took over the Empire Hall, the Soldier's Club and the Druid's Hall where every attention possible was given to the
victims. We were on duty at the depot until 11.0 pm daily but my first lieutenant, Mr H B Bennett, worked all around the clock. He was a wonderful man going everywhere and was quite fearless. He had a certain manner with the sick.
I sent him one day to see an elderly couple who were prostrated in their home and he soon had the fire alight and water heated preparatory to sponging them down. He was enjoying his pipe when Dr Stendahl arrived, whereupon the lady turned to Mr Bennett and said, "You have certainly surprised me, I thought you were the real Doctor".
The late Mr J M Johnston was equally meritorious. He would appear early in the morning to meet each Auckland train and to collect the consignment of fruit earmarked for the sufferers after which he distributed it to the various depots and houses in the town.
In the midst of our work I received an urgent call from Colonel Gibbon, Defence Headquarters, Wellington that the influenza was severe at Trentham and that it had been decided to evacuate the troops immediately. He asked me to arrange a suitable place for a new camp. Captain Preece, a Maori war veteran, agreed to accompany me to Rangiotu and Bainesse to interview our Maori friends about a suitable camp and, as the water supply was of prime importance, Mr Samuel Jickell, Borough Engineer, also came with us. We eventually selected a site but our next difficulty was to find all the Maori's who were joint owners of the land. When they were agreeable, Mr Jickell drew up a plan whereby water could be conveyed from the station supply at Rangiotu. It was also necessary to arrange for a railway siding for the camp. When I eventually reached home at 11.0pm, I communicated with Colonel Gibbon in Wellington and the whole business was set in train.
WIthin two days the soldiers arrived to find tents, cookhouses and so forth ready for occupation. The only mishap occurred when the Railway Department placed the siding at the wrong site and it was necessary to remove it nearer to the camp. Our next task was provision for hospital accommodation for the men who were ill but the next evening we joyfully heard the announcement of the armistice. I remember a great gathering of citizens in the Square about 8.0pm around the band rotunda and, after the usual questions, I made a request to all present to help in erecting a large civilian shelter at the hospital where timber had been taken during the day. I think there were at least 75 men at work the next day and the building was finished by nightfall. A second shelter was erected in the same manner soon afterwards and with these, together with large marquees there and the various halls in the city, we were able to cope with the infection.
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