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Avondale Historical Journal No. 34

Avondale Historical Journal No. 34

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Published by Lisa Truttman
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Lisa Truttman on Jun 25, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The AvondaleHistorical Journal
March—April 2007Volume
Next meeting of theAvondale-WaterviewHistorical Society:Saturday,7 April 2007,2.30 pmLion’s Hall,corner Blockhouse BayRoad and Great NorthRoadPlease contact theSociety for details.
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical  Society Incorporated 
by Leslie Reeder 
Inside this issue:Mob-6 story 1-4
Originally the land on which Avon-dale College was built was a hugemarket garden covering the area thecollege now occupies. The ownerwas a Chinese man who lived in anold run down shack situated on thecorner of Victor Street and Rosebank Road hidden by a grove of trees. Heemployed locals, mostly Maori peo-ple to harvest his crops for the citymarkets, and was rarely seen outsidehis gardens as people were very rac-ist prior to World War Two and Chi-nese along with some other raceswere not socially accepted.
There was a story told of him whichwas probably true, it concerned
elderly English woman who resided in HollyStreet whose property backed onto his gardens and who one day fell ill. Somehow heheard of her plight, probably through a worker, and in the dead of night at great risk to himself, crept over and left a lot of vegetables on her doorstep which was a wel-come gift in those hard times.
The people of Avondale had known for a long time that the market garden had beenset aside for a school at some future date possibly after the war so were quite sur-prised to be awakened one morning by the sound of heavy earth moving machinery,the likes of which had never been seen before. Huge tracked and wheeled bulldozersnewly introduced to the country were levelling the ground with ease. What reallypuzzled the locals was, why were they were building a school in wartime? Wordquickly got around that the Yanks were coming. This information probably camefrom Fletcher's the contractors through their workers who would be in the know.
Down from the Victor Street gate, about half way down the street itself, back fromthe road lay an old dilapidated house, its paint peeling and its roof red with rust, oc-
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US Marine’s street uniform garrisonhat
strap-on stretcher bearer’s arm band, and
 small booklet, ' Pocket guide to New Zealand' acopy of which was given to every US servicemanon arrival in the country. From Leslie Reeder’scollection, gathered 1943-1944.Part 1 of 2—Second part in the nextissue. Any further memories of Mob-6 or life in World War II Avondalewould be most appreciated. — Editor.
 It is with sad regret that weadvise of the death last  December of Iris Fearon.She was a lovely lady, and a wonderful source of information, along withher husband Murray, as tothe stories which help makeup Avondale’s history. Our thoughts to the Fearon family.
 Page 2
Volume 6 Issue 34
continued from previous page
cupied by a Maori woman and her small child. Theyhad been ordered to vacate the premises, but wheredoes one go when there is an acute shortage of hous-ing brought about by war regulations that forbade theconstruction of any houses for the duration of the war?So the woman was forced to stay put. Early one morn-ing Fletcher's workers arrived and began to prize off the iron roof while the woman and her child were stillinside. Some of the locals objected and rang the Min-ister of Works, Bob Semple, who immediately put astop to all work on the site until he had found alternateaccommodation for the pair.
The government broke its own rules when it built arow of state houses along Victor Street and around thecorner into Rosebank Road in the hospital grounds. Ahigh barbed wire security fence was erected in front of these making them part of the hospital. These houseswere occupied by the navy surgeons and doctors untilthey left and then they reverted back to public hous-ing, when the high fence was removed and a low oneerected at the back of the houses to separate themfrom the school.The high security fence that surrounded the hospitalwas never meant to be a permanent structure, beingconstructed of raw pine logs with bark still intact.Strands of barbed wire were tightly stretched, sixinches apart. At the top a board was inset on an angle,on the side of each post, pointing inwards towards thehospital grounds, with strands of stretched barbed wirefixed over-head the same as the rest of the fence. Thefence was still being erected when the hospital movedin.
Mobile Hospital (Mob-6) arrived in Silver Stream,Wellington, 7
August 1942. The patients that weretreated there suffered from compound fractures causedby gunshot and bomb fragments along with soft tissueand chest wounds, arising from the battle of Guadalca-nal and sea battles associated with it.
Mobile Hospital No.4 (Mob-4), under the command of Captain John H. Robbins, was housed in the groundsof the Auckland Domain and was well established butunder pressure as casualties began to arrive in increas-ingly large numbers as the war escalated. BetweenNovember and December 1942 the hospital expandedto 16 new wards plus additional barracks, storeroomsetc. Mob-4 also took over the receiving barracks at thesouth end of the domain converting them into a 100bed convalescent hospital, to free up beds for morecritical cases. They were able to use the facilities of the Auckland Public Hospital nearby and they alsoused the Epsom Racecourse buildings as isolationwards for contagious diseases and a car pool.
Mob-6 in Wellington served as an evacuation and con-valescent hospital in many ways and had its own bandand recreational facilities to speed up the recovery of patients; this appears to be the role that they continuedto play in Avondale as there were a lot of walking pa-tients. That is, patients nearing the end of their treat-ment and close to being discharged and returned totheir units. Many were U.S. marines who were givenregular leave to visit the city.
The situation was growing worse for Mob-4, as morepatients arrived. They were now seeing a large in-crease in malaria cases at nearly all the mobile andbase hospitals. According to naval records, "of 870patients at Mob-6 Wellington on 6 March 1943, 660or 76 percent had malaria". The records also note, "thelargest influx of patients to Mob-6 were patients withrecurring malaria. In February 1943, the hospital cen-sus reached its highest point to date with over 1,000patients admitted as recorded on 23 February. Malariawas the dominating medical problem; 61 percent of those admitted had malaria".
Mob-4 was having the same malaria problem, oftentransferring patients to Mob-6 because of overcrowd-ing, as the hospital ship Solace (AH-5) brought moreand more malaria patients from the Pacific area fortreatment. What was needed was another hospital toease the load and provide more beds for the wounded
s the Pacific war raged. Also another fierce campaignwould soon to be launched; the battle of Tarawa, late1943.
The Mob-6 hospital was re-commissioned and re-named Base Hospital No. 4, 17 March 1943 and a newMob-6 was sent north to Auckland using the excesssupplies and materials to form a new hospital at Avon-dale. It is on record that no mobile hospital was evercomplete when the medical staff and patients movedin. Avondale would prove no exception.
The buildings that were complete had been quicklyconverted to wards but a lot was needed to be done.Security was a problem with virtually no fences com-plete and a lot of facilities were lacking. Fletcher Con-struction workers would take some months to com-plete their work and consequently had to be issuedwith entry passes long after the navy had moved in.
On arrival at Avondale the Naval authorities were tofind a lot of basic facilities were very lacking. For in-stance there was a shortage of toilets so that the navyresorted to having to build a long row of temporaryprimitive latrines down where the school rifle rangewas later situated. Here one would see a lot of US ma-rines in their distinctive olive-green uniforms min-gling with the sailors going on leave; down here, thesewere patients, as no marines were stationed at the hos-pital.
The main entrance to the hospital was in Victor Streetand was officially called by the Americans the VictorStreet gate along with the Holly Street gate. VictorStreet gate was used by all pedestrian traffic and light
The Avondale Historical Journal 
Volume 6 Issue 34
 Page 3
vehicles. It was manned by an armed guard housed ina grey steel sentry box complete with a wall tele-phone. Here all personnel and cars were checkedalong with sailors liberty (leave) passes. It was also acontact point for locals to leave messages for staff members. I frequently would be asked by girls inHolly Street to deliver messages to their sailor boy-friends. I would ride my pushbike around to the gateand ask the guard to deliver a note or letter to a namedindividual and found them most helpful and obliging,often going out of their way to ring through to the bar-racks or various departments, and if drawing a blank would assure me it would be delivered to the personnamed.
Hollv Street gate was also manned by a sentry, but thisentrance was for heavy vehicles and inwards goods,and was not used by navy personnel coming and goingon leave; all passes had to be presented at the VictorStreet gate. The reason heavy vehicles used this en-trance was to keep unwanted noise away from the hos-pital wards and not annoy the patients. Also all thestorage sheds were situated on this side of the hospital.Late afternoon each day naval personnel would liter-ally pour out of the Victor Street gate on leave head-ing for the bright lights of the city. They would swarmacross the road, a sea of dark navy blue uniforms anda mass of white hats, hurry down the street oppositeand up Rosebank Road to the tram terminus. Everytram would leave crammed to the doors with sailorsevery ten minutes until all had been whisked away tothe city.
The U.S. Health Authorities were quite alarmed atsome Auckland food hygiene standards and thesewould of course have affected the naval personnel atAvondale so it is worth mentioning here. When UStroops arrived in Auckland 1942, their health authori-ties checked all local suppliers to see if they met USfood and drug standards, one lot being the Dairy Com-panies who would supply milk to all camps and hospi-tals. They checked the then three big dairy outlets andonly one met the rigid American health standards asthe others were mixing pasturised milk with unpastur-ised which did not meet US food regulations; theylater came in line however.Another problem was our Dairy Milk Bars. Theyfound that these shops kept their milk in large openmilk cans and that the public brought their own cont-ainers to the shop (tin billies), which were filled usingpint or quart measures which, in between sales, werehung on the outside of the can by their handles. Whattroubled the US health authorities was that thesemeasures were not washed after each sale and prone tocontamination by bacteria. Their answer was to warntheir troops not to buy milk shakes or glasses of milk from any local dairy. At the time, Avondale had atleast three dairy milk bars dispensing milk: one on thecorner of Victor Street and Great North Road, anotherwhere Battersby's funeral parlour now stands, one inGreat North Road near the Salvation Army Hall, andof course the one beside the local picture theatre.
Although the Americans had moved in the highbarbed wire fence was still being erected and was nonexistent down lower Holly Street, the old low marketgarden fence being quite useless as far as securitywent, with fallen rusted strands of barbed wire andgreat gaps that one could virtually step through. Atthis stage the naval hospital navy guards were issuedwith heavy service rifles to lug on their rounds. Oncethe high fence was in place however they were issuedwith .45 semi-automatic pistols which they wore in akhaki web holster on a wide similar belt. This madetheir job much easier.
Shortly after the navy moved in they erected a line of prefabricated steel sheds along the Holly Street fenceline as workshops and maintenance sheds. FletcherConstruction had poured the concrete bases to planwith bolts protruding upright to accommodate the steelprefabricated sections so that they could be assembledand bolted together quite quickly. We kids watchedfascinated as this type of construction was new to NZ.A small mobile crane was employed to lift the smallbut heavy sections off the truck and into position thento be bolted into place.
What surprised us also was that the sailors doing the job seemed so old compared to the ages of the youngguards we encountered almost daily. We were to learnthat they were reservists, that is, they had served pre-viously in the navy and had been recalled because of the war. These men were members of the U.S. NavyConstruction Battalion (or C.B – the Sea Bees). Theirtrucks carried their logo of an aggressive bee wearinga white sailor’s hat, and armed with a tommy gun div-ing from the sky, contained in a circle with theirmotto, 'We build, we fight'. They also had an officiallyrecognised saying, when asked if they could carry outa specific task they always replied, 'Can do'.
The fighting Sea Bees built all the airfields in the Pa-cific campaign, plus hospitals, administration build-ings etc., were often in the first wave of assault troopsashore, and were trained for combat by the US MarineCorps.
Down Rosebank Road, a short distance from VictorStreet, and back from the road stood an old two storiedvacant house. This the Americans converted into a
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