Author(s): Neil Frances
Safe Haven traces the life of Featherston Military Camp and, through letters, diaries and reminiscences, the men who lived there. The camp left a legacy in buildings, photographs and the site itself, now quiet land alongside State Highway Two, east of Featherston. The building of Featherston Military Camp in late 1915 transformed a stony paddock east of Featherston township in south Wairarapa into a ready-made barrack town which could house up to 8,000 raw soldiers at a time. Volunteers and conscripts from all parts of the country came to Featherston, spending two to four months in training, our largest military base their temporary home before they left the safety of New Zealand to endure the heaviest wartime casualties this country has suffered. They lived in barracks and tents, enduring the good and bad of camp life and Featherston’s lively climate. The infantry then marched over the Rimutaka Range to Trentham Camp before taking ship for the Western Front. In total about 55,000 men trained at the Featherston Military Camp between 1916-19.
Neil Frances, now an archivist at the Wairarapa Archive in Masterton, has a life-long interest in military historySensilbly rejected by the RNZAF at a young age, Neil Frances worked in the retail music business and on newspapers before settling in the library world.