New Zealand families visit 'Tin Town' site for launch of World War I project

New forest remembers world war i launch

Published Friday 14 November 2014

Families of New Zealand soldiers wounded in the First World War have visited the hospital site where they were treated in the New Forest.

Thousands of troops from New Zealand and India were cared for at Tile Barn in Brockenhurst from 1914 to 1919.

Tile Barn was originally used to treat troops from the Indian Army Corps at tented and galvanised units, nicknamed 'Tin Town' by locals. The site then became the New Zealand General Hospital No.1 where 21,000 casualties were treated. 

The New Forest's role in the First World War was marked at Tile Barn on Remembrance Day with the launch of a new historical project by the New Forest National Park Authority.

Supported by ExxonMobil at Fawley, the New Forest Remembers World War I Project aims to act as a hub for local groups and historical societies to share wartime stories for an online archive, including those treated at Tile Barn.

Private Albert Johnston was digging in ahead of battle at Passchendale when a stray shell killed his two companions and left him with a shattered leg. He was taken to Tile Barn after doctors initially thought he'd have to have his leg amputated.

His daughter Mary Greenland, from Tauranga in New Zealand, but who now lives in Romsey, said: 'That shell left him for dead. He was nursed here for several months where they tried to save his leg - which they did. I'm particularly pleased to be here and very grateful for all that was done for him. 

'He lived until he was 74 and still had some shrapnel in his leg - it's quite remarkable.'

Private Peter Joseph Begbie served in the Auckland regiment of the New Zealand Rifles until 1916 when he was taken for treatment at Tile Barn after being wounded in Belgium.

His daughter Tricia Isaia, originally from Auckland, but who now lives in Southampton, said: 'He did talk a little bit about the war but not a great deal. In New Zealand you're such a long way from Brockenhurst and I never thought I'd come here.

'They've done a marvellous amount of work here to keep it all new for the children. They don't forget the war, don't forget who gave their lives for them. I think they've done a wonderful job.'

The New Forest Remembers World War I Project will build upon the success of the recent World War II project, and will include rarely seen photos and digitised archives from both wars on an interactive portal.

Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said at the launch: 'This project is our New Forest contribution towards that national act of commemoration. The purpose of the project is to gather as much information as we can for a digital archive, accessible for all for posterity. We hope that it will be our legacy for the future.'

Jon Wetmore, ExxonMobil’s Fawley Refinery Manager, said: 'We've had a long history here and employees at the site feel an innate connection to the New Forest. We relish any opportunity to get involved in key events and important initiatives like this one that are happening here.'

A number of local groups are already sharing their stories including Brockenhurst WWI Project, East Boldre Village, the National Motor Museum Trust, the Lych Gate Project, the Maritime Archaeology Trust, Milton Heritage Collection, Fordingbridge First World War Centenary Committee, Titchfield Spirit, Brockenhurst - a WWI Project, Reclamation: Indian Soldiers of the New Forest and the Redlynch and District Local History Society.

If any local groups would like to get involved in the New Forest Remembers World War I Project please contact Gareth Owen at archaeology@newforestnpa.gov.uk or by calling 01590 646652.

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Picture caption: The launch of the New Forest Remembers World War I Project at Tile Barn in Brockenhurst, of a 1914 Alpine Eagle Rolls Royce with (from l-r) ExxonMobil Fawley Refinery Manager Jon Wetmore, Mary Greenland, Tricia Isaia and Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority.

Supported by

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About the New Forest National Park Authority
Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.
We also have a duty to:
  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contacts:
Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639
Email: sion.donovan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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