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When World War 1 broke out in 1914, Brockenhurst was officially designated a key hospital centre by the War Office. Brockenhurst’s proximity and railway links to the port of Southampton meant it was ideally situated to receive wounded soldiers transported to the UK from the Western Front for treatment and rehabilitation.
From the outbreak of war until the end of 1915 Balmer Lawn Hotel (5) and Forest Park Hotel (6) were commandeered and fitted out as The Lady Hardinge Hospital for Wounded Indian Soldiers, treating men from the 3rd (Lahore) and 7th (Meerut) Divisions of the Indian Army Corps. Almost 3,500 Indian soldiers were treated in Brockenhurst before the Corps was posted to Egypt in November 1915.
Overcrowding became a problem and in 1916 a purpose built 500-bed combination of tented and galvanised accommodation units was erected at Tile Barn. Officially titles the No1 New Zealand General Hospital it was nicknamed “Tin Town” locally. (4)
The hospitals recruited villagers as support staff and by the end of the war and closure in January 1919, some 21,000 New Zealand troops had been treated at the hospital. Ninety-three New Zealand servicemen died while being treated at Brockenhurst and are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at St Nicholas’ Church. (3)
Villagers also actively engaged in fundraising events for the war. Notably the villagers set up and managed a convalescent unit at the Morant Hall now the Forest Hall development. (8)
FEEDBACK AND KNOWLEDGE ENHANCEMENT.
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