3/661 Private Richard Craig – New Zealand Medical Corp

Richard Craig was born on the 1st March 1887 in Abbey Yard, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire Scotland.[i]

The New Zealand Government in the early 1900’s recruited a large number of single young men to staff the country’s mental hospitals. Richard is listed, in May 1915, as a mental hospital attendant at the Porirua Mental Hospital.

Richard enlisted with two other Porirua Hospital staff, William Skinner and Tom Wright all selecting to join the New Zealand Medical Corp. Richard’s medical assessment in May 1915 noted that his teeth were ‘sufficient’ and that while he had lost two digits on his left forefinger ‘does not interfere with the usefulness of the hand.’

The three Privates 3/661 Craig, 3/722 Skinner and 3/373 Wright entered Trentham Military Camp on the 12th May 1915
and the next day as part of the No2 New Zealand Stationery Hospital were loaded onto HMNZTS Maunganui for Egypt.

On arrival in Egypt in July 1915 the No 2 NZ Stationary Hospital to over a medical facility at Pont de Koubbeh. The hospital provided facilities for the treatment of sick and wounded from the Gallipoli campaign and had to cope with an increased workload during the August campaign (Chunuk Bair). This ‘threw a very great strain upon the staff and a the work was extremely arduous especially as te wounds, practically without exception, were septic. Indeed, during August 1915, cases arrived at the hospital from Gallipoli with the first field dressing on[ii].’

The staff were also exposed to enteric fever, which was rife on Gallipoli, with Private Craig being admitted to the No 1 NZ General Hospital, (renamed from the No 2 NZ Stationary), on the 23rd November 1915. Recovery was slow and in
March 1916 Private Craig was evacuated to England and admitted to No 2 NZ General Hospital at Walton on Thames. In April 1916, at Walton on Thames, paratyphoid was diagnosed but it would not be until August 1916 that Private Craig was well enough to be discharged.

Private Craig was sent to rejoin the staff of the No 1 NZ General Hospital which had been moved from Cairo and was now based in Brockenhurt. Private Craig remained with the unit through 1917 / 1918, spending some time in care. The medical
records are not clear but Private Craig may have had a relapse of the paratyphoid with a note on file of him being
admitted to hospital in January 1918 and not being discharged until March 1918.

In May 1918 it was determined that he should returned to New Zealand due to ‘disability following paratyphoid’ and he
was sent to the NZ Discharge facilities at Torquay. While Private Craig was in Torquay waiting to be shipped back to New Zealand he faced, on 10th October 1919,  a District Court Martial,  where he was charged with striking an officer. The
officer was 3/3452 Lance Corporal Noel Carless, NZMC, who was involved as an Education Instructor at Torquay. Private Craig was found guilty and was sentenced to 42 days detention and 86 days loss of pay.  

Private Craig remained in England until the 20th March 1919 before he was returned to New Zealand. On the 14th March 1919 Private Craig was discharged from the NZEF as ‘no longer physically fit for war service on account of illness contracted on active service – paratyphoid.’

On discharge Richard Craig initially went to live in ‘The Settlement, Levin’[iii] but by 1926 he had moved to the South Island his medals were sent to Waddington, Sheffield, Canterbury.

Richard’s death, on 21st July 1971, in Christchurch by Mr R J Craig[iv] (son?).

New Zealand Hospitals in Egypt – The War Effort of New Zealand NZETC
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 3/661 Private Richard Craig
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 3/3452 Staff Sergeant Noel Carless
Paperspast Online

No 1 NZ General Hospital Brockenhurst – Postcard Quirk collection               

[i] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 3/661 Private Richard Craig
[ii] NZ Hospitals in Egypt
[iii] Archway Archway New Zealand Military Files: 3/661 Private Richard Craig
[iv] Archway Archway New Zealand Military Files: 3/661 Private Richard Craig