[August 23, 1917 – New Zealand Herald] A party of invalided soldiers, 28 officers and 536 other ranks, arrived in Auckland yesterday. The contingent contained an unusually large quota of serious cases, those listed as cot cases numbering something over 230. In addition, there was more than the usual number of men who had lost a limb.
One patient had lost both legs. He was fortunate in that the amputations left it possible for artificial limbs to be fitted to him. Consequently he was about among the other walking patients with his gait hardly more perceptibly affected than that of many others who had suffered leg wounds. A sad feature was the presence of a high proportion of victims of tuberculosis and several mental cases.
His Excellency the Governor-General the Earl of Liverpool was present when the party arrived, and spent some time among the wounded men, chatting with them and viewing the arrangements made for their comfort.
An official welcome was tended by the Mayor, accompanied by the chairman of the Harbour Board. All but those classified as “cot cases” being assembled, they were given a brief address of welcome on behalf of the citizens. Mr. Gunson said he had had the opportunity of bidding farewell to many of them when they left. It now devolved upon him to convey to them a cordial welcome, and to assure them of the appreciation of the community generally of the services they had rendered in conjunction with their comrades in arms. He wished all the returned men speedy restoration to health, and congratulated them, as he did all the New Zealand soldiers, on the great work being done by them for the Empire.
When they again took their places in civil life—as many of them would—trusted they would be successful in their careers. Despite the serious nature of the injuries suffered by many of the party, a spirit of the utmost cheerfulness prevailed. Many of them, especially the cot cases, were men who had become casualties during the fighting at Messines.
While exhibiting the reticence which everyone has learned to expect from soldiers just returned, little glimpses of what that battle meant could be obtained. An artilleryman, who was wounded just before the attack began, described in passing how an ammunition column with which he worked was engaged in supplying each battery with a stock of 13,000 shells before the preliminary bombardment began, the ammunition being taken up in trucks running on a tramway line. The soldier in question had not been absent from the Dominion a year. As illustrative of the fortunes of war, he told how a comrade—an ammunition column driver—had had three narrow escapes in one week. The driver was a Main Body man hailing from Christchurch. After serving on Gallipoli with the Mounted Rifles, he had transferred to the Artillery in Egypt. While transporting ammunition prior to Messines, he had had his off horse killed by a high explosive shell, which wounded the narrator, and within the same week had twice had the horse he was riding killed under him. Yet the man himself had escaped without a scratch and after three years of warfare was still sound and whole.
The same soldier gave an interesting indication of how much smaller the losses at Messines had been than the minimum number considered possible. For the New Zealanders 8000 beds were provided. In the end there were 5000 casualties, and of these at least 1000 were slight cases, patients who did not leave France obtaining a little treatment there, and then returning to duty.
The medical boards and the district staff were busily engaged most of the day in examining the invalids and adjusting their papers. The usual arrangements for their comfort were made. The Women’s Patriotic Committee supplied tea and light refreshments, while the transport home of those desiring it was undertaken by a number of privately-owned motorcars, under arrangements made by Mr. A. A. Martin.