Not all of those who ended up in First World War convalescent hospitals were wounded. Some, like Les Miller, never made it into battle. Les Miller’s war record on Archway ID RD21375472 shows that he left New Zealand on 23.3.17 on the ‘Ulimaroa’. He was admitted to the ship’s hospital on 27.8.17 suffering from influenza, and went to various convalescent hospitals after his arrival in London. He was returned to New Zealand on the hospital ship ‘Marama’, departing on 19.12.18, having been diagnosed as ‘pthisical’. He was discharged on 26.2.19.
Leslie Darke Miller 1894-1981 was born in Apiti, and was the son of Charles and Emily Miller nee London. His father was one of four brothers who emigrated together to New Zealand from Manchester in the 1880s, and who settled in Apiti as part of the Small Farms Settlement there. Les worked on his father’s farm, and is a farmer on his war record, but later electoral rolls describe him as a clerk. He married Isabel Esplin and had one son, Jim. Les lived the rest of his life in Feilding. He went blind in old age and, as a widower, was looked after by his youngest sister Rene until he died in Feilding in 1981. He had two other sisters, Maud (pictured with Les) and Grace. Also held on Manawatū Heritage is a letter that Les sent to Maud commenting on conditions and ‘flash’ nurses, and a card sent to Maud by Henry Pawson, who was also from Apiti and who had an ‘understanding’ with her. The family story is that she found him so changed when he returned that she broke off with Henry and instead married Avery Belk, who she considered a more ‘clean-living’ man.
Les is an example of the more fortunate First World War servicemen who avoided the slaughter of armed combat, but who were able to enjoy the adventure and camaraderie of travel overseas, and care in military hospitals.