The Blue Boys
The impact of wounds, gas, disease and post-traumatic stress or shellshock, meant many returned war veterans would spend a long time in hospital for years after the war – sometimes well into the 1920s.
In the era before antibiotics, people could spend many months recovering from injuries and illness. Dedicated veterans’ hospitals were set up throughout Australia and New Zealand during the war.
In a 1957 radio interview, two New Zealanders, Frank Broad and Alan Kernohan – who were in the King George V Hospital in Rotorua – remembered the restrictions placed on the recovering soldiers.
Throughout the British Empire, men who were able to get out of bed, were known as “Blue Boys” because of their “hospital blues” – a uniform worn by the convalescing soldiers. This marked them out and was supposed to prevent the invalids sneaking off to local hotels for a drink, as civilians were prohibited from supplying alcohol to the men in blue… but there were ways around this, as the men recall.