Described by US medical historian David Adams as ‘one of the most notable war surgeons of the 20th century’, Douglas Waddell Jolly was born in Cromwell, Central Otago in 1904 and graduated from Otago Medical School in 1929. There he became an active member of the Student Christian Movement and its non-sectarian Christian socialism would remain a guiding principle of his life.
Charles Begg was New Zealand's most decorated member of the Medical Corps during the First World War. Born in Dunedin in September 1879, he attended Kaikorai School and Otago Boys' High School before studying medicine at the University of Otago Medical School in 1898. He graduated with distinction from the University of Edinburgh in 1903. He became an MD in 1905 and the following year returned to New Zealand, where he went into general practice in Wellington. In December 1909 he married Lillian Treadwell. The couple had two sons.
Following the pandemic speculation continued over the Niagara's involvement in bringing the virus to New Zealand. The Department of Public Health was also heavily criticised. The government responded by setting up a royal commission with wide powers of investigation.
It fell to Robert Makgill, acting Chief Health Officer, to implement the Commission's recommendations. One of the recommendations, which Makgill had argued for, was for a new Health Act ‘to consolidate and simplify the existing legislation'.
It is clear that no matter how the second wave developed in New Zealand, it was many times more deadly than any previous influenza outbreaks. No other event has killed so many New Zealanders in so short a space of time. While the First World War claimed the lives of more than 18,000 New Zealand soldiers over a four-year period, the second wave of the 1918 influenza epidemic killed almost 8600 people in less than two months.
Influenza in institutions
Death did not occur evenly throughout the country. Some communities were decimated; others escaped largely unscathed.
The first wave
When the ‘new pandemic flu’ first appeared in 1918 there was no immediate cause for alarm. The disease was different to other strains experienced in the past – for example, it was unusually prevalent amongst young healthy adults. But most people affected by what would turn out to be ‘the first wave’ of the pandemic recovered.
The Spanish flu
The 1918 influenza pandemic was commonly referred to as ‘the Spanish flu’ but it did not originate in Spain.
Influenza instructions for nurses
In the early 21st century anxiety over the danger of avian influenza virus H5N1 revived memories of New Zealand's worst disease outbreak, the lethal influenza pandemic of 1918. In two months New Zealand lost about half as many people to influenza as it had in the whole of the First World War.
Robert Makgill was a key figure in the development of New Zealand's public health system. He was one of the country's first district health officers, at a time when central government took on greater responsibility for public health. He was to play an important role during the 1918 influenza pandemic and its aftermath, notably as ‘the chief architect’ of the ‘the most useful legacy of the 1918 influenza pandemic’: the 1920 Health Act.