Deborah Pitts Taylor (1893 – 25th April 1979) was a New Zealand ambulance driver in England throughout the First World War. During the war there were three general hospitals just for New Zealand troops, in Brockenhurst (where Deborah was), Walton on Thames, and Codford. These hospitals were established by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in late 1916 when the wounded began arriving in England via hospital ships. With over 21,000 troops treated at Brockenhurst general hospital, only 91 of them died and were buried there.
Deborah arrived in England just as the hospital opened, taking up the position of ambulance driver. She didn’t arrive alone; her younger brother wanted to join the army, something a 17 year-old could do in England but not New Zealand. Her eldest brother was already fighting on the front. Deborah came from a farming background and enjoyed getting her hands dirty in the maintenance and driving of the ambulances. As a woman she was in the minority, but as a woman and a Kiwi she was treated much differently. In an extract from her diary it says that English women got a lot more compliments then a colonial did. “You are a bit of a pal, while an English girl is a girl to be flirted with!”
Over the course of the war, Deborah drove thousands of miles in her ambulance to collect the wounded troops from Southampton, just 13 miles away. Unfortunately, sad news came from the war, just as it did for many families. Both of her brothers were killed in action. George, the eldest, was killed in 1917, and her youngest brother Brian in 1918. It isn’t known if Deborah left for New Zealand in early 1918 or as the war ended to be with and support her widowed mother back in Auckland.