From state highway 57 there seems to be little to Linton, but in fact it’s a significant urban area with many residents enjoying the spacious and quiet living. And of course it is home to the Linton Army Camp, New Zealand’s biggest army camp.
Scotsman James Linton (pictured) was one of the first European settlers in Palmerston. He and his wife Sarah arrived on horseback from Wairarapa early in 1871. Linton served as mayor of Palmerston North 1879-82 and 1884-5, and was a director and ardent promoter of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company.
Today Linton is best known for the army camp. But the site first planned as Linton township is several kilometres away from there.
Only the school and a few houses now provide clues to where the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company decided that the next stop on their Wellington ‒ Longburn railway line would be. Along with several other directors of this private company, James Linton was honoured by having a railway station settlement on the line named after him. The line, opened in 1886, was a successful venture, but the Linton township did not develop.
The site of the Linton Military Camp was bought by the New Zealand Government in October 1941. Tents for the 2 Field Regiment formed the first accommodation on this site in February 1942, but within six months the first prefabricated huts were being built. The first housing blocks for officers were constructed in 1955. It was in 1985 that Linton Military Camp became New Zealand’s largest, when the permanent force then stationed in Singapore was withdrawn and accommodated at Linton. It has grown even bigger since then with the transfer of frontline units from Auckland and Waiouru
The site purchased for Linton Military Camp included an area by the Manawatu River which had been a major Rangitane Maori village known as Te Kairanga (the place where much food is gathered) but by the 1940s the name was in common use for the district on the other side of the river. Instead the camp took the name of Linton.