Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
By the end of July as the New Zealanders battled for the last heights commanding Florence, the influx of patients at 2 General Hospital had raised the bed state to 747, and leave was temporarily cancelled. The news of steady progress on the Normandy and Russian fronts, where the battle for Warsaw had begun, led to a wave of optimism throughout the unit regarding the possible early ending of the war in the European theatre. At Caserta the weather was hot and muggy, with occasional thunder showers.
On 1 August 83 casualties arrived by air, and the following day a new high level in the occupied bed state was reached when, for a brief period during the overlap of admissions and discharges, there were 817 patients in the wards. The congestion was relieved by evacuation by ambulance train and passenger train to 3 General page 379 Hospital at Bari, 1 General Hospital, Molfetta, and 1 Convalescent Depot, San Spirito, of 50 and 130 patients on successive days, and then, after one day of no discharges, 103, 212, and 60 on successive days. On 14 August the largest evacuation ever made by the hospital took place when 214 patients were transferred to the east coast medical units. From that date evacuation facilities were satisfactory, and the bed state of the hospital remained below crisis conditions, although infective hepatitis cases began to come through in growing numbers from the Division.
Taking it all round, the difficulties of evacuation, crowded wards, heat and humidity threw a considerable strain on all hands, and made August 1944 a month to be remembered by 2 General Hospital. The staff all rose to the occasion, took their troubles with good humour, and maintained the standard of work at high level. As events were to prove, this month was the climax of their activities at Caserta.
Leave arrangements were made by the hospitals in July so that members of their staffs could go on leave to the Isle of Ischia, and the sisters and WAACs could spend two days in Rome. A chance to see Rome became the ambition of all, as the first sightseers brought back such glowing accounts of the New Zealand Forces Club, St. Peter's Cathedral, Vatican City, the Forum, Colosseum, Catacombs and the opera, among other highlights.
In August there were further staff changes in the hospitals as the 4th Reinforcements and some of the original officers and sisters left for New Zealand. Among these were both the commanding officer of 1 General Hospital, Colonel Pottinger, and the Matron, Miss M. Chisholm. They were succeeded by Col W. B. Fisher and Miss E. Worn4 respectively.