Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
4 Field Hygiene Section
In the middle of March 4 Field Hygiene Section, under Maj W. J. Boyd,4 arrived in Syria and took over part of a large hotel in Baalbek. The hotel had previously been occupied by an Australian hygiene section, and a useful demonstration area had been laid out by it. A large concrete reservoir at the back of the building, with a constant supply of ice-cold water from the ancient Roman springs, was used as a swimming pool, and hot showers were improvised by the unit workshop. One of the section's first tasks was an inspection of the food and barbers' shops in the town. The problem of rubbish disposal was overcome by employing native contractors and forming a controlled tip in the old quarries on the outskirts of the village.
The unit had become responsible for the supervision of hygiene for an area of about sixty square miles, as New Zealand units were spread out between Rayak and Ras Baalbek in the Lebanon Valley. This district was one of the most malarious in the Middle East, and the Australians had had a large number of malaria cases in the previous season. As soon as the weather permitted, a survey of all watercourses, swamps, and irrigation areas was begun and detailed page 193 maps prepared. This work took several weeks because of the roughness of the tracks and the thickly wooded country. A large number of Arab labourers was employed on drainage work, clearing streams, installing and repairing sluice gates. This work was done so effectively that no extensive mosquito breeding could be found in the area up to the time the Division left.
In May the unit was pleased to read in an issue of the NZEF Times an article on the good health of the troops in the country, which reflected credit on the work of the hygiene section. At this time, too, soldiers with sartorial aspirations found themselves living in troubled times, the cause of the trouble being the recently issued ‘Bombay bloomers’, unsightly shorts which could be extended to ‘semi-longs’ in the evening to frustrate attacks by the mosquito.