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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Medical Lessons from the Advance to Tripoli

Medical Lessons from the Advance to Tripoli

The value was demonstrated of fully mobile medical units with attached FSUs capable of carrying out major surgery in the desert. Their long and assiduous training in desert conditions, with staff specialisation, enabled them to shift and set up rapidly. Each section had its place on a standardised field plan and each man had his special place and work. The combination of truck and tarpaulin shelter worked well in the desert and many light tents, and other captured enemy equipment, were utilised.

page 416

For the first time adequate wireless communication was available between medical units, and this was to a great extent responsible for the smooth functioning of our medical units in spite of the rapid and frequent movements. The utilisation of transport planes for the evacuation of casualties from the forward areas proved practicable and most valuable. The attachment of sections of field ambulances to the landing grounds for the treatment and evacuation of the cases was found to be essential.

Head surgery performed in the forward areas by experienced head surgeons of a neurosurgical unit gave better results than delayed operation at the base. A mobile depot of medical stores of, say, two trucks, to carry stores such as bandages, anaesthetics, splints, etc., would have been useful, if available, to accompany the Division when cut off from supply sources. There were times during the advance from Alamein to Tripoli when it was necessary to travel back long distances to obtain supplies.

In the three months from the launching of the offensive at Alamein on 23 October Eighth Army had advanced 1500 miles, and the medical services of 2 NZ Division had functioned without a hitch and at the highest standard throughout this tremendous advance.