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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Medical Plan for the Battle

Medical Plan for the Battle

The Alamein line had been stabilised for some time and it had been possible to make thorough preparation for the treatment of the large number of casualties expected from the battle, a number estimated at 12,000 apart from prisoners.

military plans

30 Corps Medical Units at noon 23 October 1942, Battle of Alamein

page 379

An ample supply of ambulance cars and some lorries for walking wounded were attached to the field ambulances to ensure rapid evacuation from the RAPs to the ADS and from the ADS to the MDS. Each battalion had also been supplied with an ambulance car before the battle. There were also ambulance cars and trucks available in large numbers for further evacuation to the hospital area at Gharbaniyat, and from there to Alexandria, the railhead, or the landing ground.

A group of MDSs had been sited around the Alamein railway station and alongside the main road in that area, to which the casualties would be evacuated from the field. Cases of primary injury, including abdominals, were to be operated on at this level, and FSUs and FTUs were attached to the different dressing stations for this purpose. Three underground dressing stations had been constructed well forward close to the railway station and these were manned by British, Australian, and South African units. Another page 380 Australian unit was sited nearby on the coast, and our New Zealand dressing station was between the railway and the road, one and a half miles from the station.

military plans

Battle of Alamein: Dispositions at 23 October 1942

Evacuation from this group of dressing stations, including cases of secondary urgency for operation, was by road to the hospital centre, which had been active for some time at Gharbaniyat and was situated on the old road running close to the railway and about 30 miles behind the dressing stations. This was a medical centre containing 10 British CCS, 2/3 Australian CCS, 1 NZ CCS, 2 Indian CCS, 14 British Field Ambulance, and 1 MAC. At a conference on 7 October ADMS 86 Sub-Area explained to the officers commanding these units that their units would clear all casualties from the whole Eighth Army area when the battle began. Each unit would be required to expand—10 British CCS and 2 Indian CCS, being complete, would accommodate 425 patients each; 2/3 Australian CCS and 1 NZ CCS, being without light sections, would provide 300 and 350 beds and stretchers respectively.

The 14th British Field Ambulance came first on the line of evacuation and was to perform the double duty of sorting out and relaying the serious cases to the CCSs, treating the minor cases, holding up to 400, and evacuating them continuously to 200 British Field Ambulance at Ikingi Maryut, close to the Cairo-Alexandria road. The Indian CCS in the group was to take all Indian cases not requiring operative treatment. The three other CCSs, 10 British, 2/3 Australian, and 1 New Zealand, were to receive the major cases in rotation. Extra tentage would be supplied but would not be erected before the opening of the offensive.

Evacuation would ordinarily be by train to the Delta and Canal areas from Gharbaniyat, which was the railhead. Special cases (chest, head, maxillo-facial) and casualties from Australian, Free French, and Greek forces would go by road to general hospitals in the Alexandria area. The 1st MAC would be responsible for evacuations to the train and by road to Alexandria. (Air evacuation arranged later from LGs 28 and 171 (landing grounds) was to Heliopolis aerodrome in Cairo for head and other special cases, and New Zealand cases were also sent to Helwan to be admitted to our general hospital.) The compactness of the area and the concentration of the medical units, along with the short lines of evacuation, contributed greatly to the efficiency of the planning.