New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Medical arrangements in respect to sickness and accidents were put into operation immediately upon the arrival of the First Echelon. Fourth Field Ambulance established in Maadi Camp a camp hospital of 100 beds in tents. This comprised five large HP marquees for general sickness, four large HP marquees for infectious and venereal cases, with one GS and three small RD tents for administration purposes.1 More tents were added as the need arose. Equipment was drawn from British depots in Egypt.
1 HP ? hospital pattern; GS ? general service; RD ? ridge double.
2 Col A. A. Tennent, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Timaru, 4 Sep 1899; medical practitioner; 2 i/c 4 Fd Amb Sep 1939–Mar 1940; DADMS NZ Div Mar–Dec 1940; CO 1 Conv Depot Dec 1940–Oct 1941; CO 4 Fd Amb Oct–Dec 1941; p.w. Dec 1941; repatriated Apr 1942; ADMS 4 Div (NZ) Aug–Oct 1942; CO 4 Gen Hosp 2 NZEF (IP) Nov 1942–Dec 1943; SMO Sick and Wounded, Army HQ, Dec 1943–1944; ADMS Central Military District 1944–45.
It was soon felt that the New Zealand Medical Corps in Egypt lacked sufficient medical officers with surgical experience for the duties which it was being asked to perform. It was anticipated that the need would be increased when the troops took over large numbers of mechanised transport vehicles and sustained severe accidental injuries. It was felt that none but the best possible surgical assistance should be available for our men. General Freyberg sent an urgent request to Army Headquarters, New Zealand, on 7 February asking for the despatch of two capable surgeons to supplement the staff, a surgeon capable of dealing with head injuries being especially desired. Captains Button1 and Furkert2 were then quickly flown to Egypt from New Zealand. On their arrival Captain Button was placed in charge of the detachment at Helmieh, thus relieving Major Tennent for duties at Divisional Headquarters as DADMS, for which post he was originally intended. The policy of caring for our own sick and wounded, which had been laid down at the beginning of the war, had not been fully implemented. The lesson was learnt that adequate provision for hospital treatment must be first priority, and that this implied that a hospital unit of some kind should accompany the first troops sent overseas.
Successive detachments from 4 Field Ambulance underwent tours of duty at 2/10 British General Hospital and their training syllabi covered nursing, operating-theatre practice, radiology, massage, dispensing, laboratory, medical stores, administrative and general duties. The knowledge then gained was invaluable to our force, at that time inexperienced in military hospital administration, and later the staffs of our hospitals were also to benefit from the experience passed on to them.
2 Col F. P. Furkert, ED, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Taihape, 8 Dec 1906; surgeon; surgeon 5 Fd Amb Nov 1939–Feb 1940; 4 Fd Amb Oct 1940–Feb 1941; OC Mobile Surgical Unit Mar 1941–Jan 1942; CO 6 Fd Amb Jan 1942–Feb 1943; ADMS 2 NZ Div Feb–Jun 1943.