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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Arrangements for Medical Units

Arrangements for Medical Units

Each of the field ambulances cleared their patients to the CCS at Zahle and moved with their respective brigade groups from Syria to Egypt from 16 to 18 June. The accommodation at the CCS was taxed with nearly 200 patients on the night of 15 June, but most of these were evacuated next morning to 2 General Hospital at Nazareth and 3 General Hospital at Beirut. Then, on 17 June, the CCS was ordered to proceed to Egypt. All patients were evacuated to the general hospitals and the CCS left for Egypt on the 21st. The unit went to Sidi Bishr transit camp, Alexandria, the intention being to locate it behind the New Zealand Division in the Western Desert. The withdrawal of our troops from Minqar Qaim, however, so shortened the lines of communication that the unit was not called upon to go forward, and on 30 June it was recalled to Maadi Camp to be held in reserve.

During July the light section of the CCS was set up as a staging post for casualties on a small sandhill in the Delta, alongside the main road and rail communications between Alexandria and Cairo.

At a conference at GHQ MEF on 14 June it was decided that 2 General Hospital would move from Nazareth to a site at Kantara or El Ballah in the Suez Canal zone, and open there in order to take the New Zealand battle casualties arriving by ambulance train from the Western Desert. This projected move was subsequently cancelled on 29 June by GHQ MEF because, on account of the serious military situation after the fall of Tobruk, it was then considered inadvisable to move any units other than combatant troops into Egypt. It was decided a few days later that, as a British hospital was already moving in to Nazareth, 2 General Hospital should move to Kfar Vitkin and open alongside 1 Convalescent Depot. With the hope of eventually getting the hospital to the Canal area, where it would be much better placed to deal with the reception and evacuation of New Zealand casualties, DMS 2 NZEF deferred the opening at Kfar Vitkin. On 13 July approval was received for the hospital to move to El Ballah as originally intended, and it opened there on 29 July.

Having opened in Syria just prior to the departure of the New Zealand Division, 3 General Hospital remained there, being one of the few New Zealand units left in the country. Thereafter, until page 329 February 1943, the majority of the hospital's patients were British and Allied troops and not New Zealanders, although some New Zealand battle casualties were admitted after travelling from Alexandria to Haifa by hospital ship and then by motor ambulance cars to Beirut.

No. 3 General Hospital serviced Ninth Army, with only an occasional convoy of New Zealand troops from the Desert, till eventually it was shifted to Tripoli. However, it did something to balance the large amount of work carried out for New Zealand troops by British hospitals and by its efficient work added to the popularity of the New Zealand Medical Corps.