Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific
Towards the end of July 1943 the ADMS 3 Division, Colonel Speight, accompanied the GOC's reconnaissance party to Guadalcanal, where an examination of the staging area allotted to 3 Division was carried out. The sites of the brigades were decided upon and satisfactory positions for medical units were selected. Generally speaking the areas were in good order, were clean, and had not been occupied for some weeks. Drainage was good and few mosquitoes were seen. All drinking and washing water had to be carted to the camp sites, but this state of affairs was alleviated somewhat by the fact that nowhere was any camp likely to be farther than two miles from the beach and one brigade would actually be camped beside the beach.
Early in August 3 Division was engaged in preparations for its move to the Solomon Islands. The move itself was carried out in three flights, 14 Brigade Group embarking on 15 August, Divisional Headquarters Group embarking on 22 August, and lastly, 8 Brigade Group embarking on 2 September. For the purpose of the move and until further notice, 2 CCS (Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson1) and 1 Malaria Control Unit (Major Jack2) were placed under command of ADMS 3 Division.
Active Operations in the Solomon Islands
When the units of the Division landed on Guadalcanal in three successive flights on 27 August, 3 September and 14 September 1943, that island was the principal forward base for actions in progress 200 miles away to the north-west in the New Georgia Group of the Solomon Islands. New Caledonia was 1000 miles away to the south and New Zealand a further 1000 miles farther back.
By the time the Division arrived to play its part in the Solomons campaign the strategy of bypassing enemy-occupied islands was in operation. In order to achieve success this strategy required the use of large numbers of aircraft to provide air cover, patrols and to page 38 pulverise enemy bases and aerodromes; motor torpedo-boats to work at night attacking enemy barges transporting personnel and supplies to their various island garrisons; landing craft of all sizes to ferry our own troops and equipment for each engagement, and naval vessels to protect convoys of smaller craft and, if necessary, to bombard enemy positions at the point of attack. These were all available for Admiral W. F. Halsey's forces, of which 3 Division was a valuable striking unit.
Briefly, the strategy of bypassing was to get behind the enemy, isolate his bases, and force him to evacuate or surrender by cutting his supply lines and smashing his airfields and defences. This was achieved by capturing some island ahead of an enemy base and establishing there with the greatest possible speed airfields, naval bases and supply dumps. Thus established, air power from the new base supported the next move forward and enabled a continuous assault to be maintained on the enemy.
The capture of Vella Lavella was a typical example of this bypassing strategy. It forced the Japanese to evacuate Kolombangara and several smaller islands north of New Georgia and paved the way for the next forward thrusts to the Treasuries, Empress Augusta Bay, and ultimately to the Green Islands.
After the arrival of 3 Division on Guadalcanal action was not long delayed, but the Division seemed fated to be dispersed. Never once during the Solomons campaign did the two brigades work together in one concerted action. By the time 8 Brigade was disembarking on Guadalcanal 14 Brigade was embarking for its move forward. From then on the two brigades fought on separate islands, one a long hop ahead of the other, so that their only direct links were by wireless and aircraft. There can be no connected story of their activities, for the brigades did not join up again until they returned to New Caledonia in 1944.
1 Lt-Col S. L. Wilson, DSO; Dunedin; born Dannevirke, 17 Apr 1905; surgeon; surgeon 2 Gen Hosp Aug 1940–Jun 1941; Mob Surgical Unit Jun 1941–Feb 1942; 1 Mob CCS Feb 1942–Mar 1943; CO 2 CCS (Pacific) Aug 1943–Jan 1944.