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The New Zealand Medical Service in the Great War 1914-1918

I. Note on Medical Arrangements for the Landing at Anzac

I. Note on Medical Arrangements for the Landing at Anzac.

The Official History of the War, Medical Services General History, Vol IV., gives much valuable information on this point, some of which is not referred to in the text of this book. The general tenor of the commentary on the failure of the wounded evacuations is as follows:—

(a)The initial failure of the medical services was due to difficulties with which not only the Medical but all other Administrative Services had to contend and was the result of a lack of previous training in amphibious operations and, more especially, to a miscalculation of the extent of the opposition. The original scheme prevised a rapid and considerable advance inland and the retention of wounded ashore for two or three days at least. The 15th, the 16th, and the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospitals were to be landed at once to receive the casualties.
(b)The necessity for using the transports for wounded was not seriously considered, consequently they were not equipped for the reception of casualties.

"This seems an unfortunate oversight, for if there was any intention whatever to accommodate serious cases on the transports adequate equipment should have been provided…. What ever fault there was lay in the neglect to make provision for a reverse at the landings…. The conditions were worse at Anzac owing to want of small craft and of organisation for loading ships. The responsibility for this did not rest with the medical authorities…. There was neither means nor room for retaining the casualties ashore for the treatment or until they could be sorted out for embarkation on hospital ships or transports, as had been intended: It was imperative to clear them from the beaches as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately the arrangements for doing so broke down and the utmost confusion prevailed. There was no guiding or directing hand. The D.M.S. was on the Arcadian but the use of the wireless for obtaining information of what was happening was denied him. Classifying the casualties into seriously and slightly wounded became impossible—seriously wounded were embarked on the transports and slightly wounded on the hospital ships. The Gascon Hospital Ship, for example, had received 300 slightly wounded the first day and was consequently more than half full with that class of case and unable to take its proper complement of seriously wounded."

(c)The official history supports the contention of Colonel Nevile Manders, our A.D.M.S., that Lemnos would have made a suitable base for holding the seriously wounded as the following passage shows:—

"But it would have been feasible to establish hospitals with a large amount of accommodation on the Island of Lemnos, and if this had been done in anticipation of the landing on the Peninsula much of the trouble would have been avoided. The wounded could have been received there in the first instance and arrangements could have been made for their further evacuation to Egypt, Malta, and England. Unfortunately no hospital arrangements had been made on shore at Mudros nor any medical administration established there until towards the end of May."

As evidence of the feasibility of the establishment of General Hospitals on Lemnos it is to be noted that at the end of December, 1915, there were actually 2 general hospitals, 4 stationary hospitals and 1 C.C.S. open at Mudros with an aggregate bed state of 6,336 beds and a possibility of expansion to double that number.