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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

1 General Hospital

1 General Hospital

The First Echelon had left New Zealand only a few days when the military camps began to fill up again with volunteers for the Second Echelon. It had been decided that a military general hospital should now be formed, a primary object being the complete treatment of New Zealand sick and wounded by their own kith and kin. Thus 1 NZ General Hospital came to be formed; its first members began to assemble at Trentham on 12 January 1940, under the command of Col A. C. McKillop.9

These men were the nucleus of the NCOs of the unit. A few had had some Territorial training but most were new to Army life. They had much to learn, but a limited period of five days only was available before the main body of the unit began to assemble. This placed the NCOs and the unit under a handicap at the start—they lacked military knowledge and had but a smattering of the duties which they would have to perform. Yet, to the credit of all concerned, these difficulties were surmounted.

The hospital staff were quartered for a time in tents but were later allotted new huts close to the new camp post office. For messing they were attached to an infantry training battalion, and this arrangement meant that much valuable experience in the supply and feeding of troops was denied to the quartermaster's branch. As many men as possible were employed at the camp hospital as nursing orderlies, and there they were given lectures by sisters of the NZANS.

By the time of their final leave the original assortment of men and officers had become an efficient unit. The keenness shown by page 8 all ranks had assisted greatly in attaining this. The staff of the hospital contained many senior medical men and some with long service in 1 NZEF. Three became Consultants—Lt-Col T. D. M. Stout10 was later Consultant Surgeon 2 NZEF, Lt-Col J. R. Boyd,11 Consultant Physician 2 NZEF, and Capt E. G. Sayers,12 Consultant Physician 2 NZEF IP. Capt R. D. King13 became CO of a field ambulance and Assistant Director of Medical Services, 2 NZ Division. Maj H. K. Christie14 and Capt D. G. Radcliffe15 became COs of general hospitals, and Maj L. J. Hunter16 became CO 1 NZ CCS.

Final leave was all too short, but on the other hand everyone was itching to see service overseas, expecting that they would soon join their companions of the First Echelon in the Middle East. When the unit entrained for embarkation on the evening of 1 May page 9 1940, little did they guess that they would follow such a round-about route to the Middle East or know what a wealth of experience they would gain in the meantime. The strength of the unit was 21 officers, 37 sisters, and 145 other ranks.