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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

At the Main Dressing Station

At the Main Dressing Station

At 5 MDS very full preparations had been made. At 11 p.m. on 23 October the first casualties began to arrive. During the early hours of the 24th, Major McKenzie's1 1 General Hospital surgical team began performing urgent major surgery; it continued to work without a halt for 16 hours. All through the early morning a steady stream of stretcher casualties poured in, and at mid-morning twelve three-ton trucks filled with walking wounded returned from the ADSs. The MDS was exceptionally busy, and a request was sent to the ADMS for an additional surgical team. To clear the MDS of patients, extra transport was pressed into service, as the ten MDS ambulance cars could not cope with the numbers waiting to be evacuated. After midday, casualties began to arrive at a terrific rate, many of these being from 51 Highland Division. From 1 South African Division's forward medical units, considerable numbers of chest, head, and abdomen cases were also received. The accommodation of the MDS was completely overtaxed, and at 3 p.m. 250 lying cases surrounded the area without any form of protection from sun and dust. The staff of the unit worked continuously, and the ASC drivers, when not driving their ambulances, assisted in general duties. At this time the supply of stretchers was exhausted and it was impossible to procure more. The supply of blood and plasma was adequate, and during the day nearly ninety transfusions were given.

About 6 p.m., through the efforts of ADMS 2 NZ Division (Col Ardagh), 30 vehicles arrived, and within an hour a great number of casualties was evacuated, leaving with the MDS only those who had recently come from the operating theatre. Considerable relief was afforded the overworked medical officers when Maj S. L. Wilson, with his additional surgical team from 1 NZ CCS, began operating during the afternoon. Both surgical teams operated without a halt for many hours. The evacuation arrangements worked more page 234 smoothly as the day progressed, and an adequate number of three-tonners was available to clear the MDS. On an average it took three hours for a vehicle to do the round trip from MDS to CCS.

Over a period of 24 hours (23-24 October) the MDS handled a record number of 838 patients, of whom more than 500 were New Zealanders. The surgical teams, as well as the field ambulance surgeons, were fully engaged with either major or minor surgery. The resuscitation department was always abreast of blood transfusion requirements. The day's intake on 25 October was much lighter (about 300), and every feature of the work in the MDS, including evacuation, went most smoothly. The special surgical teams attached to the MDS worked under a rotational scheme of duty, and this gave the surgeons an opportunity for rest.

Amongst the casualties received at the MDS were also many enemy prisoners, but their own captured medical personnel were able to look after them. Considerable air activity in that sector and heavy bombing in nearby areas interrupted rest and sleep. During the day there were several air battles overhead. On the night of 25-26 October things became relatively quiet, and as many of the staff as possible took the opportunity to rest.