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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

3 General Hospital at Tripoli

page 283

3 General Hospital at Tripoli

Leaving Beirut on 2 March, the staff of 3 General Hospital, after staging in the Canal Area, arrived in parties by hospital ship at Tripoli in March. Their new location was at Suani ben Adem, twelve miles from Tripoli and two miles from NZ Advanced Base. On it was a large stone fort. This building later became the administration block, containing operating theatres, X-ray, dispensary, ordnance, steward's store, hospital and QM offices.

At Tripoli the unloading of the hospital's equipment from ship to lighter began on 1 April, and by the evening of the 5th it was all on the hospital site without being damaged by air raids on the harbour. Work now went ahead rapidly. As there was no Royal Engineers service, all plumbing, joinery, and electrical work had to be carried out by the staff of the hospital, and the result showed their skill and initiative. It was difficult to obtain engineers' supplies, and material from salvage dumps was adapted to suit requirements. Stoves, for example, were not available, and two acquired from an abandoned Italian ship were brought into use. For wards EPIP tents joined together had to take the place of hospital expanding-pattern tents.

Before the hospital opened some of the staff were attached to 48 British General Hospital, whose staff was hard-pressed. Although regarded at first with some suspicion, they soon earned expressions of appreciation and approval. On 10 April, in response to an urgent request, 100 patients were admitted to 3 General Hospital. On the 14th 300 beds were occupied, only four equipped beds being empty. At the end of the month all 900 beds were equipped. By this time all departments were functioning except dental, massage, and occupational therapy. These opened during May.

On 2 May the New Zealand Minister of Defence, the Hon. F. Jones, visited the hospital and expressed his appreciation of its work and that of the other medical units during the North African campaign. The Minister was accompanied by Brig H. S. Kenrick, who had returned from a tour of duty in New Zealand and had been reappointed DMS 2 NZEF on 17 April, upon the return of Brig K. MacCormick to New Zealand.

As the African campaign drew towards it end, the tempo of the hospital activities increased. The number of patients treated grew as battle casualties arrived from the forward areas, both by road page 284 and by air. Frequent evacuations by hospital ship, however, prevented the bed state from rising to an unmanageable figure.

Throughout May and succeeding months the heat proved most trying, a temperature as high as 119 degrees being recorded on one occasion inside the reception tent, with a temperature of 130 degrees outside. Margarine ran like water in the mess tents, and all food and drinks were strongly laced with salt to compensate for perspiration loss. Situated near the hospital was the Convalescent Depot, under Lt-Col Noakes, and the staff of the depot were likewise tried by the heat.