Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
The succession of battles fought by the Division brought 584 battle casualties to 1 General Hospital at Senigallia during April, but the proportion of seriously wounded was notably low. The accommodation prepared in advance proved adequate and there was no overcrowding. From 1 General Hospital the patients went by hospital ship from Ancona to Bari, where they were admitted to 3 General Hospital.
In fact, 3 General Hospital had a busier time than the advanced hospital, as it also received 400 battle casualties by air from 1 Mobile CCS. These patients were often received within 24 hours of being wounded in battles 400 miles away, and in some cases were still affected by the anæsthetic given them prior to operation at the CCS.
Preparations at 3 General Hospital for the admission of these casualties were complicated by the explosion of an ammunition ship in Bari harbour at midday on 9 April. The terrific blast shattered glass in the hospital windows facing the sea, while locks were torn off doors as they were violently thrown open, and equipment hurled about the wards. There were no casualties among staff or patients, though there were several narrow escapes from flying glass. But in the docks area the casualties, military and civilian, were 348 killed or missing and 1853 injured. Help was sent from the Polyclinic area, and 3 General Hospital admitted some Royal Navy personnel, Yugoslavs, and Italians. Contrary to first expectations, the number of these local casualties admitted was not large enough to make it difficult to find accommodation for the battle casualties from Northern Italy. A number of New Zealanders and Australians who had been prisoners of war, and who had been released by the Russians, became patients of the hospital for a while, and a larger number were medically examined as outpatients.
In dealing with the final battle casualties, 2 General Hospital's efforts were confined to the work of its detachment at Forli and Mestre with the CCS, and at Caserta early in May the hospital began its packing prior to moving back across the Mediterranean to take over at Helwan hospital again after three and a half years. The merger of 5 General Hospital with 2 General Hospital took page 426 place in the second week of July. Col H. D. Robertson6 of 5 General Hospital became CO in place of Col I. S. Wilson. The Matron was still Miss V. M. Hodges.
Back in Egypt the little unit of 5 General Hospital had carried on. Its career was short, unspectacular, but very useful. Taking over a long-established hospital meant that there was no excitement of new beginnings, and after the departure of 1 General Hospital to Italy in April 1944, life became very quiet indeed. New Zealand prisoner-of-war patients repatriated from Germany brightened things up for a time. But towards the end of the year sisters and nurses from Italy, homeward bound on furlough, and others returning from New Zealand, passed through or spent many weeks in the sisters' mess while in transit.