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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

1 General Hospital at Pinewood

1 General Hospital at Pinewood

As soon as the location of the New Zealand force was definitely fixed as the Aldershot area, the ADMS 2 NZEF, Col K. MacCormick, approached the head of the Emergency Medical Service in the United Kingdom for hospital accommodation. This he was given in a new hutted hospital at Pinewood Sanatorium, near Wokingham, some ten miles from the main New Zealand camp. In the hutments 100 beds were set aside for sick New Zealanders, and, in addition, 70 beds in the sanatorium buildings were to be available for New Zealand casualties. New Zealand medical officers were to be available for work in the Sanatorium if required by the Medical Superintendent. All other arrangements for the running of the hospital were suitably completed with the indispensable co-operation of the EMS authorities, whose established services were largely used. Final administrative questions were settled with the London County Council, owners of the Sanatorium, who supplied all food, drugs, and dressings, while the Ministry of Health was responsible for all other equipment. As the possibility of enemy attack became imminent, 1 NZ General Hospital made immediate preparations to take over the allotted buildings and receive patients.

A first step in the setting-up of the hospital was taken on 26 June 1940, when the CO, Col McKillop, and an advanced party, moved to Pinewood. A further party comprising the Registrar and 20 other ranks moved over from Ewshott on the last day of June to assist in staffing the hospital. By then 72 beds had been made ready and two patients had been admitted. The remainder of the unit arrived at Pinewood on 2 July.

The hospital was pleasantly situated in a plantation with trees right up to the hospital entrance. The huts each accommodated 36 page 56 beds normally and 42 in an emergency. Each had a kitchen, storeroom, baths, lavatories, and heating. There were also a well-appointed theatre and X-ray block, cubicles for 36 nurses, dining and sitting rooms for nurses, and a kitchen block. Administrative quarters were improvised in a cottage, as normally the hospital would have been administered from the Sanatorium. The men were accommodated in billets at Edgecumbe Manor, a mile and a half away, and the officers and sisters occupied unfurnished wards. This was not very convenient, but the unit was fortunate in securing any accommodation at all. The housing of British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand forces gathered for the defence of the United Kingdom placed a premium on all available buildings. Some of the staff were accommodated in tents. The officers moved into East Hampstead Cottage on 30 July.

It was not long before the wards were working at pressure coping with an epidemic of measles and mumps, to which some of the unit succumbed. As each new ward was completed, the hospital expanded to cope with an increasing number of patients. The operating-theatre block was one of the earliest buildings completed and all surgical work was then undertaken by the unit, which also provided a consultant service to neighbouring British regimental medical officers. A mobile surgical unit assisted hospitals in nearby districts where enemy air raids had caused heavy casualties.

There were many visitors to the hospital, the most notable being Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, who called on 21 September, visiting all wards and departments of the hospital, speaking and shaking hands with every patient and member of the staff on duty. Her Majesty was touched when informed that two soldiers operated on that morning had refused sedative in case they would be asleep during her visit, and she returned to the wards to thank the soldiers concerned. The Queen's gracious and charming manner endeared her to everybody.