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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Christmas in Hospital

Christmas in Hospital

As 1941 was drawing to a close the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour turned the attention of all from the Western Desert to the Pacific, and radio communiques were listened to with more marked interest. Another year of warfare had passed, and as yet victory seemed far off.

In all the New Zealand hospitals in the Middle East every effort had been made by the staffs to ensure that the patients had a happy Christmas. All the usual Christmas activities were carried through with enthusiasm, and in such troublous times it was doubtful if a happier atmosphere could have prevailed anywhere than that in the New Zealand hospitals in Egypt on Christmas Day, 1941.

It was at Christmas time that 2 General Hospital's unit canteen more than came into its own. The provident Col Spencer had initiated the venture by purchasing stores on the way to the Desert. The necessity for extras drove a committee into energetic action. Stocks were bought from the EFI bulk store eight miles away. On the hot, dry, dusty days when they worked long hours to establish the hospital at Gerawla, the men looked forward to a bottle of beer or kazouza, a tin of fruit or a cake of chocolate, at the end of the day.

The popularity of the canteen spread widely across the arid sands of the Western Desert. Nearby units availed themselves of page 184 its varied facilities and even passing convoys, encamped nearby for the night, sought it out in the darkness. Business increased and stocks grew in variety and dimensions. For Christmas its buyers went to Alexandria and Cairo to bring back canned beer, stuffed olives, mixed nuts, paper streamers, and many other extras. Besides this, the canteen out of its profits added substantially to the Christmas larder, providing extras in the messes during the months that followed, as well as subscribing to unit entertainments.