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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Maunganui's Fourth Voyage

Maunganui's Fourth Voyage

In January 1942 the New Zealand Hospital Ship Maunganui came to Egypt on her fourth voyage to carry home many of the wounded from the Libyan campaign. First she disembarked the first of the voluntary aids to go to Egypt, as well as a medical reinforcement—the only one for the next year as men were required in New Zealand and the Pacific during the months of crisis.

The patients began to go on board at six o'clock on the morning of 26 January. Because of the large number of stretcher cases, the 371 patients were not all on board until 11 a.m., but the ship put to sea fifteen minutes later. This was the heaviest load of serious cases ever carried in the Maunganui in her 17 voyages as a hospital ship. In all, there were 310 surgical cases, 287 of them battle casualties, and many were gravely ill on embarkation.

On this voyage Col Murray, OC Troops, took over supervision of the RAP and the care of the isolation block, thus relieving the other medical officers. In the theatre Majors Bridge21 and Fulton22 began the changing of plasters, whilst blood transfusions were given to the more serious cases. Blood donors were readily found among officers and other ranks of the staff and members of the Merchant Navy. Sisters and orderlies worked twelve to sixteen hours daily, and the limited number of ambulant patients who were fit for light duty willingly helped with ward fatigues.

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On 29 January two men died, and at dawn the next day they were buried at sea with military honours. As the ship entered Colombo on 6 February a third patient died; he was buried at Colombo later that day.

At Colombo leave was given to all patients fit to go ashore, and the Australian Red Cross unit, as usual, did everything possible for their comfort and entertainment; the staff had leave in turn and everyone benefited from a brief visit ashore.

The ship sailed at 6 p.m. Because of a considerable swell which lasted for several days, ports on the weather side had to be secured. The weather was hot and humid and the wards became less comfortable, the necessity for changing more plasters becoming increasingly apparent. Each day saw more patients able to go up on deck, and they were loud in their praises of everything in the Maunganui, the nursing attention and the food particularly earning favourable comment.

The weather became cooler and the swell was lost as the ship approached Fremantle, eventually tieing up at a quarter to two on the afternoon of 16 February. Leave was again given from three o'clock to seven to the fitter patients, and a special train was at their disposal to visit Perth. Leave, as duties permitted, was given to the staff up to midnight.

The port was cleared at 6.30 a.m. on the 17th. The weather was cold but fine across the Bight, battle dress being worn. Land was next seen on the 22nd as the ship passed south of Tasmania. At this stage of the voyage Major Bridge and the theatre staff were still engaged changing plasters, and it was realised that all of this work could not be completed before disembarkation in New Zealand. The weather was warmer and the sea remained calm for the Tasman crossing, and Wellington was reached at 10.45 a.m. on 26 February. The patients were then disembarked into the Casualty Clearing Hospital on Aotea Quay.

21 Lt-Col K. B. Bridge, OBE; born Gisborne, 4 Jul 1903; Surgeon, Wellington; Surgeon HS Maunganui Apr 1941-Apr 1942; 1 Mob CCS and 1 Gen Hosp Surg Team Nov 1942-Jun 1943; 1 Gen Hosp Jun 1943-Sep 1945—in charge surgical division 1 Gen Hosp Mar 1944-Sep 1945; CO 1 Mob CCS Sep-Oct 1945; CO 6 Gen Hosp Oct-Dec 1945.

22 Lt-Col J. R. H. Fulton; born Dunedin, 1900; Medical Practitioner, Dunedin; RMO 27 (MG) Bn Oct 1939-Jun 1941; Medical Officer 3 Gen Hosp Jun 1941-Jan 1942; SMO Tonga Force Feb 1942-Feb 1944; SMO Burnham Camp Apr-Aug 1944.