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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Arrival of Voluntary Aids

Arrival of Voluntary Aids

When the Maunganui arrived in the Middle East in January she brought the first detachment of the NZ WWSA (Hospital Division) —our VADs. In charge of them was Miss M. King.1 Three weeks later the second detachment arrived on the Oranje.

In October 1941 two hundred girls had been selected by a board in Wellington and enlisted in the Army through the Women's War Service Auxiliary (WWSA), which later became the New Zealand page 187 Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, with a consequent change in the appellation of its members from ‘Wassies’ to ‘Waacs’. The nursing section was drawn from the voluntary aids of the Order of St. John and the New Zealand Red Cross Society, and its members were required to have had a minimum of 60 hours' hospital training, but many of them had given voluntary service over a period of many months in various emergency medical centres. The members of the clerical section had to be able to write shorthand at 130 words a minute and type at 75 words a minute. As only 14 clerks were chosen competition was keen.

Going into Trentham Camp in December 1941, the girls had been broken in to a new life as privates in the New Zealand Army, and had then sailed on the Maunganui on 22 December, some of them disembarking in Australia to follow to the Middle East in the Oranje.

The sisters welcomed the VADs to the hospitals in Egypt. The future alone was to tell what a help these girls from New Zealand were to be. They worked with a will and soon learned to co-operate with the orderlies in their work and to give assistance to the sisters. They took the ups and downs of Army life cheerfully and with little complaint.

Hospital life was new and interesting to them. The patients found them jolly companions and cheery nurses; they gave much of their spare time to the entertainment of the patients, and this in itself was a big help to the sisters in their endeavour to make hospital life as happy as possible for the men. With time their work became invaluable, many becoming capable and responsible nurses. They were grand girls, and none appreciated them and their work more than did the sisters of the NZANS.

The clerical section of the WAAC was absorbed immediately, particularly in the hospital offices, where the girls replaced men who were sent to field units. These girls were also employed as shorthand typists and clerks in the stewards' stores, company offices, QM stores, and X-ray departments of the hospitals. To most of them the medical terms were strange, but with the aid of medical dictionaries and assistance from the members of the NZMC, they soon became conversant with the new vocabulary.

The members of the nursing section, comprising the majority of the VADs, were posted to the various wards as assistants. Their page 188 duties consisted of making beds, taking temperatures, washing patients, serving meals, sweeping and cleaning, and helping in the kitchen. The working hours were considered good—ten hours a day, with a half day free every fourth day and a full day off every ninth. All members of the WAAC realised that their employment in the Middle East was an experiment, and they were most anxious that the experiment should be successful. The length of their service abroad and the increased responsibility of their duties were proofs of their success.