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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy


page 1

DURING the First World War the New Zealand Medical Corps, with all its members drawn from the medical and nursing professions and other sections of the civilian community, built up an honourable record of courageous and efficient service in Samoa, Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Palestine, and England. For several years after the end of the war some members of the Corps continued their military work in army hospitals in New Zealand, as the civilian hospitals at that time were not able to provide the specialised staffs or the buildings to complete the treatment of returned servicemen.

General demobilisation after the First World War was practically completed by April 1920, but there remained in military hospitals over 1500 service patients, and the 700 members of the New Zealand Medical Corps caring for them were retained in a temporary formation called the Army Medical Department. From the Department were staffed the King George V Hospital of 300 beds at Rotorua, the Trentham Military Hospital of 500 beds, the sanatoria at Pukeora and at Cashmere Hills, the centre for nervous diseases at Hanmer, and the convalescent camp at Narrow Neck. The military staffs which had been in charge of military wards at Christchurch, Timaru, and Dunedin were absorbed by the civil hospitals in 1920.

The staff of the Army Medical Department was reduced as the number of service patients decreased, and by 1922 the military medical institutions were handed over to the Department of Health. The staffs ceased to be employed by the Army but continued service as civilians. From 1 November 1923 the Army Medical Department was abolished and the New Zealand Medical Corps reverted to a peacetime territorial basis. The Director-General of Medical Services, Major-General Sir Donald McGavin, in addition to his military duties was appointed Medical Administrator of War Pensions, so ensuring continuity in administration and freeing the Defence Department from all further responsibility with regard to ex-soldiers.

On 30 November 1924 Sir Donald McGavin relinquished the appointment of Director-General of Medical Services. He was page 2 succeeded in the appointment, which now reverted to that of Director of Medical Services, on a part-time basis, by Colonel R. Tracey-Inglis, of Auckland.