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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Compulsory Training Suspended

Compulsory Training Suspended

In 1931, during the depression, the Government decided that it could no longer maintain the defence force then existing and abolished compulsory military training. This halted the resurgence, but an even more serious blow to the Medical Corps was the summary discharge of Major Gibbs to the Reserve of Officers. It may be truly said that his devotion to duty in spite of frustration and apathy during the post-war years was to a great extent responsible for arresting the general deterioration and for the resurgence which commenced in 1929. The NZMC was then without a permanent officer, as on the discharge of Major Gibbs the only permanent member of the NZMC was a corporal attached to page 4 Ordnance at Trentham. However, Sergeant-Major Kidman1 of the permanent staff was then attached to the New Zealand Medical Corps and did valuable work. Major Gibbs still retained a lively interest in the Medical Corps after his retirement and was always ready to advise Colonel Bowerbank, on whose shoulders had fallen much extra responsibility.

Prior to the last compulsory parade, instructions were issued that all units would remain as units, with personnel serving on a voluntary basis. The response to the call for volunteers was very poor and somewhat disappointing to the Regular Force instructors. Much credit is therefore due to those officers, NCOs, and men who elected to remain on the active list, and who formed the foundation for the building up of the military units of 2 NZEF in 1939.

In 1931 there was a reorganisation of the defence forces. The NZMC units were given new establishments and organised as field ambulances again. Thus, the Northern Depot at Auckland became 1 Field Ambulance, Central Depot at Wellington became 2 Field Ambulance, and Southern Depot at Christchurch became 3 Field Ambulance. Each had an establishment of 10 officers, 20 NCOs, and 70 other ranks. The medical students at Dunedin became the Otago University Medical Company (OUMC) with an establishment of 15 officers, 47 NCOs, and 230 other ranks.

During the early nineteen-thirties there were very few volunteer territorials. Parades of the Medical Corps were held fortnightly and NCO classes were held in the intervening week. Weekend bivouacs were also held periodically but it was not uncommon to have an attendance of only about ten officers and seven other ranks. The cost of running these camps had to be borne privately, and the small honoraria received by the DMS and ADsMS in the three districts were given up at the request of the Minister of Defence and were not restored until 1938.

1 Maj C. H. Kidman, MBE, MM and bar; Wellington; born Wellington, 28 Mar 1888, instructor, Permanent Staff, Wellington; 1 NZEF 1914–19: NCO 2 Fd Amb, Egypt; Gallipoli, France; instructor to NZMC in NZ, Sep 1939–Sep 1942; OC Medical Training Depot, Trentham, Sep 1942–Sep 1944; SO and QM Army HQ, Sep 1944–Jan 1947.