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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Work at 1 NZ CCS

Work at 1 NZ CCS

At Gharbaniyat 1 NZ CCS (under Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter) was widely dispersed, though not quite up to the regulation of 100 yards beween the tented wards. The Light Section under Major Wilson had moved on the first day of the battle to be attached to 5 MDS as an extra surgical team and nursing unit. Two surgical teams were still available, those of Major T. Harrison and Captain Douglas,1 and they worked an eight-hour shift for the first seventy-two hours following the battle, when Captain Douglas became

1 Maj A. W. Douglas; Palmerston North; born Napier, 23 Oct 1910; surgeon 1 Mob CCS Jan 1942–Apr 1943; OC NZ Surg Team Apr–Jun 1943; 1 Gen Hosp Jun–Oct 1943; OC 1 Fd Surg Unit Oct 1943–Aug 1944; 1 Gen Hosp Aug 1944–1945.

page 396 disabled with a septic finger. Major W. Mark Brown,1 who had been attached from 1 NZ General Hospital, then took Douglas's place and Colonel Stout, the Consultant Surgeon, was also available, working mainly in the pre-operation tent.

Major Stewart2 with 2 FTU gave valuable assistance till he was transferred to assist 5 MDS on 1 November.

The unit took in cases from all forces in rotation with 10 British and 2/3 Australian CCSs and dealt with 380 wounded cases in the first twenty-four hours after the start of the battle. Cases of first urgency, including most of the abdominals, had been dealt with at the MDS, but they were able to deal with only a proportion of them. Even the CCS was not able to deal with all cases requiring operation, and many of these were sent on urgently by ambulance to the two British hospitals at Alexandria, which were acting temporarily as CCSs and not as holding hospitals. This arrangement allowed the spread of operation cases amongst the three areas—the MDSs, the CCSs at the Medical Centre, and the hospitals at Alexandria. Even then many cases, mostly minor ones, had to be evacuated to the base hospitals without any primary surgical treatment. Fortunately, little sepsis arose in these minor injuries. The work continued at high pressure, with a further peak after the breakthrough attack on 2–3 November. Urgent representations were made to Brigadier MacCormick, DMS 2 NZEF, for another surgeon, and Major Bridge3 was sent forward on 5 November and remained for three weeks with the unit.

During October alone the unit dealt with 1400 battle casualties and 2400 sick. Two hundred and four battle casualties were operated on, and altogether 264 operations were performed; forty patients were given blood and plasma transfusion, over 80 per cent being given whole blood. It was the unit's first battle experience and, in spite of the weakening of the unit by the loss of Major Wilson and the light section, it functioned well. Fortunately, thirty Mauritians were available as extra staff for stretcher carrying, as the wide dispersal made this work slow and arduous, especially in the darkness.

The nursing of the cases was under the charge of the six sisters attached and was especially arduous because of the rapid turnover of cases made possible by the very efficient system of evacuation.

1 Maj W. Mark Brown, m.i.d.; Christchurch; born Lyttelton, 8 Jul 1895; gynaecologist; Surg Sub-Lt RNVR 1918; Asst SMO Burnham MC, Jun–Oct 1941; medical officer Maadi Camp Hosp Jan–Oct 1942; 1 Mob CCS Oct 1942–Dec 1943; 1 Gen Hosp Dec 1943–Apr 1944.

2 Maj D. T. Stewart; Christchurch; born. Wanganui, 3 Aug 1911; pathologist, Christchurch Hospital; pathologist 1 Gen Hosp Mar 1940–Jun 1944, except while OC 2 FTU, Oct 1942–Feb 1943; Director of Pathology, Christchurch Hospital.

3 Lt-Col K. B. Bridge, OBE; Wellington; born Gisborne, 4 Jul 1903; surgeon; 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.

page 397 This was the first time during the war that sisters of the NZANS had been attached to a forward medical unit during a battle.

The CCS continued to function at Gharbaniyat till the breakthrough. It then closed and moved forward to Garawla on 8 November. In the first six days of November, until it closed, the CCS dealt with 416 battle casualties and 129 sick. This made a total of over 1800 battle casualties dealt with during the Alamein battle.