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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Functioning of 1 NZ Mobile CCS during Campaign

Functioning of 1 NZ Mobile CCS during Campaign

The Consultant Surgeon 2 NZEF (Colonel Stout) went from Cairo to 1 NZ CCS before the main battles of the Mareth line began and remained with it until after the enemy surrender. He was therefore able to make observations on the problems and technique of frontline surgery and general medical arrangements. Throughout this period 1 NZ CCS served as a Corps CCS to 30 Corps, and at its location at Medenine for the Mareth battle and at Teboulbou, just south of Gabes, for the attack on Wadi Akarit, the CCS was grouped with British and Indian CCSs. In conjunction with these other units 1 NZ CCS primarily treated cases other than New Zealanders. In the outflanking attack on the Tebaga Gap the New Zealand casualties received most of their major surgery at NZ MDSs, with two New Zealand surgical teams attached, while at Wadi Akarit and in the subsequent advance the New Zealand casualties were not heavy. After the attack on Wadi Akarit the CCS was almost overwhelmed page 443 with casualties in spite of having four surgical teams—one British, one from 1 NZ General Hospital, one from 3 NZ General Hospital, and one of its own—and a British transfusion unit. In addition, the British neurosurgical and ophthalmic surgical units were attached. Patients admitted for specialist treatment by these attached units often had multiple wounds, the treatment of which fell to the lot of the New Zealand CCS. Two of the New Zealand surgical teams worked for twenty-four hours continuously.

From the Takrouna battles the greater number of the casualties were treated by 4 Field Ambulance and two attached New Zealand surgical teams. The CCS further back had a relatively easy time with few serious surgical cases. It was felt by the Consultant Surgeon that the CCS would have been more usefully employed if it had been placed alongside the MDS. When 1 NZ CCS moved up adjacent to 4 Field Ambulance later and dealt with casualties from an attack by 56 British Division, the patients came direct to the CCS for surgery as there was no MDS carrying out forward surgery ahead.

The unit was mobile, having sufficient transport to shift in two stages. It had a regular plan for its layout which enabled the unit to set up quickly, each section knowing exactly its position in the plan. Ambulances were available for the transport of patients within the unit.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter, CO 1 NZ Mobile CCS, drew attention to the valuable work performed by British surgeons attached to the CCS. When 4 Field Surgical Unit (Major A. G. R. Lowdon and Captain C. Friedland) marched out on 11 May, it had been attached for nearly five months. The standard of work set by these officers was high and both showed undoubted professional ability. They were willing at all times to do everything for their patients, give advice to their colleagues and instruct orderlies, and it was a pleasure to have them under command.

The 1st Mobile Ophthalmic Unit was attached from 27 February to 11 April and from 20 to 30 April. It was most necessary that an ophthalmic surgeon should be available in the forward CCS to do eye cases. So many casualties suffered from severe multiple wounds, of which the eye injury was one, that it was impossible to evacuate them for eye treatment unless the soldier was to be subjected to a second operation, perhaps within a few hours. Major Moffatt, who had succeeded Major D. Browning on 13 March, worked so quietly and expertly that often the surgeons attending to other wounds did not note his presence.

The 4th Neurosurgical Unit was attached from 8 March to 11 April and from 19 to 30 April. Major K. Eden and Captain R. P. Harbord worked long hours in their effort to deal with all the page 444 neurosurgical casualties that arrived. The percentage of head and spine injuries received during the campaign was 3·67 per cent of all battle casualties. It was thought it would be advisable in future to have two teams using the same equipment, so that Major Eden's experience of operating eighteen hours a day for several days would not be repeated. The attachment of the neurosurgical unit led to a marked improvement in the results of the operative treatment of head injuries. Major D. Waterston rendered invaluable service as transfusion officer, his surgical experience proving most useful.