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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy


The Consultant Surgeon was impressed with the medical arrangements of 30 Corps under the DDMS, Brigadier Ardagh, whose knowledge of desert warfare and appreciation of the clinical aspects of medicine inspired the confidence of those under him. The method of grouping forward operating units (CCSs) in one area, as had been done since Alamein, was thought to be a very desirable feature.

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Maximum use was made of surgical personnel, especially within the New Zealand medical units, by transfer and attachment. Fluidity of surgical personnel was essential for the efficient performance of forward surgery which, during the Western Desert campaigns, was a question of very concentrated periods of work requiring sudden boosting of surgical potential for the short active periods. Between 20 March and 18 April there were 695 wounded, mostly occurring in a few days at Tebaga Gap, and between 19 April and 13 May there were 590 casualties, likewise mostly within a few days. The necessity for spelling of surgical units during these active phases was not completely realised, and it had been common to place a single surgical unit by itself with an MDS in an isolated position. The result was that the unit was often flooded with cases requiring operation, an over-long operation list accumulated, and the unit exhausted itself in trying to do rapidly too great a volume of work. A grouping of surgical units would have provided a relief team. (In 2 NZ Division there were usually two attached surgical teams working with the open MDS in active phases.) The addition of an X-ray plant to an MDS when it was called upon to do forward surgery would have been of great value.

The organisation and work of the New Zealand field ambulances was excellent and earned much praise and reflected great credit on the commanding officers and staffs. The work of the CCS was of the highest order and the unit had deservedly earned a proud reputation, ascribed by the Consultant Surgeon to the thoroughness and conscientiousness of Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter and staff, especially the orderlies.