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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Repatriation of Prisoners of War

Repatriation of Prisoners of War

A small group of protected personnel and sick who had been prisoners of war in Italy were repatriated and reached Cairo on 22 April 1943. The sick comprised 4 officers (including one medical officer) and 15 other ranks, while the protected personnel included 2 quartermasters, 33 other ranks NZMC, 2 other ranks NZDC, 1 officer and 2 other ranks ASC attached, and 3 regimental medical orderlies.

A larger group reached Cairo on 13 May. There were 14 New Zealand invalids and 2 officers and 92 other ranks who were protected personnel, as well as 23 Australian invalids and 30 protected page 488 personnel. The Australians were under the control of 2 NZEF, there being no Australian units in the Middle East at that time.

On 3 November 1943, 388 New Zealanders—the first to be repatriated from Germany—arrived at Alexandria in the protected ship Cuba and the hospital ship Tairea after a six-day trip from Barcelona, the exchange port. They went by train to Cairo, and later 169 sick and wounded were admitted to 1 General Hospital, Helwan, while 219 protected personnel were accommodated at Camp Hospital, Maadi. Two medical officers were included in the party. There were Australians in the repatriation group and their 184 sick and wounded were admitted to 1 General Hospital.

Of the repatriated prisoners of war admitted to 1 General Hospital, it was found that most were in good condition. Few had clinical notes sent with them. Of the thirteen men with enucleation of one eye, six had well-fitting and well-matched eyes supplied in Germany. Many of the men who had lost a portion of a lower limb were fitted with a peg leg, often of their own construction, which served quite efficiently; but during their short stay in hospital the splint department did much to improve the fitting of many of these artificial limbs, which had become less comfortable as a result of the change in nutrition and general condition of the wearers.

Three New Zealanders and one Australian were blind in both eyes. Sergeant Brown1 of 1 NZ General Hospital had looked after them in Germany and taught them braille, having first taught himself from books of instruction obtained through the Red Cross from England.

After TAB inoculation, medical boarding, dental examination, pay adjustment, and security examinations were carried out, the protected personnel went on ten days' leave prior to their return to New Zealand in HS Wanganella in December. Most of the sick and wounded were taken to Australia and New Zealand in the Oranje on 24 November.

1 Sgt R. S. Brown; Waimate; born Invercargill, 11 Apr 1917; chemist; p.w. Jun 1941; repatriated Nov 1943.