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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Siting of 2 NZ General Hospital

Siting of 2 NZ General Hospital

In the meantime the staff of 2 General Hospital had crossed the Mediterranean and reached Taranto on 8 January, just prior to the switch of 2 NZ Division to the Fifth Army front.

When it was decided that this unit should go to Italy, the Division was in action on the Sangro on the eastern side of the peninsula with the line of evacuation of casualties down the coast to Bari, where 3 General Hospital was established. A seminary for the page 531 training of young priests at Molfetta, a small town on the coast north of Bari, was first selected by Brigadier Kenrick in consultation with Brigadier Galloway, DDMS Italy, as the site for 2 General Hospital. Objections, however, were raised by the Vatican to this proposal, as the seminary was a papal institution. Urgent representations were then made by General Freyberg to Brigadier Galloway, and the Consultant Surgeon 2 NZEF, Colonel Stout, was sent to Naples to interview both Brigadier Galloway and Major-General Cowell, DMS Allied Force Headquarters. As a result, it was decided to pursue the matter at the highest levels as there seemed to be no other satisfactory building available at that time for the hospital. The transfer of the Division to the Cassino front had, however, been decided on by this time, and Brigadier Galloway suggested that a section of 2 General Hospital should take over 250 beds in the large barracks at Caserta occupied by 2 British General Hospital. General Freyberg immediately agreed to the proposal, and later Brigadier Kenrick arranged for 2 General Hospital to take over from the British hospital buildings and ground sufficient for the setting up of the whole hospital, which was to run a 600-bed independent unit.

plans for medical support of military operation

Cassino and Mountain sector showing Medical Units

An advance party consisting of Lieutenant-Colonel Clarke1 was sent over by air to Italy and inspected possible sites on the east coast, but found none suitable except the Molfetta seminary. The rest of the unit on arrival was accommodated at 3 General Hospital and at Advanced Base till the equipment arrived from Egypt. Fortunately, by that time arrangements at Caserta had been completed and it was possible to transfer staff and equipment there and immediately set up the hospital.

The hospital was located in a healthy area in the midst of agricultural land, well planted with deciduous trees, fruit trees, and vines, and partly encircled by the foothills of the Apennines. The district was moderately malarious in summer.

By 31 January three of the five wards in the wing had been taken over by 2 General Hospital and 123 New Zealand patients were in the hospital. The remaining two wards in the wing were staffed by New Zealanders on 8 February, by which date the hospital equipment had arrived, and the unit set about extending its accommodation by erecting tents and making itself independent of certain services of 2 British General Hospital of which it had been glad to avail itself in the early stages. Thus a New Zealand base hospital was established in time for the opening New Zealand operations on the Fifth Army front, just as had happened on the Eighth Army front.

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1 Lt-Col J. M. Clarke, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Wairuna, Otago, 13 May 1899; surgeon; medical officer 1 Gen Hosp Mar 1940–Dec 1941; 2 Gen Hosp Dec 1941–Dec 1944; in charge surgical division 2 Gen Hosp May 1941–Dec 1944.