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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Recruitment of New Zealand Doctors in the United Kingdom

Recruitment of New Zealand Doctors in the United Kingdom

Because of demands on the Emergency Medical Service in England during the war many New Zealand doctors could not be released from British civil hospitals to serve in any force. The question of service by New Zealand doctors generally was discussed by Major-General Bowerbank with the DGAMS, Lieutenant-General Hood, in London just before D Day in 1944. Realising the great shortage of medical officers and medical men in Great Britain, General Bowerbank directed the New Zealand Liaison Officer in London to cancel all applications for transfer and to refuse all applications for enlistment in the NZMC. In Italy in 1944 two specialist physicians and an ophthalmic surgeon were seconded from the RAMC to 2 NZEF to make up deficiencies and they gave valuable assistance in our hospitals.

Making references to the subject in letters to General Bowerbank in 1945 General Hood said:

As you know, there is a very great shortage of medical men in the United Kingdom, and the fighting services are in keen competition with the civilian medical authorities, including the EMS, for any doctors who are of recruitable age. If New Zealand medical men employed with the EMS are permitted to join the NZMC, their places would have to be filled by English or Scottish graduates who might otherwise have been available for the Army.… Fortunately for us and through your good offices, all transfers and applications for enlistment in the NZMC are resisted by your Government. From my point of view this decision has been of the greatest assistance.…

New Zealand medical men, both in a service and civilian capacity, have played a valuable part in augmenting the all too few doctors at our disposal.… indeed I do not know what we should have done if the Dominions had pressed for the return of their officers who have given us such great help in the last few difficult years.

Many of the New Zealand doctors concerned were specially suited by age and qualifications for service in 2 NZEF, but they rendered valuable service in Britain in the treatment of the severe casualties arising from the bombing of the civilian population.