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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Reorganisation of the Field Ambulances

page 619

Reorganisation of the Field Ambulances

In 2 NZ Division discussions and schemes for reorganisation of units were a feature of this period. Reductions in unit establishments had been under consideration since early in the campaign in Italy, as the divisional organisation was designed for desert conditions. It had been hoped that the Division could be used in a mobile role in Italy, but this had proved impossible. Manpower difficulties in the supply of reinforcements from New Zealand, and the planned replacement of long-service personnel, made reductions desirable, besides which it was concluded that the superior equipment of the Allies, especially in aircraft and tanks, made reductions possible.

In the medical services the changes were confined to the field ambulances. At a conference of senior medical officers convened by ADMS 2 NZ Division, Colonel King, it was decided that Headquarters Company be increased by 34 other ranks to make a complete MDS, that A Company be reduced to 3 officers and 42 other ranks and be a permanent ADS, and that B Company be eliminated. This would result in a total saving of 35 other ranks in each field ambulance.1 There was also to be a saving of two 3-ton trucks, although two bantams were to be added. It was proposed that the ASC personnel should become members of the Medical Corps, but this change was opposed successfully by the Commander NZASC.

New Establishment of Field Ambulances
Offrs WOI WOII S-Sgt Sgts L-Sgt Cpl ORs Total
HQ Coy NZMC 7 1 1 1 8 1 9 79 107
ASC att HQ Coy 1 1 1 4 40 47
A Coy NZMC 3 1 2 4 35 45
ASC att A Coy 1 11 12
Dental att HQ Coy 1 2 3
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
12 1 2 2 11 1 20 165 214

Reorganisation to this amended establishment was carried out during November, and the reorganised units were found to work well during the difficult battle conditions in December.

The New Zealand medical units followed a pattern of adaptation and progress. As the commanding officer of 4 Field Ambulance, Colonel Edmundson, recorded in December 1944:

The past twelve months has been a period in which we have witnessed striking changes in our environment. Except for the short Balkan campaign, 2 NZ Div. was trained on, and fought over, the North African deserts for more than three years. Many modifications and improvements were evolved in all arms of the Division, and these were by no means least evident in the Medical Services.

page 620

.…Just as our medical services were adapted to meet the changing desert conditions, so the evolution continues with the variations of European warfare. We now have a reorganised ADS and MDS, each with their particular job to do on the line of medical evacuation.

1 Total savings of all units in the whole Division were 104 officers and 2528 other ranks.