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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Camp Medical Arrangements

Camp Medical Arrangements

With the mobilisation of the First Echelon of the Special Force in September and October 1939, whole-time senior medical officers were appointed to Ngaruawahia, Trentham, and Burnham camps, to which three assistant medical officers were later appointed. With the completion of the mobilisation camp at Papakura, the senior page 28 medical officer and some of the staff from Ngaruawahia were transferred there. Full-time medical officers were stationed at Narrow Neck, Motutapu, and Fort Dorset, while part-time medical officers were appointed to the Lyttelton Fortress troops and Wellington Fortress troops.

The senior medical officers were on the staff of the camp commandants in the mobilisation camps. They were responsible for the care of all sick, and were the advisers to the camp commandant on all matters pertaining to the health of troops, as well as being inspectors of sanitation arrangements. On sanitary matters each had the help of a sanitary inspector with the rank of WO I. Under the control of the senior medical officer were the military camp hospital and a contagious disease hospital where venereal disease patients were retained and treated. There was an arrangement between the Health Department and the Army whereby soldiers who contracted venereal disease after they went to camp were to be treated by the Army. If they had contracted the disease after attestation but before going to camp, they might be discharged from camp and become the responsibility of the Health Department. The senior medical officer had a number of medical officers to assist him. One looked after the camp hospital, while others were appointed as regimental medical officers to the battalions of reinforcements undergoing training. These were practically always medical officers who were themselves going overseas with the reinforcements.

The duties of these regimental medical officers were varied- holding sick parades, lecturing to the men on the maintenance of health, inspecting feet after route marches, inspecting barracks, kitchens, showers, and latrines, and giving the necessary inoculations.

Camp dental clinics were established in each of the three mobilisation camps, and all dental treatment was carried out at the expense of the Government after the recruits entered camp.

Preventive treatment by way of inoculation and vaccination was carried out. It was decided to immunise the troops in camp against tetanus before sending them overseas. All troops after the First Echelon were given two injections of 1 cc. of toxoid at an interval of six weeks; adrenalin was available in case of anaphylactic shock and the men were kept under observation for three hours.

Two injections of TAB vaccine for protection against typhoid were given at a week's interval. Individual reactions were generally marked and sometimes severe, and the preparation was adjusted so as to obviate very severe reactions. There was some difficulty in obtaining virile strains of organisms in New Zealand, a typhoid bone abscess being utilised at one time.

Vaccination against smallpox was also carried out. The troops of the First Echelon were done on the transports proceeding overseas page 29 and complaints were made of the discomfort suffered under the tropical conditions. The Second Echelon were vaccinated in camp in New Zealand and the camp staffs complained of interference with training. This led again to the vaccination being carried out on the troopships. At a later period when there was less urgency, the men were usually vaccinated in camp. The vaccination was repeated if no positive reaction occurred.

With the great development in the use of blood transfusion before the war, it was realised that blood would be freely given to the wounded. In order that the blood group of each soldier would be known in the case of emergency, it was arranged that each man should be blood-typed and the international symbol for his group entered in his paybook and marked on his identity disc.