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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

4 Field Ambulance and 4 Field Hygiene Section

4 Field Ambulance and 4 Field Hygiene Section

The medical units called up with other units of the First Echelon for entry into mobilisation camps in October 1939 were 4 Field Ambulance and 4 Field Hygiene Section. From 4 October 1939 the main bodies of these units entered Burnham Camp, whither the advance party of officers and NCOs had proceeded on 26 and 27 page 34 September. These units were the normal field medical units for the brigade group of the First Echelon as a fighting force.

The officer appointed to command 4 Field Ambulance at Burnham was Lieutenant-Colonel Will,1 and there were nine other medical officers and a quartermaster, a dental officer, and a chaplain with the unit. The NCOs were drawn mainly from 1, 2, and 3 Field Ambulances of the Territorial Force, in which the majority had seen several years' continuous service. They had attended courses of instruction, passed first-aid and nursing-orderly examinations, and were, on the whole, a very capable group. The main body of men was mostly without military or medical training. The men for 4 Field Hygiene Section were placed under the command of Lieutenant Wyn Irwin,2 who had been a district health officer.

Training consisted in instruction in first aid, the system of evacuation of casualties, the work of stretcher-bearers, clerical and nursing duties at advanced and main dressing stations, the recording of casualties, field cooking, and in hygiene methods used on field service. By the time final leave came in the last two weeks of December the original group had become an efficient unit.

1 Lt-Col J. H. Will, ED; born Scotland, 1 Feb 1883; medical practitioner; CO 4 Fd Amb Oct 1939–Sep 1940; SMO Ngaruawahia Camp Sep 1941–Jan 1943; died, Auckland, 19 Aug 1954.

2 Maj B. T. Wyn Irwin, m.i.d.; born Christchurch, 12 Oct 1905; Medical Officer of Health, Wellington; OC 4 Fd Hyg Sec Oct 1939–Sep 1941; OC Maadi Camp Hyg Sec Sep–Dec 1941; died (in NZ) 12 Mar 1942.