New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
In Egypt the first tasks for the Medical Corps were the planning of hygiene services to ensure good health among the New Zealand troops in a country totally different from New Zealand, and the provision of hospital services for the sickness and accident cases bound to arise in the best of conditions among any large body of men. For this important work there was sent overseas with the First Echelon an Assistant Director of Medical Services,1 Colonel K. MacCormick, and 18 sisters of NZANS; 4 NZ Field Ambulance, comprising 9 medical officers, a quartermaster, and 171 men; and 4 NZ Field Hygiene Section, including 1 medical officer and 28 men. (Also attached to 4 Field Ambulance were a chaplain, an ASC officer and 56 drivers, 2 dental officers, and 6 dental mechanics.)
Colonel MacCormick arrived in Egypt from Sydney by air on 22 January 1940, Lieutenant T. W. Harrison had arrived from the United Kingdom on 5 January, and two men of 4 Field Ambulance had reached Egypt with the advanced overseas party on 7 January. The remainder of 4 Field Ambulance travelling with the First Echelon arrived at Maadi Camp on 13–14 February.
The planning of the medical arrangements for the overseas force was partly carried out in New Zealand. General Freyberg had held a conference with the senior medical officers in Wellington on 27 December 1939 to consider matters of special importance to the health of the troops in Egypt. It was fortunate that the senior officers, including the DGMS, Brigadier Bowerbank, and ADMS, Colonel MacCormick, had had previous experience of army conditions in Egypt during the First World War. The questions of diet and hygiene were especially discussed and agreement reached on preventive measures against the endemic diseases. Colonel MacCormick, accompanying the GOC, had made investigations in Australia and had studied an account by Castellani on the Italian medical services page 42 in Abyssinia. He incorporated some of Castellani's methods in hygiene regulations which he drew up for the force in Egypt. A special circular was issued by Headquarters 2 NZ Division setting out in complete detail the instructions regarding hygiene and sanitation. Strong emphasis was placed on the responsibility of commanding officers to ensure that the regulations were promulgated orally to the men and that they were subsequently enforced.