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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

4 NZ General Hospital Opens at Helwan

4 NZ General Hospital Opens at Helwan

No. 4 NZ General Hospital (with most of its staff drawn from 4 Field Ambulance) opened as a 300-bed hospital at the Grand Hotel, Helwan, on 24 July. It was the first New Zealand general hospital established in Egypt, although 1 NZ General Hospital was operating in England at this time.

The medical staff of 4 NZ General Hospital comprised Major Button, Officer Commanding and Senior Surgeon, Captain Kirk,1 Senior Physician, Lieutenant Harrison, Registrar, Lieutenant Neale2 and Lieutenant Macfarlane,3 company officers, and Captain Peek,4 quartermaster attached. In addition, it was arranged that Captain J. K. Elliott5 and Captain R. A. Elliott6 should visit the hospital once

1 Lt-Col G. R. Kirk, OBE, m.i.d.; Dunedin; born Gisborne, 18 Jun 1907; physician; RMO 20 Bn 1939–40; physician 1 Gen Hosp 1940–41; 2 Gen Hosp, 1941; 1 Mob CCS 1942; in charge medical division 1 Gen Hosp, Sep 1942–Jan 1945.

2 Capt H. C. Neale; Levin; born Nelson, 20 Aug 1914; medical practitioner; medical officer 4 Fd Amb Sep 1939–Apr 1941; p.w. Apr 1941.

3 Maj T. A. Macfarlane, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Scotland, 21 Jan 1911; medical practitioner; RMO NZ Engineers Aug 1940–Aug 1941; 6 Fd Amb 1941; DADMS 2 NZ Div 1941–43; 1 Gen Hosp 1943.

4 Maj G. Peek, m.i.d.; born Christchurch, 22 Sep 1891; Inspector of Explosives; Lt QM 2 Gen Hosp1940; OC Medical Stores Depot Oct 1940–Feb 1946; died, Christchurch, 22 Dec 1949.

5 Lt-Col J. K. Elliott, OBE, ED; Wellington; born Wellington, 24 Aug 1908; surgeon; RMO 18 Bn 1939–40; DADMS 2 NZ Div Dec 1940–Nov 1941; surgeon 1 Gen Hosp Nov 1941–Jun 1943; CO 4 Fd Amb Jun 1943–Apr 1944; Orthopaedic Consultant (NZ) Jun 1944–Mar 1945.

6 Col R. A. Elliott, OBE, ED, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Wellington, 8 Apr 1910; surgeon; surgeon 4 Fd Amb, 1 and 2 Gen Hosps, Oct 1939–1942; DADMS 2 NZ Div Feb–Jul 1943; CO 5 Fd Amb Dec 1943–Jul 1944; ADMS 2 NZ Div Dec 1944–Oct 1945.

page 57 weekly from Maadi, as consultant orthopaedic and ENT surgeons respectively.

The nursing staff comprised Miss D. I. Brown,1 Matron, and thirteen of the New Zealand sisters who had been working with 2/10 General Hospital; the remaining four sisters joined them later when all patients were transferred.

In the advance party of male staff there were 20 men of 4 Field Ambulance from 2/10 General Hospital, 7 men from 4 Field Ambulance, Maadi, and 24 graded men from base and divisional units. Then, on 31 July, the remaining 24 men from 4 Field Ambulance at 2/10 General Hospital (less three detailed to remain for special duty) were transferred to the Helwan staff.

Ordnance stores for a 300-bed hospital and medical stores for a 600-bed hospital were unpacked by the advance party, which also prepared living accommodation for the staff and got ready to receive patients. By 31 July the hospital had 188 beds equipped for the reception of medical, minor surgical, and convalescent patients. On the afternoon of that day 82 patients were smoothly transferred by 4 Field Ambulance from 2/10 General Hospital at Helmieh. On 3 August a further 61 patients were admitted from the Camp Hospital, Maadi. The first admission of a patient direct to the hospital was made on 2 August.

The medical arrangements for 2 NZEF in Egypt at this stage were:


Medical cases and minor surgical cases were admitted to 4 NZ General Hospital.


Cases requiring major surgical operation were admitted to 2/10 General Hospital pending the completion of the operating block at Helwan.


Cases of venereal disease were admitted to 4 Field Ambulance (Camp) Hospital, Maadi.


Infectious diseases cases were admitted to 4 Field Ambulance (Camp) Hospital, Maadi.


Mental cases were retained at 2/10 General Hospital, but were to be transferred to 4 General Hospital as soon as suitable provision had been made for them.

A very complete passive air defence scheme was drawn up for 4 General Hospital in the event of enemy air attack.

As the number of occupied beds increased, the shortage of nursing staff, both sisters and nursing orderlies, became most apparent. Instead of the regular establishment of a 300-bed hospital, there was

1 Matron Miss D. I. Brown, RRC, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Napier, 24 Apr 1905; sister; sister-in-charge Camp Hospital, Ngaruawahia, Oct 1939–Jan 1940; Matron 4 Gen Hosp Jul–Oct 1940; Matron 2 Gen Hosp Oct 1940–Jun 1943; now Mrs R. G. Milne, Matron-in-Chief Wellington Hospital.

page 58 only one company of a field ambulance, eighteen nursing sisters, and five medical officers. The base details posted for duty were not entirely satisfactory and for the most part could be used only for the lighter forms of general duties. Five of the army cooks posted were unfit for full duty because of various disabilities. The native staff employed were unsuitable as cooks, largely because the low wage attracted only an inferior grade of cook.

The medical officers were accommodated in Dr Moore's house and the sisters in M. Chalom's villa, while the men were quartered first in Villa Gubalieh and then in the Winter Palace Hotel. The Grand Hotel was a building of several stories, and work was early commenced on the installation of a lift to obviate the need to carry bed patients up and down stairs.

By 11 August an emergency operating theatre was equipped and ready for use pending the construction of a permanent theatre block. All types of emergency surgery were possible except where X-ray control was necessary, e.g., in compound fractures. The admission of all New Zealand surgical patients, other than those requiring X-ray, was arranged from this date. On the two subsequent days the remaining patients and four New Zealand sisters were transferred from 2/10 General Hospital to 4 NZ General Hospital. Although the transfer of these four sisters gave a certain relief to the overworked nursing staff, such was the increase in the amount of work that six members of the TANS1 were attached on 28 August. These were supplemented on 18 September by twelve members of QAIMNS,2 also temporarily attached.

The opening of the Kiwi Club on 10 August proved very useful to the hospital in the provision of recreational facilities for convalescent patients. The club was established mainly through the initiative of Lady Lampson, wife of the British Ambassador to Egypt, and the British Red Cross Society in Cairo. It was temporarily housed at the Boys' Preparatory School, Helwan, the building having been put at the disposal of the club's committee by the Minister of Education until the beginning of the school year, when the use of another building was obtained on the northern outskirts of Helwan. This building was originally erected by the Egyptian Education Department for the Boy Scout movement. In the homely atmosphere of the club games could be played and refreshments bought, and there was also a little shop. Later a swimming pool was provided. The Kiwi Club was a valuable adjunct to the New Zealand hospital in Helwan for over five years, and ladies of Helwan, Maadi, and Cairo provided a much-appreciated service in it.

On 26 August the first evacuation of invalids to New Zealand

1 Territorial Army Nursing Service (British).

2 Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service.

page 59 took place when ninety-three men embarked on the Indian hospital ship, Karapara. Of these, thirteen were patients of 4 General Hospital. There were also other patients boarded for return to New Zealand but they had to remain at the hospital in the meantime. Certain difficulties arose in connection with the despatch of the draft and on this account, as well as in anticipation of increased numbers of invalids after the arrival of the Second and Third Echelons, it was decided to cable Army Headquarters in New Zealand asking that the fitting of New Zealand's own hospital ship be accelerated. In the meantime the possibility of being able to share Australian hospital ship accommodation was investigated. The Australian authorities were quite agreeable to assist and did so by embarking fifty New Zealand invalids on their hospital ship Manunda in November.

Lieutenant-Colonel Kenrick became commanding officer of the Helwan hospital on 9 September, following the return of Colonel MacCormick to Egypt from England. Captain Furkert had been posted to the hospital earlier. On 8 September seven medical officers and thirty-three orderlies from 2 Australian General Hospital were attached for duty. These included a radiologist, who supervised the installation of an X-ray plant which was first used three days later. The attachment of the Australian personnel was in accordance with an arrangement whereby 100 to 150 patients of the Australian Forces were temporarily accommodated during the move of certain units of the AIF from Palestine to Egypt, and pending the establishment of an Australian general hospital in Egypt.

Twelve sisters, five medical officers, and thirty men from New Zealand medical units of the Second Echelon in England arrived at Helwan on 17 September and immediately set to work as the number of patients increased and new wards were opened. There were then 337 patients. At the end of September, with the arrival of 2 NZ General Hospital in Egypt imminent, members of QAIMNS and the TANS returned to their own units after having given great help in the staffing problem. Twelve of the sisters concerned were New Zealand registered nurses attached to QAIMNS.