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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

New Zealand Medical Stores Depot

New Zealand Medical Stores Depot

During 1940 the New Zealand medical units in Egypt drew their medical supplies from the British Depot of Medical Stores, but from early in 1941 those medical units in, or handy to, Maadi Camp indented on the New Zealand Medical Stores Depot which it had been found advisable to establish.

In June 1940 it was decided by the AA & QMG and ADMS of the New Zealand force that medical stores which had been unloaded from transports and stored at the Ordnance Depot should be taken over, opened up, and examined by 4 Field Ambulance, the only medical unit in the force. When 4 Field Ambulance moved to the page 75 Western Desert, leaving only a small staff at its camp hospital, some alternative control of medical stores was necessary.

In September 1940 the DDMS reported that the need for the appointment of a quartermaster at Base was becoming very evident, not only for the checking of routine indenting for medical supplies but to prepare advanced indents for units arriving, and for periodic overhaul of unit and RMO equipment and supervision of Red Cross stores. (Responsibility for the latter stores belonged indirectly to the DDMS pending the arrival of a Red Cross Commissioner and the ultimate establishment of a separate Red Cross store.)

In November 1940 Captain G. Peek was appointed Quartermaster on the staff of DDMS 2 NZEF. His duties were: (a) The checking of indents for medical supplies; (b) the maintenance of medical supplies for all camp units and medical inspection rooms; (c) the periodic inspection of medical equipment for all units; (d) the storage, care, and issue, on approval of DDMS, of New Zealand Red Cross stores; (e) the return to New Zealand of medical equipment placed on transports for the voyage to the Middle East only; and (f) such other duties as were delegated by the DDMS.

In December 1940 the battles of the First Libyan Campaign caused a sudden increase of patients, other than New Zealanders, in New Zealand general hospitals. The DDMS reported that ‘the demands on Medical Stores have proved well-nigh insuperable. I have offered to establish a bulk medical store of our own to help meet the situation and the proposal, with certain modifications, has been accepted.’ By January 1941 the DDMS was able to report: ‘Owing to considerable difficulty in keeping up medical supplies due to pressure on British Depots of Medical Stores, arrangements have been made to draw stores in bulk. A Base store of our own has been established under the charge of Capt. G. Peek. Red Cross stores will also be kept and distributed from this store.’

The New Zealand Medical Stores Depot thus became established as a separate medical unit and built up to a staff of seven. It supplied the Helwan hospital and Maadi Camp hospital, and the three New Zealand field ambulances when they were in Maadi Camp for re-equipping between campaigns. (When the Division moved to Italy in 1943 the Medical Stores Depot was transferred to Bari, adjacent to 3 NZ General Hospital, and in the later stages of the Italian campaign it also established an advanced depot at Senigallia, near HQ 2 NZEF and 1 NZ General Hospital.)

The unit took control of, and accounted for, surgical and medical equipment drawn from normal army sources, extra items purchased by the New Zealand Government for use by New Zealand medical units, a special donation of surgical equipment by Mr (later Sir) Arthur Sims, and some captured enemy material.

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The chief advantages of having a New Zealand Depot of Medical Stores were:


Quickness of supply. This was an important factor in the case of units coming back to base areas for re-equipping.


Power for local purchase of any required surgical instrument not available from Army sources.


Training in Army accounting given medical quartermasters while on the staff of the unit.


The ease with which hospital ships could be re-equipped.


The ease with which new RAPs could be established for small out-of-the-way units.


Provision of a service for repair and replating of instruments. The depot had many instruments replated in Cairo.


The important link given the DMS 2 NZEF between himself and medical quartermasters.