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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Division at Helwan Camp

Division at Helwan Camp

The Third Echelon had arrived in Egypt on 29 September 1940. There were epidemics of mumps and measles among the troops on arrival, necessitating hospital treatment of a number of men. Arriving at Maadi Camp on 27 October from Bombay, 6 Field Ambulance was issued with its equipment and transport and underwent a course of training in the use of both. On 13 December the unit moved with 6 Brigade to Helwan Camp, which had been established for the accommodation and training of the Division, a mile or two into the desert beyond the small township of Helwan. Here 6 Field Ambulance undertook the management of a camp hospital for its brigade. It was a hospital of tented wards providing care and treatment for minor cases of sickness and injury for the troops in the camp, and a medical inspection room for the treatment of out-patients. One company in turn staffed the 50-bed hospital, while the other two companies carried out useful training. Early in January A Company under Major Plimmer1 provided, by request, a small camp hospital at Ikingi Maryut for several weeks for 18 Australian Infantry Brigade, which was temporarily without its own medical personnel.

When 4 Infantry Brigade Group was withdrawn from the Western Desert in the second week of January 1941, the brigade also went to Helwan Camp. Preparations were made for 5 Infantry Brigade Group to be accommodated, on its arrival from the United Kingdom, in an area south of the main camp. Sixth Field Ambulance staffed the camp hospital and maintained a PA Centre at the entrance to the camp.

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During February there were more than 10,000 New Zealand troops in Helwan Camp. Their general health remained good, the admissions to hospital averaging twelve daily, or 1·1 per thousand.

Fourth Field Ambulance and 6 Field Ambulance carried on with advanced training at the camp, with special reference to desert warfare, but were ready to go to Greece by the time 5 Field Ambulance arrived in Egypt.

1 Lt-Col J. L. R. Plimmer; born Wellington, 28 Feb 1910; medical practitioner; 2 i/c 6 Fd Amb Feb 1940–May 1941; actg CO 6 Fd Amb May 1941; killed in action 20 May 1941.