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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Fourth Reinforcements

Fourth Reinforcements

All medical units were short of staff until the arrival of the first and second sections of the 4th Reinforcements on 16 December 1940 and 29 January 1941. An NZMC training cadre had been formed in conjunction with 1 Camp Hospital, Maadi, but until the end of January it had functioned more or less as a reception depot only. All medical personnel marched in were drafted out as rapidly as possible to units which were under strength. Eight huts were erected before the arrival of the 4th Reinforcements, and a small number of men were accommodated in tents. A training syllabus, which also served to test trainees' capabilities, was then drawn up for all those who would be marched into the medical depot.

The type of men for medical units sent forward with the 4th Reinforcements came in for criticism from the GOC 2 NZEF and Base Commandant. A number of men in the first section of the 4th Reinforcements were recognised as rejects from medical units formed in New Zealand. In the second section, an inspection revealed a number of undersized and aged men, some twenty or thirty being of such a low standard that the training cadre reported it would be difficult to find employment for them. The DDMS 2 NZEF emphasised in his monthly report that all branches of the Medical Corps required men of good physique and intelligence, whether they were for stretcher-bearing or nursing duties, as both occupations called for considerable muscular effort and endurance. The only permissible lowering of the standard was possibly in regard to eyesight.

General Freyberg directed that a number of the men be medically boarded immediately. A special senior medical board examined fifteen men out of 180 NZMC reinforcements. Four were graded unfit for overseas service, six fit for base duties only, and five remained Grade I as, although of poor physique, they were not medically unfit.

(Note: Later medical reinforcements were all found to be up to the required standard, although the Medical Corps was required to board a number of men of each group of reinforcements for other units soon after their arrival in the Middle East. Some groups were noticeably worse than others as regards unfit men.)

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In his report of January 1941 to the DGMS (Army and Air), referring to medical personnel, the DDMS also stressed the fact that no men who were not of good type should be sent overseas. It was uneconomical in all respects to send over poor types, even if they were not actually unfit.