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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Pinewood Hospital—1 NZ General Hospital

Pinewood Hospital—1 NZ General Hospital

Situated in a pine plantation, Pinewood Sanatorium was a London County Council institution for young women. A hutted hospital was being built by the EMS in the grounds some 300 yards away from the main buildings. It was this hutted hospital which was offered to the New Zealand force and which, after inspection, Colonel MacCormick was pleased to accept on its behalf.

At a conference in London on 15 June 1940 with London County Council and Public Health Department officials, it was agreed that the hutments should be set aside for New Zealand service sick, while the sanatorium itself would be left for tubercular and EMS patients, although 70 of its 260 beds would be available for any New Zealand casualties and sick New Zealand nurses. The New Zealand Medical Corps would staff the hutted hospital, but its medical officers would be available for work in the sanatorium, if required by the medical superintendent.

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As the New Zealand hospital had no equipment of its own, it was arranged that EMS equipment be used. Food supplies, drugs and dressings, etc., were to be drawn through the sanatorium, and the New Zealand hospital would likewise share the other services of water, gas, electricity, fuel, telephone system, and laundry facilities. The general basis of the financial settlement was that the London County Council would keep separate costings for staff, supplies, and services provided for the New Zealand section and send the bill to the Ministry of Health (administrator of the EMS hospitals). The Ministry of Health would then approach the High Commissioner for New Zealand for a settlement of New Zealand's allocated liability. If it were found necessary to provide further buildings or accommodation for the New Zealand hospital, it was agreed that the work would be executed under the direction and on the responsibility of the NZEF. Both the Ministry of Health and London County Council had met the New Zealand requirements most generously.

There were nine huts, each of which accommodated 36 beds normally and 42 beds in emergency. Each was complete with kitchen, storerooms, baths, lavatories, and heating. There were also a well-appointed theatre and X-ray block, cubicles for 36 nurses, dining and sitting rooms for nurses, and a kitchen block. Some of the wards were at first used for departments of 1 General Hospital, such as the quartermaster's branch, until huts were built for them. Administrative headquarters were improvised in a cottage. The male staff of the hospital was quartered in billets at Edgecumbe Manor, a mile and a quarter away, and the medical officers occupied unfurnished wards until they moved into East Hampstead Cottage some weeks later.

The first step in setting up 1 General Hospital was taken on 26 June 1940 when the commanding officer, Colonel McKillop, and a small party moved to Pinewood from Ewshott. A further small party joined them on 30 June. By then 72 beds had been made ready and two patients admitted. The remainder of the unit arrived at Pinewood on 2 July. A New Zealand hospital was thus speedily set up for the Second Echelon group in England when the country was subject to air attack and threatened by a German invasion.

Minor epidemics of measles and mumps had developed on the transports on the way to the United Kingdom, and it was patients suffering from these diseases who were the first treated in the hospital. Additional wards were opened up to cope with an increasing bed state. When the operating-theatre block was completed all surgical work was undertaken by the unit, which also provided a consultant service to neighbouring regimental officers.

A surgical team was called for urgently to help a small emergency hospital to treat severe casualties following an air raid on a large page 86 aircraft factory at Weybridge. It was the first experience of the profound shock present in seriously wounded patients, many of whom died either without or shortly after operation. Our unit was thus able to realise and appreciate the ordeal through which the people of Great Britain were passing, as well as to gain valuable experience in war surgery. A considerable number of air-raid casualties from London were admitted to the hospital. These were of all ages from small children to elderly men and they proved excellent patients. Military patients from British units in the area as well as our own New Zealand troops were also admitted, and the staff was kept fully occupied.

A party from 1 Convalescent Depot established a small Camp Reception Hospital of twelve beds in a house at Farnborough on 22 June. The medical arrangements for 2 NZEF (UK) as from 30 June 1940 were that all sick and wounded were evacuated to the New Zealand Camp Reception Hospital, Farnborough, where the officer-in-charge (Major Speight)1 was responsible for the disposal of cases to either the Camp Hospital, 1 NZ General Hospital, Pinewood, or special hospitals in the Aldershot Command.

In Egypt there was not sufficient personnel to staff the 300-bed hospital which opened on 24 July as 4 General Hospital, so arrangements were made to send reinforcements from England. These reinforcements comprised 2 medical officers, 12 nursing sisters, and 20 men from 1 General Hospital, 6 medical officers from 1 Convalescent Depot and enlistments in the United Kingdom, and 10 men from 5 Field Ambulance. They embarked at Glasgow on 4 August for Egypt, which they reached on 15 September. The staff of 1 Convalescent Depot also went to Egypt at the same time, as the depot was not really required in England nor was a suitable site available. The Camp Reception Hospital was taken over by a detachment of 1 General Hospital. The losses to the staff of 1 General Hospital were to some extent replaced by enlisting six NZANS in England and by employing local personnel, twelve VADs and five female cooks. This procedure conflicted with the policy of enlisting NZMC and NZANS personnel as far as possible only in New Zealand, but the urgency of the situation demanded prompt action.

When 5 Infantry Brigade had a mobile role in the south-east of England in September, it was impossible to make adequate use of 1 General Hospital. Cases of sickness and accident, which could not be dealt with by 5 Field Ambulance, were being sent to nearer EMS page 87 hospitals. The GOC 2 NZEF, therefore, directed that the remainder of 1 General Hospital be sent to Egypt. The warning order to move was given to the unit on 7 September and the hospital was handed over to 18 General Hospital on 28 September. No. 1 General Hospital embarked from Gourock, Scotland, on 4 October on HMT Georgic and arrived at Port Tewfik on 16 November 1940.

1 Col N. C. Speight, CBE, ED; Dunedin; born Dunedin, 6 Jul 1899; surgeon; medical officer 1 Conv Depot Mar–Nov 1940; CO 6 Fd Amb Jun–Nov 1941; p.w. Nov 1941; repatriated Apr 1942; ADMS 4 Div (NZ) Nov 1942–Mar 1943; ADMS 3 Div (Pacific) Mar 1943–Nov 1944.