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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Difficulties of Medical Organisation

Difficulties of Medical Organisation

The difficulties of medical organisation were enormous on account of lack of equipment, lack of transport, the mixed composition of the combined forces, and the general disorganisation following the evacuation of Greece.

In the New Zealand sector five tents and some medical equipment were obtained from 7 General Hospital and supplied to 5 and 6 Field Ambulances on 1 May to enable them to extend the facilities of their dressing stations. The 5th MDS was merely a protected area in a dry riverbed, with three tents set up and a tent-fly extended as cover for patients from 5 Brigade, while 6 Field Ambulance was similarly situated in providing medical services for 4 Brigade.

On 5 May the situation was relieved when the hospital ship Aba arrived at Canea Bay and embarked 602 patients, including 102 New Zealanders, by means of small boats. Loading was carried out without incident and the ship sailed for Egypt the same day.

In the second week of May small supplies of equipment became available, more especially personal clothing such as shirts and shorts, groundsheets, extra blankets, and underclothing. The weather was becoming more unsettled and all manner of ingenious forms of bivouacs were constructed by the men. Fifth Field Ambulance received additional tentage and medical stores and expanded the MDS, also making provision for an officers' ward.

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The 7th General Hospital staff continued to be extremely busy and found themselves very shorthanded after the departure of the nursing sisters. Fifty-four men from 6 Field Ambulance were attached daily to the hospital. The CO 5 Field Ambulance, Lieutenant-Colonel Twhigg, also offered the services of some of his nursing orderlies, and sixteen of them were attached to the hospital from 10 May. Major Christie, a surgeon who had been attached to 5 Field Ambulance from 1 General Hospital in Greece, also offered his services to the hospital, and advantage was later taken of this offer.