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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

The Work of the RMOs

The Work of the RMOs

The RMOs, especially those attached to 5 Infantry Brigade, experienced great and unprecedented difficulties during the violent and confused attack, particularly in the Maleme area. They found themselves called upon to deal with heavy casualties, with very little in the way of equipment and medical supplies. Although attempts were made by the field ambulances to contact them by parties of medical officers and stretcher-bearers, these were unsuccessful and the RMOs had to carry on as best they could.

Fortunately, their medical supplies were supplemented by German supplies dropped by parachute, and these were found to be of excellent quality, both as regards drugs and dressings, even containing tubes of glucose saline and surgical operating equipment. The RMO of 21 Battalion stated that he obtained adequate supplies of opium by this means when his own supply of morphia was exhausted.

All the RMOs of 5 Infantry Brigade, with the exception of the RMO of 28 Battalion (who was wounded, losing an eye), were captured. They remained behind with the seriously wounded, including a large number of Germans, when their battalions withdrew. Many walking wounded were able to retire with the brigade.

Owing to the nature of the fighting and the ground fought on, the regimental medical officers could expect little Red Cross immunity. By and large, Red Crosses were not displayed at RAPs as these aid posts were, after all, in the main in strictly combatant areas. Indeed, in such fighting the more the aid post was surrounded by armed troops the safer were the wounded. No deliberate attacks on the wounded were reported by the regimental medical officers who, with their staffs, all performed most gallantly at their posts and did everything in their power to assist the wounded.

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The collection of wounded in the forward areas was carried out only with great difficulty in the chaos brought about by the scattered landing of the paratroops. Nevertheless, the work was conscientiously and efficiently done, and the seriously wounded had the benefit of continued attention during the difficult period of early captivity.