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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Netherlands Hospital Ship Oranje

Netherlands Hospital Ship Oranje

The Netherlands hospital ship Oranje arrived at Port Tewfik on 6 August 1941 and on the next two days embarked 641 patients for Australia and New Zealand. Early in 1941 the Netherlands Government offered Australia and New Zealand the MV Oranje for use as a hospital ship to bring back sick and wounded from their forces in the Middle East. This generous offer was gladly accepted, and the ship was partially converted to her new purpose in Batavia and then sailed to Sydney to be completely converted and equipped as a hospital ship. The Oranje was a luxury liner of 20,000 tons completed only in 1939 and had made her maiden voyage to the Dutch East Indies just after the outbreak of war. She was a fast ship able to average 26 knots and had a water plant able to produce 300 tons of fresh water daily. As a hospital ship she was probably the world's largest and fastest.

The Netherlands Government was responsible for the cost of the conversion of the Oranje and for her upkeep, including surgical equipment and medical stores. The ship's staff comprised 327 officers and crew of the Netherlands mercantile marine, and the medical staff consisted of 123 medical officers, sisters, and orderlies of the Netherlands military medical service, and 18 Australian and 16 New Zealand medical personnel. (After her second voyage the Dutch medical staff was reduced when some members were posted to serve in the East Indies after Japan's entry into the war, and the number of New Zealanders on the staff increased. In 1943, when the AIF was withdrawn from the Middle East, the Australian staff was replaced by a British staff and the number or New Zealanders again increased to reach 76. In 1944 the ship's bed accommodation was expanded to take 870 patients and in 1944 and 1945 the Oranje, as a member of the Allied shipping pool, made most of her voyages between the Middle East and Italy and the United Kingdom with British invalids, but made another voyage to New Zealand at the end of the war. The service of the Oranje and the assistance of the Australian ship Wanganella enabled HS Maunganui to cope with the evacuation of sick and wounded from the Middle East without another New Zealand hospital ship being required.)