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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Divisional Units in Canal Zone

Divisional Units in Canal Zone

Divisional combatant units went to the Suez Canal zone for training after they had been rested and reorganised. Sixth Infantry Brigade Group occupied an area near Ismailia but no separate page 226 medical unit accompanied it. Towards the end of July 5 Infantry Brigade Group moved to Kabrit Camp, and 5 Field Ambulance accompanied it on 26 and 28 July to participate in training and to provide medical services.

Kabrit Camp was situated 20 miles north of Suez on a promontory between the Great and Little Bitter lakes and was adjacent to Kabrit aerodrome and combined operations school. There were good bathing facilities for troops but no fresh-water showers were available. The camp water supply was pumped from the Sweetwater Canal and was chlorinated before it passed into the water tower in the centre of the camp area.

Typical desert conditions existed in the camp area, which was subjected to frequent dust-storms. Drainage was most unsatisfactory. There was very little depth of surface sand and beneath it was a deep layer of impervious strata which precluded the deep soakage of ordinary drainage. The existing shallow soakpits were filled to overflowing within a few days of the occupation of the camp. It became obvious that the only effective system would have been the construction of covered drains leading down to the Bitter Lake, but the Division moved on before this could be done. The latrines were of deep trench pattern and functioned satisfactorily.

Fifth Field Ambulance established a camp reception station and arranged for the evacuation of patients to 19 British General Hospital, Geneifa. This hospital also supplied issues of expendable medical stores and undertook laboratory examinations. Another British hospital in the area, 13 General Hospital, agreed to provide ambulance transport for evacuation of certain cases to 1 Camp Hospital, Maadi. The only sickness of moment was an outbreak of diarrhoea in 21 Battalion stationed at Geneifa.

In view of possible amphibious operations in the future, swimming instruction was given to members of 5 Field Ambulance, especially as it was found that 30 per cent of the men were unable to swim. Training in combined operations with 5 Brigade was also undertaken, this involving crossing the canal in landing craft in assault exercises, landing, and establishing medical aid posts at a bridgehead. Amphibious operations, however, were not destined to be included in the roles of medical units in active warfare.

Fifth Field Ambulance returned with 5 Brigade to Garawi Camp on 17 August and its bivouac area at Kabrit was taken over by 4 Field Ambulance, attached to 4 Infantry Brigade Group. The camp reception station at Helwan was then staffed by 6 Field Ambulance. Fourth Field Ambulance followed the same programme as 5 Field Ambulance at Kabrit, while 6 Field Ambulance participated in exercises with 6 Infantry Brigade Group in the El Saff area out in the desert from Helwan. The 4th Field Hygiene Section assisted with page 227 the difficult problem of sanitation at Kabrit as well as carrying on with duties and training at Helwan.

In September the Division moved back to the Western Desert and again camped at Baggush. The move was the prelude to a campaign in Libya.