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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Medical Arrangements at Baggush

Medical Arrangements at Baggush

All the divisional medical units assembled in September at Baggush preparatory to a campaign which was a most fateful one for them.

The New Zealanders became a race of underground dwellers at Baggush. There was scarcely a stitch of canvas in sight throughout the skilfully camouflaged area. Under the crust of the desert were medical dressing stations and many other works. But the enemy was sufficiently far away not to confine the troops below ground. Comprehensive training exercises were undertaken, including desert page 251 navigation and night movement in motorised brigade groups. In addition to their routine work of treating sick and accident cases, all three field ambulances took part during October in three-day desert exercises with their own brigade groups, and also carried out revisionary training.

The health of the troops was generally satisfactory, except that desert sores and skin infections became very prevalent. The other principal illnesses were tonsillitis and dysentery, for which dust-storms were considered a causative factor. In the treatment of desert sores our units adopted with success the method introduced by 7 Armoured Division. The sores, generally multiple, were in the nature of chronic ulcers with crusts and undermined edges, healing slowly and constantly tending to break down. The treatment consisted in thorough cleansing, the removal of overhanging edges of skin, and the application of a dressing of sulphanilamide powder 1 per cent in paraffin or glycerine completely covered over with elastoplast, the dressing being left untouched for from three to five days.

By the end of October all the medical units with the Division were completely reorganised and re-equipped after their difficult experiences in Greece and Crete, and were once more ready and eager to play their part in a campaign.

On 22 October the ADMS NZ Division (Colonel Kenrick) attended a medical conference at Headquarters Eighth Army. For active operations it was arranged that there would be a casualty clearing station operating behind each division. In the case of NZ Division, the Mobile Surgical Unit was to function as a light section of a CCS and be attached to the Division.

At a conference held at GHQ MEF on 30 October it was decided that two general hospitals would move to Garawla in the Western Desert forthwith, one of which was to be 2 NZ General Hospital and the other, 43 British General Hospital. The New Zealanders would thus have a hospital on the lines of communication, though its patients would not be exclusively New Zealanders.