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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Medical Plan Reviewed

Medical Plan Reviewed

The original medical plan of the Division was entirely upset by the enemy mobile columns which roamed at will behind the Division and on its axis. No axis remained, and convoys went to and fro across the desert no-man's-land where armoured and motorised columns of both forces were roaming free and occasionally meeting in mobile battles.

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When the medical units were concentrated there was only one medical centre for the whole Division where adequate surgical work could be carried out and numbers of casualties attended to. When this was captured the Division lost all its surgical facilities and the main medical units all their supplies and their power of evacuation of casualties. They were, however, able to carry on their function of caring for, and giving medical attention to, over 1000 casualties. Unfortunately, the supply of water was inadequate, but otherwise it was possible to give satisfactory attention to the wounded.

After the capture of the main units, 4 and 6 Brigades were serviced by their attached ADSs and were able to evacuate the fresh casualties to Tobruk. Fifth Brigade still had its ADS and casualties were evacuated to the Indian CCS at Sidi Omar.

The Division was undoubtedly well served by 7 MAC and Lieutenant Bennett was decorated with the MC for his able and fearless work.

The only serious difficulties in attending to the wounded arose because of the capture of the MDS centre. This resulted in scarcity of supplies, particularly of water, and was a serious matter in cases such as those of abdominal injury. The capture occurred the day after the main battle and prevented the evacuation of the casualties which had been held because of interference by the enemy on the lines to the rear. Perhaps it was as well that sufficient medical personnel were also captured to enable the wounded to be well looked after. The eggs were certainly all in one basket, but there seemed no protection for the eggs even if they had been well scattered.

The senior divisional medical officers had nearly all already had experience in Greece and Crete and were capable men. The Medical Corps suffered, as did the rest of the Division, in a stern and very even battle where the enemy showed great initiative and daring, especially in his use of tanks. The Division had heavy casualties and lost many prisoners, but had inflicted crippling losses on the enemy. Under such conditions the medical loss was not out of proportion, and the 2 NZEF medical services recovered quite well and quite quickly.