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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Work of NZ units at Alexandria and Garawla

Work of NZ units at Alexandria and Garawla

The detachment of 3 General Hospital, which, under Lieutenant-Colonel Button as OC and Miss Hennessy as Matron, took over two wards of the Anglo-Swiss hospital at Alexandria on 23 November, admitted its first patients on 4 December. They were forty-one patients who had arrived by ship from Tobruk. The number of patients grew to 171 at the end of the month. Many of the patients had passed through up to six medical units in the field before arriving at the hospital. With adequate draining of septic wounds and splinting, together with sulphonamide by mouth, all cases progressed satisfactorily. The detachment functioned at Alexandria until 28 April 1942, by which time it had treated 626 patients—315 of them from the Western Desert, 146 from New Zealand units in the Alexandria area, 114 from 1 NZ Convalescent Depot, and 51 from 2 NZ Rest Home. Its period of useful work was terminated by the move of the Division to Syria and the need for the detachment to rejoin its parent unit for service in that area.

In its four months at Garawla to March 1942, 2 General Hospital admitted 3266 patients, including 228 battle casualties from the Libyan campaign. New Zealand patients were in the minority, numbering 990. The hospital experienced numerous dust-storms and occasional rain, but it was never subjected to air attack. The reason for this as volunteered by a prisoner patient, one of the crew of a German bomber shot down nearby, was that the hospital was recognised by enemy pilots, as well as by Allied pilots, as a useful landmark from which to get their bearings, and that it would be a handicap to bomb it. (This presumably was a reason additional to the primary one of the observance of the Geneva Convention.)

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