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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Classification of Invalids on Hospital Ship

Classification of Invalids on Hospital Ship

A complaint raised by the Admiralty, London, in connection with the types of cases sent by hospital ships led to an inquiry into the matter on 21 April 1942. It had been learnt from secret sources that the Dutch hospital ship Oranje would be regarded by the Germans as a troop-carrier and would be attacked if encountered on the high seas. The reason given was that the ship had carried to Australia some men who were not invalids, but were, in fact, unfit men who should never have enlisted. War Office inquiries led to the opinion that some convalescents not under medical treatment had been carried on the Oranje when she left Suez for Australia on 8 August 1941. There were New Zealand invalids as well as Australians on this voyage, but an inquiry by DDMS 2 NZEF into the roll showed that almost without exception the cases were such as should travel by hospital ship.

It was felt that the complaint arose through a misunderstanding, possibly to some extent from the New Zealand shipboard alphabetical category for such invalids being confused with the British medical grading classification, which also used the early letters of the alphabet. In consequence, the DMS GHQ MEF requested DMS 2 NZEF to change the New Zealand classification, which in no way represented the grading of personnel but was used to enable cable advice to be sent simply to New Zealand regarding the types of invalids. A change was made from A B C … to P Q R … Z.

In addition, it was clearly laid down by DMS 2 NZEF that all cases travelling by hospital ship must be in need of medical or nursing attention on the voyage, and that all low category personnel page 311 not requiring medical attention must be returned by ordinary troopship.1

1In this connection there was another qualifying factor that was taken into account. This was in regard to a disabled person who, though not specifically receiving medical attention, but who in the event of a troopship being attacked would be unable to fend for himself, was on humane grounds usually returned by hospital ship.

As a rule, battle casualties were not returned by troopship, nor were mental cases requiring supervision, asthmatics requiring treatment, gastric ulcer cases or severe dyspeptics, chronic dysentery cases, and any case physically incapacitated in battle.