New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Medical Units in Battle
Medical Units in Battle
On the evening of the attack 6 ADS moved up just before dark to Alam Nayil and set up in an advanced position behind the infantry. As the preliminary attack was to be made on foot, twenty-four additional stretcher-bearers were detailed from 6 Field Ambulance to collect wounded on to points on the brigade axis marked by shaded green lights, whence ambulance cars would lift them as opportunity arose. A party of twelve stretcher-bearers was attached to 24 and 25 Battalions. These parties were late in setting out and had to follow and locate their infantry battalions, with the result that one group found itself temporarily in advance of the infantry.
Casualties were received early from shelling before the troops had passed through the minefields. The stretcher-bearers carried the wounded to the collecting points, whence the ambulances took them to the ADS, negotiating the minefield in the dark. Some of the wounded were cleared to the ADS in a commandeered 3-ton truck and a battalion RAP runabout. The first casualties reached the ADS before midnight and continued to come in and be evacuated through the hours of darkness. In the morning the ambulances were able to clear further wounded from the stretcher-bearer parks and the ADS was kept busy until midday, but by 1 p.m. all patients had been cleared to the MDS.
Situated about 2 miles behind 6 ADS was 4 ADS, and this unit also received and treated a proportion of the wounded, approximately 100 cases as against 230 at 6 ADS.page 347
At 4 MDS there was an almost overwhelming amount of work, but assistance was given by British units. A mobile blood transfusion unit had been attached on 19 July, and 151 Light Field Ambulance and 1 Light Field Ambulance were located adjacent to 4 MDS. Two surgical teams were still attached, and the arrival of Light Section 15 CCS at midday on 22 July provided two extra surgical teams.
From 9.15 p.m. on 21 July the MDS received patients in a steady stream. A high proportion of men were suffering from very severe wounds, so that it was necessary for Major Taylor's surgical team to work all night, while the unit's own operating section was busy until about 3 a.m. on 22 July. Then, at 6.30 a.m. casualties streamed in again and kept all sections of the MDS very busy. By evening 632 patients had been admitted during that day alone, and of these 394 had been evacuated to 14 CCS at Gharbaniyat, every available ambulance car being in use while the NZASC carried about one hundred on returning vehicles. It was necessary to hold over 300 patients overnight. Major Macfarlane, DADMS 2 NZ Division, and Major Boyd, OC 4 Field Hygiene Section and medical liaison officer, assisted the unit medical officers with anaesthetics during the afternoon and night. All operating sections worked right through until 3 a.m. when Major Taylor's team stopped for a few hours. The operating section of 4 MDS continued until 4.30 a.m. and then resumed again at 6.30 a.m. on 23 July. The transfusion unit also worked continuously for about forty hours.
Another very busy day was experienced on 23 July when a further 438 cases were admitted, and evacuation convoys left regularly during the day. On two ambulance planes seventeen severely wounded patients were sent direct to base hospitals in Cairo. (The same number had been evacuated the previous day in two planes, a hospital DH 86 and a Bombay.) It was arranged that one ambulance plane should have a refrigerator installed to carry supplies of blood direct from Cairo to the ambulance, and that urgently required medical stores also should be brought up by air. In the afternoon 1 British Light Field Ambulance offered to take over some patients, and from that time all British troops arriving at the MDS were passed straight on to this ambulance. During the afternoon and evening a large number of Indian troops was admitted, but then the pressure of work eased. Admissions the following day dropped to 150, which enabled the staff to clear the MDS completely of patients.