Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific

I: Hospitals at Corinth and Kalamata

I: Hospitals at Corinth and Kalamata

THE evacuation of Greece in April 1941 resulted in some 1850 New Zealanders being left behind as prisoners of war. Some of these were sick and wounded. Included among the prisoners of war were six New Zealand medical officers and 92 New Zealand medical orderlies, the majority being from that part of the staff of 1 NZ General Hospital which was detached to form a convalescent hospital, whose staff and 400 patients were apparently more or less forgotten in the withdrawal.

Prisoner-of-War Hospital, Corinth

This hospital was opened at the instigation of a wizened old fighter of over 70 years of age, Miss Ariadne Massautti. She persuaded a German medical officer of the paratroop battalion which had landed at the Corinth Canal on 26 April 1941 to find out if any British doctors had been captured during the German blitz on Corinth. She also persuaded this same medical officer to drive to the eastern end of the Corinth Canal and bring the four captured New Zealand doctors – Captains Slater,1 Foreman2 and J. Borrie3 of 1 NZ General Hospital and Captain Neale4 of 4 Field Ambulance – to Corinth. She had them placed by the German officer in the Ionian Palace hotel, which she had previously commandeered in the name of the Greek Red Cross for wounded prisoners of war. German units sought to occupy it. She valiantly fought back, and quickly had prisoner-of-war patients moved in from Greek hospitals where they had been collected.

From 27 April (one day after their capture) until 10 May 1941, these medical officers ran this hospital of 120 beds. After interviewing the German commandant of Corinth on 30 April, Captain

1 Capt A. N. Slater; Wellington; born Dunedin, 13 Nov 1900; medical practitioner; medical officer 4 Fd Amb Oct 1939-Jan 1941; 1 Gen Hosp Jan-Apr 1941; p.w. Apr 1941; repatriated Jun 1944.

2 Capt H. M. Foreman, MBE; Auckland; born Auckland, 1 Dec 1913; medical practitioner; medical officer 1 Gen Hosp Feb 1940-Apr 1941; p.w. Apr 1941.

3 Capt J. Borrie, MBE; Dunedin; born Port Chalmers, 22 Jan 1915; medical practitioner; medical officer 1 Gen Hosp Feb-Apr 1941; p.w. Apr 1941.

4 Capt H. C. Neale; Wellington; born Nelson, 20 Aug 1914; medical practitioner; medical officer 4 Fd Amb Sep 1939-Apr 1941; p.w. Apr 1941.

page 106 Slater, who was commanding officer, was able to have three nursing orderlies transferred from the Corinth prisoner-of-war camp to assist in the work of the hospital. (One other New Zealand medical orderly, Private Savery,1 had on his own initiative taken charge of some thirty wounded in another hotel – the Grande Bretagne. For three days he carried on single-handed and in fact had no idea that any other prisoner-of-war medical organisation existed in Corinth.)

There were few beds in the Ionian Palace hotel and sanitary arrangements were poor and medical arrangements very meagre. Most patients slept on mattresses on the floor. The only medical supplies available were those which Miss Massautti and her friends had been able to get from the local Greek hospital. The medical officers were able to do dressings and simple surgical procedures, but later, cases requiring major surgery were transferred to the local Greek hospital or to a German military hospital. Of the 122 British, Australian and New Zealand patients in the Ionian Palace hotel, the majority (80) had gunshot wounds, almost all infected, one with gas gangrene; dysentery and pneumonia were the most serious medical conditions. There were remarkably few deaths (only four) in the two weeks in this hotel, despite the appalling lack of medical and sanitary facilities and the small amount of food. Some Greek women did all in their power to provide for the deficiencies, but the Germans did practically nothing to help.

Kalamata Hospital

At Kalamata Major G. H. Thomson, NZMC,2 RMO 4 Field Regiment, had gathered around him a group of British medical officers and had opened a hospital in a hall.

On 16 May this group was transported in German ambulances to Piraeus (Athens), where the Germans were concentrating all wounded prisoners of war in a large American orphanage building, only just completed, in the suburb of Kokkinia.

1 Pte W. C. T. Savery; Wellington; born England, 7 Jan 1900; waterside worker; p.w. 29 Apr 1941; repatriated Oct 1943.

2 Maj G. H. Thomson, OBE, ED; New Plymouth; born Dunedin, 5 Mar 1892; obstetrician; 1 NZEF 1914–16 (Gnr 4 How Bty); RMO 4 Fd Regt Sep 1939-Apr 1941; p.w. 28 Apr 1941; repatriated Oct 1943.