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Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific

VII: Medical Supplies

VII: Medical Supplies

There was in Germany the equivalent of most standard British medical preparations in the way of lotions, powders, solutions, ointments, anaesthetics and sedatives. These were indented for by British medical officers and were apportioned out from central stocks by German dispensers. Some of the earlier sulphonamide drugs (sulphapyridine and sulphathiazole) were supplied to British medical officers by the Germans, but a German sulphaguanidine preparation was not available. Penicillin, of course, was not available.

Throughout the war the German supply to hospitals of cotton bandages, cotton wool and dressings was inadequate, the standard issue being paper bandages and paper wadding. These inferior bandages were also used for German casualties in base hospitals. Fortunately the British Red Cross sent liberal supplies of bandages, cotton wool and lint in its medical parcels for prisoners of war.


The original hospital instruments consisted of German field hospital panniers, which were not unlike British surgical panniers. They page 146 included collapsible metal operating tables. In some Lazaretts, e.g., at Lamsdorf, the Germans also issued a sigmoidoscope, a cystoscope, Paquelin cautery, all instruments for laparotomy, thoracotomy, wiring fractures, plaster of paris work and spinal anaesthesia. Blood transfusion sets had to be improvised.

For intravenous work the Germans had a very useful 2 ccm. syringe with a side inlet on the barrel. Needles were usually of the French or split-eye variety. Silk, cotton or catgut were used for suturing, and Michel clips were obtainable for skin.

Orderlies improvised freely. In tins or towel bundles many gowns and operating sheets were autoclaved. Sheet tin made dishes to keep needles, scalpels, etc. A Westergren tube made an excellent manometer for measuring cerebro-spinal pressure.

Several New Zealand medical officers captured in Greece also had instruments which they had carried with them into captivity, including eye, ear, and throat diagnostic set, stethoscopes, percussion hammers, field surgical and medical companions, the surgical instruments roll from field ambulance panniers, drugs and syringes.

The Greek Red Cross sister in Corinth, Miss Marienthe Anagnostu, also gave instruments from her own small stock to the New Zealand General Hospital staff stationed in the Ionian Palace hotel from 27 April to 10 May 1941.

In Athens the staff of 5 Australian General Hospital were captured with all their instruments. These they used until the prisoner-of-war hospital closed in December 1941. The instruments were then divided among the few remaining medical officers, who took them on into Germany. Major Charters, ophthalmologist of 26 British General Hospital, similarly took the complete set of his instruments and lenses with him into Germany. There they proved a great boon. All these instruments were used throughout captivity and always, specially in the earlier days, proved of immense benefit to doctor and patient alike. Medical officers also purchased equipment in German shops to supplement what was available in the hospitals, and more especially for camp hospitals of large working parties.