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Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific

III: Medical Examination of Recruits

III: Medical Examination of Recruits

Aircrew: At the outset of the war the policy was for all aircrew medical examinations to be carried out by civilian doctors at one of ten centres.

On 1 April 1942 all aircrew recruit examinations were centralised at three RNZAF medical boards, at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. From October 1943 complete aircrew examinations were carried out only at Delta, Blenheim, until that station closed down, when the three medical boards again took over the examinations.

Remedial treatment for personnel assessed as temporarily unfit was authorised by War Cabinet minute dated 27 November 1939, and arrangements were made through the Health Department for their admission to public hospitals for treatment. Operations were arranged for eye, ear, nose and throat conditions, hernia and varicose veins. This enabled a proportion of otherwise unfit recruits to become fit for aircrew duties.

The percentage of aircrew recruits passed fit for service, graded temporarily unfit, and rejected is shown below for each year:

Period Passed Fit Graded Temporarily Unfit Rejected
Per Cent Per Cent Per Cent
Period to 31 March 1940 68.4 15.9 15.7
Year ended 31 March 1941 57.9 25.8 16.3
Year ended 31 March 1942 62.2 22.8 15.0
Year ended 31 March 1943 72.0 14.6 13.4
Year ended 31 March 1944 81.1 9.9 9.0
Year ended 31 March 1945 81.5 7.5 11.0
Total war period to 31 March 1945 67.1 19.1 13.8
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It will be noted that in no year did the percentage of aircrew recruits rejected differ very greatly from the average for the period of the war, and that the trend from year to year after 31 March 1941 was downward. As the medical standards remained virtually unchanged, it is apparent that the physical condition of recruits coming forward did not deteriorate.

Ground Staff: Non-flying examinations for ground staff recruits were carried out by civilian doctors at various centres throughout New Zealand from the outbreak of war, assisted later by the three air service medical boards. Because of the diversity of trades in the Air Force, non-flying medical categories were more numerous and complex than those of other services, but the standards of fitness required for overseas service were basically similar.

In 1942, when recruitment was at its peak, candidates who had already been examined for the Army were accepted into the Air Force without re-examination.

From November 1940 all recruits for the RNZAF aircrew and ground staff underwent chest X-ray before final acceptance. These examinations numbered approximately 73,000.

With the formation of the Air Training Corps in 1941, all cadets were given a non-flying examination before acceptance, and if they were subsequently mobilised for flying duties an aircrew medical examination was carried out.

On the formation of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, all recruits were required to undergo a full non-flying examination and chest X-ray. In certain large centres special examiners were appointed for the examination of airwomen.

All aircrew personnel in the RNZAF were required to undergo an annual examination to check up on their fitness. Non-flying personnel were required to be re-examined only on specific occasions, viz., before proceeding overseas, on return from overseas, and on transfer to Army or Reserve. Those returning from the Pacific area had a special medical examination at the RNZAF Disembarkation Depot, and it was supplemented by a laboratory check for malaria, a blood count, and, where indicated, a stool examination.

The general policy was to ensure that a medical board was held: (i) when a member had been incapacitated for a period of two months or more; (ii) when the health of a member had deteriorated or improved, so that his medical grading required to be altered; and (iii) when a member was discharged from the service.

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