War Surgery and Medicine
Boarding in 2 NZEF
Boarding in 2 NZEF
Overseas early in the war it was found necessary to board psychotic and psychoneurotic cases. Many psychotic cases had gone overseas not having disclosed their mental history. Many of the psychologically unstable had reacted quickly to the dislocation of their normal lives and the trying conditions in the base camp. The Board of Inquiry, as already recorded, gave their opinion of the problems.
When 2 NZ Division became engaged in active warfare cases arising in the forward areas were sent back to the base hospitals and camps for boarding. The decision was made that no boarding should be carried out in the divisional area, though the cases referred to the Base were carefully selected by the ADMS and his officers. A very severe culling took place in the forward areas as it was felt that these cases were a menace to the morale of the fighting troops. The officers commanding units were only too ready to be quit of these men.page 644
Opinion was in accord with the War Office report of 1922, which said: ‘The occurrence of psychoneurotic conditions militates against the efficiency of the Army, swells the sick returns, increases the amount of hospital accommodation and transport required, and absorbs the time and attention of the medical personnel.’
From May 1941 to December 1942, 920 psychoneurotic cases were medically boarded in 2 NZEF, 40 per cent being placed on the New Zealand roll and 50 per cent being down-graded for base employment. The boards were held either at the base hospital or in the base camp, specially selected boards being appointed for the camp. Efficient boarding was thus ensured. The small proportion sent back to front-line units consisted of the milder cases, many of them also being key personnel.
In the case of those graded for the Base the greatest difficulty was to provide satisfactory, congenial, and agreeable work. Difficulties arose when the man was given monotonous and depressing jobs in the camp. This generally led to exacerbation of his symptoms.
A strong appeal was made by the Consultant Physician to have men given congenial and interesting work: ‘These men were still maladjusted, still required help and encouragement, and the greater the care and common sense devoted to them at this stage, the lesser the problem of final rehabilitation’.
‘It does no good to add insult to injury and uncongenial employment in occupations which are not befitting, are degrading, demoralising, depressing, and aggravate the disability. If no suitable occupation is available for a graded man it would be far better to send him home before he further deteriorates and before he has transferred his trouble to others’.
It was recommended that men graded for the Base should be kept in hospital doing occupational therapy till satisfactory jobs were arranged for them at the Base, and that all the New Zealand cases should be segregated at a special depot and should carry on occupational therapy till they boarded the hospital ship.
A special officer was appointed at the base camp to arrange for the better employment of graded men, especially the anxiety neurosis cases, and this, to some extent, alleviated the position, but there was not much choice in the way of congenial occupation at a base camp. Graded men tended to accumulate in large numbers at Base, and at different times arrangements were made to send any surplus back to New Zealand, as it was held that deterioration took place in many of the men and that they would be better employed in their ordinary civilian capacity. A large number were sent back to New Zealand from Maadi Camp in the last year of the war for this reason.