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War Surgery and Medicine

Hygiene Organisation

Hygiene Organisation

The organisation for the control of hygiene grew as 2 NZEF grew in size and became more scattered. Early in 1940 there was the one hygiene section (4 Field Hygiene Section), with its OC directly responsible to DMS 2 NZEF. Towards the end of 1940, page 716 when separate headquarters establishments were set up for HQ 2 NZEF and HQ 2 NZ Division, and the Division was not at Base, it was necessary to have a Base Hygiene Section in Maadi Camp in addition to 4 Field Hygiene Section, which thereafter accompanied the Division. When lines of communication became long and an Advanced Base was established, an Advanced Base Hygiene Section had to be formed, as in southern Italy.

The functions of a Field Hygiene Section were officially described as:

Supervisory: The supervision of: Water supplies, including their purification and distribution; food supplies, cooking and slaughtering places; ablution places, including disposal of sullage water; all conservancy and refuse disposal; general sanitation of all camps, etc.; the disposal of carcases; all laundry and bathing arrangements; all anti-fly measures; and, on occasion, all anti-mosquito measures.

Executive: The disinfection of clothing, bedding, equipment and accommodation to the extent of which the unit is capable. The initiation of sanitary measures and the provision of sanitary appliances until such time as unit sanitary personnel are able to function. The provision and maintenance of standard patterns of appliances for the instruction and guidance of regimental sanitary personnel. The carrying out of sanitary schemes which are beyond the power of regimental sanitary detachments. The establishment of disinfestation stations when such are considered necessary.

From the end of 1942, when it took over a captured Italian mobile shower 4 Field Hygiene Section ran a shower unit which was the only one available in the Desert. The equipment was also operated by the shower section of the unit in the forward areas in Italy.

Increasing duties of the Field Hygiene Section, and the desirability of concentrating hygiene activities in the one unit, led to its establishment being amended in 1944 to that of a Field Hygiene Company. It absorbed the two malaria control units, one of which was to function as a typhus control section in the non-malaria season.

Early in 1945 the OC 4 Field Hygiene Company, Major Kennedy, was appointed DADH on the staff of Divisional Headquarters. In Syria and Tunisia when the malaria season opened, an extra medical officer was appointed Malaria Officer, but in Italy the OC 4 Field Hygiene Section held this additional appointment. (In the post-war establishment for a division there is now provision for a DADH.)

The Malaria Control Units were responsible for the anti-mosquito and anti-larval measures in areas outside the camp lines occupied by units, i.e., drainage, spraying of buildings in villages with flysol (and, later, DDT) spraying dangerous undrainable water with malariol, cuprous cyanide, or paris green, and canalising or flushing streams.

page 717

The Divisional Malaria Officer, as adviser to the ADMS, maintained close liaison with the Malaria Field Laboratory for technical advice, and with Ordnance for equipment. He kept in touch with RMOs, whose anti-malaria arrangements he inspected and on which he gave advice.

Hygiene within units was the responsibility of the Commanding Officer of the unit, but the active agents were the RMO and the unit sanitary and water personnel. The RMO was really a hygiene officer at unit level. He was adviser to the OC on the health of the unit, and it was his responsibility to:


Actively promote the health and wellbeing of the unit.


Ensure that sufficient stocks of water-sterilising material and disinfectants were available.


Maintain a sanitation diary and keep records of unit sick.


Keep the inoculation state of the unit up-to-date.


See that the water-supply was fit for drinking.


See that unit sanitary personnel were properly trained and carried out their duties satisfactorily.


Concern himself with the food of the unit—preparation, cooking and consumption of rations, their calorie and vitamin values.


Assist in organising vigorous measures against venereal disease.


Medically inspect the members of the unit once a month, and specially inspect men engaged in cooking.


Carry out anti-malaria measures—training of unit in personal precautions, and organising unit anti-malaria squad.

The unit sanitary detachment was responsible for the disposal of waste water and refuse, disinfection, supervision of ablution places, conservancy, refuse disposal, and also acted as sanitary police.

The duties of the water detachment were the daily supervision of the water supply and its purification for drinking purposes, and the care of all apparatus and stores connected with water supply.