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War Surgery and Medicine

Hygiene Training and Education

Hygiene Training and Education

None of the original men posted to 4 Field Hygiene Section when it first assembled in Burnham in 1939 had had any experience in hygiene work. What the unit knew by the time of its arrival in Egypt was taught by its first OC, Captain Wyn Irwin, a medical officer with the Diploma of Public Health. Some of the later postings to the unit were men with experience as sanitary inspectors, and some were tradesmen for workshop duties, but many had to be given courses of instruction to enable them to carry out their duties efficiently.

An important help in hygiene training was provided by the Middle East School of Hygiene, a British unit at Sarafand, Palestine. Full use was made of this school (and the later one at Benevento, Italy) page 718 by 2 NZEF, and large numbers of medical officers, hygiene NCOs, and unit officers and NCOs went to the various courses. The subjects taught covered hygiene in all its aspects—field sanitation, malaria and water control. The schools played a major part in improvising, standardising, and popularising useful apparatus made from four-gallon petrol tins and 44 gallon oil-drums—such appliances as incinerators, grease traps, cookers, fly traps, disinfestors, shower baths, food containers and refuse receptacles.

Some instruction of personnel from units was undertaken by the Base Hygiene Section in Maadi Camp. In the Division 4 Field Hygiene Section conducted one and two-day courses regularly from the end of 1942 onwards in field sanitation and water control for unit officers and NCOs. In Italy a divisional malaria school was opened.

The development of demonstration grounds was a very important part of hygiene education. The Base Hygiene Section prepared a very good model ground in Maadi Camp showing models of all types of sanitary apparatus. A small but effective model ground was carried by 4 Field Hygiene Section and set up at its headquarters when the Division was in a concentration area. Towards the end of the war in Italy Eighth Army developed a health education exhibit which was put on display.

Use was made in 2 NZEF of available posters and films, which, however, were not very numerous and not always very appealing. There was a distinct need for the film to be taken more seriously as a means of general education in health.

In 2 NZEF Orders, repeated in unit orders, detailed instructions were issued from time to time on the action to be taken to control infectious diseases such as typhus, typhoid, malaria, and dysentery, as well as on cleanliness in regard to food and general sanitation. Very full use was made of divisional orders for the promulgation monthly of venereal disease and malaria rates in units in an effort to get particular units to improve their record when it compared unfavourably with that of other units.