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War Surgery and Medicine


page 518

MALARIA has had a powerful effect on the fate of armies throughout history. The Gauls were forced to retreat in disorder from the siege of Rome owing to the depletion of their ranks by this disease. In the Crimea malaria was the cause of a huge wastage of manpower. The British Army in Macedonia in the years 1916–18 had an unfortunate experience. In 1917 alone there were 72,413 admissions to hospital for malaria in a force of about 200,000. In 1918 about 25,000 cases of chronic malaria were invalided to the United Kingdom.

The Anzac Mounted Division in Palestine, fighting against the Turks from 1916 to 1918, had to wage a battle against malaria. In the Jordan valley the disease was held in check by anti-malaria measures. According to Major Hercus, NZMC, DADMS New Zealand Mounted Brigade, ‘Such success as we achieved was in the main due to the high standard of intelligence and discipline of the troops rather than to any novel method of control. Our principal weapon was education and effective co-operation of all ranks.’ When the Division left a protected area in September 1918 in its final attack, without being on quinine prophylaxis, it advanced through malarious mosquito-ridden country. Cases of malaria began to develop in large numbers, but fortunately the Turks were defeated within the incubation period of malaria. The campaign was won by troops who were incubating malignant tertian malaria, and had they been held up after their initial advance for only two weeks a victory might well have been replaced by a disaster. During the period of the final operations the Anzac Division alone had 2827 cases, and the whole of Chaytor's force suffered a loss of 4543 by malaria. Again, as Major Hercus said, ‘We found it difficult to get enough fit men to water the horses. … The devastating effect of the parasite on a force of well-trained and seasoned troops had to be seen to be realised.’

In 1 NZEF overseas there were 61 deaths from malaria.