Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

by

J. B. McKINNEY

 

WAR HISTORY BRANCH
DEPARTMENT OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

1952

New Zealand and Indian casualties from El Mreir at 4 Field Ambulance

 

FOREWORD

THIS HISTORY of the medical units of 2 NZEF has been written as a record of the work done and the life led by the men and women of the Medical Corps from 1939 to 1945. As a history of the units it must be distinguished from the official medical history of New Zealand in the Second World War. Its scope does not extend, for instance, to questions of medical administration or professional problems. The book does, however, give an authentic account of the medical units, a description of the countries in which they served, and conveys something of the nature and importance of their duties. The work of the regimental medical officers has in the main been left to the histories of the combatant units with which they served.

The field medical units---the field ambulances, hygiene company, surgical and transfusion units, and casualty clearing station---shared the life of 2 NZ Division. They accompanied the Division for thousands of miles, providing a continuous medical service. They ranged from Olympus to the Peloponnese in Greece, plodded the rugged hills of Crete, stood with Britain in her finest hour, lined the border of Turkey, roamed the deserts of North Africa until they reached Tunisia. In Italy they set up their dressing stations from Taranto to Trieste, not always under canvas then, but protected in buildings from the winter rain and snow and mud.

The hospitals and convalescent depot did not move so often, but these Base units were sited at different times in Egypt, England, Greece, Palestine, Syria, the Western Desert, Tripolitania, and Italy. The hospital ships linked them with New Zealand. The chain of medical services stretched across the world.

Changed climatic conditions and endemic diseases foreign to New Zealanders were encountered in the different countries. The care of the wounded called for extreme efforts when the Division was fighting, and accidental injuries and inevitable sickness kept the Medical Corps constantly at work, always with enthusiasm and initiative. A happy association was built up with other medical units of the Allied Forces.

The members of the units worked in an atmosphere of harmony and felt joy, satisfaction, and pride in their service. They knew they had the respect and confidence of the 2 NZEF as a whole, and this was especially shown in the constant support and intense interest of the GOC, General Freyberg. The warm humanity of our units was accentuated by the presence of our capable and tireless sisters and nurses. The war knit together the members of our Corps in a comradeship which will be treasured for life, hallowed as it is by the memory of those who died on active service. May the same spirit be continued during peace, and may the Corps maintain and increase its efficiency to be ready to serve New Zealand in any future war.

T. D. M. STOUT, CBE, DSO, ED
Medical Editor,
New Zealand War Histories

 

PREFACE

THE doings of several thousand men and women and a score of units over a period of six years in a number of countries cannot easily be amalgamated in one book; consequently the story is not as smooth as one would wish, and restrictions of space have meant that some detail and colour have had to be omitted. It was originally intended that units would have their own individual histories; then it was decided to combine them in two volumes, and finally these two volumes were condensed into one. Therefore the book has been largely selection and synthesis rather than creative writing page by page.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to those who wrote preliminary narratives of some of the units---among them Sister J. K. Tyler (now Mrs. Morten), A. T. Green, A. Ashley-Jones, R. W. Cawthorn, H. T. George, and H. Brennan; to those who contributed eyewitness accounts and photographs; and to those who helped in the correction of the manuscript or in any other way.

J. B. McKINNEY

 

CONTENTS

 FOREWORD

 PREFACE

 1. BIRTH OF THE MEDICAL UNITS 1939-40

 2. VOYAGES OVERSEAS

 3. MEDICAL UNITS IN EGYPT

 4. WITH THE SECOND ECHELON

 5. GREECE

 6. CRETE

 7. REORGANISATION IN EGYPT

 8. CAMPAIGN IN LIBYA

 9. SYRIAN INTERLUDE

 10. BATTLE FOR EGYPT

 11. BATTLE OF ALAMEIN

 12. ALAMEIN TO TRIPOLI

 13. TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN

 14. MOVE TO ITALY

 15. THE SANGRO BATTLES

 16. CASSINO

 17. ADVANCE TO FLORENCE

 18. RIMINI

 19. CHRISTMAS IN THE LINE

 20. SURGE TO VICTORY

 21. CLOSING DAYS

 ROLL OF HONOUR

 HONOURS AND AWARDS

 COMMANDING OFFICERS AND MATRONS

 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

The Occupations and appointments given in the biographical footnotes are those on enlistment. The ranks are those held on discharge or at the date of death.


Chapter One