Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
Then there were the first parades. To begin with, all had their own ideas about drill and how it should be done, but gradually the newcomers were convinced that there was only one way—the Army way. Morning after morning they attended company parades, standing in more or less straight lines while the sergeant-major explained patiently that ‘the markers only move’. Sometimes there were thorough inspections by the Officer Commanding or by Company Commanders, and then woe betide the sluggard who had lain in bed instead of getting up promptly and polishing his buttons and brass—a natural temptation when units were in camp over the winter. As a rule, when company parades were over there was quick marching or ‘running on the spot’ until all were warm again.
Split into various sections they learnt the elements of ‘One-stop-two’, how to bind up the wounded and tend the sick, how to carry a stretcher or purify water. There were also fatigues in the cookhouses and messrooms.
Lectures opened up a vast world of learning wherein all were introduced to the parts of the human body, how they work, and how to keep them in good working order. Some took shifts at the camp hospital and there were taught by nursing sisters who had joined the NZANS, and who were to wear the grey and scarlet uniform overseas with pride, as their sisters of 1 NZEF had done 25 years before. The men were able to put theory into practice, to learn how to give hypodermic injections by sticking needles into oranges, how to sponge patients, to make beds, and generally to minister to the comfort of the sick.
Route marches were a welcome diversion. On the marches the men felt they were ‘getting somewhere’ (although when those at Trentham passed ‘Quinn's Post’ some thought they were going too far). It was a release from the monotony of squad drill, and even marching in the rain seemed good fun. Bagpipes sometimes provided the marching tune, but more often the men would sing well-known songs although not perhaps from a classical repertoire.page 4
In Burnham, training in all departments of field ambulance duties was carried out. After men had learned how to tie a reef knot, to apply bandages, to carry stretchers, to understand something about the anatomy of the human body and to drill efficiently, they graduated to field exercises of wider scope to gain some idea of possible battle conditions. Field days were held—near Springfield and Motukarara—during which schemes for the evacuation of battle casualties were carried out. Improvised shelters, dug in and sandbagged to a height of four feet, were prepared for the wounded.
All gained a sound knowledge of the method of evacuation of casualties, and of the work of stretcher-bearers and clerical and nursing staffs at advanced and main dressing stations. Much time was also given to training in field cookery and hygiene.
When the men of the hospital units at Trentham were ready for advanced work, it was decided to carry out exercises as a field ambulance attached to an infantry brigade. These exercises were carried out at Mangaroa Valley and in the Pahautanui-Judgeford area. For actual hospital work, a very useful exercise was performed by 2 General Hospital close to Haywards railway station. Here a small tented general hospital was established. All departments of a military hospital were set up—administration, reception, medical and surgical wards. A railway carriage, representing an ambulance train, was lent by the Railways Department. ‘Patients’ were admitted and despatched to their appropriate wards, the staff performing their duties as they would in actual warfare. The men spent the night in tents and next day practised the evacuation of casualties.
When 2 General Hospital was in camp at Trentham it had its own separate quarters, kitchen, messrooms, and quartermaster stores, which enabled a proportion of the men to become accustomed to handling equipment and feeding troops. At the Wellington Public Hospital a number were trained in the duties of nursing orderlies.