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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

The MDS in Taranto

The MDS in Taranto

The detachment took over the second-story wing of the Archæological Museum, with windows overlooking two courtyards. The wing consisted of two wide galleries, clean and with large windows giving plenty of light. The floor was covered with good cork linoleum. One gallery was used as four wards, stretchers being laid in rows, with ample passageway between. What was intended to be a 50-bed MDS became a hospital holding more than twice that number of patients. The staff slept in the other gallery, and a small, self-contained block was used for officers' mess and sleeping quarters.

Wires for patients' mosquito nets were strung from home-made brackets, and at the end of the ward gallery a treatment room, dental theatre, and later a small blanket-curtained operating theatre were partitioned off. Both cookhouse and hospital suffered from shortage of equipment. The cooks, who often catered for as many as 200 men, had only one burner, and in addition were short of petrol. The medical sections worked with two thermometers for four, later five, wards and had to conserve medical supplies drastically. Worn-out primuses were a constant source of annoyance and delay. In spite of the fact that any amount of rubbish could have been dumped in most parts of the town without its presence being noticed, all refuse had to be carted outside the city area.

Fortunately, the museum was in one of the cleaner areas, and was comparatively removed from those quarters where strident-voiced mothers screamed for missing Marias and Ninas. The quiet was disturbed only by the uproar of the departure each evening of the Bari bus from the street outside, and the nightly passing of a crowd of garrulous Italian sailors returning to their ships.

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