New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
With the defeat of the enemy in North Africa the New Zealand Government agreed to the personnel of the first three echelons returning to New Zealand on furlough, most of them having served overseas for three years. The first draft of 6000 men under the Ruapehu scheme (the code name for the move) comprised all the married men of these echelons together with 60 per cent of the single men, chosen by ballot. From the Medical Corps the number of other ranks in the draft was 289. It was decided to return fifty members of the NZANS on an exchange basis, and for this total thirty-four volunteered and the remainder were made up by sending those with the longest service, plus a few for health reasons. page 463 Medical officers could not be released until replacements arrived and only six returned with the Ruapehu draft, some of them for urgent private reasons, while two were repatriated prisoners of war. Three non-medical officers of the NZMC were released also.
General Freyberg left for New Zealand by air at the beginning of June, conferred with the Government, toured the country reporting most favourably on the troops he commanded, and returned to Egypt on 31 July. On 15 June the Ruapehu draft left in the Nieuw Amsterdam.
The remainder of the men of the first three echelons came under the Wakatipu draft and were marched out of their units early in September preparatory to embarkation.
The departure of the furlough draft resulted in many promotions to NCO rank in the medical units and the posting of many reinforcements, but the units soon settled down with little or no loss of efficiency. It turned out that the great majority of the men never returned to the Middle East from furlough in New Zealand; as a result of unforeseen psychological reactions in New Zealand most obtained their discharge on medical or other grounds.