New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
A new unit came into being in November when 1 Mobile CCS was disbanded as a CCS and reformed as a 300-bed general hospital, called 6 General Hospital. It was found possible to reduce 3 General Hospital to 300 beds, although there were as many as 12,000 New Zealand troops in the Bari-Taranto area awaiting the arrival of ships.page 687
In November the Commander of J Force, Brigadier Stewart,1 returned from New Zealand and asked for a complete medical organisation for the force. Previously, in the absence of any specific information as to the destination of the force and its role in the British Commonwealth occupation force, it was not known whether the New Zealand component would have to supply its own medical units.
Establishments were drawn up for a general hospital of 300 beds, a camp hospital, which could also function as an ADS if necessary, a rest home, a VD treatment centre, hygiene section, and an optician unit. It was decided to staff the Florence hospital and rest home with J Force personnel, thus giving the staffs an opportunity to work together as units before going to Japan, and also releasing other personnel for return to New Zealand. Major Archer2 was appointed SMO J Force and CO 6 General Hospital.
For 7 Camp Hospital a new establishment of seven medical officers, a quartermaster, and forty-eight other ranks was drawn up. The establishments for 5 Field Hygiene Section, 4 Rest Home, and 102 VD Treatment Centre were also modifications of those previously used by 2 NZEF. Seven RMOs were also included in the new force.
During December the medical staff, which was chosen for J Force from the later reinforcements (13th, 14th and 15th), was gathered together in Florence. There were insufficient other ranks of the NZMC available in the reinforcements and some thirty or forty were transferred from other units. A large number of medical officers, however, was available from these reinforcements, but many were comparatively junior and the services of two more senior men were retained as surgeon and physician. In the case of the NZANS and NZWAAC (Medical Division) there was an ample supply of volunteers.
In December 1945 there was a vast improvement in the shipping position and, as a result, a greater exodus of 2 NZEF troops than had been anticipated and an acceleration in the final winding-up of 2 NZEF. The shifting of large numbers of troops to southern Italy for embarkation proceeded smoothly. Movement was carried out page 688 largely by train, with rather unsatisfactory accommodation consisting of box-cars, without seats and very draughty. The number of ships available enabled most of the troops to embark for New Zealand in December and January.
In Florence HQ 2 NZEF continued to function until the end of the year, but nearly all divisional formations and the divisional RAPs were disbanded. The only medical units remaining in Florence at the end of December were those of J Force. No. 6 General Hospital ceased to receive patients and those already held were transferred to the adjacent 100 British General Hospital, where a New Zealand staff looked after them. These facilities extended by the British authorities were of great value and enabled 6 General Hospital to pack its equipment for despatch to Japan. The 4th Rest Home also closed and packed, but 102 VD Treatment Centre continued to function, it being arranged that its equipment should be taken on the ship conveying the troops to Japan.
1 Maj-Gen K. L. Stewart, CB, CBE, DSO, m.i.d., MC (Greek), Legion of Merit (US); Kerikeri; born Timaru, 30 Dec 1896; Regular soldier; 1 NZEF 1917–19; GSO I NZ Div, 1940–41; Deputy Chief of General Staff, Dec 1941-Jul 1943; comd 5 Bde, Aug-Nov 1943, 4 Armd Bde, Nov 1943-Mar 1944, and 5 Bde, Mar-Aug 1944; p.w. 1 Aug 1944-Apr 1945; comd 9 Bde (2 NZEF, Japan) Nov 1945-Jul 1946; Adjutant-General, NZ Military Forces, Aug 1946-Mar 1949; Chief of General Staff Apr 1949-Mar 1952.