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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Recruitment of New Zealand Doctors in United Kingdom

Recruitment of New Zealand Doctors in United Kingdom

After the outbreak of war in September 1939 it was estimated that there were about three hundred New Zealand medical graduates in the United Kingdom. They included those actually practising in page 91 Britain, those holding posts in hospitals before or after obtaining senior medical or surgical qualifications, and more recent arrivals such as medical students in British universities and post-graduates on holiday. Except for medical officers on the active list of the Territorial Force in New Zealand, no action was taken by Army Headquarters to secure their return to New Zealand for service with 2 NZEF.

Places were kept for three of those on the active list in the establishment of 1 General Hospital, and they were sent to join the unit in Egypt. Instead, the Second Echelon, including the hospital unit, went to England. Replacements for two of the three were obtained from New Zealand doctors in England, and, in addition, the need for additional staff for the medical services, scattered as they were at the time, led Colonel MacCormick to obtain a few medical officers and a few sisters from those volunteering in England. No official move was made to secure any of the New Zealand doctors who were enlisted in the RAMC, but at least five managed to obtain their transfer from the RAMC to 2 NZEF in 1940 and 1941. Dominion doctors and nurses were liable for recruitment to the British services, provided they had been resident for three months in the United Kingdom, were medically fit and of a recruitable age. Strictly speaking, they could elect to join their own Dominion force in preference to the British Navy, Army, or Air Force, but transfer was not easily obtained unless the Dominion authorities pressed for it.

Many young medical graduates studying in Britain were refused enlistment in England by the New Zealand army authorities and served during the war in the RAMC. The shortage of medical practitioners in New Zealand, with a consequent difficulty in reinforcing 2 NZEF, which arose later, would have been alleviated if these graduates had been accepted, especially as they were very well suited for active service both by age and qualifications.