New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
The importance of good cooking was not overlooked. Cooks chosen for the First Echelon were given courses of training at the Trentham school of cookery. In Egypt arrangements were made for the training of New Zealand cooks at the army school of cookery, Cairo. Also, the services of an NCO of 7 British Armoured Division were obtained as an instructor to 2 NZEF under the officer commanding the Divisional Supply Column. The GOC instructed that a 2 NZEF cookery school be established on the lines of the successful school at Aldershot. Arrangements were then made with the War Office, London, for four NCOs to be seconded to 2 NZEF to page 47 form the nucleus of an adequate cookery school. The NCOs accompanied Second Echelon troops from England to Egypt. A building suitable for training purposes was erected at Maadi Camp and new plant was installed. Thus reorganised and expanded, the NZEF cookery school was able to put cooks through proper training and testing. From February 1941 all cooks had to be qualified at either the NZEF school or the Middle East school before being granted extra-duty pay. It was calculated at the time that the extra-duty pay for cooks would amount to £30,000 per annum when 2 NZEF was at full strength. All aspects of cooking, including cooking under normal and abnormal camp conditions and the construction of improvised cookers, were included in the course, which lasted two months.
Precautions were taken to see that no man who had suffered from typhoid, dysentery, or cholera or who was suffering from venereal disease should be employed in the cookhouse or handle food. Cooks were supplied with three sets of white uniforms and facilities for washing and disinfecting the hands. Smoking in the cookhouses was prohibited, as was sleeping and the keeping of clothing in mess kitchens and storerooms.
At first, when infections such as dysentery and typhoid were prevalent in the camp, all personnel, army or native, handling food were suspected of being carriers. Laboratory examinations of the stools were carried out regularly when such conditions arose, and any cook found to be a carrier was promptly given other duties.