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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Siting of Medical Units

Siting of Medical Units

Difficulty was experienced in the siting of field ambulances, dressing stations, and hospitals. Neither the force nor the individual units had had any experience of an airborne attack. The 7th General Hospital had been established before any such attack was seriously thought of. The lack of transport and the conditions of the terrain made the siting of the dressing stations near the main roads a natural decision. It thus came about that the main hospital (7 General Hospital) was erected close to the shore in an area peculiarly liable to both airborne and seaborne attack. One MDS was originally placed at a crossroads and then under a culvert on the main road, positions certain to be subjected to air attack. The selection of sites was thus made very difficult, as the dressing stations had to be kept away from main roads and also from any open space where paratroops could be readily landed. The dressing stations had also to be placed in positions where they could be defended by the combatant troops. The differences of opinion which arose between the senior medical officers with regard to the siting of the units exemplify the difficulties of the problem.

Fifth Field Ambulance set up a very efficient dressing station in the officers' mess building of 7 General Hospital and did excellent work there, although the ADMS considered the site unsuitable. The 189th Field Ambulance established a large hospital in buildings at Khalepa, a suburb of Canea, where it carried out operative treatment on a large number of casualties. The town, however, was subjected to heavy bombing and the unit was lucky to evacuate the site just before one of the buildings was demolished by a bomb.