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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

2 NZ General Hospital at Garawla

2 NZ General Hospital at Garawla

No. 2 General Hospital, with Colonel Spencer in command, made a most expeditious move and left Maadi for the Western Desert on 2 November. The site selected for the hospital at Garawla was half a mile to the west of the Matruh-Alexandria road and railway and about 12 miles from Matruh, while there was a landing ground 3 miles away. The area was flat but a stratum of rock nine to twelve inches thick near the surface of the ground presented a difficulty in the erection of tents and the preparation of dugouts. page 252 However, assistance by blasting was rendered by a company of engineers. A pipeline for water ran near the hospital area and pipelines were laid by the engineers to bring the water supply to the hospital.

While at Maadi Camp 2 General Hospital had worked out and erected in skeleton form a hospital layout in the form of a cross and the Garawla hospital was laid out on the same plan. The administrative offices formed a small central cross and the ward tents were pitched on the lines of a larger cross. It was thought the interior communication roads would emphasise the nature of the unit from the air, especially when the roofs of the tents were painted red. For additional security from aerial attack the tents were dispersed at a distance of 42 yards between wards and 37 yards between administrative tents. The latter, and the wards for seriously ill patients, were sunk three feet below ground level, and all the other tent sites were excavated more shallowly and protected on the outside by sandbags. For security reasons senior Eighth Army officers thought it undesirable to give the enemy information that a hospital page 253 was being established, so preparations, especially for the erection of large wards, had to be concealed from air observation as much as possible. Dugouts up to six feet deep were made for the theatre block, resuscitation ward, telephone exchange, and cookhouses. These were covered with corrugated iron and sandbags. High winds with associated sandstorms and occasional rain added to the difficulties of the rocky terrain.

plan of hospital

2 NZ General Hospital, Garawla, November 1941 – March 1942

Excellent work by the staff made it possible for the hospital to function within twenty days of its arrival at Garawla. The men of the staff, only two or three of whom were trained tradesmen, did a great deal of construction work as carpenters, tinsmiths, plumbers, electricians, and engine-hands.