New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Arriving in Maadi from Syria on 17 June, the ADMS NZ Division (Colonel Ardagh) conferred with DMS 2 NZEF (Brigadier Kenrick) on the move to the Western Desert. Colonel Ardagh waited in Maadi for General Freyberg's conference on 19 June and then left next day for the Western Desert, consulting on the way with DDMS Rear Eighth Army on medical arrangements. A route of evacuation from the fortress area was arranged by way of 8 SA CCS at Matruh and 58 General Hospital, Garawla. By arrangement with ADMS 83 Sub-Area, Matruh, medical supplies were to be drawn from Indian Base Medical Stores.
At a conference of ADMS 83 Sub-Area and senior New Zealand and South African medical officers on 23 June it was arranged that all South African medical units would leave Matruh, and that 4 and 5 Field Ambulances would take over that day from 10/11 SA Field Ambulance. Fourth Field Ambulance, under Lieutenant-Colonel R. D. King, established an MDS that afternoon, and during the next day received a number of seriously wounded cases from British units west of Matruh, which necessitated the surgical page 331 section operating throughout the night. B Company, under Major T. W. Harrison, staffing the MDS, treated 167 patients in thirty-six hours, and evacuated some cases by air from Matruh.
The DMS 2 NZEF arrived at Matruh on the afternoon of 24 June and held a conference with field ambulance officers. He informed them that 6 Field Ambulance would not be joining the Division as had been expected (it had been planned that the unit should take over from the South African CCS), but would be remaining with 6 Brigade at Amiriya as a general reserve. The DMS 2 NZEF later visited DDMS Eighth Army at the request of Colonel Ardagh and was able to arrange for twenty American Field Service motor ambulance cars and drivers1 to be placed under command of ADMS NZ Division on 25 June.
1 These American drivers were members of a volunteer Quaker unit which was formed in 1941 before the United States entered the war. Some of them were first associated with NZ Division in Syria, and they continued to be attached to the Division until the end of the war in Italy. They rendered a sterling service in battles from Minqar Qaim onwards.