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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

1 NZ Convalescent Depot

1 NZ Convalescent Depot

After their arrival from England on 17 September the Convalescent Depot staff went to Maadi Camp for a short period. Negotiations with GHQ MEF had resulted in Lieutenant-Colonel Kenrick inspecting the ‘Nelson Lines’ at Moascar in the Suez Canal area at the end of August, and these permanent barracks were found suitable in all respects for a convalescent depot. They were pleasantly situated, with ample messrooms and recreation rooms, while several tennis courts were available and bathing, boating, and launch trips were possible.

On 1 October 1940 1 NZ Convalescent Depot left Maadi for Moascar, where the unit took over part of the barracks from a British convalescent depot which moved to El Arish. At this time 379 of the 500 beds were occupied by convalescents from British Army units and from RAF, Royal Navy, French, and Australian forces. As these convalescent patients were discharged their places were taken by New Zealanders. From an initial preponderance, British and Australian patients dropped to 50 and 80 respectively by the end of November, when the majority of the 390 patients were New Zealanders.

The unit was slow in attaining a reasonable standard of efficiency. A change of commanding officers took place in December 1940. When Lieutenant-Colonel Stout1 and Lieutenant-Colonel Boyd2 page 74 visited the depot in January 1941 to report on it to DDMS 2 NZEF, they found the general administration and discipline excellent and the cooking arrangements, food, and diet very satisfactory. They had, however, a number of recommendations to make on the medical treatment and convalescent training of patients, and also emphasised in their report the need for older, experienced medical officers to be appointed to the staff of the depot—men who were more capable of classifying the patients and dealing with neurotics and malingerers. Facilities were such that cases could reasonably be discharged from hospital to the depot at earlier stages of recovery.

In the running of a convalescent depot there were certain features that could be learnt only by experience, as it was a bridge between purely medical units and the training or divisional units. Although commanded by medical officers, the Convalescent Depot had a large proportion of non-medical personnel on its staff and was not protected under the Geneva Convention.

1 Col T. D. M. Stout, CBE, DSO, ED, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Wellington, 25 Jul 1885; surgeon; 1 NZEF 1914–19: Samoa, Egypt, Salonika, France; OC NZ Surgical Team, France; in charge surgical division 1 Gen Hosp, England, Aug 1917–Aug 1919; Consultant Surgeon, Trentham Military Hospital, 1919–20; in charge surgical division 1 Gen Hosp, May 1940–Aug 1941; Consultant Surgeon 2 NZEF, Feb 1941–Sep 1945.

2 Col J. R. Boyd, CBE, MC, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Scotland, 6 Sep 1886; physician; 1 NZEF 1917–18, medical officer NZ Mounted Fd Amb, Palestine; in charge medical division 1 Gen Hosp, May 1940–Aug 1941; Consultant Physician 2 NZEF, Feb 1941–Feb 1945.