We would like to wish a happy Corps Day to the highly skilled and trained service personnel of the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps who balance two professions in one – the profession of medicine and the profession of arms – to ensure the wellbeing and health of all personnel within the New Zealand Defence Force.
The history of military medicine goes back many centuries, but for New Zealand the origins of the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps begins officially 7 May 1908. It included personnel in the Permanent Force, Militia, Volunteers, Field Ambulances, and the Military Sanitary Service. It was not until 1947 that the Army Medical Corps as it stands today was formed with the inclusion of the territorial New Zealand Medical Corps into its ranks and the granting of a Royal title. This brass cap badge, originally belonging to 205000 Captain Garth George Powell, is from this period (it has the King’s crown) – between the granting of the Royal title in 1947 and the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
After an intensive tri-service training period, personnel of the Army Medical Corps are involved in almost all military exercises and operations. They provide everything from routine medical care to pre-hospital combat casualty treatment. At times of crisis, they provide life-saving care with professionalism, calm, and courage, living up to their Corps motto: Semper Agens, Semper Quietus – Always Alert, Always Calm.
In acknowledgement of the anniversary of the formation of their Corps, today (115 years on!) we are featuring a New Zealand medic who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his gallantry and devotion to duty during the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915.
The medical kit pictured below belonged to 3/168 William James (Bill) Henry DCM, No 1 Field Ambulance, New Zealand Army Medical Corps. The canvas haversack has a Red Cross hand painted on the front of it to indicate to the enemy that the person carrying it was a non-combatant. Stored inside it are various items including bandages, splints and tourniquets that could quickly be used to dress and stabilise wounds as a form of basic first aid before the wounded person could be taken to the nearest medical station.
Bill Henry’s citation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) reads as follows:
“For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 25th April 1915 at Gapa Tebe (Dardanelles). During and subsequent to the landing, Private Henry attended to the wounded under very heavy fire, allowing no danger to interfere with his duties. He invariably showed the greatest courage and presence of mind.”
The following month Bill Henry would also be mentioned in dispatches by General Sir Ian Hamilton for his continued work at Gallipoli. Bill managed to endure the terrible conditions at Gallipoli longer than most, remaining in the field throughout the next four months (including during the devastating August offensive) before finally succumbing to illness in September 1915. However, Bill soon recovered and went on to serve on the Western Front throughout the remainder of the war, eventually attaining the rank of Warrant Officer Class II (Quartermaster Sergeant) in August 1918.
As well as his medical kit, the National Army Museum is grateful to have Bill Henry’s medal group in its collection. It is proudly on display in the medal repository as a constant reminder of his continuous bravery and commitment to duty and his embodiment of the Army Medical Corps motto of always alert and always calm.
So, from all of us here at the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa, happy Corps Day to all past and present of the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps and thank you for your selfless service to both your medical profession and your fellow soldiers.
1997.55 – NZ Medical Corps personnel in Egypt, WWI.
DA 8134 – Stretcher bearers evacuated a wounded soldier during the Battle of El Alamein, WWII.