Samuel Burston - World War II - South West Pacific

South West Pacific

Burston departed the Middle East for Batavia on 22 January 1942. He narrowly avoided capture when it fell, departing on the Orcades on 21 February 1942. On 8 May 1942, Burston became DGMS at GHQ (Australia), which soon became Land Headquarters (LHQ). In this position, he found himself in charge of officers like Downes who were senior to him militarily, and others like Fairley and Mackerras who "were, in truth, superior to him in intellectual distinction and professional status."

He made numerous visits to the front in Papua-New Guinea, during September, November and December 1942, July 1943, and June 1944. On his visit to Papua in September 1942, Blamey asked Burston to intercede with Rowell, the relationship between Blamey and Rowell having broken down as a result of the Rowell's supersession by Blamey on the orders of General Douglas MacArthur and Prime Minister John Curtin. Burston failed to placate Rowell, and Rowell was relieved.

The 1942 Papuan campaign threw up a host of serious medical problems. The poor diet, mainly caused by the difficulty of supply by air or over jungle tracks, caused malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. Poor hygiene led to dysentery. Malaria was hyperendemic, and when Fairley and Mackerras visited Papua in June 1942 they found high rates of infection among the troops even before the fighting had begun. At Milne Bay the incidence was so high in September 1942 that it looked like the garrison would be wiped out in a matter of months. The biggest killer, though, was typhus. Of the 2,839 soldiers who came down with it, 257 (9 percent) died. It fell to Burston promulgate the policies and practices that diminished the danger from disease and allowed the Australian Army to fight in New Guinea.

In April 1945, Burston visited South East Asia Command, and then travelled to the United Kingdom, where he ratified a series of agreements on the exchange of information regarding the development of new drugs, and for the funding of research scholarships by the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. He was returning to Australia when the war ended.

Read more about this topic:  Samuel Burston, World War II

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