Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
Bogged Near Sidi Haneish
Bogged Near Sidi Haneish
Late in the morning rain began to fall, developing into a torrential downpour that continued until the desert, composed of a clayey type of sand, became a swamp. When, at 2 p.m., the two companies moved off, several trucks were immediately stuck. Men and vehicles struggled on until, in darkness, they were finally bogged. There was further heavy rain during the night. In the page 241 morning, with the assistance of artillery tractors and tanks, the trucks were extricated and moved a short distance to a point eight miles south of Sidi Haneish.
At 10 a.m. A Company, with 6 Brigade, passed through a gap in the minefields ahead, fanned out into desert formation, and moved forward until halted in deep mud and heavy rain. HQ and B Companies advanced on the following day (7 November) to a point one mile west of A Company. It rained intermittently all day and no further advance was possible. Farther west, the armour had been so badly bogged that it was unable to reach Mersa Matruh in time to cut off the retreating enemy. In the south, however, four Italian divisions, which had been abandoned without transport by the Germans, were cut off and rounded up by 13 Corps.
This day and night of enforced waiting was a period of acute discomfort for the troops, who huddled in the vehicles for shelter and slept in wet clothing, packed like sardines. Any man who stirred overmuch in his efforts to relieve cramped limbs was likely to receive a blistering round of abuse from his suffering comrades.
With fine weather on the 8th, the ground showed signs of drying out, and the advance continued. Many vehicles were stuck fast. A Company moved at 10 a.m. Most of the trucks had to be manhandled, the men struggling, over their boots in mud, to get them on to sufficiently hard going. Conditions improved as the day passed; a point 15 miles south of Mersa Matruh was reached, where a halt was made for the night. HQ and B Companies, moving an hour or so after A Company, proceeded west along a telephone line, encountering similar difficulties.
On the 8th, and with 4 Light Armoured Brigade as a screen, the Division moved through the minefields south of Matruh. On the way to Sidi Barrani, strongpoints left by the enemy to delay the advance were quickly and decisively dealt with. The path of the advance was littered with burning vehicles and destroyed enemy equipment.
On the following day B Company relieved A Company and accompanied 6 Brigade to Mersa Matruh, where the ADS opened on the 10th and operated until the 20th. 5 Field Ambulance was also under command of 6 Brigade, which remained at Mersa Matruh while 5 Brigade continued the pursuit to the frontier.