Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
Capture of Rome
Capture of Rome
On the coastal sector Allied forces cleared the approaches to Rome, and then on 4 June the capital city, so rich in history, fell. All the forces in Italy could claim a considerable share in this achievement and join in the feeling of triumph. Nor was this all the cheering news to troops who for so long had fought on doggedly, for on 6 June came the invasion of France—the long-awaited Second Front had become a reality. Its success was to make certain the final fate of Germany.
In the upper Liri Valley the enemy accelerated the withdrawal he was accomplishing behind his defences at Balsorano, which town he deserted. 6 Brigade moved in on 6 June. Extensive demolitions and mines prevented the brigade from maintaining contact with the fleeing forces. After the fall on 9 June of Avezzano, a town on the main lateral road between Pescara, on the east coast, and Rome, it became increasingly obvious that the line of advance on which the Division was operating had become a cul-de-sac, and by the middle of the month it had been decided to abandon operations in this sector. Bailey bridging was urgently required elsewhere, and the divisional concentration area had to be altered to avoid isolation by unbridged demolitions. The Division, therefore, gathered at Arce, in the Liri Valley, some 20 miles north-west of Cassino.
From the hills in the neighbourhood of Avezzano hundreds of escaped prisoners of war filtered back through the New Zealand lines. They included men from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, United States, India, and Russia. Some brought with them their Italian wives, with whom there would sometimes be a bambino. Most of them had become prisoners in North Africa and were overjoyed to be in Allied hands again.
For the adequate cleansing, clothing, and feeding of these men, many of whom had undergone great privation and overcome many obstacles to regain their freedom, it was decided to employ one of the closed MDSs. 4 Field Ambulance was chosen, and the unit opened for the reception of prisoners of war on 17 June.page 363