Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
The night of 28-29 April was memorable—the Division burst through the Venetian Line unopposed and, after an all-night move, was firmly established in Padua on the morning of the 29th. That day the Division entered Mestre, on the mainland opposite Venice, and a few hours later a special detachment swept along the broad causeway over the deep blue waters of the Venetian lagoon to the city, which it found in the hands of the partisans. The detachment was soon joined by 56 Division and by Popski's Private Army, which had come by jeep and Army-manned landing craft up the coast, capturing Chioggia on the way.
In heavy rain on the 29th, 6 MDS and attached FSU and FTU moved on another 43 miles to Padua, leaving behind a skeleton staff to act as a car post to treat any wounded and sick between Trecenta and Padua. The rain continued in a steady downpour, while patients, arriving in large numbers, kept the post in a state of frenzied activity. An anæsthetist had to be borrowed from one neighbouring unit and a water cart from another. Finally, after the surgeon had worked continuously for 22 hours and the operating team for 16 hours, the detachment sent back six carloads of casualties, accompanied by a medical officer to secure priority in crossing the river, and set off at 9 p.m. on the 29th to join the MDS at Padua. Here the MDS was handling another flood of wounded, many of them Germans, who were transferred to a German hospital unit.
The town of Este was quiet as the little convoy passed through, though heavy explosions were heard occasionally and a few streams of anti-aircraft tracer climbed into the air over on the flank. However, the detachment reached Padua to find rifles and tommy guns spluttering and the town lit by flares as partisans cleaned up Fascists and settled private feuds. The men were too tired to inquire about the situation. Tossing out their bedrolls, they ducked between trees to an empty house and bedded down.
At 1.30 p.m. on 29 April the Light Section of the CCS was instructed to move forward again, and less than three hours later it was on its way north. Just after passing Ferrara, there was a long delay because of the volume of traffic waiting to cross the Po. From here on the landscape became more beautiful, with acres of red poppies adding a lovely touch of colour to the rich, fertile page 422 scene. Here there was little sign of war, for the enemy had broken and fled with no time for demolition work. The roads were excellent in most parts, but Eighth Army had had no time to signpost the route so the journey was more or less a matter of following the stream of traffic. The convoy eventually arrived at Padua, and from here took a road leading towards Venice. The new location at Porto Marghera, about six miles from Venice, was reached in the evening.
Here again the section went indoors, this time into the modern executive offices of an aluminium factory. The factory was an extensive one covering many acres, but work had been paralysed for months as a result of devastating Allied bombing attacks. During the next few days the rest of the unit moved up to this location from San Marino, and the 2 General Hospital detachment came up from Forli. Patients were to be held until air evacuation was established.
The rapid advance kept 4 Field Hygiene Company, under Maj Kennedy, very busy. Along the line of the Division's advance, the buildings occupied by troops were sprayed by the unit's antimalaria sections. Posters dealing with flies and venereal disease were pasted up in every village en route. Many hundreds of dead Germans and animals littered the countryside and had to be removed and buried. On 29 and 30 April two groups of 130 and 12 German prisoners came into custody of the unit temporarily.