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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Battle for Servia Pass

Battle for Servia Pass

Fourth Brigade had moved up from the Katerine area to defend Servia Pass. From Servia to the sea on the east, the New Zealand and Australian positions on the Olympus-Aliakmon River line now barred enemy progress. Fighting flared up as the German armour thrust forward. On 13 April, Easter Sunday, enemy dive-bombers and fighters opened an offensive with attacks on 4 Brigade's dug-in positions on the slopes overlooking Servia. With nothing to oppose them, the aircraft droned in like a swarm of angry bees. Ambulance cars were called forward from 5 MDS to bring in men wounded in the air attack.

Next day the bombers came again, this time to blast the tiny unprotected township of Servia. On the same day New Zealand engineers destroyed the bridge over the Aliakmon, just north of the village. Lt-Col Twhigg visited 5 ADS during the day and page 82 learned from Lt Lusk4 that he and the bearer NCOs had made a thorough survey of the forward areas, finding in particular that evacuation of wounded from 18 Battalion would be most difficult. It was arranged, therefore, that mules, then being used to take ammunition into the line should bring out what casualties they could carry.

In the afternoon artillery duels began. Round Kozane the roads were dense with traffic—enemy tanks and troop-carriers—closing in towards the river in readiness to attack. Air activity became more intense. A continuous stream of casualties passed through the 5 Field Ambulance MDS. By then the dressing station had handled 150 patients. British, Australians, New Zealanders, Greeks, Yugoslavs, and some German prisoners were among the wounded who received treatment. Again and again the bombers came, fleets of as many as forty at a time, diving with a high-pitched scream of sirens to bomb roads and gun positions and attack any sign of movement with searing bursts of machine-gun fire. Although not directly attacked, the men employed at the MDS twice heard the valleys resound to a crescendo of crashing noise as the German pilots bombed targets dangerously close to the dressing station.

4 Capt W. B. de L. Lusk, m.i.d.; born NZ, 25 Nov 1915; House Surgeon, Auckland Hospital: Medical Officer 5 Fd Amb Dec 1939-Nov 1941; p.w. Libya, Nov 1941; repatriated May 1944.