Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
The First Battles
The First Battles
The broad intention of the British offensive was the destruction of enemy forces in North Africa, and the first phase was to be the recapture of Cyrenaica. The plans of the campaign were altered as the campaign progressed. That which had at first been incidental to the plans, the relief of Tobruk, became the major objective, and 2 NZ Division was used to achieve it. The initial task was to isolate enemy forces in the Sollum-Bardia sector of the frontier defences, and to this end 5 Brigade captured Sidi Azeiz, Capuzzo, and Musaid on 21 and 22 November.
As the attack developed, 5 ADS, under Capt Edmundson,2 which opened near Sidi Azeiz on the morning of 22 November, received numerous wounded, both New Zealand and enemy. Accommodation was grossly overtaxed and there was insufficient equipment. page 160 The position of 4 MDS was then unknown. Welcome help was received from a British medical unit which supplied blankets, stretchers, and other medical supplies. The admission of casualties continued throughout the night and early hours of the morning, and at the first opportunity a reconnaissance successfully located the MDS. It was then possible to divert most of the steady stream of casualties to the MDS, the unit's car post at Fort Capuzzo evacuating the patients. At 6 p.m. on 23 November the ADS moved out to the Sidi Azeiz crossroads, where by seven o'clock next morning a new ADS was established at Brigade HQ. Patients continued to arrive and their evacuation was always a problem.
Eight miles south-west of Sidi Azeiz, 4 Field Ambulance set up an MDS; it dealt with 250 casualties after the engagements on 22 and 23 November. The Mobile Surgical Unit opened near 4 Field Ambulance MDS and performed 40 major operations.
Meanwhile, on 21 November, 6 Brigade was directed to move westward to assist 7 British Armoured Division at Sidi Rezegh. After capturing the Gambut airfield, the brigade pushed on westwards and, after a hard-fought battle, drove the enemy back from Point 175 on the 23rd. On the same day 4 Brigade moved westwards to link up with 6 Brigade. The Division, less 5 Brigade, which was left behind to carry out the task at the frontier, was now committed to capturing the features dominating the route to Tobruk via Ed Duda. Afer hard fighting Belhamed and Sidi Rezegh were captured, and on the night of 26-27 November the Division joined up with the Tobruk garrison at Ed Duda.
2 Col F. B. Edmundson, OBE, ED, m.i.d.; born Napier, 22 Jan 1910; Medical Practitioner, Auckland; Medical Officer LRDG Apr 1940-Oct 1941; 5 Fd Amb Oct 1941-Feb 1943; 1 Gen Hosp Mar-Jun 1943; 6 Fd Amb Jun 1943-Apr 1944; CO 4 Fd Amb Apr-Dec 1944; CO 6 Fd Amb Jul-Oct 1945; DDMS 2 NZEF Oct 1945-Feb 1946.