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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Medical Operations

Medical Operations

Under Major R. H. Dawson, 5 ADS across the Lamone River was strengthened and extra jeeps and American Field Service cars provided. The building which 5 ADS had occupied was in direct view of the enemy in Faenza and came in for some shelling prior to the launching of 5 Brigade's attack on 14 December. This led to the unit hanging a Red Cross sign 40 ft. by 40 ft. on the north side of the building. The shelling damaged some of the AFS ambulance cars. An ambulance-car post from 4 Field Ambulance comprising Captain Begg,1 one corporal, one medical orderly, a cook, and the drivers of the two vehicles (a jeep and an 8-cwt truck) was established at the farthest point forward that could be reached by two-wheel-drive ambulance cars, some 6 miles from 5 ADS. Here all patients were checked over, classified for CCS or MDS, and then sent on to Forli by Austin cars of NZ Section MAC. This kept all four-wheel-drive

1 Maj N. C. Begg, m.i.d.; Dunedin; born Dunedin, 13 Apr 1916; medical practitioner; medical officer 2 Gen Hosp Jan–Oct 1943; OC 102 Mob VD Treatment Centre Oct 1943–Jul 1944; RMO 25 and 21 Bns 1944; 5 Fd Amb Mar–May 1945; Repatriation Hospital (UK) Jun–Dec 1945.

page 622 AFS vehicles forward, where they were most needed. A cart track deep in mud, with a bottleneck at the Bailey bridge across the river, was open for one-way down and up traffic alternately. This called for very careful medical planning. Casualties from three divisions, 46 British Division, 10 Indian Division, and 2 NZ Division, all came down this route, and only jeeps or four-wheel-drive vehicles could be used. The method adopted was to collect a convoy at 5 ADS at the start of the down route and then, after close liaison with the provost, bring it through to a car post at the head of the two-way traffic route. Here the patients were resuscitated as necessary and taken onward in two-wheel-drive ambulance cars, the four-wheel-drive vehicles being retained forward. The evacuation from all three divisions was controlled by ADMS 2 NZ Division, Colonel R. A. Elliott.

This method of evacuation with the use of the ambulance-car post worked well in the very difficult circumstances, and no case was over twelve hours in reaching the CCS, which Colonel Elliott considered a creditable performance when the state of the down routes was taken into account.

The first casualties from the attack reached 5 ADS from the RAPs at 1 a.m. on 15 December. The evacuation route was open at 1.30 a.m. so an evacuation of three AFS car loads was made, followed by another carload at 3 a.m. and five at 7.30 a.m. The ADS was then informed that no further evacuations would be possible that day as Corps had closed the road for Polish up-traffic. However, ADMS 10 Indian Division contacted Corps regarding the closing of the road and was informed that ten ambulance cars could pass down at 2 p.m. Five carloads of Indian and five carloads of New Zealand patients, all priority cases, were then evacuated. The road was again open at 4.15 p.m., when the ADS was holding seventy patients. These were loaded into the ambulances and one 3-ton truck and taken back.

Casualties were fairly heavy during the day and it was necessary to give them more treatment than usual at an ADS, as it was taking four to eight hours for the wounded to reach the MDS and CCS. Plaster was used for most fractures and thirty bottles of blood and plasma were used in resuscitation. At one time there were eight transfusions running simultaneously. Lieutenant-Colonel Coutts, CO 5 Field Ambulance, worked at the ADS and his assistance was invaluable, as Captain Miller1 was sent forward to replace Lieutenant Moore2 as RMO of 28 (Maori) Battalion when the latter and three of his RAP staff were wounded.

1 Capt E. T. G. Miller; Levin; born England, 1 May 1902; medical practitioner; 3 Gen Hosp Aug–Dec 1944; 5 Fd Amb Dec 1944–Oct 1945.

2 Capt P. W. E. Moore; Auckland; born England, 17 Mar 1918; medical student; RMO 28 (Maori) Bn Aug 1944–Jan 1946; wounded 14 Dec 1944.

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New Zealand casualties passing through 4 Field Ambulance car post from 11 to 17 December totalled 191 wounded and 24 sick, the biggest day being 15 December, when there were 116 battle casualties. More ambulances were obtained for this day from 4 and 5 Field Ambulances to bring up the strength to fourteen ambulances, thus ensuring that no wounded were held back for lack of transport.

The MDS and CCS were both in Forli. The CCS had taken over the school building, and the MDS had shifted to another building which had been a working men's club, but most of the casualties went direct to the CCS.

On 16 December 5 ADS moved into a building nearer to Faenza and there experienced two busy days, being assisted by 6 ADS car post. By 17 December the enemy had been cleared out of Faenza and the evacuation route was shortened. Notable work was performed at the ADS during this difficult period by the jeep and ambulance-car drivers and the medical orderlies and officers. A fine contribution was made by the AFS car drivers under the capable supervision of Lieutenant Perkins and Sergeant Fitter, whose untiring energy did much to smooth out the extremely difficult evacuation problems. An infantryman while moving up had a foot blown off by a Schu mine. An AFS car driver unhesitatingly went to his assistance and also lost a foot on a Schu mine. Stretcher-bearers brought them out of the minefield together.