New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Attack on the Senio
Attack on the Senio
On 9 April at 1.50 p.m. a terrific bombardment was begun by Allied air forces and artillery on the Eighth Army front. Hundreds of heavy bombers, Fortresses and Liberators, followed by mediums and fighter-bombers, swung down with small bombs designed to kill men, shatter vehicles, and cut communications without blowing the impassable craters that upset calculations at Cassino. Here the air power was greater than that which blitzed Cassino just over a year before. Then came the guns—more than there were at Alamein. Twelve regiments laid the barrage, while in the safety of the houses and ditches to which they had been withdrawn the infantry waited for H-hour. In brief breaks in the gunfire, Spitfires slashed in again page 652 and again, catching the bewildered defenders as they bobbed up to engage non-existent assault troops.
The enemy positions were battered for over five hours, and then at 7.20 p.m. the assaulting units attacked across the Senio. By nightfall the New Zealand Division had four battalions across the river and the engineers toiled ceaselessly to swing the iron trellis-work of Bailey bridging into place in the darkness. In a night of solid gains the bridgeheads of the New Zealanders, Indians, and Poles linked up. The following morning, again preceded by a heavy bombardment and closely supported by tanks, the infantry pushed forward to the line of the Lugo Canal, which they had reached in strength by midday. The New Zealand troops attacked again in the afternoon and, although their advance to the Santerno River was fiercely contested, they reached their objective that evening. There were 120 casualties in the first twenty-four hours.
In the evening of the 9th, soon after the infantry moved forward, the wounded began to come in to the MDS, 58 of them by midnight. The 10th was the busiest day, 157 being admitted. There was a slight lull in the afternoon, and then a flood of severe cases came in. Very few came in between 10 p.m. on the 10th and 9 a.m. on the 11th when 6 MDS closed. Fourth Field Ambulance's team then rejoined its own unit, then at Granarolo, 1500 yards from the Senio stopbank, and 6 Field Ambulance surgical team joined it there on the 11th. Numerous wounded prisoners began to come through before 6 MDS closed.