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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

4 Field Ambulance

4 Field Ambulance

The 4th MDS under Lieutenant-Colonel Graves closed at Dholikhi, and in heavy rain at 11 p.m. on 16 April commenced its long withdrawal south through Larisa to Pharsala and then east over to the coast at Almiros. For this withdrawal a one-car post was attached to Headquarters 5 Brigade and another to 23 Battalion at Kokkinoplos, half-way up the slopes of Mount Olympus, for the evacuation of casualties. The car-post staffs accomplished excellent work under the most arduous conditions before they, too, withdrew.

The withdrawal had to take place with practically no RAF protection while German air activity was intensified.1 Rain and heavy cloud all day on 17 April undoubtedly saved the units from enemy air attacks. The next day was fine and clear, and enemy aircraft were active all day attacking the crowded highway.

When 4 Field Ambulance was a few miles south of Lamia, an ADS was set up to take in the casualties occurring in convoys passing over the road from Larisa to Lamia. As 5 Brigade moved into new positions in the Thermopylae line south of Lamia, 4 Field Ambulance withdrew on 20 April further back along the coastal road to an area about 18 miles south of Molos, while one company established an ADS in a valley inland from Molos village. Casualties admitted to the ADS from 5 Brigade were sent to 5 MDS, which was then set up at a Greek hospital 3 miles away.

1 The RAF fought valiantly against hopeless odds but it was decimated. On 20 April twenty-two German planes were shot down for the loss of five of ours, but only ten of our planes remained.