New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
When W Force first arrived in Greece the main railway was used extensively to transport troops to the forward areas, and a good service was arranged to Katerini. Much heavy equipment was moved in this way, including the bulky and heavy equipment of 1 NZ General Hospital. As soon as the ADMS NZ Division was stationed page 138 in Katerini, he arranged for Greek ambulance coaches to proceed daily from Katerini to evacuate cases from the field ambulances to 26 General Hospital at Athens.
When the CCSs were open at Elasson and Larisa patients were sent to them by ambulance car, and a regular evacuation by hospital train was carried out both to 1 NZ General Hospital and also to 26 General Hospital in Athens. The serious cases were, fortunately, sent direct to Athens. The train evacuation broke down soon after the fighting began. The first contact of our troops with the Germans was on 10 April. On the 17th Colonel Kenrick applied for a train from Larisa to take wounded back to Athens, but the RTO had left two days previously. On the 16th all troops had left the Larisa area except a rearguard, but 24 CCS and 189 Field Ambulance were still functioning. The daily ambulance train still continued to serve them, being worked by medical personnel and driven by anyone whom the medical officer in charge of the train could find capable of driving the engine. It seems that 16 April was the last day on which an ambulance train ran, as it is stated that on the 17th an ambulance train could not get to Brallos. It is probable that the train that left Demerli on 15 April was the last to travel with any Greek personnel, or be serviced by any Greek railwaymen. The RTO had left Larisa on the 15th and all army train organisation then ceased. The hospital train that had been promised for 1 NZ General Hospital from Lamia on the 15th at midday never arrived, possibly being a different train from that servicing 24 CCS at Larisa. The disorganisation of the Greek railway administration and personnel unfortunately almost completely removed the railway from the scheme of operations as far as the withdrawal was concerned.
In retrospect, it would appear that 1 NZ General Hospital was extremely lucky to have been able to evacuate its patients and staff by the last possible train to Athens. Great credit is due to Lieutenant-Colonel Boyd, the officer in charge of the detachment, for his energy and persistence in combating the strong opposition of the Greek railway officials and for his success in attaching the extra trucks with his personnel and patients to the already loaded train.