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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Medical Staffs Remain with Wounded

Medical Staffs Remain with Wounded

Through these unforeseen delays only two trips were carried out by the trucks before dawn. The first trucks left at 10.30 p.m. and were expected back for the second load at 1 a.m. on 26 May. When no trucks came, those remaining expected to be prisoners of war, and well they might have been had the Germans advanced during page 185 the night, as the New Zealanders withdrew from Galatas about midnight to lines in the rear of the hospital. However, three trucks returned at 3.30 a.m. and loaded all but some twenty or thirty seriously wounded cases from 5 MDS. Two medical officers, Major S. G. de Clive Lowe1 and Lieutenant Moody, and a padre, J. Hiddlestone2 and fourteen men, decided to stay to attend them.

As 7 General Hospital had had to leave 300 stretcher patients in their caves adjacent to 5 Field Ambulance and had detailed two medical officers and twenty men to look after them, the CO 5 Field Ambulance considered that an attempt should be made to evacuate the balance of his ambulance staff and as many of the patients as possible. The three truck drivers volunteered for this mission, but as a result of the air activity with the coming of daylight only one truck got through, the others being attacked and forced to return. The one truck, flying a Red Cross flag, was kept under constant observation by an enemy reconnaissance aircraft, which left it immediately it turned in to the hospital area. While preparations for departure were being made, a German patrol entered the dressing station and captured the medical staff and the wounded. The truck driver, Driver Jenkins,3 made his escape by climbing down the cliff and clambering round the rocks to get behind the New Zealanders' front line. He returned to the MDS at Nerokourou at 11 a.m.

At midnight the CO 6 Field Ambulance (Major Fisher) had received orders from the ADMS NZ Division to evacuate 250 walking wounded, and as the unit still possessed only a single light truck, the majority of these men also had to walk. They reached the naval hospital and most of them were taken off by destroyers on 26–27 May. Then, at 4 a.m. on 26 May, Colonel Bull met Major Fisher and instructed him to move his unit to Nerokourou immediately to establish an MDS along with 5 Field Ambulance. Some 150 stretcher cases were to remain at the ADS in the charge of a medical officer and twenty orderlies. Sixth Field Ambulance moved out at 4.15 a.m. leaving one medical officer, Lieutenant D. A. Ballantyne, a padre, H. I. Hopkins,4 and twenty nursing orderlies with the wounded. At 7 a.m. the unit reached the MDS which 5 Field Ambulance had already established in the church.

Lieutenant Ballantyne and his small staff at the old site of 6 MDS found it was essential to bring all the 160 casualties into the

1 Maj S. G. de Clive Lowe, m.i.d.; England; born NZ 27 Feb 1904; medical practitioner; medical officer 5 Fd Amb Mar–May 1941; p.w. May 1941.

2 Rev J. Hiddlestone, MBE, ED; Tasman, Nelson; born Christchurch, 19 Mar 1893; Baptist minister; p.w. May 1941.

3 L-Cpl B. Jenkins; Gisborne; born Gisborne, 3 Sep 1914; taxi proprietor; p.w. 28 Nov 1941.

4 Rev H. I. Hopkins, m.i.d.; Temuka; born Dunedin, 30 Aug 1908; Anglican minister; p.w. 27 May 1941.

page 186 smallest possible area, for they were in the direct line of advance of the enemy. Before dawn on the 26th all cases, mostly lying, had been collected and transferred to a large house on a hill overlooking the sea and situated on the Canea side of a ridge which was held by 21 Battalion Group. All day long the Germans made unsuccessful attempts to take this ridge but were repulsed, and during the day more casualties arrived. Although there was machine-gun and mortar fire on all sides, and the building at times was hit by splinters, no one was injured. At dusk forty walking cases were sent off with instructions to make their way as best they could towards Suda Bay. Having organised the departure of these patients, Ballantyne searched the immediate area for transport. An abandoned truck refused to start, but a motor cycle was persuaded to function and Private Collett1 went off towards the rear to ascertain the situation. Ballantyne still hoped that the evacuation of patients and staff might yet be possible. During the night Private Collett returned with news of a general evacuation, but he had been unable to make contact with anyone of authority.

About 8 a.m. on the 27th the German advance was resumed, this time unopposed, and about an hour later the medical staff and Padre Hopkins were rounded up at the point of tommy guns by excited German soldiers and marched over to 7 General Hospital. En route an ugly situation developed when an English-speaking enemy officer accused the prisoners of shooting from the hospital building on his men. However, after the enemy had stolen their wrist watches, they were marched on until they came to an enemy RAP established at 7 General Hospital, and there they met the captured remnants of 5 Field Ambulance and 7 General Hospital.

A short time afterwards Lieutenant Ballantyne and some of the staff went back to the dressing station and found that one of the orderlies had been killed and another wounded in the assault on it. Driver Hunt,2 who had escaped the round-up, had taken upon himself the direction of the ADS and, by a nice combination of authority and tact, had induced the Germans, who had by this time calmed down considerably, to assist in the care of the many wounded. The German RMO, who spoke good English, paid a courteous visit, and said that although German wounded had prior right of evacuation, he would do his best to assist and evacuate the worst British cases before evening. The Germans kept their word, and in three days all the patients were sent by air to Greece.

1 Pte J. P. C. Collett, BEM; Nelson; born Australia, 5 Nov 1899; carpenter; p.w. Jun 1941.

2 Dvr M. F. H. Hunt, m.i.d.; Auckland; born NZ 24 Aug 1912; labourer; p.w. May 1941; repatriated Aug 1944.

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