New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
WITHIN a few months of the campaigns in Greece and Crete, the New Zealand Division, having been reorganised and re-equipped, was ready for further action. The enemy forces in North Africa continued to be a major threat to Allied war strategy. Another drive had to be launched against them, if possible before they were in a position to mount an attack on Tobruk, for which it was known that they were preparing. It was, therefore, quite in the natural course that the New Zealanders should be given a role in the Western Desert again—this time to be one of the ‘foundation’ divisions in what was to become the world-famous Eighth Army.
Thus, the New Zealand Division returned to the desert in September 1941. It was the task of 5 Brigade to work on defences at the ‘Kaponga Box’, which a year later was to become famous as part of the El Alamein line, and then followed intensive desert training south of Maaten Baggush. ‘Baggush by the sea’ was the fortress ‘box’ on the Mediterranean shore originally constructed in 1940 by the First Echelon troops.
Baggush as a fortress ‘box’ was designed to bar the path of the enemy's North African army to Egypt. At this time the enemy had his forward troops at Sollum, although Tobruk, defended by 70 Division, which had recently relieved 9 Australian Division, was still holding out in the rear.