New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
The ADS with 5 Brigade
The ADS with 5 Brigade
1 Col F. B. Edmundson, OBE, ED, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Napier, 22 Jan 1910; medical practitioner; medical officer LRDG, Apr 1940–Oct 1941; 5 Fd Amb Oct 1941–Feb 1943; 1 Gen Hosp Mar–Jun 1943; 6 Fd Amb Jun 1943–Apr 1944; CO 4 Fd Amb Apr–Dec 1944; CO 6 Fd Amb Jun–Oct 1945; DDMS 2 NZEF Oct 1945–Feb 1946.
About 7.10 a.m. on the 27th Sidi Azeiz was attacked by a German force with about forty tanks. The area came under heavy machinegun and shell fire and our anti-tank guns, machine guns, and field guns went into action. Within an hour and a half of the bursting of the first shell all our guns, after a most gallant fight, had been silenced and the tanks had overrun the area. Fifth Brigade Headquarters and other units of the headquarters group, including the ADS, surrendered to the Germans.
The German troops systematically looted all the vehicles of the ADS and commandeered medical and other equipment which was not in actual use. The unit's transport was taken over and driven away. The ASC drivers were marched away as prisoners of war, along with the other troops, in the direction of Bardia. The medical personnel had to identify themselves by producing their Red Cross identity cards and, after this was done, no attempt was made to interrogate them or in any way obstruct the carrying on of their work. Brigadier Hargest, 5 Brigade's commander, who had been taken prisoner, visited the wounded before he was escorted away. A German medical officer, who had made contact with the ADS medical staff, granted every facility for the collection and treatment of casualties, both friend and foe alike.page 268
The German commander, Colonel Cramer, also personally investigated the treatment of German casualties, which he was satisfied was equal to that accorded to New Zealanders. After the German wounded had received satisfactory treatment they were placed in trucks and other vehicles and evacuated by the Germans.
Two regimental medical officers of units of 5 Brigade, Captains Tyler1 and Adams,2 along with their RAP orderlies, joined the ADS and gave valuable assistance, besides bringing in most welcome supplies and equipment. Throughout that day and the next the ADS was unmolested, despite the passage westward of large enemy mechanised forces. A message was received from a German medical officer to the effect that no accommodation for wounded was available in Bardia, but that if necessary he would endeavour to send supplies of food and water; but sufficient supplies were salvaged from the camp to render this unnecessary.
On the morning of 29 November very few enemy troops remained in the locality. At 6 p.m. on 30 November a Divisional Cavalry patrol arrived at the ADS. The evacuation of patients and medical personnel was speedily organised and the convoy set off for Fort Capuzzo, which was reached at 11 p.m. Here the patients were accommodated in an underground cistern which had been prepared for their arrival.
The patients were transferred later to 19 Indian Field Ambulance MDS at Sidi Omar by an ambulance convoy of 7 MAC, under Lieutenant Bennett, accompanied by Major King with several ambulances of 4 Field Ambulance.
B Company 5 Field Ambulance reopened in the ruins of Fort Capuzzo with a view to serving the remustering elements of 5 Infantry Brigade, comprising 22 Battalion, 23 Battalion, and 28 (Maori) Battalion. The unit salvaged as much equipment as possible from surrounding areas. On 5 December it admitted 67 casualties which were transferred to the MDS at Sidi Omar. Then, on 8 December a mixed New Zealand medical party of personnel of 4, 5 and 6 Field Ambulances, who had been released from captivity and gathered by Major King, arrived at Fort Capuzzo with sufficient equipment to function as an MDS for the reorganised 5 Brigade, which was then preparing for further action in the Gazala area.
During the campaign this ADS admitted a total of 700 patients, including enemy casualties. The entire company transport was captured or destroyed, as well as a considerable amount of equipment.