New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy
Mobile Surgical Unit
Following the withdrawal of the New Zealand troops, a request was made for the Mobile Surgical Unit to service advanced British units carrying on the pursuit of the retreating German and Italian forces. The unit was despatched, with Lieutenant-Colonel Ardagh in command, to gain what DDMS 2 NZEF considered would be very useful experience.
On 2 January the unit was temporarily attached to 1 Armoured Division as an advanced operating centre, in view of the probability that that division might advance rapidly a considerable distance from the main casualty evacuation axis. Unfortunately, other factors prevented the execution of this plan, and the Mobile Surgical Unit became involved in the general withdrawal of 13 Corps.
While with 1 Armoured Division, the unit was nearly captured again on 25 January 1942 at Msus, some tents having to be left standing. Lieutenant-Colonel Ardagh, with the surgical van in the forefront, led a large medical convoy safely back across the desert to Mechili during the pursuit. The unit had functioned well but had not been called upon to care for very many casualties. Henceforth, it was to act as the light section of the newly established 1 NZ CCS.