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Episodes & Studies Volume 1

Diary of a Corporal in 26 NZ Battalion:

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Diary of a Corporal in 26 NZ Battalion:

ON the night of 19 December 1944 at 9 o’clock, 6 NZ Infantry Brigade and 43 Gurkha Infantry Brigade launched an attack under a heavy barrage and threw the enemy back to the line of the Senio River, Northern Italy. Much ground was taken after heavy fighting and over 200 prisoners were captured at a cost to 2 NZ Division of about 20 killed and 80 wounded.

War Diary of Director of Medical Services, 2nd NZEF, 20 December 1944

‘My section’s job on the night of 19–20 December was to cover a party of sappers who were minesweeping a road which ran along the axis of 6 Infantry Brigade’s advance. Just after midnight, I went ahead with the officer in charge of the sweepers to inspect the road and we found two demolitions which completely blocked it.

‘It was while the two of us were between the demolitions that the enemy began to cover the road with mortar and gun fire. The officer and I dived into a deep ditch and lay there waiting for the shelling to finish. I was thinking about getting up to move on when I experienced a sensation in my legs not unlike being hit on both heels with sledgehammers.

‘I had an idea I had been hit, but was not sure until I felt down with my hand and found my battle-dress trousers very warm and sticky from the blood that was oozing out. I called to the officer to let him know that I had been hit and tried to get out of my equipment to make it easier to get at the first field dressing in my pocket.

‘My officer had reached me by then. He had a very hard job getting at the wound for a start, not having a pocket-knife and being forced to lie on his stomach to avoid being hit also. At last he managed to rip the leg of my trousers and bandaged my first field dressing over the wound. My leg was just like a log of wood by then and I had no control over it at all. The officer then left me to go back and get someone to carry me out for medical attention. Instead of feeling scared, as I and most others used to feel when making an attack, I then felt quite happy and lay flat out in the wet ditch and went to sleep. The two soldiers who came for me did not have a stretcher and started to carry me sitting on their clasped hands. I fainted almost straight away and do not know how I reached the floor of the house where I awoke. The thing that I remember most vividly was the intense cold. My leg was aching painfully and I was very thirsty. A regimental stretcher-bearer from 25 NZ Battalion came into the house and he gave me an injection of morphia. The dose was not powerful enough to send me to sleep and did not seem to lessen the pain in my leg a great deal.

‘Communication had somehow been made with the Battalion RAP* and a Bren-gun carrier was promised as soon as it could get through to take me back to a medical officer. A hold-up had been caused by a road demolition which a bulldozer had to fill in before any motor traffic could get through. All the fields on either side of the roads were heavily sown with anti-personnel mines, thus making it very risky for stretcher-bearers to travel across country.

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‘The carrier came at last and I was put on board. All I remember of that journey was the bumping, the cold, and the moaning of a fellow-patient. I awoke once more when the carrier stopped and found we were outside our Battalion RAP. Here I waited my turn to be treated.’

Black and white photograph of army medical vehicle

rap carrier at faenza

* Regimental Aid Post