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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

In the Kaponga Box

page 210

In the Kaponga Box

By the morning of 29 June the Division had reassembled in the Kaponga Box and was preparing to meet the inevitable attack. The Alamein Line formed a strong defensive position, with its narrow front of some 40 miles between the coast on the north and the impassable Qattara Depression. Forced by sheer exhaustion to delay his attack, Rommel halted, but there was some confused fighting and at times the position was very critical.

At the three ADSs the staffs were kept busy with a constant stream of casualties, and themselves had one man killed and several wounded. The Germans were shelling the ridges heavily, and several times daily the Stuka bombers roared over. In the uncertainty of the situation the ADSs were kept prepared for a hurried move, and the tension produced several false alarms.

4 MDS had a very busy and anxious time, with a number of abnormal difficulties to cope with as well. For a while water was rationed in the Box, as every pint used had to be brought some 40 miles over loose sand. The MDS urgently required water if it was to function effectively, so two water trucks were sent to Alamein. The water point was found to be under shellfire and the enemy dangerously close, but the trucks returned full. After some days medical supplies were replenished from 13 Corps medical centre at Burg el Arab, and some new trucks were obtained. Blood for transfusions was obtained from members of the unit.

On 2 July it was found that 15 British CCS and MAC on the line of evacuation had moved without notifying the MDS. The channel of evacuation was switched to 14 CCS at Burg el Arab, some 40 miles away over rough country. By the evening the MDS was holding 215 cases, some of whom were evacuated next day, but most of them could not be sent to the CCS until 6 July, when a mixed convoy was organised. In its tribulations the MDS was cheered by the congratulations of the CO 14 CCS on the excellent condition of the wounded on arrival at his unit.

In the ten days up to 6 July 4 Field Ambulance had treated 612 battle casualties and 304 sick. Many of these had come from our counter-attacks on 4 July, which tipped the balance slightly and placed the enemy on the defensive.

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black and white photograph of hospital

A civilian hospital in Aleppo occupied successively by 6 and 5 Field Ambulances

black and white photograph of nz medical hospital

3 NZ General Hospital at Beirut

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black and white photograph of nurses on ship

First nursing aids, NZ WAAC, arrive in Egypt on HS Maunganui

black and white photograph of us ambulance

An American Field Service ambulance car and driver (on right) after Minqar Qaim