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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy


THROUGHOUT September and October Eighth Army continued its preparations for the offensive, but the medical personnel heard little of these plans. Patients were the main source of information although they knew only their own particular sectors. Daily, convoys of guns rolled along the dusty roads past the camp areas, while at night there was an almost ceaseless clatter of tanks and transporters moving into position. The medical officers attended conferences and made arrangements for the part their particular units were to play in the medical chain. Increased activity in the air indicated that the day was near.

It arrived on 23 October 1942. During the day all members of the units were assembled, General Montgomery's order of the day read, and plans for the battle due to begin that night outlined. The day was comparatively quiet. All the sick had been cleared from the forward medical units and the lines of evacuation were ready. Most of the men did some last-minute washing and letter-writing, while page 230 the units generally made final preparations for the heavy casualties expected. Extra tentage was erected at the CCS as soon as it was dusk. The job had been left until this time because in enemy reconnaissance photographs such an obvious increase in the layout of a medical unit would indicate the nearness of large-scale operations at the front. Evening came, and an air of expectant hush seemed to settle over the whole desert as the moon rose. For once there was no sound of transport. Everything was silent and waiting. The Eighth Army's guns, nearly a thousand of them, were ready, and the infantry and armour were awaiting zero hour.

black and white photograph of battle location

Battle of El Alamein—Dispositions at 23 October 1942

The New Zealand Division, as part of 30 Corps, was to capture and hold the Miteiriya Ridge west of the Qattara Track. It was then to revert to the command of 10 Corps, an armoured formation which, passing through gaps in the minefields westwards, would try to cut off the enemy.