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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

CCS at Sirte and Tamet

CCS at Sirte and Tamet

On New Year's Day the CCS at Agedabia packed equipment and loaded trucks again, and early next morning its convoy began a move of 250 miles along the Via Balbia. Culverts and lengths of causeway dynamited by the enemy forced many dusty detours.

Next morning a particularly unpleasant dust-storm was encountered near the divisional area at Nofilia. The CCS's new area, a few miles east of Sirte, was reached by mid-afternoon. Each vehicle drove to a pre-selected site and was unloaded by its passengers. In these moves the unit's own trucks carried ward equipment, and when once off-loaded each truck remained at the site. Where the ward consisted of a tarpaulin-type tent, this was attached to the vehicle's canopy so that the truck actually became part of the ward. At this location a new style of unit layout was adopted since Army had ordered that even greater dispersal be observed. Wards page 254 and departments were set out in a circle over a mile in circumference. A road was formed round this for the use of ambulances. The hospital kitchen and theatres were in the centre, and food kept in hot-boxes was delivered by truck to each ward at meal-times.

This new area was like some large garden lavishly strewn with wild flowers. Night-scented stock, mignonette, marigolds, linarias, and many others grew in profusion. This pale-coloured mass of bloom stretched in long undulations as far as the eye could see. The night winds sweeping across the lonely expanses were richly laden with the scent of stock. The CCS had this locality all to itself and there was little sign of other military life.

The unit was only nine days at Sirte before it moved 40 miles ahead to a site near Tamet airfield, which was being used as the air evacuation centre instead of the landing ground at Sirte. By 14 January the CCS was functioning fully at Tamet.

Enemy aircraft were active for a few nights, and for the first time some of the CCS staff decided it was wise to dig slit trenches. On the ground and on the tents Red Crosses were prominently displayed, but some of the staff were not too sure of the protection these might give. In bright moonlight the tents stood out very clearly and must have presented a sizeable target from the air. Several times aircraft dived low over the area to drop bombs on targets a short distance off. Attacks on Tamet airfield were frequent, and often during the night a sharp rat-tat-tat heralded the approach of a strafing enemy plane. Because of these raids the airfield did not become a terminus for air supplies, and air evacuation of patients was therefore limited.