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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

CSS Moves on to El Djem

CSS Moves on to El Djem

The rush at Akarit was no sooner over than the CCS was on the move again through the picturesque little town of Gabes, with its green groves of palms, to an olive grove south of Mahares, where it remained for two days resting.

The whole countryside was covered with olive plantations. One large house, the centre of one of the largest plantations, was visited and hospitality dispensed by a cultured French family, very proud of their home and very relieved at the departure of German officers who had been billeted on them just a few days before. A large olive-oil refinery was seen nearby. After a very short stop in the olive grove, the CCS went on to 15 kilometres north of El Djem. In brilliant sunshine, the trip was the best the unit had yet made.

In a clear, blue sky swallows and larks sang cheery songs of spring. Flowers grew in great profusion—by the acre. After the small seaport of Sfax was passed, they appeared in even greater numbers. Here wild poppies grew so thick as to give the appearance of a carpet of pure red stretching for acres under the olive trees. Other flowers growing in large masses made a brilliant picture.

In such surroundings the convoy halted just beyond El Djem, 40 miles north of Sfax. The new site was on the top of a gently sloping hill commanding a view of distant hills flushed red with poppies. There were numbers of native villages nearby, and the inhabitants as ever pestered the troops for tea, sugar, and food. The beauty page 278 of the site was spoilt by its proximity to one of the main operational airfields, to which the Germans paid particular attention, coming over most evenings to drop high-explosive and anti-personnel bombs. Some of the latter landed in the unit area. After a heavy raid one night, casualties were admitted from the aerodrome; they included members of an American squadron which had most successfully intercepted German planes near Cape Bon the day before.