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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

At Djebibina

At Djebibina

A major attack by First Army was planned for 6 May. The role of Eighth Army remained unchanged—to exert pressure and thus prevent the enemy from transferring troops from its front to oppose First Army. Accordingly, 2 NZ Division moved north-west by day on the 4th and 5th to assemble in the vicinity of Djebibina. No major operation was to be carried out, the intention being that the Division should advance to threaten the gap in the hills before Pont du Fahs.

On 5 May 5 Field Ambulance opened an MDS a few miles behind Djebibina. At Sidi bou Ali 4 MDS remained open; 1 NZ CCS had moved up adjacent to this unit on 30 April. This position was only ten miles from the forward defended localities.

At dawn on 6 May the First Army attack was launched along the axis of the Medjez el Bab-Tunis road. Before it the enemy defences crumpled. Tunis and Bizerta fell on 7 May and British armour swept across the base of Cape Bon peninsula before the enemy could regroup. On the southern flank of the attack, 5 Brigade and New Zealand artillery carried out advances and sustained some casualties, 52 being admitted to 5 MDS in five days. They were evacuated to 4 MDS and 1 CCS at Sidi bou Ali.

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On 8 May 2 NZ Division was ordered back into reserve near Enfidaville, and 5 Brigade was left to hand over its positions and follow on, while 5 Field Ambulance remained for a few days until its serious cases were fit to move and then rejoined the Division.

The Allied success in the north made the position of the enemy infantry on the Enfidaville front hopeless. On 13 May Marshal Messe, now in command on this front, surrendered unconditionally to General Freyberg. Resistance ceased and over 31,000 prisoners were taken on the southern front. For many days prisoners, both German and Italian, were marching back to prisoner-of-war cages in the rear. To the north the Royal Navy and Allied Air Force prevented evacuation from Cape Bon peninsula, and altogether over 200,000 prisoners and a vast amount of equipment were captured.

An eerie silence seemed to hang over the countryside. It was difficult to realise that it was all over; that there would be no more ‘up the blue’. Thousands of prisoners were moving back along the main road, driving their own vehicles. It was noticeable that as they passed a British cemetery near 6 Field Ambulance they saluted and showed it marked respect.