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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

CCS at Suani ben Adem

CCS at Suani ben Adem

As a Corps unit, 1 NZ CCS did not accompany the Division back to Egypt but remained in Tunisia until 23 May, when it moved the 380 miles back to Suani ben Adem, near 3 General Hospital and 1 Convalescent Depot, and established a 200-bed hospital to receive casualties from the coming invasion of Sicily. For several weeks all members of the unit were engaged in erecting the hospital. The work was done mostly in the mornings as the afternoons were excessively hot. Departments were set up close together on both sides of a road through the eucalyptus plantation.

It was now mid-summer. As June passed the days grew progressively hotter. Temperatures soared to 120 degrees in the shade and never fell much below 100 for days on end. Nights brought little relief. A strong wind known as the ‘jebeli’ was experienced on several occasions. Blowing from the burning sands of the Sahara Desert, it came sweeping through the trees as a searing hot blast, and usually lasted two or three days. Even in the shade most things became too hot to touch. Tins of water could be kept moderately cool only by placing them in a hole covered with wet sacks. Motor vehicles had difficulties on the road as petrol vapourised before it could reach the engine. In such enervating weather the long ride to the beach on the old German diesel truck was like a trip through an oven. With heat such as this the grapes soon ripened, although some varieties were burned on the vine. Each evening many of the men would disappear over the fields in the direction of the vineyards. Later they would return laden with bags, kits, and shirts bulging with large bunches of choice grapes. Everyone was certainly making up for the opportunity lost the previous summer when the unit had to leave the Lebanon. Grapes and fresh fruit were also part of Army rations at this time; peanuts were issued by the sackful.