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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

CCS Team in Sicily

page 289

CCS Team in Sicily

Early in July there was a request that a surgical team from the CCS be attached to 30 Corps for landing operations. This clearly indicated that an invasion was about to take place. On 6 July a team comprising Majors M. H. Aiken4 and L. A. Bennett,5 Corporal C. W. Grey,6 Privates R. L. Roberts7 and F. W. Palmer,8 under the command of Major W. M. Brown, left to join 174 Field Ambulance at Tripoli. The team had no surgical equipment as its personnel carried only their personal requirements and rations. Four days after their departure word came that there had been a landing in Sicily. The New Zealand party was included in the second landings on 11 July. Originally it was thought that they would be ashore only two days but, as events turned out, eleven days elapsed before they left Sicily. The only New Zealanders to take part in the Sicilian campaign, they were on the move practically all the time, visiting British field ambulances and other medical units. For a few hours they would work as a relieving surgical team and would then pack up and move on to some other unit where surgical cases were banking up. On 19 July they were ordered to return, since instructions had come through that no 2 NZEF personnel were to be in Sicily. The team sailed from Syracuse on 21 July on the hospital carrier St Julien, and arrived at Suani ben Adem on the evening of the following day. All were exhausted and ready for a well-earned rest.

The CCS received 132 of the casualties from the Sicilian campaign on 20 July. These were transferred from a hospital ship at Tripoli by 1 NZ Motor Ambulance Convoy which had also remained in the Tripoli area. Towards the end of the month warning came that the CCS was no longer required in Tripolitania. This was welcome news.

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On 6 and 7 August the unit left, part by the hospital ship Llandovery Castle and part by road, to return to Egypt and rejoin the New Zealanders in Maadi Camp. Pleasant though it was at Suani, everyone was feeling the monotony of the area and longing to return to Cairo. Much interest was taken in the future of the Division. Some were sure it would now go to England. Others thought it would return to Crete and Greece, perhaps via Turkey. Some were positive that Italy would be the destination. Not a few were certain the Division would return to New Zealand. None, however, dreamt that there was still two years' work ahead.

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colour map of Italy

4 Maj M. H. Aiken; born Palmerston North, 25 Jan 1902; Medical Practitioner, Christchurch; Physician HS Maunganui Apr-Nov 1941; 1 Gen Hosp Nov 1941-Feb 1943; 1 Mob CCS Feb 1943-Jul 1944; 2 Gen Hosp Apr 1944-1945.

5 Lt-Col L. A. Bennett; born Nelson, 16 Oct 1896; Surgeon, Christchurch; Surgeon HS Maunganui Apr-Nov 1942; 2 Gen Hosp Nov 1942-Jun 1943; 1 Mob CCS Jun-Oct 1943; in charge surgical division 3 Gen Hosp, Oct 1943-Sep 1945.

6 Cpl C. W. Grey, m.i.d.; born Wellington, 8 Feb 1917; railwayman, Auckland.

7 Pte R. L. Roberts; born NZ, 10 Jan 1917; mental attendant, Hokitika.

8 Pte F. W. Palmer; born Waimate, 14 Feb 1912; shop assistant, Dunedin.