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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Medical Units in Battle of Medenine

Medical Units in Battle of Medenine

When the Division moved up on 1 March both 5 and 6 Brigades had their ADSs with them, and 5 Field Ambulance opened an MDS close to the town of Medenine. To the MDS were attached Maj Bridge's surgical team and 2 FTU under Capt Powles.1 With Rear 2 NZ Division some 30 miles back towards Ben Gardane were 4 and 6 Field Ambulances and 4 Field Hygiene Section. On the road midway between Medenine and Ben Gardane, 1 CCS was situated, but as there was a threat of attack on the lines of communication behind Medenine General Freyberg advised DDMS 30 Corps to move the Heavy Section of the CCS, including the sisters, to a safer position some 20 miles to the east. For the same reason, 5 Field Ambulance had been sited at Medenine within the fortified perimeter, which was rather more forward than usual, being within half a mile of 6 ADS and four miles of 5 ADS.

The enemy began the expected attack at first light on 6 March. 5 Brigade knocked out several enemy tanks early in the action. The enemy heavily shelled Main Divisional HQ area, which was about one mile ahead of 5 MDS. Air activity increased and Me109s operated so close that most of the personnel of the field ambulance had their first experience of watching the four bombs drop away from each plane as it dived on its objective. Enemy aircraft exploited the cloudy conditions and sneaked in from time to time, notwithstanding the superiority of the Allied Air Force. Very few casualties were reaching the MDS, those received being mostly page 266 prisoners of war. It was unusual to get them in before our own casualties and this was an indication that the battle was going well.

The battle continued during the whole day, but the New Zealand casualties received numbered no more than seven or eight. By the end of the day the enemy had nothing to show for his costly offensive except many dead and wounded and 52 knocked-out tanks. Rommel accepted the reverse and during the night withdrew his battered forces to the Mareth defences. Throughout the night our artillery maintained their heavy fire. Next day fierce air battles took place, and from one dogfight a Macchi 202 was shot down almost within the field ambulance lines. There was a raid by eight Me109s and many bombs were dropped close by, but it was fairly obvious that the planes were avoiding the ambulance area. Red Crosses were displayed prominently on the tents, which had by then been bleached snow-white. Set at an angle, the Red Crosses could be seen miles away. From this air attack 16 casualties were brought in from adjoining units.

black and white map of mareth line

Left Hook round Mareth Line

1 Capt C. P. Powles; born NZ, 28 Jul 1913; Pathologist, Wellington Hospital; Medical Officer Maadi Camp Jan-Oct 1942; 1 Gen Hosp Oct 1942-Mar 1943; OC 2 FTU Mar-Aug 1943.