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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Another Campaign Ahead

Another Campaign Ahead

Leave over, the field medical units began to reorganise and re-equip in preparation for the next campaign. Equipment was repaired and brought up to scale, while the transport was completely overhauled. Reinforcements were received, inoculations brought up to date, and winter clothing issued.

Rumours about the future were very strong—in fact it had become fairly obvious that the Division was destined for operations in Italy. During the summer months the Allies had pressed steadily on. Mussolini had resigned, and the close of the Sicilian campaign with the fall of Messina on 17 August marked another great step forward. The Allied invasion of the Italian mainland began early in September with landings by Fifth Army at Salerno and Eighth Army across the Strait of Messina. On 1 October Allied forces occupied Naples.

In mid-September the Division moved to Burg el Arab, west of Alexandria. As part of a hardening process, the troops marched from Mena to the Amiriya crossroads, a distance of 99 miles. Some page 295 of the medical units did not have to march, as they were called upon to provide dressing stations on the route and at Burg el Arab.

Apart from morning route marches, no training was done at Burg el Arab during the next few days, and the medical personnel not running dressing stations camped on the flat ground between the coastal ridge and the glistening white sand dunes of the beaches, checked over equipment at leisure, availed themselves of day leave to Alexandria, or wandered down to the sea to swim, plucking ripe figs en route from the stunted trees that dotted the dunes. The drivers were kept busy checking over their vehicles and removing the canopies and supporting frameworks in preparation for loading them on the vehicle transports.

There was still no hint of the future role of the Division, and the troops as usual were groping in a maze of conflicting rumours. A lecture on malaria, coinciding with the first issue of the little yellow mepacrine tablets, was considered to be of major significance until someone announced that malaria was prevalent in many parts of Europe. Finally, commanding officers delivered addresses, informing their units that the Division was about to go overseas. Beyond that they knew nothing, except that the future field of operations was a region infested with typhus and malaria.