Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
WITH all New Zealand insignia removed, a procession of vehicles carried the New Zealanders south from the Sangro area. The convoys began the journey in the third week of January 1944. They travelled along the Adriatic coast towards Vasto. Progress was painfully slow and some of the trucks were too crowded for comfort. For one convoy which had left Atessa at midnight, a halt on the roadside north of Vasto at half past three in the morning was welcome relief. The men slept till daylight, some inside the trucks, some under them, some in ditches; and the peculiar position of many bedrolls showed that a minimum of comfort was necessary for repose.
In daylight the convoy proceeded through Vasto, Termoli, Serracapriola, and San Severo to stage the night near Lucera. During the day's travel, Italian civilians, including an incredible number of unwashed children, begged vociferously for biscuits, chocolate, and cigarettes. Most of the villages passed through were small and filthy, each having its distinctive odour and all united in poverty.
In fine but cold weather the following day, the trucks headed inland and climbed into the central Apennine mountains, along the bitumen road that led up and down and twisted from village to village perched on the hilltops. Down on the western foothills the countryside was more attractive, especially in the vicinity of Avellino, and in the distance smoke and flame could be seen rising from Vesuvius. The next bivouac area was at Cancello, twelve miles north-east of Naples. That night was very cold, and a heavy frost lay on the ground next morning. Italian people striding lightly clad along the road seemed indifferent to the cold, but thickly wrapped soldiers huddled over mess tins to eat their hot ‘soya links’.
The final stage of the journey was in a northerly direction through Caserta and Caiazzo to Piedimonte d'Alife in the Volturno Valley. Here all the field ambulances and the CCS were congregated in the one area.