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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

NZ Corps Prepares to Attack

NZ Corps Prepares to Attack

On 3 February NZ Corps was formed, with 4 Indian Division and British artillery under command. The ADMS 2 NZ Division, Col King, became DDMS Corps, with the rank of Brigadier. Maj Lomas was appointed DADMS Corps, while Maj Kennedy became page 341 DADH Corps. The Corps' initial task was to support the continuing American assault on Cassino and exploit success. By 7 February 5 Brigade, with B Company, 5 Field Ambulance, providing the ADS, had relieved American units along the line of the Rapido and Gari rivers, south of the main road to Rome.

black and white photograph of medical staff

Medical staff at Atessa before the Sangro attack. Brigadier H. S. Kenrick is second from right

black and white photograph of wounded soldiers in jeep

Patients being carried back by RAP jeep, Orsogna

black and white photograph of medical unit

1 Mobile CCS, Presenzano, Cassino

black and white photograph of medical unit shower area

4 Field Hygiene Section's shower unit near Cassino

The ADS to 6 Brigade when it moved up was A Company, 6 Field Ambulance. At 1 a.m. on 6 February, when the men began to crawl forth and pull down the bivvies, the piercing coldness of the wind defied description. Finally, the gear was stowed aboard the trucks and the men, wrapped up in greatcoats, leather jerkins, and balaclavas, clambered on the vehicles. The line of vehicles crossed the Volturno River and got onto the main highway, Route 6. Eleven miles farther on, the convoy turned off along the railway embankment at Mignano to a lying-up area between Monte Lungo and Monte Porchia.

It was still dark when, at 5.40 a.m., the vehicles of A Company careered down the steeply-sloping sides of the embankment into a field. Beyond a few tents belonging to an American anti-aircraft battery, a double haystack and a damaged farmhouse, there was nothing in sight. The muddy ground was frozen hard, and the rippling of unseen water and the occasional report of a gun were the only sounds to be heard.

The sky gradually lightened, and a penetratingly cold wind sprang up. Surroundings assumed form in the grey light—poplar trees, chopped and mutilated by shellfire. The ground was pitted with shell holes, and two villages over on the hillside beyond Route 6, San Pietro Infine and San Vittore del Lazio, were practically razed to the ground.

The same day 4 Field Ambulance, under Lt-Col J. K. Elliott, moved forward to a cultivated field near San Pietro, and erected a main dressing station. Five canvasses were pitched in suitable relation to the semi-circular roadway, which was constructed through the area with the help of the Engineers. Dispersal was not attempted, but large Red Cross ground signs were laid out. On the canvas floors of the tents hay was spread. To heat the tents an excellent type of down-draught, wood-burning stove, made by 4 Field Hygiene Section, had largely superseded the oil stoves and charcoal burners. The men of the unit were in bivouacs, no buildings being available in the area.

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Facing in the direction of Cassino, one had Trocchio Hill on one's left, partly obscuring distant Monastery Hill; snow-capped Monte Cairo was in the distance straight ahead; just across the road was an army cemetery.

The ADSs and the MDS, as well as the large concentration of troops in the forward area ready to attack when the weather improved, were within enemy shelling range. At 6 ADS about five o'clock one afternoon, fifty-odd faces were lifted from fifty-odd mess tins at a sudden, uncomfortably close, screeching of shells and a series of explosions and clouds of dust along the embankment and beyond. Most of the shells landed in the 25 Battalion lines, wounding a number of men. A few minutes later the casualties were arriving at the ADS reception tarpaulin. They were evacuated to 4 MDS and later taken by the NZ Section MAC to 1 Mobile CCS which, under Lt-Col Button, had opened at Presenzano. Sickness cases were sent to 5 MDS, set up by Lt-Col R. A. Elliott on Route 6, near the Venafro turn-off.