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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Move to Fabriano

Move to Fabriano

Arrangements had been completed for 2 NZ Division to be relieved by 5 Canadian Armoured Division and withdrawn to a rest area, extending over 25 miles between Fabriano and Camerino, two towns lying to the east of Macerata. During the evening of 22 October Canadians relieved 6 Brigade, which began the journey southwards. A Company, 6 Field Ambulance, left its church site at 5.15 p.m.

To the tune of a few unenthusiastic farewells from the annex windows, the trucks drove off into the fog that lay over the flat, dismal landscape. A short distance back the men looked up in pleased surprise as the convoy passed under a banner erected by the Canadians and bearing the message ‘Thanks a lot, Kiwis’. The roads were muddy, and as night fell hedgerows, trees, and vehicles were fitfully illuminated by the fog-dimmed flashes of the guns firing on either side.

The route to Fabriano was to become familiar to New Zealanders—Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Senigallia, and then inland at Falconara, through Iesi to the mountains, where the Esino River, the road, and the railway twined through the narrow gorge between tall, bare, rock walls. The river was crossed at the Howe Bridge, usually after a good deal of delay.

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In the last days of autumn, the Division found itself dispersed among quite unscathed villages in the heart of the Apennines. No one had heard of Matelica, Fabriano, Castel Raimondo or San Severino. There had been no pitched battle there, for the main highways through which the fighting had flowed many months before gave them a wide berth. They were backwater sleepy hollows, unspoiled by the continued presence of sightseeing and souvenir-hunting troops. Yet these places will be remembered with undiluted affection by the men of the Division. Attachment for the quiet beauty and for the people drew many a New Zealander back on a passing visit as long as the Division was in Northern Italy.

Fabriano was in a peaceful, fertile valley. Rounded hills bounded the wide valley and then steeper crests rose to the sky. The railway station and yard were heavily cratered and torn—they had been a supply depot for the retreating Germans. The streets and squares, all paved with cobbles, were clean and well maintained. The people seemed to belong to a prosperous community, although there were many refugees from other parts of Italy among them. The town was the trading centre for a large farming district.

Fabriano did not appear to have any large or enthusiastic Fascist party, and the usually inescapable Casa del Fascismo was missing among the mass of buildings. No building was aggressively new or glaringly modern. The town contained a number of pottery factories operating hand-wheels, quite a large printing works, a foundry, flour mills, many little one-man shops of tinkers, tailors, carpenters, mechanics, all pottering away with surprising competence.