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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

4 MDS Opens in Faenza

4 MDS Opens in Faenza

After the capture of Faenza by the Division on the evening of 16 December, the commanding officer of 4 Field Ambulance (Lt-Col Owen-Johnston3) and RSM (WO I G. C. Smith4) scrambled over a rubble footbridge in the Lamone River, still under occasional bursts of spandau fire, at nine o'clock next morning to choose a site in the town for an MDS. The ADMS 2 NZ Division, Col R. A. Elliott, joined the party, and after inspecting many buildings, they finally selected a bank building near the main square.

Leaving Forli at midday on 17 December, 4 MDS opened that afternoon in Faenza at three o'clock. From the time of opening there was a steady stream of patients, and as for the first few days this MDS was the only one in Faenza, it handled not only New Zealand but also British, Indian, and Italian troops and some Italian civilians. Evacuation channels were to 1 Mobile CCS for New Zealand troops, while British cases went to 5 British CCS and Indian cases to 9 Indian CCS in Forli. Priority was given to ambulance cars on the road, so that patients arrived at the CCS usually within half an hour of leaving the MDS. A Bailey bridge was a big help in this sector.

The building used by the MDS was solidly constructed and offered fair protection from the heavy shelling of the town by the enemy, who during the night of 17-18 December had reached the outskirts of Faenza in a counter-attack. The reception and evacuation departments were both set up in one large room divided by a low partition, and both were within easy access of a large theatre, beside which was a combined resuscitation and pre-operative ward. page 402 During busy periods two tables were conveniently accommodated in the theatre. Separated from these departments by a small courtyard was the hospital cookhouse, near enough to serve meals still hot. The members of the unit were billeted either in the bank building or in nearby houses, which they managed to heat by one means or another.

On 19 December A Company joined HQ Company at the MDS ready for the forthcoming attack. That night at nine o'clock, 6 NZ Infantry Brigade and 43 Gurkha Infantry Brigade launched an attack under a heavy barrage and threw the enemy back to the line of the Senio River. Much ground was taken after heavy fighting and over 200 prisoners captured.

Casualties poured in to 6 ADS, under Maj G. F. Hall,5 thoroughly testing the newly organised company. The next 24 hours were a rush period for the MDS. Between midnight and 8 a.m. 102 battle casualties were admitted. These were all cleared by midday and took from thirty to forty-five minutes to reach the CCS. The total admissions for the day were 142 battle casualties and 26 sickness cases.

On succeeding days there was a steady flow of admissions, the highest totals being reached on Christmas Eve, with 40 battle casualties and 30 sick. A shell hit one of the MDS buildings on 24 December, causing twelve casualties in the street but none to MDS personnel.