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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

6 MDS at Forli

6 MDS at Forli

Back in Forli all the rooms and corridors of the 6 MDS building were crammed with a continuously changing crowd of sick. More and more arrived each day to fill the stretchers vacated by those returned to their units or transferred to the CCS or 1 General Hospital.

Dismal and hazy in the rain and fog by day, occasionally bombed and shelled, and completely blacked out at night, Forli seemed a town devoid of hope. The MDS yard was flooded, a Psychological Warfare Branch truck broadcast stentorian bulletins that echoed hollowly across the Piazza Saffi, and the winged figures of the local page 403 war memorial were vague and unrecognisable on top of their lofty column. However, by the time a few repairs had been effected and a selection of stoves had been scrounged from the factory of one Signor Becchi, the maternity hospital building was snug enough. The HQ trucks were parked under the cloisters of the adjacent church of San Mercuriale, a bulldozer having been employed to scoop debris up over the steps of the church to make a negotiable ramp.

The first bombing raid, carried out by a single German fighter-bomber, occurred on the day after the unit's arrival. The bombs fell in the Lamone, near the Bailey bridge, which was probably the target. The aircraft then disappeared into the fog, apparently untouched by the anti-aircraft fire. At the evening meal hour on succeeding days a Spitfire patrolled the sky. Then, on the evening of the 10th, with no Spitfires in sight, three enemy fighter-bombers roared in low over the town. Inside the MDS there was sudden consternation as the building shook to jarring crashes, and shutters smashed in and plaster fell from ceilings. The bombs had fallen nearby, one demolishing a large section of buildings, burying an army truck, and killing many soldiers and civilians. Another struck the church of San Giagio, engulfing families who had moved into the vaults at the previous raid. One women, dug out alive and carried unconscious to the MDS, was holding in her arms a dead two-months'-old baby.

Most of the shelling was confined to the aerodrome end of the town, though a salvo of shells landed around the MDS one night, bringing down showers of glass and more plaster. A building across the square went up in flames and burned well into the morning, section after section of the roof crashing in. scattering burning fragments and sparks, while the steeple of San Mercuriale stood limned in red against the black sky.