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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

January in Forli

January in Forli

In spite of the intense cold and the falls of snow, the central heating of the 6 MDS building ensured continuous warmth. Unfortunately the fuel supply grew short, and though two of the unit's 3-ton trucks made trips along the Canale Naviglio to collect wood from trees felled across the roads by the Germans, a diesel oil-drip system had to be installed; from then on the heat was enjoyed at the price of an atmosphere thick with flakes of soot and the unenjoyable task of cleaning out the flues every four hours.

Ample entertainment, provided by concert parties and cinemas, was available for the troops in Forli. An ambitious soldiers' club, the Dorchester, occupying a complete wing of the imposing building of the Regia Academica Aeronautica, was open all day with its billiard room, writing rooms, and two restaurants, each with its own orchestras and singers and well staffed with waiters and waitresses, and, more important, each serving beer with meals.

Additional leave was made available by the opening of the New Zealand Forces Club in Rome to other ranks for six-day leave periods. Parties also visited Rocca del Camminate, Mussolini's summer residence high in the hills, overlooking Predappio, the village in which he was born. The villa, with its plaques and colonnades, had been fashioned into something of a shrine for good Fascists. It had once possessed a coveted visitors' book but, inevitably, this had been souvenired long before. Predappio was occupied by Poles, and any atmosphere of reverence had completely vanished. Rocca del Camminate was quite a modern building, and a plaque explained that it was a gift from the Italian people to Mussolini. There was plenty of evidence that Allied gunners had also bestowed their gifts. The main room was deep in photographs of Mussolini's prize fertile families, of throngs gathered to meet him at various cities, of detachments of Fascist movements, of early Fascist brigades, of brigades burning books, and, mostly, of page 407 Mussolini himself, reviewing, opening, orating, posing, writing, working, playing, in uniform and out of uniform, in yachting clothes, working clothes and overalls.

A great yellow fasces decorated one wing of the villa, and a lighthouse and tower crowned it all. The tower head was strewn with the heavy, broken glass of the lantern which had once announced the presence of the family by throwing a revolving red, white, and green light across the valleys and hills of Romagna. It was claimed to have been visible at a distance of 25 miles.