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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

5 Field Ambulance in Operational Role

5 Field Ambulance in Operational Role

During July and August 5 Field Ambulance underwent a series of field exercises with 5 Infantry Brigade in preparation for an operational role in the event of invasion. Particular emphasis was laid on the importance of maintaining contact between ADS and MDS. The unit also handled sickness and accident cases in the page 57 New Zealand force. After two months in England the first vehicles were obtained.

The unit marched (remember the Hog's Back!), manoeuvred, and bivouacked in the counties of Surrey, Sussex, and Kent. It was then that they appreciated the beauty of the English landscape, a beauty largely due to the trees, which also provided shelter and protection. A convoy on the move is a target for hostile aircraft, but for many miles the unit was able to travel along narrow country roads under the green canopy of trees arching the road from both sides. The beeches of Arundel, with their clean but-tressed trunks, are associated with a misty wet morning in the early stages of a six-days' march. The men arrived there at dark, more than a little weary after a final uphill stretch, and had a long tramp through the park in search of their allotted bivouac, only to find that the cooks, who should have reached there by motor transport ahead of them, had lost their way; the meal was not ready until after 10 p.m. As they rolled into their blankets (some of them on a mattress of leaves), there was an air-raid warning and the sound of aircraft overhead.

Another halt on that same march was at East Grinstead, near the Castle and within sight of St. Hugh's Charterhouse, the largest monastery in Britain. Here the men of the unit saw a herd of deer not far from the ancient oaks under which the vehicles were parked. Many beautiful gardens were also seen; for example, that at Sheffield Park, where after a hot day on the march the men were able to bathe in a large pond set in a picturesque landscape of trees and shrubs.

The troops continued their training in the countryside. With the coming of autumn they saw a marked change in the landscape, as many of the English trees are leafless in winter. Before the fall, brilliant autumn colours appeared, beautiful in the lengthening rays of the afternoon sun.

Towards the end of August the unit drove down in convoy to Kent. HQ Company took over a stables in the Sittingbourne Road, outside Maidstone, A Company were at Broughton Monchelsea, and B Company at Sittingbourne. While they were here the area was heavily bombed, and the ambulances worked for the first time carrying casualties, mostly civilians, to the Maidstone Hospital. page 58 5 Field Ambulance continued to function through the various enemy air attacks during its stay in that area.