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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

6 Field Ambulance Dressing Stations

6 Field Ambulance Dressing Stations

Coming under the command of 6 Infantry Brigade on 30 March, A and B Companies, 6 Field Ambulance, went forward to set up advanced dressing stations in the low, undulating country overlooking the Gulf of Salonika. While A Company formed a dressing station in a valley about six miles east of Sphendami in the lower-lying country, B Company set itself up in an old shed on the outskirts of the village of Koukos, with light tentage for additional accommodation. At the same time, HQ Company opened a main dressing station some ten miles west of Katerine, on the main road near Kato Melia.

On rising ground about a mile and a half from the sea and on 6 Brigade's right flank, A Company's dressing station site had the disadvantage of offering no cover whatever. In the absence of trees or other protection, the various departments were dug in deeply and screened with nets. The dressing station served an area of open, undulating country where the roads, although exposed, permitted ambulance cars to be taken right forward to the regimental aid posts. In contrast, evacuation of casualties to the Koukos dressing station presented many difficulties. This was especially so page 76 with the 25 Battalion RAP on the slopes of Mount Elias. The only approach to it was over rugged terrain. The road, besides being in an extremely bad state of repair, cut across the front of the artillery positions. Apart from its proximity to the 25-pounders of 4 Field Regiment, the dressing station itself, judged by position and appointments, was a typical text-book one.

The 6 Field Ambulance MDS was in a pleasant spot among spreading oaks below the northern slopes of Mount Olympus. Tents were pitched on the banks of a small stream. Wards for receiving, operating upon, and holding patients were dug in, and an attempt was made to protect them further with sandbags. The whole dressing station, including the men's living quarters, was heavily camouflaged with coloured nets and natural foliage. Apart from the small amount of medical work, the chief activities were some roadmaking and sandbagging of the operating theatre, and the men were able to enjoy some days of comparative ease and quiet.

At the advanced dressing stations things were equally quiet. Each held a few sick patients. B Company took the opportunity to practise stretcher-bearing over hill and gorge.

To estimate the incidence of malaria, Capt Lovell2 collected a dozen or so children from the nearby village and proceeded to examine their bodies for swollen spleens, an almost invariable symptom of the disease. Not knowing what next to expect, the children were terrified. Their anguished screams brought a wave of frantic mothers, from whom Lovell was forced to seek immediate cover, allowing the children to return to the bosom of their families. To avoid another similar misunderstanding, the priest in a white stone church on a hilltop was approached and persuaded with some difficulty that it was not desired to harm the children, but merely to examine them in the interests of science. Convinced, the priest gave the project his blessing and, rounding up some fifty children, led the procession to the dressing station, where the youngsters were examined, given army biscuits, and a picnic made of the afternoon. The matter did not end there, however, for everybody in the village suddenly showed great interest in his or her spleen (not to mention the army biscuits!) and the ranks of the page 77 morning sick parades swelled alarmingly. Candidates for examination flooded the dressing station and all but overwhelmed it.

2 Lt-Col A. A. Lovell; born England, 10 Feb 1910; Medical Practitioner; Medical Officer 6 Fd Amb Aug 1940-Dec 1941; 1 Gen Hosp Dec 1941-Nov 1944; CO Repatriation Hospital, England, May-Dec 1945.