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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Preparing for Battle

Preparing for Battle

By 3 April all combatant units of the Division were in the forward areas. In the short time at their disposal, the New Zealanders had made their preparations for battle quickly and efficiently. While the medical units had set up dressing stations and a general hospital, fire positions and tank ditches had been dug, barbed wire erected, guns sited, road and bridge demolitions prepared, country lanes converted to military roads, and thousands of tons of supplies brought forward from the ports by the NZASC and distributed. The Australians were arriving and moving forward to fight once page 79 more alongside the New Zealanders. The 2 NZ Division and 6 Australian Division at first constituted 1 Australian Corps. A few days later, on 12 April, the name was changed to Anzac Corps, under the command of Lt-Gen Sir Thomas Blamey.

Their preparations for battle complete, most of the New Zealand units were enjoying a life of comparative ease in the beautiful surroundings of the Greek countryside. Then, quite suddenly, the scene changed. In grave silence, men grouped round wireless sets heard the news of Germany's attack on Greece and Yugoslavia. The German drive began on 6 April. Events moved swiftly. The collapse of Yugoslavia brought a German threat to the rear of the Anzac forces on the Aliakmon line. On 8 April 4 and 6 Brigades were ordered to withdraw over the Olympus Pass. By the evening of the 10th all the forward units had been withdrawn, leaving engineers to prepare demolitions and the Divisional Cavalry as a covering force for the last elements of the Anzac force to leave the original line.