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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

In Action at Thermopylae

In Action at Thermopylae

Meanwhile 6 Brigade, supported by the whole of the Divisional Artillery and two regiments of British artillery, continued to hold the Thermopylae line. An advanced dressing station manned by B Company, 4 Field Ambulance, was under its command. As the enemy continued at a leisurely pace to build up a strong assault force, aerial activity became intense, reaching a peak during 24 April, when furious and repeated enemy dive-bombing and machine-gunning attacks were directed against artillery positions. Despite the violence of these efforts to wipe out our guns and observation posts, casualties were few, and the New Zealand dressing station was not overtaxed.

During the day several thrusts by enemy tanks and infantry were repulsed, but others broke through in 25 Battalion's sector. The battalion's two forward platoons were forced to withdraw, suffering heavy casualties from tank gunfire and mortaring as they did so.

The artillery and infantry battle continued until about half past nine that night. Then contact with the enemy was broken, guns and heavy equipment were destroyed, and the planned withdrawal began. By dawn of Anzac Day men and vehicles were scattered and hidden over a hundred miles away behind 4 Brigade's covering position at Thebes. B Company rejoined 4 Field Ambulance in the area adjacent to 2/1 Australian Field Ambulance, south of Thebes. Unfortunately, Capt Neale19 and 16 men who retired with the 6 Brigade rearguard did not succeed in rejoining their own company and were later taken prisoner near Corinth.

19 Capt H. C. Neale; born Nelson, 20 Aug 1914; Medical Practitioner, Wellington; Medical Officer 4 Fd Amb Sep 1939-Apr 1941; p.w. Apr 1941; repatriated May 1945.