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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

In the Peloponnese

In the Peloponnese

After the German airborne assault on the Corinth Canal zone, events in the Peloponnese moved towards a swift conclusion. Corinth had fallen and Tripolis was threatened by advancing German columns. At the foot of the pass leading over the ranges to Tripolis, A Company, 4 Field Ambulance, at the request of HQ 6 Infantry Brigade, had established a dressing station.

On the evening of 26 April, HQ and B Companies withdrew over the pass and sought cover in a forest reserve about three miles south-east of Tripolis. The area previously had been reconnoitred by Capt Tremewan24 and Capt Loeber, NZDC,25 in a hazardous daylight trip.

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By dawn of the next day, wounded from various units were reaching the area in considerable numbers, and in order to accommodate them and give them all possible attention, 4 Field Ambulance opened a dressing station in a Greek church alongside the reserve. Much assistance was given the medical men and orderlies by civilian helpers and a Greek priest.

The benign old priest, his eyes flooded with tears, supported a dying soldier while Padre Bicknell held a cup of cold water to his lips. As the villagers heard of the presence of wounded men they came endlessly with their gifts—eggs, bread, and even a plucked fowl. A Greek soldier held a mirror for a wounded man while he tried to shave himself, a second Greek soldier supporting him. This was typical of the unselfish service seen that day. In a little cemetery, about 500 yards along the road leading from the church, two New Zealand soldiers were buried that afternoon.

At this time 25 Battalion was holding a road-block in the pass between Miloi and Tripolis, while 24 Battalion guarded the remaining approaches to this key town. The brigade's orders were to hold these positions until dark and then move as quickly as possible to a dispersal area near the beach at Monemvasia. 26 Battalion journeyed south during the afternoon, and the other battalions began their withdrawal under cover of darkness. 4 Field Ambulance joined in this last stage of the withdrawal, its three remaining 3-ton trucks and three ambulance cars lifting members of the unit and 37 wounded in circumstances as comfortable as possible, and covering the 90-mile journey over difficult and unknown roads to the dispersal area during the night.

All through the next day, men and vehicles sheltered under every form of available cover a few miles from the beach at Monemvasia. Enemy aircraft kept up a relentless search but failed to find our troops. New Zealanders and some Australians were disposed in readiness to meet a possible attack. Plans were made for the final evacuation. In an effort to get everyone aboard the destroyers that night, it was decided to use a number of small boats and a Greek caique which had been found on the beach.

24 Capt H. C. Tremewan; born NZ, 20 Jun 1914; House Surgeon, Wellington Hospital; Medical Officer 4 Fd Amb Sep 1939-Feb 1940; 20 Bn Feb-Oct 1940; 4 Fd Amb Oct 1940-Nov 1941; p.w. Libya, Nov 1941; repatriated May 1943.

25 Capt C. C. Loeber; born Auckland, 2 Jul 1913; Dental Surgeon, Auckland; Dental Officer 4 Fd Amb.