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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

6 Field Ambulance

6 Field Ambulance

For just over three weeks after landing in Crete, 6 Field Ambulance operated its small MDS below Galatas, treating a number of sick from 4 Brigade units and at the same time assisting 7 General Hospital, which was understaffed. One company provided 50-odd men to work in the wards and on general duties at the hospital, while the remainder of the unit ran the MDS. One runabout truck, the only vehicle, was used for all purposes at the MDS. Using open wood fires but without an axe, and with only improvised cooking utensils, petrol tins, and so on, the cook worked wonders. Rations were short, but the little Cretan children would bring around the camp brown bread, boiled eggs, and sweet, juicy oranges, which seemed to be in abundance, and which could be bought for a few drachmae or cigarettes, as long as these lasted. There was a little tentage available for the dressing station, but the men all slept out under the olives, two or three together for warmth, as it was cold at nights and they had but few blankets. Sharply conscious of their experience in Greece, they all made for themselves, with the few page 116 implements available, dugouts or slit trenches, and one or two built improvised shelters with branches, straw, or any other odd material they could pick up.

Conditions were primitive, but the weather was fine and warm during the day, the countryside attractive, and the life pleasant; comforts were little missed. While Canea had little to offer, it was possible to get leave there, and one could buy a meal at the Naafi canteen or drink dubious, coloured liquors at its café bars. It was a good walk from the camp though, with no alternative but to walk. At Galatas there was a New Zealand YMCA providing tea, biscuits, and chocolate.

Galatas, a mile or so away on the hill behind 6 MDS, was a little village with a main square and dirty, narrow streets, surmounted by a small church with a tall tower, making a prominent landmark. The more favoured resort was a tiny village a few hundred yards or so from the camp, just a small group of houses with one ‘Turkish’ café. This café, besides supplying wine, cognac, and some more fiery and potent concoctions, possessed a wireless round which the men would gather to hear the BBC news, their only contact with the outside world, a little music, and once the voice of Lord Haw-Haw—‘New Zealanders, you are on the isle of doom’.