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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

5 Field Ambulance

5 Field Ambulance

The operative section of 5 Field Ambulance set up a dressing station in a stream bed at Ay Marina, with A and B Companies occupying areas on its slopes, parts of which were steep and rocky. HQ Company was a short distance away on the edge of a small clearing among some very ancient olive trees, overlooking the edge of the scattered village, with glimpses of the sea and the barren Theodhoroi Island off the coast. It was also well placed to catch the first glimpse of the itinerant orange sellers. Until air activity made it imprudent, swimming was possible, but fishing was forbidden as the use of civilian craft in these waters was prohibited. In the taverns more good cheer resulted from seeing a Messerschmitt dive into the sea than from the slender local wine supply.

At Ay Marina quite an extensive private practice was carried on by the unit's medical officers. The people showed their gratitude by supplying them with milk and eggs, with crassi (wine), and by doing their laundry.

page 117

Despite minor difficulties with the deleterious effect of crassi on the discipline of the susceptible, and the enervating midday heat, morale was rapidly restored, though the unexpected calm lent a sense of unreality to preparations for the coming assault.

Medical stores were always scanty and never adequate. Even splinting had to be improvised at first, but distributions from the limited resources of British units longer established on the island permitted a resumption of technical training and the holding of minor sickness cases and injured.

Early admissions were treated in well-sited tents—in comparative comfort after the stony unit bivvies. There was a dearth of drugs even up to the time of the German landing. Later, it was to an enthusiastic band of Cretan villagers at Modhion, organised by a young Cretan woman, Frosso Parasoulioti, that the unit owed many of its larger dressings, bandages, and Red Cross signs. These volunteers worked continuously on the days before and immediately after the invasion. Once the unit's needs were made known to the villagers many other supplies were brought in: citrus fruit, sultanas, wine, oil and, what promised best of all, information as to the whereabouts of a Canea pharmacist's bulk store. Though a guide was provided early on the second morning of the invasion and the chemist's house was found, it was not possible to force an entrance to the passage in which the drugs were supposedly stored: only a few ampoules of quinine and calcium were brought back.