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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Field Ambulances at Baggush

Field Ambulances at Baggush

Baggush was not the pleasant and friendly spot the medical units had left a few weeks before. It was bitterly cold, and sudden rainstorms created a rushing torrent in the bottom of the wadi and all but flooded out the camp. Still fatigued, the men had looked for some good food, rest, and comfort, but their reward was work, the rainstorms, and unappetising meals. Their experiences in the desert had shaken their confidence, they had lost many of their friends, and the news of the entry of Japan into the war with its consequent threat to New Zealand came as a final blow. Dark clouds seemed to be about them. However, with leave to Cairo and Palestine, Christmas festivities, and a gradual return to full health and fitness, confidence returned and spirits regained their buoyancy.

The erection of a camp hospital was hampered by driving rain and a high wind, against which the men had to battle to hold down tents, but soon the hospital was operating. Many had managed to make model little dugout homes, and they turned their attention then to the many parcels, Patriotic parcels, and Christmas cakes which had arrived in one huge consignment. The next few weeks page 181 they spent eating their way through the contents of the parcels and avoiding what little work there was.

At Christmas there was beer in almost unlimited quantities. It flowed freely but the celebrations, though hearty, were kept within the bounds of propriety. Stuffed turkey and Christmas pudding were served by the officers and sergeants, and with cigarettes, chocolate, and many extras it was a fine spread. But it was the New Year celebrations that provided an outlet for suppressed feelings and emotions. With the return of 5 Brigade from the Desert the Division was once more reunited, and on New Year's Eve it let itself go with a spontaneous outburst. For almost an hour before midnight and for some considerable time after, the sky was lit with a fireworks display of flares, tracer bullets, and multi-coloured flashes. Machine guns, anti-tank guns, and 25-pounders were fired overhead and out to sea, Italian grenades were tossed about, and flares fired into the air as the New Zealanders gave free rein to their pent-up feelings. A British unit nearby ‘stood-to’ most of the night, thinking the celebration a seaborne invasion.