Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Return to the Desert

Return to the Desert

With the coming of summer the grape vines flourished and the development of the grapes was followed with interest by all. But the men of the CCS and the field ambulances were not destined to pick any of the 1942 harvest in the Lebanon. News from the Western Desert indicated that events were taking a dramatic turn. The daily newspapers brought up to the CCS by ‘Johnny’, the local paperboy, carried headlines indicating that all was not well.

Rommel had been building up for an offensive in the Western Desert, and on 27 May 1942 it opened. Following heavy fighting at Bir Hacheim and Knightsbridge, the Free French were compelled to evacuate Bir Hacheim. Rommel gave the Eighth Army no respite and inflicted heavy losses on British tank strength. Black days were ahead.

page 205

Headquarters 2 NZ Division received orders on 14 June that the Division was to move forthwith to Egypt. Then followed that memorable thousand-mile dash that took the Division down through Syria and Palestine and up into the Western Desert to bar the way to Rommel's advancing panzer forces near Mersa Matruh.

The move was carried out with the greatest secrecy. All distinguishing signs were removed from trucks and uniforms; all main centres were by-passed wherever possible on the journey, and no one was informed of the destination or purpose of the move. When they reached the Suez Canal the men heard that Tobruk had fallen and that the Axis forces were approaching the Egyptian frontier. Vain dreams that the convoys were destined for anywhere but the Western Desert were now dispelled. Egypt and the desert sands greeted the New Zealanders once again.