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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Move to Syria

Move to Syria

Shortly after the unwelcome news of the fall of Singapore, the field units left Maadi for a camp on the Suez Canal. It was an unpleasant spot, some 20 miles north of Suez on a promontory between the Great and Little Bitter Lakes of the Canal, near the Kabrit airfield. The flat, sandy plain was swept frequently by wind and dust-storms.

Setting up an MDS camp hospital to service their brigades, the field ambulances remained here for a few weeks. A few cases of sickness were held in the MDS, but work was not exacting except on the few occasions when a high wind threatened to level the tents and the men were obliged to grapple with billowing canvas, double-peg the guy ropes and, in some cases, repair ripped tent flies.

All units at this time took part in combined operations with naval landing craft on the Canal lake. Gliding noiselessly across the lake in the dark, small assault landing craft or the larger tank craft nosed up on to the beaches on the other side and unloaded their invasion forces. While the fighting units carried out their attack exercises, the medical party set up a light dressing station near the beach.

Towards the end of February, after the invasion exercises, the units, preceded by advanced parties, left by road and rail for Syria. With each ambulance's limited transport went a small road party via the Sinai Desert, while the majority followed by rail through page 191 Palestine to Haifa. In Syria the Division, as part of Ninth Army had been allotted the task of constructing defences in the Lebanon Valley.

black and white map of egypt palestine syria

Egypt, Palestine, and Syria

Plans had been drawn up for the defence of Syria from the north, north-east, and east. The New Zealand Division had been allotted the task of completing the defences of the Djedeide fortress, on which considerable work had already been done. This was in the Orontes valley lying between the high mountain ranges of the Lebanons and Anti-Lebanons. In this valley the Division was mainly concentrated.