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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Evacuation Problems

Evacuation Problems

The sector in the Apennines held by 2 NZ Division was extremely wide and mountainous and the evacuation of patients presented many problems. Stretcher-bearers from the field ambulances were attached to the RAPs, which were up to 800 yards from the road, and a car post with additional stretcher-bearer teams was established in dugouts well forward on the road. The car post was linked by telephone with all RAPs. When a bearer party left an RAP, the car post was advised by phone, and a bearer party from the car post met the others halfway. For evacuation to the ADS, two stretcher-carrying jeeps were attached to the car post. Evacuations were carried out only at night except in extreme emergency, for most of the road was in full view of the enemy and traffic was consistently shelled. Even at night German spandaus would put bursts over when they heard the jeeps going down. From the Terelle sector the patients were admitted to the ADS at Sant' Elia. This ADS was reinforced by the operating section from the MDS to deal with priority cases only. Patients were then evacuated direct from there to 1 Mobile CCS at Presenzano, via ambulance track and Route 6. The ADS also handled priority cases from the central Canadian sector. Both 5 and 6 MDSs and 24 Canadian MDS were used for treating sick only.

plans for evacuation

Chain and Methods of Evacuation, Italy 1944

page 553

When the Condito sector on the right was held by 2 Independent Paratroop Brigade, that brigade had an entirely separate line of evacuation via its own MDS at Filignano.

The methods of evacuation used were hand carriage, mules with litters and cacholets, jeeps, and finally ambulance cars. As previously, jeeps fitted with stretcher-carrying frames were invaluable for forward evacuation. The country was so difficult that some units were two and three hours' travelling time from Divisional Headquarters or the most central unit. There were two principal roads serving the divisional line and both were closely observed by the enemy. One, the ‘Inferno’ track from Acquafondata to Portella, was capable of carrying only one-way traffic and strict traffic control was essential. In addition, it was exceedingly steep and full of sharp bends. The other, the ‘Terelle terror ride’, twisted and turned in corkscrew bends for 20 miles, dropping 2000 feet from Acquafondata into the valley of the Rapido, and then climbing again 2000 feet to Terelle. For this country jeeps were almost the only possible means of motor transport.

With the coming of spring the weather was mainly fine, with only occasional heavy showers and a consequent reduction in mud. The sickness rate was reasonably low. There was a steady trickle of battle casualties from enemy fire and patrol clashes.