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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Attack on Rimini

Attack on Rimini

Eighth Army began its attack towards the Gothic line on the night of 25 August, and by the end of the month it was breaking into the defence system along the Foglia River. Pesaro fell to the Poles on 2 September and Canadian and British troops continued the advance on the narrow coastal strip and further inland until page 610 they were brought to a halt by stubborn resistance at the Coriano ridge.

After capturing Coriano, Eighth Army pushed on until it was held up once again at the San Fortunato ridge which dominated Rimini and commanded the eastern entrance to the Po valley. After heavy fighting the ridge fell to the Canadian Corps on 20 September, and the next day Greek and supporting New Zealand troops entered Rimini and the Canadians crossed the Marecchia River to enter the Po valley. At this stage 5 Brigade came up to pass through the Canadian bridgehead and continue the advance towards Ravenna, while 4 Armoured Brigade was also committed on the narrow coastal strip between Route 16 and the sea.

On 22 September 5 Infantry Brigade, together with 22 (Motor) Battalion and 19 Armoured Regiment, took over from 1 Canadian Infantry Division and advanced through and north of Rimini. By the next day 22 Battalion, 21 Battalion and 28 (Maori) Battalion had reached a line 7 miles north of the town. For this attack 5 ADS under Major G. H. Levien serviced its brigade.

Sixth Brigade passed through 5 Brigade's positions early on 23 September, and at 8 a.m. forward elements were 5 miles beyond Rimini and pushing ahead against heavy mortar and small-arms fire. The 6th ADS under Major H. S. Douglas moved forward from a mile and a half south of Rimini to a mile or so north of the town and set up the full ADS there in the local cemetery. During the afternoon and evening the ADS admitted fifty-five wounded from the battalions. Many of them were frankly startled when they realised they had been taken in the ambulance to a moonlit cemetery. At 7.45 p.m. on the 24th 6 Brigade delivered a heavy attack that carried it on to the crossroads at Bordonchio, 7 miles to the north. More than 200 patients, most of them wounded, were carried back to the ADS during the 24th and 25th. By midday on the 26th troops of 6 Brigade were crossing the Uso, and the ADS moved forward to establish itself a mile south of Bordonchio. Here it was in the vicinity of the RAPs, and casualties were frequently carried in direct from the field without any preliminary treatment.

Major Pearse, RMO 25 Battalion, was awarded the MC for his work in this action. On the night of 24–25 September he established his RAP on the infantry start line and, in spite of enemy shelling and with total disregard for his own safety, attended to the wounded immediately, repeating this performance on 26 September when his battalion had crossed the Uso River.

Between 23 and 29 September Major Pearse dealt with 105 battle casualties, 86 from his own unit and 19 from other units. He page 611 analysed the casualties according to the missile causing the wound. The analysis showed: shell wounds 48 per cent; mortar bomb wounds 22 per cent; gunshot wounds 18 per cent; grenade wounds 19 per cent; booby-trap and mine wounds 9 per cent; and unknown cause 1 per cent. The percentage of gunshot wounds was stated to be much higher than was usually seen. Most of the wounds were light, and superficial chest wounds were markedly prominent, only one definite abdominal wound, three severe chest wounds, and two compound fractures of the femur making up the severe injuries.

For the collection of casualties the RAP jeep was used in the main, especially on the night of 24–25 September during the attack. This was the only method available, and served well in spite of adverse conditions. The stretcher-carrying Bren carrier of 20 Armoured Regiment was also employed as much as possible, usually forward of a collecting post to the companies, from which post the wounded were taken to the RAP by jeep. Cases rode very much better in the carrier. In the few cases that came back to 25 Battalion RAP in the carrier the patients were extremely warm and in good condition—the engine heat, reasonably comfortable ride, and sense of security in the carrier all contributed to the well-being of the patient. Major Pearse stated that the sense of security was to his mind an extremely important factor. There were times when the jeep had to unload and patients shelter for a short time from heavy enemy fire which could have been passed through in the carrier. The mental effect on wounded men was noted to be distressing. Major Pearse, a very experienced RMO, was firmly of the opinion that the ideal system of evacuation of wounded across the tracked fields and open country then encountered was by stretcher-carrying Bren carrier flying the Red Cross, especially from the forward exposed areas to a collecting post whence they could be relayed to the RAP.