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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy


page 330

WHILE the long lines of vehicles were carrying the New Zealand Division from Syria to rejoin the Eighth Army, the enemy attacked Tobruk. The assault began at dawn on 20 June, and by last light on the same day the town was in enemy hands. This was a shattering blow, for Tobruk had been held before and everyone expected it would be held again. After this setback Eighth Army's object then was to delay the enemy at the Egyptian frontier as long as possible, in the meantime withdrawing the remnants of the Army to the Matruh-Alamein area.

Advanced elements of the New Zealand Division reached Mersa Matruh from Syria on 19 June, while 4 Infantry Brigade and 5 Infantry Brigade arrived at the same place on 21 and 22 June respectively. On 24 June 6 Infantry Brigade reached Amiriya, just west of Alexandria, and remained there as a general reserve. The 4th and 5th Brigades manned the Matruh ‘Box’ and set about extending the defences which had been prepared originally in 1940.