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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Changes in Command

Changes in Command

Big changes in command took place in the Eighth Army in August. On 10 August Lieutenant-General Freyberg returned to the desert to resume command of the Division after a remarkably quick recovery from his wound. The General spoke with enthusiasm of the work of all the New Zealand medical services, and had also recently sent a laudatory cable to the Minister of Defence so that the people of New Zealand might be informed. The head of the British medical mission visiting the Middle East had stated to him that, from the point of view of organisation, efficiency, professional ability, and the obvious desire of all ranks to do the utmost for the patients at all times, 4, 5 and 6 Field Ambulances were considered the best in the Middle East.

Lieutenant-General W. H. E. Gott, Commander of 13 Corps, was shot down and killed when enemy fighters attacked the plane in which he was taking off for Cairo from a forward airfield, and on 11 August General Freyberg took over temporary command of the corps. Gott had been chosen to be the new Army Commander. In his stead Lieutenant-General B. L. Montgomery was appointed, and at the same time General Sir Harold Alexander became Commander-in-Chief of all Middle East Forces.

On 20 August Mr Churchill visited our sector of the front. Speaking to a gathering of New Zealanders, representatives from all units in the line, the British Prime Minister paid the Division a striking tribute, saying: ‘You have played a magnificent, a notable, even a decisive part in stemming a great retreat which would have been most detrimental to the cause of the United Nations.’