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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

The Alamein Line

The Alamein Line

The Alamein line, where General Auchinleck had decided to make his stand, was at the end of June merely a loosely connected system of defended localities. The line, beginning at the village of Alamein on Arab's Gulf, extended south-south-west across Ruweisat Ridge a distance of 35 miles to the north-east tip of the impassable Qattara Depression. The defences included three strongpoints: Alamein in the north; Qaret el Abd (Kaponga Box),1 a fortified central point; and Naqb Abu Dweis, a defensive position in the southern sector bordering the Qattara Depression. When 6 Brigade page 340 page 341 moved up during the battle of Minqar Qaim it occupied the Kaponga fortress upon which 5 Brigade had worked a year before.

military plans

Pre-Alamein battles: Medical Units and Lines of Evacuation

military plans

4 NZ Field Ambulance 16–28 July 1942 (Not to scale)

When columns of 4 and 5 Brigades arrived in the fortress area on the morning of 29 June they re-formed north-west of the Kaponga Box, which was held by 6 Brigade, with mobile patrols maintaining a protective screen to the north and west. Similarly, farther south, troops of 5 Indian Division occupied Naqb Abu Dweis. At night there was a certain amount of aerial bombardment.

On 30 June both 4 and 5 Field Ambulances moved some miles east and 5 Field Ambulance remained closed in reserve, while 4 Field Ambulance opened an MDS at Deir el Tarfa, which it maintained until 7 July. Each field ambulance had an ADS company operating with its brigade. Evacuations were carried out by 16 MAC and 2 MAC. At that time 14 CCS was functioning at the medical centre of Gharbaniyat whilst 15 CCS, after moving back steadily in the retreat, was temporarily sited on the El Halfa ridge on the line of evacuation behind 4 MDS. Ambulance cars were redistributed among the New Zealand units as follows: 4 Field Ambulance, 7 New Zealand cars and 11 AFS cars (7 being at the ADS); 5 Field Ambulance, 4 New Zealand cars and 8 AFS cars (5 being at the ADS); and A Company 6 Field Ambulance, 4 New Zealand cars. At this stage medical supplies were unprocurable and stocks of blankets and stretchers, etc., were rapidly diminishing because the CCSs were unable to replace them.

Our casualties were evacuated by desert tracks to the old road near the railway where a medical centre had been formed by 14 British CCS.

1 The position was also known as the Qattara Box, from its position on Bab el Qattara.