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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

Wounded Arrive at the MDS and CCS

Wounded Arrive at the MDS and CCS

The first patients, mainly mine casualties, reached 4 MDS about 10 a.m. Heavy shelling and mortaring of the bridges and deep mud on the north bank of the river, negotiable only by jeeps fitted with chains, was delaying the evacuation of casualties. Most of the battalions were equipped with jeeps fitted with stretcher gear made in the divisional workshops. A constant stream of wounded all day until past midnight gave the attached surgical teams and the unit operating teams no let-up. Altogether 131 casualties were admitted and 110 evacuated during the day. With each ambulance car able to make only one trip back to Vasto, it looked at one stage as though the medical units would be short of transport, but the situation was relieved in the afternoon by the arrival of ten American Field Service ambulance cars.

On 29 November 42 wounded were admitted, 14 of them being Germans. Evacuation to the CCS proceeded smoothly, the MDS being emptied of all the previous day's admissions, with the exception of abdominal cases and a few men so seriously wounded in chest and limbs that they were unable to travel.

Just before the battle, 1 Mobile CCS, under Lt-Col Button, had moved up. The Heavy Section, under Maj Brown, stopped at San Severo to provide a staging post near the railhead there, but the Light Section went 70 miles farther up the coast to Vasto, where a large three-storied building held by 5 Field Ambulance was occupied on 22 November. The first casualties were received next day. On the 28th came the wounded from the Sangro crossing, 100 being admitted during the afternoon and evening.

The journey by ambulance car from 4 MDS at Atessa was over treacherous, rough roads. Though only a distance of 30 miles, the ambulances often took four to five hours on the journey, which was via 8 Indian Division's supply route through Scerni and Cupello to Vasto. At night, in blackout conditions, the going was much slower and not without hazard, there being ever the danger of the ambulance slipping off the road in the mud. Frequently there were page 322 delays when heavy army trucks skidded across the road and blocked it. Patients, not to mention the drivers, were very fatigued when they eventually arrived at Vasto, and greatly appreciated a wash and the comfort of new dressings, pyjamas, and, above all, a hot meal.

Since abdominal cases would hardly have survived the trip by this route, they were retained at the MDS at Atessa. Several of these serious cases were being held, and on 1 December the CCS sent forward two nursing sisters, Sisters Simpson2 and Cannell,3 to provide the special post-operative nursing that these patients required. This was the first time that sisters had worked in an active MDS. The sisters (Sister Ussher4 replacing Sister Simpson) remained at the MDS for three weeks.

2 Sister Miss I. M. Simpson, m.i.d.; born Invercargill, 11 Feb 1913; Nurse; Sister 2 Gen Hosp Aug 1941-Sep 1943; 1 Mob CCS Sep 1943-Aug 1944; 2 Gen Hosp Aug 1944-Jun 1945.

3 Sister Miss M. W. Cannell; born Cambridge, 19 Apr 1911; Nurse; Sister 3 Gen Hosp Aug 1941-Jul 1943; 1 Mob CCS Jul 1943-Mar 1944; 3 Gen Hosp Mar 1944-Sep 1945.

4 Sister Miss A. B. Ussher, ARRC; born NZ, 19 Nov 1915; Nurse; Sister HS Maunganui Apr-Nov 1941; 1 Gen Hosp Nov 1941-Mar 1943; 1 Mob CCS Mar 1943-Mar 1944; 2 Gen Hosp Mar 1944-Feb 1945.