Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
Field Ambulances Reorganised
Field Ambulances Reorganised
The long-projected reorganisation of the three field ambulances was completed in November, the aim being to scale down medical units in a general reorganisation of the Division, which included the absorption of troops from the disbanded 3 NZ Division. By the end of the month all three field ambulances were operating under a new establishment, with an enlarged Headquarters available as MDS when required and one company permanently attached to its brigade as ADS. The second company in each field ambulance (B Company) was eliminated.
On the 14th 6 Field Ambulance held it last ceremonial parade and march past in three companies, the ADMS, Colonel R. D. King, taking the salute. Colonel King commended the unit for its smartness and the general excellence of the parade; but he was unaware that watching him from where they were sprawled among the trees were men who should have been taking part in the parade.
By a coincidence the reorganisation of 6 Field Ambulance and the fourth anniversary of its arrival in the Middle East fell on the same day, and in the evening a combined anniversary and farewell dinner was held in the castle hall. For days one of the officers, with the administrator of the Rocca Lanciano estate to do the haggling, had toured the countryside buying turkeys, and the cooks equalled any of their Christmas-dinner feasts of the past.
The impressive hall and long tables lined with bottles of beer, menus, and toast lists made a sight calculated to boost any man's feelings, even if he regretted the passing of his unit's B Company (as many naturally did). In the first comparatively silent period 250 pairs of capable jaws were steadily exercised, and then the hall buzzed with genial conversation through which floated the violin notes and the rich tenor voices of the Italian entertainers. The 6 Brigade Band was expected; but unfortunately it spent most of the evening on the wrong side of a washed-out bridge and, after completing the journey on foot, arrived to find a gabble and uproar that would have discouraged even massed bands.page 397
Toasts were drunk to the King, the Medical Corps, and the unit, and then with no further reason for remaining at the tables, the crowd merged and formed into groups that shifted, dissolved, and reformed, while the hall boomed and echoed to laughter and song.
Before the return to the line, leave to Rome and Florence was allotted as liberally as possible, and 5 Field Ambulance operated a leave camp at Civita Castellana. Since the clearance of the enemy from Florence a New Zealand Forces Club had been established in a former hotel, and members of the units were soon to be heard recounting their experiences in that city and comparing it with Rome. Partly because of its mauling by the passing conflict, Florence suffered by comparison. In many of the churches priceless paintings and sculpture of the Renaissance era had been either bricked up, sandbagged, or removed, and the famous picture galleries were not open for inspection, so many of their exhibits having been deposited elsewhere for safer keeping. Nevertheless, Florence had many attractions and was notable for the number of people able to speak good English.