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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

6 MDS on Manoeuvres

6 MDS on Manoeuvres

The easy leisure first enjoyed by the medical units came to an abrupt halt on 12 March, when they swung into a schedule of strenuous training. The mornings slipped past in a routine of parades, squad drill, and saluting practice, with an occasional route march to break the monotony. The afternoons were devoted to lectures and training in the pitching of tents and tarpaulin shelters, all very necessary in view of the number of reinforcements now in the units.

New tarpaulins arrived for some of the centres and new side and top ropes had to be fitted. Finally the last hank of thread was snipped, and all the tentage was erected for the commanding officer's inspection. Then HQ 6 Field Ambulance packed and loaded and moved out for practice in setting up a battle MDS.

It was a pleasant afternoon. The recently formed 9 Brigade was out on manœuvres, and files of infantry passed the MDS. The reports of 25-pounders reverberated through the hills above, and page 412 the distant rattle of rifle fire recalled dim impressions of Trentham, of lectures in the sun-warmed grandstands, and the hypnotic effect of the sporadic rattling from the rifle range up the valley. In a nearby field two farmers followed their ploughs and slow teams of oxen, their families strung out behind them planting potatoes. There was a disturbance when two girls and a man came running down from a hillside farm uttering distressing cries. Someone had been wounded while tampering with a grenade. A medical officer went up with an ambulance car, and the casualty was sent off to the civilian hospital at Fabriano.

Italy was passing from winter into spring. After a period of warm, sunny days, fruit trees were unexpectedly in bloom by mid-March; and, with the improved conditions, such straws in the wind as the visit of a British field transfusion unit to draw supplies of blood from New Zealand units turned the men's thoughts once again to the resumption of active operations.

On 26 March the commanding officer received preliminary orders regarding the expected move. Dates were given at a conference of medical officers on the 28th. The Division was moving forward to take over a sector on the Senio River from 78 British Infantry Division, preparatory to taking part in what was expected to be the decisive battle.

Allied and German troops watched each other across the lines of the Italian front, which had now ceded its place in world interest to the battles in Northern Europe. In the long winter months 25 divisions of Germans and five of Fascist Italians had been tied down. Preparations for a spring offensive had been proceeding, and this was timed to start when the flooding rivers had subsided and the wet ground would bear the weight of armour.

On the east of the front in the Po Valley the enemy was entrenched behind the Senio, with prepared lines on the Santerno, Sillaro, Gaiana, Quaderna, and Idice rivers, all comparatively wide and steeply banked. In General Mark Clark's plans for 15 Army Group the main effort was to be launched by Fifth Army in the Bologna area, after a thrust north-west across the Senio River on the Eighth Army front to draw off enemy reserves.

At the beginning of April 2 NZ Division moved from its rest area towards the Senio River, where on 2 April, under command of 5 Corps, it took over a sector of the line north of Faenza, with page 413 8 Indian Division on its right and 3 Carpathian Division and 5 Kresowa Division of 2 Polish Corps on its left. The first eight days of the month were used to clear the enemy from the near, or eastern, stopbank and in active patrolling. These operations produced 120 battle casualties. The assault on the Senio was fixed for 9 April.