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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

6 ADS Captured

page 167

6 ADS Captured

On the nights of 29 and 30 November 6 ADS evacuated to Tobruk hospitals some 600 wounded from the battered 6 Brigade, a total which had called upon all the resources of the staff as they treated them. On the evening of the 30th, after despatching the second of its convoys of wounded to Tobruk, the ADS was obliged to move as a tank attack was expected on the part of the perimeter where it was sited. Packing the trucks, the men moved farther up the slopes of Belhamed, where they slept in the trucks for the night. At dawn next morning an enemy attack broke on the south-eastern slopes of Belhamed, right by the ADS, which was soon overrun. Two men of the ADS staff were killed and six wounded.

The captured medical men, with the wounded bringing up the rear, were marched up the main escarpment. Capt Staveley was wounded in the leg, but marched with his men. Most of them were forced to march a long distance west across the desert but were later taken in trucks to the prison camp at Benghazi. Capt Staveley, with four men of the company and six regimental stretcher-bearers, remained at a German RAP near the edge of the escarpment. Later in the day they were taken to the German hospital at El Adem.

On the afternoon of 2 December Capt Staveley was severely wounded by a shell. That night the hospital grounds were bombed and machine-gunned by the RAF, but no direct hits were made on any building used as a ward. The tide of battle was turning again in favour of the British forces, and during the night the Germans began a general evacuation. During 3 and 4 December they evacuated the wounded, leaving behind only 25 British wounded in the care of a small German medical staff, as well as Capt Staveley and five of his men. Then on 8 December all the remaining Germans left, taking seven of the wounded. The small staff of New Zealanders cared for the remaining 18 patients until relieved on 10 December by a British infantry patrol. By this time seven of the wounded had died. Later that day staff and patients were taken to Tobruk.