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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Battle Situation

Battle Situation

The enemy was only slightly delayed on the Egyptian frontier in his drive from Tobruk, and on the morning of 24 June he crossed into Egypt and began to advance swiftly along the top of the escarpment to Matruh, in which area General Ritchie had been ordered to fight a decisive battle. When, however, General Auchinleck assumed personal command of Eighth Army on 25 June, he abandoned the decision to fight a decisive battle in favour of mobile operations which, nevertheless, were intended to cripple the enemy between Matruh and the Alamein line.

On 25 June the New Zealand Division moved out of Matruh to take up a mobile role in the desert in place of the static role in the Matruh Box. Following reconnaissance, the force moved again next day to the main southern escarpment at Minqar Qaim and took up a defensive position. At this stage 4 Field Ambulance had a company under Captain D. McK. Jack attached to 4 Brigade as an ADS with six ambulance cars, and 5 Field Ambulance had a company under Major Edmundson similarly attached to 5 Brigade with six ambulance cars, plus two cars with 21 Battalion, which had been detached to Bir Khalda from the main group. Fourth Field Ambulance also had a detachment with two ambulance cars under the command of the Divisional Reserve Group. The provision of these cars had been made possible by the attachment of five extra AFS cars to each MDS, leaving ten AFS cars which were held in reserve at Rear HQ NZ Division, which had the main bodies of 4 and 5 Field Ambulances under command and was located at Point 178, some 20 miles away from Main HQ NZ Division at Minqar Qaim; page 332 page 333 5 Field Ambulance under Lieutenant-Colonel McQuilkin then established an MDS near Qaret el Gleil.

military plans

Battle of Minqar Qaim and the Withdrawal