Neil Hinks

Flight 1 went Monday morning --- Flight 2 Didn’t go --- Flight 3, 22 single men were to look after patients who couldn’t be moved easily & if opportunity arose were to go some time after Flight 2.  Ha, Ha! Nurses left Saturday and last of walking wounded evacuated to the coast on Saturday night.

 

Sunday morning 27 th April 1941. German trucks going along highway to Athens from 0800. About 0900,  I saw my first German soldier close up – with a Tommy gun under his arm – walking through the pine trees before the tented medical ward.

 

It was some considerable time later that I was called to the orderly room. Apparently it was thought that I would be of use as I had learnt some German at school. Some hope that was! I do remember now going out to talk to some of the Jerries with you, but I have always been under the impression that you had seen and spoken to them before that. If as you say you had been on night duty & were dragged out of bed to see them, it may well have been our first encounter with them. I do remember this, that I hardly understood a word that was said & that you did all the talking and we men told to carryon as we had been, but were not to leave the hospital boundaries, nor our sleeping quarters (tents) at night.

 

Moved to Kokinnia about a fortnight later. Unit was built up after a time with members of the 26 th British General Hospital plus Australian & NZ Field Ambulance personnel. Wounded from Crete brought in first & included Greeks, Yugoslavs, Cypriots, British, Kiwis and Aussies.

 

Then wounded from Crete were flown in & place was so overcrowded some patients were put on stretchers along the corridors. Bug infested beds brought in and the whole place was overrun with them. They hung in clusters under beds, in dormitories & we burnt the bed frames with primuses to kill eggs, washed beds with disinfectant and stood legs of beds in tins of water away from the walls to prevent re-infestation. Patients had them under their plaster casts & used to squash them on ceilings with their crutches.

 

Food short – 1 slice of bread & lard & and cup of black coffee for breakfast, lentil or tripe & peas (sawdust) soup for lunch, & a piece of salty tunney for tea. Diet supplemented with tomatoes, eggs & grapes when available from Red Cross canteen, -- Alan G Jones canteen sergeant. – Sand fly fever broke out & quite a few patients and staff laid up with it.

 

Band formed & did a wonderful job in helping rehabilitation of patients – English pianist who had lost an eye & had his hand injured, Royal Artillery sergeant saxophone and for trumpet, Sid Bishop accordion, Roy Smith guitar & Ray Crichton banjo.

 

Concerts arranged for patients and staff in quadrangle. Boxing contests and 2 athletic meetings held together with bookmakers. ‘Lucky’ Mick McGee was cleaned out and is probably still in debt. Very few had mail from home in Greece. (I got my first letter in Germany in April ’42). 2 Red Cross issues at Kokinnia, I at Salonika

 

Patients as they recovered sent to Convalescent Depot & then to Germany. One party of 5AGH (Frank Hebberd among them I think) went off to Germany with a hospital train.

 

 Last of the patients & remainder of the unit aboard Italian freighter about Dec. 13 to Salonika.  10 or 12 days on train to Thorn, which was reached on New Year’s Eve. (1941)

 

Activities in Thorn:  Band, concerts, cricket, Athletics, Basketball, Chess, Library, Examinations in Accountancy, Royal Society of Arts in French and German, London Uni. Matriculation, Mangelwurzer bartering & pumping water.

 

 Radio news from BBC – set built in Fort XV, news typed and circulated next day. ‘Nix Arbeit’ badges which annoyed the Jerries – I was caught with one on when they searched us before we pulled the NCOs baggage to the station one time. It caused quite a stir until they found a map in a Kiwi’s sock and stripped him to his underpants & boots searching for more contraband.

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