Monday 17th December: Tracks Closed.

Brief encounter with a 16H

An Anzac memory from World War 2

maddix park mx

In May 1941, Mr Coughlan, or "Coggy" as he is still known to his fellow vets, was a bren-gunner in the New Zealand Army's 19th battalion. But he was shot through the hand on the first day the battle for Crete began to rage.

The makeshift army hospital at 42nd Street that he was taken to was in a ditch and his wound was never properly dressed.

“It was run by the British Army with British Doctors.  The post, according to British regulations, did not open until 9am everyday and at 9am every day the German planes came over.  There was always a bit of a scrap so “field dressing” was cancelled and they wouldn’t open at any other time of day. Only about half a dozen soldiers got their wounds done each day.”

Coggy spent 6 days there without getting his wound dressed.  By this time, the Germans were advancing on 42nd Street and the Allies were retreating to the coastal town of Sfakia.

"We woke up one morning and found just two of us were left. Everyone else had moved out overnight and they had missed us."

Mr Coughlan and his mate Clefty then began a day-long trek towards Sfakia. Finding an abandoned maintenance truck and first aid post, they acquired clean clothes and water. A cucumber patch provided food and while hiding there, another soldier dispatching information among the allied forces was shot off his motorbike.

"Of course we pinched it. Neither of us knew how to ride it properly. It was a Norton. I hopped on the pillion. Fortunately we came upon somebody else on a motorbike and Clefty asked : How do you change gear on these damn things ?  He didn’t know how to get out of 1st gear ! So after that he was alright, although we fell over at every bloody corner!”

Clefty had pinched a 2 gallon tin of petrol and this was sufficient to get them to Sfakia and from there they were evacuated and sent to Cairo to continue the war in the Western desert.

The photo above shows a fleet of 16 H Nortons ridden by motorcycle despatch riders.  For another Anzac link go to Memories of a Despatch Rider.

If you are interested in how the British Army trained up their despatch riders, CLICK HERE

 
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