This is the second entry from the diary of Capt. Treffry Thompson (RAMC) describing his experiences on the retreat, the start of which I shared with you on November 26th.
28/10/17 “The patients, who were lying in the ordnance sheds, well supplied with blankets, were now ordered to be evacuated through St. Georgia. Only eight ambulances available, but all worst cases sent under G. They eventually failed to get a train at St. Georgia and had to proceed to Postoguaro and were 13 hours in the ambulances.”
With these patients off his hands, Treffry turned his thoughts to his group:
“Being allowed free run of ordnance stores, as it was going to be fired shortly, we picked what we wanted… While we were in this store a huge fire started on opposite side of town covering whole place with dense black smoke, and we were all ordered out at a minute’s notice from the store and town….
We found a seething conglomerate mass pouring through the Udine gate and up the westerly road to Codroipe.
Orders were then received to march from Palmanova to Codroipe in order to cross the River Tagliamento and find what they hoped would be safety.
“We reformed officers, personnel, Italian interpreter, Rici (an Italian opera singer attached to the hospital), 25 walking patients and a few others…”
At this point an AOC officer, claiming to know the quickest way to the bridge over the Tagliamento, promptly marched them round Palmanova and a further six miles south before heading in the right direction.
“B and I brought up the rear, urging on the stragglers, which was a pretty heartrending job. The men began to shed their kits into the ditches and frequent halts were necessary. Rici the singer was very lame, but stuck to us and an enormous pack of kit…
We finally reached Gonas about 1 p.m., with the men very done, as they had then marched 16-17 miles and had had no rest since the day before and no food since the evening before…
We got the men some apples and pears and temporary shelter in an evacuated hospital. We shared a small bit of bully given by an Italian officer between the six of us. It was decided to push on to the next village at least, as there was no food in Gonas and the civilians were evacuating.”
At the next village there they found a larger evacuated hospital for the night.
“Got the men some food, first of the day – one tin of sardines between three, and half a loaf of bread per man…
Slept like logs, having done some 20-22 miles.”