A SHORT HISTORY
OF 485 COMPANY
OF THE AMERICAN FIELD SERVICE

August 30, 1942 --- May 2, 1945

 

HEADQUARTERS,
AMERICAN FIELD SERVICE C M F

This informal and brief account of the activities of 485 Company is offered as a memoir to its members and friends until its deeds are recounted in fall and just detail in the official history. Also, now that the unit is on the eve of demobilisation and many of its newer members are joining other AFS units for service in the PACIFIC, I hope that through this narrative they will come to understand better the spirit of comradeship, gallantry and efficiency that has all ways and at all times marked the Company and carry it with them to their new units.

No mention has been made of the many instances of individual valour and achievement, nor has any been made of many actions in which the Company distinguished itself. They, along with record of many of the Company's favourite units, have been sacrificed for the sake of brevity, but will be treated .fully in the official history, which, this does not purport to be or to replace.

W. H. PERRY

MAJOR
Commanding

1 July 1945

 

I.

485 Company was formed in August/September 1942 of members on active service in the MIDDLE EAST with two platoons under command Eighth and Ninth Armies, respectively. This arrangement remained until the end of the African Campaign when the personnel of the platoons in Eighth Army together with their officers joined 567 Company of the AFS. At that time 485 Company HQ consolidated with that of the detachment in SYRIA and immediately reorganised into three platoons, being brought to strength in October with the reactivation of D Platoon. However, it was not until January, 1944, that the Company was to operate as a single unit. A and B Platoons left Ninth Army in August, 1943, and reached ITALY in October; the remaining two platoons followed in December/January 1943-44. From that time forward to the end of the Campaign the whole Company was on Service in ITALY.

II.

The Company's first battle was the Axis EL ALAMEIN offensive August 30 --- September 10, 1942, coincident with its designation as 485, under command of the Eighth Army. In this initial action, the unit lived up to the high standard set for the Field Service in the first World War and by the preceding units in the second in the actions at MINQAR QA'AIM and BIR HACHEIM, and others during the retirement to the EL ALAMEIN line. Of its deportment on this specific occasion, there is recorded in the diary of one medical unit, "No word of praise could be too high for the officers and men of the AFS who worked day in and day out with our own ambulance drivers bringing in men from the most exposed position, and enabling early treatment to be provided for men who would otherwise have undergone much suffering".

Shortly after this action, the Company was withdrawn from the line and attached to 10 Corps, which was at that time, under conditions of utmost security, in process of formation. The attachment was regarded as an honour as this then armoured corps had been selected for a role of great importance, that of administering the coup de grâce in the oncoming offensive.

It was with the units of 10 Corps that 485 went in at EL ALAMEIN. After heavy fighting the line was broken on 4th November, and the Corps commenced the pursuit of the enemy. That day at EL DABA in the battle of TEL EL AQQIRIR, the Corps gave him a sound trouncing and took thousands captive.

From EL DABA forward, the chase was on.... FUKA, MATRUH, SIDI BARRANI, HALFAYA SOLLUM, FIG TREE WELLS, BARDIA, EL ADEM, TOBRUK, RZEM, MARTUBA, DERNA, BARCHI, AGEDABIA, and EL AGHELIA all fell in swift succession. This victorious pursuit gave particular satisfaction to some members of the Company who remembered their hasty visits to many of the sites the previous June.

In November/December '42, 10 Corps was given a deserved rest and 485 Company was pulled out with it, very much against the company's desires.

Thereupon ensued what is known in the Company as the "long wait", for it was to be March at MARETH before it was to see action again. It was while the unit was "resting" at TIMIMI and later at MARBLE ARCH that it bore heavy responsibility in the arduous rear evacuations, often carrying the sick and wounded as far as TOBRUK. It was, of course, disappointing and there was much heart-burning, as is always the case when an AFS member or unit is left out of battle. Notwithstanding, the job was well done and the Company gathered fresh honours for its ability to do an unwanted, unwelcome task efficiently.

In March, still under command of 10 Corps, the long wait was ended and on the 17th HQ was established at MEDENINE, where the long awaited forward assignments were given. However, almost immediately they were recalled, due to the course of the battle, and the Company given short orders to join 10 Corps in the now famous "Left Hook" exploit. The difficult movement itself is a matter of distinct pride to the whole Field Service. Despite the fact that it was the last ambulance unit to leave the MEDENINE area over the crowded, dusty and rough tracks through FOUM TATAHOUINE to BIR SOLTANE, it was the first and only one to arrive in time for the scheduled battle. It gave particular satisfaction to members of the Company as scarcely a month previous the new DDMS Corps had declared he could not envisage any superiority of its services. It was very agreeable that its first active contact with him was in such good form.

The Company was fully employed in the battle for EL HAMMA that broke the MARETH Line and forced another retreat of the Axis forces. They were very busy and exciting days during which a section was completely surrounded and narrowly escaped capture or worse.

In the pursuit, including the battles at WADI AKARIT and at ENFIDAVILLE, the Company was fully represented and rendered very valuable services. The Eighth Army's task was completed at the capture of ENFIDAVILLE,; detachments of the Company, however, went with the 7th Armoured Division and the 4th Indian Division to 1st Army and were in on the kill.

With the surrender of the Axis forces, the Company moved to TRIPOLI (WEST) where its personnel and vehicles, with the exception of headquarters and workshops, joined 567 Company, Army having decided some time previously to form one complete A.C.C. This was hard for many of 485. Rivalry between the two units had been intense and each had developed great pride in their respective exploits. However, with the cooperative spirit that has always characterised 485 they became members of the other company, and since have made a substantial addition to its splendid record. One of the old 485 members is the present officer commanding 567, another is the 2 i/c. Aside from commanding 567, former members of 485 today command the AFS in C.M.F., S.E..A.C. and B.L.A.

III.

Meanwhile, the two platoons in SYRIA had performed base work and participated in various training schemes with units under command Ninth Army. In addition, it had filled a highly valuable function for the Service as a training and replacement unit. The flow of new arrivals was customarily assigned it for training and experience before being sent to the desert to reinforce both companies. This role ceased with the desert victory and the consolidation of the two HQs in May 1943 when the Company was reorganised.

A and B Platoons were brought up to strength and C Platoon immediately reactivated from a large reinforcement that had arrived recently from the U.S.A. in October, with another reinforcement, D Platoon was reactivated and the Company thus brought up to full strength.

In August of 1943 the lessened commitments in Ninth Army passed to one Platoon, C, when A and B left for TRIPOLI (WEST) where they arrived in September again to go u/c 10 Corps. It landed in ITALY at SALERNO on 3rd October and commenced service the following day. The two platoons in the, MIDDLE EAST followed in December/January and from that time forward the Company has functioned at full strength under one command.

IV.

Within a week after its arrival in ITALY on 3rd October the Company had detachments with 10 Corps units and had, continuously, throughout the winter. Other sections, for the same period, had a large share of the Corps evacuations from ccs rear as well as duty in General Hospitals in the NAPLES area. Again, the Company was saddled with base work and in it had at times to employ half its vehicles. With usual good grace, it gave another unwanted job its very best performance, as the generous praise showered on it will testify.

The detachments with 10 Corps units were in the VOLTURNO crossings and the advance to the GARIGLIANO, and the clearing of the MONTE CAMINO massif in December. Later, in January, a large detachment was in the bloody crossing of the GARIGLIANO, and "the job it turned out was on a high level of excellence and eclat" to quote in part a Field Ambulance commander.

In December-January the platoons from the, MIDDLE EAST arrived and went on service.

In January, also, vehicles and members of 485 landed in the first waves at ANZIO-NETTUNO and for the duration of the beachhead the quality of the service of those there wrote another proud page in the history of their Company and Service.

Detachments of the Company were committed at CASSINO variously whilst that sector was held by British forces.

After 10 Corps reverted to Eighth Army command March/April, the Company's responsibilities gradually shifted, in the main, to 13 Corps though detachments remained with 10 Corps.

In the battles breaking the GUSTAV and HITLER lines, the portions of the Company committed in these actions acquitted themselves in the best tradition. In that bitter fighting, there were many examples of gallantry and, what is sometimes more, endurance. During the height of the battles, for example, at the RAPIDO crossing one man evacuated 100 patients in 48 hours.

When the lines were broken, the Company joined in the advance with 13 and 10 Corps in the bitter fighting that cleared the LIRI Valley. This was accomplished on 4 June, the day ROME fell, and thereafter the forces fanned out from the head of the LIRI Valley to TERNI and PERUGIA and from the area of ROME to VITERBO-ORVIETO-CHIUSI. There the advance halted where the enemy resisted on his TRASIMENO line. This brought another period of hard work well done for the unit. When the line was broached on the 28th there was little respite. Within ten days the German had reached the ARNO valley and AREZZO where he again offered resistance.

In the enemy's stand at AREZZO in early July, the Company won fresh laurels for its performance in the battle that raged for ten days. On the 16th he withdrew toward the ARNO, powerless to impede the victorious march. Less than a month later FLORENCE fell and he withdrew to his GOTHIC line high in the APPENINES. Members of the Company were amongst the first troops into FLORENCE, some entering in advance of infantry patrols.

The capture of FLORENCE brought no pause. Eighth Army pursued him relentlessly and by early winter had succeeded in driving him out of his aerie.

This ushered in new and changed experiences for the Company. The winter was a bitter one and the mountainous roads presented some of the most difficult driving conditions ever experienced. The members of the Company gave their best efforts under excruciating conditions and the fact that their performance during that hard winter was never below their customary high level is a testament to the Company's devotion.

The enemy was to remain on his line east of BOLOGNA along Highway 9 east to FAENZA and thence north to RAVENNA until Spring. However, in the mighty offensive of March/April he was given his final thrashing in best fashion and the ensuing rout was a fitting preface to his unconditional surrender on 2nd May 1945.

The Company served in the final battle and in the final victorious pursuit.

Many tributes have been paid the gallantry and sacrifice of the Company throughout all these actions. A company commander of a Guards Battalion states, in part, "They have settled down to the most arduous and dangerous duties, performing them with a skill and gentleness which could not have been bettered". A Field Ambulance Commander writes, "The men.... exhibited outstanding qualities of reliability and intelligence.... One looks back and remembers their line efforts.... where they too were proud to share the glory of battle with us". Another, "Their high courage and devotion to duty were an example to all who saw their work, and was frequently praised not only by the RAMC, but also by the fighting soldiers among whom they worked and lived".

These statements are duplicated many times in respect of every task the Company has performed since its formation.

Much praise is due the RASC Workshops detachment that has served with the Company since its early days. Its members have rendered sterling service consistently, without which the contribution of 485 Company would have been less, if not impossible. Some of this unit have served the whole of their overseas duty with the AFS.

495 Company has all times taken pride in delivering a first-rate job and also in the friendships it has made. It has served formations from the UK, NEW ZELAND, SOUTH AFRICA, INDIA, CANADA, POLAND and GREECE as well as carried the wounded of other nationalities. Friendliness and comradeship have characterised its dealings with all. The members of the unit retain limitless admiration for the brave and good men they have served, and the friendships they have made among all their ranks are legion. They will remain one of the deepest satisfactions of their participation in the war as will the pride that neither their friends nor their nations can ever again be foreign.

.

COMMANDING OFFICERS

MIDDLE EAST

Eighth Army

Capt. W. L. MARSH, Sep. --- Dec. '42
Capt. F. W. HOEING, Dec. '42 --- May 143

Ninth Army

Capt. CHAUNCEY IVES, Sep, '42 --- May '43
Major F. W. HOEING, May '43
Capt. C. W. EDWARDS, May --- Aug. '43
Capt. CARLETON RICHMOND, Aug. --- Dec. '43

CENTRAL MEDITERRANEAN

Capt. C. W. EDWARDS, Aug. '43---Jan. '44
Major C. W. EDWARDS, Jan. '44---Jul. '44
Major J. E. NETTLETON, Jul. --- Nov. '44
Major R. Mc.K. MITCHELL, Nov. '44 --- May '45

.

DESIGNATIONS

11 AFS ACC 485 Coy September '42 --- May '43
485 AFS ACC May '43 --- July '44
485 Coy RASC (AFS) AC July '44

 

INSIGNIA

The insignia of the Company is a white griffin on the Red Cross; the half-eagle, half-lion composition of the griffin symbolising the British-American nature of the unit.