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18 Battalion and Armoured Regiment

CHAPTER 33 — Beyond the Liri

page 477

Beyond the Liri

The roads down by the Liri were all confusion and bustle, jeeps dashing about in all directions, big heavy lorries moving up with loads of Bailey bridging, traffic jams and queues, and now the tanks lumbering along to add to the congestion. The infantry of 13 Corps was well across the river and there was no sound of fighting except an occasional shell that screamed in from the west to slow things up. During the day one C Squadron man was wounded by shrapnel, but on the whole the shelling worried the tankies very little. Much worse was the accident to Trooper Gilder,1 who was wounded by a booby trap in the village of Fontana Liri. This was 18 Regiment's first booby-trap casualty, and it shook everyone, for the boys had got into the habit of popping into empty buildings and giving them a quick look over for portable goods. But here by the Liri it would clearly be most unwise, for Jerry had done a first-class job of booby-trapping. Already the choicest buildings were adorned with ‘out of bounds’ notices, roughly painted on doors or walls, with daubed skulls and crossbones to drive home the warning.

Until the Liri was bridged the tanks could only wait. On the way downhill the squadrons separated; C Squadron finished up in Fontana Inferiore near a heavily demolished hydroelectric works, while the engineers worked at full speed to make a bridge across the destroyed dam. A Squadron, two miles to the north, took up a ‘gun line’ overlooking the river and stayed on the alert to support some infantry who were supposed to be crossing there, but there was so little activity in front that the squadron began to wonder what it was there for. Regimental Headquarters followed C Squadron to Fontana Inferiore, then turned south and went back along Route 6 to join 19 Indian Brigade at Arce.

page 478

Some hours before this B Squadron had moved up Route 6 through Arce to the Liri, and was now among the trees near the river two miles downstream from Fontana Inferiore, waiting for the engineers, who were toiling, badly hampered by shellfire, to get a second Bailey bridge up and functioning. It was evening before it was ready for traffic; B Squadron was the first to cross, and the tanks set off uphill, moving in single file along a narrow country road. In the dark without lights this was no fun. Tank commanders had to ride outside or walk in front to keep the drivers on the track. Major Brown says:

I recall getting the tank onto a little stone bridge only to find it crumbling underneath us. We backed off just in time and then had to recce a by-pass—all taking time.

About 3 a.m. the squadron reached a little town called Colli, perched up on a prominent hill overlooking Fontana Inferiore, and stopped to have a couple of hours' rest and wait for dawn. Everyone was more than ready to stop, for it had been a very weary night.

West of the Liri the country was quite different from the scrubby, forbidding uplands to the east. It was richer land, thick with olive trees, the houses bigger, a series of little towns perched on steep knobs. By the map it seemed to be a maze of roads and lanes, branching and curling in all directions like pine roots, but most of them more or less following the grain of the ridges running north-west. It was in this direction that 8 Indian Division was shaping up to run Jerry out of the hills and see him off towards Rome.

At daybreak on 31 May B Squadron (still the only 18 Regiment squadron over the Liri) set out again northwards, the tanks moving with their companies of Indian infantry along the narrow road, now churned up into fine dust by the mass of jeeps and trucks and carriers that crowded it. Sometimes the road followed ridge-tops, sometimes it wound round the shoulders of hills. Out to the left a big town, Monte San Giovanni, crowned yet another sugar-loaf peak; just past it was a shallow green valley, then a bulky hill rose steeply, with the road curving round behind it. Along this road, spying out the land for any signs of Jerry, advanced a scouting troop of page 479
Black and white map of army movement

18 Regt From The Liri River Past Veroli, 31 May–4 June 1944

page 480 tanks under Lieutenant Pat Donnelly,2 along with some Humber armoured cars of 6 Lancers.

Donnelly tells of this advance:

We went on behind the … armoured cars, and met various small pockets of resistance. I always felt these people had been left behind and did not know what was going on for they put up a very poor show. No prisoners were taken but to our certain knowledge a lot of Germans escaped through the trees and into the hills, but we had no way of rounding them up.

The rest of B Squadron, following up some way behind, also saw these groups moving off northwards, but did not engage them because it was impossible to tell who they were—this was becoming quite a habit in B Squadron. So the Germans moved out unhindered, over Colle Lucinetta (the big hill in front) and to safety beyond.

Then, having circled Lucinetta and come up close to a crossroads beyond it, the scouting party ran into bad trouble, which Donnelly describes:

I was leading my three tanks with the Indians behind when on a sharp turn with a house immediately in front an anti-tank gun fired at my tank…. My gunner had his seventy five … actually pointing at this little house as we had been suspecting trouble at all obvious places. He was able to fire through the window…. before Gerry could fire again. Three or four H.Es. into the small house and that finished that.

Another tank then advanced, but about fifty yards round the corner was hit with an anti-tank shell. Donnelly's story goes on:

We opened up with everything we had while the crew got out… and we got them all into our tank then back around the corner. The Indians did not seem to like being held up so one of them went ahead in an armoured car. He was blown up in about 3 seconds.

The Shermans kept up their fire and held Jerry's head down while the Indians brought a wounded man back round the corner; but after that the excitement simmered down until more troops arrived. With no infantry handy, the tanks and Humbers had no prospect of dislodging Jerry, who was firing Spandaus down the road, and obviously had quite a good-sized page 481 rearguard at work. It was not a very happy situation to be in, and the loss of a perfectly good Sherman rankled badly.

The rest of B Squadron was nowhere near this skirmish. A mile or so from Lucinetta the Indians left the road and plunged across country straight at the mountain, the tanks following, or trying to, along paths which, according to Second-Lieutenant Hodge, were ‘built up and just wide enough to take a tank but not strong enough to take its weight’. Some of the tanks had a crack at scattered parties of Germans escaping over the top of Lucinetta, but the result was not too happy, as Jerry began to land shells round the slopes, and the Indians had some casualties. There was no close-range opposition. By the afternoon the Indians were up on the hill and in Monte San Giovanni, still with the tanks close up in support. Reynolds's troop, sent over to the left to support a company of Tommies at Monte San Giovanni, passed close under the town walls and took up position just west of it, but there seemed little point in this excursion, for Jerry gave no sign of life all night, apart from a few lone mortar bombs.

C Squadron was up early on 31 May, and was all ready to get on the road at 6 a.m., but had to kill time for three hours before the Fontana Inferiore bridge was ready. Then it crossed the river and climbed the hill to Colli, and at 11 a.m. headed north with the infantry of 8 Punjab, Lieutenant Tim Cullinane's 9 Troop in the lead, next Lieutenant P. L. Collins's3 10 Troop, twisting and turning along the road towards Lucinetta. By mid-afternoon C Squadron was passing through B Squadron headquarters at the hamlet of Chiajamari, just where the road curved round behind Lucinetta. Then the Indians, who had been riding on the tanks, jumped down and advanced on foot, the tanks following, towards the bend where Donnelly's troop was still held up. Here the Punjabis came under heavy Spandau and mortar fire, the advance stopped, the Indians took cover, and the tanks went into action, Cullinane's troop on the road, Second-Lieutenant Morgan's troop up a hill to the right. Collins's tanks from a little farther back also engaged the slopes where Jerry seemed to be.

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The leading tanks were far too close to the enemy and things went badly at first. Corporal Mick Calnan's4 tank was hit, probably by a bazooka bomb, and ‘brewed up’ very quickly. As the crew piled out a Spandau shot them up, killing Trooper Bert Hill5 and wounding all the rest. Cullinane was killed by the same Spandau. The tanks could not give any effective reply for the moment, for the hills ahead were covered with trees, and they were working blind.

Then, Major Deans says:

I went forward … with 11 Tp and the tanks were placed … where there was some observation possible. Heavy HE and MG fire was directed into the thick cover where Jerry was sited…. I think the Sqn was under the heaviest fire it had experienced…. Our heavy fire checked the Jerries and the infantry did not have to withdraw.

And Lieutenant Barber of 11 Troop recalls that his tanks ‘spread out on either side of the burning tank … firing bursts of M.G. and smoke shells to try and disrupt his perfect view of us’.

This slogging match lasted till dark. While it was at its height Collins's troop arrived up and joined in the party, concentrating on the German machine guns until they fell silent one by one. It was as heavy a fight as any 18 Regiment squadron had ever had. Just about dusk a series of explosions in enemy territory marked the end of a 75-millimetre anti-tank gun; Jerry also had what seemed to be a tank, but nobody could get a view of it. On our side, the Browning barrels were red-hot and their rifling worn away before the day was over.

Even after dark the firing took a long time to die down. It was 11 p.m. before the last tanks pulled back behind the Indians for the night, and well after midnight before their crews were abed, after filling up with fuel and ammunition and having their first meal for many hours. They were all feeling the want of sleep, which for a day or two had been scarce, with the nights broken by picket shifts and early morning stand-to.

So the night of 31 May found 18 Regiment grouped fairly well together, C Squadron farthest forward, then B, then A, page 483 which during the day had gone all the way down the Liri to wait in a queue at the Fontana Inferiore bridge, and after crossing had headed upstream again, ending up with a Royal West Kent unit, after a five-mile trek, just across the river from where it had started. Regimental Headquarters was there too, not far behind A Squadron. A Echelon was over the Liri and parked near Colli. B1 Echelon, which had spent the last few days at various places just off Route 6, moving every second night or so and keeping well up behind the regiment, was not yet over the Liri, but was not far behind.

Judging by Jerry's recent performances, he would probably be gone from in front of C Squadron by morning. During the afternoon Morgan's troop had seen traffic moving away to the west along a road that wound away for several miles through a big valley, then disappeared behind a prominent hill crowned with another large town; evidently his main body was getting out as fast as it could, leaving a rearguard at this strategic crossroads to pull the attackers up short for the night.

And so it turned out. C and A Squadrons were both on the road, moving forward with their infantry, by 5 a.m. on 1 June; the crossroads was deserted, and the boys had a brief opportunity to admire the damage they had done. It was more than they expected—two anti-tank guns, several Spandaus, piles of ammunition and stores, seven stragglers and about forty dead. Obviously they had had much the best of the clash. The rearguard, it appeared from paybooks and other documents, was from the redoubtable 1 Parachute Division, heroes of Cassino, which explained the vigour of its defence.

C Squadron went only two miles or so, then turned off into an olive grove, had breakfast and took life easy, while Royal Frontier Force men went through with A Squadron following closely, and took up the pursuit along the road. As far as anyone could see the country looked peaceful and free of Germans. Veroli (the big town on the hill where the road went out of sight) beckoned hospitably from straight ahead. The valley between was a lovely spot, prosperous farms dozing in the sun, vast orchards, and right in the middle the magnificent monastery of Casamari, with large shady trees surrounded by a high wall, and under the wall a long row of page 484 German graves. The civilians were out in force, lining the road, waving Union Jacks (most of them blatantly home-made), clapping, throwing flowers, embracing the victors in the first enthusiasm of liberation. Here, where the war had largely spared the countryside, the Italians seemed to look on it as a sort of public show—vast contrast to the grim, unsmiling faces round Cassino, where unroofed houses and dead cattle were the lightest calamities most families had suffered.

Just past Casamari, at the Amaseno River (only a creek really) the column stopped for an hour while the infantry had a breather. Then two troops of tanks crossed and set out for Veroli with the leading infantry, the rest of A Squadron following a little farther back.

Out in front were the Lancers' scout cars and Reynolds's troop of B Squadron. They crossed the plain with never a sign of Jerry, then swung to the right, where the road began to rise before doubling back in a hairpin bend up the slope to Veroli. But here, just as at Lucinetta, Jerry was waiting, tucked cunningly in among the thick trees with Spandaus and mortars and light anti-tank guns. From Veroli and the hillsides to the north he began to plaster the column. The Humbers were caught out in the open and three of them were knocked out very quickly; the Shermans replied with all their guns, hammering Veroli, the hillsides and the road near the hairpin bend —in a house just short of the bend, says Reynolds, they cleaned up a lot of Germans. The enemy up on the hills was hard to dig out, but eventually Reynolds called for an artillery ‘stonk’ on a small cemetery which seemed to be the main source of the trouble, and this was very successful, silencing much of the fire. Dusk was coming on now, and the Shermans stopped for the night near a bridge at the hairpin bend. It was not a comfortable position, as there was no infantry there till morning.

While all this was going on, the Frontier Force men and the head of A Squadron had arrived in front of Veroli, and at the foot of the hill, where the road looped to the right, they too ran into trouble. Major Playle tells the story:

The inf. left the road about the beginning of this loop & headed straight at Veroli by way of a lane or track. The leading Coys. were of course in open order & when they closed up to the page 485 town they were pinned down by heavy fire from houses in the town…. I lined up two tps. of tanks into a firing position and poured a lot of shells into the town. It was difficult to pinpoint the enemy positions as the inf. had trouble in describing the building from whence the fire was coming, but we did manage to silence most of the Jerries.

Before the opposition was silenced it made itself very unpleasant for some time, and the Indians lost a lot of men on the open slope below Veroli. Finally A Squadron had to put down a smoke screen in front of the Indians so that they could bring their wounded back. It was a very unsatisfactory little action, with nobody able to get close enough to dislodge the rearguard, and everybody well aware that every hour was taking the enemy's main body farther away to safety. By evening, though the fire from Veroli had dropped to a fraction of what it had been, Jerry was still there and still fighting.

But next morning history had repeated itself. According to his habit, Jerry had vanished overnight, and early in the morning A Squadron went forward again with the Indians (the Frontier Force had somehow changed back to Punjabis). Apart from a few bitter-enders, who were quickly disposed of, there wasn't a German left within reach, and by 7 a.m. Indians and tanks were in Veroli and another heroes' welcome was under way. Early as it was, every Italian in the place was on the streets; there were more flags and flowers, more embraces, and gallons of lemonade from a half-demolished factory. The boys of 18 Regiment were hardly used to lemonade as a drink, but on this warm summer morning it went down very well.

Reynolds's troop, with Indians riding in triumph on the tanks, entered Veroli about the same time as A Squadron. Veroli had certainly not been built with Sherman tanks in mind—the streets were narrow, the corners sharp, and Jerry had blown down buildings that completely blocked the road in several places. The boys would have liked to stay where they were for a while, for Veroli seemed a highly promising town, its people in generous mood. But the hunt was still on. With some reluctance the crews started to clear a way through the debris; then B Squadron, taking over the chase from A, moved on through the town with the Royal Fusiliers, and went page 486 down the hill by a steep winding road through olive trees, with a wide view up a river valley to the north. Road and fields were littered with wrecked trucks and cars, all proof that Jerry had retired in great haste. He had taken a bad knock here, said the civilians—the RAF and the artillery had both got on to him, and this was the result. Our fighters were still overhead most of the time. In the afternoon A and C Squadrons and Regimental Headquarters followed B Squadron down this road, and in the evening the whole regiment had a front-row view when a fighter crashed not far away, going up in a cloud of thick dirty smoke as it hit the ground.

But a lot happened before that.

Up and down the lush green valley below Veroli thick traffic was streaming, the head of the British 78 Division, which had arrived from the south and was now attacking a stubborn rearguard at Alatri, a prominent town crowning the inevitable conical hill two miles north. Quite early in the day B Squadron's leading tanks had met a scouting column of 78 Division Staghound armoured cars on the Veroli road, and there had been a minute or two of tension before the parties recognised each other. Later the tankies had a wonderful view of the attack, Alatri sometimes almost blotted out by shell smoke, the RAF coming over and bombing and strafing all round it. When it was over the Royal Fusiliers moved on again, and B Squadron followed, leaving the road now and taking to the fields, advancing up the valley on 78 Division's right.

For a mile or two this was plain sailing; then, just opposite Alatri, the valley narrowed, the river and the hills came together, and B Squadron, pushing on over the lower slopes, ran into almost impossible country, worse even than the hills east of the Liri. The tanks struggled across a succession of ridges, with steep rises and sharp drops to stream beds, and on every slope vines, vines and more vines. How the crews cursed those endless fields of vines! They seemed to take an age to push through, the Shermans pitching like destroyers in and out of the ditches that paralleled every row, men sitting in front with heavy wire-cutters to hack a passage. There were a few compensations, for the vines were trained on cherry trees, the cherries ripe and luscious; but the grapes, though they had some colour in them, were still too sour.

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Jerry was now pulling back from Alatri, and away ahead up the valley road his transport could be seen, moving as fast as it could, but not always fast enough. The tanks blazed away a few rounds at the retreating vehicles, but they were so far away, and the battle at Alatri had spread such a haze over the valley, that you could not see whether you scored any hits or not. Nearer at hand there were little groups of Germans hastily retiring on foot, some of them not far ahead of the tanks.

It was getting on towards sunset now, and tanks and infantry stopped for the night, still only four miles from Veroli in a straight line, no more than halfway to their day's objective. There were still small parties of Germans round about, some of them escaping right through the lines in the dark, but everybody was too tired to pay much attention to them.

Daylight again, and B Squadron was off again, still at a snail's pace, shoving its way through much the same sort of country. The Fusiliers vanished away ahead. Finally, after casting about for the best way forward, the tanks got into the riverbed itself, and made much better time for a mile or two until pulled up by the wreckage of a bridge strewn all over the riverbed. Major Brown continues the story:

We recced and found a steep track up onto the road which was a high embankment of about 30 feet, turned West back to the main road which we found chocka-block full nose to tail of 78 Div vehicles, and managed to weave our way through this to cross roads at Osta. Pidocco.

This crossroads was a dividing point, where 8 Indian Division and 78 Division parted company. The 78 Division transport swung away to the west and climbed a road out of the valley. A mile and a half straight ahead the valley ended in wooded hills, with the town of Guarcino at their foot, sprawling up a hillside that looked almost vertical. And a mile to the right, perched up on a spur, was another small town called Vico. Out in this direction were the Fusiliers; ahead on the road to Guarcino were some of the Lancers in their armoured cars; and at Guarcino they seemed to have met Jerry's next rearguard. Guarcino, looking straight down the valley, was an ideal place to defend. Spandaus were firing from in front of it and mortar bombs bursting on the flat below. And Jerry's main body was evidently still on the move back, for, says page 488 Major Brown, ‘we could see parties of Germans with the odd mule or horse disappearing up the re-entrants to the north (500 yards) of Vico’.

This could have been a nasty situation. With the Fusiliers in the hills to the east and 78 Division going away to the west, there was nobody on the valley floor but B Squadron and a handful of armoured cars. ‘This was an awful gap’, comments Brown. Fortunately Jerry was not in a counter-attacking mood these days, and the afternoon was quiet except for a swift excursion out to the right by Second-Lieutenant Jack Oxbrow's troop, just before dusk, to extricate two Honey tanks of the Reconnaissance Troop from an awkward spot. These two Honeys had gone off after a party of Germans, but the crews had then been pinned down outside their tanks by Spandau fire, and instead of collecting an armful of loot they might well have gone ‘into the bag’ themselves. But Oxbrow's tanks arrived at the right time and smothered the Spandaus with fire, and the Recce Troop boys were able to get back with no more trouble.

When night fell B Squadron pulled back to a flat field near the Pidocco crossroads and closed in to a ‘tight harbour’, the tanks only a few feet apart, everybody dug in, with Brownings set up in firing positions and extra pickets posted, for the valley could not yet be guaranteed clear of Germans. ‘Fortunately,’ says Brown, ‘not a soul, ours or enemy, came near us.’

The story of this day would be incomplete with no mention of the epic capture of Collepardo, clinging to a cliff in the mountains to the right, by Captain McBeath and Second-Lieutenants Ray Marra6 and Ralph Joyes, unsupported and unarmed. These three, making a very unofficial excursion by jeep up the winding road to Collepardo, found themselves the liberators of the village and the objects of wild local enthusiasm. A stray German who had somehow been left behind was handed over to them, and they were invited to return for what would amount to a civic reception. Then Joyes goes on to say:

We hopped back to H.Q., unloaded the Gerry, strapped on our revolvers, scrounged all the bully beef & chocolate we could lay hands on & set sail again for Collepardo. A second time we were page 489 garlanded & feted and were escorted to the Mayor's house where we had quite a party….

Things were really rocking when panic set in & we were dragged across to the window…. There …, spread right across the valley & advancing in extended order and using every bit of cover were dozens & dozens of Ghurkas from the Indian Div.

We were treated to a Ghurka stalk from the receiving end and very impressive it was too. I'm afraid, our rather ribald greetings from the window above them when they got close enough were not exactly in the best taste, & led to some extremely harsh observations from their O.C. when at last he made his appearance.

Such an opportunity comes once in a lifetime, if that.

Before daylight on 4 June the leading troops of B Squadron were moving out again towards Guarcino. For once Jerry had not stolen away overnight, but was still there in force, with Spandaus firing all round the tanks. As the Lancers' armoured cars drove down the road towards Guarcino the Shermans opened up with everything, shelling the bends in the zigzag road up above the town, and the fire had its effect, cleaning up at least two Spandaus and an anti-tank gun.

But B Squadron could not really take the war seriously this morning, for the news had just come out of the blue that it was to be relieved almost immediately, and so Jerry was suddenly relegated to second place in everyone's mind. Canadian tanks were to come up and take over, and 18 Regiment was to pull back and leave the advance to go on without it. This was unexpected and very welcome news. Shortage of sleep was beginning to tell on everyone, and the tanks were long overdue for maintenance. The only regret was that the relief was coming just when Jerry's withdrawal was getting into top gear, and a swift follow-up seemed likely to yield all sorts of prizes. Rome was ready to fall, and there was a slight general grievance at being left out of the kill—‘Pulled us back on purpose so the bloody Yanks could get there first’—but you could not grumble seriously when there was the prospect of a spell out of action.

The ‘Canucks’ arrived during the morning, and B Squadron went back to join the rest of the regiment below Veroli. A and C Squadrons had spent their two free days getting a little more page 490 practice at co-operation with their Indian infantry—the drill was not perfect yet, but there had been a wonderful improvement since the Melfa River. But now it was time to say goodbye to the Indians with a good deal of regret. Next morning the tanks were to go back again through Veroli, be picked up by transporters and go back to 4 Brigade in the Liri valley, where 2 NZ Division was assembling for a rest and some training.

Everyone was astir well before dawn next day. At 4.30 a.m. the tanks set out in a long procession, up the hill to Veroli and down the zigzag to the Amaseno valley on the other side. But, instead of transporters, there was only the 18th's liaison officer waiting with fresh orders—stay right where you are. After so many months of order, counter-order and last-minute change, nobody was surprised by anything now; and nobody felt like objecting, for this spot looked all right, with plenty of trees, standing crops, and grapes ripening on the vines. So the squadrons quite happily set up camp. During the afternoon A and B Echelons arrived in, and the whole regiment was together again. It had been apart only eleven days, but so much had happened in that time that it seemed like months.

The tankies set to work to groom their neglected steeds. Nobody, except perhaps the harassed LAD staff, looked like breaking his neck over the job, but three days put the tanks to rights again, their minor ailments cured, and it only remained to ‘T & A’ the guns. A few reinforcements had come in to fill the gaps that a campaign always leaves. Then, once the work was done, everyone began to think of relaxation. Veroli, only a mile away, would certainly repay a closer inspection. Leave to Rome, it was hoped, would come soon.

Now that 18 Regiment's second big campaign was over, it was time again to sit down and take stock. The unit had grown up since the Sangro. Much of the bad luck that had plagued it there, the tanks stuck in the mud, the poor co-operation with the infantry, had been due to sheer inexperience, and had not recurred this time. True, conditions had been very much better, dry ground for the tanks, dry atmosphere to improve wireless reception; but also commanders and drivers had learnt much more about their tanks, where they could go, what they could do. They had learnt not to overload them with ammunition. They had learnt that tanks could go up or page 491 down very steep slopes where they could not go round them without capsizing.

Probably the most notable aspect of the campaign, from 18 Regiment's point of view, was the discovery of what the Honey ‘recce’ tanks could do. They were an enormous advance on the old scout cars and a great asset to the regiment. They went where not even jeeps could go, especially with their big heavy turrets taken off. They carried supplies right up to the topmost hills; they explored the flanks while the Shermans forged ahead; they were mobile wireless links between the squadrons and Regimental Headquarters; they carried squadron and company commanders round the countryside, they carried engineers and LAD men and medical orderlies wherever their jobs called them. In short, they had a dozen different uses.

This Liri valley war had been less a shooting party than a war of movement and co-ordination, a wireless war, a real-life manoeuvre. Casualties had been only three killed and 21 wounded. The biggest and most spectacular actions had by chance fallen mainly to B Squadron—the DSO awarded to Major Brown could truly be called a decoration for his whole squadron—but the campaign had been a triumph of hard, skilful work by every squadron and every tank.7.

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The 18th brought away from the Liri valley, as a permanent legacy, a warm regard for 8 Indian Division, which was just as heartily returned. When the tanks moved out past Veroli on 5 June Major-General Russell, the divisional commander, stood on a crossroads thanking them as they went past. And in a letter to Lieutenant-General Freyberg he paid the regiment a tribute:

I wish you to know how glad I was to have your 18 NZ Armd Regt under my command. They fought well and nothing was too difficult for them to tackle…. All ranks of the Regiment made every effort to make it easy for my Indian troops to co-operate with them; with extremely happy results….

How different the history of the war could have been if the various arms of the service had always combined so well.

1 Tpr A. B. Gilder; Hastings; born Napier, 22 Mar 1921; storeman; wounded 30 May 1944.

2 Capt G. P. Donnelly, m.i.d.; Hastings; born NZ 25 Jun 1915; farmer; wounded 31 May 1944.

3 Capt P. L. Collins, MC, m.i.d.; Hastings; born Wellington, 1 Jan 1917; warehouseman; four times wounded.

4 Cpl J. B. Calnan; Wellington; born NZ 2 Sep 1914; storeman; wounded 31 May 1944.

5 Tpr G. Hill; born NZ 28 Mar 1915; linesman; killed in action 31 May 1944.

6 Lt J. R. Marra, m.i.d.; Helensville; born NZ 13 Nov 1913; fat-stock buyer

7 Appointments in 18 Regt in early June 1944:

CO: Lt-Col H. A. Robinson
2 i/c: Maj A. S. Playle
Adjt: Capt A. J. McBeath
IO: 2 Lt J. R. Marra
RHQ subaltern: 2 Lt R. A. Pickett
MO: Capt W. A. D. Nelson
Padre: Rev. R. M. Gourdie
LAD: Capt N. J. Grant

HQ Sqn
OC: Maj R. J. Stanford
2 i/c: Capt G. B. Nelson
Recce: Capt C. O. McGruther
2 Lt R. B. Joyes
Tech Adjt: Capt C. N. James
QM: Lt R. H. Ferguson
Sigs: 2 Lt C. A. McKenzie

A Sqn
OC: Maj A. H. Dickinson
2 i/c: Capt W. A. Pyatt
2nd Capt: Capt C. S. Passmore
Lt J. R. Gillies
Lt L. M. Brosnan
Lt J. L. Wright
2 Lt S. B. Onyon
Capt J. B. Oliphant

B Sqn
OC: Maj K. L. Brown
2 i/c: Capt E. C. Laurie
2nd Capt: Capt S. B. Edmonds
Lt C. B. A. Jamison
2 Lt J. H. Hodge
2 Lt W. H. Reynolds
2 Lt A. J. Oxbrow
2 Lt W. H. Fowler
2 Lt W. G. Kendall

C Sqn
OC: Maj H. H. Deans
2 i/c: Capt B. W. Tipling
2nd Capt: Capt: Capt O. H. Burn
Lt. H. A. Barber
Lt P. L. Collins
Lt J. R. Greenfield
2 Lt W. A. Morgan
2 Lt L. E. Anderson

RSM: WO I D. S. Wilson