2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery
Return to Maadi
Return to Maadi
Leave to Tunis began at once and one man per troop left on the 13th. More went unofficially and others went in the other direction, to Kairouan, one of the holiest cities of Islam. Next day Artillery Headquarters issued a movement order and Egypt was the destination. Vehicle maintenance at once became an urgent task.
After a Divisional Artillery church parade on the 15th, conducted by Padre Buck,50 formerly chaplain of the 4th Field, the CRA gave an address and presented some immediate awards. When the 5th Field returned to its lines there was a further speech, this time of farewell from ‘Gussy’ Glasgow. He was to assume command of Base Camp with the rank of colonel. The hard task of following him as CO of the regiment was to fall on the tall shoulders of Lieutenant-Colonel Thornton.
On the 16th, when all too few of the gunners had had a chance of sampling the delights of Tunis in a carnival mood, the Divisional Artillery was on the road and moving south. The route was inland by way of Kairouan and then through Gabes, past the Mareth line with its formidable defences, through Medenine, Ben Gardane, and Suani Ben Adem to a staging area south of Tripoli on the 18th. There the 3572 men and 884 vehicles spent a day resting, and in the course of it they had to hand over to local authorities trailers, ammunition and jeeps. In return they received Patriotic parcels, mail and a little beer, and in the evening the Kiwi Concert Party gave a memorable performance.
The next staging area was Benghazi on the 24th, with a rest next day in the course of which many gunners saw the town for the first time and marvelled at the huge aerodromes for long-range bombers of the RAF and USAAF. Then came the winding journey through the foothills of the Green Mountain, page 514 very different from the desert route through El Haseiat on the first of the Divisional left hooks. The journey, when it ended at Maadi Camp on 1 June, added up to 1820 miles (taking an average of the distances recorded by the pick-ups of 47 Battery). The 4th Field were pleased to be greeted on arrival by Gordon Stewart, recovered from the wounds he suffered at Medenine.
At parties that night the news leaked out that furlough to New Zealand was in the offing, and next day details of the ‘Ruapehu Scheme’ were announced. It was for selected officers and married men of the first three echelons and a proportion of single men chosen by ballot. They would spend three months at home and then, in a second scheme, all who missed the ballot were to go. Meanwhile leave to Cairo began at once, and within a few days all but the Ruapehu men became eligible for a fortnight's leave and took their turn. On the 14th the Ruapehu men left—in the 7th Anti-Tank they numbered five officers and 144 other ranks; in the 4th Field seven officers and 204 other ranks. With upwards of half the remaining strength of units on leave in Egypt or Palestine the second half of June was very quiet. The 14th Light Ack-Ack and 36 Survey Battery, most of whose members had sailed with the 4th Reinforcements or later and therefore did not qualify for Ruapehu or its successor, Wakatipu, felt a bit neglected.page break