2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery
Enemy aircraft had been active all day, but they seldom ventured within reach of the Bofors. Two Stukas, for example, came over at one stage high up and dropped their bombs with no attempt to dive. Mac Troop was still waiting near Artillery Headquarters to take up positions then being reconnoitred by Sprosen and the troop commander when the first targets were spotted. The crews of the four 88s went into action in great haste and opened fire; but they forgot to set the time fuses and several rounds fell into an NZASC area and exploded when they hit the ground. Then Mac Troop took up a position near Metameur; from then until the end of the North African campaign this valuable troop remained under the command of the 4th Field. Two stray shells landing in the RHQ area of the 14th Light Ack-Ack wounded two men in the afternoon. Later A1 of 41 Battery was straddled by bombs but they did no harm. In a raid at 5.30 p.m. D3 claimed three hits on an aircraft, but it was not seen to crash.
The chief activity next day was in the air. After firing at transport soon after dawn, the field guns remained silent. Just after 8.30 a.m. a Macchi 202 plane approached B Troop of the 14th Light Ack-Ack at 200–300 feet and was easily shot down. Then, as the unit diary remarks, ‘great argument developed as to which guns did hit it’ and a later report stated that two RAF cannon shells were found in the engine. The Bofors did, however, manage to drive off an Me109F that was on the point page 477 of shooting down a Spitfire. The popular BSM of 33 Battery, WO II Jackson,7 was wounded by a Stuka.8
The 4th Field and two 6-pounder troops of 34 Battery moved out in the afternoon as part of an armoured force under Brigadier Currie, who now commanded 4 Light Armoured Brigade. On the left flank 26 Battery operated with a squadron of tanks and briefly engaged distant enemy transport which soon drove away. The main body met no enemy, but was shelled from mid-afternoon to dark by the two 170-millimetre guns. On occasions these were firing delayed-action shells—probably anticoncrete ammunition designed to break up fortifications—and these penetrated the ground, struck rock below, and then bounced up unpredictably into the air before they exploded. The force bivouacked in the open for the night. In the morning the anti-tank guns deployed and the shelling started up again, causing a few casualties, including four men of B Troop of the 4th Field. By noon on the 8th the force was back with the Division. For some of the portée crews of the 34th it made little difference; for they were stationed by the airfield and the German heavy guns then switched their attention to that.
It had been a bitter disappointment to the anti-tankers and to many other gunners as well that the 17-pounders had been sited so far back that they did not fire when the enemy attacked. But it was a slight compensation when on 9 and 10 March the crews were allowed to zero their guns towards the hills south of Medenine. This was done at 1500 yards with excellent results. The 17-pounders were found to be extremely accurate and their telescopic sights were first-class.
8 The 7th Anti-Tank were glad to receive 56 reinforcements this day. This brought batteries up to a tolerable strength, though still well short of their establishment.