The 35th Battalion
Chapter Four — Te Aroha
The battalion was split into two parts at Te Aroha. Battalion headquarters and A and B companies camped on Mr. Jones's property. By roads the camps were over two miles apart, but over the field the distance was only half a mile. We seemed to be fated so far as being close to a town was concerned. Each of the other battalions was camped in a town—one in Morrinsville, the other in Te Aroha at Wairongomai.
Once again the settling in process began and soon the camp sites were ship shape. Training began again and more reinforcements arrived. This is chronicled to give an idea of the wastage which takes place during a short period in the army. Consistent with the amount of battalion transport available, leave to Te Aroha for pictures and dances was granted each night, while every day troops were taken to the hot springs baths. The big sporting event of the month was the rugby match between the 35th Battalion and the 37th Battalion, at Rugby Park, Te Aroha. The 37th Battalion defeated us after a great game. All gate takings were given to the National Patriotic Funds Board.
Then came the Kaimai exercise which, it is contended, taught us the main principles of jungle warfare. None of those who took part in that exercise will ever forget the conditions under which we lived. On the first day, laden down with heavy packs, we climbed up Tui's Track to take up a position astride the track on a plateau. Engineers had done a good job in constructing steps, but even with the aid of these, many rests were taken before reaching the top. The battalion layout was made and all hands turned to the job of preparing defensive positions. From that time on, 'Old Man Weather' was most page 24unkind. In a few hours' time everyone was soaked and remained soaked, cold and dirty to the end. Bush bivouacs were hastily constructed, but few of them could keep out the incessant rain. Apart from the 'hard tack' rations, perhaps the most annoying thing was the daily stand-to every morning and evening. While the stand-to was on there was no shelter from the rain, no warmth from fires and few of us could realize the importance of it for, like all human mortals, we thought more of being dry and warm. But we had to learn, and learn we must have done, for there is no doubt that later on we unconsciously did things we had first done during that Kaimai show. But 'it's an ill-wind that blows nobody good', for shortly after our return to camp we received a week's leave.
Following our return from furlough it became evident that a move was to take place. Crates were hastily built for all the unit gear, tents were painted a camouflage green, and rumours became rife. Training carried on apace with both small and large scale manoeuvres. Early in December, companies, by turns, did routine marches and exercises at the Okauia Springs. This exercise was enjoyed chiefly for the dip in the swimming pool at Okauia. An officers' dinner was held at the Grand Hotel on 10 December to say farewell to Major Campbell, who had been second-in-command of the battalion from February 1942 to September 1943. The officers will always be amused at the thought of a certain gentleman, adorned with the Brigadier's hat, riding a bicycle round the lounge.
On 21 December C and D companies moved from their old areas to that area occupied by the balance of the battalion. No leave was to be granted over Christmas, as the move overseas was imminent. This caused much discontent. It was a pity, for we all like to be with our relatives or friends at Christmas time, but war waits for no one and shipping also cannot wait for such things. However, on Christmas Day the battalion transport was used to take as many troops as possible to such places as Hamilton, Thames, Morrinsville and other towns in the neighbourhood. The move to our ship at Auckland took place on 27 December and there we boarded a large allied vessel which sailed two days later for New Caledonia. On New Year's Eve we arrived at Nouméa and spent the early part of the evening listening to the divisional band and gazing at what we could see of the new land. A number of us stared with wond-page 25erous eyes at the great host of shipping gathered about, many of us seeing ships such as we had never seen before.
During our stay in New Zealand the battalion suffered its first casualty, when 67057 Sergeant A. L. Undrill died of sickness. He was accorded a full military funeral.