The Gunners: an intimate record of units of the 3rd New Zealand Divisional Artillery in the Pacific from 1940 until 1945
Chapter Six — The 33rd Heavy Regiment
The 33rd Heavy Regiment
In 1940 the first New Zealanders went to Fiji to serve in the artillery, and for the first time for many of them, to experience tropical conditions. The comments on their stay there are many and varied and on the whole it was with no feeling of regret that they left the islands on their return to New Zealand in 1942, after varying periods of time spent in that 'tropical paradise.' But what was this which awaited them in New Zealand? Were we out of the frying pan Into the fire? Pahautanui! After the expiration of disembarkation leave this was to be our home for the next two months. Having become more or less acclimatised to tropical heat, it was not a very welcome change when, in September, 1942, we arrived in the camp to find a bitterly cold southerly wind blowing straight from the Southern Alps—and it continued to blow for the whole two months we were stationed there. In these surroundings the 33rd Heavy Regiment, New Zealand Artillery, was born on 14 September, 1942.
At its formation the regiment consisted of regimental headquarters, and three batteries, the 150th, 151st and 152nd Heavy Batteries. Personnel drawn from the various forts and artillery camps in New Zealand went into the 150th Battery, the majority of the other three units being composed of men who had returned from a period of service in Fiji. Lieutenant-Colonel B. Wick-steed was appointed to command the regiment with Major J. R. Marshall as fire commander and Second-Lieutenant E. J. Manders as adjutant. During September and October the regiment was organised, equipped and trained to a certain degree. On 10 October 1942, tbe 152nd Heavy Battery under command of Major G. L. Falck, marched out of camp and embarked for what turned out to be Norfolk Island, where it remained for about three page 139months. Personnel of this battery were detached from the regiment and did not return to it. The regiment thus consisted from then on of two batteries, one of them, the 150th under command of Major H. C. F. Petersen, being equipped with 6-inch guns and the other, the 151st under command of Major J. G. War-rington, with American guns of 155 mm calibre. A shoot was carried out at Opau Battery with 6-inch guns shortly before the regiment, together with the 28th Heavy Anti-aircraft Regiment and the 29th Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, embarked for New Caledonia on 4 November 1942. Units marched out of Pahau-tanui Camp at about 7 pm and proceeded by train to the ship's side, embarking about 1 am after a long wait on the wharf and in the train. Most of us had a good idea that we were going to New Caledonia, but no one was certain and it was not until we actually arrived in Noumea Harbour that our conjectures were proved correct. On the way we called at Auckland and spent a day and a half anchored in the stream gazing at familiar landmarks and wondering when we should see them again. Two meals a day were all we were allowed on board ship, and during a short period we remained at the Queen's Wharf a roaring trade was done in fruit, pies and other food, in an endeavour to satisfy our appetites. This ship was the Maui, an American troopship, popularly named by the troops as the 'Hell-ship' because of the cramped quarters. The day we arrived in Noumea Harbour was almost perfect, the only thing marring the day being the fact that it was not a New Zealand port into which we were sailing. However, this fact soon faded somewhat into the background as interest was aroused in what we saw and in conjecture as to what the various landmarks were. We were too busy to think about anything much. It was Armistice Day when we arrived and a flight of about 34 planes were flying overhead as we sailed up the channel to the harbour entrance. We anchored just off the island of Ile Nou and immediately began to disembark, the 151st Battery proceeding direct by barge to their new home and the rest of the troops proceeding to an American camp at Ouen Toro where a very welcome hot meal was awaiting us. Quiet soon settled down on the camp that night as we drifted into a deep sleep, our first on land for seven days. Our welcome at this camp could not have been more cordial. Every facility and courtesy was given us and our short stay there was made most enjoyable by the efforts of our allies. Unloading the ship page 140was commenced the morning after our arrival and at the same time the commanding officer and a party of officers reconnoitred and selected sites for the various batteries. Our role was to be that of coastal defence in Noumea Harbour, and we were destined to be there for about nine months.
Sites on Ile Nou were selected for regimental headquarters and also for the 150th Heavy Battery; the 151st Heavy Battery was sited at Point Tere, Naia, 30 miles by road from Noumea. As soon as the sites had been finally chosen a start was made on preparing gun positions and camps, but much hard work was necessary before the positions were ready for occupation and action. Regimental headquarters was situated amid the remains of an old French prison and was generally referred to as 'The Ruins.' This was on the harbour side of the island, in a sheltered spot and with a good view of almost the entire harbour. The 150th Battery was on the other side of the island in a hollow just below the positions selected for the guns. A good beach, where bathing was possible at all tides, was a decided asset to the camp. 'Sleepy Hollow,' as this camp was known, was a hive of activity as tents and buildings were erected and guns were placed in position. The 151st Heavy Battery also was fortunate in having a good beach adjacent to the battery area. Unlike the other two camps, which were within easy disance of Noumea, this camp, 'Naia-by-the-Sea,' was in a much more inaccessible spot. It was reached by a drive of about nine miles over extremely bad roads from the main road, a drive which tried the temper of many a driver. The workshops section, which was attached to the regiment, had its headquarters in the metropolis a short distance from the Nickel Docks. This camp was moved later to a position in the Vallee des Colons, two miles from the centre of Noumea. The signals section was quartered on Ile Nou in the same camp as regimental headquarters.
Early in December, the 204th Troop Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery moved to a site on Ile Nou quite close to the 150th Battery. This camp later became known as 'Cactus Grove.' The troop was actually part of the 28th Regiment, but it was used for harbour defence and became attached to the 33rd Heavy Regiment. The signals section soon had communications (of a sort) operating between the various batteries, Noumea and headquarters. Much wireless interference and telephone induction between them provoked periodical bouts of bad language and page 141abuse, as something always seemed to go wrong in the middle of an important conversation. However, we soon took this state of affairs as a matter of course. By Christmas time all the batteries were well established and had 24-hour manning of the guns in operation. There was still a lot to be done in the way of putting finishing touches to gun positions and camp sites, but we would have been able to give a good account of ourselves had the occasion arisen. That it never did arise was merely because of the fortunes of war. On Christmas Day a church service was held at the 150th Battery site and attended by all available personnel. Christmas dinner was celebrated in traditional army style, turkeys gracing the table for the occasion. Despite the fact that mess-rooms had not been completed, decorations covered over the shortcomings, and the result achieved was most creditable. The festive spirit was very much in evidence everywhere. On Boxing-Day sports meeting's were held at the various batteries and as many men as possible took part in these to make them a great success.
New Year's Eve was celebrated in the usual way throughout the regiment, large bonfires at midnight adding to the fun. On 3 January 1943 the first issue of the unit newspaper, Gunflash, was produced at regimental headquarters, on Ile Nou. This consisted of a four-page weekly paper which was published regularly until the unit finally disbanded. It contained sports results, news concerning various personnel, reports of events of note in the unit, a 'Who's Zoo' column, and other features which were a source of interest and amusement each week. The following lines were published in the first issue, and are republished here to illustrate how the 'beautiful blue Pacific' illusion invariably faded in disillusion.
Verse—It'S All in The Point of View
Fijian Memories No. 2
With the rippling grace of Diana,
Slim as the sapling pine,
Not like her dear old mother,
Who's built on the Juno line.
Just a natural untamed beauty,
No coquettish trick or knack
With a smile like the dawn of summer,
Too b— bad she's Black.
On New Year's Day the 150th Battery held its first swimming sports in the bay adjacent to the camp. Members of the 204th Battery and regimental headquarters also took part in some of the events and helped to make the day a success. The next day everyone was back at work again, getting the guns emplaced and the camps in ship-shape order. By this time the camps were taking on an air of permanency, and all sorts of contrivances and devices had been improvised by the men to make their quarters as comfortable as possible, The majority of tents were fitted with wooden floors and the sides were raised to give more headroom. Benzine lamps, and later on electric light, added materially to general comfort. Messrooms and storerooms were mainly of the native bure type, while at regimental headquarters use was made of the ruins of the French prison. Wooden frameworks covered by tarpaulins or malthoid made quite satisfactory buildings.
On 7 January a hurricane warning was received and those who had experienced one in Fiji in February 1941 were fully aware of what this might mean. All work went by the board while preparations were made to safeguard all equipment and personal belongings in case the threat developed. Luckily we had only a stiff blow which did minor damage to tents and buildings. The prospect of a hurricane is not a pleasant one in the tropics.
About this time a personality at 'Naia-by-the-Sea' came into prominence—one Michael, the rooster. Doubtless members of the 151st Battery and also of other units of the regiment will long remember this creature's strange and persistent taste for ducks. The 151st Battery seemed to specialise in collecting as large a variety of animals as could be found, pigs, roosters, ducks, hens, cattle, dogs (all shapes, sizes, breeds and habits), goats, pigeons, all these found a home at Naia at one time or another. Naia was a peaceful spot—usually—though it had its ups and downs.
On arrival in New Caledonia a good deal of confusion was caused by the right hand rule of the road. The French, of course, favour the continental rule. However, it did not take the Kiwis long to adapt themselves to driving on the wrong side of the road, and the number of near misses and arguments soon diminished to negligible proportions. The fact that the majority of cars and trucks were fitted with left hand drive facilitated this change to new conditions. All this time work was proceeding steadily at the various batteries. Tents were becoming more and page 143more comfortable (at the expense of the American timber supplies be it noted); camp facilities were being constantly improved, and gun positions were nearing perfection. Electric lighting had been installed in some quarters and the 'seaside bungalow' at regimental headquarters added to the general atmosphere of comfort at the 'Ruins.' All was going well. All except the signals section. Rarely was a telephone conversation carried to a successful conclusion. In fact things finally reached a stage where, if no interruptions were caused by a flow of American accents, or a torrent of rapid and unintelligible French, the subscriber felt he had been cheated of something. It is a wonder the wires did not curl up with some of the abuse hurled at them.
About the middle of February the 150th Heavy Battery held a shoot from Ile Nou which was reported by the unit paper in this flippant manner:
'The Guns Went Boom'
Oh my! I do love the New Zealanders. Not very long ago they invited me to a 'shoot' and my! wasn't it lovely and exciting. I got up, Oh! so early in the morning, and put on my prettiest dress and my lovely high hat. I was told not to put any powder on as the concussion from the dear little cannons would blow it all off. They did look lovely, all painted a gorgeous apple green with black spots all over the long part in front. It was so cute. Some of the guns had sort of lace shirts over them, cameos or something, the nice soldiers told me, but they looked for all the world like big hair nets.
Well, I arrived at a quarter to eight, and the officer who invited me had the dearest little way of telling me the time for the fun to start. He said something about eight hundred hours. But the New Zealanders are so lovely! Well, at eight o'cl——no, I must be like the soldiers—at 800 hours we were all ready. I stood with my fingers in my ears and waited for the pop. I saw all sorts of people there. The poor little boys who were going to make the guns go off all had soup plates on their heads; quite the cutest little hats I have seen—I must get one in the spring. Then there was such a nice man with a duster in his hand. He was different from all the others— he had a red hat band. He looked as if all the guns belonged to him. Then there was—Oh, what was he called? He was not very big and had a moustache, and he had a different hat page 144—a nice pointed one. He was looking worried, and at 8.15 he came and told me I could take my fingers out of my ears because the first pop was held up or something. They spoke of the target boat, and I could not help crying a teeny weeny little bit as I thought of all the brave men on the boat who were such good sports as to let the cannons take shots at them. I suppose though that they were all happy on the boat because when the pops did start none of the cannon balls went very near the boat. I suppose the man pointing the rifle had a friend on board. It was kind of him not to hit the boat.
After about an hour and a quarter, the first pop went off, Oh my! Did 1 jump, Well——! Before it went off I heard all sorts of things called out. The first I heard was 'Take the posts away!' I couldn't see them but I suppose they must have been there. Then the man with the moustache called out in a very loud voice 'Engaged.' He seemed very angry. I suppose that someone was on the telephone line. Then the boys on the shooter called out like they were playing a game, 'Ready, set, go,' or something like that, and then pop! off went the rifle. Oh my, what a bang! Then I heard someone call out 'Fire,' and I don't blame him because I thought there was a fire too when I saw the flame come out of the pointed end. But I did wonder how he knew there would be a fire. I suppose he had fired a rifle before. Then—would you believe it— how calm the New Zealanders are. The men in the dear little house above the guns found time to play a game of poker. I heard them say 'I'll raise you 200.' Can you beat it. Such a bold bid. Oh, I love New Zealanders!Oh, then a terrible thing happened. One of the rifles wouldn't go pop and everyone got oh! so excited. The man in the red hat got angry, and the man with the moustache got angry, and everyone got angry. A man cried out from near one of the cannons 'Number two out on vacation!' It sounded like that and I could not make it out as the soldiers all seemed keen on firing the rifles. They were really playing soldiers for once, and my, did they get angry too. Ooh, it was awful! They got it going again later on but for some reason no one seemed pleased. I think that it might have been that the man with the moustache was not pleased because all the cannon balls seemed to go into the sea such a long way from the boat. I think he was mean—and if I could have put him into the page breakpage break
One of the jungle sites occupied by E troop of the 54th Anti-tank Battery at Soanatalu, in the Treasury Islands. Below: Sorting out some of the gear from the dumps on the beach at Guadalcanal where the division went ashorepage 145boat I would, just to see how he liked the cannon balls coming nearer and nearer.
A live shoot by the 54th Anti-lank Battery guns at Wilson Point, Stirling Island. Below: Members of the 4th Survey Troop on one of the 'highways' on Nissan Island. The base of the tree in the background indicates the size of some of these jungle giants
Well, as more and more guns went off everyone of any importance got meaner and meaner—and all because they did not hit the boat. I was pleased, because I think it would have been awful if they had hit the boat—don't you? I love New Zealanders.
The beer garden in Noumea, which was conducted by the Americans, was a popular resort for those who had leave in the town. Even though it was open only for a short time in the afternoon some of the more sportive seemed to do pretty well out of it! This beer garden was also the scene of many boxing and wrestling matches which were staged by the Americans at frequent intervals. The New Zealanders participated quite often in these events and put up some good performances.
Cricket, of course, was played on all and every occasion and some good games were staged at different times. The 150th Battery had quite a passable wicket at 'Sleepy Hollow,' and 'Naia-by-the-Sea' also possessed a reasonably good one. No regular competition was organised but Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were always the occasions for a game. A further match at Naia between the l5lst Battery eleven and a regimental headquarters team produced these 'Slip Catches ':
Mr. Chapman batting in his overcoat.
Sergeant Armstrong attired in a very attractive white ensemble catching a 151st player's bat at mid-off.
Bombardier MacIndoe trying to convince himself he was bowling well after taking three wickets in one over.
Gunner Hopkins going out first ball and Bombardier Sanders' innings of 54.
Mr. King walking home when the motor bike wouldn't go.
(This match was played in the rain—and when we say rain, we mean RAIN!)
On 1 March 1943 a member of the 204th Battery, Gunner Moore, was buried' in the American cemetery at Noumea. He died of sickness, and the loss of a popular member of the battery was mourned by all who had come in contact with him. A firing party was provided by members of the 204th Battery. About the middle of the next month Sergeant George Herdman, of the 151st Battery, died as the result of accidental shooting while page 146cleaning his rifle. The following is the obituary notice inserted in Gunflash:
'It is with the deepest regret that we have ail learned of the sad death of Sergeant George Herdman last Tuesday. Sergeant Herdman, a member of the RNZA, was with many of us for some time at North Head and in Fiji, before joining the 33rd Heavy Regiment, and made many a friend during that time. George's cheery manner under all conditions of service, and his most likeable disposition, will be sadly missed and long remembered by all who have come in contact with him.'
So far no mention has been made of the lesser known members of a battery, but the following, from the pages of Gunflash may or may not enlighten some student of this history!
'Gunners, Specs, and Whatnots'
These gun chaps look after the guns, watching them carefully all day and all night, keep the shells polished, do gun drill, and in an action I understand they put the polished shells in the gun (very carefully so as not to scratch the polish) and then they put a charge in too, close the door, play around with some gadgets, and then if everything is OK the gun goes 'bang,' the shell rushes out (the other end by the way) and everybody is extraordinarily pleased. It must be very nice. However, sometimes I believe the gun won't go off 'bang' and so somebody plays around and everybody stands around in little groups looking very grave and the officer in charge of the gun mutters to himself various imprecations he has learnt from the gunners. Then the chap playing about discovers that they have forgotten to put in the shell or something and so they start all over again and this time the gun really goes off 'bang' and the shell rushes out and falls in the water, or it may even hit a target. And if it does hit the target the gunners shake hands and say 'Jolly good shot, sir,' or 'Well played,' or words to that effect.
Now the 'spec' question is rather a difficult one because they are highly technical people and speak only in terms of 'x' or, on occasion, 'y.' They dash around the hills carrying odd shaped bundles taking angles here and there, and putting up poles with white flags on them so they can find their way about. They get frightfully annoyed if somebody moves them —the poles I mean. They also sit up in the O Pip looking for page 147Japs and calculating the mean density of a sergeant's brain. And of course they have the plotting room, but nobody is allowed in there because they must concentrate and they sit in there talking to FOP who has rung up to say there is a ship coming over the reef and it's either a minesweeper or an aircraft carrier and the bearing is about 361 degrees or something. Sometimes they let balloons go up and watch them until they go out of sight; then they ring the guns and say 'Add three,' or something like that. Nobody knows why this is because it is so highly technical.And then of course there are the Sigs. Their occupations are severally:—
(a) Working the exchange and surprising everybody now and then by giving a right number. This entirely disorganises their communications system. (b) Talking on the 'Walkie-Talkie' saying 'Hullo, Hobo, Bobo calling, I get you about seven.' This is intimately related to: (c) The harbour defence line. This was put in to enable the Sigs to get plenty of fresh air and practice and exercise. (d) Ringing everybody up at frequent intervals and saying 'Testing—Gimme a buzz.' (e) Building boats.
The drivers. During the night the drivers go to bed in the ordinary way but during the day they prefer to lie in the dirt under a track or a jeep reaching out occasionally for an odd spanner or something of that sort. They emerge at mealtimes, which is a great relief to those who think they have been the victims of a motoring accident.
'Ile Nou Nights'
The bright moonlit night was peaceful and still. Not a sound could be heard to mar the beauty of the scene save the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach. Suddenly a plaintive voice rent the silence. 'This —— moon,' it said in aggrieved tones,' is not—— well drying my—— clothes a——bit!'
The weekly 'Who's Zoo' published by the unit was the source of much amusement and interest among the various members of the regiment. All and sundry were written up in this column to form an everlasting testimony to their habits and personalities. page 148until there appeared in the 'wanted' column of the paper an advertisement for' some foolhardy individual to commit hara-kiri—or else write up the colonel for "Who's Zoo."' Someone volunteered, and they didn't commit hara-kiri. The article produced was a fitting close to a series which ran successfully through many issues of the rag. From then on 'Who's Zoo' was banned, not by the CO but by' High Military Authority.'
About the middle of March another hurricane warning was received but no hurricane eventuated, though a pretty stiff blow did considerable damage to tents and buildings and made things a bit uncomfortable for a while. At Naia most of the battery area was flooded and a good deal of damage was done to stores and rations. The water rose to a considerable depth. Drainage works that would have opened Mr. Semple's eyes were the order of the day. Fortunately the water soon drained away and things were restored to normal again. Also during March several live shoots were held at the 150th and 151st Batteries. Despite some preliminary 'gunshot' effects, these proceeded without much incident and some good shooting was observed. The US minesweeper towing the target did get a little touchy at one stage and showed a desire to be alone when a round went reasonably close. But only its feelings were hurt. Towards the end of the month the 151st Battery was again flooded out. The roads to the battery from the main highway were impassable and the battery was marooned for a few days. Not that 151 minded much—they had a happy home and no one could get at them.
The 33rd Heavy Regiment, while stationed in Noumea, came under the command of the American harbour defence group for all operational work, with Lieutenant-Colonel H. G. Fowler. US army, in command. This popular officer did much to cement the bonds of friendship between New Zealand and American troops stationed in the area, and it was with regret that we heard that he was to relinquish his command early in April.
Dengue fever became troublesome in April 1943, and a large proportion of the members of the regiment succumbed to it. All leave to Noumea was cancelled for some time, and so the men had to find amusements nearer home and in the camps. However, it was not a great while before the epidemic was over and normal routine resumed. On Anzac Day 1943 a parade was held at the 150th Battery and this was attended by all available personnel who made quite a good muster. The remainder of the day was page 149devoted to sports, as was the custom on every day when there was any sort of a holiday or a break from the normal round.
In May the first of several of HM ships, with whose complements we became on good terms, visited Noumea. This was the HMS Athena and visits between ship and shore were soon proceeding in good style, while the more energetic soon had games of football in full swing. HMS Leander and the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious also visited the port and many were the friendships which sprang up from these visits. The Victorious ran a daily ferry service between Ile Nou and the ship and parties from the regiment were entertained on board daily, and shown the workings of a modern carrier. As the vast majority of the gunners had seen no more of a carrier than pictures in the papers, this was a most interesting experience and one which was appreciated by one and all. Several members of the regiment supplied a portion of a ship's concert which was held while she was in port, and we hope the crew derived as much pleasure from our share of the programme as we did from theirs. The many games of rugby, soccer, cricket and other sports which were played between teams from the regiment and from the ship were a most pleasant interlude for all concerned.
Early in May the football competition commenced and the results were published late each Saturday afternoon in Gunflash together with a commentary on play and a summary of the points won by each team to date. Some excellent football was witnessed during the course of the matches, even though the first few games were not of a particularly high standard. Play improved as the season advanced, however, and by the time the round was finished some excellent games, from the point of view of both the player and the spectator, had been played. Eight teams took part, two from each battery, and one each from regimental headquarters and base supply depot. Those units stationed on He Nou were fortunate in having a selection of picture shows to attend each evening, including Sundays. The American camps on the island all had their own open air theatres and showed films each night. It was not uncommon to be able to choose from four different pictures—and the latest pictures produced were shown long before they arrived in New Zealand. Also during our stay in this part of the colony, several stage shows were produced, notable among which were the appearance of Joe E. Brown and Artie Shaw's band.page 150
During June and July all three batteries held practice shoots which went off successfully, some good shooting being registered. A period of training was held each day and from time to time shoots were held to test the value of this training. In a battery of this type, where most of the personnel were occupied in keeping a 24-hour watch, not a great deal could be done in this direction, but the results of the later shoots indicated that the men had received training sufficient to produce a high standard of gunnery. In July we received our first intimation that the batteries were going to hand over to an American force, and that we should move further afield. The exact destination was unknown at this stage and we could but make a conjecture on this point. Most of the month from then on was fully occupied in making preparation for a move, and gradually all our various-comforts and amenities disappeared from view as they were dismantled and packed for transporting to our new camp. Electric lighting, showers, tables, chairs, all were gradually claimed by those doing the packing, so that by the end of the month we were living with just the bare necessities of life. The one remaining feature which was not disturbed and which was bequeathed to our successors was the 'seaside bungalow' at the 'Ruins.' On 18 July one of the trucks which was carrying equipment and personnel from Ile Nou to our new site at Nemeara collided with an American truck and one gunner of the 151st Battery was killed—Gunner 'Dave' Harris. A quiet conscientious soldier, he had many friends in the regiment. Three others were admitted to hospital with various injuries. On the 23rd; of the month all packing had been completed andi a large proportion of the equipment and gear had already been dispatched to Nemeara. The remaining portion of the regiment then transferred its headquarters to what was to become Artillery Training Depot, leaving the Americans in undisputed possession of what had been our home for the past nine months.
It was with mingled feelings that we said good-bye to Ile Nou and Naia. Many were the good times we had enjoyed there, so close to Noumea itself, and with so many conveniences about us. We knew little or nothing of the camp to which we were proceeding, except that we would be a long way from the only town of any size in New Caledonia. The 151st Battery, with its mobile 155 mm guns, had high hopes of action with the division, but it was not to be. In the meantime the 152nd Battery had come page 151from Norfolk Island and had been disbanded, so 'the writing was on the wall' for all of us. On 26 July 1943 the 33rd Heavy Regiment, New Zealand Artillery, was disbanded:, bringing to a close a short existence of only ten months. Personnel were absorbed into the newly formed Artillery Training Depot, which was to supply reinforcements to the division when it moved north a month later. Despite its brief period of existence as a regiment the 33rd was a happy unit. It had been formed, as stated earlier, from personnel who had already been overseas in Fiji, plus a proportion from units in New Zealand, and during the time we were together many firm and lasting friendships were made, so that the breaking up of the regiment, although bringing to a close a period of what was necessarily a monotonous existence, was viewed with a certain amount of regret when friends were parted. And so ended the career of what was one of New Zealand's youngest regiments, and at the same time, its shortest lived one. Theirs was no glorious and gallant battle story, but a record of quiet and watchful efficiency which would have told its tale in battle honours, had it been given but the opportunity.