Headquarters: a brief outline of the activities of headquarters of the third division and the 8th and 14th Brigades during their service in the Pacific
Chapter Two — Growing Pains
The Fiji personnel had returned from a fortnight's leave, and together with reinforcements from the territorial divisions throughout New Zealand they were drafted to Manurewa, Auckland, in August 1942, where headquarters of the reorganised Third New Zealand Division of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force was situated. Major D. M. Burns was appointed commanding officer of the Third Divisional Signals. Signals headquarters was at first established at Orford's Estate but, on the arrival of larger drafts of reinforcements in September, personnel were moved to Nathan's Camp, a short distance further up the hill. The signal office continued to operate from division at Orford's, and communications were maintained the clock round. The maintenance section and main stores were contained in a vacated billiards saloon in the middle of the township.
On arrival in camp each signalman was interviewed by the commanding officer with a view to determining his qualifications and future role in the unit. With this completed, a start was soon made in allocating everyone to sections. These comprised artillery signal sections under the command of Captain (later Major) G. W. Heatherwick, with a headquarters under Captain Gettins, a headquarters section under Lieutenant (later Captain) T. C. Eady, and sections N, P and X, commanded by Lieutenant '(later Captain) S. A. Hanson, Lieutenant J. P. Garner and Second-Lieutenant Murphy respectively. Captain Wilson commanded No. 1 company, which comprised A wireless section under Lieutenant (later Captain) H. A. Hester, B cable section under Second-Lieutenant Wilton, and D office section under page 105Lieutenant (later Captain) R. F. Hanna. J and K sections retained substantially their Fiji makeup and remained attached to the headquarters of the 8th and 14th Infantry Brigades. J section was commanded by Lieutenant Parkhouse with Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) K. O. Stewart as second-in-command. K section was commanded by Lieutenant Murray, with Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) E. G. Harris as second-in-command. A newly formed E section was attached to the 17th Field Regiment at Papakura under the command of Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) L. C. Stewart, and base signals was commanded by Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) H. S. Brown. Lieutenant (later Captain) S. C. Clarke was adjutant, and Lieutenant (later Captain) R. M. South quarter-master and officer commanding headquarters company, which also included M maintenance section under Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) B. J. R. F. Pratt. Lieutenant (later Captain) R. A. Garters was in command of the reinforcement section at this juncture, and other officers waiting to fill appointments were Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) W. H. Dyson and Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) A. G. Goff. The appointment of regimental sergeant-major was held by Warrant-Officer, 2nd Class (later 1st Class) N. Holden. Staff-Sergeant (later Warrant-Officer 2nd Class) R. C. Orme was regimental quartermaster-sergeant. Sergeant (later Warrant-Officer 1st Class) N. E. B. McNaughton was company sergeant-major of No. 1 company, and Sergeant (later Warrant-Officer 2nd Class) W. C. Rose was company sergeant-major of artillery signals.
At this period J section was stationed at Opaheke, and E and K sections a few miles closer to division at Papakura. The artillery signal sections remained with unit headquarters. In these initial stages new faces appeared daily and changes in personnel occurred until the unit was 'bedded down.' Nathan's, with its Snake Gully, was a muddy camp, but the meals, which are most important with a signalman, were good. It was here, too, that many had their first experience of vaccination with the none too pleasant effects which follow a week later. From Manurewa Corporal R. R. Purdy and Signalman H. D. Clough received their tropical clothing issue and were marched out prior to embarkation with N Force, which sailed to Norfolk Island.
In preparation for the movement of the division to the page 106Waikato, advanced and rear parties were selected from No. 1 company, the former entraining for Hamilton on 3 October, being followed three days later by the main body. J section, with elements of the 8th Brigade, marched from Opaheke to Cambridge, a distance of 76 miles. Throughout the four-day trek the section maintained radio communication with division from two mobile radio stations. Claudelands show grounds, Hamilton, became the location of the Third Division Headquarters, and in the same grounds camped unit headquarters, headquarters company, No. 1 company and the artillery signal sections, which as yet had not joined their respective artillery formations. J section was camped at Forrest Corner, Cambridge; K section was at the wellknown hot springs resort, Te Aroha; E section was at Tirau; and base signals were camped at Rugby Park, Frankton, but operated a signal office from base headquarters in the Hamilton area defence buildings. Communications were commenced at the moment of arrival. D signal office was the hub of activity and the section's 70-line post and telegraph switchboard with nine trunk lines offered no rest to its operators.
Sleeping quarters at Claudelands were the sheep pens, bull ring and cattle stalls. At first rations seemed barely to exist, disapproval of which was expressed by 250 men when they marched out of camp a few days after arrival. Tn perfect formation of three the parade entered Hamilton by the traffic bridge at the southern end of the town, continuing along the main street. So impressive and orderly was the march that people flocked from the shops and lined the streets, unaware that it was not a scheduled function. Most of the personnel returned to camp that evening, but 28 men who boarded a north-bound express and 18 who went south found themselves in the hands of the provost at Auckland and Te Kuiti respectively. Fined and confined to barracks was the punishment for most of the participants. The GOC, Major-General Barrowclough, later spoke a few words of censure to a parade of those concerned. Every-one soon settled down. Facilities were provided for the improvement of living quarters, mess rooms were established, and with good meals there was little room for further complaint. Leave for non-duty personnel was granted nightly and over the weekends.
A wireless section had not commenced to transmit or receive page 107operationally as yet, but it was m possession of a No. 9 set which was used at first to maintain contact with the rear party at Manurewa and later for training in which the section actively engaged. Within the sections normal communications and despatch rider services were being maintained. Fullerphones operating over civilian circuits carried most of the traffic between division and the brigades. Exchange operators and telegraphists from E and J sections assisted at the Cambridge and Tirau post offices where traffic had naturally become heavier through the presence of troops in those areas.
The enciphering and deciphering of messages liable to fall into enemy hands during transmission had until this stage been the function of the G staff at divisional headquarters, but with the incorporation of this section within divisional signals, Captain O. A. Gillespie, MBE, MM, was transferred from G to the unit as cipher officer, having under his command C cipher section. M section made its presence known at the show grounds with the installation of a three-kilowatt battery charger which, because of its sound and monstrous appearance, earned itself the nickname of 'Frankenstein.' It ran long hours, initially charging many batteries.
These days were hectic ones for the quartering staff, for train-loads of equipment were being received from ordnance depots. Typical of the items received were 40 No. 11 sets, each of which had 90 separate accessory parts—all to be checked and accounted for, while a particularly weighty item was seven crates containing mechanical cable layers. Unit motor transport began to arrive, and 13 of the 3-ton trucks received were immediately driven to Auckland and delivered to coach-builders for conversion into mobile orderly rooms, cipher office, workshop and battery charging units. Second-Lieutenant Dyson became second-in-command of A wireless section, and Second-Lieutenant Goff filled a similar role in D section. An attachment to divisional signals at Claudelands was the light aid detachment (LAD) comprising 14 other ranks under Second-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) M. G. Tarr. Memories will always turn back to the hospitality of the people of the Waikato who entertained signalmen during their stay in their picturesque province. For those stationed in Hamilton itself, the new patriotic hut in the centre of the town was an appreciated institution, where home-page 108cooked meals, showers, reading, writing and games rooms were available in addition to sleeping accommodation and the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations provided popular entertainment in the form of dances, badminton, table tennis and teas.
About the middle of October signals became engaged in the division's manoeuvres held over the Kaimai Range between Matamata and Tauranga. With the range representing the famous Owen Stanleys of New Guinea, Matamata and Tauranga assumed the names of Port Moresby and Buna for the mock battle which extended over a week. Although the weather was brilliantly fine and hot for the commencement of the operations, it deteriorated to such an extent towards the end of the period that conditions compared favourably with those of the jungle— although only as regards the mud. With the exception of the artillery signal sections, all sections were actively engaged in this full-scale manoeuvre. Within the brigades, the usual line and wireless communications were set up, but a significant feature of the experience gained was the necessity of man-handling wireless sets to their locations, setting them up as ground stations in the bush. Mechanical cable-laying equipment became useless and despatch riders could not operate much further forward than division. Variety was added by the dropping of messages by aircraft and the ?ground to air 'wireless communication undertaken by A wireless section, a task normally filled by RAF tenders. Perhaps the most popular liaison with aircraft occurred when members of the sections in the 'jungle' received a warming rum ration dropped from the air. At Okauia, where divisional headquarters and No. 1 company were situated, D office personnel operated their new mobile signal office and B cable section also came into the picture, being engaged in laying miles of cable forward of division to enable the use of telephones and fullerphones.
In the meantime selected personnel from headquarters and No. 1 companies returned to camp in Hamilton to receive a mosquito net and tropical clothing prior to departure as unit representatives in a divisional advanced party for an unknown destination overseas. This party comprised Lieutenant Garters, Sergeant (later Warrant-Officer 2nd Class) N. Jones, Corporal (later Sergeant) H. B. Breach, Corporal (later Staff-Sergeant) page 109F. R. Nicol and Signalman P. B. Ralfe. Sergeant (later Lieutenant) R. H. C. Crawley went with the party as an 8th Brigade representative. The party sailed from Wellington on 28 October aboard the Crescent City.
This map shows the dispositions of signal sections when the Third Division moved into the Waikato for manoeuvres and reorganisation
General Barrowclough left Auckland at 6.15 am by Tasman Airways flying boat on 7 November, accompanied by members of his staff, which included Lieutenant-Colonel Burns. Claudelands was a hive of activity. Movement orders were being promulgated, personnel received their tropical issues, the rear party took over the communications and those who found themselves without a task in those last few days saw most of the streets of Hamilton in the course of route marches; Headed by' the Third New Zealand Division Band, members of No. 1 company, attired in full tropical dress and web, left a favourable impression when they paraded along the main street of the town during the last of these marches. The first men to depart in this movement were the messing sergeant, cook and two other ranks under Captain South, who left Claudelands on 16 November for Wellington where they joined the Brastagi as ship's quartermaster and party. Two days later the unit's motor transport left in convoy for Wellington via Waiouru, and three days later again-—21 November—unit headquarters, headquarters and No. 1 companies and the light aid detachment entrained at Frankton for Wellington also to join the Brastagi. The ship sailed the following afternoon at 3 pm. A surprise and disappointment, similar to that experienced by those who sailed on the Maui, was in store for the ship's complement the next day when the Brastagi anchored in the stream of the Auckland Harbour. No one was allowed ashore and to those who could see their own homes it was a case of 'so near and yet so far.' For a while, however, cross harbour ferries hugged in close to the transport as they passed in their journeys, allowing passengers to throw newspapers on to the decks. In convoy with two other transports carrying elements of the 43rd United States Division, and a destroyer escort, the Brastagi sailed from Auckland on 25 November 1942.page 111
Base signals sailed from Wellington on the President Munroe along with artillery signals headquarters on 3 December, and the rear party with a large party of reinforcements from Claudelands under Lieutenant (later Captain) C. W. Watts, plus E, J and K sections, saiied from Auckland with the main division contingent on 29 December aboard the West Point. Just prior to sailing Captain Murray relinquished his appointment as officer commanding K section through being medically regraded, and the section proceeded overseas under the command of Second-Lieutenant Harris. Second-Lieutenant Stewart relinquished his appointment as second-in-command of J section to undertake cipher duties at base headquarters.
The advanced party was not aware of its destination when the Crescent City drew out into the stream from the wharf at Wellington. Hundreds of girls lined the windows and roof-tops of buildings in the vicinity and waved farewell—but the attraction was other allied servicemen, and not the New Zealanders who formed only a minor section of the troops on board. Accommodation was that of all transports. Bunks were narrow strips of canvas lashed inside tubular frames and tiered five high with little space between; in fact it was impossible to lie on the bunk and hold upright an average sized magazine, and the form of the body of the man above as he sagged in his canvas almost rubbed on the soldier below. In this already cramped space were strewn the soldier's sea kit, web gear, rifle, tin hat, respirator and life jacket. A taste of the reception which would be given to any inquisitive enemy aircraft on the journey was provided a few hours after leaving Wellington when every anti-aircraft gun on the ship (and they were numerous) opened fire, in practice, at a drogue being towed by a plane of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Lectures and medical parades were held on board, and fatigues such as sweeping the decks were done hourly in response to orders blared over the ship's sound system. The order in this instance was: 'Sweepers, man your brooms, a clean sweep fore and aft.' Another announcement was: 'Prepare to darken ship; the smoking lamp is out on all weather decks,' which meant no further smoking because of the black-out. The ship zigzagged as it ploughed its way towards a destination now known to be New Caledonia, an island 1,000 miles north of New Zealand in page 112sub-tropical waters. Movies were shown every afternoon in the mess room, and the canteen or post exchange (PX) which opened for a limited period each day gave troops the opportunity of purchasing American commodities such as cigarettes, candy, biscuits and a host of other articles at exceptionally reasonable prices. Everyone could change two pounds of New Zealand currency into American dollars at the rate of four dollars to the pound, American coins and bills becoming, from that time on, the universal currency of the Force. Life jackets were worn at all times, and on the sounding of practice alarms, muster stations became the venue of all troops. An incident, which fortunately did not materialise as anything serious, occurred during one night on the Brastagi when all troops were roused from their bunks and sent scurrying to the decks. Someone had mistaken the blast of the ship's siren for a danger signal, whereas it was merely indicating a change in course to the remainder of the convoy. A reasonable feeling of safety was encouraged on viewing the accompanying destroyer which sped in ever-enlarging circles around the ship to ensure protection from enemy submarines. Daily the colour of the sea changed to a deep blue. It became warmer, too, and battledress was replaced by drill shirts and shorts. Everyone then came under the category of 'white leghorns' because of the colour of their skins.
The first glimpse of land attracted many to the decks. Visible for many miles out to sea were the barrage balloons guarding the skies above Nouméa and also the high wisp of smoke from the nickel works. Passing in through an opening in the reefs which surround New Caledonia, the ship passed a white lighthouse glistening in the sun as it towered above the small colourful atoll on which it is situated, but more breath-taking still was the view which greeted the troops soon after as the ship nosed its way through the submarine boom to the harbour proper. Lying at anchor under a tropical sun were some 90 ships ranged in size from destroyers to 'battle wagons' and aircraft carriers. Of readable interest to signals was the lamp station on the hill to the rear of the town which continuously blinked out messages to the ships in the harbour who in turn replied.
A new church was erected at Falamai on Mono Island, to replace one destroyed during the landing. Above is an exterior view; below, the first service
Private B J. M. Pole and 'Hudie,' the sentry dog loaned by the American kennels in New Caledonia
Brigadier Leslie Potter, DSO, who commanded the 14th Brigade from its formation until it was disbanded at the conclusion of the Solomons campaign. Below He is seen with the officers of his headquarters on Nissan Island before the Third Division returned to New Zealand. Left to right, front row: Captain W. G. Caughey, Major L. E. Pithie, Brigadier Potter, Captain G. C. C. Sands ton, MBE, Captain K. D. Page. Rear row: Captain L. E. Adams, Lieutenant D. G. Graham, Captain R. F. Hanna, Lieutenant A. A. Congalton, Captain J. F. B. Stronach, Lieutenant R. A. Stokes, Captain D. M. Young and Captain J. Sykes
The Brastagi, on which unit headquarters, headquarters and No. 1 companies travelled, did not disembark its complement at Nouméa where it first anchored for two days, but left the harbour again to sail up the coast to berth at the recently constructed wharf at Nepoui, the Brastagi being the largest ship to have tied up there. Wharf accommodation at Nouméa was limited to about four ships, with the result that all transports lay in the stream, and troops disembarked into landing craft or barges for the trip to the shore. Prior to going ashore all watches were adjusted to conform with the standard time of New Caledonia, which is one hour behind that of New Zealand.