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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

A New Kind of War in Italy

A New Kind of War in Italy

The Allied line in Italy at this stage ran almost north-south from the River Sangro to the Gulf of Gaeta north of Naples, with Eighth Army on the right facing west and north-west over the rugged Abruzzi Mountains. Like the American Fifth Army, it was up against the German winter line. The Eighth Army hoped to break this on the Adriatic coast and the Fifth Army at Cassino. The Division was not well-organised for winter fighting in the Italian mountains. Its armoured brigade would page 521 have little chance of exerting anything like its full strength and two infantry brigades were not enough.

Even the artillery suffered disabilities. The 25-pounder, which had served wonderfully well in mobile desert operations, had certain disadvantages in positional mountain warfare. It was outranged by the 105 and 88, as well as by the 150s and 17os, and its shell was not likely to be effective against the strong defences to be expected in the enemy's winter line. The Division really needed its own medium regiment. The CRA could not always do with borrowed regiments what he might think of doing with his own. In the event, however, RA medium units were to serve the Division well, either under the CRA's command or under various AGRAs, and the 5.5s in particular were to demonstrate remarkable mobility and versatility. Heavy guns or howitzers would be invaluable, where the terrain and ground conditions permitted their deployment; but they were not likely to became available for some time to come. Even the fire drills developed to a high polish in North Africa would be less useful in the mountains, where the fighting would probably take the form of a complicated series of small-scale engagements, each in its own little pocket of land. Calls for support were likely to be many and varied, and in the tortured Abruzzi country the usefulness of standard patterns of fire like the stonk would be much restricted. Even the climate would have its effects, some of them serious: rapid changes of temperature and sudden violent winds would certainly be experienced. Predicted fire would often be called for, and the Italian maps with the British grid superimposed did not inspire confidence in all quarters.

On 1 November the CRA lectured to regimental and battery commanders about the difficulties for the gunners of the hill and coastal sectors, and he then discussed in detail the problems facing the field, anti-tank, ack-ack and survey batteries and the type of work they would have to expect.