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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

The Journey to the Adriatic Front

The Journey to the Adriatic Front

On the 6th the Staff Captain drove to Lucera, 160 miles towards the front, and on the 8th the rest of Artillery Headquarters, the 14th Light Ack-Ack, and 36 Survey Battery followed, with representatives of other units. They staged at Altamura, where the wind was strong and bitterly cold and the gunners were in no mood to explore the town of 30,000-odd people with its ancient cathedral. Next day they drove right through to Lucera and camped up to 10 miles beyond it.

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The 4th and 5th Field followed one day behind this schedule, reaching the Lucera area on the 10th. For many drivers whose windscreens had been removed for desert fighting and not yet replaced the journey was an ordeal, and on the 11th, as the 46 Battery diary (among other sources) points out, there was what was called a ‘Salvage expedition for truck windshields, canopies and general waterproofing gear’—a rather more polite description than certain British and American drivers might have used. Wrecked buildings and bridges on the route marked the path of Eighth Army the previous month and Foggia was a mass of ruins. The 6th Field and 7th Anti-Tank (less 31 and 32 Batteries) left Taranto on the 13th and reached Lucera on the 14th, and 31 and 32 Batteries came forward with 5 Brigade on the 18th and 19th.

The Division, however, was given no time to gather its scattered resources at Lucera. On the 11th the CRA took two of his own staff officers and one or two others, including Captain Robinson of X (Survey) Troop, forward to form a ‘Tac HQ’— a tiny tactical headquarters intended to operate as far forward as possible, with the bare essentials of transport and communications. They lunched at Furci and in the afternoon the CRA reconnoitred forward. Next day Artillery Headquarters, X Troop, and ‘Z parties’ of the 5th Field and 14th Light Ack-Ack9 set out early for Furci. The rest of 36 Survey Battery followed later and independently. On the 13th the 5th Field and 14th Light Ack-Ack moved up.

On the same day the BM, Major Cade, studied the condition of the roads and the traffic on them with a view to moving Headquarters even farther forward. He found them badly congested owing to demolitions. The journey from Lucera to Furci, on the other hand, had been an agreeable one. It was through rolling country, covered with vineyards at first and with many stone walls. After San Severo it was more open, past many steep hills speckled with small oak trees. The roads were well graded and the banks bricked up. High on the hilltops were picturesque villages. When Artillery Headquarters moved forward in small parties in the afternoon of the 13th it was over such difficult roads that the ACV had to be left behind.

9 These parties included the COs, the battery commanders, and various other key officers.