2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery
The Second Attack on Orsogna
The Second Attack on Orsogna
In the same night the Sangro rose sharply and undermined both bridges, halting traffic and causing restrictions in the expenditure of ammunition—for the field guns 40 rounds per gun for observed shooting and 20 for tasks. The ammunition supply soon improved, however, and in the next two days 50,000 rounds of 25-pounder ammunition were issued to the regiments, mainly to support a divisional attack in the afternoon of 7 December. This was to be a frontal assault on Orsogna page 533 and on a 2000-yard stretch of the narrow ridge to the north-east. On the 6th Q Troop, to cover this narrow ridge, hauled its four 17-pounders by night up the parallel ridge of San Felice, north-west of Castelfrentano, and emplaced them there at 200-yard intervals.
The day of the attack was wet and misty and heavy air attacks, which were also planned, were consequently much reduced. The guns, however, fired according to plan. The 4th Field on the left and the 5th Field on the right, with the 111th Field superimposed over both, fired from 1 to 2.30 p.m. 300 yards ahead of the start line and then lifted 100 yards every six minutes until their fire reached 500 yards west of Orsogna. This meant on the left a total of 23 lifts and on the right fewer than this, because of the shape of the ridge. Concurrently the 6th Field fired smoke for 20 minutes on the Sfasciata ridge which dominated the right flank of the advance, and then concentrations of HE on it until 4.10 p.m. Three troops of medium guns at the same time shelled Orsogna and the road to the west and a fourth troop shelled the Sfasciata ridge. The 1st Air-Landing Light Regiment, RA, fired on the main road on both sides of page 534 the town. Four medium troops and a 3.7 troop of 152 Battery fired a series of 20 CB tasks lasting a total of 98 minutes. The total required per field gun in 46 Battery was 336 rounds and the 4th Field expenditure, including later DF tasks, was 8022 rounds of HE and 102 of smoke.
The barrage inevitably cut all the telephone cables running along the ridge, damaged many wireless sets, and almost completely obstructed the flow of orders and information on which the coherence of the defence depended. Counter-attacks nevertheless developed and the guns responded to many calls for DF tasks until late in the night. The enemy, in turn, shelled the gun areas, though with far less weight. Again the 4th Field were unlucky, this time 46 Battery. Three gunners of B Troop were killed and one gunner of BHQ. The 5th Field lost one gunner.21
A toehold on the Sfasciata ridge was the only reward of this vast effort. Next day enemy aircraft appeared in unusual numbers—24 in each of the three main waves—and the Bofors gunners were active. Several single aircraft also came over. All kept respectfully high. As the gun A3 was traversing to engage a fresh target at noon, however, it was straddled by butterfly bombs and strafed out of the sun. Gunner Freeman22 was killed, four others were wounded and the gun was disabled. In D Troop of 28 Battery a bomb fell on the parapet of Sergeant Cammell's23 gun and Cammell himself was wounded. Several others were wounded and Cammell went to their aid. When help arrived Cammell refused to allow his own wounds to be dressed until his men had been attended to.
For the next week the field and medium guns had no major tasks. One minor but interesting task was fired by the 4th Field on 12 December to mark the departure on leave of Lieutenant-Colonel Philp. This quiet, dedicated field gunner, on the shy side though he inspired great confidence, had been with the regiment since March and was now very much part of it. His farewell was a task fired in the form of his initials. Gordon Stewart, back from convalescence and furlough, resumed his former appointment as CO.page 535 page 536
The 2nd Parachute Brigade had gone into position on the left rear of the Division on 5 December and 31 Anti-Tank Battery came under its command, in country even more difficult than that of the Orsogna front. On the 9th 6 AGRA had taken over CB work in the divisional area and 36 Survey Battery came under its command, together with the New Zealand CBO and his staff. The flash-spotting and sound-ranging troops had been busy throughout the Sangro fighting and were now operating well forward and with considerable success. The rate of sound-ranging locations was very high indeed and the flash-spotters were beginning to get good results from new flash-spotting cameras. In a letter to the CRA of 14 December the battery commander, Major Drummond, pointed out that checks on the ground of the accuracy of five locations shelled on information supplied by the battery indicated that four were highly successful and the fifth, engaged on the basis of sound-ranging only, might have been successful had a flash-spotting location also been taken into account. The survey troop, responsible for surveying in the many regiments and batteries in the Divisional area and providing bearing pickets, had been very busy indeed.
21 The B Troop gunners were C. E. Anderson, A. R. Laird and A. E. Savage; the 46 BHQ gunner was H. L. Kinzett; and the 5th Field gunner was O. C. Martin.