2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery
AS a rest area, apart from the weather, the Apennines south of Fabriano approached perfection. Gunners who had lived for a year or more in Italy in the midst of battle or in its wake had become accustomed to the entrails of towns rather than their living hearts. Here they found towns and villages miraculously untouched by high-explosive violence and uncorrupted by waves of soldiers and the jetsam they leave behind. After an hour or two of cautious appraisal from both sides the gunners and their hosts and hostesses began to turn their compulsory acquaintance into many a voluntary friendship. With the little children it was, as always, a case of love at first sight. Except for the most persistent tipplers, the raw wine was put aside in favour of more mellow vintages.
Even in the rain the countryside looked lovely. ‘The valley in which the regiment is situated is surrounded by high bush clad hills’, the 5th Field diarist noted. ‘The leaves are now in their autumn tints and give a colourful atmosphere to the area.’ A mountain of war diaries yields few such remarks as these. ‘BHQ held dance in Padrone's house in evening’, the 42 Battery diary says of 23 October. It was one of many dances, all of them richly enjoyable.
There was much to celebrate and there were also some sad farewells. Gunners had been wondering for some time when the next stage of the furlough scheme would begin. They learned that it was now a replacement scheme and that the 5th Reinforcements and those who had returned from furlough were next on the list—to the bitter disappointment of the ‘Coconut Bombers’ who had served in Fiji. They were also told that the Division would now reorganise.