2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery
The guns had to compete with masses of other transport as they pushed forward towards the next river obstacle, the Sillaro, and dust rose in great choking clouds. By a prodigious feat of administration Artillery Headquarters nevertheless got five field regiments and two medium regiments across the Santerno and provided them with enough ammunition for another set-piece attack. In the evening Brigadier Queree reported to General Freyberg: ‘Every gun I own is now on the ground here and in action…. The amn is up and the fire programme is out’. Heavy and light ack-ack guns were also forward.
The excitement engendered by the sudden collapse of resistance the previous afternoon was now dampened by the hardening of opposition and the discovery that fresh troops had been put in against the Division. The 6th Field gun positions outside Massa Lombarda were on the fringe of an area heavily shelled by 105s and RHQ was inside this area. Tactical Headquarters of the Division nearby was hard hit and the 6th Field RHQ moved to escape the worst of the shelling.30
Lieutenant-Colonel Sawyers asked for and received permission to rest the 5th Field on the 13th and they did no firing. But they moved up to new positions so far forward that the infantry in the neighbourhood were startled. They were not used to sharing their foremost casas with members of 25-pounder gun crews. The 6th Field also moved well forward, into a flat, exposed area with many enemy dead in it and three burnt-out tanks. The 4th Field moved 26 and 46 Batteries forward, but page 710 25 Battery, which was engaging targets, did not move until after dark. At 2 a.m. on the 14th all three regiments plus the 1st RHA and 142nd Field (SP) fired a 300 r.p.g. quick barrage, codenamed Foxy, to help the infantry up to and across the Sillaro below the village of Sesto Imolese.
The attack went well; but the infantry claimed that one gun was firing short. About 3 a.m. 46 Battery reported that one gun was ‘making a screaming noise’. To be on the safe side DF page 711 tasks were raised 100 yards. But a 4th Field battery commander reported at 7.38 a.m. that one DF ‘fell in own F.D.Ls’ and the regiment added 200 yards to the DF tasks. All fire orders were checked and no errors found. No further infantry complaints were logged until 15 April, but NZA observers kept reporting tasks falling short, though other tasks fell perfectly. In this region, flat as a billiard table, it was extremely hard to establish accurate bearing pickets or to find suitably distant aiming points. Enemy 105s, plentiful on this front, might have been responsible. One or two guns could have been faulty: many of them had been overworked. But even a brand-new gun, F1 of the 5th Field (replacing the one which suffered a premature), was found to be crimping its cartridge cases. All kinds of possibilities were investigated; but the mystery remained unsolved.
30 The move was notable for one of many examples of devotion to duty by members of signals sections attached to NZA units. Lance-Sergeant J. W. Johnston of G Section, Divisional Signals, held open wireless commanications under fire until the last possible moment and then supervised the move of his detachment. He was later awarded a BEM.
In the ceremonial parade of the NZA in March Corporal L. J. Bartlett of H Section, attached to HQ NZA, had been decorated with the MM. Signalman L. A. Lyon of F Section, attached to the 5th Field, had been awarded an MM for the Sangro crossing.
The gunners were greatly indebted to these and other brave members of the attached signals sections.