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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Lessons of Greece

Lessons of Greece

A searching inquiry into artillery operations in Greece was carried out in mid-May by the acting CRA, Colonel Parkinson, who conferred for five days on the subject with almost all available artillery officers. Miles, when he resumed as CRA early in June, carefully considered the findings of this conference and on the 11th summed them up, together with his own conclusions, in a letter to General Freyberg. He gave first place to anti-tank defence. The Germans had proved adept at getting tanks across natural and artificial obstacles and the 2-pounder had not been effective against ‘the heavier natures of tanks’ (a rather doubtful generalisation based largely on one incident in the Molos battle). Many more anti-tank guns were needed, particularly heavy ones, and he suggested that French 75s fitted with Martin Parry adaptors7 and Beach platforms might be used. If these or similar guns could be obtained, an infantry anti-tank company of nine 2-pounders might be formed in each brigade, backed up by anti-tank batteries with heavier guns. On the British Army attitude to light ack-ack guns Miles was scathing: ‘The cliché that “anti-aircraft defence must be on an area basis” cannot excuse the exposure of troops … to uninterrupted and unopposed attack by low-flying enemy aircraft.’ Small-arms fire had proved ‘quite ineffective’ and he recommended that all combatant units be equipped with machine guns of .5-inch calibre for anti-aircraft defence. The light anti-aircraft regiment, moreover, must be ‘an integral part of the Division’.

Regarding the 25-pounders, he was impressed by their anti-tank power but regarded their use in an anti-tank role as page 171 wasteful. Beach platforms—like huge steel cartwheels—which provided stability and quick traverse for anti-tank action, however, facilitated quick and accurate gun-laying even in field roles. Some 25-pounders had been fitted experimentally with attachments under their trails for carrying these platforms and these had proved successful. The normal way of carrying Beach platforms on trailers led to slower handling of the guns. Regarding fuses for 25-pounder shells, Miles thought that the fuse HE 117 was ‘very effective’ against troops in the open, and that HE 119 with the cap on gave a good cratering effect and could be used against dug-in positions. He suggested carrying a higher proportion of HE 119 fuses. For both field and anti-tank guns he thought two more men per gun were needed to allow for casualties, provide reliefs, and help guard against infantry attack on the guns.