A famous author—Somerset Maugham, I think—once said that fact is a poor story-teller. He asserts that it often has the makings of an interesting situation but fails to develop it, leaving the main theme and wandering along paths of seeming irrelevance that have no climax. Well, that is exactly how I found some of the War Diaries that Signals wrote during the six years of the last war; some of them I wrote myself! Certainly there was a good deal of useful material in them but most of them—particularly those written by the Signal sections attached to field regiments—teemed with small irrelevancies. For example, what can one make of a lengthy repetitive string of consecutive daily entries which say, ‘Section organisation and training’? Or perhaps, ‘Three ORs provided for regimental picquet’? Or, worse still, on one dreadful occasion, ‘Lunch at 1300 hours’!
I fear that a lot of readers may find that parts of this story are rather dull and tedious and, perhaps, needlessly repetitive. Other parts they may decide are fairly interesting reading. But these things I shall leave them to judge for themselves.
Although this is a book about the war it contains no heroics and not very much blood. It is a story about several more or less self-contained Signals sub-units which, in a rather sprawling organisation, spread into almost every formation and unit of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. It tells how the men of these sections groped and fumbled through their tasks in the early days of the war; how they gradually became more proficient as the months and years passed; and how they evenually attained a mastery of the art and practice of communications in battle that was the envy of many other formations of Eighth Army. It tells also of the indomitable courage which sustained them in defeat in those dark hours in Greece and Crete and in the Western Desert in mid-1942.
In the brief manner which is all that is possible in the story about a supporting arm like Divisional Signals, I have tried to page x pay tribute to the valour of the infantryman and the gunner and the men of all those other units with which Signals was so closely associated during the war.
To those who assisted me in the making of this book I owe many grateful thanks. They are too many for me to mention them individually, but I must say a special word of appreciation to Charles Brewer who, as secretary of the Second Divisional Signals unit history committee, has given me very valuable assistance indeed, frequently at considerable personal inconvenience to himself. I must also express my gratitude to Lieutenant-Colonel Agar for his consistent help and encouragement.
In conclusion, I have to acknowledge the most valuable assistance which I had in my task, that which was accorded me by the staff of the War History Branch in the correction and checking of my early drafts. To Messrs. I. McL. Wards, W. E. Murphy, R. Walker and R. L. Kay I am particularly grateful.
20 June 1954