The Gunners: an intimate record of units of the 3rd New Zealand Divisional Artillery in the Pacific from 1940 until 1945
Chapter Eleven — 4th Survey Troop
4th Survey Troop
The 4th Survey Troop emerged as a unit of Three Div Artillery on 3 September 1942. It learnt its quota of spherical 'trig,' and the meaning of 'log' table and theodolite, and then sweated its way through New Caledonian gaiac and Solomons jungle to peace with general disbandment in October 1944. Recruited from field and coast artillery, and from survey and NZEF personnel, the infant troop settled early to specialist training and leave wangling, each important in the scheme of things. A month in Papakura mobilisation camp, which was all too short for Auckland folk, preceded a move to Tirau in the train of the Artillery Corps. With the prospects of country quarters ahead thoughts of bright lights were less hopeful, but the spontaneous hospitality, which is so typical of Tirau, was yet untasted. Memories of the happy hours spent there and in nearby Okoroire and Putaruru were to help a lot during the dreariness of tropic days ahead.
The advanced party had established an admirable set-up in the Tirau Domain, close, but not too close, to Div Arty Headquarters, and there, amid the round of dances and other distractions, training recommenced. Survey people sweated through the interminable classes, drivers learned how not to do it, and everyone endeavoured, with determination, to lay the foundations of a good show. Range surveys for calibration shoots at Lake Rerewhakaitu in November offered a welcome diversion from lectures and camp chores and provided an opportunity to try out both survey and driving. All came through this first test in team work with top marks.
Lieutenants Tom Finlayson and Boyd Wright joined the page 239troop shortly after its arrival at Tirau, and with Captain Sanderson, who had already been appointed to command, the unit was now at full strength, at least in officers. There were still one or two gaps in the ranks, however, and the loss of Gunner Tom McGahan and several others, who were withdrawn on the eve of embarkation, was generally disappointing. With final leave disposed of, December brought persistent rumours of sailing dates and destinations with equally persistent hopes for Christmas leave. Kit issues and the packing of equipment proceeded meanwhile, but with the near approach of the festive season optimism on the score of Christmas dinner with the family was at low ebb. Eventually a few of the more fortunate were able to spend a brief hour or two with relatives in Hamilton, but general leave was not forthcoming. Open invitations to Christmas dinner, from hosts of local friends, were eagerly accepted and for those who stayed at home Gunner George Tayles had prepared a very fine open-air feast.
The troop entrained, with other gunners from the Tirau district, on 27 December, and later that day, embarked on USS West Point at Auckland. Luxury liner travel was a new experience to most, and even the experienced few found some difficulty in sorting out the maze of alley and companionway on this huge ship. However, confusion was soon ironed out and in off duty moments all found a way to the port promenade deck, with faint hopes of a fleeting glimpse of friend or relative on passing ferry boats. Two days were spent on board before orders of 'all troops to quarters 'prefaced a sailing from Auckland at 1000 hours on 29 December. The somewhat crowded quarters were not unpleasant, and had they then been judged by later standards of travel, they would have been considered good. Food twice daily, navy style, was not popular, but this custom proved less troublesome with later experience. Throughout the voyage the weather was delightful, and the fascination of the blue waters of the Pacific in traditional mood eased the boredom of shipboard life. Periods on deck were all too short, though this was inevitable on such a crowded ship.
The 'dinkum oil' had long since established New Caledonia as the most probable among a number of rumoured destinations, but all remaining doubts were dispelled by the landfall made shortly after noon on 31 December. The remaining hours of West Point life, during the run in from the Ile Amédée light-page 240house to an anchorage off Ile Nou, were an absorbing introduction to coral seas, and interest in the unknown dispelled for the moment the thoughts of home so far away. Disembarkation orders ushered in the New Year, and long before dawn lost people and lost equipment had been rounded up and the troop was assembled and ready to go. The journey ashore, in a local steam tender, was eventually accomplished without incident, motor transport was waiting and a short run brought the troop to the transit camp at Dumbéa, where it was to await further orders.
The Dumbean interlude was refreshing. The clear water of the river adjoining the camp provided a much-needed opportunity for washing up and the equally urgent need for cooling off in the unaccustomed heat. Good business had been done in exchanging New Zealand issue bed slats for the more comfortable American army cot, but spam was still a novelty. Accommodation was reasonably good, and the three days of complete rest, during which one merely bathed and ate, was generally approved by all.
Most good things are soon ended, however, but with unknown scenes and fresh fields ahead, orders for the move north to Nepoui were quite popular. Embussing early on the morning of 4 January, the first stage in the unit's journeyings was completed with the arrival at the Nepoui staging camp at dusk. Impressions of New Caledonian countryside on this occasion were not altogether pleasant. Interest in the unusual was soon dispelled by the monotony of bleak hills, gaiac, niaouli and Iantana scrub which the fleeting glimpses of tiny village and foreign folk failed to lighten. The intense heat and the clouds of red dust encountered en route made travel in an open truck a trying business. A call at a good old-fashioned New Zealand 'pub' would have helped a lot.
The first essential after arrival at Népoui was the selection of a camp site within the limits of the unit's assigned area. One was eventually chosen in a clump of pin de fer on the river bank, and camp construction commenced on 6 January. The first bure, roofed with niaouli bark, was erected in good time and in fair shape, and the cookhouse staff, with its pots and pans, was installed there. Tent lines were set out in a shady spot overlooking a swimming pool, and within a day or two the troop had settled down to life in its new home.
Sergeant Basil Hall, with commendable zeal, a gang of willing page 241workers and a winch truck, 'bulldozed' a cook stove into camp, but the food which subsequently emerged from its capacious oven well repaid the loss in skin and curses in bringing it home. This stove was a massive affair which could swallow a wood pile with greedy ease, but it served well during its stay with the troop. The thought of its two tons of plating in an amphibious operation could not be entertained though, so it returned to ordnance when the unit moved north to the Solomons.
The incessant clatter of New Caledonia's insects and the customs of its crawling vermin were equally annoying. The season for 'this' or 'that' brought each pest, in turn, to do its bit, but the local mosquito seemingly thrived all the year through. January brought the season of hurricane warnings, and the troop had scarcely settled in when the first of the series sent everyone scampering to strike tents and peg down. That night, spent in sodden misery waiting for the rain to stop, and for the blow that never came, did little to improve the popularity of later warnings.
Survey work for AA people was pressing at this stage, but theodolites and other necessary technical gear had not yet arrived from New Zealand. However, with equipment loaned by neighbouring American engineers, serious work was started in the Plaine des Gaiacs area on 18 January, and all who could be spared from camp duties turned out to help the surveyor folk. Even QMS 'Staff' White turned to on 'trig' building, whenever he could snatch an hour or two away from his ration stores. Farewells to Sergeant Wally Vautier, who was returning to Zealand with a well-earned recommendation for training as a cadet officer, had been said when the first mail from home folk arrived on 26 January. The first of the equally welcome but less frequent parcel deliveries followed some three weeks later.
With Plaine des Gaiacs triangulation well in hand, a party of survey people chaperoned by Lieutenant Tom Finlayson and Sergeant Alex Taylor left camp to commence similar work in the Oua Tom area some miles south on the road to Noumea. In the timely decision to detach a section for this assignment this party escaped the midnight move from the river bank. Late on the afternoon of 3 February, heavy rain in the hill country towards Mont Paouea, transformed the trickle of Nepoui's summertime river into a raging torrent. As hell itself would be easier faced than a court of enquiry should equipment be lost in a flood. page 242the troop hurriedly moved to a nearby rocky hillside. That night in the rain was even more miserable than the earlier occasion of the hurricane warning. The local oldest inhabitant was very insistent with his warnings o£ rainy season floods, but none eventuated. However, as it was thought wise to play safe, construction of a new camp on the hillside commenced. The troop was temporarily short handed for the work involved, but this problem was solved by the arrival of fresh manpower. Sergeant Dave Archer's rearguard of drivers arrived from Tirau with much needed trucks and equipment. A few days later Bombardier Theo Olifent with Gunners Bernie Maschell and Arthur Hanna arrived opportunely for advanced survey training.
The new camp was soon established and training was resumed. The months that followed seemed to be just one long period of lectures and hard work, but the occasional break in the daily round of 'flash spotting' and astronomy did come along. Early in March, a section with Lieutenant Boyd Wright and Sergeant Bob Hamilton was detached for an assignment lasting three weeks at Ile Nou and Nouméa. Work at Taom offered a change of scenery to a few, and there was no shortage of applicants to join a section detailed for surveys at Anse Vata, the popular beach resort a few miles out of Nouméa.
Nightly showings at the Plaine des Gaiacs cinema were popular, despite the seven-odd miles of red dust to be endured in getting there. Both the Kiwi concert party and the divisional band brought occasional entertainment of the right kind to the Nepoui valley and a mobile cinema began operating in opposition to the Plaine des Gaiacs movies. Fishing trips to the outlying reef were organised, and fish netting expeditions with French friends offered interest and diversion in free hours. Sunday excursions to minor towns at Pouembout, Kone and Voh were popular, and an occasional day off for a trip to Bourail in the stores truck proved to be a welcome change from wilderness fare. The troop's football team scored well in the Népoui Valley contests, and racing fans were always ready for the next meeting of the 'Northern Racing Club.' Race days at Taom entailed 70 miles of dusty truck travel, and winnings were never even moderately fair, but these outings were always popular and well worth while. Bombardier Peter Newhook and Gunner Dave Archer, who had spent several months on Norfolk Island after leaving the troop at Papakura, rejoined the unit in April. Bom-page 243bardiers Alf Green, Leon Pitt and Hugh Thomson were 'attached ex-Norfolk', and with the arrival of several people from New Zealand, the unit could at last muster a full strength parade. At the conclusion of brigade and divisional manoeuvres in June, activities turned to amphibious training and to equipment packing in readiness for an early move to the Solomons. On 18 August the troop moved to Noumea for embarkation, and on the day following boarded USS Hunter Liggett. This ship was rather unlovely in looks and ways and offered little in the way of comforts of a modern trooper! In spite of crowded quarters, packed with troops and cargo, everyone survived the sixteen days on board.
In company with USS Fuller and escort, Liggett left Noumea on 24 August. Drills were frequent and exacting during the days that followed, and one learned to jump for stations at the first note of siren or bell. Two days out from Noumea a landfall was made, and before dusk the convoy had reached an anchorage in the exquisite harbour of Vila, the port of Efate Island. Palm fringed beaches of coral sand provided a welcome contrast to the grim hills of New Caledonia, and all would have been glad of an opportunity for a closer inspection of the township than that afforded from the ship's deck. Shore leave was not forthcoming, but the troop had its fill of Efate during the days of amphibious assault exercises on Mélé beach. Copious doses of net scrambling and landing craft were the order of both days and nights at Vila, and one learned that tropic soldiering could be unpleasant.
With exercises finally disposed of, the journey to the Solomons was resumed and everyone was glad of a rest from landing nets. The east coast of the island of San Cristobal was sighted at dawn on 3 September, and a few hours later the blue peaks and lowland jungle of Guadalcanal were abeam. Before noon the convoy had reached its destination, and troopships commenced disembarkation off Kukum beach. Despatch in unloading was of the utmost importance because of attacks on shipping, which were not infrequent at the time. Before nightfall rations, guns, trucks and equipment had been ferried ashore to beach dumps. The troop landed in a shell-torn plantation, near the Matanikau River, and all those who could be spared from ship details and unloading parties were transported to an assigned camp area. After a hasty and unattractive meal of K rations, page 244the assorted tasks of camp building commenced. A detachment with Bombardier Alf Green had sorted equipment into a handy-unit pile; Gunner Joe Harris arrived with the first truckload of priority gear and prospects for the first night on Guadalcanal were reasonably bright by mid-afternoon. The camp, which was located on a ridge covered with kunai grass and some 200 odd feet above sea level, would have been much more attractive with some shade from the blazing sun. However, compensation was offering in the cooling sea breeze and comparative freedom from the mosquito pest of lower jungle-covered areas. The uninterrupted views, too, from Cape Esperance and Savo to Malaita and Florida Islands were well worth the 'blood and tears' of fox-hole digging. Guadalcanal's grass ridges were of coral formation and crowbars, rather than pick and shovel, were necessary during digging operations. High level bombing raids were a feature of moonlight nights, and sweat drenched toil at the foxholes had to go on in spite of unrelenting heat.
However, the troop soon settled to normal ways of life in the tropics. Staff-Sergeant Lloyd Kaye had ironed out the ration department and established a well-stocked storeroom; Gunner George Tayles had produced a fine oven attachment for the unit's field cooker and the troop's best effort in cookhouses, complete with concrete floor, had been constructed. Moreover, mail deliveries were regular and parcels also arrived at odd times. Training was resumed in the intervals between jobs of work on gun ranges and engineer construction projects. Bombardiers Vince Roigard and Peter Newhook, with 'Staff' Al Fellows and one or two others of the 'brains trust,' were detailed for training as a meteorological section, and other surveyor people were kept busy with the interminable exercises in jungle traverse and tri-angulation. Gunner Pat Southern had a never-ending job in keeping theodolites and other technical instruments in good shape in the humid conditions of the jungle climate. With November came the first of the bi-annual rainy seasons and a daily routine of coral shovelling on camp paths and tent floors to keep out the worst of a sea of slushy mud. The bath problem was eased, however, by introducing empty petrol drums to collect rainfall from tent flies. Rivers and streams were some distance from camp and were not particularly attractive to those who did not elect to disregard the tale of crocodiles.
Gunner Charlie Wright kept the troop well informed on the page 245subject of jungle foods, but normal ration issues were preferred meanwhile in spite of the copious doses of spam. The cookhouse staff did produce an occasional boiling of green pawpaw and baked yams, as a welcome change from the dehydrated 'murphy.' The fruit supplies to which everyone had been accustomed while in New Caledonia were greatly missed but canteen stocks of the best in the canned variety were readily available. Deserted banana plantations were well culled by wandering troops and occasionally one found a ripe pawpaw which had been overlooked by other scavengers. Many hours were spent in jungle marches, to toughen muscles and accustom people to the tasks ahead. The jungle itself, from banyan and mahogany to lesser and unidentified tangle, was not unlike the bush of New Zealand's back country, but the fetid humidity and its crawling vermin were unique.
Compensations for heat and hard work were to be found, however, in the odd diversions that were offering. Cinema shows were as frequent as weather and Jap bombers would permit, and all the latest in screen productions found a way to the Solomons. In off duty hours, the souvenir hunter could always muster the energy and interest to explore local battle areas, while others preferred the popular pastime of model-making in spare moments. Gunner Viv Allott turned out a really fine line in Marconi-rigged yachts from a 'belly' tank and a few packing case lids. Rakiura floated well and sailed moderately but she was no lady on a beat to windward.
The first of a series of shooting competitions, with teams from the 144th Battery, was held on Thanksgiving Day, but on this occasion the troop team failed in its attempt to 'bring home the bacon.' A generous issue of turkey had arrived with the rations that day and prospects of a pre-Christmas feast would undoubtedly account for poor shooting. Gunner Jeff Bunning had volunteered to help George with cookhouse duties and well deserved his share of the general vote of thanks for the best meal on record. Members of the troop served a liberal apprenticeship in general stevedoring on the Kukum dock and were well hardened to the jobs of freight hauling, from ship to shore and from barge to beach, which were so much a feature of soldiering in the Solomons. An unfortunate accident brought a deep sorrow to the unit when Lieutenant Finlayson died on 15 October. He page 246was a very popular officer and everyone had felt so justifiably-proud to claim him as a pal.
Christmas of 1943 brought a welcome parcel mail. One or two had come to hand since the unit's arrival in Guadalcanal, but the December issue was particularly welcome. The cookhouse staff produced a fine effort for Christmas dinner, and the quality of George's cooking on that occasion received general commendation. Officers performed quite satisfactorily in the role of waiters, and mess orderlies recruited from unit sergeants, worked well. Supplies of 'jungle juice' helped to enhance the festive spirit in keeping with the season. Fortunately all had recovered before the New Year ushered in preparations for another move.
As problems of shipping space called for the reduction of an assault force to bare essentials, only a detachment from the troop was to move forward with the first wave. Severe casualties in this detachment were not improbable, and a quota of 'key' men accordingly were to remain behind for subsequent drafts. With these factors in view, the troop was reorganised in sections, and each was detailed to move forward with successive echelons. The equipment and manpower needs of each detachment created some minor problems but men and gear were assigned in due course and packing proceeded. A meteorological section of RNZAF personnel, under the command of Flying Officer Mart Fountain, had been attached, but a decision had been reached to add 'met' observations to the normal survey duties of the troop. The RNZAF 'met' section marched out accordingly on 1 February and bequeathed its problems, its responsibilities and its headaches to the 4th Survey Troop. The prospect of manhandling the addition in heavy equipment which the unit had inherited Was not encouraging either.
The first section of survey personnel embarked with Captain Sanderson on 10 February for the assault on Green Island. The LST to which the section was assigned offered reasonably comfortable quarters and this mode of travel was not unpleasant. The ship was eventually crowded beyond normal capacity, however, and late comers were less fortunate in finding sleeping space. The final additions to the mixed company of American and 3 Div soldiery already aboard embarked en route at Mumia Beach, Vella Lavella. Survey people who moved with the first section will recall the all night loading there, With comparative page 247freedom from the usual shipboard rules and in perfect weather, the five days spent on the way up passed pleasantly. One had little to do in the hours before D-day and folk who were not on KP duty were to be found as a rule asleep in some spare corner among the clutter of guns and cargo on top sides. Life was somewhat more complex for the crews of escorting 'cans' and the gunners at action stations throughout the ships of the convoy. All available Bofors guns had been mounted on the upper decks, and AA people were standing to in readiness to add their quota to the ship's fire power when needed. Assault craft, each crammed with machines and men, had swelled the convoy from stations en route, and before the coast of Jap-held Bougainville was sighted, the collection of ships and escort had grown to sizable proportions.
Jap airfields on Bougainville and elsewhere had been plastered by bombers, and no serious opposition was expected from that quarter. The near approach to Nissan Island, however, brought the convoy within easy range of Rabaul-based enemy aircraft, but air cover from the newly acquired Torokina airstrip at Empress Augusta Bay was now continuous and substantial. Interest in the jungle-clad shores of New Georgia, Vella and Teti-pari was somewhat casual during the first few days out from Guadalcanal, but as the journey neared an end, everyone was alert and ready for the job ahead. At dusk on 14 February the convoy had reached a point some miles west of Buka Island and was heading north for the following dawn attack on Green Island. The time had come for a last minute check of water bottle and weapons, before turning in for a few hours' sleep. Some preferred the cooler atmosphere of top sides in a silence broken only by the throbbing diesel motors, while others passed the hours of waiting in a desultory card game, below decks.
Theodolites had been loaded in an easily accessible spot on the tank deck and were available for an immediate start on the more urgent survey jobs. A satisfactory site for a 'sun shot' was located and Sergeants Alex Taylor and Vic Thompson proceeded immediately with the production of grid bearings. 'Link' traverses were commenced by a team with Sergeant Bob Hamilton, while other people in the section manhandled equipment and precious water ashore to a unit dump. Long before nightfall the Survey Troop established an artillery grid and completed the immediate tasks necessary for fire control.
A section of headquarters perimeter defences had been assigned to surveyor personnel and all turned to with pick and shovel after a hasty evening meal of K ration. The water-filled fox-holes of that first night on Nissan were dismal. One lay in six inches or so of slush, with knife or grenade held tight, watching the deeper shadows for crawling Japs. Bombers arrived from Rabaul towards midnight but confined their attention to troops across the lagoon, at Tangalan. Sleep was out of the question, anyway. There was no let up in the work that followed. Adequate supplies of air-photo maps were available, but these were too inaccurate for the purposes of artillery fire control. Surveys in consequence had to keep pace with the guns and this was not an easy task for a small detachment in jungle country Meteor data was essential for gun range corrections, and the normal 'met' telegram had to be translated into terms familiar to the US Heavy AA gunners. However, the team on tap was an excellent one, and it did all and more than was expected of it. While fresh gun positions were being linked, base lines were chained and checked at Tangalan. Target areas in Jap territory were 'tied in,' and the first of a series of trig stations was established.
Sergeants Alex Taylor and Bob Hamilton were constantly on the move, and the first-class backing of Gunners Maurice Kelly, Charlie Wright, Bruce Morrison and 'Mac' McRae, helped considerably in keeping field work somewhat ahead of the exacting demands. The one jeep available had 'dug in' soon after landing, with heavy trucks bogged fore and aft, but it was back in service within an hour or two. The native trails were soon turned into quagmires in which there was little hope of dodging tree stumps page 250and coral ledges. These roadless days on Nissan presented a severe test both to trucks and drivers, but Gunner Don Gillies and his jeep came through with top marks.
Computations under the best of conditions are a tiring job,. but hours of unremitting toil with a log book and pencil in a jungle fox-hole are by no means pleasant. However, Sergeant Vic Thompson, with Bombardiers Len Smith and Leon Pitt and Gunner Ken Bond, did the job and did it well. 'Staff' Al Fellows and Bombardier Vince Roigard were soon on the job with balloon flights and they produced the first of a long series of 'met' telegrams within 24 hours after landing. The jungle presented difficulties to meteorological observers, but eventually a relatively clear spot was found where most balloons would clear the tree tops. Night flights were conducted to produce 'met' data for dawn gun barrages, but as a rule the 'met' section spent its nights with a log book and candle helping the 'comps 'people with their survey calculations. As extensive jungle traversing would have been impracticable, a polygonal system of triangulation was established in the lagoon. Transport to shore line trig stations by LCVP craft was provided by the US port director, who was extremely helpful in affording priority to survey needs. An American Navy detachment of hydrographic surveyors was busy on lagoon and coast line surroundings, and these men worked in with the section whenever possible.
A move to a bivouac area near the Pokonian beach provided ready access to boat transport and reasonably dry fox-holes. The change to J rations, too, with an occasional hot meal, helped to make life more tolerable. All members of the troop were somewhat weary of long hours and little rest and were relieved when Lieutenant Boyd Wright and the second echelon detachment arrived on 20 February. The prospect of normal meals, with the arrival of cooks and rations was most heartening. With fresh surveyors, computers and 'met' observers available, the old hands were glad of an opportunity to rest for a few hours. There was little relief for anyone, however, while Jap resistance lasted.
Permanent camp sites were eventually allocated and the troop moved to an island jungle area a mile or two from the mission station. Bulldozers had been hard at work on a roading system, but the appalling native trails of coral outcrops and slush-filled holes still operated. The assigned camp site had few advantages and the many shortcomings were not minimised by the heavy page 251rain, which was one of the unpleasant features of the move. The opportune arrival of Lieutenant Ian Berendsen with the third echelon detachment coincided with the move from Pokonian. Camp equipment and tentage had come to hand, and with willing workers on axe and crosscut saw the jungle growth was readily cleared. Tent lines and cook houses followed, and the troops returned to the more normal ways of life. All personnel enjoyed the first night of reasonable rest on a bedcot once more.
With the end of active combat duties, the unit was detailed to surveys for the first accurate mapping of the Green Islands group. 'Met' people continued regular observations, with the primary object of compiling meteorological records of the western Solomons zone. Mapping projects afforded little leisure during the ensuing three months. Surveys for American army coast defence guns and for field gun calibration were introduced and the troop averaged a normal working week of some 60 hours in consequence. Observations were taken to fix the geographic position of the islands. Base lines and provisional triangulation were carefully checked, and the many miles of new roading were traversed with theodolite and chain. Surveys of the airstrips were carried out, and numerous control points were established along the shores of the lagoon and outer coast. Pinipel was tied in to the main island group and surveys were carried out for the fixation of its coast line. Meanwhile the 'comps' section was inundated with field notes, and everyone in this department was kept busy on interminable calculations.
To give effect to daily work schedules, the manpower needs for camp duties were pruned to a bare minimum; even drivers and orderlies were pressed into service as chainmen. Everyone was needed and the effort of the troop's volunteer RAP staff, Bombardier Ken Gillies and Gunnner Bruce Morrison, in keeping all hands in the best possible physical shape for the job was commendable. Work was eventually completed early in May. Selections for return to industry in New Zealand had been made and the first draft embarked on 18 April. The troop's quota had thinned its ranks considerably, but for those who remained there was little survey work left to complete. The latter days of Nissan life were quite tolerable. Rain was frequent and tree toads annoying, but one had become inured to jungle pests and discomforts. Several cinemas operated nightly with a variety of programmes, and there was much to do in the odd hour of leisure.page 252Beer rations were frequent, food supplies good and mail service excellent.
Orders were duly received for a return to New Caledonia, and as everyone hoped, then on to New Zealand. Packing commenced soon after the completion of mapping surveys, and the troop was ready to move on 28 May. After an appalling night spent under a borrowed tarpaulin, embarkation commenced soon after the following dawn. An LCT provided transport to the troopship, which was lying off Barahun Island; before noon the journey back to New Caledonia had begun. USS Naos was an unpretentious Liberty ship, but quarters were fairly comfortable. However, all were glad of the ultimate landfall off the New Caledonian coast seven days out from Nissan. After some hours of delay, in a search for the passage through the reef, the troop disembarked on the Népoui dock.
Of the tale of the 4th Survey troop little to tell now remains. Transport was waiting at Nepoui, and in due course the unit reached ATD camp near Bourail where it was welcomed with prepared quarters and an excellent meal. The change from hard work to a spell of leisure was most welcome, and any spare time was easily filled. Kiwi and Bourail Beach Clubs were attractive and concert parties and cinema offered adequate entertainment during the evenings.
The earnest hopes for furlough were to be realised and the first draft for home marched out for embarkation at Noumea on 30 June. Others followed at short intervals until the final few of the rearguard were on the way. With furlough completed all too soon, the remaining members of the unit returned to mobilisation camps. Some were to serve again in the Middle East and others were returning to civilian life, as fate or fortune decreed. The 4th Survey Troop had played its part in the scheme of things and had carried out the tasks assigned to it. Every man had done his bit and had done it well, until the last 'round was closed.'