Headquarters: a brief outline of the activities of headquarters of the third division and the 8th and 14th Brigades during their service in the Pacific
IV — The Others
Wherever headquarters of the Third Division was established there also would be found three units which are always an essential part of a division in the field—in this instance the 5th Provost Company, provost being really the police force of a fighting unit; the 4th Field Security Section, the members of which regard everything unusual with suspicion; and the 3rd Defence and Employment Platoon. These three units moved with the division as it went from island to island and shared its activities on each of them.
The first commander of the provost company was Captain A. L. Downes, a veteran of the last war whose activities with British units had been almost global. He took his small company to Fiji in 1940 as part of the original 8th Brigade Group and with his men was soon putting question marks to any doubtful activities in Suva and the surrounding districts. Included in his company were several veterans whose birth certificates must have page 35received careless treatment. There was Private Stevens, for example, who must have put half a century behind him, but he took the heat and discomfort with the best; and the first CSM, Warrant-Officer G. Carr, who stood up well to the trials and tribulations of Fiji. There was stout Corporal Haultain, who never failed to raise a laugh on the most boring days, and there were several young sprigs of last war with sons fighting in this one who did a good job of work in most trying circumstances. When ships arrived, or departed, they knew no hours; they put an end to one or two disreputable enterprises and they displayed much tact towards the younger and less experienced soldiers. Maintaining law and order among troops is no easy task, for much of what is commonly referred to as 'dirty work' falls to the lot of the provost. When the unit returned to New Zealand in 1942 and the Third Division was reorganised Captain Downes and most of his company were boarded, but not before they had picketed the Frankton railway station while a train load of Jap prisoners passed through on their way to internment at Featherston. Lieutenant W. E. Street took command of a practically new company and was promoted captain soon after arriving in New Caledonia where he set up his headquarters at Moindah, having Lieutenant W. B. S. Telfer as his second-in-command. At that time Major L. R. Cutforth was attached to headquarters as DAPM, a post which he held until he retired and one which he had taken over from Major D. A. Solomon, who had temporarily succeeded Captain Downes while the division was stationed at Hamilton.
Ever member of the division who was in Necal will remember 'The Pass' at Moindu and its particular brand of mosquitoes which were incredible both in number and persistence of attack. There were ten hilly tortuous miles of this pass which, because of accidents, had been designated a one-way thoroughfare, with members of the provost company stationed at each end to control the traffic. This they usually did by lowering and raising the barriers from the shelter of mosquito nets, so bad were the attacks of the maddening insects. It was a really grim task. QMS N. W. Curry, who had served with the 35th Battalion in Fiji, was one of the stalwarts who did much to relieve the boredom of the men, but Sergeant D. W. Beyer can tell more stories of 'The Pass' than most of the others; almost as many as page 36Sergeant T. M. E. Moore and those who helped to guard the canteen stores (liquid) at Népoui.
When the division moved into the Solomons, the provost took charge of the birdcages in the forward areas, but there were few 'birds"' to guard since the Japanese were not keen on surrender-Ing. However, there were a few both on Vella Lavella and the Treasuries, but most of the provost work consisted of traffic control on roads and beaches, as well as guarding canteen stores on the LSTs when they came forward from the rear. On Guadalcanal part of the 'dirty work' was the suppression of the activities of those who were too intent on the manufacture and sale of questionable 'jungle juice.' On Vella Lavella Lieutenant Telfer and the HQ section established their POW cages and the provost generally stepped hard on some attempts at 'black-marketing.' In the Treasuries Slim Thomas and Dick Seddon each claimed a Jap and the section attached to the 8th Brigade performed much hard work controlling traffic on beaches, roads and, latterly, the airstrip. When Captain Street rejoined the 30th Battalion he was succeeded by Captain E. M. Grace, who took the unit to Nissan and established his first headquarters in a little native hut on the beach at the Pokonian plantation, later moving to a site on the main road in the divisional area when that highway was bulldozed through the jungle. Several members of the provost company saw long service in the Pacific and, like the other units, it had its characters. Some of those with long memories were CSM L. T. Brown and Warrant-Officer E. Penton, Sergeant S. G. H. Kay and Corporal Sexton; Corporal T. N. M. Reay, who ultimately became CQMS; Corporal L. W. Jones, whose discoveries included his own variety of vienna sausage; Privates A. Morgan and A. Gill, who displayed much prowess as cooks; and Private L. A. Kennedy, who claims that he never lost a man on paper.
Soon after achieving divisional status headquarters became security minded and a unit arrived in Fiji from New Zealand with Captain M. Whatman in charge. He and his men settled down in an aura of gossip and suspicion but that soon wore off as the unit's task became more generally understood. Lieutenant O. G. JR. Edwards took charge of a small detachment which watched any suspicious behaviour on the Namaka side of the island, but all the diligence displayed by both sections failed to page 37uncover any fifth columnists or subversive operations in Fiji. When the force returned to New Zealand Lieutenant Edwards took over command of the section and was promoted captain. In New Caledonia the security section established its headquarters at Moindah, with subsections working with each brigade. Their activities certainly took the edge off army monotony. Motor cycles and the course of duty took members of the section to the uttermost corners of New Caledonia, in which activity they vied with the provost. Warrant-Officer H. D. MacKinnon brushed up his French and found it useful when dealing with the gendarmes; Sergeants A. W. Williams, L. W. P. Edwards and L. C. Barker, Corporals K. P. Minhinnick. R, J. Dwyer and J. E. Preston; Lance-Corporals J. K. MacLean and K. J. Hollyman were among those who could always provide diversion. This took a variety of forms, as when Sergeant C. Zambucka appeared on parade wearing only a felt hat and his boots. It appears that on the previous day Captain Edwards had been much annoyed and demanded an early morning parade. Zambucka asked what dress should be worn and Captain Edwards replied hastily 'Oh, anything.' He got what he asked for. Before leaving for the Solomons Captain Edwards was posted to the 37th Battalion and Lieutenant M. W. B. Anderson took over. He in turn was replaced by Lieutenant Lawford who was promoted captain and commanded the section on Vella Lavella and the early part of the Nissan venture. While in New Caledonia it was realised that a field security section would be of little use in the Solomons so its activities became rather like those of a reconnaissance unit when required. 'Red' MacLean has good reason to remember Guadalcanal, where the members of the section got about the country in remarkably quick time. He was one of a reconnaissance party which had stopped beside an American radar station for a drink and remained there for a rest. Suddenly MacLean said 'and clapped his hand to his right eye. A bullet had struck his face, curved over the cheekbone and made its exit near his nose. To this day no one knows where the bullet came from. Corporal Dwyer has also good reason to remember Guadalcanal. In New Caledonia he had had his first boxing lesson and showed much promise. While the unit was in Vella Dwyer entered for a championship bout and was flown back to Guadalcanal to be one of New Zealand's representatives. The page 38tough little five-footer put up a good show but he was no match for a tougher lad from Texas.
During the latter part of the action on Vella Lavella Captain Lawford and ten of his section were attached to the 14th Brigade and did excellent work in the jungle, particularly in assisting with the relief of personnel who had become isolated. Similarly, when the division moved north to Nissan, members of the section were engaged with 14th Brigade units in a fierce little engagement on the island of Sirot, Soon afterwards Lieutenant Moore took command of the section and he in turn was replaced by Captain W. D, Luchars, who brought the section back to New Zealand and then went on to Italy. When last heard of Warrant-Officer MacKinnon was teaching himself Japanese and Lance-Corporal Hollyman was writing letters in verse from Italy. They were an interesting crowd, the security 'blokes/ and probably made more fun for themselves than any other similar unit.
The Defence and Employment Platoon, more generally known as the D and E, did not materialise as such until the division returned from Fiji and was reorganised at Manurewa. Lieutenant N. MacDonald, as first commander, had the task of reorganising the platoon in time for the Kaimai exercises and of packing for the trip to New Caledonia. There Captain J. R. Wink took over, established a camp in the niaoulis and organised the platoon for its primary tasks of defending and labouring before he went to join the base organisation and was replaced by Lieutenant H. R. Wade. One of those long-remembered 'incidents' in New Caledonia was the occasion when seven members of the platoon were chastised for running off the ropes in Nouméa, but the D and E is best remembered for its labours. At night the platoon provided pickets for the HQ area and once took pot shots at a 'moving object' which created a bit of an uproar; by day the employment section assisted with the construction of the YMCA and the roadhouse and with A, B and C messes, for which they did most of the heavy work, while natives did the thatching and other people received most of the praise. D and E also cleared the Moindah sports field, which they afterwards used to defeat Div Sigs in a meritorious game of rugby. Sergeant Mussett, Sergeant J. Jenkinson and Sergeant Carl Partridge were kept busy among the various sections and showed the page 39way when necessary, even unto digging holes. The same can be said of Corporal Gordon Taylor, who was later mentioned in despatches, Corporal John Sutton and Corporal T. Mills.
During the moves to and in the forward area heavy demands were made on the D and E men, whose memories of Guadalcanal are rather jaundiced by the number of fox-holes they dug and the number of tents they erected in the heat when staff officers were in a hurry. On Vella Lavella there was much more digging and tent pitching and many members of Div HQ have reason to be grateful to 'Aussie' Kain, the D and E cook, for the meals he provided in that dank and dismal place far in the jungle and almost knee deep in mud. When headquarters moved out to a brighter and better site in Gill's plantation D and E men aided the engineers in constructing many roads through the area and in constructing more fox-holes, one of which, a dugout, was a real showpiece and would have housed the Governor-General, if the Japs had raided during his visit. Then, after removing thousands and thousands of young palms (any one of which, potted, would have cost half a guinea in New Zealand) they proceeded to beautify the place by planting others in regular rows. One expedition of interest was the reconnaissance of Gizo Island by a combined party of eight of the D and E Platoon under Lieutenant Wade and a similar number of the security section under Captain Lawford. The Japanese had fled and the natives gave the New Zealanders a great welcome, particularly as Colonel E. G. Sayers, who had visited the island as a doctor years before the war, accompanied the party and ministered to the sick. Another task for some of the D and E men was to accompany General Barrowclough into the forward areas, but perhaps their best job was on the day of the landing on Vella when the machine-gunners manned guns on the LSTs and helped to drive off raiding Japanese planes.
With the move to Nissan Captain W. G. Rutherford took command of the platoon and remained with it until the end of the chapter. And on Nissan, where more digging and picket work was necessary and the coral more rock-like, the platoon began to disintegrate with the call of manpower. Like other units D and E had its characters: Lance-Corporal A. Jones, who figured at every boxing tournament; Lance-Corporal M. G. Mark, the familiar orderly room clerk; Privates Smart and Jones, the page 40barbers who had to remove the celebrated and fearsome beards; Privates 'Butch' Walker, who was last heard of in Italy, E. McLaughlin, who was never afraid to tell anyone what he could do, and H. Halstead, who seemed to have a distinct preference for the cookhouse. Then there were the McCoy twins, two souvenir-makers whose greatest joy was a wrecked aeroplane, and QMS Owen, one of the bearded wonders of D and E.