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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 6, No. 11 August 11, 1943

North Africa

North Africa

For two days only was I anywhere where the going was tough, and that eventuated when I went out and relieved one of our officers to give him a spell from the constant shelling.

I was commanding a signal section with one of our field regiments who were situated about a mile south of the height known as Takrouna. You have probably read in the papers of the bloody scrap that took place there between the Maoris and the Italians. It was a tough spot by our guns, as the enemy had located our position by sound and flash ranging and was throwing heavy stuff back at us as fast as he could.

Even after two days of it I felt like a spell. The sharp, continuous bark of our own guns day and night, plus the hellish crump as Jerry's stuff landed nearby certainly kept one from getting any worth-while sleep. I lost two chaps killed and four wounded in those two days. The only consolation we had was to know that for every shell that came over at least ten went back. We far outnumbered the enemy in guns.

He hung on only two days after being completely surrounded, and once he started to crack up the whole front collapsed immediately.

The Italian 1st Army came on the air calling the Eighth Army, and we had the unique, and I must say pleasant, experience of using one of our wireless sets to contact them. I actually heard the Italian Marshal Hesse asking for terms of surrender. Our reply was "Unconditional surrender," which he refused and then went off the air. Shortly after over went swarms of our bombers to help him make up his mind, and the effect was instantaneous. Once again the Italians came on the air and accepted the terms. Their surrender was quickly passed to the other formations of the Eighth Army, and within twenty minutes a deathly silence had settled over the whole front. Our guns had stopped firing and the gunners lay resting next to their weapons.

And so at last it had ended—it seemed hard to believe, and then a couple of hours later enemy transports came bumping down the roads towards our lines, all laden with troops, on their way for the cage—for them the war was over. They looked tired and hungry and seemed pleased that at least they had survived our terrific bombardment and were still alive.

Among them was the German 90th Light Motorised Division, veterans of the desert campaigns, who had fought against the Kiwis so often. It was this division that had completely surrounded us in the retreat in June last year, when we broke out by a headlong charge through the ring of surrounding steel. It cost us dearly then.

Now they came into our lines, beaten and glad to give themselves up. Twelve months ago they were a powerful and tough fighting force. Now, the guts has been slowly eaten out of them. Gradually, one by one, we had knocked out guns which they couldn't replace, taken heavy toll of their armour and men, and at last they were smashed to pieces. I think it represents, on a small scale, just what will happen to the whole German army.