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

V.U.C. Overseas

V.U.C. Overseas

Soldiers' Letters

Letters come in, in ones and twos, by every overseas mail, conveying thanks for parcels, stories of action, reminiscences of College life. There are many addresses—London, Harrow, M.E.F., Malta, all over the world. Here are a few of the comments:

S./Lt. Guy Smith, London, writes: "One compensation for enduring the English climate is that I'm continually knocking into chaps I knew at home—it certainly is remarkable the number of V.U.C. men who have found their way to this island . . ." This is one of the most voiced sentiments in these letters; from all countries we have reports of New Zealanders, Wellingtonians, Victoria College students.

Next from Flying Officer Hugh Drummond, breathing good public school air at Harrow-on-the-Hill. "Thanks a lot for the Christmas parcel, indeed a most welcome supplement to what is from time to time a pretty monotonous diet; although this is the wrong time to say that, as hanging from the tent ridge pole about four feet away is the corpse of a pig which we hope will provide us with several pleasant meals. We bought it from the local French farmer and have been fattening it for the past fortnight—it's not really in perfect condition for the table, but we could wait no longer."

From London, Cedric Wright, proud Sub./Loot in command of H.M. M.G.B.8 (that's bluffed you) states in dashing hand, "As you'll gather from the above I'm in the motor boat trade, Britain's light naval forces. A motor gunboat is a natty little packet not to be confused with an M.T.B. or the slower M.L. I like this England. I've had some pretty good breaks and have seen quite a lot of it—know the South Coast from here to Cornwall pretty well. Did a course last summer in the Western Highlands of Scotland. It was just like a holiday, had a rattling good leave in the Lakes district and spent another in Devon—usually look in on London when the occasion offers, it's a grand spot. Hope to visit Eire soon. Interruption just arrived. Guess I'd better get on with the war!"

Leaving Cedric to hold his end up we hear from Pte. Arthur Ashley-Jones, Egypt. "Life has of course been fairly unsettled lately, and since the beginning of November we have been constantly on the move, covering in our travels enormous tracts of desert. It would be difficult to imagine the monotony of these vast areas of featureless wasteland, so unlike the romantic pictures one sees of rolling sandhills. For the most part it is just a barren stretch of dust, sand, and stones, totally featureless. Still, it has its interest. We have had pleasant spells by the coast and have seen some of the battle-scarred coastal towns, notably Bardia and Tobruk. Both are reduced to pitiful heaps of rubble. The latter is in fact just a pile of crumbled masonry and gaping bomb or shell holes. Not a single house or building stands intact and the surrounding country is a vast scrap heap of wrecked or burnt-out planes, tanks, vehicles and guns, while the shallow harbour is chocked up with the hulks of sunken ships. Tobruk is a picture of complete devastation."

Not a letter comes in without thanks for parcels and praise for those who organise them. Not a letter comes in without interesting news of V.U.C. men and their exploits. This College may well be proud of them—more power to their elbows!

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.