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With the Machine Gunners in France and Palestine

Chapter XVI — After the Armistice — Period 11th November, 1918, to Disbandment

page 171

Chapter XVI
After the Armistice
Period 11th November, 1918, to Disbandment

The Battalion was preparing to leave Le Quesnoy at the hour on which hostilities ceased, and by 1.30 p.m. was on its way to Beauvois, which it reached at 9 p.m. Beauvois remained the home of the Battalion until 28th November, when the march into Germany commenced. The officers of the Battalion, with the other officers of the Division, attended the meeting called by General Sir Andrew Russell, commanding the New Zealand Division, in the Theatre at Beauvois, when they were thanked for the splendid part they had played in the Great World War which had ended in complete victory to the Allied Arms.

The cessation of hostilities did not mean a cessation of discipline and work. The Battalion was kept in full training, and special attention was paid to the smart appearance of the gunners. During the stay in Beauvois organised competitions in hockey, rugby and association were carried out between the Companies of the Battalion and also between the Battalion and other units.

On 20th November the Battalion hockey team defeated 1st Wellington Battalion by eight goals to six. On 22nd November Wellington Company Rugby team defeated Canterbury Company by eight points to three; the following day Wellington Company defeated Otago Company by sixteen points to nine. On 23rd, Wellington Company Soccer team defeated Auckland Company by three goals to one, and Canterbury drew with Otago, one goal each.

The Battalion Rugby team was selected on 25th November as follows:—

  • Full-back: Corp. A. R. Cameron. Three-quarters: Lieut. M. Steele, Pte. D. Fairbrother, Pte. W. Morrow. Five-eighths: page 172 Lieut. C. E. Taylor, Lieut. A. W. Brown (captain). Half: Lieut. Tomline. Wing Forward: Sergt. D. Sellars. Forwards: Pte. C. A. Munro, Pte. J. Paitree, Corp. A. W. A. Richardson, Sergt. L. McGee, Pte. A. Cornwall, Pte. D. Stormont, Pte. F. Beatson.
  • Emergencies.—Forwards: Pte. N. Chadwick, Pte. J. Hammersley. Backs: Sergt. D. Holland, Pte. H. Gasparich.

The Battalion Rugby team was unable to win fame, owing to the march into Germany commencing too soon. In the two matches it played it showed itself at least equal if not better than any other XV in the Division.

The night before the Battalion departed from Beauvois a smoke concert was held in the Battalion Recreation Room followed by a "Buck Dance." The excellent dancing performed by the makeshift "Does" won undying admiration from the many "Bucks."

Before the Battalion left Beauvois the gunners were warned of the danger of the latest Hun Fright fulness, perhaps the most barbaric that even the preachers of Kultur ever concocted—boxes containing tubes of deadly microbes. The following order was issued to all ranks:—

"It has been reported that in certain districts the enemy has left behind wooden boxes bearing the inscription 'Vorsicht Infectiose Materiall' (Danger Infectious Matter). These boxes contain cultures of very deadly microbes. It is very dangerous to open them. All such boxes should be despatched at once to No. 13 Mobile Laboratory, Caudry, attached to No. 3 C.C.S."

The march of the Battalion into Germany commenced on the 28th November; Solesmes was reached the same day. From Solesmes the march proceeded as follows:—

  • 29th November: To Maresches.
  • 30th November: To Le Louviou.
  • 3rd December: To Louvroil. Lieut.-Col. D. B. Blair left the Battalion on 2nd December to proceed to England en route to New Zealand to assist in demobilisation. Major J. W. D. McKnight temporarily assumed command of the Battalion until the return of Major J. B. Parks from leave.
  • 4th December: To Jeumont.
  • 5th December: To Gozee.page 173
  • 7th December: To Couillet—a suburb of Charleroi, in which excellent accommodation was provided for both officers and men. Baths were requisitioned, enabling the whole Battalion to "pass through water."
  • 8th December: To Jemeppe.
  • 9th December: To St. Servais—a suburb of Namur.
  • 11th December: To Vezin Area, where billets were scattered over four villages. Major Parks returned from leave and assumed command of the Battalion.
  • 12th December: To Couthin Area.
  • 13th December: To Amay-Flone Area, three whole companies being billeted in the Flone Ore Factory, in which baths were also provided. Four days of real rest were given the Battalion, which were fully appreciated.
  • 17th December: To Angleur Area.
  • 18th December: To Pepinster.
  • 19th December: To Andrimont Area, at which place preparations for entrainment into Germany were made.
  • 21st December: The Battalion was divided into four groups to move to Herbesthal for entrainment, in accordance with the following Battalion Order:—

New Zealand Machine Gun Battalion

Order No. 146 20/12/1919
Liege Sheet 7 1/10.000
1.Move: The New Zealand Machine Gun Battalion will march from billets in the Andrimont Area to the entraining station at Herbesthal on December 21st.
2.Groups: The Battalion will march in groups, as under, and the senior officer in each group will command the column.
  • Group No. 1: Transport and loading parties, Battalion Headquarters—Auckland and Canterbury Companies.
  • Group No. 2: Personnel, Battalion Headquarters—Auckland and Canterbury Companies.
  • Group No. 3: Transport and loading parties—Otago and Wellington Companies.
  • Group No. 4: Personnel, Otago and Wellington Companies and Traffic Control.
page 174
3.Order of March: Order of march for each group will be as above.
4.Starting Point: Starting point will be Railway Crossing at 5 K 80 25.
5.Times: The Battalion will pass the starting point at times as under:
  • No. 1 Group—0700 hours (7 a.m.).
  • No. 2 Group—0900 hours (9 a.m.).
  • No. 3 Group—1000 hours (10 a.m.).
  • No. 4 Group—1200 hours (noon).
6.Route: Limbourg—Heggin—Lantzenberg.
7.Synchronising of Watches: Watches will be synchronised at Battalion Headquarters at 1700 hours (5 p.m.), 20th inst.

Sgd. E. McRae, Lieut., for Capt.,
Adjutant N.Z.M.G. Battalion.

The entrainment was carried out smoothly, and the whole Battalion was in comfortable quarters in Mulheim (Cologne) before midnight.

The Machine Gun Battalion remained (with the New Zealand Division as part of the Army of Occupation) in Mulheim. Auckland and Canterbury Companies were billeted in the Windmuhlen Strasse School, and Otago and Wellington Companies in the Lanferberg School. Beds were acquired and as much as possible was done to make the gunners comfortable. The afternoons were free for all ranks not on duty, thus affording opportunities for seeing places of interest in and around Cologne.

The Higher Command decreed against undue familiarity between the Army of Occupation and the inhabitants. The following order was issued to all ranks the day after reaching Germany:—

"Cases have come to notice of troops fraternising with the inhabitants of the occupied territory. Any man seen walking with a German woman will be arrested. Steps will be taken to ensure that this order is thoroughly understood by all ranks."

In conformity with the General Scheme the Battalion began its educational courses on 22nd December, under the guidance of Lieut. W. R. King, who was appointed Battalion page 175Educational Officer. It cannot even be suggested that the educational scheme was received with enthusiasm; it at least helped to fill in time.

The first batch of homegoers left the Battalion on 24th December, when thirty-six n.c.o.'s and men of the 1914-1915 class proceeded to England for demobilisation. Thereafter throughout the following months homeward drafts left the Battalion until at last the whole of the New Zealand Division was back in England patiently awaiting its return to far-off New Zealand.