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Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

Army of Occupation

Army of Occupation.

The New Zealand Division's occupation of the Cologne Bridgehead involved the additional duties of maintaining guards over German war material and factories, and the supplying of picquets and Regimental guards. The dislocation of the railway service consequent upon the blowing up of delayed action mines laid by the enemy during his retreat, and the severe strain imposed on rolling stock by the rapid advance of the Allied Armies, at times threatened to interfere seriously with the commissariat arrangements. Certainly there was grievous disappointment when the turkeys and other good things ordered for Christmas Day failed to arrive, and their consumption had to be deferred to New Year's Day, when no less gusto was exhibited because of the postponement.

During the month of January the Regiment was employed in the forenoons on educational training under the page 388 Divisional Education Scheme; in the afternoons recreational games were played. River excursions on the Rhine always proved popular. The occupying of battle stations in defence of bridgeheads, factories, railway stations, and public buildings was practised in view of possible civil disturbances, and was certainly impressive from a military point of view.

On January 13th Lieut.-Colonel A. B. Charters, C.M.G., D.S.O., who had commanded the 1st Battalion of the Regiment through its successes and vicissitudes of fortune in France and Flanders over a period of three years, bade farewell to officers and men, and departed for the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Under the command and influence of Lieut.-Colonel Charters, the Battalion had at all times, and under the most desperate conditions of warfare, maintained its splendid reputation for discipline, fighting efficiency, and esprit de corps, all of which qualities were remarkably in evidence during the many difficult operations carried out in the course of the Campaign on the Western Front. Major W. G. A. Bishop, M.C., now took over command of the Battalion.

On January 16th His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited the New Zealand, Division.

Several drafts were now being despatched to the United Kingdom preparatory to return to New Zealand. With this development commenced the termination of the Regiment's existence as such on the Western Front. On February 4th, in consequence of the rapidly decreasing strength, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Otago Regiment were amalgamated, and the double formation designated the Otago Battalion.

On the same day Lieut.-Colonel J. Hargest, D.S.O., M.C. (F.), terminated his service with the Otago Regiment in the Field, and departed for England. In the course of his long connection with the Regiment, Lieut.-Colonel Hargest, by his thoroughness, his soldierly ability and bearing, his great sense of military honour, and his extraordinary energy and unexampled dash in action, commanded the highest admiration and confidence of all ranks; while the rapid and exceptional success which attended his military career has won for him a foremost place among the distinguished soldiers of the New Zealand Division.

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The regular despatch of drafts to England continued. On February 27th the Otago Battalion amalgamated with the Canterbury Battalion, and the two formations became C and D Companies of the South Island Battalion.

By the end of March the New Zealand Division had ceased to exist as an active unit on the Western Front.

In the triumphal march of Over-Seas Troops through the streets of London on May 3rd the Regiment was fully represented, and shared in the acclamations showered upon the Colonials by an enthusiastic populace. But a brief space of time elapsed and the last members of the Regiment had left the shores of England for New Zealand—and Home.