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New Zealand Artillery in the Field, 1914-18

The 2nd (Army) Brigade

The 2nd (Army) Brigade.

The 2nd (Army) Brigade was detached from the New Zealand Division for a period of practically three months—from early in March until the middle of June, when the Brigade came once more under the control of New Zealand Divisional Artillery Headquarters. During that period the brigade had been subject to a good many moves, and its batteries had figured in a number of minor operations on different parts of the front from Bois Grenier to Messines. At the beginning of March batteries were in action in rest positions at Fleurbaix, firing only on S.O.S. calls. On the 7th of March the Brigade, with the exception of page 175the 2nd Battery, which remained under the 57th Divisional Artillery Headquarters at Bois Grenier, moved to waggon lines near Steenwerck, and the following day the 5th, 9th, and 6th, Batteries went into action under the 3rd Australian Divisional Artillery to assist in a rolling barrage in support of a raid by troops of that Division on the railway salient at Armentieres on March 13. On the 16th the three batteries returned to positions under the 57th Division for the purpose of assisting in certain minor operations. Little more than a week later, on the 25th of the month, the Brigade withdrew from the line, and went into waggon lines near Steenwerck for purposes of training and reorganisation. The arrival before the end of the month of the three 18-pr. sections and one section of 4.5in howitzers, which had been formed and trained in England, enabled batteries to be brought up to a six-gun standard, and thus completed the establishment of the Divisional Artillery on that principle.

At the beginning of April an operation was carried out on an extended sector running south from Armentieres, by which It was sought to impress the enemy with the belief that the artillery along the front was being strengthened, and possibly that active operations were projected. The method adopted was to move mobile batteries rapidly up and down the front, and to display the greatest possible degree of activity during the brief interval that each position was occupied. In accordance with this plan the 2nd Battery was attached to the 57th Division on the Laventie-Bois Grenier sector, and during the three days over which the operation extended, occupied no less than twelve positions. Each day four positions were occupied with one gun in each, and each gun fired 250 rounds per day. Observation posts were allotted to the battery before the guns were in action, the Divisional Signal Company assisting the battery staff in arranging communication between the "battery" and the observation post. Targets were chiefly roads, tracks, and salient points in trench systems, and the shooting was carried out in a manner that gave the impression that a great deal of registration was taking place. The operation certainly was successful to the extent that it brought down heavy fire on battery positions on the front.

page 176

The Brigade remained in waggon lines training and over-hauling equipment until April 13th, when a move was made to Neuve Eglise, and parties 200 strong were supplied for work on the tramway system, trench mortar emplacements, and magnum opus positions in the neighbourhood of Hill 63. On the 22nd the Brigade returned to the vicinity of Steenwerck; and being again attached to the 57th Division, Brigade Headquarters moved into Armentieres, the 2nd Battery taking up a position at 1'Armee, the 9th at Fleurbaix and the 5th and 6th (howitzer) at Houplines. On the nights of 3rd and 4th May the Brigade was relieved in the line by the 7th Australian Brigade, and on the 5th marched out via Wallon Cappel to the training area at Lumbres, being inspected en route by the G.O.C., 2nd Anzac Corps and the Corps G.O.C., R.A. The field training carried out at Lumbres included a field day with the 11th Australian Infantry Brigade, when operations were conducted somewhat on the lines of a rehearsal for the attack on the Messines Ridge. On the 20th the Brigade marched out for Wallon Cappel, under orders from the 25th Divisional Artillery, and proceeded thence to waggon lines at Bailleul. On May 22nd the Brigade went into positions east of Neuve Eglise. On the 23rd, Brigade Headquarters was installed near Neuve Eglise; the Brigade, less 6th (howitzer) Battery, now forming the nucleus of "C" Group, 25th Divisional Artillery. Mobile waggon lines were established by Dranoutre, the remaining men and horses being left at the lines at Bailleul. Batteries of the Brigade took part in the preparation for the Messines attack, and assisted in the barrage which covered the advance of the infantry of the 25th Division. On the afternoon of the 7th the Brigade moved forward to positions previously reconnoitred on Hill 63, all batteries being in action by 6 p.m. These positions were occupied until the 15th, when batteries moved forward again to emplacements already partly prepared near the old British front line at Seaforth Farm.

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This Photograph, showing an artillery driver endeavouring to extricate his Pack Mule from a Shell-Hole, Conveys Some Idea of the Appalling Conditions Which Prevailed at Passchendaele Official Photo

This Photograph, showing an artillery driver endeavouring to extricate his Pack Mule from a Shell-Hole, Conveys Some Idea of the Appalling Conditions Which Prevailed at Passchendaele Official Photo