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21 Battalion


[Reprinted from an article in the North Auckland Times, Dargaville, 17 May 1947]

The story of the capture of Major-General von Ravenstein, second-in-command to Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, commander of the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert, and the part played by two local residents has been told by Mr. J. H. Money, intelligence officer for the 21st Battalion at the time of the capture.

The two local men who shared in the capture with Mr. Money were Messrs. R. S. Nicol and C. Vause who, at the time, were members of the battalion intelligence section. Despite all other claims by various units, it was these three men who effected the capture which took place at Point 175, Sidi Rezegh, on November 28, 1941.1

‘That the General's capture, complete with order of battle and marked maps, was of some importance was proved by the report in the NZEF Times that “it gave us possession of important operational orders against which we were able to prepare counter plans. The encircling movement of the Ariete force was thus no surprise and our artillery kept it at a respectful distance,”’ writes Mr. Money in the Auckland Weekly News.

‘For the benefit of any uninitiated who are prepared to read further it is necessary to give an indication of the composition of an intelligence section in an infantry line battalion. It generally consists of seven men, a sergeant and a subaltern. The men should be handpicked—fit, alert, first-class marksmen and natural scouts, for they may be called upon to accomplish some strange tasks. In the case of 21st Battalion at the time of this incident I claim to have had the perfect section. They were grand boys, and I wish I could record that they all came back. There is a degree of intimacy between the officer, the n.c.o. and the men in an “I” section, not always possible in larger groups. I can scarcely recall ever calling my chaps anything but “Boy”, “Cliff”, “Bill”, “Ben”, or “Ox”, but not one of them ever took advantage of the informality or ever gave me anything but the most loyal support.