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23 Battalion


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black and white photograph of coat of arm

windsor castle

By Lieutenant-General the Lord Freyberg, vc, gcmg, kcb, kbe, dso

I am proud to write this foreword to the war history of this infantry battalion, partly because of the family link—my son Paul served in it as a full private—and because no unit in the 2 NZEF had a more distinguished record.

The 23rd Battalion came overseas with the Second Echelon, under command of Colonel Falconer. It went with the other units of the 5th Brigade to the United Kingdom, where it took an active part in the preparations that were made to repel the German invasion, which was thought to be imminent. When the threat of invasion had passed, the 5th Brigade was shipped back to the Middle East, where it joined the Division in Greece. The battalion's first action was in the defence of the Olympus Pass. In Crete the battalion fought with great distinction at Maleme and in the brilliant counter-attacks at Galatas and 42nd Street. These counter-attacks, by tired troops, were the highlight of the Battle of Crete. The battalion fought in the Libyan campaign of 1941 at Capuzzo, Musaid, and Gazala. During these engagements Colonel Leckie had succeeded Colonel Falconer, who had been promoted to a higher command.

After the Libyan campaign the Division was moved to Syria. When Tobruk fell on 20 June 1942, the Division was moved back to the Western Desert and fought in the battles to defend Egypt. It fought with great distinction at Minqar Qaim, at Ruweisat and Alam Halfa, first under Colonel Watson and then under Colonel Reg Romans.

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In the final campaigns in North Africa the 23rd Battalion fought with great dash and success from Alamein to Tunis, especially in the battles at Tebaga Gap and the brilliant assault at Takrouna.

In Italy it fought with distinction on the Sangro, where the link between the battalion and Reg Romans was severed when Romans died of wounds. He was followed by worthy successors, in Connolly at Cassino, McPhail at Rimini, and Sandy Thomas at Florence, Faenza, and from the Senio to Trieste.

This is a wonderful story and should have a great appeal, and I hope it will be widely read.

black and white photograph signature

Deputy Constable and Lieutenant Governor

Windsor Castle
7 November 1957