By Lieutenant-General Lord Freyberg,
vc, gcmg, kcb, kbe, dso
The publication of these unit histories gives me the opportunity of paying a well-earned tribute to the officers and men of the 2 NZ Division for their services in the Middle East and Italy. This book is a record of one of our most battleworthy Infantry Battalions, and as such I hope and trust that it will have a wide appeal. It tells the story of great bravery and endurance over a period of six years overseas, during which time the Division fought in Greece and Crete, the Western Desert, Tunis and Italy, where it finished the War on the 2nd May 1945 at Trieste.
I am often asked what made the New Zealanders such a great fighting Division. In my opinion there were many factors, the most important of which was the quality of our men, inherited from their pioneer forbears. In my day to day dealings, I had the great advantage of not only being a New Zealander but of knowing their country and their people all my life. I knew also the great record of the First New Zealand Division in World War I. It is always said that they went into battle on the beaches of Gallipoli with a prayer on their lips:
That they would measure up in battle
and be a credit to their country.
They not only did well but they also established a tradition, and when their sons had their baptism of fire in the Greek Campaign, they fought like veterans.
The New Zealanders had a further quality that made them easy to command. They were the most practical people, and in War it took the form of knowing how to tackle any new problem that they were to encounter. In our operations in the Western Desert, especially in the turning movements, they only had to be told what to do, never how to do it. This made the question of command very simple.
In this volume the historian deals with the raising, training and command in battle of the 24th Battalion. As you read you will gather it owed much to its first commanding officer, the late Colonel Shuttleworth, DSO, who with his Battalion fought a memorable Battle at Sidi Rezegh, in November 1941. I have always looked on that campaign as the high light of the New Zealand forces in this war.
The 24th Battalion took their full part in our ‘Triumphs and Disasters’, both before, during and after the Battle of Alamein. They distinguished themselves at the Tebaga Gap during the turning of the Mareth line. Later when the Division crossed over to Italy, they fought valiantly at Cassino and in the advance to Florence and the final battle from the River Senio to the capture of Trieste.
This is a wonderful story. I hope many will study these pages and learn the deeds of heroism of this great unit.