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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

146 — Headquarters 2nd NZEF (Cairo)2 to the Chief of the General Staff (Wellington)

Headquarters 2nd NZEF (Cairo)2 to the Chief of the General Staff (Wellington)

29 June 1942

General Freyberg wishes the Government to have a brief report of the action up to the time he left the Division. The report is as follows:

On 26 June it was decided to move the Division out of the Matruh area into position on a high escarpment located due south of Wadi Naghamish and running east and west. General Puttick knows the area. This position was occupied on the night of 26–27 June.

On 27 June the defensive arrangements were completed, the Division being well equipped with 6-pounder anti-tank guns and having the full Divisional Artillery of seventy-two 25-pounders. In the early morning columns were seen moving to the north. These were from the 21st Panzer Division, which deployed and attacked continuously during the day.

This was satisfactory to us as we were in position for that purpose. Five separate attacks were made, one infantry attack against the 4th Infantry Brigade under Inglis and one infantry attack against the centre group under Gray.3 Three tank attacks followed from the east, south-east, and south-west against the 4th Infantry Brigade and the 5th Infantry Brigade under Kippenberger.

Some of the German columns carried out complicated manœuvres within artillery range and our guns got good targets. Prisoners said their casualties were high.

In conformity with the general plan a withdrawal was carried out during the night of 27–28 June, the Division being under Inglis. There were guns all round, and the most effective method of withdrawal was what may be called crash tactics, i.e., a charge straight through. This was successful.

page 113

General Freyberg was wounded at 5 p.m. on 27 June. I have since confirmed that the withdrawal was successful. The Division, less the 6th Infantry Brigade Group, is intact. The 6th Infantry Brigade Group, which has been detached to the rear, is now moving forward again. General Freyberg is undaunted by his wound.

2 This telegram was from Brigadier W. G. Stevens, Officer in charge of Administration, 2nd NZEF.

3 Brigadier J. R. Gray, ED; CO 18th NZ Battalion, 27 Sep 1939–6 Nov 1941, 28 Mar-29 Jun 1942; commanded 4th Infantry Brigade, 29 Jun – 5 Jul 1942; killed in action, 5 Jul 1942.