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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery


page v


WHAT A PLEASURE it is to write this preface! As my last contribution to a project I began back in 1942 it affords me, if not a sense of accomplishment, at least a wonderful feeling of relief. No longer will gunner after gunner accost me in the street asking when their history will be out. Here it is, at long last—the last of a long and unique series of unit histories of the 2nd NZEF.

Reasons for the delay are legion. There were to be separate regimental histories and three were well advanced when Cabinet in the early fifties decided otherwise. Then I was caught up in other war history work. Research into a mountain of artillery documents and consequent interviews and correspondence took more time. Then came a pause, like a diver standing trembling on the high board, building up courage for the plunge. Scarcely had I begun the actual writing, however, when I left War History Branch in 1962. So the history had to fit in to whatever time I had left from teaching and editing an academic journal, mostly the small hours—the very small hours, when the noise of my typewriter thundered through the sleeping household. But perhaps it is some consolation that the year of publication now coincides with the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

New Zealand gunners always thought the infantry were the salt of the earth. If this book, by a gunner for gunners, gives any other impression it is wrong. I have seen few gunners proud of what they themselves did on the field of battle; their admiration was almost always reserved for the doings of the infantry—or of gunners with other natures of guns.

All the different kinds of guns are here mixed up together, a hard tale to tell. Like all histories, it must be selective, and the historian applies his own principles of selection, some of them unwittingly. Reading through the proofs I was disturbed that many a worthy gunner of whom I know is mentioned little or not at all. But many gunners are mentioned. One principle I have tried to follow is to use terms of personal praise such as page vi ‘popular’ only where I was sure that a consensus of opinion supported them. In many cases I went to a lot of trouble to establish this. Will readers whose own opinion in any such case happens to differ please bear this in mind?

In such a history the question of balance, of fairness to the many regiments and batteries concerned, is insoluble. I kidded myself that I had the answer, but the index proves me wrong. Genius is not required in order to work out from it that my own battery was the 34th Anti-Tank. Much must depend, however, on the material available. Even after years of work and enormous help, gaps in the evidence opened up alarmingly and some of them, years after the event, could not be filled.

Here I must interpose the usual platitude that it is impossible to acknowledge all help received. Source footnotes appear only where they seemed essential or for some reason interesting. I must, however, thank those artillery regimental historians who worked with me in northern Italy: R. J. Larkin, W. J. Fisk, C. J. Hayden, J. W. Johnston, A. E. Bird, B. Reyburn and E. H. Smith. I must mention, too, authors of particularly helpful narratives or draft histories: N. P. Webber, A. G. Protheroe, A. P. B. Watson, and again E. H. Smith.

The comments of Brigadier M. C. Fairbrother on the proofs led to significant amendments. The former and the present Director of the RNZA, Lieutenant-Colonels J. F. Spring and L. W. Wright, and their assistant, Captain C. Brown, have been helpful in many ways. Brigadiers C. S. J. Duff and J. M. Mitchell and Colonel E. T. Kensington helped to choose the illustrations. Of those maps which appear for the first time here, most were drawn by Warrant Officer Class I L. A. Skelton, RNZE, and by Mr Peter Newman of the Civil Design Office, Ministry of Works. The others were drawn by the Cartographic Branch of the Department of Lands and Survey. Mr Chris Hansen kindly made available the painting reproduced as the frontispiece. This colour reproduction, extra illustrations, the presentation form and other additions were paid for by the surviving trustees of the 2nd NZ Divisional Artillery Units' Trust Fund, Colonels G. J. O. Stewart and C. L. Walter and Lieutenant-Colonel T. A. Turner.

Above all, I must thank Mr W. A. Glue of the Historical Publications Branch for patient and skilful editing and checking page vii and for providing, with Mrs. M. Fogarty, the biographical footnotes and index. They detected many errors and anomalies. In a work of this kind it is virtually impossible to eliminate all mistakes. At the last moment Captain G. F. Stagg pointed out a misleading caption to the photograph of the 6th Field at Molos, in the photographs following page 149. This was taken on the way north, he pointed out, and was therefore not ‘Tempting the Stukas’. In writing a caption for Russel Clark's painting of an American 155-millimetre gun, in the illustrations section following page 442, I wrongly ascribed it to the Orsogna front; the gun was similar to those used on that front, and elsewhere in Italy. If other readers detect significant errors I should like to hear from them.

W. E. Murphy

School of Political Science and Public Administration,
Victoria University of Wellington July 1966
page viii