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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Brigadier Miles, the First CRA

Brigadier Miles, the First CRA

The highest appointments in 2 NZEF were still under earnest discussion and it was not until January 1940 that Colonel Miles7 was designated to command the Divisional Artillery. He had been made Quartermaster-General of the New Zealand Army shortly after the outbreak of war; but his qualifications to command the artillery were outstanding. The son of an upcountry Canterbury farmer, he had gone to the Royal Military College, Duntroon (from Rangiora High School), in 1911, studied there with distinction, and was released just before his term was completed in August 1914 to join the 1st NZEF. Then there came a great stroke of luck for the artillery. Miles enlisted in the Canterbury Battalion and was to have sailed page 6 as an infantry officer when he was taken ill. He recovered in October and re-enlisted, this time in the artillery, joining the Howitzer Battery. With it he fought as a captain at Gallipoli and in July 1915 was badly wounded, returning from hospital just before the evacuation. Back in Egypt he became adjutant of the 1st Field Artillery Brigade and then transferred to 15 Battery of the 2nd Brigade, with which he served in France. In December 1916 he won an MC, and in March 1918 he was again badly wounded. Again his great physical strength conquered and he returned to his unit in time to take part in the final advance from the Somme. As a major in July 1918 he gained a DSO that was both brilliant and prophetic. The enemy was attacking and he fought his guns until they were within 500 yards and his ammunition was exhausted. He then rallied infantry stragglers and manned a fire trench. After halting the enemy, he reconnoitred forward and brought back valuable information. Finally he was wounded by rifle fire at close range. The last action he ever fought, in 1941, bears a striking resemblance to this.8 From August 1918 onwards he served as Brigade Major of the Divisional Artillery and Haig's despatch of 8 November 1918 specially mentions him.

Miles's peacetime service between the wars was particularly varied and valuable. After two years at the Staff College, Camberley, he was attached to 5 Battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment for the 1925 army manoeuvres, as well as studying War Office Intelligence work and attending an artillery refresher course. At home he held several commands, including the Harbour Defences of Wellington. As a colonel in 1938 he attended the Imperial Defence College and was afterwards New Zealand Military Liaison Officer in London for three months, in which he again explored the workings of the War Office. Back in Wellington he was given a high staff appointment and became Third Member of the Army Board.

When the Second World War started, therefore, he was familiar with the latest artillery methods and procedures and was well acquainted with the latest thinking on strategy and imperial defence. His record in war and in peace was first-class in every respect.

Miles was in no hurry to form a headquarters and in January 1940 it existed on paper only, its other members being Major page 7 Duff,9 who was then in England, and Lieutenant Sellers10 of 4 Field Regiment. In March Miles travelled to Sydney in the Wanganella and flew from there to Egypt to join 2 NZEF.

7 Brig R. Miles, CBE, DSO and bar, MC, ED, m.i.d.; born Springston, 10 Dec 1892; Regular soldier; NZ Fd Arty 1914–19; CRA 2 NZ Div 1940–41; comd 2 NZEF (UK) 1940; wounded and p.w. 1 Dec 1941; escaped, Italy, Mar 1943; died, Spain, 20 Oct 1943.

8 See pp. 2724 and 296.

9 Brig C. S. J. Duff, DSO, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Wellington, 19 Nov 1898; Regular soldier; comd 34 A-Tk Bty 1939–40; CO 7 A-Tk Regt Oct 1940-May 1941; 4 Fd Regt Aug 1941-Apr 1942; CRA 3 NZ Div Aug 1942-Oct 1944; NZLO Melbourne, 1947–48.

10 Capt R. D. Sellers; born Auckland, 18 Nov 1910; shepherd; killed in action 25 Nov 1941.