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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

The Enemy Gun Line Is Not Broken

The Enemy Gun Line Is Not Broken

All three New Zealand field regiments gave useful support to the armour operating beyond the infantry FDLs. The 4th Field caused several groups of transport to disperse and scored a direct hit on a 75-millimetre gun. The return fire, though it caused no loss of men or equipment, was formidable. It fell heavily in the area of RHQ and 25 Battery of the 4th Field and included calibres of up to at least 210 millimetres. The heaviest shellbursts detonated with tremendous violence on the rocky ground. The dust raised by bombing and shelling was carried by a strong wind that blew up and greatly reduced visibility in the afternoon. The whole of the 6th Field had intended to move forward, but the artillery and supply vehicles of 10 Armoured Division caused such congestion that only 48 Battery moved—three miles forward. A large force of Junkers aircraft bombed an area to the south-west at dusk and several guns of the 14th Light Ack-Ack were able to engage at long range, but they claimed no hits. In mid-afternoon 9 Armoured Brigade complained that it was being attacked by tanks and was blinded by smoke put down by the 25-pounders; it wanted this fire stopped. It turned out, however, that the artillery responsible was that of 10 Armoured Division and the request page 394 was therefore passed on. At the end of the day the 4th Field had fired 1843 rounds of HE and 37 of smoke.

The Survey Troop, after surveying the start line for the opening attack on the 23rd, had had a rather frustrating time since then. Three salvage parties sent out on the 24th found the tracks altogether too congested and they had to return. For the same reason attempts to put in bearing pickets for the field artillery also failed and one truck was blown up on a mine, fortunately without causing casualties. This day, the 25th, the troop had slightly better luck and established three points.

The effort to break through the enemy gun line had obviously failed and the armoured commanders had no desire to persist with their present fruitless operations. Currie's brigade withdrew during the night to take up hull-down positions in support of the New Zealand infantry. Most of 10 Armoured Division had already withdrawn. The next move was to be a thrust northwards, and while it took place the New Zealanders would mark time.

Early on the 26th the 4th Field fired briskly and discouraged small enemy parties moving in front of Miteiriya. Later 25 Battery withdrew to the original position and 26 Battery followed, as well as 41 Light Ack-Ack Battery. The 6th Field, however, completed its move forward, despite the very limited space available for deployment, and H Troop of 43 Light Ack-Ack Battery accompanied 29 and 30 Batteries. Enemy guns were active and several regimental concentrations, stiffened with medium guns, were fired to quieten them. At the end of the day the 4th Field had fired 2623 rounds, some of them on a programme in support of moves on the Australian front to the north. At dusk there was much commotion as 45 Stukas appeared over the gun areas, followed by rather wild firing from the Bofors of neighbouring formations which made the task of RAF fighters trying to intercept the bombers difficult. All the Bofors of 42 Battery fired and for a few minutes the air was thick with bursting shells, one gun claiming a hit on a Stuka.

The 6th Field gun positions were heavily bombed and two men were killed in them and three wounded. A disastrous ‘premature’ occurred in a 48 Battery gun in the afternoon which killed three of the crew and wounded two others. At the same time a fairly strong tank force threatened the 5 Brigade FDLs. Captain Caughley had an OP in support of 23 Battalion, and when the tanks began shelling the FDLs he engaged them. page 395 Fire from the tank guns swept through the OP area and made observation difficult; but Caughley's fire was effective, though not heavy enough to drive the enemy away. He moved to a flank to get better observation and called down fire from two batteries of the 5th Field. It landed accurately and the enemy soon departed. For his determination and persistence in the face of heavy fire Caughley was awarded an immediate MC.

To secure the Miteiriya position properly and gain firm contact with the South African division to the south, 6 Brigade staged a two-battalion attack to secure the whole of the original objectives. Corps artillery fired counter-battery concentrations from half an hour before the start until half an hour after. The three field regiments fired a simple creeping barrage, with lifts of 100 yards every two minutes. The last round before lifting and the last on the final line were smoke. It was a far more effective barrage than that on the opening night, being fired by 72 guns instead of 20 and on a very much shorter front. It caused several casualties, however, among the infantry, either through over-eagerness or—more likely—through some shells falling short. But it also saved infantry lives; for the enemy was quite thick on the ground in places and the barrage enabled the attackers to take prisoners with relatively little fighting. So many enemy gave themselves up at one stage that it was only with difficulty that the infantry could round them up and still keep up with the barrage. Further support was called for and provided in the early hours of the morning and again after dawn. Two 6-pounders of 33 Battery followed closely behind the infantry and were in position, with infantry 2-pounders, covering the captured ground by about 2 a.m. After dawn they came under fierce machine-gun fire which lasted most of the day, 27 October, but caused no harm, though it occasioned much alarm and put several holes through Sergeant Gordon's22 gunshield. To compensate for this, Gordon did some useful firing against transport.

22 Lt A. B. Gordon; Wellington; born Lower Hutt, 24 Mar 1917; student.