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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

The Parade for Mr Churchill and Other Events

The Parade for Mr Churchill and Other Events

The next important event was to be a great ceremonial parade in honour of a ‘Mr Bullfinch’, and the CRA's staff worked hard to prepare for it. Leave to Tripoli was for a few days cancelled. On 2 February the Divisional Artillery marched four miles to the parade ground, marched past four times until the CRA was satisfied with the practice, and then marched back to Suani Ben Adem. To say the gunners enjoyed it would be an exaggeration. Next day was all spit-and-polish for men and equipment.25 Then there was a divisional practice in the morning of 4 February. The only gunners who missed it were those of 43 Battery, whose Bofors guns were deployed to defend the huge concentration of vehicles on the parade ground and the parading troops. The parade in the afternoon was the real thing and ‘Mr Bullfinch’ turned out, as everyone expected, to be Mr Churchill. It was the very first full Divisional parade (and, as it turned out, the only one ever held), and it went off splendidly with a march past on foot and another of vehicles six abreast. The Greys led, followed by the Divisional Cavalry, then the Divisional Artillery, and then the infantry and services. To most of those who took part it was a moving occasion and Mr Churchill's address was characteristically impressive.

For the next few days the CRA was busy with conferences and other functions and with reconnaissances of a proposed artillery training range, and on the 9th he was joined by most of his officers and senior NCOs to hear an address by the Army page 464 Commander on past and future operations. From then onwards there were many conferences and discussions, and the tempo of training and preparation for the next stage of operations increased.

The CRA interviewed 20 newly-arrived officer reinforcements on the 10th. They had sailed with the 8th Reinforcements from New Zealand, the first large draft for over a year. Not many of this draft came at this stage to artillery units, the largest being a group of four officers and 76 other ranks who reached the 7th Anti-Tank on the 23rd after flying from Tobruk. The 7th Anti-Tank urgently needed them, not only to replace losses, but to help to man the new anti-tank guns which arrived during the month. These were 17-pounders, Mark I, code-named Pheasants.26 Eight 6-pounders were consequently transferred to 5 Brigade and six to 6 Brigade to supersede outmoded 2-pounders. This in turn caused the 7th. Anti-Tank to provide for the infantry anti-tank officers a 10-day course of instruction, called a' Young Officers' Course', on 6-pounder anti-tank work. At the same time a course had to be organised to train anti-tankers on the Pheasant, and a major and lieutenant of the Royal Artillery arrived to supervise this on 18 February. By the end of the month each anti-tank battery had three four-gun troops of 6-pounders and one four-gun troop of 17-pounders.

25 Many gunners were startled to see their vehicles stripped down so that they carried nothing but authorised equipment. Great piles of unauthorised equipment appeared in the battery lines. Many missing articles turned up in the course of this clean-up.

26 The Mark I had a 25-pounder gun carriage. The Mark II, which came later (the Partridge) had a specially designed carriage which was much more effective.

Another 10-day course was run by two NCOs from the Divisional Signals to train anti-tankers in the use of the No. 18 wireless set, with which batteries were to be equipped. The long advance from Alamein had repeatedly shown up the inadequacy of wireless communications in the antitank batteries and the issue of these sets was a step in the right direction.