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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Preparing for a Divisional Artillery Exercise

Preparing for a Divisional Artillery Exercise

Back at Suani Ben Adem the rest of the gunners, though they all had plenty to do, found time to make themselves comfortable. Each regiment opened its own recreation room where the men could spend an evening listening to the radio, writing letters, or enjoying a mug of tea. Many messrooms were built from salvaged materials supplemented by Ordnance supplies. In 28 Battery, for example, Gunner Rush,

Gnr J. H. Rush; Palmerston North; born Palmerston North, 14 May 1910; carpenter.

a skilled carpenter, with a small band of helpers, constructed an excellent men's mess. Training courses of many kinds rapidly proliferated. Football grounds also multiplied, all of them far more attractive than those which had been constructed at Nofilia.

The dock parties returned to their units on 25 February and all units busily prepared for a three-day exercise which was to start on 1 March. The 4th Field had already carried out officer-training in fire drills, and its war diary for 15 February mentions for the first time in this connection the word stonk—evidently a novelty to the diarist. Three days later it carried out a ‘Div Arty Quick barrage exercise’. The CRA was determined that his field regiments should improve their fire drills page 467 and planned the forthcoming exercise, in an area south of Azizia, to include the firing of stonks and quick barrages.

A warning order reached Artillery Headquarters on 28 February that the 4th Field was to be at three hours' notice to move; but at 4 p.m. word came that the regiment would not move that night. Next morning, 1 March, the regiment left Suani Ben Adem for the practice range south of Azizia. By 10.12 a.m. the guns were ready to fire. Batteries registered targets at noon and in the afternoon fired stonks, as well as conducting course shooting for selected officers. The 6th Field also arrived and the two field regiments fired a divisional artillery concentration. For the 4th Field word came at 3 p.m. to return to Suani Ben Adem, and by 4.15 p.m. the regiment was back there and its vehicles were loaded with petrol, water and rations. Its destination was now given as Medenine in Tunisia and at 10 p.m. it moved off. The 6th Field drew six days' rations, 15,000 gallons of petrol, and was put on four hours' notice to move, though they did not set out, as it happened, until 12.30 p.m. on 2 March. The 5th Field were told at 6 a.m. on 1 March that ‘for this regiment’ the exercise was cancelled and that they would move with 5 Brigade to Medenine at 2 p.m. In the event they moved about midnight. The sudden ending of the exercise and the move to Medenine came as a surprise, also, to the 7th Anti-Tank and the 14th Light Ack-Ack. The former had been ordered to despatch 32 Battery with 5 Brigade, but not to send the troop of Pheasants. H Troop with its 17-pounders was therefore transferred for the time being to 31 Battery and replaced by A Troop, which had 6-pounders. Representatives from all three batteries of the 14th Light Ack-Ack were watching the manoeuvres south of Azizia when the movement order came. At 11.30 p.m. on 1 March 42 Battery moved off with 5 Brigade. The Survey Battery had its survey and flash-spotting troops deeply committed to the manoeuvres; they hastened back to Suani Ben Adem in the late afternoon, and by 10.15 p.m. the survey troop was on the road with Artillery Headquarters, bound for Medenine. The next campaign had already started.30.

30 Casualties from Bardia to Tripoli were:

4th Field510
5th Field1
6th Field512
7th Anti-Tank5
14th Light Ack-Ack14