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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

The Development of the Stonk

The Development of the Stonk

The stay in Nofilia is chiefly memorable, however, for an important development in field artillery tactics, foreshadowed by methods used in the Middle East School of Artillery, in training in Syria, and in action in the Alamein line. The first mention of this in the war diaries is by the 6th Field on 4 January, which states that that regiment practised ‘the “STONK” procedure’ and ‘also Quick Barrages’. Mobile warfare in the desert clearly called for methods quicker and more flexible than those formerly employed by the Royal Artillery. The field gunners wanted to cut fire orders to the barest minimum so as to permit effective fire against fleeting opportunity targets and to guard against sudden attacks, perhaps from unexpected quarters.

The essence of the stonk was that, at the divisional level, a target 1200 yards long and 300 yards deep could be engaged at extremely short notice. The regiments and batteries knew page 452 exactly what was expected of them so long as they were given the centre of the stonk area and the bearing of the long side. The elaborate reformulation of orders at each link as they descended along the chain of command, which was the orthodox method, became unnecessary. Once the method became widely understood many refinements were added to save even more time. Bombardier Gallagher16 of 29 Battery of the 6th Field, for example, an M.Sc. with honours in mathematics, designed a special template or protractor for use on the artillery board. It contained a hole which fitted over the stonk centre point and from it the area on which the battery had to fire could at once be marked on the sheet of talc which covered the map. In a matter of seconds, given the point and bearing, the line and range of individual guns could be called out. To facilitate coverage of the target area the 25-pounder troops got into the habit of occupying gun lines so laid out—where the ground permitted—that the first and fourth guns were 150 yards apart and the two-troop batteries covered the 300 yards normally allotted to them in the stonk area. Similarly a standard barrage of 10 lifts which could be brought down quickly was worked out and practised and for this, too, Gallagher designed an ingenious protractor.17 Both methods became widely used, not only by the New Zealand gunners, but by the gunners of Eighth Army and, in the end, of much of the British Army.

16 Lt C. V. Gallagher; Christchurch; born Taihape, 30 Sep 1918; schoolteacher; wounded 13 Aug 1942.

17 Some of these details are from an account by Captain J. H. Fullarton, who was then CPO of 29 Battery.