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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Withdrawing from the Orsogna Front

Withdrawing from the Orsogna Front

The New Zealand guns began to withdraw from the Orsogna front on 11 January. The Division was to move across Italy to join the American Fifth Army. The Adriatic front was unpromising and the main weight was to shift to the Tyrrhenian page 548 front, which was anchored to the mountain backbone of Italy by the fortress of Cassino. When the gunners began to withdraw, however, they knew nothing of this and the guessing game was still very much alive. Most of them expected a period of rest in southern Italy, after two months in the mud and snow.

Getting the guns out, however, was even harder than getting them in. The 4th Field managed it in one day, 16 January, but only with the help of a bulldozer lent by the sappers. The 5th Field pulled 47 Battery out on the 16th and it drove to an assembly area south of the Sangro. The other two batteries came out on the 17th. When the regiment set out at 4 a.m. on the 19th for San Severo north of Foggia it soon struck trouble. The A2 quad stuck in a ditch and held up the rest of the regiment for over an hour. The 6th Field came out on the 16th and then spent a long wet evening in Lanciano before they moved off in pitch blackness at 10.25 p.m. Once clear of the town, however, they were allowed to use headlights; for they were moving not along the much-frequented and much-shelled road through Castelfrentano, but along a road at right-angles to this which headed for the mouth of the Sangro. Of the 7th Anti Tank, 33 Battery moved with 6 Brigade and 31 Battery with the 4th Field, while 34 Battery went with the Divisional Cavalry.

The 14th Light Ack-Ack also split up for the move. Tactical HQ and H Troop of 43 Battery went with 6 Brigade Headquarters in the night 15-16 January and Main HQ and G Troop followed later, joining H Troop on the way and travelling in close formation on the road throughout the night. In the morning they struck a heavy hailstorm. Then 42 Battery moved the next night, except for E6, which was hopelessly bogged and could not be pulled out even by the combined efforts of a Diamond T lorry and a heavy Scammell. It was left to the Workshop Section to get it out later. At 5 a.m. on the 19th 41 Battery, less the Right Section of B Troop, moved from its Castelfrentano positions through Lanciano and then towards the mouth of the Sangro. Headquarters moved from Castelfrentano on the 17th.

By this time it was almost a routine to have New Zealand markings removed from vehicles and flashes and cap badges from uniforms when the Division was on the move. When it was ordered for this occasion it therefore aroused no attention. San Severo, however, turned out to be no more than a staging page 549 area and, since the next part of the journey was over the Apennines, the guessing game was over. In the next few days the Division reassembled its various components in the pretty valley of the Volturno in an area centred on the little town of Alife. Within a day or two several of the senior officers of the field regiments had visited American artillery units facing Cassino, and it was no secret that that was where the Division would next see action—and in the near future.31

31 Casualties in the Sangro-Orsogna fighting were:

Killed and Died of WoundsWoundedPrisoner of WarTotal
4th Field10919
5th Field73138
6th Field31316
7th Anti-Tank617124
14th Light Ack-Ack167
36 Svy Bty66