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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

The Pursuit Begins

The Pursuit Begins

This pursuit took the Division north-westwards through the mountains towards Avezzano on the road from Rome to Pescara. It was a bracing experience, the first time in Italy that the New Zealanders had to deal with a beaten enemy in full retreat, and it reminded many of them of the excitement of the advance through Tunisia a year before. But Italy was a very different land, as they were soon to learn.

After the seizure of Terelle, in a cul-de-sac on the northern slopes of Monte Cairo, the objective was Atina, reached by various routes, all of them coming together in the Belmonte valley. Some guns travelled along the North Road, some along the Inferno Track. Most of them passed S. Elia and from it the gunners gazed in fascination south-westwards across the plain at Cassino and the ruined abbey. The foreground was ablaze with poppies.

Brigadier Weir had visited Cassino in company with General Freyberg as early as 22 May and in the next week, officially or unofficially, many other gunners also climbed through the ruins. The Hotel Continental, the Baron's Palace, the Hotel des Roses, the Colosseum, the Castle, the Botanical Gardens and the Railway Station became for them something more than names; but the menace that had formerly resided in them had been extracted and what was left encouraged feelings of sadness and pity rather than triumph. Cassino was not even the skeleton of a town—only the pulverised bones, smelling like a knackery, its air page 593 caustic with powdered bricks and mortar and plaster. After such a visit a swim in the icy Rapido above the town was like an act of absolution, necessary and profoundly refreshing.

Under the poplars near the river the 4th Field and many men of the 7th Anti-Tank and 36 Survey Battery paraded for the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Peter Fraser, on the 29th. Later in the day Mr Fraser met small parties from the 6th Field in the square of Atina, five miles short of where the batteries were digging in on the road to Sora, with the medium guns of 2 AGRA behind them. The guns were in green vineyards or fields of ripening grain, with cherry trees among them laden with ripe fruit. It was a pretty valley, a land unscarred by war except for the blown bridges and road demolitions which were the main obstacles to progress.

The CRA conferred with his regimental commanders a few miles beyond Atina on 1 June. The two infantry brigades, he said, were moving along the upper Liri valley beyond Sora towards Balsorano, with 5 Brigade on the high ground to the right and 6 Brigade in the valley and on the high ground to the left. The 5th and 6th Field were to advance in close contact with the infantry, each with three OPs forward. The 4th Field was to cover the whole Divisional front, maintaining liaison with the tank squadrons. A liaison officer from 2 AGRA would travel with each infantry brigade. Air OPs would be under the command of 2 AGRA and six artillery reconnaissance sorties per day would be under 2 AGRA control. The mortar battery would deploy three troops east of Sora with one OP per troop. Ammunition for the field guns was restricted to 30 r.p.g. per day, though this could be exceeded if a good opportunity target presented itself. A large force of paratroops would be dropped at the northern end of the Liri Valley that night. There was no sense in dropping them unless the Division expected to reach them in a very few days. Current maps marked successive infantry objectives running across the valley for miles past Sora and Balsorano like a series of stepping stones. Avezzano seemed very close.

The first glimpse of Sora was daunting: its situation was so like that of Cassino. It nestled into a steep spur like Monte-cassino and almost precisely as high, topped by a castle, and beyond it squatted another Monte Cairo, or so it seemed. It was reassuring to learn that the infantry had occupied it with little trouble. In the night 1-2 June, however, a strong enemy patrol approached the 6th Field gun area a few miles east- page 594 page 595 south-east of Sora, and Major Frechtling15 of 42 Light Ack-Ack Battery hastily organised the field and ack-ack gunners in the neighbourhood into a defensive perimeter. The patrol, as a result, instead of taking a prisoner, left one behind. All regiments doubled their pickets. On 2 June 31 Battery came forward as infantillery to guard the 6th Field gun lines—95 men in three platoons, all on the right flank where the ground rose steeply to form a lofty massif. The enemy was slowly withdrawing up the valley towards Balsorano, closely followed by tanks and infantry. A stonk and harassing fire on a target just south-east of Balsorano on the 2nd started a fire and caused a heavy explosion, evidently of ammunition. Slight fire came back from enemy guns; but neither the flash-spotters and sound-rangers of 36 Survey Battery nor those of the 8th Survey, RA, who were forward in support of 2 AGRA, could obtain satisfactory bearings. The 4th Field, advancing on the western side of the River Liri, had a busy day, firing 813 HE rounds, 139 of supercharge, and 210 with airburst fuses, and at the end of it the enemy was out of range even of supercharge.

black and white map of balsorano

in front of balsorano, june 1944

On the eastern bank of the Liri the 5th Field already had 47 Battery forward several miles beyond Sora and the 6th Field had 29 Battery nearby, just south of a village called Lanna. It was a narrow valley, and just south of Balsorano it narrowed still further and a rocky escarpment guarded the approaches to the little town. On either side were precipitous and narrow-crested ridges, and above them the mountains rose 6000 feet or more.

It was an ideal place for an ambush; but the gunners were anxious only to keep within range of the enemy and gave little thought to what he might do to them. Their own strength, they felt, was overwhelming and could scarcely be challenged by a beaten enemy. Through force of habit most gun crews of 29 Battery nevertheless dug gun pits and slit trenches during the night, between spells of firing—and pauses to admire thousands of fireflies with their flickering luminescence. Spasmodic enemy shelling from the right flank gave some encouragement to the diggers.

In the forward area where the armoured car and jeep of the 47 Battery OP were stationed the enemy began shelling and mortaring in the evening of 2 June. A nearby 15-cwt pick-up loaded with mortar bombs and small-arms ammunition caught page 596 on fire and the ammunition began to explode. A driver at the OP, Gunner Elsworth,16 at once rushed to his jeep and began to drive it to safety. This proved hard to do, as there was little room to spare. After some manoeuvring he managed to drive clear; but by this time gear on the jeep was burning. He put out the flames and then drove the jeep to a safe distance. His load included much valuable signalling equipment and by his skill and determination he saved it all.

G and P Troops of the mortar battery moved forward at first light on 3 June to good positions half a mile or so in front of the two field batteries, and C Troop deployed on the other side of the river in close support of 24 Battalion. Behind them the little valley began to fill with guns. Two medium regiments and a heavy battery (of massive 7.2-inch howitzers) of 2 AGRA arrived on the scene. Along the dusty road, too, came the 4th Field guns, raising clouds of white powder, and they went into positions north of Sora and west of the river. It was an audacious deployment of the guns, the foremost of them within 2000 yards of the infantry FDLs.

The German gunners had plenty of targets and could pick and choose and bide their time. They did not take much notice of 29 and 47 Batteries in their forward positions and, across the river, they let F Troop of 26 Battery fire for some time until D Troop arrived on the scene. Then, when D Troop was unlimbering its guns, the Germans began to bombard the 4th Field with deadly accuracy. D Troop was the first target and salvos landed in its midst. Direct hits on D2 and the troop command post and near misses of the other three guns made a shambles of the troop area. Five men were killed and 11 wounded, most of them in D Troop, and the troop gun crews were reduced to about two men each.17 These were told to dig in where they were and the troop did not open fire before dark.

The rest of the 4th Field, however, was undaunted by this terrible blow and fired vigorously throughout the day. The 46 Battery positions were just as exposed as those of 26 Battery; but there was good cover near them when the men were not needed at the guns. There were several houses and a railway culvert nearby and the battery command post was set up in a page 597 palatial and most substantial casa'. Seldom had the guns been so far forward. A machine-gun officer wrote in his diary that night:18

‘A troop of guns is about 100 yards behind us and nearly stun us when they fire.’

One troop was able to shell a mortar position on the slopes of Monte Cornacchia across the river over open sights. Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart engaged other mortars, using his RHQ as an OP. By the end of the day the 4th Field, with only four troops firing, had expended 1669 rounds of HE (835 with supercharge) and 51 of smoke (as compared with 1004 rounds fired by the 5th Field). And all the time the gunners were aware that the enemy had direct and close observation of the gun positions from the lofty hills beside them. They felt as if enemy eyes were boring into the backs of their necks as they served their guns.

The 5th and 6th Field drove forward steadily in the early afternoon, the quads and trailers white with dust. They reached the areas of 47 and 29 Batteries without mishap. Then, after a pause, shells started to scream down on them from the hills. Gunners were bowled over like ninepins, but the bombardment continued and their rescuers had to work regardless of the bursting shells. C Troop of 47 Battery became the target of a troop of guns directed with great precision and C3 was soon wrecked, its muzzle brake broken off and its tyres, shield and toolbox all holed. Sergeant Oliphant19 was seriously wounded and there were nine other casualties, four of them in C Troop. The fire seemed to be coming from self-propelled guns ‘just over the ridge’. Temporary Sergeant Whiting20 and Gunner McKinna21 of C Troop both distinguished themselves by the fearless dedication with which they tended the wounded and helped to get them to a place of safety.

In the 6th Field area things were even worse. Lieutenant-Colonel Kensington had strolled back from RHQ, a quarter of a mile in front of the guns; he spoke briefly to a battery captain and advised him to get his guns dug in and thoroughly protected, and then he returned. No sooner had he got back page 598 to RHQ than the shells began to come down. A dozen gunners fell in the first few minutes, and those who went to help them were splattered by shells bursting in the olive trees around them. Smoke and flames from burning petrol and ammunition and the dust raised by vehicles hastily departing from the target area, and jeeps driven into it on errands of mercy, thickened the air and made it hard to know what was going on. Neither of the newly-arrived batteries, 30 and 48, had had time to dig in properly and some gun crews had not even started to dig.

Sergeant Burke22 of 48 Battery had to deal with burning charges and exploding ammunition beside his gun, a burning camouflage net over it, and a thatched roof on fire in a building alongside. He did not hesitate, regardless of the continued shelling, and his strenuous efforts to put out the fires inspired his gun crew to do the same. Between them they put out all fires and saved the gun.

In 29 Battery a B Troop quad was hit and the smoke from it drew even heavier shellfire. Bombardier Luscombe23 and Gunner Walker24 at once set about evacuating all transport in the vicinity, driving several quads and various other vehicles out of danger. They then returned and tried unavailingly to quench the fire in the quad, though by this time ammunition in it was exploding violently.

Many similar desperate episodes were enacted at the gun positions. Twenty men were wounded all told, including Lieutenant Broadway,25 GPO of E Troop, 30 Battery. To get help to them under the circumstances called for iron nerves. In 48 Battery three gunners, McCarthy26 and Greenwood27 among them, rose gallantly to the occasion, acting as stretcher bearers and driving jeeps to evacuate the wounded to the RAP. It was at least partly due to their efforts that none of the 6th Field wounded died.28

page 599

The wagon lines were as much exposed to the shellfire as the gun positions and there, too, there were instances of exceptional bravery as men tried to save vehicles and equipment from the many fires which broke out. A truck of the machine-gun battalion was one which caught on fire and its small-arms ammunition began to explode like deadly firecrackers. Gunner Streater29 of 29 Battery drove his own quad out of danger, although he was slightly wounded by a shellburst. Another quad was blazing and the HE ammunition in it was in grave danger of exploding. Streater disregarded this and the shelling of the area and went back to collect another quad and drive it to safety. Gunner Nuttall30 and at least two others did much the same, and Nuttall wrapped himself in a blanket and tried to drive the blazing quad away. In this he failed, but he succeeded in salvaging some personal belongings from it, suffering burns himself in so doing. Then he carried on driving other vehicles away.

The 31 Battery infantillery were also in the 6 Field area and their headquarters was a large house between the field guns and the hills to the east. A battery truck near the house was being used for a game of cards while the anti-tankers awaited orders for their night pickets. One of the first shells in the area hit the petrol tank of this truck and blew the card-players over the tailboard. A spectator of the game, Gunner Redstone,31 was killed; but the others were unhurt. The truck was destroyed. The infantillery sheltered in the house; but one of them was later wounded.

The Left Section of E Troop, 42 Battery, had gone forward with 46 Battery on 2 June. B Troop of 41 Battery also deployed in defence of the 4th Field while A Troop guarded the medium artillery and Divisional Headquarters. The Right Sections of D and E Troops deployed under intense shell and mortar fire in defence of the 5th and 6th Field. Major Frechtling intended to deploy the Left Section of D Troop as well; but the fire had increased to the point that it would have been almost suicidal to site more Bofors in the already overcrowded flat stretch beyond Sora in full view of the enemy. On the 4th Lance-Bombardier Lichtwark32 of 42 Battery was killed and two others page 600 wounded. The RAF was active over Balsorano; but no enemy aircraft appeared and the Bofors gunners had to put up with a good deal of shot and shell without a chance of replying.

The mortar battery had a busy day and suffered no losses from the shelling except for a signaller wounded on the road when mending a line. Lieutenant Stevenson33 of P Troop carried out some effective shooting, mainly on targets indicated by the infantry. He used G Troop as well for many of them, and on at least one task he got C Troop across the river to engage a target out of reach of the other two. Fire orders were sent back by wireless, all troops being on the one link. Lieutenant McSkimming34 of C Troop had arranged to go forward with an FOO of the 5th Field in support of a night attack by 24 Battalion. But orders came from Artillery Headquarters for the three troops to fire concentrations as part of the artillery programme in support of a major attack on Balsorano. This caused much working out of tasks, and ammunition had to be collected on the other side of Sora and prepared. When all was nearly ready word came that the attack was cancelled.

It was exasperating not to know the source of the fire which caused the trouble on 3 June. Some 6th Field officers thought that heavy mortars were the chief culprits—and certainly they did do some damage. Self-propelled guns also were involved and they could, of course, easily change position if they were located. A few long-range guns, well beyond the reach of supercharge, were able to fire over the New Zealand field guns into Sora and even south of it. But the bombardment of the field guns which caused most of the casualties was carried out with a control and accuracy far beyond the capabilities of mortars and was evidently the work of guns fairly close at hand and with excellent observation of the gun areas.35 The location of these guns and their observers was an urgent task.

The infantillery of the 7th Anti-Tank became mountaineers on 4 June in efforts to locate these troublemakers. Two volunteer platoons of 31 Battery, under Captain Helean36 and Second- page 601 Lieutenant Colpman,37 marched a little to the north of the 6th Field area and then began a long climb to the top of Monte Cornacchia, well over 6000 feet high. It took them six and a half strenuous hours to get to the top, searching all likely spots on the way. The crest was open and gave wonderful observation; but there was no sign of enemy observers. A sudden thunderstorm soaked the anti-tankers to the skin in a matter of seconds.

In the early hours of the morning 34 Battery had hurried forward also as infantillery. Three patrols climbed the same mountain from south of the 6th Field area. Each had a different objective. Two of them duly reached their appointed destinations and found no sign of enemy observers, though they found recent German newspapers in one place. The third patrol, directed to the highest point, came under fire from the 6th Field when high on the mountainside. One or two shells came fairly close, but no one was hurt and the patrol continued its climb. Approaching darkness, however, caused it to turn back before reaching the mountain top. Trying to find OPs in the rugged mountain mass on either side of the river was like looking for needles in a haystack.

For 47 Battery, deployed near the road, the night 3-4 June had been most uncomfortable. A troop of German guns fired up and down the road frequently all night long. After dawn the hostile batteries turned their attentions once more to the 6th Field and to 27 Battery of the 5th Field. The New Zealand field guns were by now fairly well dug in; but they were kept busy—even the thinly manned guns of D Troop of the 4th Field—and shelling of the gun positions inevitably caused casualties while the men were manning the guns. Of three men wounded this day in 27 Battery, one of them, Sergeant Martin,38 later died. One was a member of Martin's A4 gun crew and the third was the A Troop artificer. They were sheltering in a drain when a 105 burst in a tree above them.

In the 4th Field it was the turn of 46 Battery, which was heavily bombarded. When charges caught on fire at his gun position Sergeant Thorne39 was badly burnt, another sergeant suffered head wounds, and a bombardier was hit in the chest.

page 602

The ordeal of 27 and 46 Batteries, however, was trifling compared with what the 6th Field had to endure this day. On the 3rd the 6th Field had had 20 men wounded. This day, 4 June, when there was far better protection for the gun crews, at least 28 men were wounded, including half a dozen sergeants. Almost all of them were serving their guns when they were hit.

Again there were many instances of gallantry in caring for the wounded under fire. Conspicuous among them was the work of Gunner Hamilton40 of 30 Battery. He was himself wounded, but he dressed the wounds of others and helped them to safety. When all the wounded in the open had been attended to he went through shellfire to a building in which they had been collected and gave them further first-aid attention. Only when all others were treated did he allow his own wounds to be dressed.

The heavy and accurate counter-battery fire made little or no difference to the carrying out of the many shoots ordered this day. In 46 Battery, for example, when the No. 1 of Bombardier Milne's41 gun was wounded, Milne took command, and put out the fires which had started in the charges and had spread to the gun tyres. His gun was ranging and Milne manned it himself. The BSM, WO II Quigan, carried on as he had done the day before, leading ammunition lorries forward regardless of the shelling.

The foremost OP of the 4th Field was that of E Troop, on the hillside west of the river and looking down on Balsorano. From it the hills to the east were earnestly studied for signs of the guns which were bombarding the 5th and 6th Field; but nothing could be seen of them, even when Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart went forward later in the morning to the E Troop OP. There were other guns, however, in the valley north-west of Balsorano, and Italians reported at first light that there were some near the railway station. From various sources hostile battery locations in the valley were confirmed and several concentrations were fired on them. One of these concentrations seemed from the OP of C Troop of the 5th Field to be ragged, though many rounds fell on the target. When it was repeated, however, it fell thickly right on the enemy guns. These did not fire again. Later in the morning a concentration a mile up the valley beyond Balsorano caused a large explosion.

page 603

Another OP well forward on the left had been established the day before by Lieutenant MacKay42 of C Troop, 47 Battery. He had spent the night forward with the infantry and had then begun registering hostile batteries. This day and the next he registered five four-gun batteries and brought down extremely accurate and effective fire on them, as escaping British prisoners of war were able to confirm. They claimed that direct hits were scored on 10 guns, heavy losses were inflicted on their crews, and an ammunition dump was blown up.

Not all of this, of course, was achieved solely by the fire of the 5th Field. By this time 2 AGRA had three medium regiments and a heavy battery in action on this front and their fire was particularly effective against enemy-occupied buildings. One of these, on the hillside north-east of Balsorano and marked on the map as S. Francesco, was evidently a centre of much activity. Troops from it were seen to relieve others on the escarpment facing the New Zealand infantry every four hours. But the walls were very thick indeed, and on the advice of Major Stone,43 of 29 Battery, who was liaison officer with 5 Brigade, a 7.2-inch heavy howitzer was brought forward to engage it. To the infantry who were watching the explosions of its massive shells, they seemed to cover half an acre and German activity in the area of S. Francesco dwindled rapidly.

The fall of Rome on 4 June caused a sudden change of plan. Instead of forcing its way by frontal assault up the narrow Liri Valley towards Avezzano, the Division was to withdraw and become part of a pursuit force on a front that allowed it to develop its full manoeuvrability. The immediate task therefore was to disengage. For the field regiments the first step was taken in the night 4-5 June, when 25 and 26 Batteries of the 4th Field and 30 and 48 Batteries of the 6th Field withdrew south of Sora. Gunners of these four batteries went almost gaily about their preparations to move, they drove happily through Sora, and did not mind in the least when they were required to fire HF tasks on supercharge for the rest of the night. Anything was better than that shell-torn valley in front of Balsorano.

For the gunners who stayed behind it was a very different story. They could expect to receive the concentrated attention of the German gunners in the morning and it was not a happy page 604 thought. When morning came no shells were wasted on the areas vacated by 30 and 48 Batteries; but for a short time the 46 Battery gunners were encouraged by seeing shells landing in the former areas of 25 and 26 Batteries. It was not long, however, before the enemy realised his mistake and gave his undivided attention, so far as the 4th Field were concerned, to the 46 Battery positions. All firing by 46 Battery brought in return a heavy concentration on the battery and RHQ. The gun E4 had its range cone holed, its dial sight broken, and one tyre burst. Soon after midday B3 had its recuperator punctured, and when charges caught on fire in the B1 gun pit the dial sight of B1 was damaged and both tyres were burnt. Gunners hastened to repair the damage and by 1 p.m. B1 and B3 were back in action. Then another bombardment of 46 Battery began and in it Second-Lieutenant Cook,44 while giving out fire orders, was killed instantly and a sergeant was wounded. Bombardier Milne was again at hand, and he carried the wounded man out of the area and saw him evacuated to the RAP. Then he went back and started to put out several fires caused by the shelling.

By this time, however, the New Zealand guns and those of 2 AGRA—and particularly the mediums and heavies, which were active on the 5th—had Balsorano and the valley beyond it well registered and were able to bring down crushingly effective fire. Several large explosions resulted, and at 4 p.m. the FOO of C Troop of the 5th Field reported that the concentration he had just witnessed was

‘best seen from this O.P. yet. 1 explosion so far. 1 fire still burning. Could not observe airburst because of dust from earlier rds.’45

After careful study Major Dyson of 46 Battery concluded that the hostile battery which had been shelling his guns with deadly accuracy was at the head of one of the many gullies on the upper slopes of Monte Cornacchia and very near the top. This was well inside the New Zealand right flank and at least one of the infantillery patrols had passed close to it. As the crow flies it was about a mile to the right rear of the foremost 6th Field OP (though much higher). It seemed both an impossible site for 75-millimetre guns and impossible that they could have fired from it with impunity for over three days. But Dyson was confident (and in the light of German records probably correct) page break page 605 and Artillery Headquarters at once ordered a ‘murder’ of 10 rounds gun fire by every available gun. This crashed on to the target just after 1 p.m. on 5 June and the hostile battery did not fire again. The enemy was already thinning out, however, and the mountain guns might have been dismantled and removed before the ‘murder’ was fired.

colour map of Italy

In any case these German gunners had earned respect for skilful gunnery. Combined with the natural advantages of their position, it allowed them to achieve an effect out of all proportion to their numbers or weight. For the more thoughtful of the New Zealand gunners it was a reminder that over-indulgence in massive concentrations of predicted fire could work like a disease, eating away at fundamental gunnery skills.

The remainder of the 4th and 6th Field withdrew after dark on 5 April. It was, if anything, a more welcome move even than that from the Trocchio area to Venafro. What had promised, when they first arrived, to be a step in a joyous procession through a warm and welcoming Italian countryside, had turned out for the gunners to be a four-day ordeal of an intensity far beyond any other they experienced in Italy. For the field gunners the order ‘Take Post’ had come to be dreaded. It had acquired a fateful significance: it would be followed almost infallibly when they opened fire by shells bursting savagely close around their gun pits, or by heavy mortar bombs whistling gently and then exploding on the ground around them or in the trees above. While they were there the dwindling gun crews always responded to the order and did what they had to—or more. But to get away from this hateful valley with its all-seeing eyes in the heights above was for most of them the apex of their ambition. The drive back along the dusty road through Sora was sheer joy.

This left only the 5th Field, and its three batteries fired until midnight and then from 4 a.m. on 6 April. Dawn was awaited with mixed feelings: would the 5th Field guns receive the undivided attention of the hostile guns and mortars? But dawn came quietly, and soon afterwards OPs began to report a series of gigantic explosions beyond Balsorano which filled the steep-sided valley with dust and smoke. At 9.21 a.m. the C Troop OP reported briefly: ‘Think Jerry has gone’. The explosions continued all day as the enemy demolished whatever he could to delay his pursuers. Early in the afternoon Italians were seen moving down the mountainsides and into villages beyond Balsorano. The Germans had evidently gone.

page 606

The pursuit role originally allotted the Division had been dropped and the object now was to open the route to Avezzano. A special force, Wilder Force, formed for this purpose, included the 5th Field but no other gunners. Demolitions, mines and booby traps were all that impeded the advance; but they proved formidable obstacles. Captain Mears46 of the 5th Field entered Avezzano with some sappers on 9 June; but much engineering work was still needed to open the road for a mechanised force. The 5th Field guns had to stay in the valley between Sora and Balsorano, and on the 11th the FOOs and the LO with 6 Brigade rejoined them. On the 14th the 5th Field drove back through Sora and along Route 82 to Arce, a town in the lower Liri valley some miles west of Monte Cairo. It was a journey in the right direction: most of the gun crews felt that they never wanted to see the upper Liri valley again.

The SoraBalsorano fighting caused 106 casualties among the New Zealand gunners, 10 of them killed. It was the only major episode since Crete in which gunners lost more heavily than the infantry they were supporting. More than half the losses were suffered by the 6th Field; yet not a single 6th Field man was killed. A dozen or so suffered from minor wounds or injuries—such as burns from flaring cordite charges—for which they refused to be evacuated. Many had lost cherished personal possessions in vehicle fires. The fighting in front of Balsorano was like many of the cherry trees in the upper valley: temptingly laden with luscious fruit, but booby-trapped by the Germans.47

Killed or Died of Wounds Wounded Total
HQ NZA —— 1 1
4th Field 8 27 35
5th Field 1 13 14
6th Field 1 65 66
7th Anti-Tank 1 18 19
14th Light Ack-Ack 2 2 4
36 Survey Battery —— 2 2
—— —— ——
Total 13 128 141

They included the following incurred in four days in the Sora area, 2-5 June:

Killed or Died of Wounds Wounded Total
4th Field 7 15 22
5th Field 1 12 3
6th Field —— 61 61
7th Anti-Tank 1 5 6
14th Light Ack-Ack 1 2 3
36 Survey Battery —— 1 1
—— —— ——
Total 10 96 106

15 Maj K. Frechtling, MC; Blenheim; born Wellington, 11 Dec 1909; cabinetmaker.

16 Gnr H. Elsworth, m.i.d.; Hamilton; born England, 16 Oct 1918; butcher; p.w. 4 Aug 1944.

17 Those killed were Lieutenant J. D. Wyatt, the GPO, and Gunners H. J. Andrews, H. J. Benson, A. R. Hawthorne and F. J. Shaw. The wounded included Second-Lieutenant A. M. Smith, a sergeant and two lance-sergeants.

18 Second-Lieutenant B. C. H. Moss.

19 Sgt G. N. Oliphant; Dunedin; born Dunedin, 12 Sep 1916; warehouseman; wounded 3 Jun 1944.

20 Sgt M. J. Whiting; Timaru; born Taumarunui, 12 Aug 1921; dyer and dry-cleaner.

21 Gnr P. H. McKinna; born Gore, 15 Feb 1903; merchandise manager; died 22 Sep 1960.

22 Sgt F. B. Burke, MM; Tuakau; born Cambridge, 5 Jul 1918; farmhand; wounded 13 Aug 1942.

23 Sgt F. H. Luscombe; Makotuku, Dannevirke; born Waipukurau, 19 May 1919; farmhand.

24 L-Bdr D. A. K. Walker; Manaia; born Manaia, 29 Oct 1915; farmhand; wounded 3 Jun 1944.

25 Capt T. G. Broadway; Christchurch; born Christchurch, 19 Jun 1911; commercial traveller; twice wounded.

26 Gnr D. McCarthy, m.i.d.; Auckland; born NZ 22 Jan 1922; plasterer.

27 Gnr W. A. Greenwood, m.i.d.; born Aust., 25 Feb 1922; clerk and cashier.

28 The total of 61 men of the 6th Field wounded in the Sora action and yet none killed was truly remarkable.

29 Gnr K. Streater, MM; born Dannevirke, 18 Dec 1918; labourer; twice wounded.

30 Bdr J. C. Nuttall; Auckland; born England, 6 Oct 1920; salesman.

31 Gnr O. B. Redstone; born NZ 10 Mar 1920; shepherd; killed in action 3 Jun 1944.

32 L-Bdr R. J. Lichtwark; born NZ 5 Sep 1915; truck driver; killed in action 4 Jun 1944.

33 Later appointed Reconnaissance Captain. See p. 609, note 3.

34 Capt J. W. McSkimming; Palmerston North; born Gisborne, 24 Feb 1914; salesman.

35 The German records indicate that Schrank Battle Group of 5 Mountain Division had carried 75-millimetre mountain guns high into the hills and there reassembled and emplaced them in positions from which they could fire with impunity on the valley between Sora and Balsorano. It was a well-planned rearguard action.

36 Maj W. B. Helean, m.i.d.; Dunedin; born Wellington, 16 Aug 1917; clerk.

37 Lt A. T. Colpman; Marton; born Reikorangi, 25 Mar 1915; research assistant, Massey College; wounded 31 Mar 1944.

38 Sgt J. O. Martin; born Mangonui, 1 Jun 1918; labourer; wounded 24 May 1941; died of wounds 4 Jun 1944.

39 Sgt S. L. Thorne; Masterton; born Darfield, 7 Jun 1917; baker; wounded 4 Jun 1944.

40 Gnr M. R. T. Hamilton, MM; Dunedin; born England, 16 Nov 1911; bricklayer; wounded 4 Jun 1944.

41 Sgt R. A. Milne, MM; Rangiora; born Rangiora, 23 Sep 1918; civil servant; wounded 23 Mar 1943.

42 Capt A. F. MacKay, MC; Mombasa, Kenya; born Auckland, 20 Aug 1916; insurance clerk.

43 Lt-Col J. R. Stone, ED; Brisbane; born Auckland, 15 Jan 1911; civil servant; Bty Comd, 6 Fd Regt; United Nations military observer, Kashmir, 1954-55.

44 2 Lt G. E. Cook; born NZ 4 May 1909; alpine guide; twice wounded; killed in action 5 Jun 1944.

45 Log Book of the 5th Field, 11 April to 17 July 1944.

46 Capt I. D. Mears; Hamilton; born Hamilton, 13 Jan 1915; solicitor.

47 Casualties in the period April-June 1944 were: