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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery


page 607

BEFORE the move to Arce, most gunners spent an agreeable week or more resting by the Liri between Sora and the delightful Isola del Liri, a few miles to the south-west. The anti-tankers, many of them billeted in Isola itself, were the luckiest. But even Sora, once the fighting receded, made the gunners welcome and 25 Battery organised a highly successful dance there, with music provided by the excellent orchestra of the 14th Light Ack-Ack.

The following three weeks or so in the area between Arce and Fontana Liri, though they included a good deal of training, were equally enjoyable, with plenty of swimming for the adventurous ones in the swift-flowing Liri, much sporting activity, and day leave to Rome.1 The regiments arranged picnics to beautiful Lake Albano, near Rome. Artillery Headquarters, though captained by the New Zealand representative cricketer, H. G. Vivian, lost a series of cricket matches with H Section, Divisional Signals, but redeemed its reputation by organising the best of all the race meetings held in the Arce area. Other leave resorts were the Isle of Ischia, San Spirito, Bari and Sorrento and, for the other ranks and some officers of the 4th Reinforcements, there was the promise that they would soon go home.

Major Drummond of the Survey Battery took flash-spotters and sound-rangers on a tour of the hostile battery areas in the Liri Valley. They found some dummy gun positions and some well-protected gun and nebelwerfer positions. But the most startling discovery was the excellence of the view of the Trocchio gun area from high ground above S. Apollinare (south of Cassino). This was a vantage point held by the enemy throughout February, March and April. ‘Observation just about perfect over gun area and roads’, the survey diary states. ‘A wonder far more damage was not done to our guns.’

On 16 June Steve Weir handed over his command to Ike Parkinson and prepared to take over the appointment of CCRA 10 Corps. Next day Weir addressed NZA officers at Artillery page 608 Headquarters. It was a momentous occasion and for many present a sad one. The two and a half years he had spent as CRA had seen immense improvement in the handling of the guns, particularly at Divisional level. Field artillery methods, at first tentative and experimental, had been perfected in all kinds of action and boldly employed. It had been partly at Weir's insistence that AGRAs had been formed. One way and another Steve Weir had made an indelible imprint on artillery command and organisation. But he had also made friends at all levels and his powerful personality would be missed. It was appropriate, however, that the new CRA should be Ike Parkinson, who had commanded the RNZA at the start of the war and had been the first commander of the 4th Field. Since then he had held various appointments in many different countries, and it was as if, after a long journey, he had at last come home. Colonel Queree, after a long spell of staff work, took command of the 5th Field and Lieutenant-Colonel Thornton replaced him as GSO I of the Division.

1 For officers there was overnight leave after the splendid New Zealand Forces Club opened in Rome on 23 June. Allied Headquarters, however, would not allow other ranks to stay overnight.