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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Committed to Florence Battle

Committed to Florence Battle

The Division was now asked to repeat on a larger scale what it had done before Arezzo; it was to add its weight to the already considerable pressure on the Florence sector and help to drive the enemy there back over the River Arno. Florence itself had already been declared an open city and there was reason to hope that the enemy would quickly and cheaply give ground and retire to the strong Gothic Line in the mountains north of the city. This hope was not realised.

From the Cortona–Trasimene area the gunners drove to the mediaeval city of Siena, a gem even in the rich treasury of Italian art and architecture. Then they carried on northwards along a secondary road to Castellina in Chianti. On the way a 46 Battery gun tractor with two trailers went over a bank and was wrecked and three gunners were taken to hospital. The 14th Light Ack-Ack fared even worse. The E5 tractor overturned, two gunners were killed and six injured, and the gun and tractor were wrecked. Chianti was wine-growing country par excellence and the grapes were nearly ripe; but the 4th and 5th Field, as they deployed on 21 and 22 July, were much more interested in the great clouds of white dust which rose high in the air, marking their progress to the watching enemy. To their surprise their entry on the scene was not challenged.

Near San Donato in Poggio (one of many San Donatos in the Florence region) 5 Brigade began to push forward towards page 620 the much-bombed town of Tavarnelle, a smaller place called Strada, and then, on the main road to Florence, towards San Casciano. With an armoured regiment (with D Troop of Mios under its command) and powerful artillery support the brigade soon made progress. The mortar battery was in close support of the infantry, and besides the two New Zealand field regiments there were the 142nd Army Field (with self-propelled armoured 105 howitzers) and the 70th and 75th Medium, with B Flight of 655 Air OP Squadron in support.