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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Anti-Tankers Support the Greek Brigade

Anti-Tankers Support the Greek Brigade

O and N Troops of 34 Battery were well forward in support of the Greeks and were shelled night and day. The 6-pounder crews of O Troop were housed in animal stalls. On the 4th a Canadian sound-ranging post was established in the house by O1. Two N Troop men were injured by flying debris next day. A few days later O1 had its sight bracket damaged by a splinter. Then, in the evening of the 9th, N Troop was warned that an enemy patrol was approaching. Sergeant Carson27 had two guns forward and posted his men in prepared positions to defend them. They came under fierce fire, but Carson controlled and co-ordinated their response and they were able to beat off the threat in conjunction with Greek infantry. Later in the night two haystacks close to one of the guns were set on fire, endangering much ammunition. The flames lit up the area and attracted intensified machine-gun and mortar fire; but Carson got his men to remove the ammunition to a place of safety. It was a novel action for the anti-tankers and for his coolness and leadership in it Carson won an MM.

The Canadian sound-rangers counted 800 shells that exploded within 150 yards of their house in a period of two days, the heaviest concentration they had so far recorded. N and O Troops were to be relieved by Canadians on the 11th and the thought cheered them greatly. But when the time came they could not get away. N Troop was held up by phosphorus bombs dropped page 657 on the road and O Troop by a towing vehicle bogged on the way forward, completely blocking the route. Next night, when they did get out, they had to leave two N Troop guns and at least two O Troop ones in position, to be taken over temporarily by the Canadians. It was too muddy to get them out without enormous effort, and constant machine-gunning of the position made this impossible. All in all, this was the most trying position occupied by 34 Battery since Miteiriya Ridge and the anti-tankers were glad to see the last of it. Nobody then knew that this was to be the last action of the war for 34 Anti-Tank Battery, the ‘Pommy Battery’.

The 33rd Battery had meanwhile provided an infantillery company of 93 men and held a front of about 400 yards on the Fiumicino south-west of Bellaria. This proved to be the most exacting infantillery task since Crete and it included patrolling under machine-gun, mortar and shell fire in areas thoroughly mined and booby-trapped. The infantry training at Arce, however, came in handy and fortune also favoured these antitankers. Despite many near-misses they escaped harm. The Divisional Cavalry relieved them on the 13th, under heavy mortar fire, and they returned safely to the B Echelon area.28

An elaborate fire plan to support an attack across the river had to be postponed and then cancelled because of the weather, but a dummy version of it lasting 20 minutes tested the enemy's reactions in the night 6–7 October. It provoked only a slight increase in enemy fire. It was beginning to look as though the sodden plain bordering the Adriatic offered little or no scope for offensive action and, to troops who had been constantly assured for more than a year what good tank-country the Romagna was, this realisation was bitterly disappointing. The only alternative—and this was much more promising, as it turned out—was to push along the foothills astride the Via Emilia, towards Cesena, Forli and Faenza. The flooding of 4th and 5th Field gun pits when the Fiumicino rose on 8 October underlined the futility of trying to push along the coast in the muddy winter.

27 S-Sgt J. D. Carson, MM; born NZ 4 Jul 1912; clerk.

28 The 33rd infantillery were called back into the line suddenly on the 16th with ‘Wilderforce’ on the north bank of the Fiumicino. They crossed the Scolo Rigossa next day and in occupying houses 800 yards beyond it they met machine-gun and mortar fire which Canadian tanks helped them to overcome. The following day J Troop as a fighting patrol entered Castellaccio (south of Cesenatico) and there had a brisk fight with small arms and hand grenades in which Gunner A. Danby was wounded. Four Germans were killed. M Troop gave support on the right; but the enemy in the village was much too strong. When ammunition began to run low the fighting patrol withdrew.