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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Across the Idice

Across the Idice

Again 5 and 6 Brigades were in the lead. The 6th carried the Idice on the left by seizing a ford. The 5th crossed on the right on a frontage of 800 yards under a 15-line quick barrage fired at very short notice indeed by the 5th Field, starting at 1 p.m. In the afternoon all three field regiments moved again, this time to far more attractive areas near Budrio. Again the 4th page 719 Field was the unlucky one, getting shelled and losing one man killed38 and seven men wounded.

Another fire programme began at midnight on the 20th. It contained all the usual features. From their Idice bridgehead 5 Brigade infantry advanced 1000 yards north-westwards on a frontage of 2000 yards. To cover them the 4th and 5th Field and the 23rd Field fired a 200 r.p.g. 15-line barrage, standing half an hour on the starting and finishing lines. Two field batteries concurrently fired concentrations on the right flank, another field and a heavy ack-ack battery fired CM tasks, a battery of 4·5s and one of 155s fired CB tasks, and a battery of 5·5s and one of 7·2s fired concentrations in depth. All other available guns harassed the flanks from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on the 21st.

It was standard practice; but it was arranged with lightning speed, as the 5th Field timings show. The first word reached the regiment at 6·53 p.m, giving just the starting time and the number of rounds per gun. The batteries had moved forward and it was more than a quarter of an hour later that 27 Battery recorded zero lines. Then Lieutenant-Colonel Sawyers telephoned at 8·45 p.m. the details of the attack and the artillery programme, and these had to be passed on to batteries. The troops had barely three hours in which each had to work out its part of the barrage and prepare 800 rounds. Before midnight, however, the 5th Field fired two regimental ‘murders’, a troop ‘murder’, and possibly other tasks not recorded in the regimental logs. (At 11.50 p.m. Sawyers reported that the last of the ‘murders’ caused 35 paratroops to surrender.) But this was not all. Between 9 and 10 p.m. 13 DF tasks were ordered in support of 5 and 6 Brigades and they were to come into force as soon as the barrage ended. They were all stonks and they, too, had to be prepared in advance. If they were needed at all it would be in a great hurry. Then, at 1·55 a.m. on the 21st, while the barrage was being fired, Sawyers ordered four HF tasks, each lasting an hour.

The barrage and other artillery fire raised dense clouds of dust and smoke in a night that was already misty. It was not easy to see how the infantry were progressing. Enemy seemed active on the Scolo Fiumicello a mile and a half beyond the Idice, and the guns shelled that watercourse. Between 2·30 a.m. and 3·15 the 5th Field fired six DF tasks, and one of them, according to a report at 3 a.m., ‘completely demolished’ an enemy concentration. If Huck Sawyers was pleased he kept it page 720 to himself. At 3·30 a.m. he signalled testily, ‘DFs not going off fast enough. Gunners to be more awake.’ In the end all was well. The infantry gained their objectives, the sappers in due course bridged the Idice, and the chase was on. By the evening of the 21st the Division was four miles past the Idice.

38 Gunner F. J. Green.