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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Tension after VE Day

Tension after VE Day

West of the Isonzo the war in Italy was over—or so said the BBC. Marshal Kesselring's forces had indeed surrendered; but what was going on in and around Trieste? At the Hotel Impero 31 Battery with two 17-pounder crews and A Sub-Battery of 34 Battery slept in luxury, too tired to care. Thirty miles back page 730 along the coast 27 Battery danced until the early hours in charming company. Yet within a day or two the following message went on its secret way round the regiments:

‘Corps plan is to hold a bridgehead over the Isonzo with 2 NZ Division on the right, 56 London Division centre, and 91 US Division left.’

At one minute past midnight on 7–8 May the war in Europe officially ended; but this plan remained very much in force. Was another war about to begin? A war against the unkempt, footsore and evidently war-weary Yugoslav partisans who straggled towards the Isonzo for several days?

Even General Freyberg could not answer this. He tried to sort things out with a Yugoslav corps commander, but found him ‘very frightened’ of Marshal Tito, unable to decide anything, and reduced to writing notes on a pad ‘like a London policeman taking down evidence’. As late as 23 May the CRA and his staff were working on operational plans and instructions and nobody liked doing this. The NZA units, the 5th Medium, A Battery of 346 US Field Artillery Battalion, and later the 1st RHA and 120 Battery of the 30th Light Ack-Ack had deployment areas allotted and had to maintain a state of readiness for action. To officers in responsible positions it seemed an awkward and disappointing ending to a campaign as brilliant as any in the long annals of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.