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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Changes in Equipment and Methods

page 694

Changes in Equipment and Methods

Brigadier Queree and his staff10 had been waiting to start work on the programme for the Senio crossing. They had complete confidence in the instrument at their disposal, the Divisional Artillery. Its years of campaigning had rubbed off all the rough edges. In the Florence campaign the artillery staff work had stood the test of a fast-moving and complicated operation. Time-wasting procedures had been eliminated. Lengthy operation orders, for example, had been reduced to a few lines stating the bare intention and the starting time—H-hour—of the fire plan, followed by the barrage trace incorporating all related instructions and the various tables of concentrations, together with the DF tasks covering the infantry objective. The long period with the Canadian corps, with its very different artillery methods, gave a new perspective from which to criticise and improve NZA methods. One of Queree's own contributions was to see that divisional control rested more lightly on his regimental commanders. In quickly-changing situations he wanted them to use their own initiative and not place too much reliance on massive divisional concentrations.

Recent operations had led to several improvements. If the pace of the advance past the many water obstacles beyond the Senio was to be maintained, reconnaissance, surveying and occupation of new field-gun positions would have to be carried out at high speed. Queree had evolved a drill for this which in the weeks to come was to pay golden dividends. When the question first arose of moving forward he would make up his mind which of his field regiments would move first and issue a preliminary warning. He and his staff would study maps and photographs and select an area. Then, if possible, Queree would fly over in an Air OP Auster and study the ground and approaches. If all looked right he would then advise the regiment, and the officers concerned would know that everything possible had already been done to ensure that the new gun position was suitable. Reconnaissance parties, cut down to bare essentials and mounted page 695 in jeeps, with the surveyors, would then go forward and lay out the new positions. When the gun groups moved forward their positions were taken by the regimental B Echelons. Unexpended ammunition left on the gun positions would then be picked up as a matter of course. There was no need to waste time and obstruct road traffic reconnoitring B Echelon areas. Drivers always knew where to find their B Echelon.

Another drill that had an important bearing on operations related to the so-called H net of wireless communications. This linked about 16 stations within a field regiment, plus the Air OP and the CRA, on one frequency. Over this net, linking the CO, his battery and troop commanders, and others, passed orders for regimental fire and moves and intelligence reports, as well as many other operational messages. All were recorded by all receivers, avoiding repetition.11

The changes in vehicle establishments which took place in the rest area in November and again in March greatly increased the efficiency of the transport. The most important was the replacement of section quads and trailers with three-tonners. It gave rise to nostalgic reflections; for the quads with their three trailers carrying ammunition had been a familiar sight whenever the field artillery was on the move. But they were slow and clogged the roads and gun areas. The three-tonners could dump their ammunition on the gun position and then be off to collect more. They were more easily handled and took up much less room on the road.

10 The chief staff appointments were:

Maj S. F. CatchpoleBM
Capt R. J. H. WebbStaff Captain
Capt F. H. MullinsCMO
Capt R. D. J. C. MoffatCBO
Capt R. D. P. HassettGSO III
Capt C. E. H. PledgerIO

Capt J. W. Sternberg commanded H Section, Divisional Signals, Lt M. E. Wilson was the NZEME at Artillery HQ, and the Rev. O. R. Marlowe was the padre.

11 The H net usually worked well; but for the first few days of the Senio battle Poles transmitting on frequencies too close to the NZA ones caused much interference with all wireless communications.