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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery


THE fortunes of the gunners in Crete were followed anxiously by those who had reached Egypt, though reliable news was hard to come by. The bulk of the 6th Field and 7th Anti-Tank had disembarked at Alexandria or Port Said by the end of April and various detachments of these units arrived from Crete before the invasion started. In Egypt the gunners got new clothing and personal gear and then went on a week's leave. Arrangements for this were made by Brigadier Miles, who landed on 2 May and at once took command of a special headquarters, ‘New Zealand Troops, Helwan’, in charge of troops from Greece and Crete. On the 11th the 6th Field formed a ‘battalion’, 224 strong, of two ‘companies’ for guard duty at Abbassia, the great barracks and administrative centre for the British Army, on the outskirts of Cairo. Germans had come to the rescue of the Italians in Libya and their combined forces had recaptured Cyrenaica except for Tobruk, which was now garrisoned and besieged. Battleworthy units in Egypt were therefore sent to hold the frontier with Libya and New Zealanders took over various duties in Cairo, the Nile Delta, and the Canal Zone. On 20 May 30 Battery of the 6th Field moved to Almaza and there became Depot Battery. In this capacity the battery helped to train officer candidates from the local OCTU and its gun drill and shooting were much praised.

The 7th Anti-Tank meanwhile resumed training at Helwan and on the 9th welcomed fourteen 2-pounders from Ordnance. Another 10 guns soon followed. All guns were used for drill, but they had to be handled with care, for no gun stores were yet available. Anti-tankers, too, were sent to Almaza for guard duties, starting on the 14th with a detachment of 116. Two days later Lieutenant-Colonel Duff took command of the Artillery Training Regiment at Maadi and Oakes, newly-arrived from Crete and promoted to lieutenant-colonel, became the commanding officer of the 7th Anti-Tank. Oakes at once began a programme of elementary training and ‘spit-and-polish’ of a kind which might have had a beneficial effect in the Indian Army which he knew well, but which aroused resentment among many of his gunners.