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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

An Anti-Tank Advanced Guard

page 210

An Anti-Tank Advanced Guard

The day had been full of incident, too, for the various groups of the Division which moved westwards in accordance with Freyberg's ‘go-for-Tobruk’ policy and for those which stayed behind to ‘mask’ the Capuzzo-Sollum-Bardia area. Among the groups which headed westwards was an unintended advanced guard which consisted of BHQ of 34 Anti-Tank Battery and two guns of P Troop. The battery commander, Major Hall-Kenney, meant to travel with Divisional Headquarters, but he did not hear that this had been delayed and drove westwards in the belief that he was following it. He naturally made fast progress. Seven enemy tanks had been reported west of Sidi Azeiz, and when the little group came upon a single tank near Gasr el-Arid, some miles to the west, Hall-Kenney deployed his two guns to gain favourable ground and discover if the other six tanks were nearby. In so doing the two portées came under heavy fire from a group of vehicles two miles away and from anti-tank guns which could not be located. They returned this fire as well as they could and then withdrew. One gunshield was pierced and a gunner severely wounded. When the enemy moved off in mid-afternoon Hall-Kenney drove along its flank and tried to size it up, reporting back to his RHQ by wireless. Divisional Headquarters, duly informed of this, adjusted its route to avoid contact with the enemy. As daylight faded he came within sight of what looked like a brigade group and three tanks detached themselves from it and approached him. Not caring to tempt Providence by letting them get within range before he could positively identify them, he withdrew and his party bedded down for the night four miles south of Bir el Chleta. The tanks were in fact enemy and the ‘brigade group’ was a powerful rearguard, as enemy records now disclose.