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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

The Maori Victory at Menastir

The Maori Victory at Menastir

Hundreds of other New Zealand gunners remained in action in the frontier area and with the Tobruk garrison. Those in the Menastir area—28 Battery less E Troop, F Anti-Tank Troop and half of D Light Ack-Ack Troop—had moved with 22 Battalion on the 28th to the Omar forts and next day joined 23 and 28 Battalions in the CapuzzoSollum area. All three battalions with their artillery moved to the Menastir area in the first two days of December, with 22 Battalion in its original position, the 23rd nearer Bardia, and the 28th just to the west of the 22nd. The field guns—27 Battery and what was left of 28 Battery—took up a central position in the folds of the escarpment and the 2-pounders and Bofors gave close support to the infantry, while the cavalry reconnoitred westwards.

The new 5 Brigade position was considerably stronger than the former one and on 3 December it gave decisive evidence of this in repulsing a probing attack by strong elements of 15 Panzer Division. This began at 11.30 a.m. with shelling of Maori positions on the escarpment to which 27 Battery quickly replied. The Maoris lay low and held their fire until about 1 p.m., by which time the foremost enemy troops were well page 286 past the Maori FDLs. The Left Section of D Troop of the 14th Light Ack-Ack was stationed on the flat among the Maoris, but only one of its three Bofors could engage the enemy. When the Maoris opened fire, which they did with immense enthusiasm, this Bofors joined in and its fire at very close range was devastating. In a matter of minutes it set five German vehicles on fire and put out of action an anti-tank gun drawn by a ‘halftrack’. The field guns quickly subdued their enemy counterparts and brought the many vehicles on the Via Balbia under heavy fire. Within an hour the enemy was in full retreat and the front was strewn with blazing vehicles. On the right flank, towards the coast, however, enemy detachments persisted courageously with efforts to outflank the defence and folds in the ground gave them good cover from field artillery fire. The only way to deal with them was to counter-attack and this the Maoris did in the late afternoon, supported by the single Bofors and by every 2-pounder of 32 Battery that could be brought to bear on this flank. The field guns fired smoke shells to blind the enemy and under this cover the Maoris attacked, clearing the ground at the point of the bayonet. By dark it was all over and the enemy had suffered very severe loss at small cost to the defence. The gunners had given useful support, but the honours of this action clearly belonged to the Maoris.