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Bardia to Enfidaville

Divisional Activities, 1–6 April

Divisional Activities, 1–6 April

The days preceding the attack were reasonably quiet, except for a little harassing fire on both sides. The 50th Division took over the central sector of 30 Corps' front at 8 a.m. on 4 April, with 69 Infantry Brigade in the line. Responsibility for its artillery support then passed to the CRA 2 NZ Division.

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The engineers carried on with their usual multifarious tasks—water supply, repairs to demolitions, maintenance of roads—and there were in addition two special tasks intimately connected with the forthcoming operation. One was the preparation and marking of nine tracks, starting three miles south-west of Metouia and ending on a ridge seven miles farther north, beyond which it was not possible to proceed without coming into view of the enemy. This involved much bulldozing and laying of culverts in wadis that now had water in them. It kept 5 Field Park Company and 6 Field Company pleasantly busy.

The second was to prepare for the task of clearing gaps in the minefield. For this purpose 8 Field Company (Major Pemberton1), less headquarters and inessential transport, assembled south-west of Oudref before dark on 5 April. There it was joined by the tank, infantry and provost components.

For Divisional Cavalry and the infantry the few days from 1 to 5 April were restful on the whole. The cavalry was made up to establishment in Stuart tanks and the Greek Squadron came under its wing. All six infantry battalions carried out the usual activities in a rest period—maintenance, reorganisation, conferences, route marches, tactical exercises, swimming excursions where the sea was near enough—and had some real rest.

Enemy air forces were active in this period, although the bombs dropped were nearly all anti-personnel. The results were negligible.

On the other hand, the activities of the Allied air forces far exceeded those of the enemy and in some directions were devastating. The Desert Air Force attacked landing grounds, enemy positions and transport, and farther behind the battlefront the air forces were dislocating the enemy's air transport system from Sicily and Italy. At the end of March it was estimated that over 100 transport aircraft were arriving in Tunisia every day, but on 5 April forty were destroyed in the air and 188 on Tunisian and Sicilian airfields, a blow that was well-nigh crippling.

General Montgomery visited 2 NZ Division on 2 April and spoke to all officers and NCOs who could be released from duty; he then moved in turn to Divisional Headquarters, 6 Infantry Brigade, Reserve Group, 5 Infantry Brigade (including KDG and Divisional Cavalry), Divisional Artillery, and 8 Armoured Brigade. On 4 April General Freyberg paid a special visit to 8 Armoured Brigade and spoke to the officers of all three regiments, for he—and others in 2 NZ Division—had much regretted that in press references to the Division the British formations and units under page 261 command had not received their due credit. The visit was much appreciated, for all units gave it a special ‘write-up’ in their war diaries.

1 Lt-Col R. C. Pemberton, MC and bar, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Christchurch, 23 Mar 1915; engineer; OC 8 Fd Coy Dec 1942-Oct 1943; acting CRE 2 NZ Div Jul-Aug 1944; wounded 22 Jul 1942.