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Bardia to Enfidaville

Other Activities

Other Activities

During the time at Tripoli the weather was wintry. There was a lot of rain, and one or two washouts, both actual and figurative. A normally dry wadi in 28 Battalion area, for example, became a fast-flowing stream and washed away several tents; and four troops of carriers from Divisional Cavalry, sent to picket an area to be used by the RAF for a bombing exercise, after getting thoroughly wet, found that the exercise had been postponed. On the other hand there were some days of bright sunshine, one of them the day of Churchill's visit.

The provision of working parties for the docks, and other duties, interfered as always with any coherent training programme. There were a number of exercises on particular subjects, such as radio-telephony and how to deal with mines, and some ‘spit and polish’, mostly in the shape of formal guards on headquarters offices. However, it must be admitted that the Eighth Army, so formidable and efficient in war, had become rather like a collection of pirates, gipsies and partisans in appearance and sometimes in conduct.

Work interfered also with the elaborate plans for a divisional athletic championship. But the divisional rugby tournament, commenced at Bardia and continued at Nofilia, was at last finished on 14 February, when 28 (Maori) Battalion beat Divisional Signals by 8 points to 6.

The first reinforcements from New Zealand for over a year joined the Division at Tripoli, the previous draft—the 7th Reinforcements—having arrived in October 1941. Most of the 8th Reinforcements had been under arms in New Zealand for over a year and the well-trained 100 officers and 3000 other ranks helped to give new life to the Division. Because of the long distance from Maadi Camp, an Advanced Base was opened at Suani Ben Adem, to hold reinforcements nearer the Division for as long as the campaign continued in North Africa.

Reinforcement was especially welcome to the engineers, whose casualties over the months had been much higher than the official estimate of ‘likely wastage’. It will have been apparent already that this was due to exceptionally hard work in overcoming the enemy's prodigal use of mines and demolitions.

The Kiwi Concert Party arrived in Tripoli on 8 February and gave many performances in the town from 11 February onwards.

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On 25 February the Royal Scots Greys ceased to be under command, but before leaving handed over some of their Stuart tanks to Divisional Cavalry. They had served the Division well and had done much to improve co-operation between infantry and armour. On the same day 7 NZ Anti-Tank Regiment received the last of its 17-pounder anti-tank guns (known as ‘pheasants’), a completely new weapon. The regiment then had sixteen pheasants and forty-eight six-pounders. Courses were held to train crews for the new weapons, which had high muzzle velocity and great hitting power; it was hoped that they would prove as effective as the German 88-millimetre.

Eighth Army changed from Zone B to Zone A time at midnight on 22–23 February when clocks were retarded one hour. Zone B time (two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time) was that applicable to Egypt. Eighth Army had gone farther and farther west using this time, until an artificial state of affairs had arisen, and was in effect using a ‘daylight saving’ of one hour. The adjustment was to the time used at the western end of the Mediterranean and coincided with that used by First Army.