CHAPTER 1 — Ngaruawahia - Sea Voyage - Arrival at Maadi
Ngaruawahia - Sea Voyage - Arrival at Maadi
A few minutes before midnight on 3 September 1939 the Governor-General received the following telegram from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. So portentous a message had a brief text: ‘War has broken out with Germany.’
Within a few hours a Gazette Extraordinary was issued at Wellington declaring that a state of war with the German Reich had existed as from 9.30 p.m., New Zealand standard time, on the third day of September 1939. On the same day, 4 September, the Governor-General replied to the Secretary of State informing him that His Majesty's Government in New Zealand desired immediately to associate themselves with His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in honouring their pledged word. ‘They entirely concur with the action taken, which they regard as inevitably forced on the British Commonwealth if the cause of justice, freedom, and democracy is to endure in this world.’
The same telegram contained the offer of assistance which was to lead to the despatch of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force; and the plans which had already been prepared in the event of such an emergency were immediately put into effect.
On 6 September Cabinet authorised the mobilisation for active service of a ‘Special Force’ comprising 6600 all ranks between the ages of 21 and 35 years. Enlistment was to be for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter, or until lawful discharge.
In this manner was the nucleus of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force brought into being. Its overseas destination and the method of its employment were not determined until the first week in October. Negotiations for the supply of mechanical equipment were finalised when the War Office announced its intention to provide all War Department types for the theatre of war to which the force should be sent. In the meantime, training in New Zealand would continue with the limited equipment available.
An interim Divisional Cavalry Regiment war establishment was drawn up to suit the mechanical equipment scale available —six Bren carriers to the regiment. This establishment embraced page 2 a Regimental Headquarters, an HQ Squadron and a Machine-gun Squadron. It was soon decided, however, that the establishment of the regiment should eventually conform with that of a British Divisional Cavalry regiment.
The first members of the regiment assembled at the camp on 27–30 September. The majority of these were officers and non-commissioned officers of the rank of corporal and above, representative of every mounted rifle regiment in New Zealand, and selected to form the framework round which the regiment was to be built. A bewildering range of hat and collar badges was displayed by these first-comers: ‘Boar's Head’, North Auckland Mounted Rifles; ‘Eagle’, Auckland – East Coast Mounted Rifles; ‘Tui’, Waikato Mounted Rifles; ‘Tree Fern’, Queen Alexandra Mounted Rifles; ‘6 inside Fernleaf’, 6th Manawatu Mounted Rifles; ‘Rearing Horse’, Wellington – East Coast Mounted Rifles; ‘Ram's Head’, Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry; ‘Silver Shield’, Otago Mounted Rifles.
The first few days were fully occupied in preparations for the arrival of the main draft. Tents were erected, cookhouses with civilian cooks provided, and messing arrangements made. Orderly rooms and Quartermasters' stores were established and supplies of bedding and other equipment made available. Time was also found for some elementary instruction of both officers and NCOs.
The arrival of the main draft was spread over the five days, 3–7 October, with later substantial additions to strength on 17–19 October. New arrivals all received the same welcome. After being checked and officially ‘marched in’, the men were issued with eating utensils and introduced to the cookhouse for what was to many their first army meal. Suitably fortified, they were next issued with blankets and palliasses and allotted their bell tents, which were shortly to prove able to furnish highly Spartan wet weather features. The issue of uniforms to those who had arrived in camp in civilian clothes was a somewhat remarkable occasion. Many of the uniforms—really rather an unfortunate term—were the reconditioned rejects of former Territorial owners; they were odd in size, peculiar in shape, kaleidoscopic in colour, ‘varying as the hues of the morn’; indeed, alike only in the possession, quite often, of twin arms page 3 and legs. Well aware of the limitations of his stock, the Quartermaster was compelled to feign enthusiasm for all but the most outrageous misfits. He who wore his uniform to camp was sartorially twice blessed in the possession of a uniform of reasonable size and colouring.
Queues for mess, queues for pay, queues for inoculations, medical examinations and inspections, dental parades and leave parades, taught patience to the impatient. Men from all walks of life and all parts of New Zealand soon thought less often of their civilian lives while surging together in an unfamiliar spate of parades, squad drill, rifle exercises, bayonet drill, PT, lectures and games. Daylight hours not occupied in training and queueing were enlivened by fatigues and guard duties. Mess, cookhouse, coal and sanitary fatigues, shower fatigues and fatigues so undesirable as to render their anonymity—until the last moment—essential, fell the lot of wary and unwary alike. A soldier fortunate or sprightly enough to miss a fatigue would be fairly sure to find himself down for the next guard or picket duty as an unwilling offering upon the altar of good order and military discipline. Spare time was limited and was spent in cleaning buttons and other brass, in letter-writing, or in playing cards or quoits in the recreation huts provided in the camp by the YMCA, the Church Army and the Salvation Army.
No general leave was granted in the first two weeks and only 50 per cent of the unit strength was allowed to leave the camp area at the weekend of 14–15 October. From that date weekend leave was obtainable by a limited number, while day leave on either Saturday or Sunday was open to a fairly generous number. To many, the early weeks without leave assumed at least some of the proportions of a drought, since the camp possessed at that time no wet canteen.
During the early days of the regiment's training the traditional slouch hat was worn by all ranks. On 12 October, however, it was announced that from that date the regiment would wear the peaked hat as affected by the other units of the Special Force. This was to distinguish it from the Territorial Force. The order was of course obeyed, but certain ancient warriors declared that they saw the beginning of the end in this infringement of their privilege. Deeper were the sentiments of those who missed the early morning ‘Stables’ of the Mounted Rifles camps. They found it hard to turn out of bed and fall in on the vehicle park to attend to some cold metallic machines, covered with clammy dew, which could never render the mute, page 4 affectionate thanks that they had been accustomed to receive for the early morning grooming. It was hard—nigh impossible— to conjure up enthusiasm for the signals ‘start up’, ‘mount’, ‘dismount’, ‘switch off’, given by a shivering officer, himself missing the ‘good old days’ when, in his place, should have been a cheery-faced trumpeter blowing ‘Feed!’
The first Commanding Officer of the regiment joined on 29 September 1939. He was Lieutenant-Colonel Pierce, MC, ED,1 Waikato Mounted Rifles, who retained command of the regiment until the end of February 1941, when failing health led to his return to New Zealand.
Major Carruth2 was second-in-command, with Captain Bell, NZSC,3 as adjutant. The squadron commanders were: Major Potter4 (No. 1 Squadron), Captain Russell5 (No. 2 Squadron), Major Nicoll6 (No. 3 Squadron—at Narrow Neck), Captain Wallace7 (HQ Squadron), and Major Graves, NZMC,8 was Medical Officer.
Early training time was taken up with parade-ground drill and instruction on the Vickers and Bren guns. On 9 October a demonstration of the new drill in ‘threes’ was given by NCOs under the RSM, and adopted—though with some reluctance. Nearly all officers and NCOs had done training as Mounted Rifles so that the cavalry drill system died hard. Later they were to adopt a system of foot-drill, in column, which conformed with their old mounted movements. This, too, they jealously preserved as a tradition, almost indeed as a religion.
On 21 October the regiment was introduced to anti-gas precautions. Officers and men had a period of gas training under page 5 the RSM; three days later there came gas training for the whole regiment, with the most unwelcome instruction that respirators would in future, when and where practicable, be worn during working hours. Several route marches in steel helmets and respirators followed, with gas training practised on the march.
As efficiency was obtained in the more elementary phases of soldiering, more advanced exercises and work with the Bren carriers were introduced. The greater interest of this work, combined with PT twice daily and frequent route marches, led to an admirable standard of physical fitness throughout the regiment. Football, cricket, boxing and tabloid sports filled the need for recreational exercise. When practicable, alternate Saturday mornings were given over to interior economy. The wooden tent floors were removed, scrubbed, and left to dry in the sun, if any. Personal washing was done under squadron arrangements. Tent lines were inspected for cleanliness and orderly kit layout. In the afternoon, soldiers going on leave were paraded and inspected by the orderly officer. Special leave trains were run, and later, tickets at two-thirds normal cost were available. Within the camp evening entertainment was limited to occasional concert parties from Auckland, Hamilton and Ngaruawahia who performed in the recreation huts. With the opening of the wet canteen another reliable entertainment was added to the list and many a contented evening was spent in queueing for and disposing of the beer ration.
The early weeks in camp were complicated by bad weather. Many of the ancient tents were not proof against heavy rain and leaked badly, causing bedding to become saturated. Extra groundsheets were issued and drying-rooms established, but these proved inadequate for the large quantities of wet clothes and bedding that needed attention.
An epidemic of influenza so filled the hospital in Hamilton that soon only the most serious cases could be evacuated. Makeshift hospitals in EPIP9 tents were set up in the squadron lines to accommodate those not ill enough to be evacuated. With an improvement in the weather the outbreak subsided, but not before the training programme had been considerably disorganised.
November passed in hard training, with one eye cocked on the forthcoming trip to Waiouru in early December. This would involve advanced training with other units, including battle practice with live ammunition. The regiment had so far page 6 acquitted itself quite well on the ranges, but this would be a new experience to most and was being eagerly awaited.
The regiment moved to Waiouru on 3 December, part by troop train under Major Carruth and part by MT convoy under Lieutenant-Colonel Pierce, and returned by the same means on 10 December. Training there included squadron manoeuvres, field firing, and work as an advanced guard, both dismounted and in trucks with wireless communication. All were agreed that Waiouru in December was an excellent camp, regretting that a larger part of their training had not been carried out there. Those who, less than two years later, experienced the same camp under winter conditions were to express their opinions differently and more freely.
Inconspicuously absent during the Waiouru period was the regiment's advanced party of 2 officers and 10 other ranks under command of Lieutenant Ballantyne,10 with Second-Lieutenant Kelsey11 and one trooper of the attached 13 LAD.12 This party began final leave on 5 December and sailed from Wellington with the divisional advanced party on 11 December.
On returning to Ngaruawahia all ranks were given a blood- type test at the Camp Hospital. Each man's blood group would appear on his identification discs, when these were issued, together with his name, religion and number. All rifles, LMGs and MGs were cleaned, oiled and stored under squadron arrangements. Christmas leave addresses and permanent home addresses were recorded; new khaki drill uniforms were issued. Final leave was for fourteen days and all ranks were warned that from midnight on 13 December they were to be on active service. Each man received fourteen days' pay in advance, a gratuity of £3, and a free rail warrant to his destination.
According to the distance they had to travel to and from their homes, drafts left Hopu Hopu on 13, 14 and 15 December and returned on 28–30 December. After Christmas the regiment returned to camp for the last few days of preparation before page 7 embarkation. Sea-kits were issued, embarkation rolls compiled, kits inspected and trial packs held. The Hamilton Law Society had offered its services free of charge for the making of soldiers' wills and many took advantage of the offer.
A bombshell was exploded after the regimental parade on the morning of 2 January when all ranks were informed that not more than £2 in New Zealand currency could be taken on board transports. This was unexpected and caused quite a sharp demand for Bank of England notes and dollar bills. On the morning of Wednesday, 3 January, a special parade was held in the Auckland Domain of all the First Echelon troops from Ngaruawahia and Papakura camps. There were farewell speeches, a lunch served by the women of Auckland, and a march through streets lined with people, many of whom, it was said, had come long distances to pay their tribute to the first members of the 2nd NZEF to leave for overseas service: then back to camp for the final packing and tidying up.
At 10.25 p.m. on 4 January the regiment entrained at Hopu Hopu for the first stage of its journey to an unknown overseas destination. Despite the supposed secrecy of the move there were crowds of people at many of the stations on the route to Wellington. As so often is the case, the final rumours to reach the public had apparently been accurate. Further crowds were encountered at the entrance to the Wellington wharf as the troop train carrying the Divisional Cavalry moved in at 12.30 p.m. on the following day. It was drawn alongside the Rangitata, the troopship allotted to them, and men immediately began to file aboard. Embarkation was completed by 2.15 p.m. and the ship pulled out into the stream and dropped anchor. One by one the others followed suit: the Empress of Canada, the Strathaird and the Orion. Finally, during the afternoon, the cruiser HMAS Canberra steamed over to the end of the line and, like a hen with chicks, settled herself for the night. A launch sailed round the ships. Standing waving in its stern was General Freyberg.13 Those on board the Rangitata were not to see him again until, six weeks later and half a world away, he met the convoy at Port Tewfik and took their salute as they marched for the first time into the camp at Maadi.
There were messages from His Excellency the Governor- page 8 General, from Major-General Sir Andrew Russell,14 and from the Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Duigan.15 They sent their best wishes for a good passage and safe arrival, their congratulations to those chosen to be of the first contingent, and their confidence in the men of the young Division. The GOC replied on behalf of his troops with thanks for the encouragement and the assurance that all ranks would strive to justify their messages.
Somehow, lying there at anchor in the glassy water of Wellington harbour, with the peacefulness of the evening complemented by the thin, plaintive calls of the gulls, it was impossible to imagine that this was a scene of war—impossible to imagine that some would never see it again. There was only the deep undercurrent of excitement in every heart, brought about by something new, and fertilised by the impatience to be away and to strike a blow lest the war should suddenly end before they arrived.
At 6 a.m. on Saturday, 6 January, the convoy pulled out into Cook Strait. There it was joined by two ships carrying the troops from Burnham. From now on the ships lost their identity and became His Majesty's Transports. There were the flagship, Empress of Canada (Z1), Dunera (Z2), Strathaird (Z3), Orion (Z4), Rangitata (Z5) and Sobieski (Z6), escorted by HMS Ramillies, HMAS Canberra, and by HMS Leander of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy.
The day they sailed was the day when, at heart, the troops became true soldiers. It was then that the words ‘On Active Service’ took their proper significance. At any instant now a torpedo could bring unwarned destruction; a remote possibility here, to be sure, but a thought to be considered soberly. Going to war was at last a reality; and now that certain fatalism which is part and parcel of every soldier asserted itself. It came unaccompanied by fear. Gazing over the rail at Mt Egmont fading into the mist, a soldier might make the casual and quite impersonal conjecture that one might never see it again. Far more manifest was the attempt to imagine, in the homecoming, the same sight clarifying out of the mist into a reality. The feeling of soft farewell—the lump in the throat—was not page 9 evident. Young bodies were too fresh for that, young minds too keen; and the last snow-cap of New Zealand faded into more matter of fact mist than would be caused by tears.
For the first few hours everybody settled into their quarters and found their way about the ship. In some respects the regiment was most fortunate in its transport. The Rangitata was carrying only 444 all ranks, of which the Divisional Cavalry complement accounted for 369. The staff of 2 NZEF Overseas Base, detachments of 13 and 14 LAD, 4 Field Ambulance, some RNVR ratings, and three Sisters of the NZANS made up the remainder. With the exception of the Dunera, which before the war was a transport carrying drafts of British troops to Indian and Eastern stations, all the ships of the convoy were peacetime passenger liners and, as yet, were not altered much internally. Most of the contingent travelled in cabins with many of the comforts and facilities of the peacetime tourist. Officers travelled first class, warrant officers and sergeants second class, and other ranks third class.
Once well out into the Tasman, life settled down to such training as was possible. Troop training areas were allotted and training schedules made out. Schools of instruction were started and all NCOs and staff instructors reported each morning to the RSM for small-arms training. A ‘Dormitory NCO’ was appointed weekly by each squadron to ensure that Reveille and Lights Out were observed, and a ship's blackout patrol enforced regulations against smoking on deck or showing any other lights within the hours of darkness. Ships of the convoy checked each other for lights showing from portholes and took a certain pleasure in virtuously pointing out the smallest glimmer. There were careful inspections of rifles twice weekly to guard against the action of salt air on metal. On the morning of 9 January HMS Ramillies, escorting the Empress of Canada, left the convoy to disembark the General and his ADMS, who were to continue their journey to Egypt from Sydney by air. Brigadier Puttick,16 commanding 4 NZ Infantry Brigade, assumed command of the contingent. The two vessels rejoined the convoy the next day, to be followed a few hours later by the transports Orcades, Orford, Otranto and Strathnaver, carrying Australian troops, and escorted by the cruisers HMAS Sydney and HMAS page 10 Australia HMS Leander then left the convoy. On 12 January the Empress of Japan, with troops from Melbourne, also joined the convoy which, with the naval escort, now numbered fourteen vessels.
Squadrons themselves arranged most of the training. This was in the hands of the NCOs since the officers had much of their time taken up with lectures. Lifeboat drill was of course a regular part of the routine, so that each man knew where to go in an emergency and how to tie his life-jacket properly. ‘Easy dress’ was the rule on board—jerseys, denim trousers or shorts, and deck shoes on parade—shorts or bathing trunks when off duty. The increasing heat after leaving Fremantle, however, resulted in an order forbidding sunbathing and enforcing the wearing of felt hats during the heat of the day. Rubber-soled shoes were found to be dangerous on wet decks and they were blamed for much foot trouble during the voyage, owing to their bad ventilation. Many men bought themselves leather sandals at Fremantle and Colombo.
Time passed pleasantly enough in moderate training, deck sports, reading, card playing, or in just leaning on the rail watching the ships and guessing their identity. Reading matter was plentiful, thanks to the National Patriotic Fund and to Lieutenant-Colonel Pierce, who presented bundles of books and magazines for distribution to the troops.
A boxing tournament was held during the trip and this brought about some very keenly contested bouts after the vigorous training beforehand. A concert, held on the night of 12 January, revealed the presence of a surprising amount of talent. Thus encouraged, Major Treadwell,17 as editor, was soon calling for contributions for a troopship magazine.
The weather during the crossing of the Australian Bight was just bad enough to make the indifferent sailors seasick, a long swell proving the downfall of the queasy. Some rather lack-lustre eyes watched convoy manoeuvres on 16 January as the cruisers Australia and Sydney staged a mock attack on the convoy. The convoy closed in and increased speed and, at the signal of a whistle-blast from the Dunera, scattered in star formation. Under cover of a low bank of mist and a smoke- screen laid by the Ramillies, the other ships vanished from sight.page 11
At 3 p.m. on 18 January the convoy entered Gage Roads off Fremantle. Leave was keenly awaited. Issues of New Zealand hat and collar badges and long puttees had been completed so that the troops on leave should be properly dressed. Leave was granted from midday until 11 p.m. on 19 January. The atmosphere at Perth and Fremantle was described by Brigadier Puttick in a report to Army Headquarters on 20 January as being ‘one of almost hysterical goodwill and comradeship, affecting soldiers and civilians alike.’ The townspeople went far out of their way to make the troops' leave enjoyable. They not only took them in their cars to see the sights of the town but carried them off to their homes and entertained them royally. The good behaviour and bearing of the men was favourably commented on both by the people of Perth and by O'sC Troops. A good deal of lighthearted fraternisation occurred with the Australian troops from the other transports. The results of this were still coming to light a few days later when some of the men discovered to their amazed surprise that the only headgear they possessed was an Australian slouch hat of much superior quality to their own. A few men found that they had unwittingly changed ships. Although many badges and titles had been given away as souvenirs in Perth and were gone beyond recall, the exotic headgear was collected by quartermasters and exchanged with the Australians for the New Zealand variety found on board their ships.
The convoy left Fremantle at midday on 20 January with the escort augmented by the cruiser HMS Kent and the French warship Suffren. However, on the following day the two Australian cruisers left the convoy. The Commodore's farewell message wished both the Australian and New Zealand troops goodbye, good luck, and an early and victorious return.
The rapidly increasing heat, combined with vaccinations, led to some relaxation in the training syllabus. Some of those who had not previously been vaccinated spent some very uncomfortable days at this time. The heat of the nights in the cabins was intense, the portholes being closed for blackout purposes, so that permission was given for a proportion of the men to sleep on deck. This was a great blessing only slightly marred by the risk of being almost literally washed off the decks in the very small hours of the morning by an unsympathetic mariner who, having been himself roused some long time before, was probably more pleased than otherwise to compel others to join him in his quasi-nocturnal activities.page 12
Two swimming baths were constructed on Z5, one forward for officers and sergeants and one aft for other ranks, and these were much appreciated.
One day out from Fremantle there was a cry of ‘Man Over- board’. The alarm was genuine, the subject of it being a man from the Orcades who was picked up by the Rangitata, the following ship in the convoy, thanks to a combination of good seamanship and good fortune.
During daylight, signal watches were set by the troops to maintain communication between ships. This gives rise to a story of two Div Cav men who were working hard to pass a message to the Dunera under very trying visual conditions. They had been interrupted by an apologetic message back: ‘Cannot read Morse very well.’ Such a glimpse of the obvious, combined with the heat of the sun and the effects of their recent vaccination, prompted the troopers to send back a message: ‘Well, send steward on pushbike.’
The sighting of Cocos Island at mid-morning on 25 January brought all on board to thoughts of leave at their next port of call, Colombo, and on being informed that mail would be sent from there, bachelor and benedict alike turned to writing letters.
As though to relieve the tedium of those hot and humid days, HMS Ramillies staged a live shoot and practice smoke- screen and the flash of her guns through the smoke haze proved an impressive spectacle.
The Equator was crossed on 28 January but the usual ceremonies were not held for fear of complications in many of the vaccinal cases. A few stalwarts, however, managed their own ceremonies below decks that evening by attending on all those who, emboldened by the increasing distance from critical and outspoken families, had grown moustaches. That evening it was unofficially decreed that the moustache would be worn on one side of the lip only, which decree was forcibly, if painfully, carried out in the cabins.
The convoy arrived at Colombo at midday on 30 January and entered into a harbour of shipping of all kinds and sizes. Natives in sampans crowded round to sell pineapples, mangoes, durians and goods of all kinds. Trade was brisk but few on board could boast that they got the better of the wily merchants in the boats below. Those from the Orion and Strathaird went ashore the same day but the Rangitata's complement did not go until the next day. Then, after a march through the streets page 13 to the barracks, the regiment was given leave until five o'clock.
Colombo was the first glimpse, to most, of the East and it was an entertaining day. Rickshaw derbies were a favourite pastime, while others found in the local brew an experience they would gladly have missed. No one had much trouble in spending his pay of 10.20 rupees which, being unacceptable in the ship's canteen, had to be spent ashore.
The convoy put to sea again at midday on 1 February, escorted now by an aircraft carrier, HMS Eagle, with Ramillies, Sussex and Hobart. A French transport, the Athos II, which was on her way to Djibouti in French Somaliland, also joined the convoy. Training was resumed but not with much zest, so perhaps it was boredom that accounted for the appearance of a few Crown and Anchor boards. The inevitable concentration of the ship's currency in the hands of the few was speedily followed by an order prohibiting all gambling.
On 4 February an aircraft from the Eagle provided a diversion by crashing into the sea within sight of the convoy. The crew was rescued. On the following day the troops manned ship in salute to HMS Ramillies as she steamed down the line of transports before she left the convoy she had escorted for more than four weeks.
At Aden the convoy divided, the Rangitata amongst others calling in there for fuel. Leave was granted for the afternoon, but as there was no issue of pay, a mild blight was cast over what is, at the best of times, a dull and dingy port.
On board the Rangitata training was virtually ended. Equipment was stored for unloading, mail closed, library books returned, serge uniforms unpacked and final inspections made to ensure that every man had a snugly fitting set of web equipment. A final concert was held on the evening of 10 February. Both officers and men combined to burlesque the training and incidents during the voyage. Well-known songs were parodied in words to suit the regiment whilst not offending the more sensitive ears of the three members of the NZANS on board. The whole programme provided a witty and enjoyable summary of the voyage.
The short run up the Red Sea was made more or less independently. The Rangitata arrived at Tewfik, the port of Suez, in the early morning of 13 February. Only an advanced party which travelled to Maadi by truck disembarked that day.
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, Mr Anthony Eden, had flown out from England especially to welcome the page 14 troops. He delivered his address of welcome on board the Empress of Canada, the first ship to arrive. He waited, however, for every ship and was very quickly recognised as he sailed by launch round the Rangitata with General Freyberg.
Before disembarkation the next morning, a kit inspection was held. This was an endeavour to locate at least some of the portable objects which had been souvenired; and these were gratefully accepted back by the ship's orderly room with no questions asked.
The regiment disembarked soon afterwards in lighters, which took them to the quay, and after a short march to the railway siding was introduced to its first Egyptian troop train. The wide Egyptian rail gauge made the coaches seem more commodious than those at home, but this was more than offset by the unforgiving character of the wooden seats. More fortunate than the majority was a special detail under Lieutenant Neal,18 which left in trucks for Port Said to pick up some of the regiment's motor transport and drive it to Maadi.
Before disembarking, all ranks had been paid in Egyptian currency. They were therefore equipped to meet for the first time the trading Arab. This encounter was with the money changer who boarded the train. His European suit and well-pressed tarbush, his smile displaying a generous expanse of gold, and his confidential helpfulness in explaining the new currency lulled even the most suspicious into belief in the scrupulous honesty of the Arab race. And the great handful of silver which he counted out in exchange for a pound note gave his customer the feeling of having become a millionaire. In figures the money added up to 100 all right, but, in fact, it came to far less than 100 piastres. In his generosity he had given a liberal quantity of five-millieme pieces, worth a tenth of the value of the five-piastre pieces which he should have tendered. Such was the first lesson from the artful Arab. Many a good man has tried to out-rogue him but the nearest any Div Cav man—and New Zealanders have proved apt pupils— ever got to ‘heading him off’ was he who traded an empty packet of issue cigarettes for the previous day's paper—but this was written in a language he could not understand.
The train journey from Suez to Maadi was full of interest, the more so because much of the route ran through genuine desert country. Indeed, the savage and tawny heights of Gebel Ataqa, west and south of Suez, are probably as impressive as page 15 any piece of scenery in North Africa. On the right-hand side of the line the prospect was more monotonous in gently rolling wastes of sand and small stones. Now and again, at wayside halts, there were poverty-stricken clusters of flat-topped dwellings. These the occupants seemed to share on equal terms with a motley entourage of scrawny fowls and feather-tailed dogs of unspeakable ancestry. At such stops the train would be surrounded by a vociferous corps of wallads. There were wallads with fly-whisks, wallads with lemonade, wallads with ‘eggs-a- cook’ and wallads with nothing but an insatiable curiosity, all alike only in the possession of dingy garments closely resembling nightshirts and with gnarled, flat, dusty feet. Only in the approaches to Cairo was there evidence of that fertility in the soil which supported, on the narrow irrigated verges of the Nile, a population approaching sixteen million people. Here the scent of orange groves went far to expunge less fragrant memories. Not that anyone felt disgust at his first view of Egypt—far otherwise. It was all new, strange, interesting and a pleasant change after six weeks of confined shipboard living. The journey from Suez to Maadi took four and a half hours and, as they climbed stiffly out of the train, the regiment were met by the band of the 7th Hussars. It had been sent over as a gesture of welcome from Digla Camp to play them over their mile-and-a-half march through Maadi Camp to their area. The route was lined with troops who had already arrived and who, for the most part, turned out to see this cavalry regiment which had caught their interest in their lectures on tactics. On the roadside too, to take the salute, stood the GOC. Heads and eyes eagerly snapped to the right to catch a glimpse of the man who had been made their Divisional Commander and about whose name there arose such romantic stories of the previous war.
9 European Personnel Indian Pattern.
12 Light Aid Detachment.
13 Lt-Gen Lord Freyberg, VC, GCMG, KCB, KBE, DSO and 3 bars, m.i.d., Order of Valour and MC (Gk); born Richmond, Surrey, 21 Mar 1889; CO Hood Bn 1914–16; comd 173 Bde, 58 Div, and 88 Bde, 29 Div, 1917-18; GOC 2 NZEF Nov 1939-Nov 1945; twice wounded; Governor-General of New Zealand Jun 1946-Aug 1952.
14 Maj-Gen Sir Andrew Russell, KCB, KCMG; GOC 1 NZ Div 1915–19; Inspector-General, NZ Military Forces, 1939–41.
16 Lt-Gen Sir Edward Puttick, KCB, DSO and bar, m.i.d., MC (Gk), Legion of Merit (US); Wellington; born Timaru, 26 Jun 1890; Regular soldier; NZ Rifle Bde 1914–19 (CO 3 Bn); comd 4 Bde Jan 1940-Aug 1941; 2 NZ Div (Crete) 29 Apr-27 May 1941; CGS and GOC NZ Military Forces, Aug 1941-Dec 1945.