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Divisional Cavalry


page v


black and white photograph of coat of arms

windsor castle

By Lieutenant-General the Lord Freyberg, vc, gcmg, kcb, kbe, dso

I feel greatly honoured to be asked to write the foreword to the history of the New Zealand Divisional Cavalry. The Div Cav, as it was usually known in the 2nd NZEF in the Middle East, went overseas with the First and Second Echelons and fought in all of the 2nd Division's battles from Greece to Trieste. In Greece its role was that of rearguard: it delayed the enemy at important road junctions and bridges while the Division withdrew behind it, held him up with its fire while the engineers blew their demolitions, and scurried back to fight again. One squadron, under Major John Russell, saw hard fighting as infantry in Crete, but in the Second Libyan Campaign of November-December 1941 its squadrons filled their real role as the eyes of the Division, scouting over the desert in their Bren carriers and light tanks, reporting enemy movements, carrying orders on the battlefield. One of its squadrons took a prominent part in the negotiations with the Germans for the surrender of Bardia and the release from captivity of some 1100 prisoners, 650 of them New Zealanders.

At the Battle of Alamein the regiment fought in support of the 9th British Armoured Brigade under the Division's command, and in the long advance to Tunis it was back in its scouting role at the head of the Division with the Royal Scots Greys and the King's Dragoon Guards.

In Italy mud and static warfare grounded its Staghound armoured cars and the Divisional Cavalry fought for much page vi of the time as infantry. In November 1944 it became the Divisional Cavalry Battalion, and as such saw hard fighting in the last battles of the Italian campaign. After the war the battalion, as part of J Force, served on occupation duties in Japan.

The dash and high morale of the Divisional Cavalry were at all times a byword in the Division, and for this, tribute must be given to its commanders. Illness deprived Lieutenant-Colonel Pierce of his chance to lead the regiment in battle, and Colonel Carruth commanded it in Greece. Colonel Nicoll led it in the difficult days of 1941–42; Colonel Sutherland took it from Alamein to Tripoli; Ian Bonifant and Nick Wilder, both young officers who saw much service, commanded it throughout the fighting in Italy until January 1945, when Colonel J. R. Williams took charge for its last battles from the Senio to Trieste. When he was wounded on 29 April he handed over command to Colonel Tanner, and Duncan MacIntyre later took the battalion to Japan.

The Divisional Cavalry was a unit with a fine tradition and a grand record. I hope its story will be widely read.

black and white photograph of signature of Bernard Freyberg

Deputy Constable and Lieutenant Governor

Windsor Castle
9 July 1962