Headquarters: a brief outline of the activities of headquarters of the third division and the 8th and 14th Brigades during their service in the Pacific
II — Changes of Command
Changes of Command
But the Americans were on the way. Late in June headquarters of the 37th American Division arrived, complete with such equipment in the way of folding metal chairs and tables, typewriters and adding machines and fancy telephones, jeeps and trucks and gadgets of every kind that the New Zealanders felt rather like poor relations. The taking over period produced some rather heavy get-together parties. Down in the men's mess everybody became 'buddies' overnight and the sergeants learned new methods of mixing fruit and other drinks. Then, at 6 page 21o'clock in the morning of IS July 1942, General Mead handed over command of the defences of Fiji to the commander of the American division, Major-General R. S. Beightler. A week later General Mead was lost off Tonga when the aeroplane in which he was travelling disappeared in a storm, leaving no trace. With him was Lieutenant J. C. Leslie, his aide-de-camp, who had only recently joined the forces in Fiji on his return from the Middle East. Personnel of headquarters moved back to New Zealand in the President Coolidge over a period of weeks, and went to Orford's Camp and Grand View Camp at Manurewa where the spring winds whipped bitterly through the floors of the huts and most people went to bed fully clothed until they became acclimatized. However, the excitement of leave and home comforts stifled most of the objections.
On 12 August 1942 Major General H. E. Barrowclough, CB, DSO, MC, took command of the division and began the task of reorganisation. He had served with the Rifle Brigade in the last war and commanded a brigade with distinction during this one in the Western Desert. Many of the 'retreads' (which was how 'the boys' referred to officers of the last war) and the 'blood pressures' (middle-aged permanent staff officers) went into retirement or to posts on the home front. From then on headquarters bristled and bustled as befitted the arrival of so many newcomers. Lieutenant-Colonel J. I. Brook took over the duties of GSOl and Colonel Murphy became AA and QMG, with Major P. L. Bennett, MC. as his assistant. Captain R. F. Wakefield replaced Captain Warrington as GSO3 (Operations), Captain J. Rutherford took over GSO3 (Intelligence) from Captain O. A. Gillespie, MM, who became cipher officer. Captain W. J. C. Davidge was appointed GSO2 (Air Support) and Captain E. R. Ferguson took over the duties of GSO3 (Chemical Warfare); Lieutenant R. E. Moore was appointed aide-de-camp to the general; Captain L. E. Pithie came in as liaison officer 14th Brigade and Lieutenant N. L. Fitzpatrick did similar duty for the 8th Brigade. Lieutenant D. Lawford was appointed intelligence officer. By the time the rejuvenated division was ready to move into the Waikato and take up residence at Claudelands race track the staff was almost complete, and the typewriters—newer and bigger and better than the force had ever previously known-clattered out signals, memos and returns all headed 'Headquarters page 223 NZ Division.' Folding stools and tables and cunningly contrived boxes which housed a typewriter and opened up to form a compact field desk also made their appearance before the move, so that A, Q and G staffs were reasonably equipped for action, thanks to the engineers. All polite conversation increased in volume after each lecture given by an expert from the 'Solomons and it was noted that very few of headquarters staff marched to Hamilton like the FBI. By this time the old hands had become accustomed to moving and it was not long before they had set up house on the Claude lands racecourse, where the permanent buildings were used as offices and Indian pattern tents dotted the lengthening spring grass round the stands. Hamilton was within easy reach—a matter of minutes on foot across the river bridge. Days grew hotter and life was reasonably pleasant for a few weeks. Colonel Brooke new off to the Solomons to obtain some first-hand information on conditions there and returned just as an advanced headquarters set off for the jungle exercises in the Kaimais. General Barrowclough and a skeleton staff set up this advanced headquarters at Opal Springs, at the foot of the hills, and enjoyed the luxury of a natural hot water swimming pool. Those who remained behind at Claudelands continued with organisation and preparations for final leave which came with the end of the jungle exercises in the Kaimais.
News of the division's move to New Caledonia stirred everyone into action. There was much packing of equipment, sorting of papers and destruction of unwanted files; there were medical and dental examinations and issues of new equipment—in this instance all in large quantities, because of the territory in which the division would be employed. Major W. A. Bryden, with Warrant-Officer Collin, representing headquarters, sailed with the advanced party in the Crescent City on 28 October. General Barrowclough and most of his staff officers left by air and arrived in Nouméa on 7 November 1942. Advanced headquarters was established there, later moving 150-odd miles north to Néméara, a camp site which had been vacated by an American unit. When divisional headquarters was finally established among the niaoulis on terraces near the Moindah River, Néméara became the headquarters of the short-lived 15th Brigade. Moindah meant isolation but few mosquitoes, for it was merely an area of niaouli trees between the one and only main road and the river. But it page 23had its moments. There was the river, cool and stony but inviting, where a quantity of rather popeyed native fish known as moulets seemed to exist quite happily on a diet of soap. Each arm of headquarters was assigned a reach of this river and there, in the pools which they built up, personnel washed and swam and battered their clothes clean on the stones. The river issued from reasonably high hills behind the camp and flooded quickly so that new dams had to be built after each downpour, Moindah, despite the eloquent minority who could see nothing attractive in New Caledonia until they left it behind them, was an excellent camp site. A, B and C messes were set up among the trees; office tents occupied the more open spaces, and personnel were housed nearby. The useful niaoulis, which provided bark, posts and beams for huts, as well as firewood, threw a reasonable amount of shade from their sparsely-leafed branches; there were deer in abundance in the river valley until one of Mr. Tuck's cows thoughtlessly walked into a bullet; there were chrome and nickel mines over towards the coast and within walking distance for the energetic. The village of Poya, which consisted of a shop and hotel (though the hotel part functioned legally only for the local inhabitants), a church, a post office, a school and a gendarmerie, all rather blistered by time, was about 15 miles north; Bourail lay about 20 miles south with only succeeding areas of grassy hills and river flats and grey-green niaouli trees between. Headquarters staff arrived piecemeal in New Caledonia, some going by plane and some by the Dutch ship Brastagi, which was celebrated for its supply of Bols. Christmas was a sort of family reunion, with headquarters established in Indian pattern tents, each one pegged high off the ground to give plenty of head-room, and everyone ready to enjoy the American turkey and trimmings in bucolic surroundings made quite attractive with decorative branches of scarlet flamboyant. Soon a scheme was in hand to build bures for messrooms, for which Kanakas were employed to do the thatching. Such is the excellence of construction by these natives, who use only the local materials and the fibre of the aloe plant for binding, that those bures were still in good condition the following year when the division returned from the Solomons. Rains came, as they did everywhere, and periodically turned the black clay into a bog of tenacious mud. The most staggering phenomena of the rains, though, was the page 24plague of frogs which appeared suddenly in every pool and made the days and nights violently noisy with their unconcealed and ardent wooing.
Admiral Ghormley, third from the left, arriving in Fiji in 1942 on his way to New Zealand to take command in the South Pacific. Major-General Owen Mead, CBE, who was then in command of the New Zealand troops in Fiji, is second from the right. He afterwards lost his life when an aero plane disappeared off Tonga
Mrs. H. E. Barrowclough, wife of the divisional commander, presenting the Barrowclough Cup to A. Long, of the 37th Battalion which won the trophy after an exciting game
An air photograph of the original Sth Brigade Headquarters built round Borron's House cn a hill over-looking Suva in Fiji. On the extreme right are the administrative buildings, the RNZAF building and Borron's House, a closer picture of which is shown below. The six long huts housed the headquarters personnel whose messroom was the long building opposite
Inset on the opposite page is a view of the New Zealand Club on the waterfront in Suva. This became the meeting place of all soldiers on leave. When the New Zealanders left Fiji the club was taken over by the Americans of 37th Division
Men and equipment from headquarters units embarking from Juno Beach, Vella Lavella, in 1943 for the Nissan Island landing
King's Birthday celebrations in New Caledonia. General Barrow-clough and his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant R. K. Moore, with Colonel Henri Montchamp, governor of New Caledonia and commander-in-chief of the French forces in that area
High on the list of occasions to be remembered at Moindah was Lieutenant Moore's twenty-first birthday party, for which the surrounding countryside was combed for food. Headquarters cooks, who were capable of more than the mere opening of tins, provided a supper worthy of visiting Royalty, or so it seemed to the guests who helped to demolish quantities of cold roast chicken, savoury eggs, fresh fish and other delicacies not usually associated with army messes. Late in the evening Captain O. G. R. Edwards, ably assisted by Captain Pithie, gave his celebrated performances of a Fijian kava ceremony. Another 'occasion" was the night of the first 'scare.' One of the D and E pickets while on patrol fired at a 'moving' object near the general's tent. There was a great rush for arms and much keenness on the part of page 26ain avowed Jap killers. The picket gave vivid accounts of having challenged a figure which fled when he fired the shot. The more sensible folk decided that the commotion had been caused by a deer, many of which came browsing through the area. The final of the Barrowclough Cup was also an occasion made more notable by the presence of Mrs. Barrowdough, the general's wife, who had flown from New Zealand to present the trophy to the winning team. She was the only feminine civilian to stay at headquarters, which was never anything but a male world, except on such occasions as Christmas Eve, when nurses were invited to dinner, or if one of the messes gave a dance, as B mess did. From time to time small advanced headquarters accompanied the general into the field on manoeuvres, usually moving in trucks which were fitted up as offices and trying to avoid the clouds of mosquitoes which infested some of the localities. VIPs came at intervals and occupied the tents which had been prepared for their reception. The Right Hon. J. G. Coates, then Minister of War Coordination, spent some days at Moindah; the Hon. Walter Nash had a day's hand-shaking during his brief visit before going on to New Zealand from Washington. Several top-ranking American officers graced A mess from time to time, including General Harmon, who was afterwards lost in the Pacific during an air trip; Admiral Halsey, who was to see the division in action on each island; General Patch, who afterwards commanded a US army in France, and many others with whom the staff officers of the division worked during the Solomons adventure.
So the dust of November gave way to the mud and the heat and the rain of December and January (although as a rainy season it did not compare with Fiji) and then June and July came with their cool nights. By August 1943 the division was ready for action and all formalities complied with. General Barrowdough had flown to New Zealand for discussions with Army Headquarters, and Colonel Murphy, with others, had flown to Guadalcanal to look over the area to which the division was assigned. In the intervening months there had been some changes. Lieutenant-Colonel Bennett had succeeded Colonel Murphy as AA and QMG. and Major G. B. Gibbons brought in as assistant; Captain Rutherford had returned to New Zealand and Captain H. F. Foster succeeded him as GSO3 (I); WarrantOfficer-page 27Officer Collin had been promoted second-lieutenant and appointed personal assistant to the general. Major Berkeley became military secretary with the rank of lieutenant-colonel and was succeeded as GSO2 by Major H. F. Allan. Lieutenant M. Speight, who 'was killed in action in Italy after the Third Division was disbanded, replaced Lieutenant Lawford, who took over the 4th Field Security Section. Captain L. E. Adams replaced Captain Pithie as liaison officer 14th Brigade. Lieutenant D. G. Hayter became liaison officer 8th Brigade in place of Lieutenant Fitzpatrick; Second-Lieutenant G. P. Chapman was appointed legal staff officer and Lieutenant H. M. Denton joined the Q branch.