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4th and 6th Reserve Mechanical Transport Companies

CHAPTER 17 — To Cassino

page 296

To Cassino

THE old year, remarked ‘Darkie’ Sargent,1 was ‘wrung’ out quietly. The rain had been bad enough. The worst was on the way.

Snow fell on New Year's Eve, and all through the first hours of 1944 the big fat flakes kept swishing down … send her down, David … send her down, Hughie … whoa, this is beyond a joke. … A blustering dawn brought sleet, then more snow, and a cutting cold. Snow fell to a depth of one and a half feet; in some places it piled into drifts up to a man's shoulders. Bivvies collapsed. Telephone wires parted. Pits and slit trenches ran with icy slush. Blocked roads led to closed bridges. Vehicles halted. All traffic died. Homeless, cold, and unhappy, New Zealanders sloshed about, their saturated possessions gathered together in muddy bundles. Every available house became crammed with muddy Kiwis. The snow did not freeze. It stayed like soft icing over a horrible great cake of mud. ‘At every step,’ says one record, ‘one floundered in a cold, watery bog which oozed in over one's boot-tops.’ A driver wrote longingly of gumboots: ‘We'd have given anything—anything at all—for just one decent pair.’

Many drivers took refuge in a church at Atessa, only to be booted out to join the labour gangs. In the sudden great silence men first set about clearing snow from lorries, then made tracks out to the roads, and then started cleaning up the blocked roads. For 24 hours the Division stayed snowbound. ‘What magnificent fighters these Russians must be,’ wrote many a frozen Kiwi.

With bulldozers, mechanical shovels, graders and dump trucks, engineers opened up a war of their own against snow and mire. These men, working with scarcely a pause, cleared and kept clear the most important supply routes for drivers, page 297 doctoring the mashed and broken surfaces with rubble and gravel and ‘corduroy’ (bundles or layers of wood to bind the mud or fill deep ruts) until the Division withdrew, leaving the Sangro mud for the west coast—and Cassino.

The 4th RMT's first call came early on 2 January. Sixth Brigade, snowbound in its sector near Orsogna, was due for relief by 5 Brigade, which was resting at Castelfrentano. Over roads cleared just enough in parts for one-way traffic and demanding plenty of skill and caution, 2 Platoon carried 23 Battalion to Tiko Tiko (or Hongi) Bridge over the Moro River, turned, and went back for 21 Battalion. After this drivers waited beside the river until the mud-stained and weary riflemen of 26 Battalion appeared from out of the night, and then took them back to 6 Brigade's rest area.

Bringing back 25 Battalion was 3 Platoon 6 RMT, which had arrived empty at Hellfire Corner at 7 p.m. From there, after a clammy two-hour wait, the 6 RMT men drove on in groups of six, the last vehicle leaving the forward area at 3 a.m. Moonlight helped movement early in the evening, but after midnight travelling became particularly precarious. ‘At times you'd think the old bus was just about waltzing on ice,’ one driver remembers. ‘The trip seemed a succession of skids to me. Then the road would suddenly narrow without warning and here the slushy, slippery surfaces seemed to get worse. You'd peer into the dark and hope like hell. There were snow-drifts all over the place too. We agreed unanimously she was a fair cow.’ When the trip was over Brigadier Parkinson2 asked Lieutenant Bain3 ‘to thank all drivers involved for what he considered the best job of driving he had seen under most difficult conditions.’ The next night 24 Battalion (relieved by 28 Battalion) was driven back to join the now complete 6 Brigade behind the line. Not even foul roads and snowdrifts had delayed the two brigades (about 1500 men apiece) from chang- page 298 ing over, an achievement all the more creditable when it is remembered that three months ago every man and every vehicle was still in sunny Egypt ‘where’, as the travel folders point out, ‘snow is unknown’.

Just after the brigades changed places the snow returned, this time falling for almost two days. The sun came back with just enough warmth to start a slight thaw. The resulting quagmire broke all records. Roads turned into morasses; cut-up surfaces disappeared beneath the chain-clad wheels of the traffic. A heartbreaking mess smothered the front. ‘Never,’ wrote a narrator, ‘did the Division have worse traffic conditions to contend with … continuous toil was necessary to keep the roads passable.’

Now a tank transporter platoon, temporarily attached to 4 RMT, was involved in a changeover of mule companies around Capracotta, a hamlet perched some 5000 frozen feet up at the inland end of Eighth Army's line. The exchange went smoothly enough in two places. Unaware it was heading for the deep-freeze, the third party (15 trucks and a jeep under Lieutenants Butler4 and Brownlie5) drove up an abominable back road towards Capracotta. Ice sheathed the road and in parts drivers got out, sloshed petrol over the ice, and burned patches clear. Driver Cyril Williams6 drove cheerfully through the bitter cold and sleet without a windscreen. Driver Earl Grantham7 was told to keep his truck empty so that drivers carrying mules could sleep in it on the way back. He writes:

It was still snowing hard and very cold when the first truck started somewhere around Vasto-Jaraldi on the journey on the slippery ice-covered snow-bound mountain road to Capracotta. Others followed at about half-hourly intervals until our boss came along, as usual first in last out, his driver Bill Winter8 cuddled in page 299 behind the wheel with greatcoat, baliclava and gloves: by then it was really cold. The boss (Mr. Butler), called ‘OK, go ahead’, and they more or less slid away in pursuit of the other trucks. All the time I had been waiting for the boys to load the mules I had kept my motor running, we had to do this to stop the water in our radiators from freezing, and as soon as I got the go ahead I scrambled into my truck, gave the motor a tickle or two, engaged my gears both front and back drive, and prepared to get cracking. Now Mother Nature took a hand in things. My first pressure on the wheel spun it quite easily, but when with clutch engaged and motor revving I swung her out onto the roadway there was a definite metallic click, and the steering wheel spun like a top and became useless in my freezing hands.

colour map of Italy

I realised at once what the trouble was: my steering column had crystallised with the sudden cold and had snapped off level with the housing. My one thought was now to stop the boss, but by the time I had slipped, slid and stumbled as far as the first bend in the road, all I could see was snow, snow, and more snow.

I made my way back to my now useless truck, wondering how far the boys would go before they stopped to brew up, or for a check by the boss on drivers and loads. At that moment I never dreamed it would be thirteen days and nights before I would see any of my cobbers again.9

When I reached my truck I made sure that I drained the water from the radiator (that same water was frozen hard about ten minutes later), strapped down my side curtain and smartly hopped into the back, got my primus cracking, and brewed up. The weather was clear, but it was still snowing heavily so I sat wondering how the boys would fare if they didn't get the LAD to me and have my truck mobile by the time they wanted to sleep.

It wasn't long before night fell and the countryside took on a hushed glistening white silence, broken only by the roar of my primus which threw grotesque shadows on my canopy every time I moved.

page 300

I don't know what time I finally decided no LAD truck was forthcoming, but I spread my blanket on the steel floor of my truck, removed my boots, covered myself with my greatcoat and tried to get some sleep. It was early next morning when I was awakened by a movement of my truck and a terrific roaring sound. I gripped my greatcoat with my left hand to toss it back and get up, when my fingers sank into about four or five inches of snow on top of me. My canopy had blown inside the back of my truck and had frozen stiff, and was forming a type of tunnel through which the roaring wind was blowing snow by the bucketfuls, right in on top of me and all my gear.

My clothes were wet through: boots, greatcoat and primus were covered in snow. I managed to get the back closed down after about a half-hour struggle, and by that time I was as stiff and cold as my canopy. My old primus went stubborn on me and it took about a quart of petrol to get her going. There were 24 gallons of spare petrol in my truck as I carried some for the other trucks in the section.

The food situation now became my biggest worry, as I knew now that with this storm the mountainous route over which we had travelled would certainly be blocked, and so it proved to be, as I later learnt there were snow drifts to a depth of 23 feet.

I did my best to dry my clothes and my blanket and boots, but it was too cold to leave much off at one time, so it was a slow job. When I finally succeeded in this task I really went to work on digging up all the food I could find in my toolbox. It wasn't much, the sum total being two tins of bully and two blocks of biscuits, plus my old emergency ration of chocolate, and as things turned out these things lasted me three days and nights, plus lots of cups of tea at all odd hours.

The blizzard raged for the whole three days and nights, and during the third day I took a look outside the back of my truck and found to my dismay that the snow had reached the top of the tray and was only a few inches off the top of the tailboard. To my mind things were now getting serious. What with my food running short and most of the spare petrol gone I was really starting to find a place in my mind for doubt about my return to my company at all.

So I did a most obvious thing right then and there. I found pencil and paper and wrote a letter to my wife and put all my gear together in one pack. If the blizzard lasted another day and night I was a sitter for a one-way ticket.

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That night I sat by my faithful old primus, kept her going full bore and did everything I could think of to keep myself awake because I knew that if I fell asleep I would freeze to death, and I don't mind saying here and now, boy was I scared and lonely!

Sometime that night I heard noises like the slithering of wood on ice, the wind had abated somewhat and as the noise came nearer I recognised the sound. It was skis on the snow, how many I could not tell, so not knowing whether it was friend or foe I stayed put, although I did put my primus out. The sound came closer yet and then stopped. I heard hushed voices, and the canopy on the tail of my truck was carefully raised, making a crackling noise. I could see four forms outlined against the brilliant whiteness of the snow. A head peered in and a voice said: ‘Blimey! Aren't you cold chum!’

Taken to this British reconnaissance unit's isolated base ('soon I was in the middle of the old “ooh ahs” and being treated as one of them'), Grantham became firm friends with one Tommy, Reg Atwell, who ‘should have been a Kiwi, not a spit and polish Tommy’.

One morning a major of this outfit came into the messroom (Grantham continues). Immediately everyone but Reg and I jumped to attention. This major had an enormous moustache (red) and it was about as stiff as my canopy had been. He talked about nothing for about half an hour and all at once spotted Reg and I sitting on the floor. He just about threw a fit, yelled at Reg, demanded a salute, and lectured for about another half hour on the ways of a good soldier. He left Reg with his ears burning and a double load of fatigues to do. I helped Reg with his punishment, carting stores up a steep and winding path with steps cut in ice feet thick. We were about halfway up this tortuous track when, on rounding a sharp and very slippery turn, we came upon none other than our old friend the major, up to his arms in snow with his arms spread out holding himself up. He really needed help, but Reg, being a chap who did as he was told, stopped, came slowly and carefully to attention, and saluted and said ‘Good morning, sir!’, then struggled on up and left him.

In Vasto-Jaraldi, during the blizzard and afterwards, the Tommies and I dug 24 soldiers out of the snow, some in blankets, and in one case from under a truck where they had crawled for shelter after being caught in a drift. On one occasion while [we were] taking some of these soldiers to be buried a church bell tolled, and page 302 at the first stroke of the bell the snow stopped like magic and remained so until after the funeral, and with the stopping of the bell again came the snow, soft and thick like a blanket to hide such things from the eyes of the world.

The Capracotta drivers were not the only snowbound RMT men: in the cold and slush of 4 January 1 and 3 Platoons 4 RMT came to a halt near Carunchio. Roads on the way had been bad, with frequent strips of one-way traffic through snowdrifts, but ahead of Carunchio lay deep, impassable snow. Both platoons had been heading the same way inland, 1 Platoon (with yet more mules on exchange) optimistically bound for the savagely bombed town of Isernia, which is almost twice as far inland as Capracotta, and 3 Platoon off to gather charcoal for the Division's braziers from Pescolanciano, a few miles short of Isernia. For two nights the two platoons stayed by Carunchio, the snow piling up, the engineers active, the mules growing hungrier and hungrier until finally the brutes ate into wooden boxes in the trucks, laid bare the contents, and made short work of the drivers' clothes and gear. ‘The Ites got what the mules didn't,’ said one driver uncharitably, ‘but anyhow she was a beaut excuse for a new issue.’ Road reports remained vague until Sergeant Pulley10 returned with fresh orders to head for the coast and reach the two destinations by detouring south via Termoli, Lucera, Gildone and Isernia. With the road back to the coast kept open by bulldozing, the platoons made their way out ‘over roads like glass’, and carried out their tasks with only one mishap. Passing a heavy convoy Captain Fernandez and his driver pulled out to the edge of the road, the brink gave way, and the vehicle crashed down the bank. The car turned over three times, but neither occupant was hurt.

While 4 RMT's trucks were either snowbound or slithering about after mules, charcoal, and what-have-you, 6 RMT was shifting ammunition up from Vasto, bringing up mail from San Severo, and taking part in moving Tommies of 5 Division back to more peaceful places in the south. The 6 RMT trucks (42 altogether) were called in because a company of 5 Division RASC was out of action, snowbound. For about a week these page 303 6 RMT trucks did odd jobs for the British, and during long waits (recorded 4 Platoon's sporting page) ‘men kept themselves warm by improvising sledges from shovels, etc, and playing in the snow.’

One convoy, turned back once by snow, on 8 January pushed well inland to the aid of Cameron Highlanders snowed in at Castiglione. This was a memorable journey. The route lay through mountainous country and the scenes, particularly after the desert, seemed incredible—a frozen fairyland, a piece of Antarctica. Ahead, snorting bulldozers cut tracks for the following vehicles. In some places cuttings were made through 15 feet of snow. Surfaces were very slippery with ice, but drivers saw ahead well enough, thanks to the reflections and the moonlight on the snow. The Highlanders, gathered up in slow convoy, were taken about 15 miles south of Lucera, and the RMT trucks, loading with petrol at San Severo railway station, returned to 6 RMT.

The rumours were strong now. The New Zealand Division was about to move: to a rest area—back to Egypt—to England for the Second Front—to Yugoslavia—Southern France—garrison duty in North Africa—to the Pacific—going home….

In mid-January 4 Indian Division relieved the New Zealanders. The forward positions were handed over and the guns were dragged back. The Division pulled out in the gloom, turning its back with a wry shrug on the bitter old heights beyond, aloof, unconquered; and to the swish and lurch of tires, to the grumble of blacked-out column after column of swaying vehicles, the mud-bath between the Sangro River and Orsogna faded away into the distance, into the past, into memories. A final line was drawn beneath the figures for the two months' fighting round the Sangro: 399 New Zealanders had been killed or died of wounds, some 1100 wounded, and 103 taken prisoner or missing. Dead, deep down in the mud, lay plans of a breakthrough up to Chieti, then west through the Apennines, to Avezzano, then Rome. That way was properly gummed up and no mistake. Where do we go from here?

The 4th RMT was carrying: 1 Platoon, mainly stores and petrol; 2 Platoon, 23 Battalion; 3 Platoon, 21 Battalion; 4 Platoon, 28 (Maori) Battalion. The 6th RMT was carrying: page 304 1 Platoon, Bren carriers; 2 Platoon, 25 Battalion; 3 Platoon, 26 Battalion; 4 Platoon, 24 Battalion. The speed was twelve and a half miles in the hour; and the density 40 vehicles to the mile. No lights were allowed before Lanciano. The route for the Division, broken into eleven main groups and moving off between 14 and 21 January, was Casalbordino, Vasto, Termoli, Serracapriola, San Severo (105 miles, halt for the night); Lucera, Ariano, Grottaminarda, Avellino, Monteforte, Cancello (100 miles and through the Apennines, halt for the night—with old Vesuvius active); Maddaloni, Caserta, Caiazzo and, finally, Alife (about 50 miles). Alife was the Division's new training area, some 30 miles below Cassino and Fifth Army's front.

8.3.44. Dear Folks. It seems a long way back to the Adriatic side of Italy, to the snowed-in mountain tracks, the bitter cold and the grey and dirty Sangro. I doubt whether there was one tear shed when we said goodbye. One day there came an order to remove all shoulder titles, badges, unit identification discs, and everything that remotely suggested N.Z. from the trucks … except ourselves. The officers told the sergeants; the sergeants told the corporals; the corporals told the men—and the men didn't tell anybody because they were told not to. One day we were, and the next day we weren't—the NZ Division completely wiped out without any great inconvenience to ourselves.

Jesu Maria! The rumours!

It's not very far, this trip across Italy, but the greasy roads make the journey extremely hazardous, the old trucks whining up mountains that history has made ever so tall, and screaming down steep hillsides. Several of the trucks had to be towed, and there was hardly a sound set of brakes left in the company. One of the boys [Driver Corby11] was killed on the way across. His section were transporting Bren gun carriers, an awkward load of about four tons, too heavy for trucks listed as three-tonners, though a ton, more or less, is of little importance. Coming down a crazy hill he stripped a bearing, parked his truck on the side of the road, and was waiting for a breakdown waggon when an anti-tank vehicle, out of control, crashed into his truck.

For a while we were known as ‘Spadger Force’ [‘spadger’ is English slang for sparrow], a title, I suppose, not inferior to ‘Kiwi’. page 305 But we never got used to it, it always seemed so silly. What aggravated matters was that we were plumped down in a peaceful valley next to some boys from the Lone Star State. There's only one place in the world for them—Texas. We were so utterly defenceless. We couldn't boast of what the Spadgers had done because they have never done anything.

As for American drivers. Our method was to replace the driver who failed to maintain his truck efficiently. Their method, apparently, was to replace the truck.

Olive groves and oak woods patched the Volturno valley, and among these the Spadgers made pleasant camps round Alife while the mobile cinema screened ‘We'll Meet Again’, ‘The Meanest Man in the World’, and ‘The More the Merrier’. In hills rich in blue and purple to the north lay a beautiful village with a noble fountain, Piedimonte d'Alife, approached between a great avenue of poplars. Somebody found some double stock growing in a nearby farm garden. The rawness had gone from the air, work and training were not hard, and with a flourish out came the footballs. Anything remotely flat became a football ground as drivers' packs got down to business again—platoon, inter-platoon, and company games.

These games were not altogether without their moments. Minesweepers found two Teller mines in a favourite 6 RMT ground. The crowning glory of the season was the 6 RMT v 4 RMT game, played on a sodden ground.12 Each team was good, and individual bets ran as high as £30. The teams swayed up and down the field but neither scored. In the last moments Pat Ward went over for a try, but 6 RMT's hopes fell—the referee ruled offside and the game ended in a scoreless draw. The captains told their men: ‘The return match will be played in Rome.’

Cribbage fans held more tournaments; the bridge, poker, Slippery Sam, and pontoon experts carried on as usual; and in at least one 6 RMT platoon (3 Platoon) a flourishing inter- page 306 section debating contest of three-men teams sprang up. The six sections called for three debates, and the subjects chosen were: ‘That the Sword is Mightier than the Pen’ (won); ‘That Birth Control is Beneficial to Mankind’ (won: ‘a hectic affair, unsuitable for sheltered ears’); and ‘That Science is Responsible for most of the Misery in this World Today’ (the affirmative won). One of the enthusiasts, Pat Ward, describes the scene:

A little sea of mud, the rain falling steady and insistent, the trucks drawn up … [in a circle with their tailboards facing the centre].

The gong was an old shell case; a bedraggled tent drawn over the lot to ensure that even dramatic whispers will be heard accurately; the glow of the swinging charcoal braziers, and every now and then the roar of a plane fumbling its way through the rain and the darkness'

Now the Division had gone from a stalemate in the east to a stalemate in the west. The next task for the New Zealanders was to charge into any breach and harry the retreating foe. But the breakthrough was a long time coming.

The Division reached its new area in the Volturno valley as Fifth Army (under General Mark Clark) attempted to burst through the mountainous positions forming the Gustav Line. Beyond lay the great political prize of Rome. The only way of approach was up the Liri valley, the mouth of which was overshadowed and dominated by Monte Cassino and the heights beyond. Before Cassino and beneath these heights Fifth Army was held at bay. Maybe the line could be taken from behind? Accordingly, on 22 January an independent force from the sea landed at Anzio, within 30 miles of Rome, but could not advance. In mid-February the New Zealand Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Freyberg, was formed, while Major-General Kippenberger (severely wounded and evacuated within a month) took over command of the Division. This corps was made up of New Zealanders, 4 Indian Division (just over from the Sangro), an American armoured combat group, and over 600 guns. Its job was to take Cassino and exploit into the Liri valley. Its first attack near the end of February failed. Foul weather postponed the second attack until 15 March.

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During this period demands on the RMT were not heavy. Trucks returned from battalions to carry leave parties into Pompeii (near the ruins with their astounding carvings by pavement artists stood Pompeii Cathedral, ‘a magnificent affair costing 33,000,000 dollars mostly subscribed from other countries. It has a 3,000,000 dollar organ donated from Germany; its pipes are coated with gold.’); to take turns with the two ammunition companies in running 70-truck convoys carrying 200 tons of ammunition from Nola to the ammunition railhead at Teano, and later to Rocca d'Evandro station; to move reinforcements up and LOB men back; to bring up yet more mules13 and also ration-carting trailers for jeeps; to gather shingle for new roads and Indian labourers to work on them; to visit Naples for mail and to go even as far away as Bari on odd jobs; to cart bits and pieces of anything wanted, from charcoal to beer.

Near the end of February, when battalions were slowly and painfully driven in pitch darkness to forward positions over narrow roads and tracks cramped by American guns and tractors, overcast and showery weather brought back the mud again, and vehicles soon found difficulty in moving through places where tracks had not been built up. The going remained fair along the main route to the front where hundreds of vehicles streamed up and down every hour of the day. To avoid chaos the route was organised so that up to Mignano traffic ran both ways along what was known as Route 6. Then at Mignano a loop was made by ripping up a useless railway line and putting down a new road, on to which was switched all traffic going up to the front. Vehicles came back by way of the old road to Mignano, where two-way traffic resumed.

Off the roads, drivers were given firing practice (the weapons included tommy guns) on the range; Brigadier Crump complimented ASC men on their marching and bearing at a ceremonial church parade; the companies got their cut of 48,000 Players cigarettes given to the Division by workers in a Ford factory in Barton, England; a driver found a violet, the first he had seen since leaving New Zealand, growing on a bank; page 308 two platoons of 18 Tank Transporter Company were attached for a while to 6 RMT; Padre Read included in his service a new feature called ‘Questions and Answers’; and February's last routine order ended joyfully:

Parcels From New Zealand


The Food Controller in NZ has released for sale to the public for inclusion in parcels to members of 2 NZEF a quantity of 6 oz tablets of Chocolate packed in Emergency Rations tins.


The embossed instructions on these tins to the effect ‘Ration is only to be used by order of an Officer’ may be disregarded.

Soon after this voluntary church parades began, and Padre Read says:

The subject of compulsory versus voluntary church parades was endlessly discussed by chaplains. I was an enthusiastic supporter of the voluntary principle. I felt that while a man could be compelled to parade, it was ridiculous to imagine that he could be compelled to worship. Further, I believed that ‘Freedom of Religion’ involved freedom not to worship if one so desired. In previous units I was unsuccessful in my advocacy of voluntary parades. By the time I reached the RMT's, I had given up trying. However, when in March 1944, Major Doug Coleman of 4 RMT suggested a voluntary parade, I welcomed the idea.

The 6 Coy took a little more convincing, but eventually such parades became the custom in both companies. [The routine order for the first parade said that a church service would be held at which attendance was voluntary. Easy dress was specified.] The fellows turned out dressed in a manner which would have delighted the toughest infantry RSM. Boots shone like mirrors and there was not a button undone on blouses. The officers decided to set an example in easy dress. All were hatless and one appeared in a pullover. Compared with the men, they looked like a gang of pirates. I noticed a difference in the atmosphere of these services and the men's appreciation can be judged from the fact that the attendances remained as good as when compulsory parades were held.

By no means every voluntary church parade was immaculate—for example, the parade on Good Friday 1944. Fifth Brigade page 309 Headquarters was near, and Captain Claude Miller14 and his band arrived to play for the drivers. The bandmaster seemed shocked at RMT's lack of formality, and later compared the RMT men unfavourably with 23 Battalion, which had staged a very regimental church parade the previous Sunday.

Wally Moore15 decided to dodge one voluntary service for Headquarters and Workshops of 4 RMT. Joe Gordon16 and three others picked him up, carried him to the railway platform where the congregation was assembling, dumped him at Padre Read's feet, and remarked: ‘You can't bolt now, son.’

‘Stump’ Burleigh remembers giving out the hymn books at a ‘full house’ voluntary service among 4 Platoon 4 RMT men. The slim paper-covered hymn books gave Stump an idea. He went round announcing: ‘Race Cards! Race Cards! Tomorrow's trots!’

The padre found the first voluntary church parade with 4 RMT touched with sorrow, ‘for we paid tribute to the memory of “Moke” [or “Darkie”] Hinds of Captain Dick Todd's platoon, who had died of sickness. Moke was a fine type who appealed to us all. He had often spoken of his little daughter and how she would fare if he failed to return. His platoon and others in the company subscribed enough to produce £100 in NZ currency which I sent to Mrs. Hinds for the benefit of the little girl. In a most appreciative letter, Mrs. Hinds told me the comfort she had received in the knowledge that Moke was so highly thought of by the boys. In units where the casualty rate was higher, such generosity could hardly be expected. Still this was a gesture I shall never forget.’

Padre Read spent many a pleasant (and rather strenuous) day climbing over the tailboards of three-tonners, visiting drivers and receiving the inevitable mugs of tea and generous hunks of New Zealand fruitcake.

During the five years I was overseas (the padre recalls), I dealt with the subject of bad language on only one occasion, surely a record for the Chaplains Department. I was never keen on ticking page 310 the fellows off in a sermon. While we were at Taranto, I heard officers frequently checking men for their language and decided to back up authority. On the following Sunday I took each of the more common words as a ‘text’, or a series of texts. Several came to me afterwards and agreed that swearing was a senseless habit. That evening as the plonk began to produce the usual songs, I noticed that ‘Bless 'em all’ was rigorously adhered to. For once the usual imprecation was forgotten and as I lay in my bivvy tent I was proud of my influence which had lasted for 12 hours

1 Sgt F. W. Sargent; Christchurch; born NZ 7 Jul 1915; law student and solicitor's clerk.

2 Maj-Gen G. B. Parkinson, CBE, DSO and bar, m.i.d., Legion of Merit (US); Christchurch; born Wellington, 5 Nov 1896; Regular soldier; NZ Fd Arty 1917–19; CO 4 Fd Regt Jan 1940-Aug 1941; comd 1 Army Tank Bde and 7 Inf Bde Gp (in NZ) 1941–42; 6 Inf Bde Apr 1943-Jun 1944; 2 NZ Div 3–27 Mar 1944; CRA 2 NZ Div Jun-Aug 1944; comd 6 Inf Bde Aug 1944-Jun 1945; NZ Troops in Egypt and NZ Maadi Camp Jul-Nov 1945; QMG Army HQ Jan-Sep 1946; NZ MLO, London, 1946–49; Commandant, Southern Military District, 1949–51.

3 Capt T. G. Bain; Auckland; born NZ 14 Jan 1907; accountant.

4 Lt J. Butler, m.i.d.; Wellington; born England, 28 Apr 1911; oil installation superintendent.

5 Capt J. N. Brownlie; Frazertown; born Hastings, 29 Nov 1918; farmhand; wounded 29 Mar 1943.

6 Dvr C. J. Williams; Mataura; born NZ 16 Jan 1920; farm labourer.

7 Cpl E. L. Grantham; Masterton; born Masterton, 28 Jun 1916; lorry driver and motor mechanic.

8 Dvr W. L. Winter; Christchurch; born NZ 17 Dec 1920; builder.

9 Lt Butler, striking trouble over the mules (some bickering over exchanging equipment), had left for HQ NZASC for further orders the night the blizzard began. Roads blocked and buried forced him to detour south, some 200 miles in all, via Termoli, Lucera, Gildone, and Isernia. Eight days later (8 Jan) he reached his men again, humping provisions with Dvr Corbett over seven miles of ‘Yukon Trail snow’ to Capracotta. The 14 trucks were completely buried in snow but drivers were better off, finding caches of food and wine, and receiving some supplies dropped by parachute. They stayed snowbound for nearly three weeks. Early attempts to find the lost driver had to be given up. Dvr Grantham adds: ‘My special thanks here to Lt Butler, Bill Winter, “Snow” Bundock and Graham Dixon for all they did to make my return possible.’

10 Sgt N. A. Pulley, MM, m.i.d.; Matahina, Te Teko; born Wellington, 29 Aug 1911; civil servant.

11 Dvr A. Corby; born Petone, 25 Nov 1913; salesman and storeman; accidentally killed 16 Jan 1944.

12 4 RMT: Trevathan, Orr, Higgott, Todd, Sharp, Ayres, Scully (captain), Hanover, Brown, Hinds, J. E. Brownlie, Newland, Eden, Ladbrook, J. N. Brownlie. Emergencies: Taylor, O'Connor, Kelsall, Richards.

6 RMT: Shanks, Kennedy, Benbow, Hoffman, Paul, Thomas, Macewen, Clements, McKiernan, Brown, Ward (captain), Griffin, Foster, Kershaw, Mackay. Emergencies: Kershaw, Matthews, Thomson, Ross, Fowell, Shanks. Referee: A. E. Sutherland.

13 RMT delivered most of the 900 mules supplied to 4 Ind Div, which wanted 1500 for carrying supplies in the steep hills.

14 Capt C. C. E. Miller; Invercargill; born Temuka, 23 Mar 1906; salesman; bandmaster 5 Inf Bde Band Feb 1940-Dec 1944.

15 Cpl W. C. Moore; Frankton Junction; born NZ 18 May 1912; butcher.

16 Dvr J. L. Gordon; Russell; born Kawakawa, 2 Sep 1918; farmer.