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4th and 6th Reserve Mechanical Transport Companies


page 353


May: Company Headquarters moved to Villa Vicentina, on the western bank of the Isonzo River and stayed there. Twenty lorries stayed attached to each infantry brigade during the month for various tasks. Lorries moved prisoners of war to Padua; at the end of May a big RMT convoy went via Florence, Rome, Naples, to NZ Advanced Base, Bari, with furlough men of the Hawea leave scheme.

June: Three-tonners from the brigades returned to the company for transport details which took them over 25,000 miles altogether: carrying petrol, oil, lubricants, and supplies (including AMG goods) from Trieste docks; collecting piles of weapons from Trieste; taking a few men on leave through to Klagenfurt (about 80 miles beyond Trieste), in Austria, and others to a trotting meeting and the divisional sports in Trieste. The most unusual job of the month: five trucks bore goats from Trieste to Monfalcone.

July: The company met up happily again with the Americans, and helped 34 US Division (at a station near Udine) on its way to Tarvisio on the Austrian border. With 67 other NZASC trucks, they moved in four days 8175 Americans and 40 railway wagon loads of equipment. Ninety-six three-tonners took the Garibaldi Brigade, 2700 strong, from Poverio to Torre di Zuino; salvage was carted to Mestre; on 21 July the Division began its southward journey back to Lake Trasimene again, via Mestre, Bologna, Fabriano, Foligno and Perugia. One unusual job: 20 three-tonners delivered newsprint rolls from Leghorn to Trieste.

August: The company moved a few miles to a new area at La Torrecella. RMT convoys took 5, 6, and 9 Brigade men to the divisional rest area at Fano. Leave parties were driven to Rome, Florence, and Venice. On 26 August a thanksgiving service celebrated VJ Day (15 August).

September: Occasional transport details ended with 4 RMT preparing to carry New Zealanders on a divisional leave scheme to Britain across France to Calais. Drivers, helped by Workshops, began fitting up extra seats for their passengers.

page 354

October: The company left Perugia area on 4 October for a temporary headquarters at Forte dei Marmi, on the coast below La Spezia. Then, in a final spectacular gesture, the RMT, each platoon with its special area, spread in a transport chain from Italy across France to Calais: 4 Platoon based at Forte dei Marmi, 3 Platoon at Aix, 2 Platoon at Dijon, and 1 Platoon at Soissons. Each platoon was divided into three flights working their own stretches (140–210 miles) along this 970-mile route: Forte dei Marmi-San Remo-Aix-St. Rambert-Dijon-Soissons-Calais. On 10 October the first leave party, 105 men, left Forte dei Marmi; other parties followed at daily intervals.

November: The RMT service kept on until 16 November. Then, with winter setting in, leave parties went by train. RMT finished its last task without a single accident, and assembled in Florence for the end. Load-carriers were stripped of all superfluous gear, cleaned, and serviced. The company disbanded during the week 24–30 November. Vehicles were evacuated to the NZASC group (part of J Force) due for occupation duties in Japan, and to the New Zealand Vehicle and Stores Depot at Assisi. Drivers marched out to remaining NZASC units. On 30 November the canteen accounts of all the platoons were balanced and closed—the coldly official, rubber-stamp end of every unit.

Although mileage records are far from complete, 4 RMT's four operating platoons (not including Workshops and Headquarters) travelled some eight million miles during the four years from September 1941 to October 1945. In one year (1944) of 6 RMT's three-year existence, its operating platoons are known to have passed the two-million mark. Altogether the two companies probably travelled on transport and troop-carrying duties at least twelve to thirteen million miles—say 500 times round the world.

Driver Trenwith ended his diary (he grew to hate it over the years) like this: ‘Up on deck at 7 a.m. Could see land away ahead—New Zealand. Yet there was no joy, no excitement, nothing but a passive acceptance that Home was in sight…. The chaps went off fairly quickly. Felt no joy, no elation at being there. We've been just a little too long away.’