From the stories circulating amongst the Troops it would appear that the Germans and Italians were expected to attack to upset what was thought to be an Allies advance. Hence the N.Z. Division, especially the Artillery, were recalled from what was to be an exercise to practice Stonks involving the whole of the Divisional Artillery.
After a drive of some 135 miles during daylight and night where quite surprisingly vehicles were allowed to use lights, 5th Field eventually arrived at Medenine around 10 p.m. 2nd March.
Gussy Glasgow had gone ahead of the Regiment and so had reconnoitered the Gun Positions in Medenine. The Gunners were able to see a few elegant homes belonging to the French which were interspersed among the Arab homes of clay. The area itself was green and wooded, intersected with little valleys. And into one of these Valleys went 'A' Troop, and it was a case of hard work to dig Gun Pits, and try and make things safe.
This, people who were not there, would say "so what!". But when one thinks we had little time to prepare meals, and had only snatches of sleep on the move, the Troops were getting very tired and hungry. Still morale was high, and from what I can remember, the boys were looking forward to getting to grips with Jerry again.
Steve Weir had assumed Command of all the field Regiments as they arrived, and was not under any circumstances going to lose control of the N.Z. Divisional Artillery, although the 4th Field was to support the 7th Armoured Division to the right of the N.Z. Division. This was not very popular with the British Armour as they were used to having a Battery or Troop of Guns under their Command. But Steve Weir was out to prove beyond doubt the power and flexibility of Divisional Control for Artillery.
It was around this time when the preparation was going on, that the C.O. of the 4th Field Regt. whilst out on a recce, went up on a mine field and was wounded. Lt. Col. Stewart had been with the 4th Field right through from Greece, except for a short spell with the 5th Field. Major Gilbert took over the 4th Field till our own Bill Philp was given the position of C.O. 4th Field.
The preparation for the attack which seemed imminent, was working out of several Stonks to cover the immediate front of the 5th Brigade. A Stonk for those who should read this and not understand was in very short terms an area in which all Guns were laid and fired. This being very devastating for that area, as was proved when one could visit and see the results.
The 4th Field deployed on the right of an arc behind Medenine, with the 5th Field on the left. When the 6th Field arrived on the 3rd March they were deployed to the rear. At this time there was quite a bit of gaiety around, as the Gunners had no doubts when the attack came, that the Enemy would get a thrashing.
There had been plenty of air activity during the days of preparation but 'A' Troop felt pretty secure in the little Gully they had been deployed in. Then on the morning of the 6th March after the expectation of attack for a few days, it all happened. At around 6 a.m. reports that the Enemy was on the move came in. All day the Guns fired without a let up, and for all the time we had been in action, never had the Guns been so hot. The paint actually blistered on the Barrels.
On our Gun we found one of the crew was missing. This was one Honk Foote. But as we were so busy, we did not have time to investigate. After the Enemy retreated, we discovered that one Henry Foote had slept through it all in his slitty. We all knew that Henry liked his sleep, but how one could sleep through that racket is one of the mysteries of life.
Sam Widdup was still our Troop Commander at this time, and Doug Wiggins his Ack. Talking to Doug afterwards he was saying what a wonderful sight it was to see the shells falling among the Tanks and Lorried Infantry.
At one stage when things looked a little critical, the three N.Z. Field Regts, along with 58th Field and the 7th Medium, fired 5 rounds of Gunfire. Then followed this up with a switch and another 5 rounds. A total of 1240 rounds were fired into the area with the result that Steve Weir said later there was barely 6 yards between Shell Holes in the whole area.
The attack ended abruptly with heavy loss to the Enemy, and by nightfall it was all over. Although the Guns fired Harrassing Fire through the night, it was a clear cut victory for the Artillery. And although there were 52 Tanks destroyed, none was credited to the Artillery. The 5th Field fired 2400 Rounds that day, and all at the cost of 2 Killed and 6 Wounded out of the whole Division.
This article first appeared in a 5 Fd Regt Newsletter.