End of the North African Campaign
All too soon the Divisional Artillery was on its way again. This time to support the French Force in the Djibibina area. Or as I always thought the Pont De Fah area. Anyrate we moved towards Kairouan then turned North-West into the Hills. The 4th Field dispatched 25th Bty to join 19th French Brigade, and as 'A' Troop passed through the 4th Field Area, there was seen a .5 Browning lying on the ground. Ted Holmes was out of the quad in a flash, and the Browning was inside quicker. From then on we had our own little bit of Anti-Aircraft Defence. Although the 4th Field claimed it, they never really seemed to be worried whether they had it or not. But it certainly kept Ted happy playing with it.
47th Battery went into position in the evening of the 4th and came under fire as they approached the Gun Positions, which were very close to the F.D.L.
We had been so used to having the sky to ourselves over the few weeks before that it was something of a shock when 8 F.W came and dropped Anti-Personnel bombs amongst us. Luckily no harm was done, except once again to our pride.
When the Survey Party checked the positions 5th Field were in, it was found some of the Guns were forward if the F.D.L.s. So it was in a hurry 27th and 28th were sited some 4000 yards to the rear. While 47th were digging in and making themselves comfortable, an Armoured Car of 'C' Troop went up on a Mine Field. Captain Haslett had a lucky escape. Bombardier Ramsay was killed
Next day 27th and 26th moved forward before dawn. Later in the morning 'B' Troop O.P. Vehicle also struck a mine. Luckily no one was injured. Then Major Snadden's Jeep went over a mine. Gunner Gilbert received fatal injuries from which he died. Major Snadden was sent out for a few days rest. and Captain Robertshaw took over 28th Bty. With the end of the North African campaign looking close, these casualties were a bit upsetting to say the least.
It was just as well there was plenty of activity to keep everyone's mind off the casualties. And at this stage there was all sorts of talk about the fighting elsewhere. Then on the 8th May the 4th Field was ordered back to its old position between Sidi Con Ali and Enfidaville. This was not taken to kindly as the 5th Field after another day also moved back.
The 6th Field had been active in support if 16th Division North of Enfidaville. There they had been simulating Registration of Targets and putting down smoke to disguise the thinning of the Gun Lines. At first light on the 4th May the 6th Field, deployed in Olive Trees, began a series of harassing fire. This lasted 24 hours and when they finished, had expended 3000 rounds. The Enemy did not like this much and replied with much gusto killing Sgt Dickens and wounding a Gnr. General Freyberg was now in temporary command of the 10 Corp and wanted it to push North of Enfidaville towards Hammamet. The 6th Field fired a short but intense programme in the evening of the 8th May to support the first stage of this Plan, an attack by the 56th Division.
The next phase was a series of concentrations and 4th Field had taken up their old position and prepared D.F. Tasks. Then new ones were ordered for the position 56th Division hoped to take. The attack failed and the first series stood still.
The 6th Field reverted to C.R.A.s command on the 9th and the 4th Field were interested to hear on the B.B.C. news that fighting on the 8th Army Front had Ceased. This news which came as the Guns were firing, and the noise of nebelwerfer rockets coming in, was met with some derision and really unprintable remarks.
On 11th May there started the heaviest Counter-Battery programme of the whole Campaign. In 4 hours 31 Hostile Batteries were engaged and R.A.F. Bombers also joined in, guided by smoke fired by the N.Z. Guns . Great clouds of airbursts were formed over the Gun Areas, as the Enemy fired furiously to get rid if his remaining ammunition. But little harm resulted.
As the afternoon drew on and the Guns were thundering away, great explosions took place in the rear areas of the Enemy. Then the white Flags began to appear. By 6 pm Prisoners by the thousands were marching in but the Guns on both sides were still roaring. Rather exasperating that the last pockets of resistance in the whole of Tunisia should be facing 10 Corp. and that the New Zealand Regiments, which were now the Senior Regiments in the whole of the Army Group, should have to continue when on all other fronts the Guns were silent.
The morning of the 13th May was sunny and all Guns were still firing, but there was really nothing left to shoot at. About 9.30 am A.l of the 4th Field fired a few rounds and that was the last rounds fired in the land War of North Africa.
During the evening of the 13th May, south of Enfidaville, the 5th Field held a Thanksgiving Service, and when Rev Palmer had finished LtCol Glasgow spent a little time talking to his men. A lot of the men went off unofficially to Tunis and Kairouan. Ray Harris, Pat Kilkolly and Ted Holme unfortunately finished up being blown up in a Jeep on a Mine Field, Ted being the only one injured. Bas. Mitchell, Doug Wiggins and I went off to Kairouan. This being the Holy City of Tunisia, one would have thought it something! But although we enjoyed our little Jaunt there, found it much the same as other Wog places, and maybe a little smellier?
On the 16th May after a Divisional Artillery Church Service and a Regimental Parade to farewell Gus. Glasgow, it was time for the long trip back to Maadi. This was most interesting. We had lost Sam Widdup, where I forget. But Lt Dibley was in charge of 'A' Troop. If ever a man got initiated into a Troop it was Mr Dibley. I travelled with Doug and Bas. in the Armoured car with Lt Dibley who had arrived with the 8th Reinforcements. And as anyone can guess he really had a hard time. Still we will hear more about Mr Dibley in a later episode as I was to meet up with him once again in Italy.
As we passed through towns and villages on the way back it was with wonder we saw the debris of War which was littered everywhere. But by the time we reached Tobruk rumours were rife that Personnel who had sailed with the first 3 Echelons were to be returned home on Furlough. But by the time we arrived in Maadi it was known that mostly married men and men who were drawn in a ballot would be going. You have guessed it! Doug and. I missed out and Bas. made it!
This article first appeared in a 5 Fd Regt Newsletter.