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Posted on Oct 30, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

When you’ve got a job to do, you do it: A Kiwi Officer in an Army of Volunteers

By Patrick Bronte

Patrick: So whilst training all these guys, it was a real drag for you?

Lloyd: Yeah, when I graduated at Duntroon, and the war broke out in 1939, there was a total of 84 Regular Officers in the whole of New Zealand , and 300 other ranks. The Territorial was run down, there was suppose to be about 800 in strength, there was only 200. Many territorials only joined up to get a rifle to go pig hunting. The army set-up was a disintegrating hole.

Patrick: So being trained in Australia , and coming back to New Zealand , did you feel that the New Zealand Army was a mess? Because at that time, was the Australian Army run down as well?


Lloyd: Yes, it was just as bad.

Patrick: Can you think of any other times of when some of the boys got up to mischief and you had to give them a bit of a telling off?

Lloyd: I remember an intake came in from the Hawkes Bay , Tolaga Bay , Gisborne, Wairoa, Hastings and Napier. They got in at 9pm on the train and many had been celebrating their last days of freedom as a civilian. Some of them were drunk as skunks. So we sent the camp man on duty down to get them in order to march them to camp. We tried to get them into 3 lines, which was hopeless. I started to get a bit toey, and one chap said ‘Who the bloody hell do you think you are anyway?’ and I said, ‘You’ll find out in the morning.’ So we woke them up at 5 a.m. in the morning and gave them the run around.

Patrick: During the time that you were training, were you putting your application in to go overseas?

Lloyd: Every time I saw General Duigan, I would ask him.

Patrick: So when did you finally get your wish granted of being sent overseas?

Lloyd: In July/August 1941 I got the message. Went on the Aquitania to the Middle East and straight to the twenty-second. At this stage they had fought through Greece and Crete . I was in the Wellington 9 th platoon. Great fellows.

Patrick: Were they all veterans from the Crete campaign?

Lloyd: No, about 50 – 50. The first 3 escalons, then the 4th reinforcements, the 5th , 6th and the 7th , then there was one big gap between those and the 8th because the 3rd Division was formed and sent to the Pacific so we were getting no reinforcements at all in the Middle East. Once Singapore fell we were getting surface mail, 3 to 4 months old, there were no reinforcements.

Patrick: Was mail essential for morale?

Lloyd: Yes, some men were married with children, others were engaged and wanted to know whether they were still engaged.

Patrick: Make sure no yank had come and stolen their fiancée? Do you feel that would happen a bit?

Lloyd: It did, when thousands of yanks were stationed in Wellington .

North Africa

Patrick: What was your first impression of Egypt when you got there?

Lloyd: Once we arrived at the Southern end of Suez Canal the smell was the first thing that hit me. It was a mixture of bad hygiene, marijuana and bad sewage. There were millions of people and people trying to sell us rubbish items and bad food.

Patrick: I take it you would have been pretty excited once you got to Egypt , waiting all that time and being frustrated being stuck in New Zealand training. Were you quite ready for action?

Lloyd: Yes, I was very ready for action. I took over 9th platoon in A company, 22 Battalion. I very quickly realized that the standard you were trained in at Duntroon is not the standard you can expect in ordinary discipline and routine with a bunch of volunteers. I also had to learn from the fellas that had been through Greece and Crete they knew their stuff. I listened to them. It was a team thing – whatever you were – you slept together, ate together, and died together. We had a rule in our platoon. Officers go last at meal times, if there was not enough food, officers would go without and then no one could complain.

Forward Party at work in the Western Desert-Nov 1941_DA-02157-F (from the Alexander Turnbull Library)

Patrick: I always thought that Officers got their own special meals?

Lloyd: No, not in the field, didn’t happen. When you are out, there is Officers mess; otherwise you eat with your company or platoon.

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