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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: Did you witness one of them going off?

Lloyd: Yes, fortunately I wasn’t a recipient. An officer got shot in the buttocks by a ball bearing but he survived. However, in Italy he stood on another one and died.

Patrick: Did it leave much of a mess? Much body left?

Lloyd: It left a hole. We saved a lot of fellas with morphine. I carried 6 phials of morphine. I would give them a shot of morphine. But quite often it was the shock that would kill you, not so much the wound.

Patrick: How would you describe the battle scene once the fighting had stopped? Once you had won?

Lloyd: Dawn came; we were ready for a counter-attack. Fortunately tanks came. They had to come up, but on the way our fighter-bombers clobbered them. So the next day, Colonel Tom Campbell – told me to take my company and to pass out through the Maori Battalion and go out to protect the engineers who were going to put a mine-field in front of us. So we went out, the engineers started putting their mines in and noticed that the Germans were also laying a mine-field in front of them. Mines were put all over Egypt .


Patrick: Was it worth putting all these mine fields down?

Lloyd: Yes, it was a defensive screen. I was protecting our engineers and the Germans were protected by tanks. We could hear them crawling, the old tracks rounding up. I could see these Germans putting mines in. We did not fire because our engineers would get fired at. So, time got on and I went to the Command engineer, Major Skinner, and told him that we were not going to be here in daylight and asked if he wanted a hand. They didn’t need a hand so we went out, went through the Maori Battalion and then machine guns started running. They had forgotten about us.

Patrick: Was the battle of Alamein the heaviest fighting you encountered during the war?

Lloyd: No.

Patrick: How did it compare to the Battle of Cassino ?

Lloyd: It was the dirtiest campaign I was ever in. It was wet, cold and terrible.

Patrick: The battle of Alamein lasted two weeks, how much time was spent fighting?

Lloyd: We basically did a cover screen, then pulled out the following day and were relieved. We held back and got ready for a break through. The battle is called the attack, the dogfight is what goes on for the next couple of days, the breakout is when you smash through and you’re away. So they pulled us out. The Italians were coming in their thousands. The Germans were retreating. So in the breakout, we were flat out, we were in a place called Dama and we were able to outflank the 5th Brigade. We were going to cut them off, and then it poured with rain. So we couldn’t move and the Germans got away.

Patrick: Do you remember seeing the aftermath of the battle? Blown up tanks? The dead?

Lloyd: Yes, the dead were picked up eventually. A War Grave Commission was where they were to be buried. We stuck a rifle in the ground and a tin hat on the rifle. That was their grave.

Patrick: How would you describe the smell of the dead?

Lloyd: Yes, I had a Maori Battalion man one time and we had some dead enemy. I told him to bury these 3 people. He dug down about a foot deep. The smell of a dead human body is far worse than the smell of any dead animal. We could still smell the bodies and he then got some Italian perfume off a burnt out supply truck and poured it on them to get rid of the smell.

Patrick: Did you witness many people die? Shot? Blown up?

Lloyd: Yeah, can’t avoid that. First one I saw was a German. In 1941, where the road was cut between Bardia and Tobruk, a German was wounded. We assisted as much as we could. And as he inhaled in a terrible horse breath and every time he exhaled he said ‘Hail Hitler’ – this went on for half an hour before he died.

Patrick: Was he very young?

Lloyd: Yes a very dedicated the Nazi. In the early days, the Nazi type was very arrogant and were convinced that they were going to win the war.

Patrick: How did it feel to witness Kiwi soldiers being killed?

Lloyd: Never a pleasant experience because you knew them. I hated having my own blokes killed. You were close to them. I remember one boy from Dannevirke, an officer who died. I tried to see where he was wounded and he said, ‘I’ve had it” and just rolled over and died. You will never forget that, your try to write it out of your memory but you can’t.

Patrick: Did you witness someone dying right in front of your eyes?

Lloyd: Yep, first one I had killed. We were in a trench. He was hit in right in the side of his helmet. “Man” he said ‘That was close’. The next minute he was shot through the throat and he was dead.

New Zealand soldiers during an exercise at the Monte Cassino battlefront – Italy 1944 (from the Alexander Turnbull Library)

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