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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 find that your company and platoon proved to be quite a good team?

Lloyd: Yes, much more informal because we lived, fought and died together. An officer is rarely called ‘Sir’ he is called ‘Boss’.

Patrick: Are you able to describe for me the first time you experienced action with the Germans/Italians?

Lloyd: We were sent down to Mersa Matruh to block a port. The Germans didn’t realize we had cut the road. Platoons were on each side of the road and 8 German vehicles came and we shot at them, killing the German’s in the vehicles.

Another time, 3 of our tanks came down. Two were being used by Germans and opened fire. Our shells bounced off these tanks. We took out the 2 tanks with a couple of two pounders. Our other method of taking out tanks was by sticky bombs – you pull a pin, and stuck in on the tank and in 4 seconds the tank would blow up. They proved to be useless, as it was hard to get close to the tank. We buried all the bombs. We had no defense against tanks. One morning we lost over 400 men from the Battalion because we had no tank support.


Patrick: Did these 3 tanks inflict any casualties on your men?

Lloyd: No, fortunately, it was a short battle that lasted 15 minutes.

Patrick: How did you feel being away at military school and then getting a rush when first going into the line of fire? Did you get excited? Did you get a fright?

Lloyd: I got an adrenalin rush yes, not a fright though. The blood certainly pumps. Some situations are worse than others, some situations I found my mouth went dry, my throat went dry. You get thirsty as hell, but you’ve got a job to do and you do it.

Patrick: In the early stages of the desert campaign we seemed to suffer defeat after defeat under Rommel. Why do you think this happened ? Can you remember any actions that suffered from incompetent leadership or Strategy?

Lloyd: We weren’t attacking as a division; we were being split up and moved here and there. Rommel had a couple of armoured divisions with him. He might come up against a Brigade or less, easy pickings for him. And that was why he was so successful because he was mobile and hard hitting and he hit with a powerful force against weak opposition.

2nd Libyan Campaign

Patrick: Can you recount an incident in North Africa when you experienced an ill conceived action?

Lloyd: Yes the second Libyan Campaign, This time we went in o.k. and suddenly we were being shelled; we stopped and hit the deck. These shells were getting in amongst us but it was one of our Allies shelling us, the 4th Indian Division. The Germans must have been observing us with some interest. We had a troop of 25 Pounders from our 5th Field Regiment and they dropped their trailers and returned fire. This woke the Indians up because they recognised the sound of the 25 pounders. Then Germans from Bardia then got into us. So we got back in the truck and went like hell, we had a few casualties. We reached Fort Capuzzo and met up with 28th Maori Battalion and 23rd South Island Battalion. Then our Colonel (Colonel Andrews, 22 Battalion) took over the Brigade and our 2IC (Second in Command) took over the Battalion. We were there for a while and we seemed to get shelled every meal time from Hellfire Pass. Then one day a German armoured car came racing past and machine gunned our position. My Boyes Anti Tank Riflemen was a terrific shot but at that particular time he had it in pieces cleaning it and oiling it (The Boyes Anti Tank Rile fired a one inch shell and had a hell of a kick to it). And by the time he reassembled the flipping thing the Germans had taken off. It was completely ineffective against German Armour. So we started marching for a while at night. We never knew where we were going – communication was very poor. We went past Tobruk; we had no idea where we were going. Our Company Commander ordered us to bed down for the night and we kicked out at about 5 in the mourning and this was the middle of winter. It was as cold as hell out there, we had battledress on, leather jackets on, we long woollen underpants on – it was cold. Our Company Commander said “We are going to Gazala” which was just a place on a map “And if the Enemy are there will attack and destroy them and have breakfast. If it’s not occupied we will occupy it and have breakfast”

We reached Gazala and bullets started hitting the truck, so we jumped out of the truck and hit the deck. Me and another Platoon Commander went over to see the Company Commander who by this stage had grabbed his Sergent Major’s bayonet and was digger a hole like a rabbit, scratching for dear life and he was yelling “Get Down! Get Down! You’ll get killed!” So we said “Argh, forget him” and left him to it. We took our two Platoons forward and could see the Company had spread out moving forward so we spread out, fell in line and went forward with them until we came to a plateau that dipped down into a big hollow. We could see the other two Companies had gone to ground so we went to ground. In front we counted 16 enemy field guns; we were looking right at them. We were in a slight depression, so the enemy shells dropped too short it hit the ground in front of us, and if they lifted a bit, it went up behind us. Anyway, we got no breakfast and we got no Lunch and we got no DINNER!!! (Ha-Ha).

I sent blokes back in all sorts of different directions, as did the other Platoon. Looking for our bloody Company Commander. He had kept the other Platoon commanded by a Corporal. Anyway, we were getting pretty hungry and so cold that night we couldn’t sleep so we dug to make trenches and strengthen our positions. The next morning, we managed to contact our 2IC and he been were wondering where were and our Company Commander hadn’t seen us! He had no intention of looking for us; he was 500 yards behind us. So after 3 days a bit of paper came through informing us to proceed over there [to the right in flanking manoeuvre] and attack this strong point. Artillery would open up at 0630 hours, Vickers would open from the left and Mortars would open up just before we went in. the other Platoon Commander said “I’ll tell him to go to hell with those sort of orders” because he knew what was over that ridge. Well I thought, I’ve got the orders so I’d better go. Off we went and the due time came, at this time it was getting a little bit light and there was no sign of any shelling. Suddenly, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Our Artillery fired 4 shells, 1 per gun and that was it. Our Mortars opened up and they were landing behind us. I thought, to hell with this! I was at a lose as to what the hell is going on. I was determined to have a go at this so I said to the blokes “Right Platoon we gotta go” … “Forward!” So we got up and we charged. I counted 8 separate machine guns that had us in their enfilade of fire. After about 100 yards I yelled “DOWN!” We had three goes at this and each time we came under a hail of withering fire. We had 600 yards of open desert with no cover what so ever. They had us cold. And I thought “if I go any further, I’m going to lose the whole Platoon”. I had to make a tactical withdraw. I had three sections I had to leapfrog back. So two sections fired, and the other section retired. So it was this continuous firing that kept the Huns head down. Nobody died and only 2 were wounded. Thank God for that! I felt very disappointed. I found out later the Mortars had opened up and they found their range was too short to hit the enemy, there was no liaison, this should have been done the day before, they should have zeroed in the day before. When the Vickers opened up they discovered that we were right in the line of fire, so they ceased firing and the Artillery only gave us four shells.

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