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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: Was this a common occurrence?

Lloyd: Well things usually go wrong, but it should have not gone as wrong as that. It was incompetence of the company commander who didn’t have it – it was gutless. My sergeant and the other Platoon Commander went to Colonel Andrew and said “Get rid of our company commander or we will.” Colonel Andrew was aware of his incompetence and said “I’m waiting for a chance to dump him”. So he was sent home.

Members of the Maori Battalion advancing in battle in the Western Desert. (from the Alexander Turnbull Library)

Patrick: Would they have told him why they were sending him home?


Lloyd: He had never been near our platoon and no idea what was ahead. The following day, the Poles attacked the same area with Bren Carriers and got shot to pieces. We would have been obliterated if we had carried on and we had no Armour!

Patrick: What was the most intense piece of conflict whilst in the desert, the heaviest encounter with the Germans?

Lloyd: El Alamein. I missed the Ruweisat Ridge debacle as I was bit by a mosquito.

Patrick: What was your role in that attack?

Lloyd: They reformed D company (After Ruweisat Ridge) and I went over there. We went in the attack and I took over the company. We reached the objective on time with a few casualties. It was very heavy fighting as it was our first real proper night attack. However, you were certain that tanks would be there in the morning to support you in a disaster. Freyberg demanded we have a tank brigade under his command so the 9th British Armour Brigade was posted to the New Zealand division. They were very happy to be part of the New Zealand division and painted a fern leaf on their tanks.

Patrick: What can you tell me about the preparations before the battle of El Alamein ?

Lloyd: Before the battle of Alamein it was our first set piece night attack so in our company we prepared for attacks at night. We simulated Platoon commander causalities with sergeants taking over, and simulated sergeant casualties with corporals taking over and so on. So we had chaps who could take over and do the job above them. We practised with the artillery and everything was perfect provided you did your time correctly. The artillery would open up and would fire what was called a Creeping Barrage. The idea behind a Creeping Barrage was to be right behind the bursting shells. With the 25 pounders with a shell howitzer, when they exploded all the shrapnel would go forward, they had very little back lash. You could follow behind at around 40 yards. So we would follow tightly behind the barrage and deal with Hun before they got their heads up. We also had a live practice so we knew exactly what to do.

Patrick: How did guys react to that?

Lloyd: Pleased. At last we might be able to get our teeth in without a disaster. It was Montgomery ‘s first performance. We met him one day in the Alamein box. A Jeep came towards our platoon, Freyburg was in it and there was this funny little bloke who had his shorts down to his knees, his socks up to his knees, he wore an Australian hat with a New Zealand hat badge and the grey Marino sheep’s wool jersey that was unique to the New Zealanders. Anyway, he came up to my Sergent and asked “Where did you win your DCM?” And he said, “Ruweisat Ridge” and he then asks,

“What do you do in civilian life?”

“I’m a Farmer Sir.”

””…And where’s your farm?”

“Taihape Sir.”

”…And where’s Taihape?”

”Well, you know, King Country”

“…And where’s the King Country?”

“You know? Up the main Trunk”

Montgomery gave up and walked away and my Sergent turns to me and says “What’s wrong with that stupid basted, he doesn’t know where Taihape is?” So that was my first encounter with Montgomery . He was a showman who knew how to get publicity. And he tried to stop our rum ration! That was dreadful but he didn’t get away with it.

[continued on next page]

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