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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: Can you please explain the reasons behind the rum issue?

Lloyd: Well, it warms the inside of the system. At Alamein we saved our ration so we had a double issue. One fellow had never ever had a drink in his life, he took his first double ration and he got very drunk. And he went round and round in a circle, he couldn’t stand up properly. He must have travelled the distance between the start line and the objective probably twice over before he even got to the start line. And he went out with “physical exhaustion”, I’m not kidding. Some people say it gave you Dutch courage. It is very strong alcohol as they take pre rum (100% alcohol) and broke it down to 1 in 10. One issue was an ounce per man. The rum we had was very strong.


Patrick: When it came to the hour before the attack, what were your feelings and emotions at that time?

Lloyd: You were so busy checking everything so there are no hiccups along the way. My mouth was getting dry and my stomach was churning. It was the waiting.

Patrick: What was the sequence of events for you during the Battle of Alamein once you got the green light?

Lloyd: Firstly, it was absolute dim with the artillery barrage. Every gun in the 8th Army opened up. There was the 8th and 9th Australian division, 2 nd New Zealand division, 1st , 2nd South Africa division, 4th Indian and 51st Highland division. The New Zealand division was the only division that reached its objective on the first night. Aussies had a hell of a fight up the top end. The Aussies secured their objective the following night, then the 51st Highland , then the South African division. Before the barrage lifted we did 100 yards every 6 minutes. So the 21st Battalion did the first 100 yards, 22nd and 21st passed through them and carried on to our objective to Miteiriya Ridge. The 23rd didn’t think they would reach their part but it did. They went past us, and actually copped the barrage twice and had a few casualties. In reserve was the 28th Maori Battalion and they went in. The biggest impression was the noise of the barrage. You had to shout your head off. With heavy dew, the smoke from the bursting shells, it created smog. The smell of cordite will never leave your nostrils.

Patrick: In the first night of the Battle of Alamein, how many yards did you gain?

Lloyd: 500 yards

Patrick: Throughout the whole Battle , what was the most terrifying moment for you?

Lloyd: When we got to the objectives.

Patrick: How would you describe the opposition that you came across once you got to the objective?

Lloyd: The Germans always had defense in depth. You never had a true frontline. They’d have a strong point, another one there, and another one there. Three yards further back would be more strong points. You might clean the front line and think that’s it, but no, you’ve got more and more. The Germans’ one weakness was all their machine guns used to throw about 1 in 10 tracers which told you exactly where they were. So we would wheel two blokes, half a section behind them and shoot them down. They never woke up to that, right through the war.

Patrick: Did you ever have to use hand-to-hand combat when you came into those machine gun nests?

Lloyd: You’d shoot them at about 5 yards because the Germans hadn’t put their hands up. You hit first, or you may not get a chance to.

Patrick: Can you remember the most memorable time when you were in action.

Lloyd: A lot of luck.

Patrick: Are you able to describe to me when you were lucky?

Lloyd: Yes, I got blown up. Just before Alamein where the Germans made their last push on the South of the Alamein box. Engineers were setting up a minefield and we were set up to do a covering fire for them while they were laying it. The next morning we were told to dig and fight by Brigadier Kippenberger. We lost 1 whole section because the German tanks came in with Infantry behind them. I thought “this is it”. Our artillery opened up and got into range and the Boston Bombers came over and got stuck in. The attack was halted. So we were saved. That night, we were told to pull out otherwise the Germans would just run over the top of us. Our truck was bogged down in the sand, so we got it out and went on until we struck wire, which was in front of a minefield. It was very dark with a bit of fog. I said “Halt, there’s a wire”. The driver accelerated and we hit the wire and I remember a flash and woke up in heaven. I heard birds singing and thought, “this is great I made it to heaven”. I felt my legs and than came to and all I saw was stars. The driver was killed. All the front of the truck was gone. I had my platoon on the back of the truck and a few were injured. So we went back to where we were supposed to be. The next morning Colonel Russell came to the jeep and thanked me for what we had done the day before and shouted me a whiskey and away he went. An hour later, he was killed at the same minefield that I was blown up at the night before. He went to assist a British vehicle in the minefield, trotted on a mine and was blown to pieces.

New Zealand soldiers beside NZ Division Axis sign – Atina Italy – May 1944 (from the Alexander Turnbull Library)

Patrick: How would you describe the rest of the battle of Alamein to someone who was not there at all?

Lloyd: At night, we were pretty busy, peering through the gloom. Waiting for a machine gun to burst, hoping you didn’t stand on a nest mine, which has 3 prongs that stick up out of the ground. If you tread on it, it explodes about 3 feet above the ground. They’re full of ball bearings – if you’re within 15 yards of it, you’ll get clobbered.

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