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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: What was your role during the battle of Cassino?

Lloyd: We were in the Armoured Brigade and I was commanding Support Company, which were machine guns, mortars and anti-tank carriers. The 22nd never attacked Cassino, we went and occupied and held it. Cassino was pulverized to rubble. It stunk because none of the dead were buried. When the fine weather came, we could cross the Rapido River . The tanks couldn’t operate because of the weather and the bombing of the town, so it became a stalemate until the weather came right. We put on attacks when the weather went good.

Patrick: Who was responsible for that?


Lloyd: Clarke. He was sent from the 8th Army to the 5th Army and remained there from Casino right up until Florence.

Patrick: Can you describe the heaviest fighting you were in, in Italy ?

Lloyd: Italy was a continuous attack. River after river after river. There were stock banks on the top of each river. All the way through, attack after attack. It was heavier than in Egypt .

Patrick: How would you compare the German soldier to the Italian soldiers? How would you compare the fighting of the German soldiers in the desert?

Lloyd: They were a different type of German. Desert Germans were confident in their ability and well led. We didn’t come across any SS Units in the desert. The Nazis were not nice fellows.

Patrick: Did you find that the SS style of fighting was a lot different to the Paras and the Afrika Korps?

Lloyd: The first 12 months in Italy , the Germans were tough. The last 6 months, they fought hard but I think they knew that they had lost the war. Some surrendered more quickly then they would have 12 months before.

Patrick: Can you describe a time when you took the surrender on the Admiral Largeie ?

Lloyd: Yes, ran into Trieste , we got into the square. The Colonel told me to go up and capture San Guisto Castle. On the way up there was firing at all directions, it was a shambles. Germans wouldn’t surrender to Yugoslavians, as they didn’t recognize them as an Army. We went to the castle, borrowed an armoured car and made contact with the German commander. He said that he would lower down the bridge. I got my company and a troop of tanks and we went out to the courtyard. The drawbridge dropped. We went in and the Yugoslavians were shooting the German wounded. So we had a full surrender. They laid their weapons down.

Patrick: So he gave you his Luger and that was it?

Lloyd: Yes

Patrick: Have you still got it?

Lloyd: No, I haven’t got the Luger; I’ve got his hat and jacket. We were talking and he said it was the second time in his life that he had had to surrender. He gave me his watch, car and radio. He’d been to New Zealand about 4-5 times. He was in the German Navy. He liked New Zealand very much. He would never surrender to the Yugoslavs, but quite happy to surrender to an organized Army, which we were. He was a hell of a nice bloke. So anyway, night got on and we couldn’t get any food, so we asked the Germans and they fed my company.

Patrick: Did your boys get along with the German soldiers?

Lloyd: Yeah well they fed them. My sergeant came to me and said “Some of the Germans are getting very drunk”. So I told the Admiral who shouted orders and the trouble finished. I was impressed with the Germans discipline, even under surrender. So I dined with the German officers and we had a discussion, it was asked, “Why did you (the Germans) start the war?” They replied, “We didn’t start the war – you did”. Technically, they were correct as they invaded Poland and England declared war on Germany . It was pure semantics.

Patrick: What was the most terrifying moment for you in Italy ?

Lloyd: There were lots of moments. The worst moment was in Casa Elto on 14 December 1944. It was a night attack and I took my reserve platoon in and we got caught in a shoe minefield. The mines were about the size of a brick and blew your legs or feet off. On my right I had Sergeant Fowke and he trod on one and died, and on my left I had a chap who also trod on one who died. As he went he said “Fuckin bar…” and he was dead. I thought, every time someone moved, someone died. Above us, there was machine guns going and I could hear the Germans whispering. It was snowing and visibility wasn’t great. There was a drain that we crawled through, we reassembled and came in the rear and cleaned them out through the rear. On this mine field we felt hopeless.

Patrick: When you were in Italy , did you ever witness quite a number of men being killed at once?

Lloyd: No. It wasn’t that sort of war. You’d do a night attack and if things went well, you’ll get 1 to 4 casualties. So if you went in with 120 men and 30 men wouldn’t turn up for breakfast that was an ordinary night. Most would be wounded. 25% dead and 35% wounded.

Patrick: Do you have any wounds?

Lloyd: Scratches, but never went out wounded. I was deaf for a week, had headaches for another week but we just carried on.

Patrick: Can you remember any Italy incidents similar to the minefield one?

Lloyd: I remember a funny story. Every night we had attacks on and this one chap would disappear but he’d always finish up at the cookhouse. We couldn’t pin desertion on him because that was very hard to prove. He’d say he got lost at night-time. We told him, if he attempted to run, we’d shoot him. Anyway, he got wounded one night in the leg and became a casualty. So the stretcher fellows put him on the stretcher and then 2 Germans came along. The stretcher fellows pointed to their Red Cross badges, but the Germans started shooting. So the stretcher fellows dropped the stretcher and started running. All of a sudden the wounded chap went running past them. So much for his wound.

Patrick: How would you describe the Kiwi soldier in one sentence?

Lloyd: In the main, we had volunteers, they were different, very disciplined more so than the Aussies. They had initiative. New Zealanders had much pride of themselves. Aussies would walk around like the owned they place; Kiwi’s would walk around and wouldn’t give a buggar who owned it.

Author Infomation

Author Patrick Bronte is a 25-year-old university student majoring in Defense and Media studies at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. In 1996 Bronte broke his neck while diving into a river, suffering injuries that left him quadrapalegic. Paralyzed from the shoulders down, he uses a motorized wheelchair and requires 24-hour attendant care.

Despite his severe physical handicap and the modest State disability pension on which to live, Bronte has endeavored to record the oral histories of his country’s last remaining veterans of World War II. Since 2001 he has been traveling all over New Zealand’s North Island seeking out and videorecording the first hand accounts of these veterans. To date, he has recorded over 150 interviews.

Recently, with the help of several volunteers, Bronte managed to launch a Website that features some of the interviews he has conducted. The Website, titled "Nga Toa: Reflections of Sacrifice," is the product of Bronte’s dedication, persistence and commitment to the veterans of World War II. The Website will be updated regularly and can be visted at; U.S. mirror site

Copyright 2006 Patrick Bronte.
All Rights Reserved – Reprinted by Armchair General with Permission

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