22nd Battalion (New Zealand)
|Branch||New Zealand Military Forces|
|Part of||5th Brigade, 2nd Division|
|Motto||Vrai et fort, Second to none|
The 22nd Battalion, also known as the "Wellington Battalion", was an infantry battalion of the New Zealand Military Forces, which served during the Second World War. It fought in the Battles of Greece and Crete and in the campaigns in North Africa and Italy, as well as a period serving as garrison troops in Syria. After the war, it performed occupation duties in Japan until it was disbanded in 1948.
The 22nd Battalion was formed at Trentham Camp in November 1939, one of several battalions being raised for service overseas as part of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The majority of its personnel were drawn from the Wellington region. Its first commander was Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Andrew, a Victoria Cross recipient from the First World War. He trained his new command hard and quickly earned the nickname of February due to his habit of issuing 28-day detentions for any breaches in discipline.
Greece and Crete
The battalion embarked for England in May 1940 as part of 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd New Zealand Division. Arriving in June, it spent the remainder of the year on garrison duties in the south of England. In March 1941, it travelled for Egypt and then onto Greece. It saw little action in the Battle of Greece and was evacuated to Crete. During the subsequent Battle of Crete it was tasked with the defence of Maleme airfield and the overlooking hill, Point 107. Forced to disperse the companies of his battalion widely to cover his positions, Andrew lost contact with most of his units after German paratroopers began landing in the area on 20 May. Failing to receive any support from his brigade commander following a request for assistance, and fearing most of his command overrun after a failed counterattack by his small reserve, he withdrew his remaining units. As it happened, most of his forward companies remained intact and were subsequently able to withdraw after finding they had been abandoned. Andrew was criticised for his withdrawal, which led to the loss of Maleme airfield. This was a significant factor in allowing the German forces to become established on Crete. He and the surviving elements of his battalion were later evacuated from Crete.
North Africa, Syria and Italy
The battalion's casualties during the war amounted to 282 men killed in action or died of wounds, 799 wounded and 511 captured as prisoners of war.
Occupation duties in Japan
After the war, the 22nd Battalion formed part of New Zealand's contribution to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. Arriving on 22 March 1946, the battalion was assigned to the Yamaguchi province in southern Honshu. While deployed to Japan, the battalion was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment on 7 August 1947. The battalion was disbanded in 1948.
Sergeant Keith Elliott was the 22nd Battalion's sole Victoria Cross recipient during the Second World War, receiving the award for actions around Ruweisat, Egypt, on 15 July 1942. Other decorations bestowed upon members of the 22nd Battalion included two Distinguished Service Orders, seven Distinguished Conduct Medals, one Member of the Order of the British Empire, 12 Military Crosses and one bar, 14 Military Medals and one Greek Military Cross.
The following officers served as commanding officer of 22nd Battalion:
- Lieutenant Colonel L. W. Andrew, VC (January 1940 – February 1942);[Note 1]
- Lieutenant Colonel J. T. Russell (February 1942 – September 1942);
- Lieutenant Colonel T. C. Campbell (September 1942 – April 1944);
- Lieutenant Colonel D. G. Steele (April–May 1944);
- Lieutenant Colonel H. V. Donald (May–November 1944; March–August 1945);
- Lieutenant Colonel A. W. F. O'Reilly (November 1944 – March 1945);
- Major R. H. Spicer (August–October 1945);
- Lieutenant Colonel W. B. Thomas (October 1945 – November 1946);
- Lieutenant Colonel G. M. McCaskill (November 1946 – August 1947).
- Andrew later achieved the rank of brigadier.
- Henderson 1958, pp. 1–2.
- Henderson 1958, pp. 9–10.
- McGibbon 2000, p. 17.
- Henderson 1958, p. 474.
- Henderson 1958, p. 450.
- Henderson 1958, p. 460.
- Mills, T.F. "Index of the Regiments and Corps of New Zealand". Land Forces of Britain, The Empire and Commonwealth. Regiments.org. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Lineham, Peter. "Elliott, Keith". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Henderson 1958, p. 475.
- Henderson 1958, p. 476.
- Henderson 1958, p. 1.
- Henderson, Jim (1958). 22 Battalion. The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945. Wellington, New Zealand: Historical Publications Branch.
- McGibbon, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558376-0.