Divisional Cavalry Regiment (New Zealand)

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2nd New Zealand Divisional Cavalry Regiment
Active 1939–1947
Country  New Zealand
Branch Crest of the New Zealand Army.jpg New Zealand Military Forces
Type Armored Cavalry
Part of 2nd New Zealand Division
Engagements

Second World War

The Divisional Cavalry Regiment was an armored cavalry regiment of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the Second World War. The regiment was formed on 29 September 1939 and embarked for Egypt on 4 January 1940. It was part of the 2nd New Zealand Division. The regiment fought in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. The regiment also formed part of J Force, New Zealand's contribution to occupation of Japan at the end of the war.

Formation[edit]

The regiment was mobilized as part of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in September 1939. Six Bren gun carriers were the initial equipment of the regiment. The regiment was first formed between 27 and 30 September 1939 at Ngaruawahia Military Camp. No. 3 Squadron (later C Squadron) formed at Narrow Neck instead. On 30 November, the squadrons at Ngaruawahia were visited by Viscount Galway. On 4 January 1940, the regiment was embarked for Egypt aboard the troopship RMS Rangitata. The troopship arrived at Port Tewfik on 13 February and the regiment disembarked the next day. The regiment boarded trains to Maadi, where they were based. In March, twelve Bren gun carriers and five Mark III tanks arrived. Tank gunner training commenced on the range at Abbassia. The regiment participated in the brigade maneuvers at El Saff in April. On 19 June, the regiment suffered its first loss when Trooper Vincent Thompson died of meningitis.

In July, the division was sent to Mersa Matruh. The cavalry regiment, camped at Garawla, was tasked with digging the outer anti-tank ditch along the Wadi Naghamish, later known as Kiwi Canal. In the predawn darkness of 15 July, an Italian bombers attempted to bomb the NAAFI dump and were driven off by the anti-aircraft fire of the regiment. On the night of 18 July, the regimental anti-aircraft guns mistakenly fired upon a damaged Bristol Blenheim. The regiment received orders to move to Baggush and build fortifications. This movement was completed by 1 September. The next day, the regiment began constructing defenses at Maaten Baggush. The regiment finished its task and was transferred to the rear area at RAF El Daba in a week.

After Operation Compass opened on 9 December, numerous Italian M11 tanks were left behind by retreating Italians at Nibeiwa. The regiment was ordered to salvage the tanks, so on 15 December Lieutenant H.A. Robinson led a party of 25 other ranks to Nibeiwa for the task. The regiment was transferred to Helwan in January 1941. The mortally ill Pierce was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Carruth on 22 February. C Squadron, which had been in England, arrived on 5 March.

Greece[edit]

The regiment embarked for Greece on 18 March 1941 in the Greek ship Ionia with the vehicles carried on the cargo ship Anglo-Canadian. The ships arrived at Piraeus on 21 March. The troops were sent to the transit camp at Kifisia. The regiment advanced northward and reached their positions in the Aliakmon Line near Katerini on 26 March. Their mission was to destroy the Aliakmon bridges. Attacking German forces reached the regimental positions on 12 April. The next day, the Germans attempted to cross the river in assault boats several times, but were thrown back with losses. During the evening, the regiment disengaged and fell back on Kolindros. The regiment was assaulted by German tanks and infantry on 14 April. The Boys anti-tank rifles were useless against the German tanks, although Bren gun fire was effective against German infantry. When the regimental positions were flanked by tanks, the regiment retreated to Olympus Pass. The regiment was then ordered to take up positions at Dheskati Pass for a rearguard action. The positions were reached on 15 April. On the 17th, Bernard Freyberg decided to use the regiment as a screen to cover the rear of his retreating troops, so the various squadrons were dispersed to different areas. The next day, A and C Squadrons retreated from Olympus Pass after a German tank attack. Meanwhile, B Squadron fought a rearguard action at Tempe, retreating down the Volos road with the loss of several gun carriers. The regiment was united again on the Volos road, retreating to the Thermopylae Line. On 21 April, the regiment was ordered to patrol Euboea, but the regiment's vehicles were too damaged to do so. The Divisional Cavalry, less A Squadron, was instead to screen Kriekouki in a force under Lieutenant Colonel Clifton to cover the retreat of 4th Infantry Brigade. A Squadron was instead to screen the withdrawal of the British 1st Armoured Brigade at Khalkis. By the evening of the 25th, Divisional Cavalry had fulfilled its mission and retreated beyond the village of Mazi. In the evening, Divisional Cavalry was ordered to guard the Corinth Canal Bridge. A Squadron retreated with the 1st Armoured Brigade at Malakasa. A and B Squadrons retreated to Rafina beach and embarked on the supply ship Glengyle. 150 men of the regiment were left behind and were taken out by HMS Havock on the night of 27 April. C Squadron was caught in the German paratroop attack on Corinth and forced to abandon its vehicles and march to Navplion for embarkation. However, the ship they were scheduled to embark on was full, so C Squadron set off for Crete in caiques.

Crete[edit]

The evacuation of Greece divided the regiment. Regimental Headquarters and most of HQ Squadron were sent to Egypt, while most of the other three squadrons were in Crete. Altogether, 194 soldiers from the regiment were in Crete, although several wounded were evacuated to Egypt. On Crete, A, B and C squadrons trained and reequipped. The Divisional Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Major J.T. Russell and renamed Russell Force, was positioned on the road between Chania and Alikianos. Russell Force was moved to Aghya in early May 1941. German paratroops attacked Crete on 20 May. Many paratroopers landed near the Divisional Cavalry positions and were beaten back. As a result of being cut off from 10th Brigade Headquarters, Russell followed brigade commander Kippenberger's orders and withdrew to Galatas. Kippenberger sent the regiment to reinforce a Greek unit south of Galatas. At dusk, the regiment dug in near a stone wall. B Squadron held the right flank, C Squadron held the center, and A Squadron held the left with the 19th Battalion, with the Greek unit in reserve.

The brigade was strafed by German aircraft on the morning of the 21st. The 19th Battalion, supported by C Squadron and light tanks from the 3rd Hussars, assaulted Cemetery Hill, where there were two German machine guns threatening A and C Squadrons and part of 19th Battalion. Although the Germans were driven off, the 19th Battalion could not hold under heavy mortar fire and had to withdraw. Cemetery Hill thus became a no man's land. On 25 May, heavy German attacks drove British forces off Wheat Hill, exposing the center of the 18th Battalion, which fell back through Galatas. The right flank of the Divisional Cavalry and the petrol company was now exposed. The 23rd Battalion counterattacked and retook Galatas at dusk, although the 23rd withdrew during the night. Also during the night, Divisional Cavalry retreated to Church Hill, behind the positions of the 19th Battalion. At 0100 hrs on 26 May, the regiment joined the remnants of the 21st Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Allen, on the main coast road between Chania and Galatas on Hellfire Hill. At night, the force retreated to a position near Suda Bay, where the 21st Battalion took up positions on 42nd Street, with the Divisional Cavalry Regiment in reserve. At night, the regiment fell back to Stilos, arriving there at 0400 on the 28th. The regiment formed the extreme right of a defensive position with the 23rd Battalion to the left. The regiment received orders on the afternoon of the 28th to withdraw through Vrises towards Sphakia. After reaching Sphakia on the 31st, the regiment was evacuated by HMS Abdiel to Egypt on the night of the 31st and the early morning of 1 June.

North Africa and Syria[edit]

Reorganization[edit]

On 3 June, the rest of the regiment arrived at Helwan from Crete. Major Nicoll succeeded Carruth in command after the latter took command of the Composite Training Depot on 26 July. Composite Training The regiment was completed with the arrival of 14 Bren Gun Carriers on 22 August 1941, while the training of the replacements progressed. During early September, the regiment prepared for movement into the Western Desert. An advanced party, led by Major Russell, left Helwan on 14 September. The regiment garrisoned the Baggush Box during September and October. During October, 26 Mk VI light tanks were allocated to the regiment.

Operation Crusader[edit]

In early November, the Divisional Cavalry left Baggush and took the main road to Mersa Matruh. They then switched to the Siwa road past Mersa Matruh and moved south for an hour, then swung west into the desert. The regiment bivouacked at dusk and continued by stages the next day. Lieutenant Colonel Nicoll visited the headquarters of the 4th Indian Division on 9 November. Regimental Headquarters, B and C Squadrons were taken under command of the 4th Indian and advanced to Alam el Seneini the next day. A Squadron continued ten miles and was taken under command of the 4th South African Armoured Car Regiment, while HQ Squadron was 12 miles behind with the B Echelon of the South Africans. A troop of the 65th Anti-Tank Regiment and a troop of the 57th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment were placed under the control of the Divisional Cavalry. The 57th Light shot down an Italian aircraft at El Rabta on 14 November.

At dusk on 17 November, Regiment HQ and A Squadron advanced to El Beida; C Squadron bivouacked at El Rabta; B Squadron screened the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade as it advanced towards Bir Gibni. The next morning, C Squadron crossed the frontier towards Bir Gibni while Regimental Headquarters and A Squadron joined C Squadron later in the morning. B Squadron patrolled the Indian brigade's flank near Bir Gibni and was fired on by German Panzer III tanks. One Panzer III was disabled by Ordnance QF 2-pounder anti-tank guns, but was towed away by another retreating Panzer. B Squadron pulled back a mile at night and laagered, At 1500 on the 19th, the regiment advanced towards Bir Gibni with C Squadron forward and A Squadron in reserve. C Squadron reached Trigh el Abd and observed the 4th Armoured Brigade fighting a battle group from the 21st Panzer Division. B Squadron was transferred back to regimental command at the end of the 19th after providing flank support to the 7th Indian.

On the morning of the 20th B Squadron patrolled in front of the 4th Indian Division. While engaged in patrolling, a German car and its passenger were captured by B Squadron. C Squadron also patrolled closer to Bir Gibni, where they observed the tank battles in that area. The next day, XIII Corps began its drive northwards, and Divisional Cavalry advanced to Sidi Azeiz, where they captured 49 Italians from the 52nd Anti Aircraft Battery and also six German and Italian artillerymen. After the engagement at Sidi Azeiz, the regiment proceeded to Bir ez Zemla and formed a line there. The 4th Infantry Brigade arrived the next day and the 20th Battalion attacked enemy positions, while C Squadron captured several Italian machine gun posts. A Squadron captured three grounded German aircraft and some prisoners. Meanwhile, B Squadron captured five ambulance cars with their drivers. On the evening of the 22nd, the regiment's line was taken over by units of the 5th Brigade, while C Squadron was transferred to command of the 4th Infantry Brigade for its advance on Gambut. The rest of the Divisional Cavalry moved to Sidi Azeiz.

C Squadron at Gambut and Ed Duda[edit]

C Squadron, leading a brigade group, advances towards Gambut on the morning of the 23rd. On the outskirts of Gambut, the Divisional Cavalry line was stopped to allow the Matilda tanks to take the lead of the column. C Squadron was ordered to charge into Gambut when it became apparent that the enemy was retreating. The squadron pursued the enemy until the New Zealand infantry engaged the enemy, and then moved back to the Gambut aerodome. On the evening of the next day, C Squadron screened the 4th Brigade Group and advanced westward, but were recalled at dusk. On the 25th, C Squadron screened the brigade in its advance on Sidi Rezegh. The squadron captured numerous German soldiers in its screening. The squadron was then sent to guard divisional headquarters and so took no part in the continued fighting. Four Stuart tanks, captured from the British by the Germans and then recaptured, were given to C Squadron in the afternoon of the 27th.

The next day, C Squadron patrolled the Sidi Rezegh and Gambut escarpments. In the afternoon, the positions were attacked by German tanks and infantry, which were driven off. However, a number of vehicles were destroyed with the loss of some of the crews. The German column which had attacked turned north during the night and attacked Divisional Headquarters from the east. The four Stuart tanks repulsed the German assault there. 2 and 5 Troops attempted to regain the New Zealand dressing station, which had captured the night before. They withdrew, narrowly escaping encirclement by the German tanks from the 15th Panzer Division. When the remnants of the 21st Battalion were destroyed on Point 175, the New Zealand Division rear was shelled. The Ariete Armoured Division assaulted on 30 November, but were repulsed by the Divisional Artillery. The 24th Battalion and most of the 26th were overrun in the afternoon by the 15th Panzer Division.

The Germans attacked on 1 December and overran the 20th Battalion and split the 19th Battalion in half, also cutting off the 18th Battalion. The remnants of the 6th Brigade fell back through the 4th Brigade to Zaafran while the Ed Duda Corridor was closed. The division retreated, led along the Trigh Capuzzo by C Squadron, which halted at Bir Gibni at 0400 on 2 December. At noon, the squadron headed north to rejoin the rest of the regiment.

The regiment at Bardia[edit]

The two squadrons were ordered to patrol around Sidi Azeiz on 24 November, linking the 22nd Battalion and 23rd Battalion positions. On the 25th the squadrons screened the brigade against an expected German assault. On the morning of the 26th several German transport vehicles were captured when they ran into the B Squadron laager. The squadrons patrolled the same line and picked up several prisoners while patrolling. The squadrons retired in the face of a German attack on the 27th. After brigade headquarters was captured, the regiment set off to join the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade at Sidi Omar Nuovo. The regiment moved to Bir Zemla to cut Bardia's communications from the west on 1–3 December. On 3 December, an enemy column approached. The regiment retreated and led the enemy into an ambush by the 28th Maori Battalion and 22nd Infantry Battalion. C Squadron arrived on 6 December. The squadrons screened at Menastir. On 7 December, the regiment split into four mobile columns and swept westwards. The columns observed 29 tanks in a wadi near the coast. Two days later, A and C Squadrons and three anti-tank gun batteries attacked the area, which was a tank repair workshop. All of the tanks were destroyed and 30 enemy troops were captured.

Between 10 and 16 December, the regiment established a chain of posts on the roads south of Bardia to prevent Axis movements between Bardia and points south. The 2nd South African Division, supported by A and C Squadrons, unsuccessfully attacked Bardia on 16 December. The defenses were too strong for a two battalion attack, so the 2nd South African battalions retreated on the 18th. The regiment participated in a deception operation to conceal the attack on Bardia by erecting dummy tanks in the desert. On 2 January, Lieutenant E.W. Kerr accepted the surrender of the German commander, General Schmitt. HQ and B Squadrons entered Bardia after Kerr's troops and released the Allied PoWs held in Bardia. Thus, the regimental troops were the first Allied troops to enter Bardia. On 6 January 1942, the regiment left Bardia for Baggush. The regiment returned to Maadi on 23 January.

Syria[edit]

On 13 March, the regiment began its movement to Syria. The entire New Zealand Division moved to Syria to build fortifications in the Lebanon Valley to protect against an Axis attack from Turkey. The regiment was tasked with building roads at Laboue and Wadi Fa'rah, camping at Djedeida. In mid May, the road building was finished, and the regiment prepared for maneuvers with the 4th Infantry Brigade and the 6th Infantry Brigade. The exercises were completed on 1 June and the regiment returned to Djedeida for more training.

Rommel's Second Offensive[edit]

On 16 June, the regiment received orders to move to Egypt. The Divisional Cavalry arrived at Matruh on 26 June. B Squadron was sent ahead to Garawla but lost two carriers to unidentified tanks along the way. B Squadron split in the darkness. The second part proceeded to Minqar Qaim, while the first part, led by Major Sutherland, laagered in a depression and found itself surrounded by German tanks. Sutherland's vehicles broke out of the encirclement with the loss of only one soldier, who was taken prisoner. Sutherland arrived at 0800 at headquarters, where he found the rest of the squadron. B Squadron was then sent to Bir Khalda to replace the 21st Battalion there. B Squadron patrolled in that area for the rest of the day. By the evening, the division was nearly surrounded, so acting division commander Brigadier Inglis decided on a breakout to Fortress 'A", a "box" southwest of El Alamein. B Squadron retreated south along the Qattara Depression and turned north to the box.

Meanwhile, the rest of the divisional cavalry departed Matruh for Fuka on the 27th. The regiment received new Bren gun carriers at Baggush and halted at Fuka. A Squadron prepared the new carriers for battle. After a report of approaching enemy tanks, the squadrons were withdrawn back to Daba on the 28th. The regiment withdrew to Fortress A, also known as the Kaponga Box, in the afternoon. On 30 June the regiment screened to the west and south of the box. B Squadron was shelled by the enemy on 1 June and withdrew to the Deir el Munassib. The regiment probed ahead of the box and engaged the enemy. B Squadron lost one carrier to anti-tank guns on Alam Nayil ridge. The enemy was halted by a subsequent New Zealand counterattack led by Brigadier Weir. Alam Nayil was captured by Weir's force on 3 June and C Squadron was tasked with holding the ridge while Weir's force pressed ahead. After the Italian guns on the ridge were demolished, C Squadron withdrew and came under fire from Ruweisat Ridge. On 3 July, A Squadron reconnoitered around Gebel Kalakh and was ineffectually shelled by the friendly 6th Field Regiment. Two troops of A Squadron engaged an Italian truck-mounted battalion of the Trieste Division, destroying two trucks, capturing an Italian and releasing three Indian PoWs.

On 4 July, as part of a divisional attack toward Daba, the regiment was ordered to send C squadron northwest to link up with the 5th Brigade at El Mreir and then continue to Daba. C Squadron was ambushed on its way to El Mreir at 0715 and two carriers were destroyed. C Squadron was replaced by two B Squadron troops shortly after. In the afternoon, A and C Squadrons set out towards Daba, but were stopped by the onset of darkness. A Squadron approached Mungar Wahla on 5 July but was stopped by heavy enemy artillery fire and thus forced to retire back to Qaret el Yidma. A and B Squadrons patrolled 4th Brigade's front during 6 July. The next day, the division again attempted to drive toward the coast after a report that there were no enemy forces in their way. B Squadron screened 4th and 5th Brigades, but was stopped by enemy fire. A and C Squadrons were ordered into the line to probe the enemy. In the afternoon, enemy tanks attacked C Squadron but were repulsed by the anti-tank guns of the 4th Brigade. The regiment served as the rearguard for the retreat of 4th and 5th Brigades and reached Deir el Munassib on the morning of 8 July. At Deir el Munassib, the squadrons received 15 Stuarts, which were distributed among the squadrons. A Squadrons patrolled the front of 22nd Battalion during the afternoon and returned to Deir el Munassib at night. The regiment screened the front during 9–10 July and covered 5th Brigade's retreat during the night.

A and C Squadrons supported a costly abortive attack upon Ruweisat Ridge on 15 July. The regiment retreated as the division dug in at the 'boxes'. Two troops were dispatched to link up with the 18th Battalion on 22 July. They ran up against an enemy pocket and suffered the loss of one of the troop commanders. The regiment was incorporated into the New Zealand Divisional box. A and C Squadrons dug in while B Squadron patrolled south. Between 17 and 18 August A and C Squadrons were relieved by the Buffs and Royal West Kents and reverted to a mobile role.

Battle of Alam Halfa[edit]

On 31 August, the regiment was alerted of the coming German attack. B Squadron blocked a German thrust through the box minefield. B Squadron retreated after it was flanked by the enemy. Two troops from A Squadron engaged eight Italian Fiat M13/40 tanks and drove them off. Later in the morning, ten enemy tanks and two 88mm guns attacked from the Deir el Muhafid. The enemy force was repulsed by artillery fire from the 26th Battery. The regiment patrolled along the northern flank on 3 September. During the New Zealand Division attack against the enemy line of retreat, the regiment was the mobile reserve. It was to follow 132nd Brigade and advance to Deir Alinda to destroy enemy motorized transport. However, the 132nd Brigade was stopped and the regiment could not reach its objectives. The regiment was then moved back to the box.

Battle of El Alamein[edit]

The regiment moved rearward on 10 September for leave in Cairo. The regiment conducted maoeuvers with the division during September and returned to Burg el Arab. Colonel Nicoll was beaten up on 5 October by a group of drunken soldiers at Maadi, where he had gone to arrange replacements. Nicoll was evacuated and replaced by Sutherland. A total of 23 carriers arrived from workshops with new equipment on 11 October. The regiment advanced to El Hammam on 19 October in preparation for Operation Lightfoot. The regiment was notified of the operation on 20 October. The regiment was planned to attack the enemy rear behind the Armoured Brigade. The regiment moved forward to El Imayid the next day. On 22 October, the regiment moved to its starting position at Alam el Onsol.

The advance began at night on 23 October. The regiment advanced on a designated track during the artillery barrage. At daybreak, the regiment stopped at Miteiriya Ridge because the 6th Infantry Brigade was unable to clear lanes through the minefield. A gap was made in the evening and B and C Squadrons advanced, screening the 9th Armoured Brigade. After going through the minefield, the squadrons were hit by anti-tank fire and stopped. Five tanks and four carriers were destroyed with a total loss of ten killed.

The next day, the regiment was withdrawn and became part of the Divisional Reserve at Alam el Onsol. Orders arrived for a forward advance on 30 October for Operation Supercharge. The regiment was placed under the command of the 9th Armoured Brigade on 1 November and each of the squadrons were attached to an armoured unit. A Squadron was attached to the 3rd Hussars, C Squadron to the Warwickshire Yeomanry and B Squadron to the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry. The assault was launched the next day. The detached squadrons were ordered to serve as a screen across the minefields for the armoured brigade. The 3rd Hussars reached the Rahman track, but lost all of their anti-tank guns. The Wiltshire Yeomanry lost an entire Crusader squadron to anti-tank fire and was nearly destroyed by the end of the day. B Squadron suffered four killed from anti-tank fire as it moved forward behind the Wiltshires. The Warwickshires meanwhile mistook high ground for their objective and destroyed numerous anti-tank guns there. At the end of the day, the regiment, excepting C Squadron, returned to Alam el Onsol.

The regiment resumed the offensive on 4 November. The regiment advanced southwest against the fleeing Axis and finished the day at Agramiya. The regiment advanced on the division's northern flank the next day. The regiment screened the New Zealand Division at the recaptured of the Baggush Box on 6 November. The regiment then set off towards Mersa Matruh on the coast road and the escarpment, in contact with 9th Armoured Brigade. The regiment finally halted at Gambut on 13 November and departed eastward to Menastir on 19 November.

Battle of El Agheila[edit]

The regiment spent the first three weeks of the pursuit camped around Bardia. On 2 December, as part of the outflanking move around El Agheila, the regiment started a weeklong drive on transporters to El Haseiat, which was reached on 10 December. The regiment unloaded its vehicles and continued the flanking movement. On 14 December, the regiment was put under the command of the 4th Light Armoured Brigade, which it spent the night with. C Squadron screened the brigade in the morning. By 1600 the next day, the regiment had drawn away from the brigade as C Squadron reached the escarpment. The German 15th Panzer Division was immobile along the road due to fuel shortages and was targeted by the regiment. During the night the regiment pulled back and laagered, while the Germans retreated. At 0545 the next day, Headquarters XXX Corps ordered the division to destroy the enemy. The regiment was told to expect and attack from the east by a hundred tanks. The Divisional Cavalry Regiment was to move back southwest along the line of its previous advance to come into its planned position. When the regiment had gone back six miles, it ran into an equally surprised German column. A Squadron engaged the enemy as the rest of the regiment hastily withdrew. In the evening, the regiment advanced another mile west and laagered.

On the 17th, the regiment provided a guard for the northern flank of the brigade in its advance on Nofilia. In doing this, B and C Squadrons engaged the enemy rear guard and knocked out one Panzer III at the loss of two carriers. The brigade failed to capture Nofilia and cut the road due to heavy opposition. As a result, the enemy escaped in the night. The regiment was to camp at Nofilia for a week. C Squadron was dispatched to guard the airfield at Sultan with a detachment of engineers to clear mines. The minefield was cleared by 23 December when A Squadron replaced C Squadron. In late December, 18 new carriers arrived and the regiment prepared for another advance.

Advance on Tripoli[edit]

Between 8 and 9 January 1943, the regiment once again advanced. The 'A' vehicles were loaded at Nofilia on transporters, which drove down the main road. The rest of the regiment advanced and simultaneously conducted divisional manoeuvres. The 'A' vehicles were unloaded near Wadi Bei el Chebir, east of the expected enemy rearguard near Wadi Temet. The regiment joined the vehicles on 14 January. The next day, A Squadron crossed the road and was shelled by AT guns and artillery, stopping it until the afternoon. B Squadron meanwhile probed south but also ran into enemy anti-tank guns. A Stuart from B Squadron knocked out one of the AT guns and B Squadron advanced through the enemy line, dislodging multiple AT guns and destroying a half track. C Squadron tried to break through the German center in the afternoon but were unable to do so. During the night, the Germans withdrew. On 16 January, the regiment advanced to high ground above the airstrip at Sedada, losing a tank and carrier during the day. C Squadron advanced down the plateau in the darkness and lost one carrier to a mine on the trail. The regiment found an alternate route and finished the day in Wadi Merdum. On 18 January, the regiment advanced through rugged country towards Beni Ulid. The regiment eventually finished the day in Beni Ulid. The regiment advanced towards Tarhuna on the 19th and bivouacked halfway there. The next day, the regiment discovered a route through the hills north of the road.

On the 21st, the regiment moved out of the hills. C Squadron directed artillery fire on enemy rearguard units, causing them to retreat. On the morning of the 22nd, A and B Squadrons advanced west and then north after crossing the Garian road. They were stopped at Azizia by determined enemy resistance. The enemy in the village retreated at the night, and the regiment found an empty village in the morning. The regiment raced down the road and ended the day four miles from Tripoli. The regiment was transferred to Bianchi and stayed there for a week. The regiment next encamped around Castel Benito. On 28 January, Lieutenant Colonel Sutherland departed for New Zealand and was replaced by Bonifan. In February, the regiment spent time unloading supplies from landing craft in Tripoli.

Tunisia[edit]

The Divisional Cavalry Regiment left Castel Benito on 2 March as part of Montgomery's offensive against the Mareth Line. On 3 March, the regiment was in Tunisia and camped near the road at Medenine. The next morning, the regiment was put under command of the 4th Light Armoured Brigade in preparation for an enemy assault. The regiment moved forward behind the 5th New Zealand Brigade positions. After Rommel's failed assault on the Allied positions, A Squadron was sent south and probed the eastern end of the hills while B and C Squadrons harassed the enemy retreat on 7 March. The regiment patrolled the area between the 11th Hussars and the Free French Flying Column for the next five days. The regiment moved back to Foum Tatahouine on 13 March, where the New Zealand Division assembled for a flanking movement on the enemy inland flank. The regiment advanced southwest and then north, guarding the division's right flank. On 21 March contact was made with the enemy and elements of the division attacked during the night. C Squadron moved forward behind the infantry in the morning. C Squadron was stopped by shellfire near Point 201, an elevation on the current battlefield. As the shelling decreased, A Squadron and the HQ Squadron came up to the C Squadron positions. B Squadron arrived from patrolling during the night, the regiment laagering behind Point 201. During the morning of 23 March, B and C Squadrons advanced slightly forward and captured fifteen 77mm guns and several prisoners. Between 24 and 26 March the regiment patrolled on the left flank of the line in preparation for an assault on the enemy by 1st Armoured Division. When the close air support preparation for the assault began, the regiment marked the bomb line with smoke canisters. When the ground assault began, the regiment advanced on the flank. The regiment laagered next to the Kebili-El Hamma road during the night.

On the 27th, B and C Squadrons made contact with 1st Armoured Division. On the 28th, the regiment kept contact with the retreating enemy and entered Gabes the next day. The regiment stopped at a wadi to find a place where the division could cross on a nine vehicle front. A place was located on the 30th and C Squadron pressed ahead until it was near the Wadi Akarit. Wadi Akarit was strongly defended, so the regiment patrolled and probed the enemy until 5 April, pending an attack by the XXX Corps infantry. The 2nd New Zealand was to be in reserve for exploiting the attack. The assault did not break through on the first day because of enemy resistance. In the morning, the assault succeeded and the division pursued. The regiment moved forward with the division, capturing 1,300 PoWs. On 8 April, the regiment became part of a battlegroup consisting of the 8th Armoured and 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigades, and the KDG. The regiment advanced another 20 miles during the day before being halted in the afternoon. It resumed its advance in the evening and was at the head of the division late at night. The next day, the regiment guarded the eastern flank of the advance. It was ordered not to attack any formidable enemy forces. The advance towards Sousse was resumed on 10 April. A and B Squadrons advanced to El Djem during the day. The regiment pursued the fleeing enemy at dawn and was past Sousse by 0830. A Squadron advanced up the main road as B and C Squadrons swung west. The regiment was within 10 miles of Enfidaville by 13 April. The regiment probed the enemy until 19 April, when it was in readiness to exploit a breakthrough in the offensive, but no advance by the regiment took place.

The regiment left the combat area on 24 April and was sent back to a rest area on 26 April. The regiment moved forward to the positions west of Enfidaville on 4 May. On 8 May the regiment moved to positions near Enfidaville to exploit a breakthrough by tanks the next day. However, the assault did not happen since First Army launched a drive across Tunisia. The Axis forces in North Africa surrendered on 13 May. On 16 May, the regiment began its movement back to Maadi and arrived there on 1 June. Many soldiers in the regiment were sent back to New Zealand for leave. These arrived back in July, as well as replacements. On 5 July, new weapons were issued and the regiment began training on the range. A month later, the first Staghound armored cars arrived. Five troops in each squadron were equipped with the T17s and one troop in each squadron was equipped with the Daimler Dingo scout car. On 17 September the regiment moved to Burg el Arab. The regiment embarked for Italy starting on 17 September and arrived there shortly after. By 1 November, all of the regimental equipment had arrived and the regiment moved up to Altamura.

Italy[edit]

The regiment formed the Eighth Army reserve several miles north of Lucera, near the Foggia Airfield Complex, starting on 4 November. On 12 November, the regiment left Lucera for the front and arrived at Cupello in the afternoon. The regiment was to guard a bridge over the Sinello River below the village of Gissi. At 0900, the regiment moved out to its new positions 20 miles forward. Moving through sleet and rough mountainous terrain, the trip took all day. A Squadron guarded the bridge while the regiment bivouacked. On 18 November, B Squadron guarded the left flank of the division southwest of Atessa. C Squadron and RHQ advanced ten miles forward to the village of Monte Marconi on 20 November. Meanwhile, A and B Squadrons were sent back to Carpineto Sinello in the reserve. C Squadron made contact with the V Corps (United Kingdom), although only on foot as the road was demolished in three places.

In the planned offensive on the Sangro, C Squadron was to follow the 19th Armoured Regiment in its advance at 0300. The tanks successfully forced the river but were not effective because of the mud. As a result of the muddy ground, C Squadron stayed on the other bank. Meanwhile, B Squadron advanced to Monte Marconi. Three troops of C Squadron was finally able to cross the river by the afternoon of 29 November. One of these troops was ordered to advance to Elici. A second troop was to make contact with the 8th Indian Infantry Division at La Defenza. However, the routes were blocked with mines and so the troops spent the night at 23rd Battalion Headquarters. In the morning, the mines were cleared and the second troop contacted the Indians and advanced east of Elici. The first troop was held up by shelling south of Elici.

Three troops of B Squadron attempted to probe Casoli, but failed because the bridges over the river had been destroyed and instead sent out a foot patrol. C Squadron advanced forward of Elici after it was abandoned by the enemy. The New Zealand Engineers constructed a Bailey bridge over the river, allowing B Squadron to cross on 1 December. The next day, B Squadron attempted to capture Guardiagrele, but was repulsed by fire from anti-tank guns. Two troops of C Squadron entered Castelfrentano and joined with the tanks of the 18th Armoured Regiment. On 4 December, A and B Squadrons attempted to find a way through Frisa. The squadrons attempted to work to the right for an easier approach towards Arielli. The division was to attack on the Orsogna Road and contain the 26th Panzer Division. On 1 January 1944, B Squadron was sent forward as infantry to take over the sector between San Eusanio and Guardiagrele. B Squadron was relieved there on 19 January and the regiment moved back across the Sangro for another sector.

The New Zealand Division became a corps after reinforcement by the 4th Indian Division. The regiment was posted around the village of Raviscanina above the Volturno River. The regiment arrived there on 22 January and moved forward to an assembly area at Stazione di Toro on 6 February. On 9 February, the regiment replaced the 21st Battalion on the Rapido opposite Sant Angelo. During the Maori Battalion's assault on Monte Cassino, the regiment laid down a mortar barrage on its own front to screen the Maoris with smoke. The regiment moved out of the line to Monte Trocchio on 23 February and was relieved by the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment from the 78th British Division. On 15 March, the Monte Cassino assault resumed. C Squadron kept the Route 6 bridge over the Rapido shrouded from German observation with smoke. The regiment pulled out of the line on 20 March. It took up the New Zealand Division's new left flank along the Gari River. The regiment was finally relieved on 9 April 1944 by the 22nd Battalion.

The regiment rested around Filignano and Montaquila. Two troops of C Squadron were positioned along the Venafro-Atina road while the rest of the regiment built the road between Filignano and Montaquila. On 18 April, Bonifant left for New Zealand and was replaced by second-in-command Major Wilder. On 10 May, the final offensive against the Gustav Line began. The regiment was combined with 22nd Battalion, 24th Battalion and No.2 Company of the 27th Machine Gun Battalion to become Pleasants Force. Pleasants Force was to take over the positions of the Kimberley Rifles. By 26 June, the enemy was retreating, so the regiment retrieved its vehicles and drove up the valley to Atina. The regiment passed through Atina in the evening and was stopped by opposition at Vicalvi. On 29 June, Vicalvi was captured by the 21st Battalion and the regiment was able to advance through the town. Since the bridge over the Fibreno River had been destroyed, B Squadron guarded the site while two troops found their way across and provided a flank guard for the Maori Battalion. C Squadron stayed in Vicalvi on the 31st. Meanwhile. A Squadron held Posta until the RAF Regiment replaced it. B Squadron moved up to Sora once the bridge was completed. On 1 June, B Squadron advanced toward Isola del Liri, which was captured by the 8th Indian Infantry Division. A Squadron was transferred to 5th Brigade to advance with it in the pursuit, while the rest of the regiment laagered on the Fibreno.

On 5 June, the main part of the regiment was combined with two companies of infantry and a squadron of tanks to form Wilder Force, which was to take over the front from 5 Brigade. A Squadron pushed up the valley while Wilder Force advanced behind through Balsorano. After the enemy had retreated to their next line of defense, the New Zealand Division withdrew to Arce for training. The regiment moved forward again on 10 July. Between 11–12 July, the regiment advanced to Cortona. B Squadron was transferred to 6th Brigade and sent forward to Castiglion Fiorentino to clear the road between Castiglion and Palazzo del Pero. The road was opened by the 6th Armoured and the crossroads on Route 73 was reached on 15 July. The New Zealand Division moved to capture Florence. The regiment advanced west to Siena and then turned north to Castellina. A Squadron supported the 23rd and 28th Battalions advancing on San Casciano. The remainder of the regiment arrived at San Donato by 22 July. On 24 July, C Squadron combined with A Squadron of the 19th Armoured, No 2 Company of the 22nd battalion and 1st Troop of the 31st Anti-tank battery to form 'Armcav'. The force advanced on 25 July and took Fabbrica and then advanced toward Bibbione. Bibbione was taken against increasingly heavy opposition the next day while the other two squadron supported the Maori Battalion. Armcav was disbanded on 27 July and C Squadron remained under command of 4th Armoured Brigade.

San Casciano was captured shortly after and the final assault on Florence began on 1 August. A Squadron was in reserved while B Squadron patrolled northward. C Squadron advanced on Geppetto, covering the left flank of 6th Brigade. Geppetto was captured the next morning and C Squadron patrolled forward to San Michele. B Squadron advanced with the Maori Battalion and finished the day with that unit. In the morning, B Squadron once again advanced with the Maoris. Meanwhile, C Squadron moved west on Route 67 until stopped by opposition near Grioli. A Squadron advanced to Scandicci in the afternoon as Florence fell.

The New Zealand Division was temporarily taken out of the line. To cover the replacement by Fifth Army, B Squadron was attached to 4th Brigade, C Squadron attached to the 5th Brigade and A Squadron attached to 6th Brigade. On the morning of 11 August, C Squadron provided support to the 23rd Battalion advance from Emboli to the Arno River. B Squadron was positioned in San Vito while A Squadron was positioned behind the Pesa River. The regiment withdrew to the divisional area near Castellina on 16 August. In the last week of August, the regiment moved with the division to Iesi on the Adriatic. The regiment arrived there on 29 August and was transferred to Fano on 5 September. The regiment moved back into the line on 22 September at Rimini. The regiment advanced along Route 16 towards Ravenna. Another Wilder Force was formed on 3 October by the dismounted regiment and a machine gun platoon. Wilder Force was able to cross the Fiumicino River starting on 15 October. On 19 October, Wilder Force was dissolved and the regiment returned to its vehicles. On 21 October, B and C Squadrons attempted to secure the area around Pisignano. The squadrons were within a mile of the town by the end of the day. Pisignano was strongly held by the enemy, so the 22nd Battalion came forward as the squadrons withdrew.

The regiment withdrew to Cesolo, near San Severino, 60 miles in the rear. The regiment was also converted to infantry as its light armored vehicles were considered unsuitable for Italy's climate. The battalion spent a month retraining as infantry and departed Cesolo on 24 November. The New Zealand Division was placed under the command of V Corpsfor the crossing of the Lamone River and the capture of Faenza. The regiment became part of 6 Brigade, operating in the sector facing the Lamone opposite Faenza. The small front of the brigade was held by 26 Battalion. The 24th and 25th Battalions were scheduled to replace 26 Battalion next, while the regiment was to replace them. The regiment camped in Forli while waiting to take over positions. On 2 December, the regiment took over the positions. The division mounted a simulated attack to support the British 46th Division's crossing of the Lamone with an artillery barrage and tank fire. After 5th Brigade moved south to take over 46th Division positions, 6th Brigade moved west to take over the 5th Brigade sector. The regiment was now opposite Faenza. A and B Squadrons moved to the rear after being relieved by the British 4th Reconnaissance Regiment. C Squadron laid smoke to cover the crossing of 4th Brigade tanks over the Lamone on 13 December. The attack on Faenza began the next day. The Maori and 23rd Battalions were on there objectives by the 15th, but enemy holdouts continued to resist in the town. The regiment entered Faenza in the afternoon and camped there until 27 December, when it replaced 26 Battalion on the Senio. On the night of 1–2 January 1945, the Maori Battalion relieved the regiment, which moved to Forli. The regiment returned to the front after a week and took up positions of the 25th Battalion, which it further fortified against a possible German counterattack. The regiment was relieved by the 25th Battalion on 21 January and returned to Forli. The regiment became part of the newly formed 9th Brigade. In April, the 9th Brigade was the divisional reserve for Operation Buckland, the final offensive in Italy. The regiment provided protections for engineers bridging the Senio. Once the bridges were finished, the regiment covered the open flank around Barbiano resulting from the 3rd Carpathian Division not having advanced there yet. The regiment then attacked Massa Lombarda in preparation for a crossing of the Sillaro River. The regiment boarded Kangaroo APCs and moved forward. The presence of Tiger tanks forced the regiment to dismount and dig in. The Tigers were then knocked out by Allied artillery. A and C Squadrons supported the 22nd Battalion attacking Squazzaloca. The regiment reached the Sillaro river and crossed it by first light. The regiment was relieved by the 27th Battalion on 15 April. D Squadron cleared Sesto Imolese of enemy troops while A and B Squadrons protected the left flank. During 16–17 April, the regiment protected the right flank behind 22 Battalion. The attack across the Gaiana began with a massive artillery barrage on the night of 18 April. The regiment crossed the river unopposed but were counterattacked once out of the barrage area. Advancing against stiff enemy resistance, A and C Squadrons were on the far side of the Quaderna Canal by 0130 on 19 April. The regiment dug in there and resisted enemy counterattacks. In the assault, 11 men from the regiment were killed and 47 wounded.

The regiment was relieved by the 23rd Battalion and moved back to Medicina. After two days of rest there, the brigade moved back to the front lines behind the Allied advance towards the Po. The regiment was seven miles north of Bologna by the first night back, when it was bombed by an enemy aircraft, wounding four men. By the next day, the regiment was on the banks of the Reno. The regiment crossed the Po after the rest of the brigade on 26 April. After its advance was stopped by the Fratta Canal, the regiment moved east to Ospedaletto. A and C Squadrons cleared Ospedaletto of the enemy rearguard, taking fifty prisoner. The regiment bypassed scattered German units and raced for Padua in the night. The regiment reached Padua around midnight and was greeted by jubilant Italian crowds. On 29 April, a shell struck regimental headquarters, wounding Lieutenant Colonel Wilder and killing two, who were the last men killed in action during the war. Wilder was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Tanner and the regiment advanced again at midday on Route 11 towards Venice. The regiment encountered its last strong German resistance in Mira. No. 12 Troop was debussed and flanked the German positions, capturing 140 and killing around 20. The regiment raced on, changing roads to Route 14 heading for Trieste. The regiment was ferried over the Piave on 30 April. The regiment was at Monfalcone, controlled by the Yugoslav partisans, by the end of 1 May. Trieste was reached the next day and the regiment camped just beyond the city. The regiment was relieved on 6 May by a battalion of the 363rd Infantry Regiment of the 91st Division and moved to Barcola.

Japan[edit]

After the Japanese capitulation on 15 August, it was decided to send 9th Brigade to Japan for occupation duty as part of J Force. The regiment embarked for Kure on 21 February and reached its destination on 19 March. The regiment relieved the 67th Australian Battalion on Eta-Jima on 23 March. The regiment was billeted in the buildings of Naval Academy Etajima. After fully patrolling the island, the regiment was replaced by the Royal Welch Fusiliers and moved to Hirao. Lieutenant Colonel Worsnop took command of the regiment on 28 June 1946. The regimental flag was lowered for the last time on 5 August 1947 and the regiment was disbanded on 1 September 1947,[1] after nearly eight years of existence.

Commanders[edit]

The following officers commanded the Divisional Cavalry Regiment:[2]

  • Lieutenant Colonel C. J. Pierce (29 September 1939 – 22 February 1941)
  • Lieutenant Colonel H. G. Carruth (22 February 1941 – 26 July 1941)
  • Lieutenant Colonel A.J. Nicoll (26 July 1941 – 5 October 1942)
  • Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Sutherland (5 October 1942 – 28 January 1943)
  • Lieutenant Colonel I.L. Bonifan (28 January 1943 – 18 April 1944)
  • Lieutenant Colonel N.P. Wilder (18 April 1944 – 6 January 1945)
  • Lieutenant Colonel J.R. William (6 January 1945 – 29 April 1945)
  • Lieutenant Colonel V.J. Tanner (29 April 1945 – 7 August 1945)
  • Lieutenant Colonel D Macintyre (7 August 1945 – 28 June 1946)
  • Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Worsnop (28 June 1946 – 3 May 1947)
  • Lieutenant Colonel McQueen (3 May 1947 – 1 September 1947)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Loughnan, R.J.M. (1963). Divisional Cavalry. Wellington: War History Branch. p. 424. 
  2. ^ Loughnan, R.J.M. (1963). Divisional Cavalry. Wellington: Historical Publications Branch. p. 431. 

Sources[edit]

  • Loughnan, R.J.M. (1963). Divisional Cavalry. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45. Wellington, New Zealand. War History Branch. OCLC 560656888