Post by Dave Homewood on Mar 9, 2011 0:37:28 GMT 12
Firstly, did kiwi soldiers or at least section leaders/platoon commanders have to fill out combat reports afetr every skirmish in WWII, like aircrew members had to?
If yes, do such reports still exist? And if they do, how and where does a researcher gain access to them?
I would be keen to find a few combat reports for some battles that my uncle was in. He's told me all about them, but it would be great to get details from the paperwork to back it up, with things like the full names of the soldiers involved, etc. ratehr than just his memories of Fitz, Abdul, Jock and Sandy.
I believe the closest you will get are the unit dairies. I have researched a few specific incidents for a friend and found every thing he wanted - names, dates, maps and full description mind you they were pretty unique incidents - NZ Shermans versus Tiger tanks in Italy.
Post by Dave Homewood on Mar 9, 2011 18:07:11 GMT 12
Thanks Paul. Where are the Unit Diaries kept? Wellington National Archives? or Waiouru?
The two events I am particularly interested inshould be in the Unit Diaries. One was the night patrol that took the first prisoner at Cassino, which my Uncle personally captured. He also rescued their officer and carried him back too before going back for the prisoner. The incident is mentioned in the Official History but only mentions the officer's name of course. This is the extract from the OH of 21 Battalion:
"While Abbott was searching for the missing men, Second-Lieutenant Fitzgibbon with a three-man patrol from D Company, was returning from the river bank. His party spotted an enemy patrol returning home and deployed across the track they were both using. When the Germans, dispersed and in line, were close enough the patrol opened fire, and a confused fight followed until the New Zealanders ran out of ammunition, whereupon they retired.
The firing and yelling was close to B Company's outposts, page 312 and Major Hawkesby sent Second-Lieutenant Burton with his platoon forward to investigate. They saw the patrol coming in and covered them until they were in safety, for not only were the patrollers out of ammunition but they were helping Fitzgibbon, who had been wounded in the skirmish. They had also picked up a German anxious to surrender. He had been moving cautiously around calling ‘Kamerad’ and had volunteered the information that his party was twelve strong. Later two more wounded Germans were found in front of B Company, which suggested that the New Zealand patrol had had the better of the argument.
Fitzgibbon was not badly hurt and was soon back with D Company. His binoculars were picked up the next night, and their condition explained why he had complained of a pain in the chest when there were no signs of a wound: one barrel contained a piece of hand grenade and the other was full of powdered glass and a spandau bullet."
So that is the official version. My uncle tells it with much more detail from his vivid memory. He said Fitz, the officer, wanted to check out the bend in the Rapido River with the intention of trying to bridge it. He says there were five on the patrol, not four as the OH states. Fitz took 'Sandy' with him to look at the lie of the land for the bridge. Uncle Ted was left with Abdul (nicknamed as he had a big black moustache like an Arab's) and Jock. Abdul had a Bren gun while the rest had Tommy guns. He reckons Fitz spent two hours looking over the river bank in detail. They were finally withdrawing and Uncle Ted (aka Bluey) volunteered to be arse end Charlie. He said they suddenly heard the Germans, their Spandau belts clanking. He was 200 yards behind the others and closer to the bank as they were making their way back from the river. Suddenly the Spandau opened up from the other side of the river and he said a leafless tree above him started to fly apart as the shells ripped into it. He then saw a German running along the bank on the other side towards the water and realised that if he got across they'd be had it. So Bluey jumped into the freezing river up to his neck, swam across to where there was a tree, and in the water he fired on the Jerry, and got him, wounding him. The Jerry began yelling out and the officer further away could be heard yelling orders. Next thing another Jerry appears, bends over the first and wham, Bluey got him too. Thena third the same way. At that point he had to change his magazine with freezing wet hands which was not easy. He made for his bank and the others, who'd also been firing at the Jerries, were now scarpering. Bluey had to scramble up a mud bank, which was very difficult whilst under fire, wet and cold. He made it, and sprinted till he caught the others. It was then he realised Fitz wasn't with them. One of the others said he was hit. Bluey said 'We're not going woithout Fitz,' so off he and Sandy went back down. They founf him in a shell jole unconscious and with a broken jaw, Bluey told me. He does not know how he did it now but he picked Fitz up over his shoulder (Bluey's a really little chap by the way) and ran up the road with him till they reached the B Company HQ. Inside was Major Brian 'Bunny" Abbot and Sgt Alf Voss. The guys got Fitz to some help and then Bluey reported what had happened. Bunny Abbott asked if Bluey thought they could go back and get a prisoner. Bluey said it was a piece of cake as the Germans seemed to be in disarray and he asked if he could take Sandy, which the Major said ok to. So the two headed back down to the river. By now the B Company guys were around as the OH says (Bluey and his boys were D Company). He aksed an officer for a section to attack the Germans with as he was convinced they could take the Spandau out, but the officer said no, and that he had no authority (Bluey was a L/Sgt at that stage). So Bluey and Sandy did it on their own. They went back across the river and only just got there when they bumped into a german who said "Comerade!" Bluey's reply was "Stick 'em up you rotten bastard!" Sandy then clocked the german across the chin but Bluey said "Don't knock him out, we don't want to have to carry him." Anyway he came quietly after a few more thumps and kicks from the two kiwis, and they were marching him back up their side of the bank when the Germans began shelling with mortars as the Spandau section was withdrawing. Bluey and Sandy dived in a ditch and the German in beside them. After it was over Sandy pointed out the Jerry could have legged it, or killed them both as they were face down in the ditch, but he didn't. He was happy to come along with them. When they got him back to the HQ the german turned out to be most chatty about his work. He was an engineering officer and he proudly told the intelligence people of all the fortifications and mines he'd been installing along the german front. So the Allies were most happy with Bluey's and Sandy's work. He says the next day the section got a letter of commendation from Kippenberger for their fine work in capturing the German, but it was solely Bluey's and Sandy's work really. Funny how neither is mentioned in the OH.
The other incident I'd love to look into more is the battle at Hotel de Roses. The Sgt who got a DCM for his bravery in that event was in fact under a table the whole time panicking, and it was the L/Sgt Bluey who had to organise eveything to get the platoon the hell out of there. Their other better sgt had left to take prisoners back to HQ, which should never have happened, and their officer was wounded with three bullets in each arm. So really Bluey was in charge of the tactical withdrawal that got his platoon out, whilst the other platoon "comeraded to a man" as he puts it. The OH does not reflect any of this.
He says when the author was writing the OH Bluey kept getting letters asking for him to write this stuff down, and as he was busy on his farm and with a young family, he didn't have time so threw the letters in the bin. He wishes that he had put the record straight now on this as a certain Sgt comes off smelling of roses. Bluey said straight after the battle that Sgt was sent home, so the higher powers knew what really went on.
If it was in the Official History then there is a good chance that there may be more than just the Unit Diary as the corrospondance files for all(?) of the OH are in the NA Wellington. As you have explained they tried to get verification of critical information from multiple sources and all resonses are filed. The problem is different people could describe the same incident in different ways and some personnel who they believed were key witnesses simply refused to respond like Bluey. The files often note the writers concerns on the accuracy of uncoroborated accounts they have.
Last Edit: Mar 9, 2011 22:02:36 GMT 12 by 30sqnatc
Post by Dave Homewood on Mar 9, 2011 22:17:17 GMT 12
Yes, I can see doing something like that ten years or so later would have been a bit of a nightmare. But hey, I'm trying to do that same thing with the GR and BR Squadrons 70 years later, when most of the witnesses are dead. Now that is not easy! ;D