Chapter 2 Rank brings Resonsibilty
Part 5 Soft Ground
373649 Arthur H Paddison, 2nd Field Regiment, NZA
A wide selection of occupations was represented in the battery, many being office-wallahs and salesmen of sorts, the odd businessman, mechanics and truckies. I can't remember what all my crew did for a crust, but we rubbed along reasonably well for starters and gradually developed the confidence in one another that makes a for a competent fighting unit.
Our driver Ray, like most, had only limited driving experience of light vehicles and that on tar-sealed roads.
Cross-country is a thing apart, and keeping out of trouble called for good quick judgement and a willingness by the No 1 to get off his backside and run ahead and reconnoitre the ground closely: sitting in the cab and letting the driver work it out by himself was not my idea of things. Getting stuck invariably involves a lot of hard spade work and pushing and shoving.
I subscribed to the view that the Good Lord gave us brains to save our backs, and once off the road or track, I almost always ran ahead to see what the going was like and what sort of a mess the leading guns had made, before committing my tractor.
Being No 3 quite often meant that the leading guns were in trouble because many officers and ncos had absolutely no experience of soft ground and how quickly it could become impassable. I had four years of farm work in mud and slush to make me wary and to look carefully long before I leapt.
It's almost impossible to back a tractor, limber, gun combination straight on the tar-seal, let alone along a narrow track or even an open paddock.
In the army, there are nearly always more senior officers waiting around for their juniors to get into position so that they can get on with their part of the proceedings. They may not know what to do, but they soon recognise those that can achieve rapid results, nearly always to their own advantage.
Having arrived at the gun position, and got the guns on line, there was the situation of protection of guns and crews from hostile fire, not that this was likely in N.Z. at this time, but we were playing for real and besides digging gun pits and slit trenches increased fitness & toughened muscles , and dispelled any holiday spirit.
War is a serious business. Lets start the way we intend to continue.
As far as digging holes around the place; in the beginning it was OK, we just drove away and left them. When the farmers found out and started making a song and dance about causing sand blows etc., we were supposed to fill them in again, before departing, this didn't please the soldiery for various reasons, chiefly the time it takes when you're in a hurry to move.
So, we settled for marking out the pits etc., by removing a few sods which were easily replaced.
AH Paddison, 2007