Chapter 2 Rank brings Resonsibilty
Part 7 Waiouru
373649 Arthur H Paddison, 2nd Field Regiment, NZA
The six weeks soon went by and our capabilities had improved to the stage where we could go to Waiouru Camp for further manoeuvres and live shell firing on the ranges there.
First off, we had to go and get some live ammo from the Ammunition Company of the ASC. The Army Service Corps were responsible to keep bringing supplies forward to dumps within easy reach of the fighting units .
Well, we'd learned a bit about explosives from our lectures, but were still a bit hazy on how things worked and not a little scared. Shells went bang and killed people didn't they? How did they know we were the good guys. The boxes had to transferred from other trucks and you never saw anything like it. We were tiptoeing around, treating them like crates of eggs, only more so.
When we got back and opened the boxes they didn't look much different from the practice rounds excepting that there were more of them, they were nicely painted with numbers and copper bands on them
Lifting them out of the boxes and sliding them into the limbers had mothers with new born babies licked hollow. After the limbers were closed and they were out of sight, things got better and only the gun park sentries had to worry.
The convoy to Waiouru showed the results of our training, all vehicles properly crewed and in good order, travelling steadily along Highway 1 in long strings, gaining altitude, making life difficult for motorists in a tear-arse hurry. Might is right, whether you believe it or not. Few of us had been to Waiouru Camp before. When Ruapehu hove into sight and as we swung into the gates the speculation as to how we would be quartered was over.
Brand new barrack blocks with proper vehicle parks and parade grounds. The building industry was really getting into gear.
The drying rooms in the barracks were a godsend as the weather went to the pack. Our initiation to firing live ammo was to take place in a long valley, out the back of the camp. Home Valley.
The road was fairly new, well metalled but soft on the shoulders. The Artillery bigwigs were going to have a field day. Pardon the pun.
There were several other units including the 8th Medium Battery of 6 inch howitzers, and sixty pounders going to take part in what was biggest assembly of field guns in New Zealand to be firing at one time.
However the rains came and we were sloshing around in mud galore with guns and trucks stuck all over the place.
Finally we got into position and dug ourselves a pit of sorts. The initiation was a bit of a anticlimax. Our instructors, members of the NZA (permanent forces) had been feeding us a lot of crap about the force of the discharge when the gun fired and the recoil etc.
Just as well there wasn't any of them around at the time. We took it in our stride and that was the end of our fears.
On the way back to camp we learned a few what not to do's. A Marmon with a 6 inch howitzer in tow had got stuck; another Marmon had been hitched on in front, still no joy, so they hitched on a D 8 bulldozer to the front axle of the leading Marmon and pulled the front axles and transfer cases out of both trucks. The cable should have been carried through under the trucks to the gun. Still, learning was the object of the exercise so something was achieved
The weather cleared and we had fun pooping off around the countryside. I hope the Observation Officers learned something practical of their part in the proceedings. Playing a artillerymen is great but, without the fall of shot on the ground on or near a target there is no practical evidence of how effective the guns would be in a real live shooting' war. Normally the fall of shot cannot be seen from the gun position, indeed if it can, the situation is getting a bit desperate and it could be time to move.
So, the most thrilling part for us gunners was the antitank shoot. Returning back to camp along one of the main tracks we received the signal "Tank alert Action left".
The troop came into action smartly across the track and a dummy tank appeared from behind a small rise about 300 metres away. After the first shots the order " Stop" was given.
To give every No 1 and his gun layer the chance to see how effective a combination they made, the guns fired one at a time at the moving target. With a moving target the gun must be pointed slightly ahead of the leading edge of the target to allow for the time lapse of the round travelling the distance. This is done by the No 1 sighting along the barrel and swinging the whole gun using the traversing lever at the end of the trail. The speed of the target is compensated for by him ordering a deflection which the layer can allow for by using the appropriate graticule inside the telescope. Using the traversing hand wheel he brings the graticule just ahead of the target and as the target comes on line, pulls the trigger.
The No 1 by now should have moved slightly to one side so that the dust and smoke won't prevent him from seeing where the shot went. If it's a hit but nothing appears to happen, "Repeat" is ordered. As soon as the gun returns to the firing position 2 whips the the breach open, the case flies out, 4 slams another one in, 2 closes the breach, and reports "Ready" and he gets another one for luck.
If it was miss ahead and the range is right, 1 orders a smaller deflection, 3 traverses the gun ahead again and fires using the deflection ordered.
If 3 has run out of traverse he yells run up and centres the traversing wheel. 2 and 4 man the wheels and 1 and 5 man the traversing lever and the gun is pushed forwards until the spade is out of the ground and the gun is turned so that the barrel is pointing aheadof the target and 3 relays the gun and fires.
AP shot is made from a solid billet of steel and the radius of the ballistic head is the same as the diameter of the shot, resulting in a rather blunt nose to stand the impact without shattering and has a tracer in the base allowing the trajectory of the shot to be observed and what corrections,if any, to be made. As the shot penetrates the target, the friction causes a red hot glow and you know that a direct hit has been scored. It gave everyone a great thrill to realise just how far we had come in three months.
Only battle experience could now give us the endurance and confidence of the true fighting soldier.
AH Paddison, 2007