Charlie Reed, 4th/6th Field Regt, Artillery | 2NZEF (WWII)

Charlie Reed, 4th/6th Field Regt, Artillery | 2NZEF (WWII)

(Hawkes Bay) - Greece - Desert - Italy

Ref: DA-00757-F
A group of NZ soldiers talking after arrival in Egypt from Greece. Taken possibly at Maadi military camp circa 1941 by an official photographer.

Charlie Reed was in the Territorials before the Second World War. With the outbreak of war Charlie signed-on with the 2nd New Zealand Division as an artilleryman, leaving for war with the First Echelon.

“I went away with the First Echelon. As a gunner, that is a Private Soldier, in what was called the Fourth Field Regiment. We trained at Ngaruawahia, the camp was known as Hopu Hopu. We sailed from Wellington, we had one left over Christmas, 1939, and we were back into camp. About the 2nd of January, we came down from Ngaruawahia by train and embarked on a ship, the Empress of Canada, which was a British Liner. Away we went with the rest of the First Echelon.”

In Egypt, Charlie’s unit was based at the newly established NZ camp near Maadi. Charlie was soon recommended for a commission and underwent officer training.

“They wanted more officers, and so they sent off for so many, recommendations from every unit that wanted to, well every unit I think got the chance to nominate people. The actual Officer Training Cadet course that I went to, had troops come from everywhere, the Artillery, the Infantry, the Machine Gunners, the various units’ right through to the … RMT, that was the Motor Transport, they came from everywhere.We were all trained more or less the same; we were not trained in our speciality, we were just trained as infantry really. We were lectured an awful lot. I played more sport when I was there than any other time in my service. I played nearly everything from Rugby to Cricket to Tennis. I do not think I played golf, but you know I had a good time.”

Charlie served through the Greek campaign. Trained initially as a gunnery specialist, an artillery role that worked out the firing coordinates, by this stage he was commanding two guns. At first, his guns were dug-in on several positions at Mt. Olympus, but his batteries were not called to fire on the enemy. Later, during the retreat, they did engage the enemy.

In southern Greece, Charlie was separated from most of his unit and was amongst a party of stragglers from different units who were diverted to Corinth. After missing out on evacuation by Royal Navy vessels, he managed to commandeer a local boat and successfully sail it with a small group to Crete. Arriving there, Charlie heard that the rest of 6th Brigade had returned to Egypt, and several days later he too sailed for Alexandria.

Charlie fought through the North African campaign, then refusing furlough in the first draft was sent to Italy and served throughout the early stages of the campaign, before being ordered home to NZ for rest in a furlough draft. After returning, Charlie remained with his unit until the end of the Italian campaign, by which time he was a major and 2nd-in-Command of 6th Field Regiment.

Like many New Zealand and Commonwealth gunners, Charlie thought that despite deficiencies in equipment in many areas, the standard gun the New Zealand Artillery used during the war, the British 25-pounder, was a great weapon.

“The guns we thought were jolly good, and they were still the basic field gun at the end of the war. We did not have them to train on; we were still training on the old things that they had in World War I. When we got to Egypt we got issued with these 25-pounders, and they served us very well right through the war. However, they had to be properly looked after and serviced with the proper instruction given to the gunner or they were not much good.”