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The Last Regimental Shoot with the
25-Pounder in NZ

21 January 1977
3 Field Regiment RNZA

To Tales from the Trails

I have written this yarn as I saw it, and as it was over 20 years ago some of the names and faces are a little rusty. The 25 Pounder served New Zealand well during two wars and many, many years of training. I wasn't there when it was introduced into service but I was present at its final Regimental Shoot and shortly after I had the honour of organising its farewell parade at Queens Gardens in Dunedin. If I have any of the names or loc/stats wrong then I am sure that Russ Baron, Chris Diedrichs or one of the other 3 Field Gunners can set the record straight for me.

I was posted to 31(B) Battery as a Bombardier late in 1976 and was employed at the Battery as a clerk. Having spent the previous 9 years as a Gunner and Seaman/Gunner, I knew as much about clerical work, type writers and 'pons' as international space travel. Lieutenant GED Williams was very understanding, however the BSM Ivan 'Baldy' Trueman was not. From memory the CO was I think, Colonel 'Stumpy' Brown and the Battery Commanders were Major Russell Fisk 31 Battery and Major Fred Goodall at 32 Battery.

Annual Camp was in January 1977, and it was to be the last live firing of the 25 Pounder in the South Island, and the last Regimental Shoot in New Zealand. The Regiment deployed to Tekapo and Coleridge training areas, and carried out a series of work ups and also during this period fired off most of the remaining ammunition in the country. For the first several days I was a 'wallah' and was required to spend my days typing reports in the non-tac area under the watchful eye of Pete Anderson who was Chief Clerk of the Regiment. I asked the RSM (Denis Dwane) if I could spend a few days on the guns but his reply was a distinct no, and words to the effect of "Listen to me Ned of Wales, you came South as a 'pencil sharpener' and a 'pencil sharpener' you will be". So I figured that the die had been cast and I was to spend the entire camp in the rear echelon. Presently fate intervened and one of the Gun Sergeants was injured during training, and as there were no other qualified detachment commanders within the Regiment I was sent to join 31 Battery.

Unlike 161 Battery, which considered itself independent of any other Artillery Unit, 3 Field Regiment had a real sense of unity and this also bred pretty intense competion between both Gun Batterys, and as well within 31 Battery further competition between the Gunners of the very far South (Mingo Menzies and his crew of pirates) and 'everybody' else.

Last Parade of the 25-pr
Cover: Last Parade of the 25-Pr
Click image to enlarge

The day of the final Regimental Shoot was the 21st January 1977 and it was a hot sunny summer's day. We deployed into the Regimental firing area just after lunch with 31 Battery on the left of arc of the Regimental position. Before we came into action there was much discussion as to the amount of flak we would face in the mess tent that night if the Christchurch boys beat us into action. Giving the matter some thought I quietly asked Chris Diedrichs to leave the Battery Director up for the entire shoot and using 161 Battery mischief, Malcolm Sincock and I brought the gun into action and reported 'Regiment Ready' first by recording the Battery Director. The adjustment for the shoot was then given to the left hand gun of 32 Battery as that piece was the closest to the Regimental Centre.

Behind our own Battery Centre was a landrover with the radio turned up loud and our gun detachment could hear the radio traffic of the entire mission. When the command for the Regiment to load was given it was pretty obvious that it was going to be a race between both Batterys to get the first round 'down range' and so I laid the gun myself, and using just a little more 161 mischief I fired the first round of the mission off the radio and not the tannoy giving 31 Battery the first round down range. Malcolm Sincock then relaid the gun, and every member of the detachment fired a round each during the fire for effect; each man retaining the cartridge of the round that he had personally fired. The distance between the guns and the impact area was quite close, perhaps a couple of klicks and so there were a number of blinds due to the flat trajectory. Once each gun in the Regiment had reported its ammunition expended, the guns were checked and the detachments were released to move forward and witness the firing of the last round of the Regimental Fire Mission.

The last round was fired by a detachment that was made up of (I think), the CGS who was General Ron Hassett, the CO of 3 Field Regiment Lieutenant Colonel Brown, the Director of Artillery Lieutenant Colonel John Masters, the oldest Gunner of the Regiment who was Laurie Osborne, the youngest member of the Regiment who was Gunner Moore (I think). Baldy Trueman and Laurie Sincock were the Safety Officers and Sergeant Ron Martin was the Detachment Commander. Now to make sure that there was a 'last' round fired, the Regiment actually retained two HE rounds and it was decided that the CGS would fire one and the CO would fire the other; I can't remember but I think the CO fired the first 'last' round. The first last round went down range and then the layers changed over and General Hassett (a 25 Pounder Gunner from WWII) fired the last round, an HE brick with a P117 fuze, down range and into the impact area.

After the 'last', last round was fired Ron Martin called the detachment to the rear and fell them out, and as one and all began walking back towards the Command Post it was suddenly realised that the 'last' cartridge was still at the gun. The detachment 'promptly' returned to the gun and uplifted both cartridges, and as it was impossible to distinguish which last round was 'the' last, last round both cartridges were given the honour of being the last round fired in New Zealand. Later, the CO gave each member of the Regiment a brass cartridge that was fired during the mission and requested that they be engraved as follows:

"One Of The Last 50"
Presented to: (recipient's name)
By 3 Field Regiment RNZA
21 January 1977

Post Script:
The last 25 Pounder round fired in a Regimental Fire Mission in New Zealand was in fact a blind, and although I am personally unsure of who fired that round, and which cartridge case belonged to it, I can happily report that the actual blind projectile of that 'last' round was located later that same day by Staff Sergeant Jim Taitua and disposed of with a block of Plastic Explosive.

"End of Mission".

Mike Subritzky
December 1999

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