Home    Tales index

To NZ's artillery in WW2

6th Field Regiment, NZA, Aboard Ship

Previous chapter        6 Fd Regt index        Next chapter
Visit the home page for 6 Fd Regt
To 6 Fd page

On Wednesday September 4th 1940 the convoy reached Freemantle. The troops had been paid in Australian money and were allowed shore leave from 1 pm until 11-30 pm. The local residents of Freemantle and Perth gave the troops a very enthusiastic reception.

The convoy finally set sail again on the afternoon of the 5th escorted only by the HMAS Canberra. As the days went by the weather gradually became hotter as the equator was approached and the dress became open shirts and shorts for all ranks. Every night was a blackout and all ports had to be closed. As the weather became hotter permission was given for troops to sleep on deck and many men availed themselves of this opportunity.

On September 7th the preliminaries of the ship's Boxing Tournament were held and the 6th Fd Regt did very well, winning practically all the heats, in fact losing only two bouts. In the finals the 6th Fd Regt gained:
    Heavy Weight: Runner up Gnr RG James RHQ
    Middle Weight: Winner Gnr NZ James RHQ
    Middle Weight: Runner up Gnr JS Bennett 29th Bty HQ.
In a ship's Tug-o-War contest, A Troop's team consisting of SgtMaj Galloway, Gnr Worger, Gnr Douglas, Sgt Batty, Gnr Greening, Gnr Fenby, with Gnr Morton and Gnr Rose of 29th Bty HQ, put up a fine performance and won through after nine contests in the afternoon.

We had no crossing the line ceremony as transport regs bar this. As we neared the latitude of Colombo, the HMAS Colombo took over from HMAS Canberra which traversed the convoy with decks lined and took a traditional farewell. We arrived in the stream at Bombay at approximately 1 pm to find it full of transports and freighters. The hot, steamy atmosphere was peculiar and strange as were the eastern type of buildings visible in the city. Nobody went ashore except some of the ship's Military Staff until Tuesday 17th. In the meantime all were very amused by and interested in the Native boatmen who surrounded the ships.

At 0430hrs on Tuesday 17th, Reveille sounded and all turned to in preparation for Disembarkation which although scheduled for 0700hrs did not start until 0900 when the troops commenced to transfer to SS Rhona, a BI ship which was to ferry us to the dock. We pulled away from the Mauretania at approx 1030 hrs and plyed about the harbour for an hour or so before docking. After landing at and forming up on the dock the troops ate a haversack lunch and marched to the new transport "SSSMM" or "Ormonde" - a real trooper and a bit of a shock after our luxury liner. After the troops were more or less settled in, general leave from 1500hrs to 2130hrs was given.

An intense electrical storm occurred in the early evening and lasted some hours. This rather spoiled the leave somewhat. However all ranks enjoyed themselves and next day nearly everyone sported Native sandals, khaki shirts and shorts to say nothing of the odd novelty to be sent home at first opportunity.

The transport pulled out into the stream on the morning of the 18th where she remained until she finally sailed. We were very unfortunate in that at Bombay the ship took aboard a lot of Indian meat of indifferent quality which was not improved through being in the hot sun on the dockside and overrun by natives and flies for a few hours. The first time this was served was on the evening of 18th Sept and the troops objected strenuously. This and a further bit of trouble the next day contributed somewhat to the development of a situation which delayed our departure from 1400hrs on 19th until 0700hrs on 20th in company with an Auxiliary Cruiser.

We picked up the rest of the convoy comprising Empress of Japan, Orion and HMS Colombo at 1530hrs that day. The next day we entered what was termed the Danger Zone.

On September 25th 1940, additional escort HMS Ajax, HMS Coventry - another light cruiser- and two Javelin class Destroyers arrived to take us through the Straits of Bab-el-Mendab which was accomplished during the night without incident of any sort.

We were very interested to sight at about 0730hrs on Sept 26 a large convoy of 21 Merchantmen steaming calmly towards us with a small Naval escort. It was hard to realise that we were following an enemy coastline. We passed Massawa during the night 26/27th and in the morning sighted another British convoy of 8 ships - large liners returning from Egypt after dropping English troops and stores. Portions of our escort left us and joined the south bound convoy and left us with Ajax and Coventry.

At 1830hrs on 27th Ajax with a marvellous burst of speed tore through our convoy in farewell followed by Coventry. Sailors and Troops lined decks and cheered each other.

"We left NZ escorted by Achilles and our final escort was Ajax."

At 2100hrs, Empress of Japan and Orion left us and we continued on alone to our final port at which we are due 29th Sept. Suez!

Next chapter

Return to top

6 Fd Regt  |   NZ Artillery of WW2  |   Home