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6th Field Regiment, NZA, Arrives in Egypt

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Sept 29th 1940. SUEZ!! And lo we came unto the Land of Egypt. Our first impressions from the Bay of Suez were distinctly favourable in contrast with our first impressions of Bombay. There was an absence of humidity and the coast line and hills were clear and clean cut - not half hidden in a misty haze.

Two days were spent preparing for disembarkation which took place on Tues Oct 1st when the troops were transferred by lighters to shore where the Regiment, which was the first unit to leave the ship, entrained for Cairo. At CCairo the train switched to a branch line and headed for Maadi Camp. The Regiment detrained at the railway crossing and marched to Camp where their arrival had been prepared for by the 2/2nd Australian Field Regiment who had pitched tents and arranged the evening meal.

LtCol Weir, Capt Levy, Capt Chapman and 2/Lt Brown remained on board ship until Wed 2 Oct when, with the exception of Capt Chapman who remained still longer, they came on to Maadi Camp. To assist us to settle down we had the assistance of Lt DJ Sweetzer (Q Side) and Lt J Tait (A) both from 4th Field Regiment who were attached to us temporarily. Their assistance was invaluable and greatly eased the difficulties of settling down under new and strange conditions. Lt Sweetzer left us to return to duty with 34th Anti-Tank Battery on Oct 29th, Lt Tait remaining as Assistant Adjutant.

We received our first quota of guns in the form of four MkIV 18pdrs which were alloted to A Troop. These were to last us for training purposes for quite a time. Each day more equipment comes to hand. Our training at the outset is largely elementary and a recapitulation of our early work in NZ. It is interspersed with route marches. Further guns came to hand in the form of 3 Troops of 18pdrs and one troop of 4.5Hows which were alloted to B, D and E Tps and F Tp respectively.

With the advent of the guns a period of concentrated gun drill training in all its phases was entered into. In addition a Tactical exercise under the cover of darkness was attempted. The Troops marched to their positions in the early hours of the morning and the guns were hauled from Camp by ASC vehicles which were not suitable for the job and consequently the guns got welll stuck in the sand. The scheme had to be changed to suit the positions which could be reached by the guns. In this scheme an advance was made under the cover of darkness without the guns which were returned to Camp after the first position was vacated. After this one tactical scheme at leaast was engaged upon each week, without guns or MT. The whole of the trip was traversed on foot in every instance. This proved excellent training in acquainting everyone with desert conditions as well as enabling tactical moves to be done in slow motion with the result that everyone got a thorough appreciation of the Exercise.

Bit by bit equipment comes to hand, first Bren Guns, then Boys Rifles for Anti Tank work. Then our Anti Gas equipment, followed by the 1937 Pattern Web for all ranks. Even a couple of No 6 Director Heads and some plane tables sneaked through in company with some Local Pattern Stands. To offset this our MkIVs had to go back to the Aussies.

The absence of MT kept the training syllabus down to a lot of Camp training of the usual nature but a Varied Directive was issued and carried out each week. However one Tactical exercise of great training value was exercised with the 24th and 26th Battalions in an attack involving four objectives and calling for considerable movement especially for OP personnel, who moved forward with the Infantry to each objective as it fell. Although the majority of us had frequently had cause to think of theis aspect of gunner work it was actually entirely new to all and proved a great experience from which many valuable lessons were learned. The general opinion was that collective exercises with other arms brought our training more into its correct perspective and it was to be hoped that early and frequent oppportunities would offer for a repetition.

Of course during all this training the social side of life was by no means neglected by all and sundry. Gamache, Tommy's Bar, The Kitkat, Bardia Casino, The Continental Savoy became more punctuation marks in the morning-after conversations. New beers and other drinks were discovered - vodka was even known to have been drunk. Certain folk developed a decided taste for Heinecken© Beer to such a degree that it took only 9 or 10 weeks to finish the stocks entirely. At this stage of recounting, suffice it to say that collectively the Regiment has seen most things which Cairo has to offer and the large bulk of its hard earned "Akkers" has passed over to Publicans and Restaurant Proprietors with an occasional "Sidre" or "Cognac" for the charming(?) girl who sits at your table until the inevitable "Mafeesh Feloos" when with a polite "Excuse please" she's off to another table, another cognac and another sucker. Still we like it and come back for more.

But our period at Maadi comes to a close. After ten and a half weeks we are to be shifted to Helwan where it is intended that the 4th and 6th Brigaeds shall concentrate. Goodbye to the Maadi Club, our comfortable tents, our proximity to Cairo. A poor swap for Officers, WOs and Sgts cubicles and barracks for the men all with their consequent extra work of the old Papakura days. To say nothing of the fact that Helwan is about 24 miles from Cairo and the camp 4½ miles from Helwan. Still there is a war on and one supposes that training should take priority over social acivities.

The move is timed for Dec 14th 1940 and the Regiment is to march up - the advance party leaves on Dec 12th.

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