McDougall Family History of Lisa Wilson

This is an updated edition of a previous piece of writing.

(photo – Lisa Wilson)

 

My trip to Eckford

Friday 24th April, 1997

I was rather excited today about going to Eckford Church, Scotland’ (while on my O.E) which is about 1 1/4 miles from Eckford Village. Wondering how I was going to fill in 3 hours looking at gravesites and headstones I walked intrepidly up the kirk path, past the medieval night watchtower, where family of recently deceased, paid the night watchman to look out for body snatchers. This is apparently where the term Blackmail comes from.

 

This time I had no idea where to find plots 50 and 57. So, I just started walking and reading. About the 5th one I read was that of Christian Archbald and Archibald McDougall and family.The middle piece was newly carved. Someone had been looking after the gravesite. Then I moved over to a bigger enclosure in the corner and sure enough was an impressive cenotaph of granite to the Rev. Joseph Yair and family.

As I walked over the grave to read the inscription I couldn’t help but picture and hope that they were smiling with my presence! The inscription read “whosoever liveth and believe in me shall never die.”

There is something in handing down a family name (my middle name is McDougall). So after taking some photos I walked around reading the other graves kind of hoping to find more family connections. I think I have something to go by… a gravestone to David McDougall and Rebecca Walker. Helen Blair’s brother and sister have Walker as their second names. I then walked down the road and up to the Manse, of course they must have a key? No one answered the door. A little disheartened I began to walk away and then thought what the hell – the great explorer I was becoming walked round the back and peered in the windows!

I found the owner, a lady, round the back amid old stone horse yards, sheds and pretty spring flowers. She drove me back down the road and opened the church for me. It was much simpler than Ednam Church, yet really warm and inviting. The oak altar had a carved inscription to J. Yair on the bottom 1829-1892, no stained windows as expected but a blue aisle carpet and a tiled floor down the main aisle.

The church isn’t used anymore but was restored about 12 years ago [1985]. Each pew has a number, there is a gallery at the back above and a viewing loft to the side for the laird and his family. Off this gallery was an annex with a lounge room with fireplace and private access to the north side of the church. This stands over the laird’s vault of 1724.

Hanging from the side of the south facing wall is an old chain and metal collar (joules) where those who had done something wrong were made to stay during the services. I rang the old church bell. I walked back down the path and looked over the beautiful rolling green hills, pastures and Kale River that was the same view for Joseph Yair’s family for over 60 years and the feeling was good.

The strangest thing did happen while I was there which I feel is worth mentioning. As I walked round the graveyard reading the headstones and came to photograph the vault inscription, it became extremely cold and really windy, enough that I noticed the change. When I left an hour later, the sun was shining and it was warm and still! I couldn’t help but think my presence was noted.

 

McDougall of Eckford, Caverton, Cessford

The line of descent of the Eckford McDougalls is via Archibald McDougall/Christian Archbald, and their daughter, Helen Blair McDougall. The ancestors of this line reach up through the cadet line of the Makerstoun McDougall, Makdougall and Mcdowell family of various spellings.

Three headstones at Eckford, have assisted in confirming important aspects of my McDougall tree.

(Photo – Lisa Wilson)

The first headstone  – the text still remarkably clear – concerns Archibald McDougall and his wife Christian Archbald. Archibald was tenant at Cessford. The Archibald/Christian headstone also makes mention of two of their children, Agnes Walker McDougall – described as their eldest daughter – and David McDougall – described as their eldest son. Missing on this headstone of the three is Helen Blair McDougall, born 1819, who is commemorated on the second of these stones.

Rev.  Joseph YairHelen Blair McDougall

Helen Blair McDougall, born 1819. This Helen – evidently named after her paternal grandmother – married the minister of Eckford, the Reverend Joseph Yair. Helen and Joseph, plus their 9 children, are named on a fine pink granite (or marble) obelisk/headstone in the “top” (i.e. western) corner of the Eckford kirkyard. A portion of Joseph Yair’s ancestry is also written on this monument.

(Photo- Lisa Wilson)

The third headstone to mention, is that of the David McDougall and his wife Rebecca Walker. This is the most elaborate of the McDougall stones in Eckford kirkyard. The eroded inscription at the head of this monument suggests that it was erected (in 1844) by the people of Caverton Mill, where David McDougall was tenant.

Archibald McDougall was the younger brother of this David McDougall.

 

The Reverend Joseph Yair was minister here for 63 years and died in 1892 aged 94. In his youth, he courted the beautiful Miss Helen McDougall, daughter of the farmer at Cessford, Archibald McDougall. On calling one day, he handed her his hat and received it back from her on leaving. Only they knew that notes were exchanged inside the hat. The first said, ‘Will you marry me?’ and the answer was ‘Yes, I will’. Considerable parental opposition was encountered and there is a romantic but possibly apocryphal story that Mr Yair one day drove up to Cessford in his carriage, accompanied by a minister, married his bride on the doorstep of Cessford and bore her away in triumph. Many descendants of this couple are spread throughout the world and some revisit the Manse from time to time.

“Mr Yair was an indefatigable guardian of local rights of way and on one occasion, finding a crop sown across the pathway, returned home for a scythe and cleared the way. Each year he walked all the rights of way in the parish to preserve them. There was only one occasion when Mr Yair was defeated. The precentor of the church had served for many years and Mr Yair thought it suitable that some sort of recognition be given .The precentor disagreed and begged him to say no more. However it was announced on the following Sunday was to be raised for this purpose. The precentor stood up and publicly rebuked the minister for breaking faith. Mr Yair was outraged and sought the Sherriff to admonish the precentor but returned home without this being done. Local people were intrigued and the then owner of Kirkbank, in huge delight, gave a decanter of whisky to the precentor as a reward.

The decanter, in 1966, was owned by his great-grandson. Born at Cessford in 1778, Helen’s father Mr Archibald McDougall, was a tenant farmer there until his death in 1840. Archibald’s brother David died earlier in 1832 spending his whole life at nearby Caverton Mill.”

The parents of Archibald’s wife, Christian, are Charles Archbald and Agnes Walker – it can thus be seen that Archibald’s first daughter is named after her maternal grandmother. It may be asked whether there was some relationship between Agnes Walker and the Rebecca Walker, wife of David McDougall of Caverton Mill? Further possible relationships also arise. Christian Archbald may have been younger sister of the Jane Archibald who marries David McDougall (Isabella’s younger brother) in 1807.

Interestingly the reverse of the Archibald McDougall/Christian Archbald headstone has an inscription regarding John Archbald, “late tenant in Sharplaw”, who died at Marlefield, aged 31, in October 1829. This John may be yet another sibling in the Jane/Christian Archbald/Archibald family, a younger brother born in 1798. To augment these curious links is the fact that David of Caverton Mill’s wife, Jane née Archibald, died at Sharplaw (in 1820).

Jane Archibald’s mother had the maiden name Agnes Walker, identical in maiden name to the mother of Christian Archbald who married Archibald McDougall in July 1814. Indeed Archibald and Christian named their first daughter Agnes Walker McDougall (born 1815). On this basis the Jane Archibald (born 1781) that marries David McDougall above in 1807, is the elder sister of the Christian Archbald (born 1789) that marries David’s cousin, Archibald McDougall, in 1814.

The links extend further than this. David’s wife, Jane née Archibald, is recorded on the headstone as dying at Sharplaw, presumably the farm of this name just north of Jedburgh, a few miles west of Eckford. The Archibald McDougall/Christian Archbald headstone at Eckford records, on its reverse, the death of John Archbald, “late tenant at Sharplaw”, he dying at Marlefield, aged 31, in October 1829. Hence presumably John Archbald was a further sibling in this Archibald/Archbald family, a younger brother of Jane and Christian, born in 1798. Jane presumably died in his household at Sharplaw in 1820?

Turning to the children above, the headstone states that Agnes died at Aberlady (on the Firth of Forth) in 1843. It is not known if she ever married; it was her younger brother, John, who had removed to East Lothian, where he was tenant at Craigie Law, on the Firth. John is buried at Aberlady. We note, incidentally, that John, the first son, is no doubt named after David McDougall’s father, John (1730-1782). Again it is not known whether David’s son, John, ever married.

The third child of David and Jane Archbald was Robert Archibald McDougall, evidently joined the navy (“A.S. in H.M.S.” meaning able seaman in His/Her Majesty’s Ship?). He was only 24 when he died at Sierra Leone. It is unlikely that he would have been married. Again we note similar naming in this family to that of Archibald McDougall/Christian Archbald who had a son named Robert Archbald McDougall, born in 1822.

 

My McDougall Descendants of of Caverton Mill & Cessford

David McDougall Snr, was born in Caverton Mill and baptized in Eckford about 1706. On 8th July 1726 when David was 20, he married Margaret Lillie(t) in Eckford. She was born in Kelso. They had 6 children, David and Thomas in 1727, John and Margaret 1729, Mary and Jane.

David McDougall Jnr, was baptized in Eckford on 16th May 1727. On 15th April 1770 when David was 43 he married Helen Blair. She was the daughter of ……and was born in North Kirk [kak] Parish, Edinburgh. They had 7 children, Janet 1772, Agnes 1775, David 1777, Archibald 1779, Peter 1786, Jean 1788 and Isabella.

Archibald McDougall was born in 1779 at Caverton Mill. On 1st July 1814 at the age of 35 yrs he married Christian Archbald, daughter of Charles Archbald and Agnes Walker, in Eckford parish Church. Christian was born in 1789. They had 8 children, Agnes Walker 1815, David and Francis 1817, Helen Blair 1819, Jane Archbald 1821, Robert Archbald 1822, Archibald 1827, Jessie Johnston 1830.

Archibald Snr died on 15th Sept 1840 at the age of 61 yrs. He is buried at Eckford. Christian died at Fram [sic] Cottage, Jedburgh Burgh, on 10th Oct 1856 at the age of 67 yrs. She was buried on 16th Oct 1856 in Eckford Kirkyard.

David Yair was born on 2nd Sept 1798.

Helen Blair McDougall was born on 11th July 1819 and baptized at Eckford on 16th August 1819. On 12th Dec 1836 when Helen was 17 yrs old, she married, in Eckford Parish Church, the rev. Joseph Yair M.A., son of David Yair and Janet Patterson of Glasgow.

They had 9 children, Christian Archibald McDougall 1838, David William 1840, Janet Elizabeth Colquhoun 1842, Archibald McDougall 1844, Helen Blair McDougall 1846, Elizabeth Colqhoun 1848, Joseph 1850, Agnes Archibald McDougall 1851 and John McCrae 1854.

Helen died in Eckford parish on 27th Jan 1889. She was 69 yrs old. Rev. Joseph Yair also died in Eckford  Parish on 25th April 1892 at the age of 93 yrs.

Christian Archibald McDougall Yair was born on 16th July 1838 in Eckford manse and baptized on 5th August 1838.On 28th Jan 1869 when Christian was 30, she married Rev. William Lamb son of George Lamb, born in 1808. They had 6 children, Walter and Helen 1871, Christian Mary 1873, William 1874, George 1875 and John Yair 1877.

William died at Ednam on 10th August 1877 at the age of 69 yrs – just 8 years after his marriage and leaving Christian with children aged 6, 4, 3, 2 and 4 mths! After William’s death Christian moved to Dollar in the North where living was cheaper and there was good education for the children. She lived at Oriel Cottage in Academy Street. Just why she moved so far away from her parents is not known. Did the Lamb’s come from there? Did the Ministerial Collage (Oriel) look after them?

Ednam Church (left) and Manse (right) (photo- Lisa Wilson)

“Sweet ednam loveliest village

of the plain, where health

and planty cheered the labouring

swain,

where smiling spring its

earliest visit paid

And parting summers lighting

Blooms delayed”

Goldsmith to Auburn.

Ednam village, (birthplace of Sir Walter Scott, poet, and Captain Cook), has a field which lies in the hollow of its land called the ‘Kirkyard’. The other fields are continually changing from red to green and green to yellow and yellow to white, but the kirkyard has few changes. My grandnother told me how in spring the kirkyard filled with masses of daffodils but was good for not much else at it was aslso full of moles hills.There is an occasional furrow of red earth to be seen in the midst of its constant green but everyone who sees it knows that it is the last furrow of one who is never more to labour on the out lying fields. This field is a gentle slope, lying in the sun with the kirk at its head and the river at its foot. The kirk and chancel stand at their full length and shelter it form the north wind.

At the east end of the kirk and completing the northern boundary is the aisle of Edmonstoun Family. There is another aisle with another laird which is shut off from the sunshine within its high walls, but as far for the rest of the field in which 8 centuries of Ednam folk have foregathered it lies open and ‘seeks ferment the sun’.

In 1833 a new manse was built. According to my grandmother, who had often heard her father George talk about it and written in the architect’s record, the walls of the manse had been built of clay which in workmanship was inferior to a dry stone dyke. There were four rooms with fireplaces. In the best of them the ceiling was only 7 ft higher then the floor. The surface of the ground outside was higher then the floor! The floors were damp inside. From ground floor to garnet the manse was declared to be ‘fit for condemnation’ and accordingly a new manse was built which with additions and alterations remains to this day (between 1833-1844).

The Lamb Family of Hawick, Roxburgh.

George Lamb married Janet Laidlaw on 12th November 1759 at Hawick Parish Church, Roxburgh. George was a gardener. They had Walter May 1771, George April 1768, Margaret Sept 1760, Janet March 1763 and Mary Oct 1765.

Walter, born in May 1771 married Christian Philip (Phillips) daughter of William Philip and Mary Scott. Walter was a ‘cooper’ in Hawick. They had 4 children George 1809, Mary 1810, William 1812, Janet 1814 and Christian 1817.

William Lamb born on 21st October 1812 in Hawick married at the age of 56 yrs on 28th Jan 1869 to Christian Archbald Yair. Christian died on 10th July 1921 at 82 yrs. She is buried at Norwood Cemetery in London.

Mr William Lamb next in apostolic succession was settled in 1844. He was singularly gentle in his manner and methodical in his ways. He was clerk of the presbytery and was much taken up with emotions and counter emotions on the affairs of state. Petitions to Parliament were common for they thought their duty to mind their business as well as the magistrates. This was not Mr Lamb’s way, but while the brethren debated he took notes and as their clerk, served them faithfully from his first days as a minister till his last.

Mr Lamb was a botanist, but his great delight was the butterfly tribes. He hunted many a butterfly in his day and many an unsuspecting moth was lured by him to death and glory, which in this case means a place in his extensive collection of moths and butterflies. Stories remain of revelers startled at the sight of a figure, lantern in hand, moving suspiciously among the great churchyard elms;

‘It is “twal o’clock” o the wee hour

ayont the twal’ are they

are not seeing well

Is it an evil spirit or

A resurrectionist? It is

Only the minister

Searching for night moths.’

At the ‘darkening’ he had smeared

Elm tree petals with treacle

and now at the dead hour

he has come to gather his victims’

George Lamb was born on 12th August 1875 at Ednam Manse. George would have lived at Ednam Manse until 2 yrs of age, before moving to Dollar. He emigrated to South Africa in …. George arrived in Cape Town…and took a job as a banker.

After several years he moved to Umzinto where he resided at the local Hotel and operated as the bank manager. There were many large sugar cane farms in the area.

There he met Medina Blamey. On 18th Feb 1908 when George Lamb was 32, he married Medina Mabel Blamey in Umzinto, Natal, South Africa.  Medina was the daughter of Alfred Blamey and Ethel (Manning). They had 3 daughters, Helen McDougall Lamb (b. 1917 my grandmother), Ethel Helen Lamb and Jean Yair Lamb. (See my other blog)

 

Eckford Parish

The name of this parish is made up of ace, an oak, and ford, a passage over a river. It refers to the ancient oaks which prevailed in the district and to a ford in the Teviot, within a short distance of the village of Eckford. This ford was anciently called the ford at the aces and in the early 1800’s oakes of a considerable dimension, some 2 1/2 feet in diameter were dragged out of the river along with others left lying directly beneath.

The parish is nearly triangular in shape. It is about 6 miles at its greatest length and 4 1/2 across. To the North boundary is Roxburgh and portions of Kelso and Sprouston; on the east by Linton, Morebattle and Hounam; on the southy by Jedburgh and on the west by Crailing.

Its undulating countryside gradually rising to the south commands an extensive view of the neighbouring country. The vale of the Teviot River, neatly enclosed and highly fertile fields along its bank and well kept thriving plantations form a picturesque landscape. There is also the valley of the Kale river, no less delightful to the eye.

The southern extremity of the Parish lies only a few miles from the borders and was the scene of frequent pillaging and devastation in former times.

 

The Parish of Eckford comprises three main settlements – Eckford, Caverton and Cessford. Formerly, there were two primary schools within the parish; today there are none.

The village of Eckford lies halfway between Kelso and Jedburgh just to the east of the A698, the church, however, is across on the other side of the road some distance from the village. This distance may have led to the creation of a watchtower, or mort-house, in the graveyard to protect the recently buried from the ravages of the body snatchers.

The church dates from about 1665 and is probably a replacement of an earlier church on the same site. The north aisle was added about 1720, and the inside remodeled in 1898 when the pulpit was moved and the box pews removed. The beadle’s cottage was built about 1836, and a stable for keeping the parishioners’ horses during the services was added about the same time. These buildings are no longer part of the church as they are in private hands today. (http://www.morebattle.bordernet.co.uk/history/eckford.html)

The church has a sundial dated 1668, a set of jougs paid for in 1718, and the ground floor is the burial vault of the Bennets of Marlfield, a nearby estate. Inside there is the armorial bearings of Sir William Bennet who died in 1724 above the laird’s loft, which is surprisingly roomy with space for at least a dozen.

 

Eckford Parish Church

The church which anciently belonged to the abby of Jedburgh, is beautifully situated on the southern banks of the Teviot. It was built in 1662 and has undergone frequent repairs over time. It has a rather large gallery to one side for the Laird’s family and a large upper gallery to the rear.It is a neat and apparently substantial building and can seat about 300. Close to the eastern door is suspended an iron collar, which is well preserved. It is commonly known as joules. In former times, church offenders were sometimes sentenced by kirk sessions, to stand with it fastened around their neck, and clothed with sackcloth, for several Sabbaths, in presence of the congregation, in repentance and humiliation. The manse was built in 1775. 

Eckford Church (photo – Lisa Wilson)

The chief apartment of the house is, in appearance a very handsome one, but it was not  occupied for several winters as a consequence of it being very cold. The holding is about 7 acres. Adjoining the church is the family Aisle of Sir William Bennet, where his remains are deposited and over the entry is the following inscription:

Hoc Monumentum

Sibi et sule bene Merentibus posendam curavit

Dominus Gullelmus Bennet

Eques Suratus anno salutia 1724

The village of Eckford, once a place of considerable note, was burnt by the English under the Marquis of Dorset in April 1553.

On 6th September 1544 the church of Eckford was burnt by an army under Sir Ralph Eure and 44 people were found inside. It was rebuilt but destroyed again in 1570 by the Earl of Sussex, who in the course of a few days, laid waste to a very extensive part of the country.      

There are two other hamlets in the parish of Eckford beside Eckford village – those of Cessford and Caverton.

Cessford

Cessford is and has been for many years, dominated by Cessford Castle, the focus of the surrounding area. It stands on the right bank of Cessford Burn, which rising in Oxnam Parish, runs 4 3/4 miles NE to kale Water. The most famous fortress in the parish was Cessford castle in the south. It was the ancient manorial residence of Sir Robert Kerr (Known as Hobbie Kerr) warden of the Scottish middle marches, from whom the Dukes of Roxburghe descend. The main building was 67 feet long and 60 feet wide and about 65 feet high. The walls at points were said to have been 13 feet in thickness.

This fortress, from its great importance, was often the scene of hostile invasion in ancient times. in the reign of Henry VIII, the Earl of Surrey, after destroying a number of places in the neighborhood attempted to take it by assault but in a letter addressed to the king on 21st May 1523, that had the owner not capitulated, he would have been unable to have obtained possession of it at all. (The ancient key of this fortress was accidentally discovered by a boy in the 1800’s. It was dragged out of an aperture in the inside of the wall, close to the main door, where for nearly two centuries it had lain undiscovered. It was of very antique form and about 11 inches in length. It is now in the possession of the Duke of Roxburghe who resides at Floors castle. Statistical Account for Eckford [1834?]

The largest farm in the parish is the barony of Cessford, which consists of upwards of 2000 acres of land. In the 1841 statistical account of Eckford, the Reverend Joseph Yair (who happens to be my GGG grandfather) explains that this land had long been occupied by Mr Archibald McDougall, a gentleman whose ancestors resided for generations on the Roxburgh estate. He was well known to be one of the most skillfull and intelligent agriculturists in the district.

Between 1811-1841 he had made great improvements to the property. In the course of that time he had enclosed, at his own cost, the whole farm, drained it as efficiently as possible and cultivated upwards of 300 acres of moorland. He had also removed all the old offices and cottages and erected new ones in a better position, of a substantial and the neatest kind.

Independently of the expenses of liming the whole of this large farm, his outlay amounted upwards of L4000.

Rev Joseph Yair was Archibald McDougall’s son-in-law- and one can’t help wonder if the above mention was poignantly made!

 

Cessford Burn

According to Alexander Jeffrey’s The History & Antiquities of Roxburghshire & Adjacent Districts (4 vols, Edinburgh: Seton & Mackenzie, 1855-64), Cessford Burn is a small stream, situated in a beautiful valley, which eventually runs to meet Kale Water and then joins the River Teviot, finally entering the River Tweed at  Kelso. A site at Cessford Burn has the remains of an ancient farmstead attached to Cessford castle [Caverton Mill?]. The remains of the foundation stones of the dwellings, which can still b e seen today are situated on the north bank of Cessford Burn (opposite side of Cessford castle ruins).

Old farmhouse hutt on Cessford Burn

Seven Shiels or thatched cottages once housed the families of the farm steward, the shepherd [A branch of the Border family Nisbet were shepherds in Cessford Burn from about 1665, until about 1822, due to farm consolidations of the late 18th C on the Scottish Borders] and the ploughman. The farmstead was burned to the ground by the English many times, including the border campaign of the earl of Surrey May 1523 and the Earl of Herford in 1545 and during the rough wooing of Mary Queen of Scots by Henry VIII of England. The family living in these shiels were in the service of the Kerrs of Cessford and all indications point to that of being the McDougall family.

Aerial photographs and Matthew Stobies 1770 map of Roxburghshire show that the castleton (vill) of Cessford lay hard by the castle to the northwest on the Morebattle road; about 140 souls lived in Cessford village during those times.

Along the quiet green banks of Cessford Burn is Hobbie Kerrs cave, where local citizens sought safety and shelter since 5th century. Just south of Cessford castle, there once stood an ancient ash tree known as the ‘Crow Tree’ where ‘Jeddart Justice’ was carried out.

Caverton

The Barony of Caverton anciently belonged to Lord Soulis, who forfeited his property in consequence of his being engaged in a conspiracy against Robert the Bruce, towards the beginning of the 14th century.

At Caverton there was a Chapel which is first mentioned in records of 1116, which place it within the care and control of Glasgow Cathedral. It also had a graveyard which was last used about 1860. It was founded by Walter Kerr of Cessford and confirmed by charter under the grand seal in the year 1500. Unfortunately the site of the chapel and the graveyard has been cleared and ploughed, and nothing remains of either.

The old village of Caverton, likewise, has completely disappeared.

The Kerr’s, Scotts and Douglas’s were the most powerful families on the Scottish side of the birder. From them were usually chosen the Wardens of the Middle Marches, but they could be little trusted to dispense justice in that office, as they themselves were often raiding the English when not squabbling with each other. Scottish records from the time of William the Lion mention John Ker, the hunter of Swinhope, but it was around 1330 that the two brothers, Ralph and John, moved from Lancshire to Roxburgh to establish the principle Kerr families of Scotland. Ralph’s decendants became the Kerrs of Ferniehurst, the senior branch, whilst John was  progenitor of the Kerr’s of Cessford. The Kerr’s were crown vassals and collecting further influential positions whilst the Douglas families collapsed.

The two powerful Borders families soon became rivals. And the two families were constantly in bitter conflict. Descendants of both families were appointed wardens of the Middle Marches; Sir Andrew of Ferniehurst in 1502 and Sir Andrew of Cessford after the battle of Flodden. The Kerrs of Cessford supported the English Queen-mother and the Kers of Ferniehurst the young King, James V. The feuding continued until resolution on a political level by the union of the crown and the marriage of Anne Kerr of Cessford to William Kerr of Ferinehurst. The farm is today called Caverton Mill and is under the management of the Thomson family (and has been for the past 80 years).

 

Esteemed Company

Tuesday 8th May 1787

Robert Burns – known as Robbie Burns, Scotland’s favorite son, the ploughman poet, the bard of Ayshire or simply the bard lived from 1759-1796. He was a poet and a lyricist.

Robbie Burns mounted his horse for the south leaving Edinburgh triumphant in literary success and outwardly unstained, respected and beloved, leaving it a free and unfettered man with a little money in his pocket, a kindred spirit by his side, the lands of Scottish romance and plenty before him. Ayshire, with all its sorrows and humilities, was distant.

On Tuesday 8th May 1787 the two friends made an early start, rode to Kelso for breakfast and on the way back diverged a little from the road to call on a friend of Mr Ainslie*, a Mr McDougall [David] at Caverton Mil. Here Burns the poet becomes Burns the farmer ,*an apprentice lawyer from Edinburgh.

An so we reflect on his diary entry for this date, where he jotted down: Breakfast at Kelso – charming situation of Kelso – fine bridge over the Tweed – enchanting views and prospects on both sides of the river, particularly the Scotch side; Turnip and sheep husbandry, their great improvements. Mr McDowal [McDougall] a friend of Mr [Robert] Ainslie’s, with whom I dined today, sold his sheep, ewe and lamb together at 12 guineas a piece. Wash their sheep before shearing – seven or eight pounds of washing wool in a fleece – low markets, consequently low rents – fine lands not above sixteen shillings a Scotch acre – magnificence of farmers and farm houses. Come up Teviot and Jed to Jedburgh to lie, and so wish myself a goodnight.’

Margaret Jackson Young writes in the Scots Magazine Jan 2005 an article entitled Burns in the Borders, besides all the farming talk, one wondered if Mr McDougall [David] told his visitors that his family had been at Caverton Mill for 200 years; that David McDougall, his father, was tenant in 1745 when the Jacobite Army was marching south, and that he himself was one of those called by night by the Duke of Roxburghe to convey the Floors castle treasure chests to Caverton Mill where they were concealed in the stockyard until any danger from looting soldiers was past.

 

William and Christian had four sons and two daughters. Walter the eldest became a minister first of Kirkwll, then of Lauder and after a few brief years of promise he died. He died in 1877 and is buried with his family in Ednam.

Yair Family History

Joseph Yair was born on 7th October 1737 in Dunblane, Perth and was baptized on 16th October 1737 in Dunblane. His brother David born 23 Nov 1728.

On 29th Sept 1769 when Joseph was 31 he married (Nelly) Helen Dykes in perth. They had one child, David in 1770.

David, born on 5 Dec 1770, Perth was baptized on 9 Dec 1770, Perth. David was a merchant. On 25th October 1797 when David was 26 he married Janet Patterson, daughter of Archibald Patterson in Cannongate, Edinburgh. Archibald was also a well to do merchant and gentleman of the city of Glasgow. They had 3 children all born in Glasgow, William 18 feb 1809, Joseph 1798 and Elizabrth Colqhoun 6 feb 1813, who died at the age of 82 yrs on 4th Aug 1895 in Eckford.

(Rev.) Joseph Yair was born on 2 Sept 1798 in perth. On 12 dec 1836 at the age of 38 he married Helen Blair McDougall in Eckford.

 

Colqhoun Family History

Janet Patterson was the daughter of Archibald Patterson and Elizabeth Colqhoun of Glasgow, who married on 16th April 1771. Archibalds parents, Robert and Christian, were first cousins.

Robert’s parents were John and Florence and he had two brothers, Walter and James.

John’s parents were John and Christian Clark married in 1702 with 4 children, Jean, Andrew, John and James*. John’s parents were Henri  Colqhoun and Marion Forsyth married in 1668.

*James married Jean McKean in 1727 having 4 children, William, Jean, Ando and Christian formally mentioned married to her cousin Robert.


The Colhoun (also Colquhoun) family of Trongate in Glasgow were involved in the tobacco trade and slave trading throughout the 17th century. A document collection Ref: TD 301 comprises 9 files of business and family papers for the Colhoun family of Glasgow. During the 18th century the family were involved in the slave trade and the letters found in file TD301/6 document the experiences of William Colhoun, who worked as chief mate on a number of slave ships travelling between West Africa, North America and Britain between 1768-1776. 
In file TD301/6 there are nine letters to Miss Betty Colhoun of Trongate Glasgow.

In 1769 William sends letters from his voyages on the “Trent” man-o-war, and ships called the “Bellsavage” [sic] and the “Industry.” One of his letters, dated June 1770, is written from Senegal in West Africa, telling his sister about his first experiences aboard a slave trader. He states “We shall sail tomorrow with a hundred and 50 slaves for Potouchan River in Virginia in a very fine vessel which I am chief mate of…it is a very precarious cargo as for me it is the first time…we have always plenty of noise and stink in proportion.”

His next letter above, dated October 1770, was written in Oxford, Maryland, and tells Betty that the slaves were sold there and the ship is returning to Glasgow loaded with tobacco. Later his sister marries a Glasgow merchant, Archibald Patterson, and William continues to write to Patterson about his dealings in slaves.
In one letter, written from Sierra Leone in April 1775, he promises to send “three prime slaves which will amount to 120 pounds sterling” to be sold, whenever he can finds the means to remit the proceeds to Archibald, and “…a very fine girl about twelve years of age” which he will send home to Glasgow if one of his sisters would like her. In a later letter from Yongia, Dimba River, dated May 1776 he writes, “I have sent likewise by Captain Richard Wilding of Liverpool two fine slaves to be sold at the West Indies and the money or bills to be remitted to you…The slaves will come to about 80 pounds sterling.” 
The remainder of the collection contains miscellaneous 18th and 19th century family letters and accounts, primarily concerning the management of cotton spinners in Scottish-based cottage industries. Colqhoun (Colquhoun) of Glasgow family papers Ref: TD 301.

 

*Archibald Patterson was born in Glasgow on 8th Jan 1744, the son of Patrick Patterson and Janet Miller. He had two sisters Elizabeth born 1741 and Margery born 1747. He married Elizabeth Colqhoun on 16th April 1777.

A Mr David Dale settled in Glasgow in 1763 at 24 years of age and took a shop on the East side of the High Street at $8 rent. Shortly after commencing this business he obtained Mr Archibald Patterson (afterwards proprietor of ‘Merkdaily’ lands, then of Charlotte Street) as a moneyed partner. Archibald took now chare in the management of the company which soon extended its transactions by importing linen yarns from Flanders and Holland. In May 1782 the partnership dissolved. The Glasgow journal wrote: ‘ Mr Patterson thought it was rather sharp on the part of Mr Dale…on its being firmly established and lucrative, nevertheless through life he continued on the most friendly terms which were greatly strengthened by a unison of sentiment in their religious views. In about 1770, Archibald, then, a wealthy candlemaker, erected a meeting house in Greyfriar Wynd, seating about 500. It was known as ‘Caunnel Kirk’.

Mr Dale, Mr Paterson and Mr Matthew Alexander were the prime movers and founders for dissenting from the old established faith to the Old Scotch Independent Church. Many other members of the Paterson family also ran their own businesses in the Trongate area – Mrs Paterson Seed Shop no 78, Archibald Paterson Tallow-Chandler shop 4th side Gallowgate, Thomas Paterson, Brewer and Maltman no 130, John Paterson St Enoch’s Wynd (yard), Spirit dealer, James Paterson, hairdresser, 4th side Argyle Street.

Kilmory, admitted was a very diminuative village built close to Lochgilphead from which it was separated by a tiny burn. The tenements of the village lined the streets leading up to the white gates beyond which were the grounds of the Kilmory estate. Paterson’s lands or Paterson Street commemorates the name of the builder, Archibald Paterson, who obtained a ‘feu’ of the site in 1829.

Charlotte Street, named after the Queen of George III was opened by Mr Archibald Paterson, then partner with David Dale, Charlotte Street, especially the southern [part near the gates, was long the residence of the rich. David dale lived there and Archibald next door.

A celebrity of old Glasgow, who was yarn merchant, cotton spinner, banker, and pastor to “The Old Independent” congregation, had his city residence in Charlotte Street, David dale had invited a large party of wealthy guests to dinner on the 18th day of November, 1795.

Among those expected were William Simpson, cashier of the Royal Bank; Gilbert Innes of Stowe, the great millionaire; and the whole posse of the Royal Bank Directory from Edinburgh to meet with Scott Moncrieff, George MacIntosh, and other Glasgow magnates. On the morning of that important and memorable day, all was bustle and hurry-burry in preparation for the sumptuous feast.

All went on as well as could be wished until near the appointed hour; when lo! the waters of the Clyde began to ooze slowly but surely through the chinks of the kitchen floor, and ere long the servants were wading about with the water above their ankles. At length the Monkland Canal burst its banks, and like a mighty avalanche the waters came thundering down by the Molendinar Burn, carrying all before it, and filling the low-lying districts of the city in Gallowgate, Saltmarket, Bridgegate, and under portions of St. Andrew’s Square with a muddy stream. The Camlachie Burn also, which ran close by Mr. Dale’s house, rose to an unusual height, and burst with a fearful crash into Mr. Dale’s kitchen, putting out all the fires, and forcing the servants to run for their lives.

Then came the question—What could or should be done in this unhappy dilemma? The dinner hour was fast approaching, and the invited guests would soon be there! In this distressing predicament, Mr. Dale applied to his opposite neighbour, William Wardlaw, Esq. (father of Rev. Dr. Ralph Wardla*), and to Mr. Archibald Patterson, another neighbour, for the loan of their respective kitchens, both of whom not only granted the use of their kitchens, but also the help of their servants. But here the further question arose—-How were the wines, spirits, and ales to be got from the cellar, which now stood four feet deep in water?

After some cogitation, a porter was hired, and, being suitably attired for the occasion, he received instructions to go down into the deep and bring up the drinkables required. Here again another problem had now to be met and solved—How was the porter to distinguish the respective bins of port, sherry, and Madeira from those of the rum, brandy, porter, and ale? This difficulty was got over by Miss Dale then sixteen years of age, perching on the porter’s back and acting as his spiritual guide and director. After he received his instructions, the porter returned with his fair burden to the lobby of the house; and then went back for the various liquors, which he brought up and delivered to Mr. Dale in good order and condition.

All things then went on in a satisfactory manner. The dinner was cooked, placed on the table, and served in the best style, to the great gratification of the Edinburgh visitors and Glasgow magnates, who passed the evening with much mirth and hilarity, which received fresh zest from the peculiar and unforeseen circumstances which had arisen.

[http://74.125.113.132/search?q=cache:BLZxf2uUC6EJ:www.electricscotland.com/history/glasgow/anec148.htm+Archibald+Patterson+Glasgow&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=18&client=safari]

See my next blog for greater detail on:

Early Glasgow Sugar Plantations in the Caribbean

STUART M. NISBET*

On the evidence of McDowall’s letters and accounts, slave numbers were maintained by ongoing purchase to replace the dead, often teenage boys, ten at a time.35 His over-riding policy in his own words,was ‘to keep a sufficient stock of Negroes’ to send sugar home.36 By the 1750s Glasgow merchants had developed a cartel to supply everything necessary for the planters. McDowall’s protégé and plantation manager, Glasgow merchant Robert Colquhoun, owned the St Kitts plantation directly east of Canada Hills (Fig 2). He purchased Clyde herrings from Alexander Houston & Company, in which the McDowalls were partners. Colquhoun also bought his slaves from Glasgow merchant Richard Oswald, who operated a slave fort in the Sierra Leone delta.

Colquhoun originated from a modest family at Kenmuir near Glasgow. He rose in status when his daughter Frances, married Sir James Maxwell of Nether Pollok, who had served at St Kitts as a young man in the 1750s. St Kitts blood permeated Glasgow’s celebrated Pollok–Maxwell dynasty through their golden age, from the late 18th to late 19th centuries.

Major James Milliken (b.1669) and Colonel William McDowall (b.1678) were two of Glasgow’s earliest and most successful colonial merchants. Along with their sons and grandsons, they developed the city’s first bank and its largest merchant house. 

McDowall and Milliken’s Glasgow company from the 1730s, initially named James Milliken & Co., became Alexander Houston and Co. in the next generation, fronted by McDowall’s nephew. McDowall’s son William founded Glasgow’s Ship Bank (see other blog post) in 1750. Eyre-Todd 1934, p. 151. There were three William McDowalls in succession, father son and grandson: I: 1678–1748; II: c. 1718–1786; III: 1749–1810.

Both men originated from a mercantile lineage. William McDowall was from modest landed stock in south-west Scotland. The traditional focus has been on the family’s landed seat and noble heritage. However, this conceals the fact that both his father and grandfather were merchant burgesses of Edinburgh. As the fifth son of the family, William had little hope of succeeding to his father’s estate and was sent in his late teens to the Leeward islands.

Colonel William McDowall, having command of a regiment of men in the island of St Kitts in the West Indies; and Major James Milliken being then in office in the said island, the said Major Milliken married Mary Steven, and Colonel William McDowall married her daughter, who were both ladies of ample fortunes, having large estates on said island. McDowall returned to Britain in 1724, moving between London, Edinburgh and Bristol where he had a house on the medieval bridge.

His wife and 6 year old son would join him some 3 years later.

He settled in Scotland, buying the Shawfield Mansion and Castle Semple estate in late 1726. 

William MacDowall, 19th Lord of Garthland, First of Castle Semple ( 1727-1748 )

Although most of his business interests were in London and Bristol, William determined to settle in Scotland. In 1727 he purchased Shawfield Mansion in Glasgow which stood on Argyle Street at the junction with what is now Glassford Street. He also sought to purchase a country estate as an investment. In 1727 he bought the Castle Semple Estate of Lord Semple “ being one of the best inland estates in Scotland“.

William had amassed considerable wealth and at the time he purchased  the Castle Semple Estate was considered to be “ the richest commoner in Scotland.

William MacDowall, 20th of Garthland, the Second of Castle Semple 1748-1776

William was 30 years old when he inherited the estate. In the same year he married Elizabeth Graham, daughter of Admiral Graham, by whom he had 12 children. Four years later he bought the Garthland lands and title from his cousin in Galloway. His title became William MacDowall, 20th of Garthland and 2nd of Castle Semple.

He continued to manage family businesses in Scotland in close partnership with the Millikens and also the Houston family from Johnstone who had ships plying between the Clyde and the West Indies. Members of the family looked after the overseas interests.

 

William was one of the founders of the Ship Bank in 1752 (see other blog). This was the first bank established in Glasgow to provide venture capital for traders and industrialists.

In 1760 Shawfield Mansion in Glasgow was sold to John Glassford and the Ralston Estate and lands at Cathcart were purchased. In the same year William had the wooden bridges over the River Calder in Lochwinnoch and the River Cart in the Howwood replaced with fine stone bridges. In 1768 William was elected Member of Parliament for Renfrewshire.

 

William MacDowall, 21st of Garthland and 3rd of Castle Semple 1776-1810 remained unmarried, giving much of his life to politics and civic matters.He was a non-practising advocate and served as Rector of Glasgow University from 1795 till 1797. He was a Member of Parliament from 1783 until his death in 1810 and acted as Lord Lieutenant of Renfrewshire from 1794, again until his death. In 1820, William 4th was able to buy Garpel House which stood on this land and, as the original Garthland Estate had been sold, this was renamed Garthland House. This remained in the family until 1935.

 

I now explore the connection between the above William McDowalls of Garthland and our McDougall/McDowall of Makerston.

Both clans claim to descend from the senior descendants in the male line of the princely house of Fergus, first of the ancient Kings of the Kingdom of Galloway.

The name MacDowall is a name connected with the ancient history of The Rhins and the Machars, Wigtownshire, Galloway, a district in the south west of Scotland which took its name from the Gall-Gaidhel settlers of the seventh and eighth centuries.

The area was settled by the Scoti or Irish Gaels during the invasions of the fourth century (Scotus was the Roman word for Irishman) pushing the native Picts further East. The area was then settled by Norwegian Vikings in the seventh century who merged with the Irish Gaelic Clans. Many legends exist in Galloway including the legend that Dovall of Galloway killed Nothatus the Tyrant in 230 BC. It is also said that the Royal House of Galloway resisted the Romans. In 1065 Echmarcach mac Ragnaill died on pilgrimage to Rome and his death was noted by anIrish chronicler who described him as rex ina renn, king of the Rhinns, assumed to mean the Rhinns of Galloway (which had still been the “Saxon shore” in 913) and his kingdom included the Machars of Wigtownshire. Between 1036 and 1052, Echmacarch was twice ruler of Dublin and for a time the Isle of Man was part of his kingdom.

The Macdouals were one of the most powerful families in early Britain, in Wigtonshire, and are thought to be descended from Roland Macdoual, Lord of Galloway and ancient King Somerled.

 

13th Century, Garthland Castle

Garthland Castle was located near Garthland Mains, Stoneykirk, Rhins of Galloway, Wigtownshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.[7] The castle was possibly built in AD1211, as a datestone bearing that date has been discovered within the Garthland Mains estate. The castle was seat of the family of M’Dowall of Garthland.

In AD1295 Sir Dougal MacDougall (see above, possibly a son of Thomas of the Kingdom of Galloway ) had a Charter from his 1st cousin, John Balliol, King of Galloway, Lord of Galloway, John de Balliol, son of Dervorgilla, confirming the Barony of Garochloyne (Garthland) (possibly included the present area of Stranraer ) with Lougan (Logan) and Elrig in the Rhins of Galloway, Stoneykirk, Wigtownshire. Balliol, King of Galloway had granted lands in Garthland to ‘Dougal’ and Fergus MacDoual, Balliol’s own relation. These two men both appear on the Ragman Rolls of Scottish nobles who swore fealty to King Edward I of England.

Dougals’s grandson Fergus, 3rd of Garthland was sheriff depute for Kirkcudbright during the reign of King David II of Scotland (reigned AD1329-1371).

The first Macdoual who appears in connection with lands in Roxburghshire, is Fergus Macdoual, the son of Duncan Macdoual 2nd Lord of Galloway and Margaret Fraser his wife. Margaret Fraser inherited in her own right the baronies of Mackerston, Yetholm, and Clifton. In 1374, she resigned these baronies into the king’s hands in favour of her son Fergus, and on the third day of May of that year, Robert II. granted him charters of said baronies.

Fergus Macdoual and Dougal Macdoual of Wigtonshire took the oath of allegiance to Edward I. at Berwick, in 1296.

During the Succession War, Dougal Macdoual took part against the English Bruce, and for which their lands were forfeited. In 1306, he defeated Thomas and Alexander Bruce and Sir Reginald Crawford, took all the three prisoners, and carried them to Carlisle Castle, and were immediately ordered for execution by Edward I. Next year, Robert Bruce marched into Galloway to revenge the death of his brothers, and carried fire and sword through the terri- tories of his enemies. Macdoual raised the men of Galloway, and Edward II. ordered a large force to oppose Bruce, which caused him to retire into the northern fastnesses. In 1308, the gallant Edward Bruce invaded Galloway, defeated Macdoual and the other chiefs who had joined him, and took Dougal Macdoual prisoner. His son, Duncan M’Dougal succeeded, and, like his father, adhered to the English king.

On Galloway being subdued, King Robert I of Scotland. conferred on his brother Edward the lordship, and all the estates in that territory, forfeited by the heirs of the lords of Galloway. The grant was made in 1308. When Edward III., in 1332, set up Edward Baliol to claim the crown of Scotland, during the minority of David II., every part of Galloway became involved in the miseries of civil war. Those proprietors who had been settled on the forfeited lands by Robert I. shed their blood for his son ; but many of the old owners of the land, who had been allowed, by the leniency of the king, to possess their estates, went over to the English king.

During the first seven years of the war, Duncan Macdoual, who was the chief of the Clan Macdoual, remained true to the young king, but in August, 1339, when the star of Edward III. was in the ascendant, he took the oath of fealty to that king, and was pardoned for his past offences.* At the death of the Regent Randolph, David II. granted in 1341 the whole of Wigtonshire in free earldom to his faithful follower Sir Malcolm Fleming. On obtaining this grant, Sir Malcolm resolved upon punishing Duncan Macdoual for his revolt in 1339, and notwithstanding all the aid of the English king, he was subdued and forced to submit to the king of Scotland.

Duncan Macdoual, and his son Duncan, fought with King David II. at the battle of Durham in 1347, and were taken by the English army, and imprisoned in the castle of Rochester, from whence they were removed to York. Duncan, the father, was liberated, on promising to act against the Scots. His wife, brother, and two of his sons were hostages for him. In 1353, Duncan Macdoual renounced the authority of Edward III., and swore fealty to David II. in the church of Cumnock, and ever afterwards remained faithful to his sovereign.t On this fact becoming known to Edward, he ordered John de Boulton, his chancellor of Berwick, to seize all the lands, goods, and chattels of Duncan Macdoual, and the lands of his wife, their family and adherents.* The like command was issued to John Coupland, Edward’s sheriff of Roxburghshire.

Margaret Fraser was the wife of Duncan, and the mother of the said Fergus Macdoual, who was the first of the name that inherited the lands of Mackerston, &c, in the south of Scotland. Chalmers supposes that she was the second wife of Duncan Macdoual, as Fergus only inherited his mother’s estates in Roxburghshire, and not those of his father in Galloway.

 

We have established that the principal seat of the Galloway family, from whom Fergus Macdoual of Makerstoun sprung, was Garthland.

 

Turning back to our McDougall family line, we continue to work from what we know, to establish a link with this ancient family.

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Roxborough

The art of agriculture in this parish is in a highly improved state. The tenants are an active and industrious class of men. By their liming and draining etc are vastly improving the character of the soil.

They are much attached to their landlords who treat them in return with kindness and liberality. The largest farm in this parish is the Barony of Cessford which consists of upwards of 2000 acres of land and which has long been occupied by Mr Archibald McDougall a gentleman whose ancestors resided for generations on the Roxburghe estate in this quarter and who is well known to be one of the most skilful and intelligent agriculturists in the district.

Within these thirty years the improvements which he has effected on that property have been very great In the course of that time he has enclosed at his own cost the whole farm drained it in the most efficient manner and brought under cultivation upwards of 300 acres of moorland Besides he has removed all the old offices and cottages and erected in a more eligible situation new ones of the neatest and most substantial kind Independently of the expenses of liming the whole of this large farm his outlay amounted to upwards of L 4000.

The system of husbandry which is usually practised in this parish is the five shift system The turnips are partly eaten off the land by sheep and partly stored up as provisions for fattening cattle during the winter Of leases the usual duration is for nineteen years The fences are in good order and consist mostly of thorns The farm houses and offices are also in excellent order and have been some of them erected within these twenty years.

Breeds of Live Stock -The sheep that are reared in this parish are of the Leicester breed and every attention is paid to their improvement The cattle which are fed here are almost all of the short horned kind and these are sometimes fattened to an immense size.

 

A search through some of the local community records such as the Border Agricultural Society records for its first three years – 1813, 1814 and 1815 shows ‘Archd McDougall Cessford’ and

‘David McDougall Barns’, among other local familial durnames,taking part and judging…

Spring Show 20th April 1814. Award of The judges viz Mr Culley of Fowberry Mr Vardy Fenton Mr Walker Nisbet, Mr McDougall Barns and Mr Roberton Ladyrigg.

The Spring Show of 1815 was held on 12th April Robert Walker Esq of Wooden Preses. The Judges were Mr Culley of Akeld Mr Brodie Nottylees Mr Jobson Newtown Mr Hunt Thornington Mr Trotter Kerchesters Mr James Bruce Kelso and Mr McDougall Cessford.

The Autumn Show of 1815 was held on the 4th of October Mr Walker in the chair. The Judges were Mr Ellis Bush Farm Mr McDougall Caverton Mill and Mr Roberton Ladyrig for Leicesters and Shorthorns Mr Scott of Peel Mr Grieve Branxholm Braes and Mr Geo Pott of Dod for Cheviot Stock.

The next Spring Meeting took place on the 8th day of April 1818 Sir Alexander Don Bart of Newton MP Preses. Mr McDougall Barns Mr Nicholson West Weetwood and Mr Morton Kilham were Judges of the Short horns Mr Hogarth Baillieknow Mr Scott Nisbet Mill and Mr Walker Timpendean of the Horses &c.

BOARS Sweepstakes of half a sovereign each pp for the best Boar of any age to be shown at the Union Agricultural Society’s Show at Coldstream 31st March 1840 bona fide the property of subscribers To close and name as above Present Subscribers Mr James Curry Cornhill Mr Mc Dougall Barns .

SWINE Sweepstakes of half a sovereign each pp for the best Brood Sow to be shown at the Union Agricultural Society’s Show at Coldstream 31st March 1840 bona fide the property of subscribers To close and name as above Present Subscribers Mr Miller Skaithmuir Mr Mc Dougall Barns Mr Curry Cornhill Mr Calder Shotton The several stakes to be paid to the Secretary previous to the Stock entering the Competition Yard r G JERDAN Sec Kelso Feb 28 1840

25 Roan Bull Young Cleveland calved 9th July 1841 by Young Regent by Old Regent Old Regent by Marlish dam by Exmouth Marlish by Sir Harry Liddell dam The Princess by Willis’s Duke of Wellington gd Lavinia by Willis’s Duke gg d by Yarborough gggd by Yarborough dam by Bolingbroke owner Mr McDougall Cessford.

16 Ditto one bull four years old bred by Mr Smith Grindon 17 Mr McDougall Caverton Mill one bull Mina two years old by Scipio dam by Duke Midas Chilton Traveller a grandson of Hubback Scipio the property of Colonel Craddock MP and Mr Charge near Richmond by Brampton out of Mr Collings.

 Horse tax, volume 27 E326/9/27/123

6 Sep 1794       David McDougal Cavertonmiln

 

Dog Tax

4 Nov 1797 David McDougal, Caverton Miln 2

 

Farm Horse Tax 1797-1798, Volume 05 E326/10/5/87

20 Farm Horses

4 Nov 1797 David McDougal Cavertounmiln 20 14 6 £1.8.0

 

A commercial publication in the ‘ROXBURGHSHIRE’ paper lists our McDougal(l), David (tenant, Caverton Mill, 1790), (sasine – Inv 71 Se 07) and Macdougal(l), George (at Caverton Mill (Kelso), 1790), (sasine – Inv 71 Se 07). We presume George is Davids brother.

David (b1777) and Archibald’s father, was also named David McDougall. He, like many of this line of ancestors, was born at Caverton Mill, in 1736. His occupation inscribed on his tombstone at Eckford Churchyard is ‘Wright’ at Caverton Mill. He was resident when son David was born. It is notable that his father died there, when he was just 8 years old.

Letters from the House of Lords 2nd Feb 1767 give details of court session between Duke of Roxburgh and Mr McDougall his Grace’s Lessee of Caverton Mill and the appellant Robert Pringle of Clifton.

David (b1736), George and John’s father was David McDougall, born at Caverton Mill in 1706 and was living at the Scottish epicentre of the Jacobite Risings. David was a patriotic tennant and some say close friend of the Duke of Roxburghe. In 1688, King James II’s approval of religious toleration left English subjects fearing the reestablishment of Catholicism as the official faith. Acting fast, James’ Protestant brother-in-law, William of Orange, backed by military might, invaded England and deposed his relative the following year, forcing James to flee to Catholic France.

In Scotland, King James’ supporters, dubbed the Jacobites, gathered strength and planned an insurrection to restore him to the throne. But their numbers remained small until William stripped Scotland of its own parliament in 1707, forcing it to depend on English leadership.

High taxes and famine that followed incited riots and bolstered support for the Jacobite cause. In 1715, Jacobite forces 4,000-strong clashed with the English but were defeated.

In 1745, they regrouped. With so many English troops off fighting wars abroad, the Jacobites took control of Scotland until reinforcements arrived, the following year crushing the rebellion once and for all. In the end, the hope for a Catholic restoration in England was extinguished and surviving Jacobites faced death for their treachery.

An encounter many years later  with ‘the’ son of Scotland, Robbie Burns,as written in his diary of the journey through the borders, gives intimate detail of the part the farmer and his two sons played in the drama of 1745…

To help step further back in time it is necessary to search the Old Parish Registers for Eckford, Kelso and Roxburghe Parish’s and create an illustration of the 3 centuries of the McDougall “events” that occur in the late 17th/early 18th century.

David McDougall (b 1736) is thus the one baptised in April 1736, and later he is indeed described in the OPRs as Mr. David McDougal Jnr.

David McDougall Snr was baptised in the parish church at Eckford in 1706 (Caverton forming part of this parish). It is this David marries Margaret Lillie at Eckford in July 1726.

David’s (b1706) father Thomas Mackdowgall, was born at Cessford in 1689. The spelling of his surname in the records changes to McDougall. Thomas apparently moved the little distance from Roxburgh Village or perhaps Makerstoun, to Caverton Mill where his first son, David, was born in 1706;

He was married to Margaret Rutherford of Sprouston. There are some variations of surname spellings of his children including Makdowgall,Mcdougall, McDougal. Thomas and Mergeret must have married around the birth of their first child David who is mentioned as being born at Caverton Miln when Thomas was only 17 yrs old.

Thomas Mackdowgall/McDougall was born in 1689 and his brother William in 1691. Possibly this William might have been the father of the “other” John McDougall, he who married Janet Lergetwood at Eckford in 1754 (p.24), and who was a wright at Caverton Mill. On this basis the “other” John McDougall would be a cousin of the David McDougall born 1706.

Thomas’s surname changes from Mackdowgall to McDougall in the records. He was baptized in Roxburgh on 23rd June 1684. He married Margaret Rutherford and they had 6 children – David 1706, Mary 1707, Isabella 1708, Henry 1711, James 1714, and Euphemia.

___________________________________________________________________________

Cessford Land Tax Rolls under The Dukedom of Roxburgh

1789 Kelso Librabry Proprieters

Land tax rolls for Roxburghshire, volume 01 E106/29/1/17

In 1687 David Makdougall had a ‘hutt’ and rated thus L168 pounds

In 1666 Henry Hall of Haughead and a number of Covenanters were imprisoned in Cessford castle. It is said that Cessford Castle ceased to be the dwelling place of the Kers after 1650.

At the death of Earl Robert in 1650 Sir William Drummond succeeded under the entail and married Lady Jean the eldest daughter of Harry Lord Ker.

His grandson Robert Ker died unmarried, his younger brother John, succeeded to the earldom and for his services in bringing about the union between Scotland and England was created Duke of Roxburghe in 1707.

He was privy seal in Scotland in 1714 and secretary of state in 1716 but lost office in 1725 in consequence of opposing Sir Robert Walpole He died at Fleurs in 1741 Robert his son and successor died in 1755 and was succeeded by John his son and heir who was a great book collector He rose high in the favour of George III. He died unmarried in March 1804.

 

Thomas’s father was James Mackdowgall, born in 1659 and his baptism record stating Roxburghe. He married Mergeret Rutherford.

James married Mergeret Rutherford daughter of George Rutherford and Jenet Fox. She was baptized on Roxburgh on 18th March 1660. They had 5 children, David 1684, Alexander 1687, Thomas 1689, William 1691 and Mergarett 1693.

His parents were Samuell Mackdowgall born 1631 Kelso, Roxburghe and Mergeret Bell.

Samuell’s father Robert Mackdougall was born in 1602, Roxborough to James Mackdowgall and Marion Liermont. He had two brothers.

 

James Mackdowgall was born in 1582, ‘of Kelso’ and although his father died when he was just 3 (in 1585), he lived to the great age of 88 yrs. He had 3 brothers – George Mackdougal of Makerstoun and Nicholas Mackdougall of Kelso and Thomas, the only remaining at the time of his father’s death.

His father James Macdougall (Macdowell) was born about 1522 and died around/before 1585.

James (b 1522), passed his estate to his brother Thomas, ‘now of Makerstoun’ 10th Laird. He was married to Margaret Hume.

James Macdowell Snr, born 1522, of Makerstoun, died about 1575 and is buried in the quire of Makerstoun Chapel. They had two sons – James and Thomas.

 

Ancient Caverton

The name of this ancient territory is derived from the Cambro British cae ver signifying little fields or enclosures and the Saxon ton added describes the town at the fields or enclosures This place is thought to be the Keveronum of the Inquisitio of Earl David in 1116 and belonging at that early period to the church of Glasgow.

The name of this place is a proof that farms existed during the British period. The territory is situated on the right bank of the Cayle opposite to Cessford and Marlefield lying between the river and the baronies of Linton Lempitlaw Sprouston Heaton and Eckford It belonged to the family of Sidi.

In 1675 Robert Kerr,  Earl of Roxburghe was served heir to his father William Kerr, Earl of Roxburghe Lord Ker of Cessford and Caverton amongst others in a husbandland in Caverton called Huntlilands (of the Rutherford Family).

The territory of Caverton with the exception of the lands of Mainhouse belong to the dukedom of Roxburghe. The town of Caverton was of importance in early times but now consists of only a few farm cottages On the east side of the town stood a little chapel which served the inhabitants of that territory.

Caverton Hill Head cottages.

The territory of Caverton suffered severely during the wars between England and Scotland owing to its position between the Tweed and Cayle the ground over which the invading army chiefly passed The greater portion of the land must have been a moor especially on the east Caverton Edge on which Kelso races were formerly run is now planted and the remainder is let into farms capable of producing crops of every kind and is highly cultivated.

About the middle of the 15th century Walter Ker designed as of Caverton, but of Cessford, was in possession of lands in Caverton. In 1478 he was summoned before the Lords Auditors at the instance of Dougal McDougall of Makerstoune. About the same time Rutherfurd of Hundole had a third part of the lands of Caverton.

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     Alexander Hume of Kennetsidehead, portioner of Hume, was one of the martyrs of the Covenant, and his execution was perhaps the most cruel and unprovoked of the judicial murders, which led the way to the Revolution of 1688.

Taken prisoner in 1682, by a brother of the earl of Home, he was conveyed, sorely wounded, to the castle of Edinburgh, and at first tried only on the charge of having held converse with some of the party who took the castle of Hawick in 1679. The proof, however, being defective, the diet was deserted. On November 15, he was again indicted, and accused of levying war against the king in the counties of Berwick, Roxburgh, and Selkirk. The diet was again deserted.

On December 20, however, he was once more indicted for having gone to the house of Sir Henry MacDougall of Mackerstoun, besieged it, and demanded horses and arms, of having entered Kelso, &c., in search of horses and armour, of resisting the king’s forces under the master of Ross, &c. The whole of these formidable charges were founded on the simple fact that Mr. Hume, riding with sword and holster pistols, the usual arms worn by all gentlemen at that period, after attending a sermon had, on his way home, called, with his servant, at Mackerstoun House, and offered to buy a bay horse. This his counsel, Sir Patrick Hume, offered to prove, but the court repelled the defence. He was found guilty, on these unproved charges, and condemned to be hanged at the market cross of Edinburgh on 29th December, between 2 and 4 afternoon.

He petitioned for time that his case might be laid before the king, but this was refused, and the day of execution hastened. Interest, however, had previously been made at court in his favour, and a remission reached Edinburgh in time, but was kept up by the chancellor, the earl of Perth. On the day of his execution his wife, Isobel Hume, went to Lady Perth, and earnestly besought her to interpose for her husband’s life, pleading his five small children, but she was inhumanly repulsed. His last speech on the scaffold will be found in Wodrow (Hist. Of Sufferings of Church of Scotland, vol., ii., pp. 268-270). His estate was forfeited, but restored at the Revolution, and it is remarkable, that his family was singularly prosperous. His lineal descendants still possess extensive property in Berwickshire – his heir male and direct descendant is Patrick Home of Gunsgreen and Windshiel, and in the same degree in the female line are Mrs. Milne Home of Wedderburn, and Mr. Robertson Glasgow, of Montgrennan, Ayrshire.

 

Makerstoun

Makerstoun House before reconstruction and new facade 1978

In 1678 Henry McDougal and Robert Pringle of Stitchel were commissioners to Parliament for the county of Roxburgh.

The territory of Caverton with the exception of the lands of Mainhouse belong to the dukedom of Roxburghe. The town of Caverton was of importance in early times but now consists of only a few farm cottages.

On the east side of the town stood a little chapel which served the inhabitants of that territory but every vestige of it had disappeared before the end of last century. As said before this chapel is believed to have existed at a very early period and to be the Keveronum in the inquisition made by Earl David in 1116 as to the property of the church of Glasgow in Teviotdale. Very few notices are to be met with of this chapel In the end of the 15th century.

Walter Ker of Cessford burdened the lands of Caverton with a yearly payment ten pounds to the officiating chaplain.

He also granted to the chapel two cottages which lay near to the orchard two acres of land with crums meadow and four soums in Caverton with a manse and yard In 1500 James IV confirmed this grant.

The small graveyard of the chapel was used by several families of the parish and by others because their forefathers were interred there up to 1793. Since that time it has scarcely been used for burial In a field north of the churchyard a fountain was called the Holy Well and occasionally the Priest’s Well from its connection with the chapel but the name is beginning to be lost among the now ever changing inhabitants of the country hamlets.

 

In 1669 Charles II granted a charter of donation and concession to and in favour of Henry Makdougal of M Cariston in liferent and of Thomas Macdougal his only son procreate of the marriage between him and Barbara M Dougal and his heirs in fee all and haill the lands and barony of M Caristoune with the tower fortalice manor place comprehending the lands of Luntonlaw and the lands of Westermuir deane the lands of Nethermains commonly called the Townfootmains the ten mark lands of M Cariston and the lands of Manorhill and Charterhouse.

By the same charter his Majesty annexed and erected said lands into a barony to be called the barony of M Caristoune ordering the said tower and fortalice to be the principal messuage of the lands and barony and at which sasine was to be taken for all the lands and barony whether lying contiguous or not.

The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707, K.M. Brown et al eds (St Andrews, 2007-2018), date accessed: 20 April 2018

 

Charles II: Translation  > 1670, 28 July, Edinburgh, Parliament  > Parliamentary Register > At Edinburgh 22 August 1670  > Charters: ratifications

[1670/7/53]1

 

Ratification in favour of Henry MacDougall of Makerstoun

Our sovereign lord, with advice and consent of the estates of parliament, ratifies and approves the charter of donation and concession made and granted by his majesty, under his highness’s great seal, of the date at his majesty’s court at Whitehall, in his highness’s realm of England, 25 June, the year of God 1669 years last, with advice and consent of his majesty’s lords commissioners, to and in favour of his majesty’s beloved Henry MacDougall of Makerstoun, in life rent during all the days of his lifetime, and of Thomas MacDougall, his only son, lawfully procreated between him and Barbara MacDougall, his spouse, and of the said Thomas, his nearest and lawful male heirs, of all and whole the lands and barony of Makerstoun, with the tower, fortalice, manor place, houses, biggings, yards, orchards, parks, dovecots, mills, mill-lands, astricted multures and sequels of the same, meadows, muirs, moss, fishings, tofts, crofts, parts, pendicles, annexes, connexes, dependancies, tenants, tenantries, service of free tenants, and their whole pertinents whatsoever, of the lands, barony and others above-written, namely, of all and whole the lands of Luntonlaw, with houses, biggings, yards,2 and all their pertinents; as also, of all and whole the lands of nether mains of Makerstoun, commonly called the Townfoot mains, with houses, biggings, yards and pertinents whatsoever of the same; and likewise, of all and whole the lands commonly called the ten merk land of Makerstoun, and the lands of charter house and Manorhill, with houses, biggings, yards, tenants, tenantries, service of free tenants, parts, pendicles and pertinents whatsoever of the same (which are proper parts and pendicles foresaid of the said lands and barony of Makerstoun and are comprehended therein), all lying within the sheriffdom of Roxburgh.

Moreover, his majesty has given, granted and conveyed and, for his majesty and his highness’s successors above-written, perpetually confirmed to the said Henry MacDougall, in life rent during all the days of his lifetime foresaid, and to the said Thomas MacDougall, and his male heirs, the above lands to be called now (as of before) and in all time coming, the barony of Makerstoun, ordaining the said tower, fortalice and manor place of Makerstoun to be the principal messuage of the same lands and barony at the said manor place of Makerstoun  …the whole time of the ward and non-entry thereof and either of them (when the same shall happen) of the sum of £200 usual money of this realm of Scotland, at two terms in the year Whitsunday [May/June] and Martinmas [11 November] in winter by equal portions, together with the like sum of £200 money foresaid for the relief thereof, and for the marriage of the heirs foresaid of the said Thomas MacDougall, the foresaid ward and non-entry, and either of them, with the whole mails, ferms, kanes, customs, casualties, profits and duties of the lands, barony and others above-written.

NAS. PA2/29, f.153v-155.

 

In 1665 Henry Macdougal and John Scott of Langshaw were commissioners for the shire of Roxburgh

In 1643 Robert, Earl of Roxburgh seems to have been possessed of the lands and barony of MCaristoune.

In 1625 the Laird of Malkerstoun was a commissioner to the Parliament for the county of Roxburghe.

In 1622 Sir William Macdougal and a number of others were fined 100 merks for being absent from the trial of Turnbull of Belsches and others for perjury.

In 1604 James Macdougal succeeded his father Thomas Macdougal in the lands and barony of Makerstoun In 1608 he acquired the lands and town of Danieltown near Melrose.

In 1598 the Laird of Mackerstoune published an advertisement that he would undertake to make land more valuable by sowing salt on it

In 1596 Thomas Macdougall of Mackarstoune was one of the assize on the trial of Robert Hamilton of Inchmauchane Sir James Edmestoune of Duntraith and James Lockart of Ley accused of treason.

In 1590 Thomas Makdougal rebuilt the house which had been cast down by Hertford.

James Mackdowgall was born around 1582 in Kelso, Roxborough, Scotland. He married Marion Liermont. They had a son called Robert born in 1602 and was baptized in Kelso, Roxborough on 7th March 1602. Robert married Issobell Cleghorne, daughter of James Cleghorne. She was born on 6th June 1613 in Invernesk with Musselburgh, Midlothian.

In 1565 He appears one of the prolocutors for the murder of the Earl Bothwell’s servant and he defended James Bog accused of the slaughter of George Hamilton of Pardovane.

In 1564 the Laird of MCarstoun was one of the prolocutors for Elliot of Horsleyhill and others for the slaughter of the Laird of Hassendean.

Alexander McDougall of Stodrig was also one of the defenders of the pannels. The Laird of Makerstoune was one of the assize on the trial of William Sinclair of Herdmanstone.

Before 1568 Captain Robert Macdougall was in possession of part of the estates of Makerstoune as at that time Barbara Macdougal his niece and spouse to Harry Macdougal was served heir to him in the lands of Lyntonlaw the lands of Wester Meredene part of the barony of Makerstoune and the lands of Townfootmains also within said barony.

In 1545 the army of Hertford visited the barony and destroyed the town of Makerston Manerhill and Charterhouse Luntin law and Stotherike tower.

In 1536 Thomas McDowell Laird of Macarestoune found caution of 1000 merks to underlye the law at the next Justiciaire at Jedburgh for oppression and hamesucken done to Alexander Dunbar dean of Murray and his servants.

Sinclair of Moreham, Mr Patrick Aitkinson and Mr William Scott as arbiters and George Douglas of Bonjedworth oversman and failing him the Laird of Rutherfurd or Walter Ker of Cessford in regard to the withholding of 100 merks claimed by the said Laird of M Carstoun from Ormiston for the gersome of Mer dane and also as to the said Laird of M Carstoun withholding a tack of the West Mains of M Carstoun from Ormiston parties to meet in the chapel of Fairningtoune on the sixth day of November next.

Thomas Macdougall born about 1498, in Makerstoun.

On the 17th October 1493 Dougal McDowell pursued Alexander Craik John Craik Martine Gibsine George Bowo John Richardson and Thomas Tailfor Thomas Bowo Thomas Donaldson Adam Camis James Bowo Richard Bowo John Tod and Thomas Aitchison chaplain for the wrongous occupation of the lands of Rhynynlaws and the Spittal Green belonging to him as part of the lands of M Carstoun.

The Lords adjourned the cause to the next Justiciare at Jedburgh. In the same year a reference was entered into between the said Dougal M Dowell and Nichol Ormiston to John Edmonstone son and apparent heir of the laird of Edmonstone William.

In 1483 the Lords Auditors heard Dougal McDowell and Walter Kerr of Cessford in the cause pursued by Cessford v M Dowell for L 100 being the penalty contained in an agreement between them for fulfilling of a contract of marriage between Andrew McDowell the son of MCarstoun and Margaret Kerr a daughter of Cessford and continued the cause in consequence of Dougal alleging that he was possessed of a discharge of the same.

In 1480 the Lords of Council allowed Dougal a proof that he had paid the abbot of Kelso 12 chalders 4 bolls of meal and bear 4 bolls of wheat for the land of MCarstoun at the terms of St Andrews and Candlemass

In 1478 Dougal McDowall of MCarstoun was ordained by the Lords of Council to pay to Robert the abbot of Kelso twelve chalders and a half of victual for the teinds of MCarstoune for the year bypast in terms of the obligation by him to the abbot. In that same year he was summoned before the Lords Auditors at the instance of Dougal McDougall of Makerstoune and by Walter Kerr of Caverton. About the same time Rutherfurd of Hundole had a third part of the lands of Caverton.

 

In 1398 Archibald McDowell of MCarstoune appeared at Melrose and granted an obligation for the amount of his relief granted by the Crown to the new worke of the kirke of Melrose.

About 1390 Sir Archibald McDowell got a grant from King Robert III of the lands of MCarstoune, Yhethame and Elystoun. He was married to Euphemia Gifford

 

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In 1574 James VI with consent of Regent Morton granted the lands and barony of Auld Roxburghe with their pertinents to Robert Ker the son and apparent heir of William Ker younger of Cessford with remainder in succession to his heirs to the heirs male of William Ker to the heirs of Sir Walter Ker of Cessford to Mark Ker the commendator of New battle brother of Sir Walter Ker and his heirs to Andrew Ker of Faldonside and his heirs to Thomas Ker of Mersington and his heirs to George Ker of Linton and his heirs to Ker of Gateshaw and his heirs to the heirs male whomsoever of the said William Ker younger of Cessford bearing the name of Ker and the Cessford arms reserving the freehold and liferent to Sir Walter Ker and the terce to Isabel his wife and after their death the same to William Ker and his wife Janet Douglas On the death of Sir Walter Ker William his son succeeded For many years he was warden of the middle marches His son Robert afterwards the first Earl of Roxburghe was one of the most noted spirits on the Border He acted as depute warden of the middle marches during the life of his father.

One of the Rutherfurds accompanied Cessford and was wounded in the cheek by Bothwell’s attendant Of Ker Sir Robert Carey who was deputy warden of the east marches.

In 1552 Sir Walter Scott was slain by Ker of Cessford in the streets of Edinburgh With the view of stanching this feud a contract was entered into in 1564 between Sir Walter Scott of Branxholm with the consent of his curators and Sir Walter Ker of Cessford

In that curious document Sir Walter Ker takes burden upon him for his children and for his brother Mark of Newbattle and his children Hume of Cowden knowes and his children Andrew Ker of Faldonside side and his children and brother Ker of Messing ton his father’s brother and their children Ker Linton and his children and grand children brother’s bairns Richard Ker of Gateshaw children and brother Andrew William and Ker brothers of Fernieherst Ker of Kippeshaw and his son Robert Ker of Bothtown Robert Ker burgess of Edinburgh and all their children kyn friends men tenants and servants And Walter Scott of Branxholm and Buccleuch consent of his curators took burden upon him his haill surname and the relict and bairns of deceased Sir Walter Scott his grandfather and at the same time the king granted a remission under seal to Sir Walter Ker for his share in the slaughter of the Knight of Branxholm.

In 1545 Cessforthe, Cessforthe burn and Cessfort maynes are in the list of places destroyed by the army of the Earl of Hertford

In 1535 Buccleuch was imprisoned for levying war against the Kers but in 1542 his estates were restored by Parliament.

In 1526 while James V was returning from Jedburgh accompanied by Angus with a body of his kindred they were attacked by Buccleuch with 1000 men but the result was in favour of Angus Cessford pursuing too eagerly was slain by a domestic of Buccleuch which produced a deadly feud between the families of Ker and Scott which raged for many years upon the Borders.

To reconcile this quarrel an agreement was entered into at Ancrum in March 1529 between the clans of Scot and Ker whereby each clan was to forgive the other but it was stipulated that Sir Walter Scott of Branxholm should go to the four head pilgrimages of Scotland and say a mass for the souls of the deceased Andrew of Cessford and those who were slain in his company and cause a chaplain to say a mass daily wherever Sir Walter Ker and his friends …might fix upon that the son and heir of Branxholm was to marry one of the sisters of Ker of Cessford and the marriage portion to be paid by Sir Walter Scott at the sight of friends any difference that might arise in future between the clans was to be settled by six arbiters But this agreement which both parties bound and obliged ilk ane to others be the faith and troth of their bodies but fraud or guile under the pain of perjury man swearing defalcation and breaking of the bond of deadly seems to have been of brief endurance

In 1509 the demesne lands of Auld Roxburgh with mill mount and Castlestead and the town and lands of Auld Roxburgh were resigned by Andrew Ker the son of Walter Ker into the hands of James IV who granted them anew to him and his wife Agnes Crichton for the usual services Andrew Ker was one of the border barons who bound themselves to assist the Earl of Angus against the Lidde dale men and others dwelling within the bounds of Teviotdale and Ettrick forest in putting them out of the same.

In 1488 James IV granted to Walter Ker the place and messuage of Roxburgh with pertinents castle and the patronage of the Maisondieu for payment of a red rose at the castle at the Feast of John the Baptist. In 1500 the grant was confirmed.

in 1481 to whom he again granted them with the remainder in succession to his brothers Thomas William and Ralphe and the true and lawful heirs whomsoever of the said Andrew Ker.

In 1478 Walter Ker appears as proprietor of Caverton. On the king attaining his majority the same lands were again resigned to him by the same Walter Ker

In 1474 during the minority of James III Andrew Ker of Cessford resigned to him the baronies of Auld Roxburgh and Cessford on which a charter was granted by Lord James Hamilton of the same to Walter Ker his son and heir under reservation of the terce for life of Margaret Tweedy his wife

In 1451 James II granted Andrew Ker of Altonburn all and each his lands of the barony of Auldroxburgh with pertinents for payment of one silver penny at Whitsunday in name of blench farme if demanded It was this Andrew who accompanied Douglas to Rome in 1451.

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Sir Dungal MacDowel, of Makerston

In an old inventory at Mackerston there is mention of “ane charter be Robert, King of Scotland, to Dougal Macdougall, sone of ye said Fergus of the barronie of Mackerston, dated 24 June, et regni sui 12.” It is not practicable to fix the precise date of this charter, owing to the omission by what Robert the grant was made; it was probably, however, by the second of the name, in which event the time would be in 1384. Sir Dungal left a son and heir, Sir Archibald Macdowell, of Mackerston.

Sir John Gifford of Yester, by marriage with the daughter of Sir Thomas Morham of Morham, obtained the lands of that name. With his son, Hugh Gifford of Yester, who was dead before 11th March 1409, the male line failed. The latter had, however four daughters, his coheiresses;

4th co heiress Euphemia Gifford, m. Dougal Macdougall of Makerstoun.

Dungall Macdowall, of Mackerston, Yester, &c., to whom and his heirs, Robert Duke of Albany confirms, on the 11th March, 1409, the baronies of Yester, Duncaulan, Morhame, Teline, and Polganie, in the shires of Edinburgh, Forfar, and Perth, upon the resignation of “Euphemia Giffart filie quondam Hugonis Giffart militis unius haeridis ejusdem atris dicti Dougalli,” and under reservation of her life rent. Dungall was s. by his son, Duncan MacDowall”

Burke, John, and George Ormerod. A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland enjoying territorial possessions or high official rank: but uninvested with heritable honors. (London: Published for Henry Colburn, by R. Bentley, 1834-1838), Vol. III, Page 432.

Sources

WeRelate: Dungall MacDougall, of Makerstoun, of Yester

MacVeigh, James. The Scottish Nation: The Historical and Genealogical Account of All Scottish Families and Surnames. (Dumfries, Scotland: MacVeigh, James, 1889), Vol. 2, DAL-MAC. Page 298.

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Makerstoun House:

The lands of Makerstoun were granted to the Corbets in the mid-twelfth century, and remained in their hands until 1374, when they passed to the McDowells, later known as the MakDougalls.

The name of the parish of Makerstoun has been variously written in ancient documents as Muckerstoun, Mackarvastun, Malkariston, Malcarstoun and Macarstoun.  The name probably derived from some original settler called Malcar or Mac-car, whose tun, or dwelling, was fixed on the site.

It is to the MakDougalls that the earliest surviving remains at Makerstoun can probably be attributed, though much of this peele tower was destroyed by fire during Hertford’s incursion into Scotland in 1545. The tower was rebuilt by Thomas Makdowell in 1590, on the foundations of its predecessor, and part of this building still survives in the core of the modern mansion. Work carried out on Makerstoun House in the 1970s revealed the re-use of some fragments of carved stone which had originated in the earlier tower-house.

Makerstoun House, which is situated at the S extremity of the parish on the high left bank of the Tweed, has been rebuilt and wholly modernised with the exception of a single vaulted cellar at its SE corner. But even this compartment, which dates from the 16th century, has been altered by the shutting off of a passage along one side. The N front of the house is adorned with a modern battlement supported on double-membered moulded corbels of 16th-century type, evidently re-used.

A cubical sundial with three dial-faces, the central one showing two sets of initials, H M and B M, for Henry Makdougall of Makerstoun and Barbara, his wife and cousin, with the date 1684, projects from the SW. angle of the servants’ quarters.

 

In 1374 Scottish King Robert II confirmed Fergus MacDowall of Garthland and Galloway as baron of Makerstoun, which he had inherited from the Corbet family via his mother Margaret Fraser. This was the first baron of the MacDowall, also known as MacDougall, family (various spellings used for both). (Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot 1306-1424, 1956).

In a charter of confirmation of 1381-3 (Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot 1306-1424) to his son Ughtred, the town or vill of Malcarston is mentioned.

About 1390, Archibald McDowell got a grant from Robert III of the lands of “M’Carstoune”, Yetholm, and Elistone (Clifton).[9] He died before 14 November 1411.

The vill of Malcarston figures again in a charter of 1430-I, (Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot 1424-1513, 1984), together with the cemetery and Church of St Peter of Makerstoun which stood in South Street.

The burial ground of the Macdougall family is situated close to Makerstoun House.[4] House.

In 1548-9 (Hamilton Papers J Bain ed. 1892). Makerstoun was one of the houses appointed to watch the fords of Tweed. The first recorded minister of the church was Martin Rutherford in 1567. The estate remained with the Makdougall family until 1890.

 

Fraser and Corbet of Makerstoun, Roxborough

The earliest proprietor of the Barony of Makerstoun named in the records is Walter Corbet, who acquired the barony about the middle of the 12th century.

His father was Robert Corbet, who came from Shropshire in the beginning of the 12th century, and settled in Teviotdale under Earl David (later King David I of Scotland).

In and around 1125 Walter Corbet, laird of Makerstoun, built the village of Makerstoun and the church.  It is recorded that shortly thereafter he …” granted to the monks of Kelso, the church at Malcaruastun, with a carucate of land.”  The church was known as ‘Church of St Peter of Makerstoun’.

A small fortified keep known as a pele tower was built at Makerstoun in 1128. The tower was extended in 1300.[10]

Sometime in the 13th century the canons had granted the Corbets, then the proprietors, leave to have a chapel on their manor, and it is presumably this chapel which stood NW. of Makerstoun House (RCAHMS 1956, No.551), the site at the Home Farm (RCAHMS 1956, No.554) being that of the parish church.

Although public worship would be conducted in this church, it is interesting to note that at some point in the 13th century the monks granted to Corbets’ grandchild the right to celebrate divine worship in their own chapel of the manor of Malcarveston .

Before 1220 it passed into the possession of William, second son of Patrick, Earl of Dunbar, by his marriage with the heiress, Christiana Corbet. Christiana Corbet died in 1241, and her husband, Williaiu, in 1253.

They left two sons, Patrick, who got the estate of Foghou, and Nicolas, who succeeded to that of Makarstoun, both of whom assumed their mother’s surname of Corbet.

In 1296 a Gilbert Fraser and Margaret, his wife, are found holding lands in the sheriffdom of Roxburgh and in 1306 Ivo de Aldborough demanded from Edward I. the lands of Margaret, formerly wife of Gilbert Fraser, together with her maritagium, or the right of bestowing her hand in marriage.”

In the reign of Robert I., Margaret Corbet, widow of Dominus Gilbert Fraser, made a ” querela,” or complaint, to the King of the slaughter of her husband, but, after this, she married again, for in 1334 an order was issued by Edward of England for the restoration of their lands in Annandale and the sheriffdom of Roxburgh to Patrick de Shartres —Charters—and Margaret Corbet, Lady of Makarstoun, according to the agreement between Edward de Bohun, David, Earl of Athole, and the said Patrick, concerning the surrender of the Castle of Lochmaben. In the reign of David II.

Margaret Corbet, Lady M’Crastoun (Makarstoun), is also mentioned in Robertson’s Index. These record evidence that Makarstoun remained in the Corbet name until about the middle of the fourteenth century ; and that Gilbert Fraser’s interest in it arose from his having married the heiress, Margaret Corbet, who was probably the grandchild or great-grandchild of Nicolas Corbet.

Margaret Fraser is mentioned as Lady of Makarstoun in 1369, and about the year 1374 Margaret Fraser resigned the lands of Makarstoun, Yetholm, and Cristoun to her son, Fergus Macdougal, or Macdowall.

It is therefore evident that she must have been the daughter, or grand-daughter, of Margaret Corbet, Lady of Makarstoun, and her first husband, Gilbert Fraser. If she were her daughter, she could not have been born later than 1307, for Gilbert Fraser was dead in 1306; and, in that case, she must have been an aged woman when she resigned Makarstoun and her other lands to her son Fergus. No record has been found of the parentage of this Gilbert Fraser. He was probably a younger son, but of which branch it is impossible to form an idea. The above facts, however, disprove the statement copied by Mr. Anderson from Cardonell’s Antiquities ; and also refute the suggestion of Crawfurd, that Sir Richard Fraser might have been a member of the Makarstoun family.

1 Rotuli Scotia;, vol. i. p. 274. 4 Robertson’s Index, p. 115, Nos. 32, 33. 2 Robertson’s Index, p. 60, No. 11. 5 Remarks on Ragman Piolls, p. 12. 3 Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, G Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. i. p. 175, Appendix ad acta David II. vol. i. p. 88, documents subjoined to Preface. VOL II. Q

 

Kerr of Old Roxborough and Cessford

Its significance lay in its position in the centre of some of Lowland Scotland’s most agriculturally fertile areas, and its position upon the River Tweed, which allowed river transport of goods via the main seaport of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Its position also acted as a barrier to English invasion.

The town stood on a defensible peninsula between the rivers Tweed and Teviot, with Roxburgh Castle guarding the narrow neck of the peninsula. Nothing remains of the town except some ruined segments of castle ramparts. Its site lies to the south of modern Kelso and Floors Castle, which lie on the other side of the Tweed. The Duke of Roxburghe owns the site.

Andrew Kerr, of Cessford and Auldtounburn, on Scottish border with England, in 1451 he was granted the barony of Old Roxburgh, as at 1457 he held post of Warden of the Marches, died post-1481.

English and Scots forces repeatedly captured and recaptured the town during the Scottish Wars of Independence, notably in 1314, in the run-up to Bannockburn. Its final recapture in 1460 saw the town and castle destroyed.

After this time the town never regained its importance because the final English capture of Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1482 left Roxburgh with little reason to exist, henceforth lacking a port.

The Kerr’s are traditionally said to be of Anglo-Norman descent settling in the Scottish Borders in the 14th century.  It has also been said that the line of this family goes back to the old testament times the name in Hebrew being KIR. One of the first mentions in Scottish history however, appears to be John Ker hunter of Swynhope. The two principal rival branches of the Kerr’s descended from two brothers, Ralph and John who were living near Jedburgh in the 14th century; the Kers of Ferniehirst were descended from the eldest and the Kerr’s of Cessford from John. Although the two families were constantly in bitter conflict, the descendants of both these houses were appointed Wardens of the Middle Marches; Sir Andrew of Ferniehirst in 1502 and Sir Andrew of Cessford after the Battle of Flodden.  

The center of the family’s power lay in lower Teviotdale but a number of Kerr’s acquired land in Aberdeen, Stirling, Lanark, Dumfries, Peebles and even Haddington counties.

William Kerr of Cessford   married Janet Douglas. Their daughter Lady Mary Kerr married Sir William Scott. Their daughter Janet Scott married Thomas MacDougall 8th Laird of Makerstoun (below).

     

During the 16th century, the Kerr’s continued to oppose one another, and on the death of James IV, when his widow Margaret Tudor 

remarried Archibald Douglas Earl of Angus, the Kerr’s of Cessford supported the English Queen-mother ( mother of Margaret Douglas, mother of Henry Stuart, husband of Mary Queen of Scots) and the Kerr’s of Ferniehurst the young King, James V (Margaret’s son with James IV).

                                               

Cessford was forced to flee to England when Angus was exiled only to return on the death of James V in 1542 when Sir John Kerr of Ferniehirst lost his castle.

The castle was recaptured in 1549 and the English who had repeatedly raped the Kerr women, were captured, horribly tortured and killed. This event was documented in the poem “Reprisal” by Walter Laidlaw.

The rivalry continued when Sir Thomas of Ferniehirst fought for

Mary Queen of Scots 

at Langside and Sir Walter Cessford on the side of James VI, Mary’s son.

Image result for james vi

The feud was resolved on the political level by the Union of the Crown and by the marriage of Anne Kerr of Cessford to William Kerr of Ferniehirst.  

1573 listing of the Kerrs shows them the Lairds of Cessforth, Fernyherst (Ferniehirst), Grenehead (also known as Greneheid), Greyden (Graden), Gaitschaw, Fadounsyde, Cavers, Linton, and Ancrum.

The history of this family is replete with revenge, bloodshed, and family honor. The expression “Kerr-handed” and “cory-fisted” pertain to the heritage of left handedness within the Kerr family. The Kerr’s were fierce enemies of the English and were known by many names.

 

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Back after 5 years

I now have my family history blog up and running again. From here on in you will see many random entries on bits and pieces I have found along the way during my research and reading – it all helps to paint a picture! Recently I’ve been looking into the Rishworth Family Coat of Arms, Italian ancestry lines and Scottish roots. Blog entries to follow.
Lisa
April 2018


John’s arrival in NZ


Nonna and friends on the Tamaroa

Fay (centre)


Chapter 10, Green Family Ancestors

Chapter 10, Green Family Ancestors


What of Alfred Green’s ancestors. Where did they live and what did they do for a living?

Alfred was the son of Richard Frederick Green, born in 1812, Middlesex (London) England. On 11th September 1831 Frederick married Ann, born about 1811, from St Andrews, London. They married at St George the Martyr, Southwark, London. He was 19yrs and she was 22 yrs old. They lived in Holborn most of their lives. In 1841 they were living at No 6 “Grand Holborn”(‘above the Bars’), Holborn, St Andrew’s , Middlesex. Fred, 29 was a cabinet maker, Ann, 32 and Alfred 8.

Fred died between 1841 and 1851 leaving his widow Ann with six children. The 1851 census records them living at 2 Hooper Street, Ann 40 years old, a ‘shopkeeper’, 18 yr old Alfred working as a ‘Lithographer’, 7 yr old Alice at school and 4 yr old Emily still living at home. Not listed are Henry James (15), Maria Sarah Ann (12) and Victoria Maria (9). Alice lived her whole life in London, dying at Poplar in 1920.

More to come……


Chapter 9, Ancient Ischia

Chapter 9, Ancient Ischia

Monti-Aurelio Family of I’sola Ischia

By all accounts my grandmother endured some lonely times in her life but she had a fighting spirit and drive to live a happy and comfortable life. Looking back into the history if Ischia provides some insight as to where this driving spirit came from.

Ischia, the Pithecussa of the Greeks, the Aenaria of the Romans, and the Iscla of the 9th cent. In1928 Ischia had about 31,500 inhabitants, who are principally engaged in the culture of the vine (almost entirely white wine) and other fruit, and to a certain extent in fishing. The entire island may be regarded as the debris of a submarine volcano, the centre part of whose crater was near Fontana. Subsequent lateral eruptions gave rise to fourteen smaller craters, which may be recognized by the cones of the Mont. Agnone, Monte Rotaro, Monte Tabor, and the promontory of Lacco, all on the N. side of the island, where warm radio-active springs still gush forth. Similarly the castle-rock at Ischia is probably due to some such lateral outburst.

In consequence of an eruption of Monte Epomeo the island was deserted about 470 B.C. by the Syracusan garrison left on the island by Hiero  and a similar eruption in the 8th cent. B.C. probably caused the Chalcidians, after a brief sojourn at Ischia, to remove to Cumae. Eruptions took place also in 300 and 92 B.C., and in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cent. Of our era. According to the ancient poets the giant Typhoeus, transfixed by the thunderbolt of Jupiter, lay buried beneath this mountain, like Encelapdus under Etna, periodically groaning and causing fearful eruptions of fire.

After the fall of Rome, Ischia suffered many attacks and devastations at the hands of the different lords of Italy, especially the Saracens in 813 and 847, the Pisans in 1135, and the emperors Henry VI. and Frederick II. It revolted with Sicily against the Anjou dynasty, but it was again subdued by Naples in 1299, and was thenceforward permanently united with it. The last eruption took place in 1302, when a stream of lava descended to the sea on the N.D., near the town of Ischia.

The castle, now in a half ruined condition, was built by Alphonso I. of Aragon about 1450. The Marchese di Pescara, the celebrated general, was born in 1490 at the castle of Ischia, which was afterwards gallantly defended by his sister Constance against Louis XII. of France. As a reward her family were invested with the governorship of Ischia, which they retained till 1734. In 1525 Pescara’s widow, Vittoria Colonna, celebrated alike for her talent and beauty, the poetical friend of Michelangelo, retired to Ischia to mourn her husband’s loss. So, too, did Maria of Aragon in 1548, widow of the Marchese del Vasto.

Upon the sloping hills were hundreds of villas occupied by wealthy families whose homes were in Naples or elsewhere on the mainland. The little town, one of the best spa areas in Europe, is frequented in summer by numerous visitors, on account of its cool and healthy situation, its fine sandy shore, and its warm alkaline and saline springs, which are especially effective in curing rheumatism and gout. It is also a pleasant and restful resort in spring and autumn, attracting poets, artists and writers of fame.

The local people of Casamicciola were primarily engaged in viticulture (almost entirely white wine) fruit and vegetable growing, and fishing. It is so called the ‘green island’ due to the beautiful gentle gardens, delicate fruits and vine clad vineyards. Form afar one sees the great crops of cedars, oranges and lemons. Also Giovanni Elisio, in his book, says that the island of Ischia is abundant with various fruits, of most excellent grain and generous wine.  There are also pleasant forests of chestnuts. The Gurgitello, the principal sprig, rises in the upper part of the town, at the Piazza Bagni Gurgitello, with a temperature of 147 Fahr., and its water is used for bathing, douches, inhalation, etc., in the extensive bath-establishments of Belliazzi and Manzi near by. The Mone della Misericordia, or bath for the poor, on the Marina, which also is supplied by the Giurgitello, provides accommodation for 400 bathers and occupies the site of a building erected near the spring in 1604.

On March 7th 1881 Casamicciola suffered an earthquake. The first shock occured at 1.30pm on a Friday afternoon and the second an hour later. The second shock caused a noise like a subterranean thunder and then the crash of falling houses. The cause of the damage was a local phenomenon of underground subsidence causing sudden sinking of the ground, in consequence of corrosive action of the mineral springs. Two hundred people died.

With a township mourning its loss, another shock occurred on 28th July1883, six days after the feast of Santa Maria Maddalena Penitente. The most devastating earthquake in Casamicciola, which lies on a fault line, took the lives of one half of the inhabitants. The shocks began at half past nine on a Saturday night, an hour when the majority of upper class people were at the theatre.

The wooden structured building was literally torn open allowing the audience to escape. The confusion in the theatre, accompanied by a deafening noise was fearful. Lights were overthrown and set fire to the building. A dense cloud of dust filled the air. Cries of pain and terror were heard on all sides. A general rush was made to the shore and every floating thing was taken by assault. A gentleman who was staying at the Hotel Piccola Sentinella escaped with his life before the building completely collapsed killing every inside. A person living near the already ruined bathing house says he escaped amid falling walls and balconies, the terrified people shouting to the sea.It was estimated that around 5000 people died. The Prefect of Naples telegraphed that the town of Casamicciola had ceased to exist. The Government sent steamships from Naples with soldiers, physicians and food. These in turn took hundreds of injured back to the hospitals in Naples.  The Bishop of Casamicciola, Dan Fillipe, of Rome, and the Prefect of Cagliari were reported dead. There were nearly 2000 visitors in Ischia, including deputies, professors, a baroness, commander and a marchioness.

Some bodies were recovered and identified, interred in the high lying Campo Santo at the foot of Monte Rotano to the east. Others were entombed in the villas and houses of the town, which had completely collapsed. They would never be discovered again. Liquid lime was simply poured over the rubble. One of the families to suffer loss in this tragedy was that of our great grandparents, Monti and Aurelia.

Just imagine Vincenzo’s mother with her two year old son and Guiseppa with her two daughters Maria, just a few months old, and Vincenza. How did they cope with their babies in the aftermath of this ‘terramota’?

 


Chapter 8, To New Zealand

Chapter 8, To New Zealand

17th August 1944

“Extremely hot lately. Fruit is plentiful, tomatoes, peas, peaches and grapes just as good as those in NZ! During the advance on Florence we stayed in some luxurious houses with all the trimmings, sleeping on sprung beds and between sheets. A wonderful rest after footslogging it through rough hill country and digging into rock. Bill.”

‘Al Mio Caio John, Fay’

On 3rd October 1944 Feni gives or sends a photo of herself to John with a note on the back. Perhaps he knew he was going to be leaving Naples for the last time.

On 21st November 1944 when he was marched in to advanced base CTBA 2nd NZ General Hospital and was transferred from x(ii) list to X(iv) list NZ Medical Corps (regarded A). On 24th Nov he was admitted to 3 NZGH and X (ii) list of NZMC. By 25th Nov he was marched in to 25 NZ Gen Hospital from advanced base and struck off the x(iv) list NZMC. He marched out of 3NZ Gen Hospital.

From 24th November 1944 John was based at  3NZGH (xii) list NZMC in Bari?. On 25th he marched to 25 NZGH and was struck off (xiv) list NZMC.

He was discharded from 3NZGH on 8th Feb 1945 and struck off X(ii) list of NZMC – Central Mediterranean Force but did not leave Italy or the warfront until July. Perhaps he spent another 5 months on Ischia before returning to New Zealand. In any case John and Feni got engaged.

On 16th July 1945 he returned to NZ ‘’protected personnel’ [Cmb INMHS]. He changed at Taranto for the voyage to ME Middle East. Disembarked at Port Tewfik. On 19th July 1945 travelled to NZ without his fiance. After victory in Europe, and increasingly after VJ Day, troopships brought back to New Zealand not only servicemen and released prisoners of war but the wives, children, and finacées of men in the three services.

With the blackout lifted, with no unnecessary parades or picket duties to annoy them, the men had little to grumble about (except the food and the overcrowding) and even less to do. At sea they played Crown and Anchor and two-up, fell into deep day-dreams of the future, and nursed the children on the boat-decks. In port many of them took the opportunity of having a final fling, but not with the old fierce concentration, and they returned almost with relief to the boredom, the day-dreams, and the babies on the boat-deck. One after another the ships came into home waters. John disembarked on 18th September 1945 in Wellington. He was placed in Area 7 pool (on 9ILWOP) pending discharge in Napier. Overseas leave formally ceased on 19th December 1945 after 4 years and 169 days of service.

John was awarded the following medals:

1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, 8th Army Clasp, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-1945, NZ War Service Medal.

Fay longed to go out to NZ and be with John. A letter to Ruby dated 25th November 1946 from Ischia, tells of her heartache.

The fiancés and brides of soldiers had to wait for soldiers and the injured to be repatriated home and therefore shipping and transport to be available. John too remained hopeful of the day when Feny would be with him but in Bill’s letter to Ruby dated 4th March 1946, he explains that they felt unsettled returning to civilian life. Due to winding up all their affairs up before leaving 4 years ago, they were unable to get their old cottage back and there was now a shortage of housing. He wanted to make sure he and Bill had settled and had accommodation (a home of their own) first. There was also the matter of the official paperwork being arranged and approved. They were living in ‘comfortable quarters close to’ their job at Vidals in Te Mata Road.

10th March 1946

“Dear Ruby,

Hope to get two cottages and some land and for us to be in a better position to get married. We live next to our old job…six miles form town. Have a little car and get in every week. Building situation here tough. Thousands of soldiers want houses like us. John.”

5th May 1946

“Dear Ruby,

Should be married and settled in our own place by Christmas. Hope to get our land this year and start  growing grapes. John.”

When John & Bill returned to Hawkes Bay they worked on a small block of land in Havelock North for TMV (Videls).  Eventually they were granted a block of land on the slopes of the Te Mata Hills, Havelock North, which they planted in vines. It soon became a successful commercial vineyard.

Post cards to and from her mother and Aunty are dated 20th and 23rd February 1947 and is addressed to the Hotel International in Venice the first transit camp.

Fay didn’t make it over by Christmas 1946.

1st June 1947 the girls were photographed on the beach at Port Said and appeared in the French Newspaper “La Referme Illustree”.
The girls, a group of about 17 probably originally boarded the ship from Naples about 4 months earlier and stopped at Venice to pick up and drop off soldiers. However they reached Ismailia and Port Aden, Egypt and ended up spending about 3 more months in an army compound (for their protection) due to a shipping shortage for civilians.

Aden was not a particularly nice place. To protect themselves they went everywhere together and entertained themselves privately in the camp. There must have been moments of great adventure as photos show them bathing and sightseeing.

 

 

 

Right: Tina (top), Fay (Rright) arriving in Melbourne.

Whilst in Egypt, they were confined to a camp run and patrolled by English Army as a means of protection from the locals, who by all accounts could be fairly dangerous. There were 17 girls in Nonna’s group and they all stuck together as a form of their own protection. There was a nighttime curfew, but during the day they managed to entertain themselves by sight-seeing and swimming back and forth across the Suez Canal, waiting for their boat to come in. Eventually their boat, the N.Z. Steam Ship Tamaroa arrived and they all sailed to N.Z. via Australia, where prospective fiancées were lined up on the wharf waiting to greet them.

According to John’s army papers, 7th July 1947 ‘Miss Monti, fiancé of John T. Green’ embarked the SS Tamaroa for NZ. On Wednesday 9th July they arrived in Melbourne and appeared in a photograph in the local newspaper.

Left: Tina, Bill, John, Fay.

They arrived in Wellington on Thursday 14th July 1947. Newspaper clippings show the happy couples reuniting.

Fay married John on the morning of 17th July 1947 in St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church in Wellington. Fay wore the beautiful lacewedding dress with headpiece and veil that her father had sent to her from America years before.

 

They had a wedding cake and a toast as seen in the photos. Bill married Tina that same afternoon. They all drove to Hawkes Bay in a white convertible Morris B sports car. Can you imagine what it must have been like for Nonna, the culture shock. She didn’t speak a word of English let alone understand these kiwi folk, all the cows, sheep, open paddocks and no people.

4th May 1948 Bill writes to Ruby about the birth of their first baby. ‘Tina has a rough time but is recovered now.’

John and Fay had their first child on 20th December 1948. She was named Mary Ann Rosaria, my mother.



Chapter 7, To Italy

3rd June 1943

Sad news arrived this day, that Bill and John’s brother Alf had been tragically killed. There was a train involved. Signalman A.J Green 2 NZ Div. SIGS, 2 NZ Expeditionary Force No 16517 is buried in the military desert cemetery in Cairo, plot A14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 9th September John was discharged from hospital and was now sent to recuperate on Ischia. During his time there he met an Italian girl named Filomena Monti. They fell in love on this island paradise. It seems John spent nearly 6 months based at the 2 NZ Convalescence Hospital there.

 

Fay in Sorento.

John and Feni perhaps spent the long hot summer days on the beach, swimming in the mineral and thermal waters at Casamicciola. On one occasion they took a ferry boat to Sorrento, maybe stopping at Capri to explore the island and coast. The evenings may have been spent eating the fresh seafood delicacies & fruit, drinking the local white wine the island was renowned for, and enjoying the Neapolitan music famed in the small bars and clubs.

He had to leave on 11th October 1943 to rejoin 6 NZ Field Ambulance at the NZ reception Depot on 15th October, back in the Middle East.

How did the New Zealand troops come to set up on Ischia? An entry in one of the senior commanders diaries exlains, “We explored south of Anzio but, for 200 miles, could find nothing suitable. We eventually arrived at the end of a peninsula about 10 miles west of Naples and were about to return to the battalion in despair when I noticed an Italian about to set off in a small boat tied up at a wharf below us. I sent Osmond down to ask where he was going and he said to an island called Ischia about five miles out so we asked if we could go with him. “Yes, yes,” he said, obviously keen to co-operate. So off we went, leaving the driver in charge of the Jeep.

The boatman told us Ischia was a holiday resort with many cheap, empty pensions available and we would be very welcome. The Germans had commandeered all the accommodation when they were in occupation of the island. I said we were prepared to pay and he assured us we would have no problems. We were the first Allied troops to visit the island as the Americans and the British had all flocked to Capri and overlooked Ischia, which was not so famous.

We immediately fell in love with the island and its people and arranged to rent enough accommodation for 100 troops per week for the next four weeks, planning to put the whole battalion through a company at a time. The locals were short of food so I said we would bring our own rations, which they could cook for us. They then fell in love with us too and gave each contingent a rousing reception. We decided to keep our arrangements secret, as we wanted Ischia to ourselves, so the first company to go there did not know their destination. They were told they were going on leave but did not know where and were skeptical of the outcome. Osmond acted as liaison officer and seemed to have a good rapport with the locals and our boys had such a wonderful time it was difficult to round them up to bring them home. Skepticism had turned to delight.

John received an early Christmas present on 10th December 1943. He qualified for the Award of the Africa Star, 6 Division Defence Platoon. By 25th January 1944 he again qualified for the Award of the 8th Army Clasp.

7th January 1944

“Dear Ruby,

Now fighting in Italy – middle of winter and have had some heavy falls of snow –several feet a day. We are warmly equipped but get very wet. Relieved every few days from the line and billeted in farm houses… Ted got malaria.” Bill

To Italy

Still not fully fighting fit, on 1st April 1944, John was admitted to 23rd NZ Field Ambulance (FAP – for all purposes) Regiment. This meant an official transfer from C Company Infantry Corps to NZ medical Corps.

2nd April 1944

“Dear Ruby,

23rd NZ Field Ambulance. MEF.

Transfer just came through to the med corps. Still in base and start training tomorrow. (moved in yesterday – Saturday). Beginning to get hot here now, but a few cool days. John.”

16th April 1944

“Got a camera and went out to the cemetery to take photos of Alf’s grave. Cemetery is in the desert on the outskirts of Cairo. Still in base training depot. Bill back with battalion, after two weeks on the front line, at Casino. Out for a spell having picture shows each night. I hope it wont be long before I get over to Italy. John.”

‘Bill hadn’t met up with Ted but they were writing to each other.

29th April 1944

“Getting hot and flies are persistent. Get up to Cairo for some training. Have a friend who trains with me at the gym. John.”

On 5th April it was confirmed that he would join the NZMC in Italy, something he had been looking forward to greatly. He boarded ship and embarked from Alexandria that day, bound for Italy, by hospital ship.

He must have been incredibly excited to finally serve the effort in Italy, however I think there may have been another reason by the name of Filomena or Feni as she was affectionately called. Between June and November 1944 John was basd at 2 NZ Genreal Hospital at Casserta, near Naples. This would have allowed Feni to visit him and he to easily go on leave to the island when he returned form Advanced base in the field.

After completing a syllabus of 3 weeks intensive training, medical units were dispatched to Advanced Base. John was attached to 23rd NZ Field Ambulance (Admin) (an extension of 2 NZ General Hospital at Maardi camp) and marched out to 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force, 1 camp hospital at San Basilio, between Taranto and Bari, on 2nd June 1944. Fifty beds and other equiptment had been sent from 23 FA at Maardi.

From Advanced base Hospital they were posted to divisional and other units as required. John was quickly marched out to ABH on 10th June FAP and attached to 2 NZ General Hospital at Casserta, Naples, Italy, remaining on (xii) list (Grade C).

With the transfer of three base hospitals and the Convalescent Depot to Italy in addition to the field medical units and casualty clearing station, the medical layout of 2 NZEF was similar to that adopted in Egypt and North Africa. The New Zealand units formed a complete chain, thus enabling most of the sick and wounded New Zealand soldiers to receive continuous treatment within their own units. Patients evacuated from 1 CCS (casualty clearing station) and from field ambulances by motor ambulance were then transported within the first 1 ½ – 2 hours to 2 NZGH. Because of this their recovery rate was high.

The Work of the Regimental Medical Officers

Each RMO utilised his attached ambulance car to collect accessible cases on the battlefield. Evacuation back to the ADS was carried out by cars sent forward from the ADS. The minefields through which the advance had been made rendered the collection of wounded very difficult. Stretcher-bearing was particularly irksome and dangerous, as it was necessary to pick up the casualties away from the main tracks, especially in the region of the minefields, and carry them to the ambulances moving on the tracks.

The New Zealand Division evolved a particular system of evacuation through minefields. Casualties at the start line were collected by an ambulance stationed there. All men were instructed before the battle that if they became casualties they must make their way to one of the definite brigade axes. Stretcher-bearers were to collect to tracks. As soon as the first gap was signalled as being open, a convoy of ambulance cars was sent to clear the RAP which had been established just through the first minefield. The tracks were then patrolled by ambulance cars up to the second minefield; when the latter was cleared a similar drill was carried out. Walking wounded were instructed to walk back to the first gap, from which signs led to the ADS. Provosts were specially instructed to direct them. A red light was shown at the ADS as soon as it was safe to do so. Provosts on the lights marking the gaps were instructed to guide returning ambulance cars by turning their lights to show both ways as soon as operations permitted. Before this, if they heard an ambulance car approaching, they could guide it by voice or by reversing their light for a brief moment.

Ambulance cars were instructed not to leave the lit routes because of scattered mines, and men between the routes had to be brought to them by hand carriage. Ambulances had to proceed forward to the RAPs at all costs and not turn back with wounded picked up on route. If available, a 3-ton truck marked ‘walking wounded’ patrolled the routes.

The ADS commander had to avoid committing so many ambulance cars forward that he could not evacuate to the MDS. This minefield drill became the standard practice in the British Army.

All the medical officers attached to the British armoured units with our Division became casualties during the battle and our own RMOs took over their work. The type of work carried out by the RMO is illustrated by the citations upon which Captain Rutherford gained an immediate bar to his MC and Captain McCarthy1 an immediate MC.

After the attack on the night of 23–24 October and on the three succeeding days, says Rutherford’s citation, 26 Battalion was in position on the forward slope of Miteiriya Ridge which was exposed to small arms, mortar, and shell fire. Captain Rutherford, 26 Battalion’s RMO, was personally responsible for the evacuation of all wounded from the position. He covered the whole of the area in a bantam many times both by day and by night through both marked and unmarked minefields, attending and evacuating wounded. On one occasion he drove through a marked minefield to evacuate some wounded tank personnel and wounded German prisoners, and he was directed through the marked gap by the prisoners on the return journey.

Captain McCarthy was RMO to 25 Battalion in this attack. On 24 October his RAP was under heavy shellfire all day and, although he was at all times liable to become a casualty himself, he carried on with his work under great difficulties, never ceasing to attend to wounded whenever they were brought in. Throughout the night of 24–25 October McCarthy attended to wounded from a neighboring British unit as well as to wounded of his own battalion. He carried on all night without sleep, and then continued the next day in the same manner. On the night of 26–27 October Captain McCarthy’s battalion carried out another attack and he continued with his good work—at all times giving unceasing attention, not only to members of his own battalion, but to those of neighboring units.

An extract from the diary of Captain Borrie,1 RMO 24 Battalion, gives an indication of the battle atmosphere for the RAP activities:

In the evening (of the 23rd) after dusk troops began to form up. The RAP truck was to go to the start line 20 min. after the Bn started, and to move up to the Bn with the remaining transport when the minefield was cleared.

Our troops moved forward and crossed the start line. I took my place at the start line and received any walking wounded and directed them on.… We were in slit trenches or working in the ambulance, which had duly arrived. Flying over our heads was a continual sweep of 25-pounder shells making a deafening roar.

Our transport came and we went up the track as directed.… I met some orderlies with wounded, filled the truck with two lying cases, and went further forward to collect two more near a front minefield. Machine gun fire and tracer bullets went past.

I ordered more ambulances. In the meantime there were more wounded up front, so I went off and got two gun carriers and took these up to the same place and collected four more lying cases. I felt much safer in a Bren carrier with low-firing MG fire.… Four American ambulances came up so I sent one away full, left one with me half-full, and sent two up to Sam Rutherford (26 Bn). They did not contact him but came back full.

I was then given a guide and he led me in, but first I picked up some 25 wounded, and sent the walking wounded back and told them to get on the American ambulance. I eventually arrived at 24 Bn, filled up the ambulance and sent it back with the guide to collect my 3-tonner, which got lost but eventually arrived, and later an ambulance returned and I got cases away.

Functioning of Medical Units

As an example for the attack in October 1942, A Company 5 Field Ambulance under Major Dempsey was located just off a track and behind a slight escarpment but in front of the artillery. A Company 6 Field Ambulance, moved up another track and was likewise in front of the artillery. The ADS companies reached these sites just before the barrage opened and dug in and sandbagged the dressing posts. Sixth Field Ambulance was able to make use of slit trenches and dugouts already in the area. The first casualties were admitted to 5 ADS at 10.30 p.m. while the first at 6 ADS were admitted at midnight.

Although not many casualties had been expected to arrive until dawn, a steadily increasing number poured in during the night. At 1 a.m. on 24 October ambulances began evacuating cases from 5 ADS to 5 MDS 6 miles away—some 5 miles being along a road. The evacuation from 6 ADS to 5 MDS did not start until first light, it being impossible to do so beforehand as densely packed armour was moving behind the ADS until that time.

The task of the forward ambulances working between the ADS and the RAPs was most difficult. The desert tracks were ill-defined and difficult to follow, and were congested with armour, particularly on the narrow tracks leading through the minefields. These latter tracks had, however, been lighted and marked by the engineers and could readily be picked out. The method of sending one ambulance forward with each RMO was welcomed both by the RMOs and the ADS. Communication between the RAPs and ADS was much easier, facilitating a call for more ambulance cars if necessary.

6 NZ Field Ambulance Reception Tent, 1942

The task of the ambulance car drivers is illustrated by the citation giving Driver Henderson1 the DCM. This soldier was the driver of an ambulance car during the night 23–24 October 1942 and during the subsequent operations. He drove his car up the brigade routes under heavy fire and collected wounded in the early stages of the attack; and his was one of the first vehicles through the gap in the minefields. During the first and subsequent nights he passed many times up and down these tracks, where mines were destroying many vehicles, and his vehicle was often the only one moving in the forward areas and under heavy fire. He used his knowledge thus gained to guide up other ambulance cars and was thus instrumental in saving many lives.

The American Field Service drivers with our units also shared the risks. Evan Thomas, writing of the American Field Service at the Battle of Alamein, said:

Three of my sections were attached to 5 and 6 New Zealand Field Ambulances (one at 5 ADS, one at 6 ADS and one at 5 MDS).… On the night the battle started (the 23rd) I was asked to deliver a case of fresh blood to 6 ADS.… It wasn’t until 1.30 that our Field Service cars were called on to start working, and then five cars were ordered to 24 Bn RAP. I decided to go along as a spare driver. We drove westward on a dusty track crowded with tanks and Bren carriers getting ready to move out and cover the infantry positions at dawn. It was touchy work by-passing the concentrations of armor, since it was, of course, necessary to leave the proper path of the track at times and take a chance of running into a slit trench or perhaps a stray mine. However, we found the 24 Bn RAP truck without mishap and loaded three of our cars quickly. I was about to settle down and wait for more casualties to fill the two remaining cars, when a very excited padre came rushing up and told me that 25 Bn was a few hundred yards to the west and needed ambulances in the worst way.… It took us two hours to find 25 Bn, and by the time we got there, it was a good three miles west of where it should have been according to our informant. We had to work our way through and around tanks, across the British minefields, across what had been no man’s land, and across the German minefields, before we reached our destination. We had to wait for an hour, in company with a great number of tanks, on the east side of the German minefield, while the engineers cleared a lane. When we did get there we found that neither the battalion doctor nor his RAP truck had put in an appearance. The battalion had just taken its second objective, but the wounded were still scattered all over.1 I found a young captain who said they really hadn’t had time to collect their wounded and suggested we do that.… I had a good chance to find out just what a nasty job a stretcher-bearer had. At one time Brook Cuddy and I accompanied two New Zealanders out in front of the infantry positions and had the unpleasant experience of finding ourselves sitting among a group of mangled bodies while an enemy machine-gun sprayed a stream of tracer in our direction.… We drove back to the ADS just as dawn was breaking. Once again we had to fight our way past the tanks and through the narrow minefield lanes.

Extra transport had been allotted to the dressing stations for the attack, for example, five AFS cars were attached to 5 ADS, but in the sudden rush still more transport was needed. Four extra cars were sent forward to 6 ADS on the morning of 24 October. Each RMO in 5 Brigade took an ambulance forward with him and 5 ADS had a further four ambulances in reserve to work forward. Arrangements had been made for 3-ton trucks to patrol the axis through the minefields and collect walking wounded. These did not function as they were not allowed up until after dawn. Their place was taken by an ambulance car, which ran continuously from 1 a.m. until midday on 24 October. One ambulance was lost in a minefield and the other two ambulances were used to evacuate from whatever RAP was holding the most cases. Reports from RMOs indicated that, although there were times when many more ambulances could have been filled, they were able to evacuate steadily and were never holding large numbers for long. Three-ton trucks were used in evacuations from ADS to MDS. The trucks could accommodate in reasonable comfort a large number of walking wounded, who formed over half the cases, thus relieving the strain on the ambulances.

Liri Valley to Arce

The Division moved down the Liri Valley to Arce. Here, in peaceful surroundings, the Division rested and trained. For the New Zealanders, in the summer warmth of the green Italian countryside, it was a pleasant note on which to fall back for the first real rest of the campaign. There was leave to Naples and, of particular interest, to the beautiful island of Ischia, off the Bay of Naples and north of Capri.

The island of Ischia holiday scheme was made possible by Lieutenant Commander McLennan, RN, who had visited New Zealand some years previously and had a special interest in New Zealanders. Four hotels were requisitioned, and for a nominal sum a brief but welcome holiday could be enjoyed on this ‘island of wines’. Leave camps were freely utilised. Some were organised by divisional units, some by hospitals, and some by the YMCA. 2 NZ General Hospital, now based at Casserta, had established the one island on Ischia in the Bay of Naples and also rented some houses on the Sorrento peninsula at Positano. These camps did much to improve the health and preserve the morale of the troops.

Ischia offered every delight to the tired soldier—‘hot mineral baths, girls and grog’, one man remembers. Here the regiment had a place where parties of thirty men could go and relax for four days, but unfortunately only a few had the chance of going there before orders from Higher Up stopped all general holiday leave to Ischia.

And then there was Rome.

Throughout 2 NZ Division Rome was the Topic of the Month. Ever since the Italian campaign opened the Allied commanders had sent out the call ‘On to Rome!’, dangling the Eternal City as a kind of bait in front of their armies. But after all this anticipation, the reality was anticlimax. Until 19 June Rome was not officially open to Kiwis at all, and then, when at last leave to Rome began, it was doled out like some rare precious drug. Eighteenth Regiment, with 650 men, had a quota of 24—one truckload—every second day; though if more wangled their way in and dodged Authority’s eye, it was nobody’s business but their own. The drivers on the ammunition trip, too, would have wasted a unique opportunity if they had not made time, off the record, to go into Rome. But to see such a city in a day! Any good Italian would lift his hands in horror at the suggestion. All you could do was to rush madly round from the Pantheon to St. Peter’s and back to the Forum and the Coliseum, perhaps out for a few minutes to Mussolini’s massive sports stadium, till in the evening, your head swimming, you caught the truck home to be besieged by those who had not been there yet, all eager to hear every little detail. A day in Rome was much more exhausting than a day’s work in camp.

In spare hours there was the usual baseball and cricket, while other enthusiasts spent hours at deck tennis, which was just beginning to spread like an epidemic through the Division. The Kiwi Concert Party came round with its usual good show, and a British ENSA party with one that was not half as good. For the first time the Education and Rehabilitation Service began to be spoken of, and some keen men wrote away for trade training courses and buried their noses in ‘swot’ with an enthusiasm that often petered out before long. The athletes went into training for a 4 Brigade sports meeting, a gala occasion which, by the worst of bad luck, was literally washed out by an early afternoon downpour.

These sudden storms, characteristic of the Italian spring, seemed to abound in summer too, for in late June there was a succession of them. One in particular was a sight to remember, a violent thunderstorm with great tongues of forked lightning and hailstones the size of marbles. Of this the war diary says:

Many of the tents got flooded out and men were to be seen in all sorts of garbs digging drains in an endeavour to stem the flood.

Evidently the lovely weather of the first half of June had lulled them into a dangerous sense of security.

With all this sport and leave and recreation of so many kinds, it does not sound as if there was much time left for work. But that is not so. From 10 June onwards there was quite a solid training programme, route-marching and drill, weapon training and range work. There was a school to train the newer members of tank crews in the basic skills that had been drummed into the older hands at Maadi. There was an NCOs’ school in drill and discipline which caused a few curls of the lip—drill does not make a fighting unit, said the sceptics, and as for discipline, well, the Kiwi discipline may be free and easy, but it is there when needed.

Day leave to Rome on a percentage basis was available every five days, overnight leave not being permitted. Picnics to Lake Albano, 13 miles south-east of Rome, where there were saline springs and mud baths, three days’ leave at the Isle of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples (by courtesy of the Royal Navy), and visits to various other places of interest were also arranged.

Leave arrangements were made by the hospitals from July so that members of their staffs could go on leave to the Isle of Ischia, and the sisters and WAACs could spend two days in Rome.

Evacuation Problems

The sector in the Apennines held by 2 NZ Division was extremely wide and mountainous and the evacuation of patients presented many problems. Stretcher-bearers from the field ambulances were attached to the RAPs, which were up to 800 yards from the road, and a car post with additional stretcher-bearer teams was established in dugouts well forward on the road. The car post was linked by telephone with all RAPs. When a bearer party left an RAP, the car post was advised by phone, and a bearer party from the car post met the others halfway. For evacuation to the ADS, two stretcher-carrying jeeps were attached to the car post. Evacuations were carried out only at night except in extreme emergency, for most of the road was in full view of the enemy and traffic was consistently shelled. Even at night German spandaus would put bursts over when they heard the jeeps going down.

Breakthrough towards Rome

During the first week of May Allied preparations for an all-out attack on the Gustav line neared completion. The Adriatic front was lightly held by 5 British Corps and the Apennines by 10 British Corps, which included 2 NZ Division. On the mountainous approaches to Monastery Hill and Cassino there was 2 Polish Corps, while 13 British Corps faced Cassino town and the Liri valley. When the attack began on 11 May, 6 Brigade was holding the Terelle sector. The Division’s artillery went into action supporting the Poles in their attack on the Monastery. Little else was expected of 2 NZ Division until the enemy began to withdraw, when the Division would follow up, but on the night of 13–14 May there was an unexpected call for New Zealand armour to support 4 British Division in the Liri valley.

After a hurried night move from the rest area to the vicinity of Cassino. 2 NZ Division on 29 May, by which time New Zealand troops had cleared the mountain strongholds of Terelle and Belmonte and also the town of Atina. As fast as cratered roads were made fit for traffic and bridges were built, the New Zealanders pursued the enemy. Maori infantry and armour entered Sora on 31 May after clearing the hilltop village of Brocco.

From Sora a main highway, Route 82, ran in a northerly direction to Balsorano and Avezzano, closely following the banks of the upper Liri River and swinging away from the route to Rome. The New Zealanders pursued the enemy along this valley with battalions on each side of the river. Though exceedingly beautiful, the valley was narrow and flanked by high hills which, near Balsorano, formed an escarpment that could have been made a formidable defensive position. There the enemy held up the advance.

On the coastal sector Allied forces had cleared the approaches to Rome, and on 4 June the capital city fell. Then, two days later, came the event for which the fighting in Italy had been but a prelude—the invasion of France. Its success was to set the seal on the fate of Germany.

On 2nd June 1944 John ceases to be attached (CTBA) to 23rd NZ field ambulance (admin) and marched out to advanced base 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force. On 10th June he was FAP at advanced base camp hospital marching out of FAP 2 NZ General Hospital and remained on X(ii) list, 17th June 1944 (grade C).


Chapter 6, Al Alamein

The battle of Alamein

During the end of September through to early October training and preparation continued. The battalion was involved in two main battles during 18-29th October for the battle of Miteiriya Ridge. Five awards were later made just before Christmas  representative of the gallantry and devotion to duty of the whole battalion.

The first indications of enemy withdrawl came on 3rd November. The 25th were now heading toward Fuka about 12 miles away. They covered 5 miles at dusk and dug in for the night. The following day more Italians were captured – 400 or more including about 100 germans.

‘The Alamein attack, as far as the mortars were concerned, was a matter of being called upon at odd moments to assist the infantry or to knock out enemy mortars or gun positions. Also much assistance was given to our patrols at night by direct barrage, etc. When patrols went out with mortar support at night two mortars would go out on two carriers. These patrols would advance at night to a suitable position and wait for first light to pin-point enemy positions. The carriers would withdraw after the job had been completed.’

On 27–28 October, as part of a reorganisation, 1 SA Division relieved 2 NZ Division, which (with the exception of the artillery) was withdrawn into reserve in the Alam el Onsol area south-east of the Alamein station. (The artillery was left behind to support an attack that night by 9 Australian Division farther north.)

Twenty-fifth Battalion received the warning order for the relief about noon on the 27th and later in the afternoon received orders stating that General Freyberg, who though the enemy might be withdrawing, had instructed that fighting patrols from 25 and 26 Battalions were to be sent out at dusk. The patrols found little to report, though the 25 Battalion patrol captured a German and four Italians.

From 3 p.m. on 29 October the battalion was at two hours’ notice to move.

The new position was a little over four miles north of that held on Miteiriya Ridge and the foremost localities about five miles east of Tell el Eisa station. These were held by 26 Battalion on the right and 24 Battalion on the left, with 25 Battalion in reserve two miles back, on a frontage of 1400 yards, with D Company on the right and C on the left. Sixth Brigade’s task here was to hold the position for three days as a firm base for a forthcoming attack.

The start line for the attack ran north and south about 1000 yards west of the positions occupied by C and D Companies. There was a good deal of traffic through the battalion area and just to the north of it, and the several tracks that were being used were filled with the engineers’ vehicles, the armour, the supporting arms and other essential transport, resembling the congestion behind Miteiriya Ridge on 23 October. Although the barrage at 1.5 a.m. was three times the weight of that given for the attack on Miteiriya Ridge, the general opinion in 25 Battalion was that it was not so impressive. The attacking infantry got away to time and succeeded in capturing its final objective, but the operations of the armour beyond the infantry objective were only partially successful. Further attacks were made during the night 2–3 November to get the armour to the west of the Rahman track, which ran south-south-west from Sidi Abd el Rahman through Tell el Aqqaqir and was about 9000 yards west of 25 Battalion’s position; the attacks were only partly successful.

During the evening of the 2nd 6 Brigade relieved 151 Brigade at the western end of the corridor, the battalion receiving its warning order in the middle of the afternoon to relieve 8 Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. Sixth Brigade’s front faced west and north on two sides of the bridgehead. Twenty-fifth Battalion reached its position, about 5000 yards to the north-west, before midnight and dug in. Contact was made with 24 Battalion (which was on the right and facing north) and with 26 Battalion on the left; all three battalions and also the Maori Battalion, which was on the right of 24 Battalion and under command of 6 Brigade, were forward, 22 Battalion (of 5 Brigade) being under command as the reserve battalion.

Twenty-fifth Battalion had all three companies forward, B right, C centre, and D left, the frontage being about 500 yards, facing north-west. Attached to the battalion were one troop of 33 Battery, six medium machine guns, eight six-pounder anti-tank guns and one company of lorried infantry (both from the Rifle Brigade). The battalion’s strength was very low: B Company, 3 officers, 38 other ranks, and four men from HQ Company; C Company, 2 officers, 33 other ranks, and eight from HQ Company; and D Company, 2 officers, 29 other ranks, and twenty from HQ Company.

In the morning the battalion’s position was spasmodically shelled but fortunately there were no casualties. The afternoon was enlivened by the approach of a Stuka formation which was broken up by fighters and anti-aircraft fire. There was also expectation of a move that night but it was postponed till the the next day, 4 November.

The Alamein battle had in fact been won and the enemy was in full retreat, covered by an anti-tank-gun screen and rear-guards. The first indications of an enemy withdrawal came early in the morning of 3 November and the evidence increased as the day progressed. Throughout that day the enemy had held his position along the Rahman track, but an attack during the night 3–4 November by 51 Division south of Tell el Aqqaqir (about 4500 yards south-west of 25 Battalion) forced the enemy anti-tank-gun screen back to the north-west.

This opened the way for the armour of 10 Corps (1, 7, and 10 Armoured Divisions) and the motorised New Zealand Division to break out to the west from the Alamein line. Tenth Corps was to swing northwards to the main road to cut off the enemy motorised forces at the bottlenecks of Fuka and Matruh while 30 Corps was to maintain contact with the enemy on its front. Thirteenth Corps in the south was to clear up and destroy the enemy in its area.

After passing through the enemy defences, the Division assembled two miles east of Tell el Aqqaqir, a very complicated and difficult movement as formations and units were widely separated and a good many of them were in positions on the battlefield. There was much congestion, with clouds of dust. Fortunately enemy aircraft were unable to take advantage of the wonderful target presented. Throughout the movement the armour and other troops provided a protective screen against any enemy enterprise.

Meanwhile 25 Battalion, relieved at 2 p.m. by two companies of the Black Watch and moving off in the early evening, travelled all night and halted for breakfast near the divisional concentration area.It had been a rough and dusty journey, with many delays and much digging and pushing to extricate vehicles from the many patches of soft sand. The route had been marked by the Divisional Provost Company with diamond signs on iron pickets and with green lights. These diamond signs were destined to show, at about 700 yards’ intervals, the way to Tripoli, 1400 miles to the west.

There were many signs of a defeated enemy in destroyed tanks, guns and vehicles, some of the last still burning, and here and there were groups of prisoners marching east, some under escort, others with large flags and no escort, but controlled by their acceptance of utter defeat. The Italians generally were rather buoyant and anxious to please, the Germans sullen. Salvage parties were busy recovering knocked-out British tanks.

For the move from Fuka, Baggush and onwards 25 Battalion was ordered to pass through the gap in the minefield 13 miles south-south-west of Fuka, and then proceed 22 miles on a bearing practically north-west to the top of the Baggush escarpment. Moving off at 10.45 a.m., the battalion passed through the minefield half an hour later, progress being very slow because of a traffic jam at the gap. Heavy rain commenced to fall early in the afternoon, just as the battalion approached the telephone line four miles south of the escarpment, and continued for the remainder of the day and throughout the night. As will be seen, this rain was to have a very important effect on the operations and for the enemy-was to be literally one of the ‘fortunes of war’.

The day’s journey ended at 7 p.m., eight miles south-west of Baggush and five miles short of the escarpment, when the battalion settled down for the night

The remainder of the Division had spent the morning on the high ground south of Fuka and in the early afternoon moved off to the north-west. Much difficulty was experienced in negotiating the sodden desert which the heavy rain was rapidly transforming into a bog. The Division had instructions to see that the landing grounds in the Baggush area and the coastal strip in the vicinity were clear of the enemy and so available to the RAF; another task was to clear the enemy from between Baggush and Charing Cross (the road junction south-west of Matruh and about 30 miles north-west of 25 Battalion).

Dawn on 7 November found the desert a quagmire after all-night rain; the whole Division was bogged and so, too, were the supply vehicles some miles back. Without petrol, quite apart from the impossible state of the going, the Division could not move. It was a most unpleasant day, the frustration of the high hopes, or indeed of the certainty of cutting the enemy line of retreat, accentuating the gloomy conditions. But Private Hawkins found some humour to relieve the gloom. ‘We had something to grin about,’ wrote Hawkins. ‘With all the trucks potentially bogged, we stood listening to the BBC-“Rommel is in full flight for the Egyptian border with the NZers in hot pursuit”.

By 10th November they had pushed through and crossed minefields to take Mutruha were foodstores were salvaged and trains and ships unloaded at the small port.

The Division (less 6 Brigade) had experienced little difficulty in its advance, the first real resistance being encountered at the formidable Halfaya Pass, which was captured by 21 Battalion in a surprise attack before daybreak on 11 November. The troops moved on to El Agheiha and were fighting in Wadi Matratin Desert by 16th December 1942.

Leave

In Rome, one of the finest hotels, the Quirinale, had been transformed into another very popular New Zealand Forces Club. Here conditions were really on luxury lines, and the city had boundless sources of interest. Tours of the City of the Seven Hills were among the many amenities provided free of cost in divisional transport with experienced guides. Leave to Rome was arranged as liberally as possible, and the field ambulances were able to release large quotas of men for day leave. Three-day leave to the lovely island of Ischia was also reinstituted. This wooded island off the Bay of Naples, with its ancient castles and pleasant beaches, provided a place of relaxation from the strain of war conditions.


Mount Vesuvius was climbed on numerous occasions by the members of the staff of 2 General Hospital. From the rim of the crater one looked down into a huge cavity of forbidding appearance, but all around was a panorama of marvellous variety and beauty: to the north-west the city of Naples, and beyond, the Isle of Ischia; then the majestic Bay of Naples, bordered to the southwest by the Sorrento Peninsula and the Isle of Capri. Close to the foot of Vesuvius in the south was both old and new Pompeii, while away to the north and east, across wide plains checkered with cultivated fields and vineyards, extended the rugged Apennines.The Sorrento Peninsula was a popular place for leave for a while, but it was not long before restrictions

were placed on going there. Sorrento was an attractive, straggling village of one main street, meandering happily along craggy cliffs high above the sea. It commanded a superb view of the shimmering Bay of Naples. From there an hour’s trip in a launch took one to the Isle of Capri, with its famous blue grotto and the heights of Anacapri. Farther round the rugged coastline were Amalfi, Ravello, Maiori, and Positano. This last village was built on an inlet, with a tiny, sandy bay
cluttered with half-painted fishing smacks. Houses perched precariously on the cliffs were outwardly unprepossessing but within were spotless and wonderfully cool. Positano had a magical charm as a ‘honeymoon haunt’ for some of the staff of 2 General Hospital, for in this as in other hospitals hardly a month passed but some of its female staff were married.

 

Advance to Tunisia

The battalion remained in its Sidi Azeiz bivouac till 4 December, spending the interval in training, reorganisation, and recreation. No time was lost in leveling an area for a parade and sports ground. A series of inter-unit rugby, soccer, and hockey matches was played throughout the Division; athletics, baseball, boxing, and wrestling competitions were also organised. As usual, various working parties were required and 25 Battalion sent troops to Bardia to work on the wharves and trucks to carry supplies from Bardia to Tobruk. To ease the difficult supply problem captured Italian rations were issued to the battalion, an unpopular innovation because of the surfeit of macaroni.

Before dawn on the fourth day the carriers rejoined 25 Battalion. There was a very heavy fog when the march was resumed after breakfast. ‘A great sight when things cleared a bit,’ wrote Corporal Wakeling, ‘as a real little army was moving forward over the miles of sand; tanks, trucks, armoured cars, jeeps, ambulances, and guns of all descriptions.’ From further reports it was clear that the enemy was now in full retreat. Unfortunately, the Division was

Some delay ensued while the confusion amongst the vehicles was straightened out. Twenty-fifth Battalion was off its trucks a little after midnight (15 – 16 December) and, with C and D Companies forward and B Company in reserve, moved 2000 yards almost due east and took up a position overlooking the road. At the same time 24 Battalion advanced against the ridge. There was some enemy shelling during the advance but 25 Battalion made no actual contact with the enemy. Before dawn the engineers had laid a minefield on the battalion’s right flank, which was likely to be exposed to tank attack by enemy forces retiring from the east. Captain Matthews, with the battalion carriers, moved towards the coastal road and reported that the enemy in three columns was retiring westwards. Targets on the road were engaged by our artillery.

On 24 Battalion’s front, to the left of 25 Battalion, it was seen, when daylight came, that a ridge 500 yards to the north obscured a view of the road which, instead of being close to the position as expected, was over 3000 yards away. An attempt by 24 Battalion to occupy this ridge was forestalled by enemy tanks. There was also a little enemy activity on a hill to the west of Brigade Headquarters, from which the enemy would gain observation over the transport vehicles of the brigade. This situation was dealt with by the reserve battalion and the artillery.

There was little information available regarding the strength and whereabouts of enemy forces to the east of the Division, though about the time 25 Battalion moved forward to occupy its position, a concentration of enemy vehicles with tanks south-east of Merduma was reported to be moving to the south-west. This caused a stir in the Divisional Administrative Group, which had already moved back ten miles, and caused it to retire a further ten miles to the south-east. Other reports indicated that enemy armoured forces were still to the east of the Division. To meet a possible attack from that quarter, General Freyberg concentrated his tanks in readiness to push in front or to the right of the Division and arranged for 5 Brigade to reduce the very wide gap that existed between it and 6 Brigade.

Enemy columns including tanks were reported on 5 Brigade’s front on the morning of 16 December. From the evidence since available it seems certain that 15 Panzer Division, which was to the east of 2 NZ Division, probed at various points to ascertain the dispositions of the New Zealand forces and then, moving south of 6 Brigade, escaped in a north-westerly direction, between 5 and 6 Brigades. Other enemy columns, including 21 Panzer Division, escaped along the coastal road.

In the early afternoon C Company had the misfortune to lose a truck in the minefield on the battalion’s right flank, Lieutenant May3 and three men (McPhillips,4 Thompson,5 and Woolford6) being injured. About the same time two Germans were brought to Battalion Headquarters. Otherwise all was quiet and only an occasional enemy vehicle was passing along the coastal road in front of 25 Battalion. A little later orders were received to move back to the vehicles and rejoin the brigade en route to the Division ten miles back. Just before the vehicles moved off, a German tank was destroyed by the anti-tank guns attached to the battalion and three Germans, who had abandoned their tank but offered fight, were captured by Major Morrison of D Company. Another German was taken by C Company.

The enemy was now reported to be holding Nofilia, 35 miles to the north-west, and the following morning (17 December) the Division advanced in that direction via the desert route with the intention of passing south of the village and cutting the road beyond. As the battalion passed to the south of Nofilia along the divisional axis, 4 Light Armoured Brigade and the Divisional Cavalry were in action nearby and the men were interested to see men and children from some bedouin tents in the vicinity standing around, apparently wondering what it was all about. After travelling 41 miles in six hours, the battalion halted at 4.30 p.m. about eight miles south-west of Nofilia.

In the meantime 5 Brigade a couple of hours earlier had passed through to the lead and had turned north to endeavour to cut the coastal road about 12 miles west of Nofilia. It encountered considerable opposition from an enemy covering force and took up a position 2500 yards from the road, but was unable to cross the road itself. Sixth Brigade Group occupied positions south-west of the village to assist 4 Light Armoured Brigade to contain the garrison there, and two batteries of 6 Field Regiment provided a screen of guns to guard the brigade against attacks by tanks. Twenty-fifth Battalion established a perimeter defence near where it had halted on the outskirts of the Brigade Group, with D Company (Major Morrison) on the right flank, C Company (Captain Wroth) in rear, and B Company (Captain Wilson) in rear of 6 Field Regiment. A Company (Major Hutchens) was in reserve.

During the night (17 – 18 December) further attempts by 5 Brigade to cut the road failed, and a couple of hours after daylight it was found that the enemy had gone, apparently escaping along the main road and also by a track nearer the coast. According to a captured German officer, the strength of the German garrison at Nofilia had been about 2500 men with four 88-millimetre guns, 32 anti-tank guns, and 32 tanks. Once again the enemy had escaped the trap.

The rapid clearing of various airfields and landing grounds for use by Desert Air Force fighters was again a responsibility of the New Zealand Division, a vital task as the fighters, operating from forward positions, could protect Benghazi and ease the most difficult supply problem. The airfield at Merduma was being cleared by New Zealand engineers, and when it was found that the enemy had gone from Nofilia, two sections of carriers of 25 Battalion under Captain Matthews escorted 8 Field Company to Nofilia airfield for a similar task, returning to the battalion the following day.

A stage had now been reached when it was necessary for Eighth Army to pause for a time while the divisions were brought up to strength and sufficient reserves of ammunition, petrol, stores, and supplies of all kinds accumulated. For this reason a plan for the New Zealanders to seize a gap near the Tamet airfield, 100 miles to the west, was not proceeded with, and after a few days of uncertainty, which affected all units, 25 Battalion was able to settle down for a rest period until 3 January. To guard against any enemy enterprise, 5 Brigade occupied a covering position to the west of Nofilia and the Divisional Cavalry provided a screen on the divisional front.

Four days before Christmas 6 Brigade, with the exception of 24 Battalion which followed a day later, moved about 20 miles to an area astride the main road eight miles north-west of Nofilia, adopting the brigade twenty-four column desert formation before digging in. Twenty-fifth Battalion was north of the road, with 26 Battalion behind and Brigade Headquarters and (later) 24 Battalion to the south of the road. It was a beautifully fine day for this change, which brought the battalion within easy reach of the coast, and all ranks looked forward to a clean-up and then, Christmas. The camp and sports grounds were improved, football was played, and a compulsory bathing parade was held, compulsory, presumably, because the weather was bitterly cold. The men did not enjoy a march to the beach in the afternoon of the 22nd. One comment read:

‘Bitterly cold morning—route march to the beach at 1.30 and after two hours of plodding through mud and slush arrived at the sea wet through with perspiration and mud to our knees. A great dip in the Meddy though a bit on the chilly side. What a march home! Letters.’

The water supply situation at Nofilia was difficult as the enemy had polluted or destroyed the wells, and for a few days, until the engineers had remedied matters, the men were on a very meagre issue, the only available water coming nearly 500 miles by road from Tobruk, via a supply point at Marble Arch. On Christmas Eve the companies marched to the beach and had lunch there before returning to camp where, to the delight of all, a large parcel mail awaited them. Christmas Day was fine but appropriately cold for the fare to come. After a church service in the morning a sports meeting which followed was enlivened by an American pilot, who flew over the battalion with his aircraft upside down and had the men guessing what sort of plane he was flying. The American pilots indulged in a good deal of low-flying over the New Zealanders’ bivouacs: ‘These Yanks will hit a man’s bivvy one of these days,’ wrote one man, ‘as they fly so low and put the breeze up us when we don’t see them coming.’

The men’s Christmas dinner, the third away from home, was held at midday. Great efforts had been made to provide Christmas fare and make the day a memorable one. Excellent fresh white bread, a great luxury in the desert, was provided by the New Zealand Field Bakery, which had been brought up to Nofilia. Stores for the occasion, ordered some months previously, came forward over the hundreds of miles from the Nile Delta in time to be distributed for Christmas, 25 Battalion’s order for beer, cigarettes, and foodstuffs being collected two days previously. New Zealand ASC transport brought up the Christmas mail which, for the whole Division, included 60,000 parcels. A general distribution of a bottle of beer, fifty cigarettes, a National Patriotic Fund parcel (of tinned fruit, cake, and other gifts), and a rum issue was made to every man of the battalion. The dinner itself was impressive and reflected great credit on all concerned in its provision, especially the cooks, who overcame all the difficulties of cooking in the desert and prepared a splendid meal. The menu included turkey, fowl, roast pork, baked and boiled potatoes, peas, apple sauce, plum pudding with sauce, and nuts. Colonel Bonifant visited the men at their meals to wish them the season’s greetings, while the officers waited on their men and had their own meal in the evening.

The men’s evening meal was a very good one, the rum issue which followed it providing just the finishing touch required. Purchases from Regimental Funds and private parcels supplemented the excellent Christmas fare, which was doubly appreciated by men who for months had lived on plain desert rations, often prepared under very difficult conditions. To illustrate what a real achievement it was to bring all these Christmas supplies forward over the great distances involved, General Freyberg, when speaking to one unit said: ‘It would take two tons of petrol to bring three tons of beer from the Delta to Nofilia’.

Rain fell during the evening and Boxing Day was very cold. Work and training were resumed immediately. A landing ground at Sidi Azzab, 40 miles to the west, had to be prepared for use and the three battalions of the brigade sent off that day eleven officers and 300 men under Major Morrison of 25 Battalion to do a week’s construction work there. ‘Normal army rations for the working party were augmented by the gazelle (the N. African antelope) chased and shot by parties of soldiers in light vehicles,’ commented Major Morrison. Throughout Boxing Day the monotony of the usual desert scene was broken by the advance of 7 Armoured Division along the road near the battalion and the long columns of tanks, guns, and vehicles of all kinds made an impressive sight.

Training and recreation filled the last days of December. Parties of men attended the Corps school of mine-clearing and patrolling and a composite platoon represented the battalion in a film of the recent advance which was being produced at Nofilia by the New Zealand Film Unit.

Since the battalion had left Matruh on 20 November there had been few casualties: one man had died of wounds and one officer (Lieutenant May) and five other ranks had been wounded.

Sunday, the third day of the New Year, was most unpleasant. There was a gale on shore and a severe electrical storm a short distance out in the Mediterranean. The few very large drops of rain which fell were insufficient to lay the dust and a cold dust-storm raged. More rain which fell in the afternoon reduced the dust but the wind and low temperatures continued to make conditions very uncomfortable. The following day was even worse, a very cold sandstorm raging as the Division concentrated to the south of Nofilia and 25 Battalion marched (on foot) to the new area, a distance of 17 miles over rough country. During the march and just after midday, General Montgomery watched the troops go by and later addressed all the officers of 6 Brigade Group; he congratulated the brigade on its part in the recent operations, gave an indication of his plans for the future, and showed the greatest confidence in the successful conclusion of the campaign.

Twenty-fifth Battalion remained in the concentration area for four days. Its carriers with full crews then joined the other carriers of the brigade, all under Captain Matthews (25 Battalion), and went back to Nofilia for carriage on transporters to the next destination, the Tamet area about 25 miles west of Sirte.

When the march was resumed some care was taken to prepare for the crossing of the large Wadi Tamet which lay immediately ahead. To prevent congestion the Division moved in blocks at hourly intervals, anti-aircraft guns were sited to cover the route, and fighter cover was asked for. However, no difficulty was experienced, though the sound of bombing and anti-aircraft fire to the north just before the battalion started served as a warning that precautions were necessary even in these desert wastes. The battalion’s vehicles did a good deal of climbing up and down small, steep slopes, but completed the journey of 30 miles in a little less than three and a half hours.

Another heavy air raid was heard the following evening and-again the next morning, 14 January. The column was now in the vicinity of Pilastrino, 30 miles south of Buerat, and ap-proaching the El Gheddahia-Bu Ngem track, beyond which was the enemy defensive line to the south-west of Buerat.

Planning to drive quickly to Tripoli to secure the port as a base. The inland column was now concentrated, ready to cross the GheddahiaBu Ngem track in the morning (15 January), and at an early hour the Divisional Cavalry crossed the road while 6 Brigade Group in rear approached it slowly. It was a fairly quiet day for 25 Battalion, which moved at dawn when the artillery in front was in action against enemy positions, and only nine miles were covered, the men then watching the artillery duel. A move was made early in the afternoon but was halted by a tank battle some distance ahead, a few of the very unpopular 88-millimetre high-velocity shells landing amongst the battalion’s vehicles without effect. Late in the afternoon 25 Battalion crossed the Bu Ngem track and shortly afterwards halted for the night. C Company (Wroth) was sent forward to join the front of 26 Battalion, which was providing a defensive screen for the laager area of the Greys, Divisional Cavalry, and forward guns of the artillery. Some very stony country was passed and after crossing the Bir DufanBeni Ulid road, 25 Battalion was on the roughest piece of desert it had met for some time; it consisted mostly of large rocks and the column was soon held up 11 miles north of Beni Ulid, no further move being made that day. Small green valleys with a few trees dotted about were to be seen occasionally and were a welcome relief from the drab desert.

Now 30 miles south-east of Tarhuna, General Montgomery had made it very clear that the very difficult supply situation made it impossible to accept any delay in the capture of Tripoli (40 miles north-west of Tarhuna).

 

There was something of the atmosphere of a race for Tripoli between 51 Division on the coast, 7 Armoured Division in the centre, and the New Zealand Division on the left, while 22 Armoured Brigade, also near the coast, was well placed. A route down the escarpment, 12 miles south-west of Tarhuna, was discovered, and the leading troops of 2 NZ Division entered the plain on 21 January. In a series of short moves and long halts 25 Battalion, near the rear of the Division, covered 16 miles in thirteen hours, to be within ten miles of Tarhuna. There was a slight frost that night which caused ice to form on the men’s groundsheets, but the morning sun soon asserted itself to the great comfort of the troops.

The battalion had another long, slow move the following day, changing early to three-column formation because of the rough ground, and then to single file to pass through Tazzoli. After travelling 36 miles in fifteen hours, 25 Battalion halted for the night on the coastal plain an hour before midnight. The country traversed during the day was a little more attractive, with a dahlia-like weed and patches of grass giving some resemblance to a green landscape. A few Arabs with their donkeys added interest to the scene; small white houses were dotted among the valleys and an occasional large building, also white, could be seen on the hills. As the battalion passed through an Italian village, the men found the people quite friendly but otherwise unimpressive as they stood on the roadside and asked for cigarettes.

During the morning of the 23rd January 1943 25th battalion prepared to enter Tripoli, thus completing in 80 days, the dessert journey of 1400 miles from Alamein.

25 Battalion formed into three columns, but no move took place. On the previous day 5 Brigade had been held up by the enemy at Azizia, 14 miles to the north-west, but found that the village had been vacated during the night. During the morning British troops had entered Tripoli, and 5 Brigade reached the city in the afternoon, thus completing in eighty days the desert journey of 1400 miles from Alamein. While British and New Zealand troops occupied the town, 7 Armoured Division continued the pursuit.

In the afternoon General Freyberg and a party of senior officers of the Division (which included Brigadier Gentry and 6 Brigade’s Staff Captain) had a very narrow escape when their cars ran into a close ambush while on reconnaissance near Bianchi, 25 miles south-west of Tripoli. Gentry’s driver was wounded while trying to turn the car, and later died, and three other men were wounded. The incident emphasised the necessity for an adequate escort for reconnaissance and other parties entering territory recently occupied by the enemy, a necessity that does not appear to have been sufficiently realised from time to time throughout the war.

 

The occupation of Tripoli proceeded smoothly. The civilians gave no trouble, the few who were on the streets appearing to be friendly, but most stayed indoors.

In the morning following the capture of Tripoli, 25 Battalion in single column moved along the tarsealed road through Azizia to its allotted area near Giordani. For seven miles to the north of Azizia the road was lined with gum trees, presenting a very pleasant picture, and from the Italian colonies all round families were out watching the troops and, inevitably, asking for cigarettes. The cultivated belt on the Tripoli plain was a striking and very attractive contrast to the desert. By New Zealand standards the country could not be described as very fertile, but given water it would grow almost anything. Starved by months in the barren desert of the sight of green grass, trees, and the like, the men revelled in the change, and the ample supply of very fine water was the champagne of the occasion.

A tremendous afforestation scheme, covering hundreds of thousands of acres over the last decade or two, was the most outstanding feature. Everywhere, eucalyptus and pine trees had been planted annually along the roads, on vacant desert between settlements, and along boundaries. The value of trees in a treeless, sandy country was manifest. In the battalion’s bivouac area the young children playing nearby and gathering round at meal times greatly interested the men after their long isolation from any form of home life, and the cooks gave the children a little fruit salad, cottage pie, and other titbits, to their great delight.

 

Another change of scene occurred on 2 February when 25 Battalion moved to the brigade’s new area near Suani Ben Adem, 14 miles south of Tripoli. It was a most pleasant camp site, situated amongst acacia, gum, and fruit trees. Here the battalion carried out smartening-up drill and then took part in a brigade parade, in preparation for a divisional review and address on 4 February by Mr Winston Churchill. At the review Mr Churchill, in the uniform of an air commodore and accompanied by high-ranking generals, addressed the troops in his own inimitable style and made a deep impression.

On the 11th, twenty-fifth Battalion took over the duties of 5 Camerons and was accommodated in the Law Courts building and in and around the Governor’s Palace. Five guards of a total strength of 1 officer, 17 NCOs, and 51 men were mounted, two of the more interesting posts being those on the wine factory and the brewery. Referring to the local wine one man wrote: ‘In Tripoli the men first made contact with the species of high explosive known coloquially as “plonk”, a vicious type of red wine. Casualties were many but none fatal.’

 

Late the first night wharf duties were taken over in heavy rain and a high wind which caused the sea to break over the mole and made the work hazardous. Throughout the month the battalion provided guards and working parties on shore, lighters, and ships, both by day and night, the total number of men varying from 100 to 300 daily. Sudanese troops took over most of the guard duties on the second day, and 25 Battalion guards were reduced to one officer and eight men, the battalion war diary containing the entry: ‘… and the petrol dump guard discontinued. An officer was maintained on the wine factory.’

The working parties had a march of two miles to the docks, where they unloaded a wide variety of items including 44- gallon drums of petrol, rations, ammunition, 500-pound bombs, and medical supplies. A satirical comment on this work by ‘some person or persons unknown’ went the rounds of the battalion: ‘The Kiwis could unload more in three months than the Regulars in twelve, but as they “acquired” more in three months than they unloaded in twelve, the score was about even.’

24th February 1943

‘Some nights we would wake with the ground practically jumping under us and a noise as if all hell were let loose. It would be one of the frequent air raids and we were inside the concentric rings of guns of increasing calibre which sent up a devastating cone of fire…. With the rest of the Bn we worked on the unloading of ships—sometimes by day, more often it seemed by night and on several occasions long stretches of both. We weren’t so — keen on it at night … for raids were always in the offing and it wasn’t particularly funny lying between a couple of tram lines while bombs screamed down and the guns barked thunderously and spewed shrapnel which had to come down. Nor were such raids altogether very frightening; the spectacle of it all was so big and awesome, like some super drama in relation to which one was a mere spectator. It was like that the night our lads were unloading the three bottomless holds of a Liberty ship on to lighters, in the middle of the harbour. At the forward hold, bombs and shells came up in the slings and were gingerly lowered into their lighter. Amidships, away down below, the lads packed cases and tins and bags of provisions on to the slings…. At the stern hold toiled the Aks-Aks, half the team down in the hold and half in the lighter, handling tins and 40-gal drums of petrol, with Tommies working the winches. Then it came upon us—guns and bombs, roaring planes and shrapnel plopping everywhere. Smartly out of the hold scrambled the boys and we strained our gutses out to get a heavy tarpaulin over the hatches to keep away from the petrol any stray hot bit of shrapnel. Down on the lighter the lads just sat down on the drums of benzine until it was all over, which was half-an-hour later. Night was well ended when we were told to heave to.’

The city was disappointing. The buildings were badly battered and the harbour seemed full of sunken ships. Most of the city had been destroyed and the greater part of the civil population had been evacuated. Food was unprocurable by the troops, and indeed its purchase was forbidden because there was insufficient food for civilians. There was evidence, however, of the former beauty of the city:

‘The esplanade along the waterfront, lined on the landward side with ultra-modern buildings and on the seaward side by a beautiful concrete balustrade, the road itself a double avenue of splendid palms all set in flower gardens, is easily the finest I’ve ever seen.’

Tunisia to Italy

The enemy forces had now retired into the Mareth line, about 180 miles to the west of Tripoli.

The coming attack was expected on 4 March in the Medenine area, and 2 NZ Division was ordered forward to be in position in that locality by the afternoon of 3 March.

Sixth Brigade left Suani Ben Adem for Medenine, about 160 miles to the west, in the morning of 2 March. Travelling throughout the night, 25 Battalion reached Medenine the following morning. The greater part of the journey was over the asphalted coastal road which, although cratered in many places, provided easy going, but the 50 miles of road beyond Ben Gardane was badly potholed. Burnt-out vehicles, road demolitions, and marked minefields were familiar signs of the enemy’s retreat. Headlights were permitted as far as Ben Gardane, 25 miles west of the TunisiaTripoli border. It was a tiring journey, very cold, with the men cramped for room, and it was a relief to reach the position.

The brigade was in reserve on high ground to the north-east of Medenine. The troops stood to arms at a quarter to six next morning (4 March). The day was beautifully fine after a chilly night that had been disturbed a little by Desert Air Force bombers passing overhead and by the crash of their bombs in the distance. A field of oats of two acres accommodated part of 25 Battalion, which enjoyed a fairly quiet day. In the late afternoon there was some excitement when about twenty aircraft were manoeuvring overhead and the anti-aircraft guns were very active; three aircraft were shot down and, after much argument as to their identity, it was learnt that they were German.

During the night while the companies practised night operations, fire from the artillery nearby added a realistic touch. Extensive movements of enemy tanks and transport reported by air during the day had pointed to the possibility of an attack the following day, but all remained quiet though small parties of enemy infantry, transport, and armoured cars were seen.

 

For 25 Battalion and the remainder of 6 Brigade Group in their somewhat retired positions, 6 March opened with a rumble of guns. Though only two shells fell in the battalion’s position, bursting near B Company without effect. There was also much air activity, including enemy dive-bombing, which had the men moving rapidly into their slit trenches throughout the day; little damage was done.

For troops holding the forward positions the picture was different. About 6 a.m. fairly heavy enemy shelling commenced and for the next hour and a half enemy transport, guns, and tanks advanced eastwards from the hills west and south-west of Medenine. Orders had been issued to withhold fire until tanks were at point-blank range, and it was remarkable to see the enemy advance proceeding while the Allied guns remained silent.

About 1000 enemy infantry and forty tanks advanced against Pt 270, an important tactical feature about five miles west of 25 Battalion. It was met by devastating artillery fire and repulsed with heavy casualties. There was considerable air activity at dawn, and an Italian pilot who had been shot down landed near 25 Battalion.

To deal with the Mareth line General Montgomery decided to attack in the coastal sector and at the same time carry out a wide turning movement around the enemy’s inland flank. New Zealand Corps comprising 2 NZ Division, 8 Armoured Brigade, King’s Dragoon Guards, 64 Medium Regiment, RA, and General Leclerc’s (Free French) force was to undertake the turning operation.

 

From 11 to 17 March the various groups of New Zealand Corps were moving by a circuitous route to an assembly area about 50 miles south-south-west of Medenine. This route ran through Ben Gardane, 43 miles to the south-east. Twenty-fifth Battalion followed a little later in the day, halting for a few hours at a staging area about 70 miles away, and then, travelling throughout the night, reached its area another 70 miles farther on a little after daybreak. It was cold and dusty in the vehicles and, as no headlights were permitted, the journey was slow and the driving difficult, with the vehicles constantly opening out and closing.

The orders required that all precautions were to be taken to avoid observation and identification during the move. Arrangements were made for wireless deception and silence, the fernleaf signs on vehicles were obliterated, and shoulder titles and hat badges removed. After arriving at the assembly area in the morning of 12 March vehicles were to move as little as possible during daylight, and then only at reduced speeds to avoid raising dust; no fires or lights were permitted after dusk; no tents were to be pitched and bivouacs were not to be erected before 6 p.m.

 

In the late afternoon of 12 March the appearance of an enemy reconnaissance aircraft caused some anxiety. While the remainder of the New Zealand Corps was assembling, 25 Battalion continued to carry out such training as was possible under the restrictions imposed. Conferences and tactical exercises without troops were held for the officers. A plaster model of the area where operations were expected to take place was used to explain the overall plan, first to the officers and then to the senior NCOs, so that before the battalion left the area, the leaders of all ranks had been well briefed and the men had a good understanding of the impending operation. Air photographs of the enemy position at Tebaga Gap became available after a few days and were a very valuable aid to realistic discussions and planning.

On the 17th a strong, cold wind with much dust, followed by rain the next day, made conditions very unpleasant. ‘Very cold and wet night. Packed ready for a move but no move. Real winter’s day’ read an entry in a diary. The battalion carriers rejoined a couple of hours after midnight, titles, badges, and vehicle signs were replaced, and at dusk on 19 March 6 Brigade Group resumed the advance on the Tebaga Gap. The wind had eased and the sky had cleared as 25 Battalion closed to night-visibility distance and moved off over rough, scrubby country abounding in sand drifts and wadis which gave the drivers some difficulty. The Brigade Group was following the New Zealand Divisional Cavalry and armour at the head of the Corps until the early morning, 25 Battalion halting for the night about 2 a.m. some ten miles east of Ksar Rhilane and 40 miles south of the Tebaga Gap.

After breakfast, as the battalion was on its way once more, artillery fire in the distance dispelled any illusion there may have been that in these wide desert spaces the war was far away. The march continued slowly all day, over rough country at times, crossing many dry creek beds which forced the columns to converge on occasions. Towards evening American Warhawk aircraft attacked but the battalion was not involved, and after travelling about 30 miles it halted just after dark. Some distance ahead artillery in action could be seen.

21st March 1943

The Gap was a defile about four miles wide, with high hills to the south-east and north-west. The road through it gave access through El Hamma to Gabes on the coast, 30 miles to the north-west of the coastal end of the Mareth line and about the same distance from the Gap. Allied troops passing through the Gap would therefore be a grave menace to the enemy holding the Mareth position.

His defences ran north-west across the Gap, following generally the line of the old Roman Wall, which the passage of centuries with their countless sand-laden winds had reduced to an archæological curiosity, a mere two-foot wall of rubble in many places. A few hundred yards in front of the wall, that is, on its south-western side, and almost in the middle of the Gap was Pt 201, a defended outpost; a minefield extended across the front and barbed-wire entanglements protected part of the defences. Further works to the north-east gave some depth to the position.

The attack was to be made by 26 Battalion on the right and 25 Battalion on the left, the inter-battalion boundary running north and south through the centre of the objective. A start line 3500 yards from the objective was selected. On the battalions’ leaving the start line at 9.30 p.m., the artillery would open fire on the enemy forward positions about a mile away, the fire remaining there for twenty-one minutes and finishing with one round of smoke per gun. The fire would then lift 300 yards and after one minute lift again, and continue on Pt 201 at the rate of one round per gun per minute as a guide for the advancing infantry.

The infantry rate of advance was to be 100 yards in one and a half minutes as far as the enemy forward positions and thereafter 100 yards in two minutes. The axis of advance to the centre of the start line would be lit with the usual provost lights, ending with two blue lights. A section of engineers was attached to each of the two battalions to clear lanes through the minefields, 2 Section 8 Field Company being with 25 Battalion.

A slight hitch in placing the lights on the axis caused Brigadier Gentry to delay the start half an hour. Meanwhile, in the early afternoon, 25 Battalion had moved forward for two hours over a track from which the loose sand had been removed by bulldozers, and halted in desert formation while tanks and artillery were engaging the enemy. It was during this halt that the brigade order for the attack was received, and at 5.30 p.m. The battalion advanced another two miles, debussed, and marched about half a mile to its forming-up position. During the move the battalion was machine-gunned by a low-flying Ju88 but suffered no casualties or damage.

It was bright moonlight when at 10 p.m. 25 Battalion crossed the start line with two companies forward, C Company (Norman) on the right and A Company (Matthews) on the left. D Company (Morrison) was in the centre behind the leading companies, with Battalion Headquarters following and B Company (Wilson) in reserve in rear. After advancing about 1500 yards without opposition, the first three companies and Battalion Headquarters passed through the minefield and over a deep anti-tank ditch with little difficulty, though heavily laden men had some trouble scrambling up the steep sides of the ditch. At this stage C Company, losing direction a little, deviated to the right and, encountering a double-apron wire entanglement while under heavy small-arms fire, overcame the obstacle and captured its first objective; this was a strongly prepared position which was actually in 26 Battalion’s area. Many Italians were captured.

The final objective, Pt 201, lay about 2000 yards ahead, and after reorganising C Company continued the advance. The enemy appeared to be taken completely by surprise and the company, still well to the right, secured the south-eastern slopes of Pt 201, capturing many Italians, including a colonel, and much war material. C Company then reorganised to meet a possible counter-attack; its casualties were three killed and ten wounded.

On 21st March 1943 Pt John Green was badly wounded. On 7th April 1943 he was admitted to 6 field ambulance and transferred to the X(ii) list as a battle casualty [STI].

A Company continued the advance on the left of C Company and the two leading platoons. Drawn away to the right in trying to keep touch with C Company, worked their way forward to the wire entanglement and under sweeping fire cut gaps. Charging through with shouts that were heard by Brigadier Gentry 2000 yards back (and which gave him his first indication that the attack was going well), the platoons swept through all opposition.

The advance continued until it was discovered that the battalion was about 400 yards to the right of its objective. A few unsuspecting enemy callers and escapees were captured while the company was digging itself in. There were many prisoners and much material, including three field guns, three trucks, and many medium machine guns. A considerable quantity of rations was found and appropriated, the German bread being especially relished as a fine change from hard biscuits.

D Company (Morrison) followed behind until the minefield was reached, when it came forward on the left of A Company. The enemy then opened fire with machine guns and 20-millimetre Bredas. The wire entanglement gave some trouble as a Bangalore torpedo failed to explode, causing delay while several gaps were cut by hand. All three platoons suffered casualties. The company then charged through the wire and attacked the first enemy positions, which were quickly overcome by the use of bayonets and grenades. No. 17 Platoon captured a Breda gun and killed the crew; 18 Platoon charged and captured a small field gun and some prisoners and then advanced half-left to cover the company and battalion left flank. There it surprised a number of the enemy near several vehicles, which it immobilised, and knocked out some machine guns, capturing a great many prisoners in deep dugouts near a couple of small hills and in a wadi. Crossing the wadi, the platoon took more machine guns and prisoners on the flat ground beyond.

The capture of the final objective, Pt 201, was completed about 11.30 p.m. and, with the exception of 12 Platoon, B Company took up a position at the rear of the battalion on the reverse or southern slopes of the hill.

The anti-tank platoon also struck trouble in the minefield, as Private Hawkins relates:

‘Waiting on the starting line we all took good nips and joked and the show looked fine. Half-an-hour later it was just merry hell as well-dug-in Bredas went “glug-glug-glug-glug” and red-hot tracer shells skimmed the ground; as LMG fire sprayed the area with illuminated death; as S-mines4, telemines, and mortars went off on all sides. Our model show had developed into a nightmare.

‘Then suddenly it was all over. D Coy … had worked around the flank and appeared silhouetted on the hill-top behind the enemy, whence, in the most thrilling sight of my life, they delivered a rapid and overwhelming attack on the key positions. Soon Hill 201 was in the hands of the Battalion. Support groups came up and the position was consolidated.’

During the many hours of daylight preceding the attack the men lay concealed in their slit trenches. The casualties since the attack on 21–22 March were one officer and twenty-two other ranks; of these, three other ranks were killed, one died of wounds, one officer and eighteen other ranks were wounded.

The absence of any increase in the enemy artillery fire, except against the newly captured positions of 21 Battalion, was evidence of the success of the measures taken for concealment, though perhaps some credit should go to the windy and dusty conditions which reduced visibility, especially as the enemy had the wind, and therefore the dust, in his face.

Twenty-fifth Battalion’s position on Pt 201 was under enemy observation from the high ground, particularly that to the north-west. It was well prepared against tank attack by the siting before dawn of three 17-pounder, ten 6-pounder, and three 2-pounder anti-tank guns for all-round defence, and in addition was covered by such of the Corps artillery as had been moved within range.

As dawn broke, 6 Platoon of 2 MG Company attached to 25 Battalion, which had just dug positions on the northern slopes of Pt 201, was fired on by 47-millimetre guns situated on a ridge 1500 yards away. This caused an immediate reaction by the machine-gunners, whose heavy fire forced the enemy to retire; they also engaged enemy vehicles at long range. Later in the morning a Crusader tank on occupying the ridge destroyed one of the 47-millimetre guns and secured the surrender of about 200 Italians.

The battalion mortars were active after dawn against any targets which presented themselves; a mortar section with D Company silenced four field guns at 950 yards range, causing thirty-eight Italians to come over and surrender; anti-tank guns at 2600 yards were silenced and various machine guns were fired on. Mortars with A Company were also engaged with machine guns and those with C Company fired on infantry in positions to their front. The machine guns and mortars were particularly valuable at this stage, when the artillery was moving forward and was required to conserve ammunition for vital tasks.

Exposed to observation as it was, 25 Battalion during the day experienced a good deal of artillery fire, suffering ten casualties, including Captain Matthews, the commander of A Company, who was wounded. The New Zealand Corps artillery responded briskly to the enemy guns and its counter-battery bombardments were very effective. Crossings over the anti-tank ditch and through the gaps in the minefield were widened and improved during the early hours to assist the advance of the armour. As early as 2.30 a.m. a squadron of Sherman tanks under command of 6 Brigade commenced to move forward through the gap behind 25 Battalion, following the carriers but ahead of the other supporting arms of the battalion. At first light an armoured regiment advanced through the obstacles and was followed by the New Zealand Divisional Cavalry. Enemy artillery was quickly in position on the high ground on both sides of the Gap, and heavy fire from 88-millimetre guns at long range and from other anti-tank guns at shorter ranges prevented the armour from pushing through and exploiting success as had been planned. Little effort appears to have been made to exploit success.

From their elevated position on Pt 201 the men of 25 Battalion had a grandstand view of all that occurred. They watched the RAF bomb and machine-gun the enemy positions and saw the first Spitfire and Hurricane tank-buster aircraft in action; this was most impressive though some of the first targets were ill-chosen. The armoured regiment and the Divisional Cavalry did not get more than 2500 yards beyond Pt 201, though they were collecting prisoners throughout the morning and were engaged at times in hull-down actions with enemy tanks, which soon appeared in increasing numbers. Several small ineffective enemy air attacks took place during the day.

At 7.30 p.m. (22 March) 6 Brigade was to take over from the armour the responsibility for the front, and by that hour the two forward battalions after dusk were to straighten the front. Twenty-fifth Battalion was to move its right flank farther to the right (or east) and swing its left forward a little. Twenty-sixth Battalion on the right was to advance level with 25 Battalion, but its right flank was to be refused or swung back to the south-east. Except for some fighting on the right of 26 Battalion, the new front was established without difficulty, 25 Battalion moving B Company (Captain Hewitt) forward and farther west on the left flank of A Company, the foremost defended localities of the battalion being generally a little short of the Roman Wall.

Wakeling said in his diary:

‘Mar 23. Stand-to at daylight as our tanks moving forward. Shelled consistently all morning as bty of our 25-pdrs moved in close behind us. Coy formed up again so went back with Capt Hewitt. Plenty of shelling off-and-on during the afternoon and the total of prisoners around the 2000 mark. Moved forward about 1000 yards at 7 and dug in.’

By the morning of 23 March the enemy had reinforced his position with tanks and infantry and was using tanks defensively to provide a screen for his guns. Early in the morning the British armour had attempted to infiltrate the enemy positions on the right or eastern flank but had met with severe artillery and anti-tank fire and had made little progress. During the morning 25 Battalion’s position was bombed on three occasions by enemy aircraft and once by the RAF, all with no effect. In the afternoon ground strips and smoke were used to direct the RAF to the enemy positions. The battalion ‘had a large V of cut-down kerosene tins burning all night to direct ‘planes, right next to us,’ wrote Captain Webster (A Company). ‘This was the first time the Battalion had been in charge of one of these guides and were not too happy about it as it was in full view of the Hun but he never wasted a shell on it.’ Throughout the day there was considerable artillery activity on both sides, including counter-battery exchanges.

After dark 24 Battalion occupied a position on the left of 25 Battalion, extending the front along the general line of the Roman Wall to a point about 3600 yards north-west of Pt 201. The armour, which had moved over to the left flank where the ground was more suitable, advanced slowly the next morning and the artillery, concentrating on any targets that presented themselves, seemed to be gaining the ascendancy. Enemy aircraft on three occasions again dropped bombs near the battalion, again with no effect, and one aircraft was seen to be shot down. By nightfall tanks of 8 Armoured Brigade had secured high ground on the left, 4000 yards north-west of the battalion’s forward positions, and a Divisional Cavalry patrol was 2500 yards north of the battalion.

On the other flank a French force had infiltrated the enemy positions on the high ground south-east of 6 Brigade and was attacking the following day to link up with the right flank of the brigade. In the late afternoon of 24 March the appearance of a lorry, preceded by a motor-cycle, on the El HammaKebili road, and moving steadily towards the New Zealand position, intrigued the men of 25 Battalion on the forward slopes of Pt 201. Unfortunately, as so frequently happened on such occasions, someone—this time the New Zealand machine-gunners—opened fire at a range of 2000 yards and so prevented the much closer view the expectant infantrymen had hoped to obtain. The following morning bombs were dropped at the rear of the battalion’s position by an enemy fighter-bomber and during the day there was the usual shelling, which the men were beginning to find very irksome. No doubt the enemy infantry felt the same about the shelling they were receiving, probably much more so.

The enemy gave every indication of his intention to hold his positions stubbornly, as well he might in view of the danger to the Mareth line, and it was obvious that a full-scale attack would be necessary to dislodge him. The British frontal attack on the coastal sector of the line on 20–21 March had failed, and this had caused General Montgomery to decide to hold the enemy in that sector and to make the decisive attack on the New Zealand Corps front. Headquarters 10 Corps and 1 Armoured Division were ordered to reinforce that front with a view to breaking through without delay. Very heavy air support had been arranged for the operation, which was finally

Tebaga Gap, 26 – 27 March 1943

timed to commence at 4 p.m. on 26 March. At that hour the New Zealand Corps was to advance astride the main road for a distance of 4500 yards to the north-east of the Roman Wall; 1 Armoured Division would follow up the advance and at 7.20 p.m. would pass through New Zealand Corps and concentrate beyond the Corps’ objective by dark. At 11.15 p.m., on the moon rising, 1 Armoured Division would advance astride the main road and capture El Hamma. Immediately the armour had passed through, New Zealand Corps would, with the greatest possible despatch, destroy the enemy in the hills on either side of the Gap so that it could rejoin the Armoured Division in the Hamma-Gabes area without delay. The attack by New Zealand Corps was to be made on a two-brigade front, 5 Brigade on the right and 6 Brigade on the left, with 8 Armoured Brigade superimposed over the whole front. The attack would be supported by the whole of the Corps artillery, reinforced by two field regiments and one medium regiment of 10 Corps. A creeping barrage was to be fired, with timed concentrations on known enemy positions and batteries. Eighth Armoured Brigade during the attack was to move in advance of the infantry and at 4 p.m. would cross the start line, which in the centre was about 600 yards north-east of the Roman Wall, followed at 4.15 p.m. by 5 and 6 Brigades.

The rate of advance to the first objective, 2000 yards from the start line, was to be 100 yards in one minute, and to the second objective (a further 2700 yards) 100 yards in two minutes. There was to be no pause on the first objective. The Divisional Cavalry in support of 6 Brigade would move north-east along the foothills on the western flank and assist in mopping up.

On the capture of the final objective 5 Brigade was to exploit along the high ground to the east while 6 Brigade completed the mopping-up of enemy pockets in the foothills to the west. Before the attack several adjustments in the dispositions of the forward troops were necessary. On the night before, 5 Brigade was to take over the existing forward defence line of 6 Brigade and was to capture Pt 184, a dominating feature on the right flank, which completely overlooked the start line.

Twenty-sixth Battalion was to be relieved by the Maori Battalion and would then take over the 25 Battalion area to the east of the road and forward of Pt 201, to 1000 yards beyond the Roman Wall. Twenty-fourth Battalion was to remain on the left flank as far as the road, with its forward line level with 26 Battalion.

Twenty-fifth Battalion, on relief by 26 Battalion, was to relieve a battalion of the Buffs on the left flank. For the operation 25 Battalion was allotted one machine-gun platoon and those anti-tank guns of 33 Anti-Tank Battery already supporting it, and was also to take over 57 Anti-Tank Battery, RA, from the Buffs.

All these preparations were to be completed in darkness and movement after dawn was to be restricted to a minimum to prevent the enemy discovering the start line dispositions. However, 25 Battalion moved over to the left flank in the early afternoon of 25 March and relieved the Buffs as arranged, a strong wind and a good deal of dust reducing enemy observation. Only light shelling was experienced during the move.

In the very early hours of the 26th, 21 Battalion was firmly established on Pt 184 and the other battalions then moved to their allotted positions, though a company of the Maori Battalion could not reach the start line by dawn and so dug in a thousand yards short of it. The tanks also moved up in darkness into wadis and behind spurs ready to advance through the infantry in the afternoon.

On 6 Brigade’s front the attack was to be made by 24 Battalion. There were two objectives: one, the high ground 1000 yards ahead, and the other a wadi another thousand yards farther on. From its position on rising ground on the left flank, 25 Battalion was to support the attack with observed fire and also assist the Divisional Cavalry in mopping up on that flank. The battalion was also to be prepared to advance to the line of the final objective on the left of 24 Battalion, a diversionary operation to widen the front of attack and so reduce concentration of fire against that battalion. It was to be supported by overhead fire from 1 MG Company, which had joined 25 Battalion the previous night.

Punctually at the arranged time, 3.30 p.m., the Allied air attack on enemy positions and gun emplacements began and the tanks of 8 Armoured Brigade moved from their concealed positions towards the Roman Wall on their way to the start line. After half an hour’s air attack the guns opened fire and the tanks, followed by carriers, crossed the start line and commenced their advance.

From their elevated positions about 3000 yards west of the left flank of the first objective, 25 Battalion saw the first wave of the fighter-bomber attack sweep low across the enemy position, shooting up everything in sight, a most impressive display. The battalion’s position was also strafed, causing one casualty. Earlier in the afternoon a United States pilot had baled out of his burning aircraft and landed in the battalion area, where he was joined by another pilot on his way to the rear. One Spitfire pilot, shot down just prior to the attack, remained with the battalion for the operation; much amusement was caused later on his remarking that he would rather do ten crashes than take part in another ‘ground show’.

The leading troops of the attacking battalions crossed the start line fifteen minutes after the barrage opened and followed the tanks and carriers towards the first objective. Seventeen minutes later, 25 Battalion advanced on its diversionary and mopping-up role. The battalion had two companies forward and two in support, C Company on the right supported by B Company, and A Company on the left supported by D Company.

C Company (Captain Norman) encountered heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and sent two sections forward under the covering fire of the remainder of the company. The sections advanced to an enemy position on a spur in line with the first objective of 24 Battalion and about 2000 yards out from its left flank, and, with a spirited attack with the bayonet, captured the position. The enemy immediately behind the spur retaliated, however, with small-arms fire and hand grenades and forced the sections back to take cover. From there the two sections inflicted many casualties on the enemy with rifle fire, resulting after dark in fifty men coming over and surrendering. C Company then moved up and occupied the enemy position, capturing fourteen heavy machine guns and so emphasising the great value of the operation to 24 Battalion. C Company lost four men killed and six wounded.


Chapter 5, El Mreir, 22 July 1942

El Mreir, 22 July 1942

The task of the New Zealand Division was to capture the eastern end of the El Mreir Depression.

Most of 25 Battalion’s records were destroyed in the battle and the battalion’s operation orders are therefore not available. The unit diary does, however, give most of the details of the plan. The battalion was to advance 6000 yards to a position about 1000 yards past the pipeline, where it would be in reserve 2000 yards south of the first objective. A Company was to be on the right, B Company on the left, Battalion Headquarters 200 yards behind the junction of the two companies, and C Company was to follow 450 yards behind B Company and 250 yards to the left-rear of Battalion Headquarters. Thus the battalion, while advancing on a two-company front, could rapidly form a similar front facing the left flank. The two-pounder guns of the anti-tank platoon and the carriers were to be in rear, with the six-pounder troop of 32 Anti-Tank Battery following.

With its companies in open order, 25 Battalion about an hour before dark moved due west for a mile to reach its forming-up place on the start line, drawing fire from enemy guns on the way, fortunately with few casualties. Some trouble had been experienced with the start lines of 24 and 25 Battalions, and Private Bates8 of the Intelligence Section has explained how it occurred:

‘Somehow that attack seemed destined to failure before it began. With infinite patience the three of us (Lt Jackman, IO, Pte Herbert Carter,9 and myself, all of I Sec) built up a row of high cairns (in no man’s land as a start line) in a convenient depression, only to find they overlapped the start line marked out by 24 Bn‘s I Sec, who were working at the same time. Barely had we returned to HQ and gulped down a hasty, half-cold meal, than Jackman was … demanding if I could be ready to go out again immediately. Skid (I Sec driver Pte Rapley10) drove us back into no man’s land where, in full view of Jerry, we laid a fresh line further south with old petrol tins (they were flimsies), using an old iron wheel lying on the desert as the central point…. We excited mild interest in the German arty lines. The three shells he lobbed at us were close and as the old war horse (the I Sec PU) came galloping down from the far end of the start line I leapt on the running board. (Note: It was impossible to take a bearing out to the start line. I recall looking back at the hills and trying to memorise the general direction of the start line. But we were zig zagging like fury, so it was all pretty vague. I was given a bearing later.)

‘I had just time to slip back to Bn HQ, swallow a small tot of rum, stuff a pick down behind my haversack and bolt back to A Coy. My orders were fixed in my mind: “Wait at A Coy till B Coy comes round; guide them out on a bearing of 261 degrees to the left flank of the start line. Then the axis of advance will be 351 degrees.”

‘From A Coy HQ I could see figures moving across to the north, about 500 yards out. Shells were spattering around and among them. B Coy? Surely not. It was too early. Major Hutchins (OC A Coy, I think) came up and confirmed their identity and I gave chase. I intercepted the last platoon and learned from Lieut Sharpley,11 the cmmdr, that the OC, Capt Armstrong, was ahead somewhere.

‘Already soaked with sweat, I jogged over the rocky surface, pack, pick, and rifle dragging like a sea anchor. I somehow caught Coy HQ—and still Armstrong was ahead. Already the coy was too far forward. A runner who went on to catch the OC contacted him finally in the original depression, where the two fwd platoons already were. He explained (when he came back) that he had known of the change of start line but one of his pl cmmdrs, unaware of the alteration, had already gone fwd too soon. Armstrong had chased him, leaving me more or less in the air.

‘All seemed chaos. Men, ant-like figures in the gathering dusk, swarmed over the base and up the northern slope of the depression, a gathering concentration that was gradually easing out into battle formation. Shells were dropping among them, each bursting like a splodge of ink flicked on to a dark photograph. Close by were a few open trucks that had brought up MMGs. A jeep whirled past, the occupants’ faces set and preoccupied. The sun was a red ball, low over the western ridges.

‘Somewhere in this glorious mess were two of our platoons.

‘Somehow we reformed. Jerry was no assistance, following us around with his guns as though he had us marked…. I left Capt A to collect his coy and went off with his batman and several others of coy HQ to locate the start line. The sight of men apparently going back gave the mob the idea they had to retire again. I recall turning and bellowing to Jack Bone12 (Armstrong’s batman, I think) to stop them. Almost as I spoke the crowd turned and were streaming in my footsteps. The reason I soon discovered to be the arrival of the Colonel and Bn HQ but another shelling epidemic temporarily annulled my interest.

‘The Col was quite calm and merely nodded his head when I explained what had occurred.

‘(We never did find that start line.)’

On reaching the start line 25 Battalion formed up facing north. The barrage opened at 8.30 p.m. and drew fire from the enemy guns and mortars. With visibility still fair, the leading companies a few minutes later crossed the start line in fairly good order under shell, mortar, and machine-gun fire. During the advance to the objective, which was reached about 11 p.m., the enemy positions encountered gave little trouble and were quickly overrun. The principal hindrance to movement came from machine guns firing across the line of advance from slightly elevated ground to the west, guns which had fired earlier on 24 Battalion’s advancing troops. As Colonel George relates: ‘These guns were firing tracer on fixed lines and it was possible to walk right up to the line of fire, wait for a pause between bursts, and then slip safely across’. ‘Overs’ fired by the enemy in the north at 24 Battalion were also encountered.

At the objective it was found, about 1 a.m., that touch with two platoons of A Company had been lost, but it was learnt later that they had advanced so rapidly that they had caught up with the left flank of 24 Battalion and had gone on with that unit. Touch had also been lost with C Company, and one of B Company’s platoons, losing touch with A Company on its right, hurried on and overran the objective and reached El Mreir. On the objective the hard rock made digging impossible and sangars had to be constructed.

C Company, which was out of touch with the battalion when the first objective was reached, had followed B Company in the advance in accordance with the attack orders and until reaching the minefield kept that company in sight. At that point Colonel George spoke to Captain Wroth, the company commander, and then went on, while the company continued the advance on the bearing laid down, 351 degrees.

‘Shortly we were fired on by automatic weapons at 100 yds on our left flank,’ said Captain Wroth, ‘the fire being of such great intensity that we were forced to go to ground; the situation was made worse by the guns firing sufficient tracer to light up our positions as effectively as a red verey light. On an order the two fwd pls and Coy Hqs rose and ran fwd, but it is not known whether 13 Pl (Mr Patterson in reserve) moved to the left to rush the guns, or carried on through the fire. Casualties were amazingly light and the coy moved on until reaching the metalled road at 4000 yds—the objective. Enemy trenches in this locality showed signs of hasty and recent evacuations. We moved on forward with the intention of contacting B coy and then turning about and taking up a defensive position. It would appear now that at this position B coy had been told to swing right as the ground was too flat for proper defence, but as word did not reach us we carried on, on the original bearing, thinking B coy (and the whole Bn) must be moving forward further than originally intended. Another thousand yards or so and 15 Platoon (left fwd pl, Mr. Matthews16) saw several enemy on his left flank, some of whom called out “Kamerad” but as the left section of this platoon moved left, the enemy opened fire, whereupon the pl commdr immediately swung his pl left and went in with the bayonet, killing 8 or 9 and losing 2. The enemy scattered, 20 – 30 men taking with them some sort of light tracked vehicle, but leaving an anti-tank weapon which Lieut. Matthews destroyed as far as possible with the butt of a rifle.

‘After moving 4000 yards from the originally intended objective, we called a halt and laid low because of there being so much light from air force flares, taking the opportunity to decide what should be done next.

‘The enemy, however, made the next move when several vehicles on our left forward flank started up and moved, proving by their rattle to be tanks. A staff car leading them completely encircled us but we withdrew before the tanks had moved sufficiently to our rear to cut us off. The enemy had apparently seen us in the light of the flares as there was a good deal of activity to our front prior to the tanks arriving. Moving back down our advance line caused us some worry for the first 1000 yards or so as verey lights were constantly being fired by the enemy, the lights never appearing any further to the rear. Nearing the metalled road again (a fair check on distance was maintained the whole time by men detailed for the purpose) we were confronted by a line of vehicles, some MT and some tanks. Too long to outflank, the coy moved towards a truck in the line, threw a 36 grenade underneath causing no uncertain consternation, took four prisoners, and left others wounded. One tank under which a ST grenade exploded, moved off in great haste, and the coy moved through without being fired at, although it was noticeable that all enemy contacted, both there and during the whole night, were completely dressed and wide awake.

‘Reaching the road we swung east to the line of the blue lights marking the Bde Axis line, 0400 hrs, and rested until first light when it was intended to move up the axis and find the Bn. Firing to the north caused us to decide against it, however, at first light, and we moved slightly north of east with the intention of parking up in whosever lines we happened to contact and moving up to the Bn when the coy commdr could definitely verify its location.

‘The coy was, however, marched back to its original position before the attack and then withdrew with the remainder of the Bn B ech.

‘The exact time or location where 13 Platoon was lost is not known, although it is possible, in addition to the possibility mentioned in the first MG episode, after crossing the metalled road a Bn runner with instructions to turn NE did meet 13 Pl (rear of C Coy HQ) and divert them.

‘On several occasions in addition to those mentioned intermittent enemy fire was opened, but casualties in C Coy HQ, 14 and 15 Pls are not heavy.’

Although C Company during its movements had encountered a good deal of fire and was the only company to meet direct opposition during the advance, its casualties, apart from the loss of 13 Platoon, were not heavy. It was easy to go astray at night in the desert, but the company was guided by its bearing of 351 degrees and by men detailed to check the distances, and on these data reached a point about 500 yards east of the eastern end of the El Mreir Depression before turning back.

The RSM (O’Kane) throws a little light on the loss of touch with C Company. On the arrival of the vehicles at the first objective, O’Kane was instructed by Colonel George to lead the carriers to the various areas to deliver ammunition. He went first to B Company, where he met Lieutenants Sharpley and Cathie with their platoons. Sharpley told him that C Company was on his platoon’s left flank but after going out some 400 yards O’Kane could not find it. On returning to Battalion Headquarters he was told by Colonel George that the battalion was moving forward and there was not time to search further for the company. O’Kane’s account continues:

‘The Bn continued forward in a northerly direction and was met by heavy MMG fire at approx 4.50 a.m. and almost immediately afterwards by mixed MMG and A Tk fire, with occasional mortar fire. At this stage the Bn was very bunched and slightly ahead was other transport, presumed to be English. 20 yds distant on the right (east) was a heavy British tank. The wounded previously picked up in the SAA truck in the minefield and elsewhere were here placed in slit trenches already dug, approx 30–40 yds away from the ammunition truck. 6-pr A Tk guns attached to the Bn withdrew under intense fire at this stage. Our portees moved into position to engage the enemy. One under Cpl Fraser17 was stuck in soft sand and though strenuous efforts were made to get it out, it was hit and caught fire. Other vehicles hit and burning were A Coy’s carrier, SAA truck, and the tank. All men took to the ground except the portee crews. Fire continued with some intensity for a half to three-quarters of an hour when light started to break. Troops could then be seen in strength to the north and large numbers to the NW. To the NE rifle coy men could be seen moving towards enemy tanks without being fired on and it was presumed that they had been forced to surrender. Enemy tanks then approached from the NE and moved to encircle the Bn position. Capt Wilson with jeep called on all men around “to make a break for it”. RSM O’Kane, CSM Smith, and a man from the A Tk Pl were able to get clear on the jeep and were subjected to concentrated fire from the tanks. No one was hit.

Unfortunately, the fears of the New Zealand commanders that the supporting tanks would not be on the objective in time had been realised. Headquarters New Zealand Division had heard by midnight that 26 Battalion had reached its objective and had encountered enemy tanks, and was assured by Headquarters 1 Armoured Division that its tanks would be there at first light. About 4 a.m. Brigadier Clifton was in touch with Colonel Gentry (GSO 1 NZ Division) at Divisional Headquarters and asked him to ensure that tank support came up quickly. Clifton also asked one of his three tank liaison officers to call his headquarters and, climbing on that officer’s tank, heard him report the situation and ask for tank support at first light. It was a tragedy that it was not so arranged.

A few minutes after 8 a.m. on the 22nd, the Valentine tanks of two regiments of 23 Armoured Brigade advanced westwards along the northern lip of El Mreir, encountering minefields and heavy artillery and anti-tank fire and suffering heavy losses. Several squadrons reached the objective three miles west of the pipeline but at midday, with only seven tanks left, the brigade was withdrawn, having lost eighty tanks. There was no lack of determination and courage in 23 Armoured Brigade.

Efforts were still being made to find out what had happened to 6 Brigade and whether part of it might still be holding out in El Mreir. Second Armoured Brigade attacked late in the afternoon against the south-east corner of El Mreir. Under heavy anti-tank fire, the brigade was soon in a dangerous position from which it was ordered to withdraw, with eight Grant tanks destroyed and ten others disabled. Even as late as 5 p.m. 6 Field Regiment reported that what appeared to be men of 24 and 25 Battalions were close to their objectives and the tanks were asked to investigate. Reports from survivors, however, soon dispelled any hopes in the matter.

It is perhaps futile to surmise what the result of 6 Brigade’s attack would have been had the tanks arrived on the objective at or a little before first light, but the great determination and gallantry displayed when the tanks did attack leave little doubt that the operation would have been an outstanding success.

The battalion’s withdrawal was made gradually so as to simulate a supply column, one half moving at 5.30 p.m. and the other half an hour later.

Field Ambulance Equipment and Training

Small groups from the medical units, had during April 1940 proceeded out into the desert to establish and work an advanced dressing station for the training operations carried out by combatant units. The exercises emphasised the need for frequent practice in the field to master all the functions of a field ambulance. Practice blackouts and air-raid alarms pointed to the need for the unit to be prepared to deal with air-raid casualties.

John was attached to the 2 NZEF, 6 Brigade, 25th Battalian, 6 Field Ambulance which referred to 2 NZ General Hospital, based in Helwan, Egypt

From Alexandria a single railway line and a tarmac road ran along the coast to Mersa Matruh; the road extended further to Sidi Barrani. Thence all transport was obliged to use desert tracks which quickly cut up into loose sand in which progress was slow and arduous.

No ambulance trains were at first available. A temporary arrangement was made for an ambulance coach to run daily with the passenger train from Mersa Matruh to Daba and there empty into the CCS and return to Mersa Matruh. When patients had to be evacuated to base hospital at Alexandria, another coach was despatched from Alexandria to Daba to pick them up. Later, ambulance trains ran daily from Mersa Matruh, stopping at Garawla, Sidi Haneish, and Fuka to pick up sick from field ambulances and the Royal Air Force, unloading minor sick patients for treatment at the CCSs at Daba and, after taking on others for evacuation, proceeding to Alexandria and Cairo.

On 13 September 1940 the Italian forces pressed their advance beyond the frontier of Egypt to Sollum and later to Sidi Barrani. Before numerically superior forces, the British troops gradually withdrew to prepared defences at Mersa Matruh. On 15 September, following an air raid during the night, a number of casualties, all British, were admitted to 4 MDS for treatment. By 18 September the MDS held 31 patients, and by the end of September there were 64. The enemy air force was making frequent day and night attacks on troops, camps, and supply dumps in the Western Desert and on the railway line from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh.

During October the unit, which was nearly forty under strength, evacuated 634 patients sick and wounded—mostly sick. Of this total 289 were New Zealand troops and 345 British. In addition, many patients were detained under treatment and, on recovery, were discharged directly back to their units.

During this period in the desert opportunity was taken by 4 Field Ambulance to view the arrangements in the field made by ambulance units of 7 Armoured Division. Officers were impressed by their methods of dispersal, the set-up of the MDS and the ADS, their use of large tarpaulins (40 feet by 40 feet as a minimum) for providing quickly erected and efficient lightproof coverage for patients, and their arrangement of equipment in their panniers.

It was realised that several additions to equipment would be necessary because of the changed functions of a field ambulance in mobile warfare in the desert.

small tents had to be supplemented with coverage that was capable of quick erection and removal.

As a result tarpaulins were provided for 4 Field Ambulance and became standard equipment. They were used with a truck, such as the operating truck, as the principal support for the tarpaulin, one side of which was spread over the vehicle and the other sides pinned to the ground. Poles inside the tarpaulin raised it sufficiently high off the ground to provide coverage for twenty to thirty stretchers. The open end of the truck faced inwards so that the equipment was easily available for use inside the marquee-like structure. Such a structure could be erected in a few minutes.

Lessons learned in a training exercise in November 1940 included navigation, by day and by night, and the art of dispersal, and further practice was received in the rapid establishment of both main and advanced dressing stations. The unit was now highly trained, although further improvement was thought desirable in the collection and transportation of a continuous flow of casualties from a battalion.

25th July 1942

D Company, accompanied by five reinforcement officers, now arrived from Maadi after being three weeks away from the battalion. A, B, and C Companies were then formed into one company and named C Company, and after dark the two-company battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Burton moved forward to reoccupy the position it had formerly held west of Alam Nayil.

The night was quiet and after daybreak the companies dug in. There was a little spasmodic shelling but the principal annoyances were the plague of flies (which appeared to be increasing), the intense heat, and a heavy dust-storm which arrived at midday.

During the night of the 26th several demonstrations to simulate an attack like that against El Mreir on 21–22 July were made along the front of 6 Brigade. The purpose of these was to hold the enemy on the front while the Australian and armoured forces attacked—unsuccessfully, it was learnt later— on the coastal sector. Raids were organised, minefields blown up, artillery and machine-gun concentrations fired, and other measures taken to deceive the enemy. Fifth Brigade took similar action.

That night a patrol led by Lieutenant Moffett,24 the Bren-carrier officer, moved towards Fortress A, finding fresh marks of MT and tracked vehicles but no sign of enemy troops. The laying of mines along the brigade front was pushed on and by the 29th the front was fairly well protected in this way. A rather unusual visitation, a plague of mosquitoes, was experienced on that date, giving everyone a bad time and for the moment superseding the terrible flies as enemy No. 1; a small palliative was the hope and the belief that the Germans and Italians were similarly afflicted. From samples of these mosquitoes sent back for identification, malaria-bearing types were found to be present. A strong breeze from the south during the night had apparently brought the insects up from the Fayoum, 120 miles away to the south-east.

Active patrolling continued each night with little result, though a patrol on the 31st under Second-Lieutenant Budd25 encountered a working party from which it attempted to cut off three of the enemy; unfortunately, because of faulty fusing of three 36-type grenades, which failed to explode, the patrol was forced to retire under fire, eventually returning to the battalion by a circuitous route.

The enemy was also harassed by fire from 25-pounders, mortars, and machine guns and often responded by laying heavy defensive fire around his positions, a sure sign of nerves and of the need to bolster-up the resolution of his infantry. August saw continuous patrolling by all battalions. Twenty-fifth Battalion had a standing, reconnaissance, or fighting patrol out on every night of the month, no fewer than twelve officers, including two captains, taking part, each of them on several occasions. A good deal of information about the enemy defences was obtained but there were few encounters with his troops, apart from rather heavy fire at times. The patrols operated to a considerable distance forward of the battalion’s front; for example, Pt 104, where strong standing and other patrols of the battalion were almost continuously present each night, was three miles to the west-south-west of the front line.

On the night of 9–10 August Lieutenant Kempthorne‘s27 patrol encountered a large enemy patrol a mile west of Pt 104 and inflicted and suffered casualties; Lieutenant Kempthorne and Private Snell28 were missing, the former being reported later as died of wounds and the latter as wounded and prisoner of war. Again, eleven nights later, Second-Lieutenant Budd’s patrol was fired on from both flanks as it withdrew after inflicting casualties; Budd was killed and one man was wounded and missing. A third brush with the enemy took place at about 1 a.m. on 26 August when Lieutenant Hewitt’s29 patrol engaged an enemy patrol of over thirty men; after an exchange of fire the enemy withdrew, losing a parachutist (fighting as infantry), armed with a light machine gun and a machine-carbine, as a prisoner.

Two nights later Moffett’s patrol of carriers visited the enemy wire and, after firing on an enemy position, withdrew under fire with one carrier and its crew missing. This occurred near Pt 104, where a fighting patrol of one platoon, two sections of carriers, an anti-tank gun, one section of mortars, and a No. 18 set for R/T communication to Battalion Headquarters, all under Lieutenant Norman,30 was in position; the No. 18 set, as was so often the case, was unsatisfactory.

A note on John’s file says for 29th July 1942 – 25th battalion 6 field ambulance remains on strength.

On 12th August 1942 he was admitted to 43 field ambulance wounded and transferred to 14 Bn casualty clearing station and admitted to 8 General Hospital. He marched into the NZ reception depot on 29th August 1942.

 

In the very early hours of the 29th C Company had some excitement when an enemy aircraft, a Ju88, crashed in flames in the vicinity of 14 Platoon and exploded with a terrific bang, the crew of four and the aircraft being totally destroyed, though two 500-pound bombs were found intact. At midday there was a good deal of air fighting and three enemy aircraft were shot down; next day there were frequent enemy air reconnaissance’s.

The enemy was not inactive in meeting the intense patrolling of the New Zealanders and from early in the month showed much greater alertness. He also thickened up his defenses with booby traps and used a tank or armored car, in combination with searchlights, to cover his nocturnal working parties, thus making surprise attacks by our patrols almost impossible.

August was a most trying month for the Division and diaries and letters frequently referred to the conditions: ‘Heat and flies exceedingly trying—Getting dirtier and stickier each day and hope for a wash soon—Breeze a little cooler in the evening —Tea not till 8 because of the flies—This sitting about all day in the heat with the flies just about eating us alive is not so hot—Dirty clothes exchanged for new in the evening—very sticky with perspiration and dust and only a bottle-and-a-half of water a day.’

During the greater part of the day the heat was intense, a blazing sun from a cloudless blue sky creating almost furnace conditions on the stony, shadeless desert. In the afternoon sandstorms were frequent, bringing visibility down almost to zero. Early in the month the men occupied shallow slit trenches and a groundsheet over the top gave some slight protection from the sun, though the occupants found it difficult to believe. Later, as the trenches were deepened, there was some improvement. Diarrhea and desert sores were common and jaundice even more evident, the rate of sickness being high with 1126 sick from all units admitted to the divisional dressing stations during the month. The nights, however, were a real relief with cooler temperatures, no flies, and some liberty of movement often impossible during daylight because of enemy observation. Moonlight nights in particular were brilliant, but these were bombing nights and the moon was not always as welcome as otherwise it would have been.

Early in August the rations were changed over from tinned to fresh, a very welcome change, though it continued for only two or three weeks. Occasionally a little beer was available, and the daily water ration (a matter of equal importance in such an arid country) was increased in the middle of the month from one gallon to one and a quarter gallons per man for all purposes, i.e., cooking and drinking, and such washing-up by the cooks as was inescapable.

The day was also notable for domestic reasons as leave to Cairo or Alexandria for 5 per cent of the strength for four clear days, exclusive of travelling time, was resumed. On the same day a very welcome reinforcement of 121 all ranks joined 25 Battalion, its share of 330 which reached the brigade.

On 7th September 1942 John joined the 32nd Battalion. On 9th September 1942 was admitted to 42 General Hospital (SOXii) and the following morning posted back with the 25th battalion.

The order for the relief was received the morning of 9th September and advanced parties from 8 Durham Light Infantry arrived in the late afternoon. The relief was to be completed by 2 a.m. on the 10th, but an hour and a half beforehand the battalion transport was able to move off to the bivouac area, five miles east of Alam Nayil. The majority of the men had to march, and after a three-hour trudge through the dust and soft sand, reached the bivouac area just before dawn.

All that day a dust-storm blew and for once was welcome, effectively concealing in the afternoon the battalion’s move to the divisional rest area on the sea coast near Burg el Arab, a rough and dusty three-hour journey in MT. The beach in the new area was a delight after the strain, hard work, and dirt of the last two months, but lifesaving precautions, which included organised bathing parties and pickets with improvised equipment, were necessary. Six days’ leave to Alexandria and Cairo was granted, preference being given to those who had been through the summer campaign without a break.

On 16th September John marched out to 32nd NZ Bn X(i) list as reinforcement and  rejoined the 25th Bn X(i) in the field on 23rd September 1942.

The battalion remained in its pleasant beach camp until 19 September, enjoying the concerts given by the brigade band and the Kiwi Concert Party though, because of the risk of air attack, it was necessary to restrict gatherings to about 400 and to provide anti-aircraft defence.

El Alamein

The New Zealand Division was now to commence training for the forthcoming offensive and moved into bivouac areas to the south of Burg el Arab by 19 September. Twenty-fifth Battalion then took part in a full-scale divisional rehearsal, held under conditions as similar as possible to the actual attack which was to be made later. After the rehearsal the battalion was engaged on general training, and with the other units of the brigade carried out a further exercise in attack in co-operation with tanks and supported by artillery.

October 1942

Training continued for the first three weeks of October and covered a wide field, including movements in MT by day and night, desert navigation, signals co-operation, and the digging and occupation of a brigade defensive position with all-round defence. The weather was now growing decidedly colder, jerseys being worn (by order) from 4 October in the early morning and after sunset; an extra blanket was issued four days later when there was a strong wind with occasional rain, although not sufficient to prevent a heavy sandstorm.

In the late afternoon of 16 October a very unpleasant dust-storm arrived and put a stop to training; it was considered to be the worst experienced since the very severe one at Amiriya on 14–15 March 1941 prior to the battalion’s embarkation for Greece. Rain at dusk reduced the dust a little, but the wind with a little rain continued the next day, raising a rough sea which stopped all bathing.

It had been decided, therefore, to attack in moonlight, the earliest feasible date being 23 October, the day before full moon. The main attack was to be made in the north, with a secondary attack in the south to pin down the enemy forces there. In the northern sector the Miteiriya Ridge, a narrow feature several miles in length and about a hundred feet above sea level, and stretching from south-east to north-west, was the key to the enemy position.

The New Zealand and South African Divisions were to attack in a south-westerly direction to secure the Miteiriya Ridge and establish a southern corridor through the defences. Fourth Indian Division, farther south, was to carry out a diversionary raid along Ruweisat Ridge. When the corridors were formed, armoured formations were to pass through ready to meet enemy armoured counter-attack or to continue the operation to get astride the enemy communications. In any case the New Zealand Division and other infantry of 30 Corps, after securing the objectives, were to proceed at once, under the protection of the armour, with the methodical destruction of the enemy troops between the two corridors and, later, those on the flanks.

It was vital to the success of the whole operation that the leading armoured brigades should be right forward in their deployment area, ready to fight at first light in the morning following the attack and not be delayed or diverted by local fighting on the way. All enemy troops, especially guns, had therefore to be thoroughly cleared from the routes and the deployment area before the arrival of the armoured brigades, also great care had to be taken to see that the vehicles of the New Zealand Division and other attacking troops did not block the armour.

The New Zealanders’ main task was to capture the Miteiriya Ridge on a front of 5000 yards. The attack was to be made by 5 Brigade on the right and 6 Brigade on the left, in two phases, with 110 minutes between.

The rate of advance to the second objective was fixed at 100 yards in three minutes, the same as for the first advance; the second objective was 1500 yards beyond the first objective.

The night of the 23rd was still and clear, with a brilliant moon lighting up the landscape, and it was a great relief to the men to be able to stretch their cramped limbs and move about a little. At 9.40 p.m. the comparative calm of the night was rudely disturbed by the crash and flash of nearly a thousand guns, which opened fire simultaneously all along the front against located enemy batteries. It was the opening of the great British offensive which had been awaited with tense expectation by friend and foe alike.

Almost all the hostile guns were silenced, for the time being, by this intense counter-battery fire which, as planned, continued for fifteen minutes, ceased, and five minutes later reopened with equal fury against the enemy forward positions when the infantry of the Eighth Army at zero hour, 10 p.m., advanced to the attack.

The gunfire was tremendous; the terrific crash and flame of the exploding shells mingling with the great thunder and flashes of the guns behind. This artillery concentration made a very deep impression on the troops and, as is always the case, it seemed that nothing could live under it. Such a result, however, can never be obtained, and the main effect is to shake and unnerve the enemy troops and keep them down in their trenches or away from their guns while the attackers behind the barrage cover the last few hundred yards. While somewhat dazed by the noise and the spectacle, the men were thrilled by this demonstration of the tremendously powerful artillery support they were to receive and they entered the attack with the greatest confidence. All artillery was under centralised control during the counter-battery fire and for seven minutes while it pounded the enemy’s forward defenses. The field artillery then came under the Division for the first phase of the infantry attack, while the medium artillery continued counter-battery fire.

Twenty-fifth Battalion (which because of the shortage of infantry had three companies only, B, C, and D) left its lying-up position at 10.50 p.m. It had about 2000 yards to go to reach the 24 Battalion start line and another 3400 yards to its own start line, where it was due to commence the attack behind the barrage at fifty-five minutes after midnight. To pass through the minefield gap just beyond the original forward defended localities, 25 Battalion narrowed its front, with C Company (Captain Wroth) leading, followed by B (Captain Weston) and D (Captain Possin1), but did not find the blue lights which according to orders would be marking 24 Battalion’s start line. Both Wroth and Weston, however, had noticed a white tape line which they agreed must have been the start line, and so, with C Company on the right, B on the left, and D in reserve, they pushed on. The companies had men detailed to pace the distance from the 24 Battalion start line, but there was now no fixed point from which to measure. Captain Wroth with C Company, the directing company, commented:

‘It was difficult to know just where to expect to find the lights marking the line especially when we suddenly found ourselves enveloped in a heavy concentration of smoke. Right in the centre of this smoke the coy comdr ran direct against a Bn Provost NCO complete with light which had not been visible in the murk, the NCO being able to give explicit directions of where the other lights were placed. While the coy correctly placed itself, with 15 pl on the right, 13 on the left, and 14 in reserve, contact was established with 26 Bn on our right, and whereas a moment before everyone was worried about locations, we were all set now for the big attack. Bde training a few weeks previously had proved invaluable in that the forward sections of the forward platoons knew what advancing under a barrage was and how close it was possible to keep up to the rear shells, with the result everything went according to plan and but 18 casualties were suffered, mostly from enemy shelling. After a 3840 paces advance we reached a wire marking a minefield which would appear from directions given prior to the attack to be the exact spot we were looking for as an objective. A hurried conference with B Coy Comdr who was also sure this was our objective and C Coy Comdr set fire to his success rocket, a cylindrical piece 14 inches long by 2 inches wide attached to about 4ft 6in of ½″ × ½″ wood which must have appeared to the enemy to be one of our secret weapons. The coy then took up a defensive layout—we had lost contact with the right neighbouring battalion during the advance and a patrol sent out to locate them contacted their Bn HQ approx 600 yds on our right flank, proving their forward elements had pushed on further than us in accordance with the layout of the enemy minefield. While returning, this patrol contacted two coys of Maoris moving up into the gap between the two battalions, and they undertook to cover the gap until first light when a fuller reconnaissance would be possible.

B Company (Weston) had the same difficulty as C Company regarding the first start line.

The company passed through the gap in the minefield, ‘opening into artillery formation on the western side of the gap,’ wrote Captain Weston, ‘moving forward with 11 Pl on the left, 12 Pl on right, and 10 Pl in reserve; 12 Pl on right was contacting C Coy who were directing and they reported being unable to contact 26 Bn who were on their right. Consequently the attack had a tendency to drift to the right.

‘After a 3000 yard advance the Coy was on the second start line passing over this at 0030 hours still not having contacted the South Africans or 26 Bn. C Coy reported that they were still unable to contact the 26th Bn and we were unable to contact the South Africans on our left.

‘Some shells were falling short causing a considerable number of casualties. Owing to the dust and smoke it was impossible to cover the front allotted to the Coy and keep contact. The attack still drifted to the right as C Coy endeavoured to contact the 26th Bn. Opposition from the enemy was slight. Single Dannert wire and booby traps were encountered. The Coy passed over several dug enemy positions, many of which were unoccupied and others showed signs of a hurried departure. Those of the enemy who were left surrendered after firing a few shots. Some were killed before having a chance to surrender. On reaching the objective at 0200 hours the Coy consolidated and dug in. No. 10 Pl passed through and exploited for about 400 yds then returned and dug in on our left rear flank. D Coy passed through later to exploit.’

As indicated in these reports, 25 Battalion was about 600 yards to the right of its correct position but it was also about 800 yards short of it, having stopped on the near or eastern side of the ridge (as explained by Wroth) instead of continuing the advance to the western side to the true objective. The battalion was to be required to make another attack to place it on the objective.

By daybreak on the 24th 7 MG Platoon was in position to support 25 Battalion by indirect fire from the left flank, while 8 and 9 MG Platoons on the right between 25 and 26 Battalions helped considerably to make the brigade front secure. The situation on the New Zealand Division’s front was fairly satisfactory. All of the objectives had been taken except on the left on 25 Battalion’s front, but owing to delays caused by minefields very few anti-tank guns were in position. Only a few tanks of the Yeomanry had passed through into the open, but later these were withdrawn. The main concentrations of armor were still on the wrong side of the ridge and could not exploit the bridgehead which had been made in the enemy defenses.

 


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