THIS is a story of occasional victory, but more often of the trials and tribulations of war in that part of the campaign in North Africa in 1942 when Field Marshal Rommel and his German-Italian Panzerarmee Afrika drove the British Eighth Army from the gate to Tripolitania at El Agheila to the gate to Cairo and the Middle East at El Alamein. How and why the 2nd New Zealand Division became involved and the part it played is the core of the story.
The first purpose of the work is to place on permanent record a substantial part of the Dominion’s contribution to the war through the operations of the Division in North Africa. As these stirring and arduous days are recalled to officers and other ranks of the Division, they are told why they were moved here and there, why this and that were done, why, so often in this campaign, circumstances deprived them of the full fruits of their labour, valour and skill. The third purpose is to draw from the campaign, for civilians and soldiers alike, such lessons in the art of war as may have permanent value.
The facts have been compiled from the Division’s official documents and those of the corps, army, and theatre headquarters under which it served, and from the corresponding records of Panzerarmee Afrika, the latter through the courtesy and co-operation of the Historical Division of the Department of the Army of the United States of America, Washington. Valuable help has also been given by the Historical Sections of the War Office, London, and of the Union of South Africa. The documentary evidence has been illuminated as occasion required by the personal narratives of many officers and other ranks.
The author would not have attempted the task, indeed he could not have done so, without the excellent briefs, each one almost a volume in itself, compiled by the War History Branch. Every movement of every unit has been extracted, sorted, collated and verified by cross-references. The author is especially grateful to the narrator with whom he has been closely associated, Mr Ronald Walker, for the thoroughness of his original work and his patience in answering questions. He is also greatly indebted to Mr W. D. Dawson, who translated many of the German documents, and to page viii the staff of the Cartographic Branch of the Lands and Survey Department who were responsible for the maps and sketches.
For material not to be found in any written record the author has had the most willing co-operation of the Division’s senior officers he consulted. Special mention should be made of Lieutenant-General Lord Freyberg, VC, Major-General L. M. Inglis, Major-General Sir Howard Kippenberger, Major-General W. G. Gentry, Brigadier C. E. Weir and Brigadier F. M. H. Hanson.
In freely acknowledging all this indispensable help, there remains to be stated only the fact that the conclusions drawn, the deductions made, and the opinions and views expressed in the work are the author’s own.