AFTER the Battle of El Alamein late in 1942 and the enemy’s flight from Egypt it was inevitable that events in North Africa would move westwards. Thus it was that the 2nd New Zealand Division continued its march with Eighth Army in pursuit of Panzerarmee Afrika. It was just as inevitable that Field Marshal Rommel, so directed by Hitler and Mussolini, would impede his pursuers with the determination and skill for which he was renowned, notwithstanding the fact that Anglo-American forces had successfully landed in North-West Africa. The Division’s journey from Bardia to Enfidaville was long, tiring, and in places hard, but nowhere harder than at the finish when Panzerarmee Afrika, joined by numerous additional formations from Europe and contained in the mountains about Tunis, fought its last stand against Eighteenth Army Group and finally capitulated. This journey and its vicissitudes are the substance of this volume.
During its preparation I lived in England. In most ways this was an added difficulty for it meant a protracted and extensive exchange of letters and of views between War History Branch in Wellington and myself. I owe a great deal to the forbearance of the Editor-in-Chief, Brigadier M. C. Fairbrother, and to Mr R. L. Kay and Mr I. McL. Wards, who did the research for and who each compiled a section of the excellent narrative on which the volume is based.
My presence in England, however, gave me ready access to the Historical Section of the British Cabinet Office in London. Here I was able to study the appropriate British narratives and war diaries. The Enemy Documents Section of that office also gave me invaluable help, providing material from the ‘other side of the hill’ which was fascinating. I had to resist the temptation to include an excessive amount. I cannot speak too highly of the help thus given me by Brigadier H. B. Latham, the head of the office, by Brigadier C. J. C. Molony, the army author for the period of this volume, whose help was limited only by the fact that detailed study had not proceeded further than the early stages of the period, and to Mrs N. Taylor of the Enemy Documents Section.
Various gentlemen gave me assistance on general and specific points. In England Lieutenant-Generals Sir Oliver Leese and Sir Brian Horrocks answered letters and gave valuable help in personal interviews. Major-General Sir Francis de Guingand and Brigadier C. B. C. Harvey provided answers to queries and the former gave ready permission to quote from Operation Victory. From New Zealand Major-General Sir William Gentry and Brigadiers R. C. Queree and S. H. Crump gave their views on special points, and Captain Lawrence Wright of the NZMC wrote an account of air evacuation at Tebaga.
Much is due to Mr W. A. Glue who prepared this volume for printing, to Mrs M. M. Fogarty who compiled the index, and to the Cartographic Branch of the Lands and Survey Department who produced the maps and sketches.
To all these, and to many others who in various ways have given assistance, I owe my grateful thanks.
The work on this volume has been a real stimulant to me. I am glad to have played some small part in keeping alive the memories of those years when the 2nd New Zealand Division brought lasting honour to its homeland.
The occupations given in the biographical footnotes are those on enlistment. The ranks are those held on discharge or at the date of death.
Editorial Advisory Panel
Professor N. C. Phillips, MA, University of Canterbury
Professor J. Rutherford, MA (Durham), Ph.D (Mich), University of Auckland
Professor F. L. W. Wood, MA (Oxon), Victoria University of Wellington
This volume was produced and published by the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs.
The Department gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance given in the production of this volume by Professor N. C. Phillips.
Editor-in-Chief: M. C. Fairbrother, CBE, DSO, ED
Sub-Editor: W. A. Glue
Archives Officer: R. L. Kay
Major-General W. G. Stevens, CB, CBE, was a Regular officer in the New Zealand Army from 1912 until he retired in 1946. He served in the New Zealand Field Artillery in 1 NZEF from 1915 to 1919, and with 2 NZEF from 1939 to 1946, for the greater part in the position of Officer in Charge of Administration. He succeeded Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg as GOC 2 NZEF in November 1945. From 1946 to 1953 he was Official Secretary in the New Zealand Government Offices in London. He is the author of Problems of 2 NZEF (published 1958) in this series.