B Company at Musaid, November 1941

This article written by Dr Monty Soutar is taken from 2007 28 National Reunion booklet, pp 25-26.


While the Battalion was stationed at Sollum Barracks in Libya, word was received that 23 Battalion, holding the area between Musaid and Capuzzo, was expecting the enemy in the south to attempt to breakthrough to join its own forces at Bardia.  Rangi Royal and B Company were sent from the barracks to strengthen the area around Musaid.  Lieutenant Jack Reedy and a section of Bren carriers accompanied them.  They were gone for 3 days (26-28 November), and faced a tank attack when German armoured forces broke away from their strongholds on the Fountain border, where the Indians were attacking.  Captain Rangi Royal and B Company, which was now made up of men from the Main Body, and the Fourth and Fifth Reinforcements, were sent from the barracks to strengthen the area around Musaid.

B Company was positioned in and around the Musaid ruins by first light on 26 November.  They were dug in narrow, 2-men weapon pits, where four rough tracks converged with the road from Sollum to Capuzzo.  Having only lost 3 killed and 11 wounded at the barracks, the men were in high spirits and itching for another fight.  Capt. Royal wrote Ngata about what took place:

"E toru maero te tawhiti atu i te patariana me taku tono kia Tiwi kia homai he pu mihini nunui hei awhina - he aha te take - kaiponutia e ia a matou pu e wha me nga mata 3″ toko-ono.  Tae atu matou ka tae mai hoki nga purepo, nga pu take me tetahi parahuunu o te 23.  Ka ahua ora ake te manawa.  Po noa, ao noa te ra kaore i puta... I te tina ka hikitia nga purepo me nga pu take ki te awhi i te 23 i Kapuho e 4 maero te tawhiti; ka noho tahanga matou.  I te wha o nga haora ka puta mai aku carriers - no te 23 - pau katoa te haere mai me te rota rota mai kia mataara kei te whakatata mai te hoariri"

We were 3 miles from the Battalion and I had asked Tiwi (i.e. Capt. Love) to give us a light machine gun (L.M.G.) to assist us - I don't know why - but he hung on to our 4 L.M.G.s and our six 3-inch mortars.  When we got there our artillery, tanks, and a platoon from 23 Battalion also arrived.  We felt relieved.  All night and all day nothing appeared... At dinner the artillery and tanks left to assist the 23rd at Capuzzo 4 miles away.  At 4 o'clock my carriers returned [from reconnaissance] - from 23 Battalion's area - they were going flat sticks with the warning to be on the alert the enemy are approaching. 

"At 4.15 we saw vehicles spread out on a front of about 500 yards with their directing car about 500 to 600 yards ahead and coming straight for our position.  Things looked hopeless but we were well trenched, though not wired.  I told the boys to let the car come right in which they did allowing it to penetrate right to our reserves when it was shot up [by Cpl McRae] and its 8 occupants killed.  The convoy halted and then split into three, one going to our right and one to our left... We had a "battle royal" for a whole hour when they retreated got on their buses and moved past on our left taking a whole hour to go past.  We breathed a sigh of relief for up to then we had no casualties."

"At seven o'clock the tail comprising tanks and artillery hit us dead centre and the fun started again.  The tanks go right into our position and played around but we kept them off the pits with tank bombs, grenades and everything we had until one light tank got onto a trench and killed two of the boys L/Cpl K. Tanara from Omaio and Pte W. Heretaunga from Whaka.  When the boys went mad and went after it, the occupants caved in and were promptly killed.  Things got a bit hot for the enemy with our anti tank rifles etc., so they withdrew and went the way the others went... In the Italy up we found the above two and Geo. Hall [of] Ohinemutu killed and four wounded, while three were missing, presumably collected by one of the tanks."

During the night B Company captured seven prisoners who had been left behind and were firing flares to show their positions.  In addition to several dead Germans, daylight revealed 1 tank, 1 armoured car, 1 Bren gun carrier, 1 ambulance car, 4 staff cars, 1 truck, 3 light cars and 5 motor cycles on the Māori front.  The lads from the Bay of Plenty managed to get all but two of the vehicles going.

On 28 November, aboard their newly acquired vehicles and brimming with confidence after their first tank encounter, the Te Arawa and Mataatua toa made a ‘triumphant return' to the rest of the Battalion at the barracks.  Sporting all their booty and trying not a little too hard to impress the other companies, they took up new positions and dug in again.

Letter, Capt. Rangi Royal to Sir Apirana Ngata, 6 December 1941, MS Papers-6919-0782



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