The last battle - Senio River, April 1945

Lance-Corporal E.H. Nepia describes the four-hour bombardment prior to the NZ Division's attack across the Senio River, 9 April 1945:

We saw the first of the bombers, flying high in perfect formation, approach at 1340 hrs from the SW, huge Fortresses, like giant silver fish, silver in the bright afternoon sun. Then the roar of the engines, ever increasing as the planes came closer, filled the air. Then they were over and away beyond into enemy territory. Wave after wave passed till the air was filled with a constant, incessant deep roar.

Then, as the first of the waves reached the target areas, a loud hissing accompanied the falling bombs, followed immediately by a deep prolonged rumble, then deep-toned explosions could be heard above the roar of the planes overhead, and, in the wake of these, the reverberations as the earth shook beneath the weight of the bomb loads.

The first bombs fell at exactly 1350 hrs. Liberators came, with their tell-tale twin tail sets; medium bombers, flying lower than the heavies, swept past at a greater speed ... The second wave of bombers was met by white puffs of smoke, indicating that the 88mm AA had at last gone into action. Then black smoke belched from one of the machines, a Fortress. The others flew on. The disabled plane lost speed, then spiralled earthwards, out of control.

Meanwhile a thick pall of smoke hung over enemy territory, where fires had begun their work of destruction, while huge clouds of dust rose as each stick of bombs found their mark.

The last of the bombers had barely disappeared out of sight on the journey home when the thunderous barrage of hundreds of guns of all calibres rained shells on targets beyond and on the Senio.

... For four hours the guns, 25 prs, 4.5s, 5.5s and 7.2s poured shell after shell over the river, while the mortars played a tattoo on the banks, setting off mines and booby traps besides reducing wire defs [defences] to a state easily negotiable by the inf[antry] ... In the dim light, rendered so by the concealment of the sun in the smoke and dust, the Maoris left their positions and section commanders led them to the start line. There were still twenty minutes to go, and by the time all the men were in line a few minutes remained.

... At this moment the Crocodiles and Wasps [flame-throwing tanks] roared fwd [forward] from their posns [positions] of concealment among the trees to the stopbank, mounted the ramps provided, and played long tongues of flame on B bank and beyond ... As soon as the Wasps and Crocodiles moved fwd the infantry left the start line. In a long line, and spaced at intervals of at least ten feet between men, the Maoris crossed the intervening space in a trice, through the low trees, and burst upon the bank just as the Crocodiles and Wasps had ended their phase of operations. Seconds only were required for reaching the top of the bank, and then the men were over, out of sight.

From J.F. Cody's official history, 28 (Maori) Battalion (Wellington, 1956), pp. 455-57.

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