Home > Those Bloody Maori Are Using Our Spandaus On Us...
Those Bloody Maori Are Using Our Spandaus On Us...
After the battering that the Allied 8th Army withstood in OPERATION CRUSADER and in no uncertain terms our 2NZEF Division with stood during the months of November 1941-Feburary 1942 both sides certainly needed re supplying,re enforcements and rest. Although the vital corridor just held and supply relief came to the 30,000 Aussies at the Tobruk Garrison, the cost was huge with the NZ Division alone recieving 4620 casualties.
For the Commanding Axis forces in reality the North African campaign was in escence a bloody side show, its primary purpose was to protect the Italian mainland from European interference,so Hitler could "do his thing" across Europe, but also to take and hold the Islands of Crete and more importantly Malta, denying the Allies a Mediterranean supply foot hold,enabling the ability to take and control the incredibly vital Suez Canal and the "Main Prize" the rich oil fields of Persia (Iraq)
Because of Allied naval and air strikes against Axis supply ships it took four months for Rommell to be reasonably resupplied and reinforced,including many replacement vehicles to renew his offenive against the Allied Army in both May and April 1942, he was in need of no less important non tactical supplies though, but had to make do. He had consulted his superiors regarding a new assault to take Tobruk, as a first step of his strategy to capture Egypt..but he hit a snag.
Both the Italian and German High Commands were eager for any offensive to be delayed until after the conclusion of the planned invasion of the 90 square mile island of Malta named OPERATION HERCULES Strategically located the importance of Malta cannot be over stated, with its natural capacity for offensive action lying as it did half-way between Africa and Italy. With the horrendous (highest concentrations of air bombing during WW2) continual German bombing of the Maltese ports and airfields, naval (primarily submarine) attacks against Allied shipping supply convoys by the Axis forces had reduced the ability of the Royal Navy and Air Force to destructively interfere with the shipping of supplies across the Mediterranean.Malta's capture would ensure Rommel the logistical supply back up he needed to invade and secure Egypt, his personal objective.
German field intelligence was however worried that General Ritchie was preparing for an 8th Army offensive to begin in June or July of 1942.Rommel therefore achieved permission to open his offensive to pre date the Allies if at the end of May Malta had not fallen to the Axis,although it was close to it in every human respect with starvation imminent.. it refused to fall. Thanks in the main to an extremely determined Royal Air Force effort and endurance from its fighters, bombers and very effective Coastal Command torpedo carrying bombers operating from Africa. Hitler and Mussolini agreed with Rommel, but insisted that if indeed Malta could not be defeated, then Rommel was aloud to take his Panzerarmee Afrika and advance into Tobruk,but no further forward.However,limitations set by German High Command (his main overall N. African orders were to aggressively defend Libya, no more)had previously been blatantly ignored,and Rommel felt that they could be again if circumstances allowed.By mid May it had become clear that the invasion of Malta was delayed,and Rommel unilaterally decided to strike the 8th Allied Army..
The above photo is of Rommel explaining a change of plan to one his loyal and very effective subordinates during the opening stages of this attack that he code named "Operation Venezia"on the 26th of May 1942, hitting the Allied forces 30 k/ms south of Tobruk across a 20 k/m front. Rommel certainly suffered no lack of self confidence which is boldly displayed in this operation whereby he's disregarding the German High Command strategy in pursuit of his own tactical objectives.
Noteworthy in Rommell's eventual winning of Tobruk, albeit a relatively short lived one, was the huge amount of "booty" that his DAK forces won,not the least was some 500,000 gallons of treasured petrol. Importantly though was the vast variety of general supplies ie. 2000 serviceable vehicles, 25 pounder artillery guns, anti-tank and general purpose weapons,much ammunition,food and alcohol,large amounts of Allied uniforms etc. Also and more importantly Rommel gained a vital port and opened the way to Egypt.
The Germans and Italian Armies were using all manner of Allied Tobruk supplies in battle against us,Axis POWs subsequently captured confusing Allied forces by operating Allied transport and weapons with deadly effect.The wearing of new English uniforms and clothing including footwear in particular posed identity issues, as theirs had long been worn out through logistical supply problems.
Some 2 months later during the darker days experienced by our 2NZEF from Minqar Qaim on the 27th of June 1942 until the end of the Battle of El Mrier late in July and early August, it was a common sight to see our weapons and supplies used against us. The German 90 Light Division, 15 and 21 Panzer Divisions and associated infantries, in 115 Rifle and 382 regiments in Group Baade used our Allied artillery pieces,light armoured vehicles,various transport types, effectively anything that was of value captured in the Tobruk garrison by the German and Italian Axis forces and absorbed within its Divisions for use against the Allied forces, with deadly effect. In particular is the use of some 20 of the highly respected and versatile English 25 pounder artillery guns which were used by the German and Italians with devastating effect on our New Zealand Division during the bitter battle around and for the command of the Ruweisat Ridge during the retreating weeks of July 1942.
In a rather ironic twist, it bemuses myself that the North African English brass made such a bloody fuss over the capture and use thereof of by the New Zealand 28th Maori Battalion quite constructively and effectively using these "Booties" of war against the enemy. These superior German weapons such as the Mauser and Luger small arms and much favoured Spandau MG34 machine guns, amongst other weapons, were part of a time honoured battle tradition of the tribal New Zealand natives. I believe the universally respected commander of the New Zealand Division, General Freyberg (although no record of this i have seen) saw this in a similar light to the Maori's long held traditon of retaining and using the "spoils of war" and quietly looked the other way as did many a high ranked Kiwi for some time. Eventually after many official English complaints "the brass" appear to have selected for reasons unknown Brigadier L. M. Inglis to notoriously give the then 28 (Maori) Battalion C.O. Lt Col H.G. Dyer the order to round up and hand in these weapons and obviously he drew the short straw as someone had to eventually carry the order out. But.. Lt. Col. Humprey Dyer greatly respected and understood the Kiwi Maori custom and showed true spine as he was well known for and point blank refused to carry the order out.. He rather instead if one could call it a choice, chose to make a point and promptly stood himself down, in defiance as a proud Maori Battalion Commanding Officer and soldier. His affectionate nick name by the Battalions ranks was "blood and guts Dyer" which its seems was very much the case.
General Freyberg, VC, fought in every sense of the word for the 2NZEF, no less his Maori Battalion, but logically he was a squeezed respondent to "high end" English pride. I believe he had to save face as Generals no doubt often do and "shut up and take it on the chin" top end pressure won..ending with this ludicrous standing down of a very courageous and altogether capable 28 Battalion Commanding Officer in Lt. Col. H.G.Dyer.By allowing his Battalion to use, even encourage the use of these superior weapons, it proved a sad day for the mana of our Maori boys who only too well know when the enemy is nothing but the enemy, end of story. I find it heart warming knowing this New Zealand born man born of English immigrants stood fast and defied these orders in support of Maori tradition and also additionally making no bones about the fact of the Maoris having their own Maori Commanding officer. In my opinion Lt. Col. Dyer is an unsung hero who deserved the fullest of mana and Maori recognition for his stand and subsequent sacrifice. Lt. Col. H.G. Dyer received an honourable discharge from the Army and was returned to New Zealand where he lived his rather full life with his wife and family in the Bay of Plenty town of Rotorua.
English wartime logic and stubborness proved to be an immense barrier to success in WW1 with completely unwarranted massive ANZAC bloodloss in battles such as Gallipoli,Messines,Somme and of course the Kiwi nemesis of Passchendaele. Many times simply gaining a few metres because of some Generals romantic disconnected fantasy.. completely disregarding basic human obstacles such as the weather..how many Kiwis drowned in the mud of battle..god only knows.It was the norm for 20,000 odd Commomwealth lives to be lost for the petty gain of a couple of wasted miles advance, then for it only to be lost a few days later. This illogical behavour continued into WW2 allowing huge ANZAC wastage and casualty again in the futile politically driven and irrational retreating campaign at Greece leading to more devastation at Crete.
The English Government watched Germany and Hitler for at least a decade leading up to WW2, re-arm, research and then develop high technology weapons and produce massive land, sea and air forces, while Britian relatively did nothing, maybe build a few impotent tanks and outdated air bombers, save for the incredible brilliant engineering scientist Sir Barnes Wallis designed Vickers Wellington medium bomber. By 1938 the weapons arsenal of the English were comparative relics, completely out dated and horrendously outnumbered or lacking in any serious research and development,believing its large Naval contingent and few "individually" driven aircraft developments could suffice. I call that irresponsible. One only has to research the English individual efforts of Sir Geoffrey de Havilland with his "freemans folley" and Mr. Liddell Hart's vital studies and ignored war cries in the art of tank warfare and mobile armour. Sir Watson Watt's discovery of radio wave detection getting little or no initial response..and of course Mr Sydney Cam's Hawker Hurricane development and Mr Reginald Mitchell's beloved Supermarine Spitfire who died of illness at 43 not seeing his genius Spitfire fly. These men could see the inevitable perilous darkness unfolding and responded accordingly, great recognition must go to them.
How far removed the so called powers at Whitehall and Parliament were from reality then is astounding, to say nothing of its notorious 1938 Munich Aggreement that Prime Minister Chamberlain brought home under accolade, with a signed treaty from Adolf Hitler. Effectively this treaty isolated our Allied Czechoslovakia, regardless of promised French and English support, sacrificing the immensely powerfull military, industrial and supreme weapons producing state of Czechoslovakia with it's Skoda werks to Germany. Thus further refusing to involve and isolating the massive USSR under Stalin and ignorantly rebuffing a potentially war stopping offer of diplomatic assistance from the US President Franklin Roosevelt, with Mr Chamberlain stating I have a treaty with Hitler and all is well..good god. Parliamentarians Mr Winston Churchill, Mr Lloyd George and Mr Anthony Eden had it right from the onset and were lonely voices of warning for many a year, constantly falling on deaf ears.
The New Zealand native Maori like all Battalions within 2NZEF in the first 3 years of war had to fight with inferior WW1 based weapons..watching their brothers and cousins crying out.. bloodied.. wounded.. hideously killed often because of it, and the Germans knew it. Anyone in their right mind would have dumped the heavy WW1 bolt action Lee Enfield 303 rifle if he saw an advanced 7.9mm semi-auto Mauser rifle with bulk ammo, or the 303 Bren Auto gun, although accurate was no match against the amazing high rate of fire, reliable and light weight Spandau MG34 and MG43 7.9mm Machine guns. Of course the general purpose Webley .38 and .45 revolvers pale in comparison to the legendary 9 shot, 9mm semi-auto Luger pistol, still considered one of the most reliable and effective pistols ever made. It was death to the loser no more no less.
Good on you Maori Battalion Boys..well done..I would have been into that booty..Boots and All Too!
NB: OPERATION CRUSADER propelled by the 8th Allied Army which combined men from- United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Australia, Palestine, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand and many other countries as well. Together they paid the price in killed, wounded and missing of 17,700 men against nearly 38,000 German and Italian casualties.
More than a quarter of those casualties came from New Zealand : 4620 kiwi men. Nearly 1000 of them killed in action. This was a greater loss than that of any other 8th Army division. It was 1000 more than the New Zealand casualties on Crete, nearly double those in Greece, and three times the figures for the Orsogna or Cassino battles in Italy. Only in the forth coming Battle for Egypt were they surpassed, and then only in numbers of wounded. More New Zealanders died and more were taken prisoner in CRUSADER than in any other campaign of the Second World War. This was a heavy loss indeed and there were few communities at home untouched by it..