When the 2nd World War broke out, New Zealand stood with Britain in our time of need. New Zealanders spent more time in contact with the enemy than other nationalities. Probably because they were the best. The served in the Royal Air Force, the Pacific and with the British Army, the Desert Rats.
The 2nd Division was on the Western flank in Greece, at the start, but as the Greek forces collapsed against the German Panzer tanks, the New Zealanders had to withdraw through Greece to Crete. Intelligence predicted an airborne attack on the island and General Freyburg prepared the defences.
Without the required resources the Kiwis fought tenaciously with incredible bravery until the airfield was captured and the Germans were able to reinforce. They evacuated to Egypt.
They suffered heavy losses recapturing Tobruk and were sent to recuperate in Syria. But General Montgomery had taken charge and the tide was turning. The 2nd Div. worked its way through German minefields at the start of the Battle of El-Alamein and led the attack that repulsed Rommel’s unsupplied army all the way back to Tunisia.
The 2nd Division landed at Bari and was responsible for the East coast of Italy. They were diverted to help with the problem of Cassino. They continued pushing north into Italy, finally reaching the key City of Trieste by the end of the War.
Some of the heroism was unbelievable, on Crete Captain Forrester, in his shorts, led a disorderly mob of Greeks armed with anything they could lay their hands on, right at the Germans. They fled. If they tried the Haka the Kiwis may never have left! the 28th (Maori) Battalion must have been an awesome site. At times fighting in hand to hand combat, the tenacity and eagerness for the fight made the Kiwis the elite.
Freyburg received many medals and was made Governor General. He knew Churchill from the 1st World War, and they set about some Brandy one time. Winston asked him to strip and count his wounds. “My God Freyburg, you have 30 wounds”, “Yes Prime Minister, but there is one bullet hole on the way in and one on the way out!”
Thank the Lord he put you in a beautiful country miles from anywhere, you could take on anybody if you want. Just stay on our side please, and you can continue to demolish us at Rugby!