Topic: The Sig Platoon 1 Hau by Hugh Harrison

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Hugh Harrison, writing in the 1997 No 5 and No 6 6th Hauraki Association newsletter, recalls 1939 and onwards, the Signalling Platoon.

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6th Hauraki Insignia

1939 Onwards

The Sig Platoon 1 Hau.

Spring 1940 and the Regt was assembled in camp under canvas on the Te Aroha racecourse. The Oct-Nov weather was often cold and windy with one period of rain completely flooding us out. Later on towards summer, things became much improved, but not before we had an outbreak of measles which swept through the camp with a considerable number of men evacuated to hospital and temporary medical centres in the Paeroa Thames Hamilton district. We lived in bell tents 4 and sometimes 5 men to a tent with our rifles and gear stacked around the centre pole. Our straw filled palliasses were laid on floorboards resting directly on the bare ground. It was hard to keep excess rainwater out and often our bedding got damp or wet.

 

The conditions were spartan with no modern conveniences. Cold water showers and no form of heating produced really tough outdoor living, some rats from the stables also appeared. Our platoon consisted of 1 Lt-1 Sgt-lCpl-1 L/Cpl and 27 Privates. We were part of HQ Coy. We did basic infantry training for the first few weeks then practiced Morse code until we were ready to start sending messages. Signalling equipment was "shutters" a device slipped onto a fixed bayonet. The shutters were opened and closed by the operator pulling down on a string then releasing the tension when a spring at the top would close the shutters. The shutters showed white when open and red when closed. The white being the Morse signal. The dots and dashes regulated for a time by the string  pulling Operator. This was early WW1 gear, some say even the Boer war. The effective sending distance was approx 100 yards. Next were the far better semaphore flags clearer to read and with easily learned alphabet symbols. The sending distance about 200 yards.

 Other flag messages were sent with a single flag waved above the head to the shoulder level. Not as clearly read as semaphore and with a slightly shorter sending distance.

 We also tried heliographs which depended on sunlight reflections but these were abandoned in favor of Lucas lamps. These lamps had electric batteries and could be read in daylight or at night. They were reliable with a longer sending distance than any other visual medium.

 Later we had field Fuller phones which sent speech and Morse key signals. These 1914-18 war instruments gave weak signals often interrupted by static and crackling noises.

 The voice transmission for the same reasons were often patchy, inaudible or breaking down. Frustrations were constant with the single line circuit where steel pins were driven into the ground for an earth return. Not so bad when the. stations were close, but less effective as they moved further apart. We felt we improved the reception when we used our bayonets for earthpins as they went deeper into the ground. These problems fortunately were later overcome when we used double wire cable with a complete ariel circuit above the ground. However the war was steadily escalating so we persevered with this old gear in Te Aroha camp and on field exercises until the following year when up to date equipment was made available to us all.

 Meanwhile we continued signalling, practicing infantry drills and route • marching "mile after mile". Finally we left the Camp for the last time and marched through Paeroa to Pokeno all on the same day. From Pokeno we held manoeuvres in the Clevedon- Hunua hills then disbanded and returned home to out of camp training until the Regiment was reassembled at Papakura.

 I will complete my story about the Sig platoon in my second article which will start with Papakura 1941 and end at Kamo when I left the Hauraki's for overseas training at Trentham in 1942 (this second installment continues below).

 

After the Xmas break from Te Aroha the Regt camped at Pokeno for a short period in June 1941. From there, some of us were sent to Cadre at Ngaruawahia in December 41.

From Ngaruawahia we were sent to Pukekohe for a short period when we moved again and assembled the complete Regt at Papakura in Feb 42 where we were brought up to date. We were issued with battledress and put into well-constructed Army buildings with proper beds to sleep in.(no longer on the ground) a big change from Te Aroha.

We were also issued with new signaling equipment, better field telephones and also radio pack sets. We could now have conversations over the air although, morse cipher code messages were also often sent.  We were also eagerly looking forward to our issue of new rifles being sent to us from Australia.

We were surprised by the short round bayonets and missed our previous long bladed ones which had so many handy camp uses.

When the big day came, and after we had passed in our trusty old 303 Lee Enfields; we paraded to be issued with the new rifles.

It was then that we were told we would have to wait a bit longer as there had been one of these Army GAFU's and they had sent the wrong BOLTS to us, and our own bolts had gone to another unit in error (the bolts were never sent with the appropriate rifles in case of enemy capture at sea.) So for a short time, we were virtually an unarmed unit. We were by that time on "Invasion Alert", and had some weeks earlier, spent hours with a large grind stone sharpening our old bayonets

It was at Papakura that Soldiers who were to drive motor vehicles were sent to Manurewa to be tested for their driving ability and were issued with licenses to drive Army Vehicles. It was interesting that the certificate which I still have, had the figure No 1 for the Hauraki Regt crossed out and substituted with a 6 so we were now 6 Hauraki as is today.

The Signal Platoon was reformed, and for greater mobility a motor cycle despatch was formed. I was appointed the NCO in charge and our section worked constantly from that time on.

The remainder of the Platoon was divided into teams which were posted out to the Rifle and Support Companies and generally remained with them at least for all field exercises. We had many of these in a wide radius of Papakura to the Hauraki Gulf shores, the Manukau Harbour areas, the Waikato Heads and the inland Country areas and main roads.

I had been sent to Narrow Neck to attend a familiarisation course on the new Army Indian motor cycle and take delivery of the one allocated to our Platoon - this when the Pacific War was raging and our local battle practices had become more serious.

HQ Coy had their Transport Platoon with lorries and cars, but now had Brengun Carriers, and when we were allowed, we used their broken contoured and slippery wet training ground, for practising our cross country riding.

In June 42 the Regt moved to Warkworth where we were camped in the open again. There were continuous field exercises until the Americans came to Warkworth and, to give them a suitable camp area close to Auckland, the Regt moved once more to Kamo, just north of Whangarei.

I was only there until Sept 42 when I left the Unit and was transferred to the 8th Reinforcement in training at Trentham MC. There were many ex Haurakis here and most of us were sent on active Service either to the Pacific, or as I was, to the Middle East and later Italy.

H. Harrison

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