Topic: Jim Seymour recalls WWII experiences

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These 'notes' were published in the 66th Official Newsletter of the 6th Battalion (Hauraki) Regimental Association two months after Jim's death in November 2011.

Jim Seymour 1940 "HAURAKIS" ONE IN THE RANKS REMEMBERS

By J F Seymour

 

I joined in Morrinsville 1934 (approx) under Major J M Allen and Permanent Staff Sergeant Major B Stewart. Met every 2 weeks, night meetings - Drill Hall. Occasionally Lewis Gun and rifle shooting near Morrinsville Golf Course. One weekend Camp, Mangaiti Hall, built of corrugated iron, nearly froze to death, heavy frosts. Some mounted troops joined us and showed us the workings of a Hoskiss Gun, etc.

Annual Camp - My first one was at Paeroa, 1936 (approx) between the Ohinemuri River and Paeroa Bowling Club - memory fades of activities but always remember the Star in front entrance of Regent Picture Theatre and sitting in the very front row, about 3 feet from the screen and falling asleep.

Rotorua 1937. Race Course, vaguely remember doing an exercise in scrubland and being promoted to Lance Corporal, one or two swims in the Blue Baths, heavy colds, modern cab-less truck on view from Trentham, a big advance from horse-drawn limbers, on Church Parade, Rotorua Mounteds paraded with us and during the course of the parade one of the Mounteds was thrown from his horse, dragged and killed.

Papakura, March 1939. Camp just over the Railway lines - had trouble with one of my men, who insisted on taking his boots off to wade a stream in front of the "enemy" - later in the year this same chap stole a plane, possibly a Moth, to fly to Australia, but crashed in some mudflats.

April, was farewelled from Morrinsville and left for a new life in Dunedin - I still have the suitcase which the Territorials presented to me and which held all my worldly goods. Last Parade Anzac Day in Morrinsville.

Names I remember in those early days :

·         Bill Waines Paeroa

·         Permanent Staff Major W Innis

·         Permanent Staff Sgt. Major Barney Stewart

·         George Andrews Te Aroha

·         Colin McLeod Morrinsville

·         Ian Ferguson Morrinsville

·         Major J M Allen

·         Sir Stephen Allen

June 1939. Returned to the Waikato because there was no work in the south, end of the Depression. Experienced Labour queues -started work as a teamster, Land Development, Karakariki, near Whatawhata. Rumours of war in the following month.

September 2 1939. Visited my folks, Tauhei Road, Morrinsville and reported with many others at Drill Hall, Paeroa, as talk of Declaration of War was rife. Told to go home and wait.

September 3rd, heard announcement of Declaration of War on radio at camp, Land Development, in evening. Joined up at Hamilton Drill Hall and eventually was drafted to Div. Ammo, Hopuhopu Military Camp in advanced party on 27th September. Not happy with posting as had always been with Infantry. I applied to Major J Allen 2nd In Command, 18th Battalion for transfer - he agreed.

October 3rd. Marched in to B Company (Haurakis) 18th Battalion. Officer Commanding Major W Evans, Rotorua, Sergeant Major G Andrews, Te Aroha and I was appointed Section Commander No. 9 Platoon. Other Morrinsville men I remember who marched in were R Pickett, O Bishop, D Spinley, J Swarbrick, W Pritt and W Waines of Paeroa. Six weeks basic training, weather very wet and conditions unpleasant in Bell tents. Uniforms and equipment were of First World War vintage. Within a week or so I was appointed Corporal No. 1 Section, No. 10 Platoon under Lieutenant B J Sutton. My main job was instructing in the Lewis Gun.

November - by the end of this month, Papakura was partly ready to accommodate the 18th, etc., - travelled by train to Papakura Station, then marched from there with all our belongings to the new Camp. From now on very busy with parades, exercising, Guard duties and range firing at Penrose. Final leave 14th December to 28th December.

January 3rd 1940. Trained to Auckland Railway Station, then marched to Domain for official farewell. 4th January marched to Papakura Station, boarded train, a start to a secret destination. As we journeyed south, people turned out at stations to wish us well and gave us food parcels and drinks. 5th January, boarded the Orient liner, "Orion".

6th January, at 6 00am the "Orion" and 3 other liners, escorted by HMS "Ramellies" and HMAS "Canberra" moved down harbour - unforgettable sight of hundreds of people, farewelling us from shore, sounding of car horns. In Cook Strait we were joined by 2 more liners, bearing the South Island Contingent, escorted by HMNZS "Leander".

10th January, joined by 4 liners, full of Australian troops.

18th January, Fremantle. 19th January, Route March of 12 miles to Perth, temperature 100 F in shade, very tough after being at sea a fortnight and not wearing boots in that period.

20th January - Straight out into the Indian Ocean, temperatures day and night very high, many slept on the decks, time spent route marching around the decks to the band playing the tune "Sussex by the Sea". Drilled. "N Z Abroad Vol. No. 1" was compiled by the 18th and ASC (Army Service Corp.) Still have mine.

30th January. Colombo. 1 mile route march, pay 16 shillings, leave until afternoon.

1 February - left Colombo.

8th February - Aden, left the ship on leave this time by Lighters. Had just had rain after 3 years.

9th - last leg of journey up the Red Sea to Tewfik, Egypt.

Note - During voyage, unit badges recalled and universal ones featuring ferns were issued.

13th February. Arrived Egypt, Maadi Camp. From now on, route marches, etc. and training with new weapons, Bren Guns, etc.

13th June, Escort Duties. No 10 Platoon, B Company under H B J Sutton. Ammunition train, 70 trucks, Cairo to Khartoum, included 1 truck of gold bars belonging to King Farouk, who was removing this to safety - ammunition destination Abyssinia Campaign - train to El Shellal -river boat with lighters to Wadi Halfa. Ammunition, etc, loaded on to Sudan railways - British Commissioner informed us of the fall of France at a dinner he had organised - arriving at Khartoum, billeted with Yorkshire Regiment, inspected by Brigadier Platte, Commander Abyssinia Campaign who spoke to us all individually - was interested in our civic occupations, which was mainly "cow cockies" - of course that took a bit of explaining to a Regular Army Officer. A few British Civilians at Khartoum took us to the site of the Battle of Omderman, Gordon's Residence, Zoo, etc. - on final night a party was put on by the Bank Manager and his wife, both New Zealanders - cake with map of New Zealand on it. Note, first New Zealanders to be issued with topees - many English troops had been struck with sunstroke owing to lack of protection from the heat and sun. Enjoyed our first cow's milk since leaving New Zealand.

22 June. Started digging Tank Traps Garawla, Western Desert. Lieut. J Mackey and C S M G Andrews B Company commandeered a tractor from Mersa Matruth during an air raid - made a homemade scoop to remove spoil from side of tank trap (all work by hand tools). 18th Battalion had 1200 yards allotted to them out of 5 miles.

4th September. Guarding Baggush 4th Brigade HQ digging Egypt's Second Line of Defence - Italian air raids and dropping "Thermos flask bombs" (from 1 bomber 1 night), heavy rain and sandstorms - my section patrolled a secret aerodrome, 20 miles or so out in the Western Desert for approximately 7 days - Wellington Bombers refuelling depot on way from Nile Delta to Libya. (These were the first heavy bombers in the Middle East.)

4th October. Major W H Evans delivered personally addressed written messages:

"HAURAKIS" "

A year ago today you answered the call, quit civilian life and mobilised at Ngaruawahia. Untrained though most of you were, your character and stamp of manhood filled me with pride and confidence in being privileged to command you knowing that you will more than make the grade. "Today, trained and toughened soldiers, the period of preparation and tedious waiting coming to an end, you will shortly be given the chance to strike the blow for freedom and Empire that you have been long itching to deliver. And not by one deed will one man tarnish the great tradition of the HAURAKIS.

"WHAKA TANGATA. KIA KAHA. "

In The Field,

Egypt,

Oct. 4 1940 (Signed) Wm H Evans, Major O C "B" (Hauraki) Coy. 18th Bn 2nd N Z E F" 8th March 1941. Arrived in Athens by "Ajax".

Very warm welcome by Greeks - camped 2 or 3 days outskirts of Athens under pine trees - always remember the smell of pine after being in the desert. Visited the Acropolis, etc. Travelled to top of Greece, Katarini, by train, old carriages, last century, witnessed the city of Salonika being bombed and covered with smoke. Servia Pass - first time most of us had been in snow, shelled by Germans. We retreated over the mountains in dead of night, eventually took up positions overlooking Thebes, 3 days and 3 nights watching Germans trying to find us and our artillery shelling them. Eventually drove through Athens at 2.00am and on to Porto Rafti to be evacuated by the "Ajax" on the night of 29th April 1941.

Notes - Memories - Church service. Padre Dawson, Katarini, Greek women joining in the singing of "Abide with me" - women working on the roads as all men at war - being one thousand feet up a mountain and watching Germans (Servia Pass) 2 or 3 miles away put guns into position then opening fire. Shells landing behind my section position and blankets, etc being ripped up with the blasts. At Porto Rafti we were being bombed near beehives and decided that bees were more dangerous than German bombs, and moved smartly from that area.

Crete 29th April to 19th May

After arrival in Crete, a time of waiting and period of reorganising before the coming of the Germans. 19th May 12 Platoon detailed off to act as Escort to King of Greece and Party and took up position around his Headquarters on outskirts of Canea.

Next morning at breakfast the Airborne Invasion started and immediately the Royal Party and Escort departed on a 2 day trek across the mountains to a naval ship, sailing on to Alexandria, Egypt. I was ordered back with 10 men with surplus ammunition, etc. to rejoin the 18th Battalion, which I did in the middle of a bombing raid. From then on it was a hard march for all concerned across Crete to Spakia, being bombed most of the way, with no rest and very little food or water - taken off Crete in early hours on 31st May by HMAS "Nizam" and HMS "Napier". Bombed on the way to Alexandria - "Napier" was hit but managed to struggle out of bombing range.

June onwards - was at Training Base, Maadi and Prison Camp, Suez, - 18th in North Africa Campaign. February 1942 - Rejoined Haurakis, B Company for the last time, acting as C S M for a short period, then was transferred to C Company.

Notes

The King of Greece never showed any signs of weakness at any stage of the journey - he was always cheerful, was, in fact a very interesting man to talk to and was interested to learn about New Zealand.

The Cretans were a very brave people, fighting for their country and persevering under terrible difficulties. They are still remembered by members of the New Zealand Crete Veterans Association who supply aid to them. Many New Zealanders return to Crete to attend the Memorial Services in May each year at Gallatos, Maleme and the Cemetery, Suda Bay.

September 1942

18th Battalion were pulled out of the defensive line at Alamein to Maadi where it was reformed and became the 18th Battalion and Armoured Regiment along with the 19th & 20th to form the 4th Armoured Brigade, and now after 52 years of comradeship, formed during the War years, the 18th still meet once a year for a Reunion.   

Greek Gold Medal with Crossed SwordsJim Seymour was awarded the "Gold Cross of St. George with Swords" (Greece's highest military honour) for his part in escorting the King of Greece off Crete. The N Z Herald of 23 May 1991, in a feature about the celebrations, reported as follows: "The King was in no position to supply medals during the war and for years afterwards, the recipients had to content themselves with ribbons only.

"Then during a New Zealand Royal visit, Jim Seymour was turned out as a member of the Cambridge Volunteer Fire Brigade for an inspection by the Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke - a member of the Greek Royal line - noticed the ribbon and asked about the circumstances. The Duke note the details on a cigarette packet, said he would look into the matter." The medal arrived shortly thereafter.” 

 

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