Topic: Alan Peart recalls early War years c. 1940

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Taken with permission from the Official Newsletter of the 6th Battalion (Hauraki), August 2012 Issue No 68. Sent to Des Anderson, who compiles and edits the Official Newsletter of the 6th Battalion (Hauraki) Regimental Association Incorporated. Here is a wee story attached, from no less a personage than Fl/Lt Alan McGregor Peart, DFC. A very modest war hero. I just wanted all to know we actually have a Spitfire pilot as an ex Hauraki serving member. Alan is a member of the Hamilton Officers Club, and I know him as a decorated RAF Spitfire Ace who can claim success against all three major Axis powers, German, Italians and Japanese. In his very interesting,account, he talks of his military beginnings in the Hauraki’s. Malcolm Hinton

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The year was 1940 and the phony war was in full swing with pamphlets dropping on Britain and Europe.  I worked in Tauranga at the time as a newly appointed 17 year old draughting cadet with the Public Works Department. I and my colleagues didn’t have much spare time because we worked Saturday mornings as well as week days. But the Sunday and half Saturday couldn’t be spent doing nothing, so having enjoyed being a member of the cadet corps at the Hamilton Technical College for four years,  I decided to enlist with the local Hauraki territorial company, and was duly signed up at 7 shillings a day  (a magnificent sum far exceeding my salary) as Private Alan McGregor Peart, Regimental Number 1/2/507 (if I remember correctly.).

My uniform consisted of a Khaki tunic of World War 1 pattern complete with brass buttons, brass shoulder and collar badges and belt buckle, khaki trousers, hobnailed boots, SMLE rifle and bayonet, and basic webbing. And I must not forget the khaki greatcoat. All of this equipment had to reside at home with us, in my case a boarding house in Devonport Road. The brass had to be shined for parades which took place in the drill hall on the harbour front. I became a member of the HQ Signals platoon under a Sergeant Webb. Our overall commander was a World War Iveteran, Lt. Col. Penlington, whom we respected greatly because we frequently indulged in long route marches in full kit and he invariably accompanied us.    Today it would be unthinkable to allow a person to take his rifle and bayonet home, but so far as I am aware, nothing was lost or stolen.                                            

As the war progressed parades were held more and more frequently until a tented camp for the whole Hauraki battalion was established on the Te Aroha racecourse, and we all moved in for a long occupation. There we practised wartime pursuits such as basic rifle drills, bayonet fighting, field manoeuvres, and of course range shooting. In my case we practised more on old signals equipment and learned the morse code and semaphore, using flags and signal lamps for communication between platoons and battalion HQ. Some of the items were really antiquated, such as a shutter arrangement used in the trenches in France.

As our efficiency increased we took part in manoeuvres both day and night around Te Aroha and then further afield.

Japan wasn’t at war at this time,  but the NZ Government must have had some concern because we, on one occasion, were sent on an exercise which required us to proceed to Manurewa as a base as swiftly as possible, and from there we conducted manoeuvres from coast to coast on the assumption that enemy landings had been made in the Hauraki Gulf and at Port Waikato.. The first part of our deployment consisted of a route march north to Manurewa from Te Aroha using commandeered transport to leapfrog platoons past each other, all as it happened, in drenching rain. Upon arrival at Manurewa, we spent the night in whatever accommodation we could find, such as under local homes, in sheds and barns, and wherever else shelter from the driving rain could be found. Meals were obtained from a field kitchen. Local Manurewa citizens, unused to the settling in adopted by the soldiers, objected to the disturbances to their sleep and use of their haystacks and other amenities, and Col. Penlington must have had some interesting moments trying to placate aggrieved Manurewa property owners. We returned to Te Aroha from that exercise to receive a large new intake as conscription had just been imposed by the Government, presumably to ensure that an  even spread of the NZ population served with armed forces.

Prior to that the battalion was made up purely of volunteers. The personality of the battalion changed from that time and I left to join the RNZAF shortly after.

It might be of interest that I served in the UK, the Middle East,, and the South East Asian theatres of war with the RAF until 1945. But I have always had fond memories of my service with the Hauraki battalion and my mates in the HQ Signals platoon. I have wondered how many survived the war.


Alan's book From North Africa to the Arakan : the engrossing memoir of WWII Spitfire ace Alan McGregor Peart, DFC, can be borrowed from the Tauranga City Libraries.

 Click here to find it at your local branch.

TV Interview

Alan gave an interview with TV3's Firstline in 2012. You can view this by clicking here.


This page was archived at Perma CC in September of 2016:


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Alan Peart recalls early War years c. 1940

Year:1940 and 1945
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Alan Peart recalls early War years c. 1940 by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License