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18th Battalion
(18th Armoured Regiment)
Active 1939–1945
Disbanded 23 December 1945
Country  New Zealand
Branch Crest of the New Zealand Army.jpg New Zealand Military Forces
Type Infantry (1939 to 1942)
Armoured (1943 to 1945)
Size ~760 personnel[1]
Part of 4th Brigade, 2nd Division
Engagements

Second World War

Battle of Greece
Battle of Crete
North African Campaign
Operation Crusader
First Battle of El Alamein
Italian Campaign
Battle of Monte Cassino

The 18th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the New Zealand Military Forces, which served during the Second World War as part of the New Zealand 2nd Division. The 18th Battalion was formed in New Zealand in 1939 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel J. R. Gray. After a period of training it embarked for the Middle East and then onto Greece in 1941 as part of the 2nd New Zealand Division. It participated in the Battles of Greece and later in Crete. Evacuated from Crete, it then fought in the North African Campaign and suffered heavy losses during Operation Crusader. Brought back up to strength, the battalion participated in the breakout of the 2nd New Zealand Division from Minqar Qaim in June 1942, where it had been encircled by the 21st Panzer Division. The following month, the battalion fought in the First Battle of El Alamein.

In October 1943, the battalion was converted to an armoured unit and designated 18th Armoured Regiment. To replace men lost at El Alamein, personnel were drawn from a tank brigade being formed in New Zealand. The regiment spent a year in Egypt training with Sherman tanks, before embarking for Italy in October 1943 to join the Eighth Army. It participated in the Italian Campaign, fighting in actions at Orsogna and later at Cassino. The regiment finished the war in Trieste and remained there for several weeks until the large numbers of Yugoslav partisans also present in the city withdrew. Not required for service in the Pacific theatre of operations, the regiment was disestablished in late 1945.

History[edit | edit source]

Formation and training[edit | edit source]

The 18th Battalion was formed in New Zealand in 1939 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Gray and was the first of three infantry battalions making up the 4th Infantry Brigade.[Note 1] Its personnel were drawn from the upper half of the North Island of New Zealand and formed into Auckland, Hauraki/Bay of Plenty/Rotorua, Northland and Waikato companies.[3] After a period of training, the battalion departed on the Orient liner Orion for the Middle East on 5 January 1940 as part of the 4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd New Zealand Division.[4] The battalion arrived at its base in Maadi, Egypt on 14 February,[5] and was involved in training and garrison duty at Baggush for most of the next 12 months.[6]

Greece[edit | edit source]

The British Government anticipated an invasion of Greece by the Germans in 1941 and decided to send troops to support the Greeks. The 2nd New Zealand Division was one of a number of Allied units dispatched to Greece in early March.[7] The 4th Infantry Brigade was tasked with the defence of the Aliakmon Line in northern Greece with the New Zealand Division positioned on the northern side of Mount Olympus. On 6 April, the Germans invaded Greece and advanced so rapidly that their forces quickly threatened the Florina Gap. The 4th Infantry Brigade was withdrawn to the Servia Pass where on 15 April the battalion fended off initial probing attacks before being withdrawn.[8]

The battalion was shipped to the island of Crete. It participated in the defence of the island against the airborne invasion of the Germans but was eventually evacuated from Crete.[9]

North Africa[edit | edit source]

It then fought in the North African Campaign and was effectively destroyed by the 15th Panzer Division. It played a role in the breakout of the 2nd New Zealand Division from Minqar Qaim in June 1942, where it had been encircled by the 21st Panzer Division.[10] The following month, the battalion suffered heavy casualties during the First Battle of El Alamein and many personnel were made prisoners of war.

Italy[edit | edit source]

In October 1943, the battalion, along with the rest of the 4th Infantry Brigade, was converted to an armoured unit and designated 18th Armoured Regiment. The regiment spent the next year training with Sherman tanks before embarking for Italy in October 1943 to join the Eighth Army. The regiment participated in the Italian Campaign, fighting in actions at Orsogna and later at Cassino.[11] It finished the war in Trieste and remained there for several weeks until the large numbers of Yugoslav partisans also present in the city withdrew. Not required for service in the Pacific theatre of operations, the regiment was disestablished in late 1945.[12]

During the war, the 18th Battalion and its successor, the 18th Armoured Regiment, lost nearly 320 officers and men either killed in action or who later died of their wounds, in addition to 21 men who died as prisoners of war. Exactly 350 personnel were made prisoners of war.[13]

Honours[edit | edit source]

Seven members of the battalion, including three of its commanders,[Note 2] were awarded the Distinguished Service Order while another member was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and a second was made a member of the same order. Nine officers were awarded the Military Cross while two others received the Greek Military Cross. Three soldiers received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and 26 others the Military Medal. Twenty one soldiers received awards of the Greek Silver and Bronze medals.[14]

Commanding officers[edit | edit source]

The following officers served as commanding officer of the 18th Battalion:[15]

  • Lieutenant Colonel J. R. Gray (September 1939–July 1941; August–November 1941; March–June 1942);[Note 3]
  • Lieutenant Colonel J. N. Peart (July–August 1941; November 1941–March 1942);
  • Lieutenant Colonel C. L. Pleasants (July 1942–December 1943; January–March 1944);
  • Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Ferguson (December 1943–January 1944; July 1944–January 1945);[Note 4]
  • Lieutenant Colonel H. A. Robinson (March–July 1944; March–December 1945;
  • Lieutenant Colonel J. M. Elliott (February–March 1945);
  • Lieutenant Colonel H. H. Parata (March–May 1945);
  • Lieutenant Colonel A. S. Payle (June–December 1945).

Notes[edit | edit source]

Footnotes
  1. The other two infantry battalions were the 19th and 20th.[2]
  2. Parata, Pleasants, and Ferguson.[14]
  3. Gray later achieved the rank of brigadier.[3]
  4. Ferguson had the rank of major during his first period in command of the battalion.[15]
Citations
  1. Dawson, 1961, p. 2
  2. Dawson, 1961, p. 6
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dawson, 1961, p. 3
  4. Dawson, 1961, p. 13
  5. Sinclair, 1954, pp. 14–15
  6. McGibbon, 2000, pp. 263–265
  7. McClymont, 1959, p. 103
  8. Dawson, 1961, pp. 94–96
  9. McGibbon, 2000, pp. 124–128
  10. McGibbon, 2000, pp. 389–391
  11. McGibbon, 2000, p. 37
  12. Dawson, 1961, pp. 649–651
  13. Dawson, 1961, p. 663
  14. 14.0 14.1 Dawson, 1961, pp. 664–665
  15. 15.0 15.1 Dawson, 1961, p. 666

References[edit | edit source]

  • McClymont, W. G. (1959). To Greece. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45. Wellington, New Zealand: War History Branch. OCLC 4373298. 
  • McGibbon, Ian, ed (2000). The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558376-0. 
  • Dawson, W. D. (1961). 18 Battalion and Armoured Regiment. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45. Wellington, New Zealand: War History Branch. 

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