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The Royal Marines connection

October 5 2015 at 8:52 AM
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Jacques  (no login)
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Response to couple more observations

The link provided by Jim has been quite useful but the answer to the original question remains elusive.

OK, so the 144th's 3.7s arrived in November 1942; not new but in need of some attention. The source for at least 4 of these guns is confirmed in the first paragraph of Chapter Eight:

"Four of the guns issued to the battery had seen some service with the Royal Marines of two well known cruisers of the British Navy. Nevertheless the equipment was not by any means old or out-of-date, and the guns were capable of shooting with astonishing accuracy."

The 4 ex-Royal Marines 3.7s plus another 4 of unspecified origin were all fitted with pneumatic tyres and almost certainly, were the ones sent to New Caledonia, and onward to the Solomons in August 1943. Members of 144th Independent were mainly comprised of the former medium troop and C troop of 35th Battery which had gone to Fiji in 1941 (also according to the first paragraph of Chapter Eight).

Take a look at Chapter One, pg. 13, where it is mentioned that "On Suva side was formed the skeleton organisation of A troop with 18 pounders, B troop with 4.5 howitzers, and C troop with 3.7 howitzers (newly arrived from New Zealand)" and on pg. 18 "This time he had embarked on an attempt to improve the mobility and quickness into action of his steel-and-wood wheeled 18 pounders and 3.7 inch howitzers. He devised methods of mounting them on trucks and firing them from trucks."

Thus, four of the wooden spoke wheeled 3.7-inch howitzers were sent to Fiji during December 1941 - probably of the original NZ battery acquired before 1926. It is quite likely that these were left behind when US forces took over the Suva defences in around July 1942, and the 4 guns remaining in New Zealand, were the ones sold to Australia. Or... when it was found that the US had no use for the Fiji guns, these were passed on to the Aussies (this time, no charge!) .

The Royal Marines connection is an interesting one. Prior to and during the early stages of WW2, contingents of Royal Marines were posted to larger Royal Navy ships and evidently the 3.7-inch mountain howitzer was the standard "landing gun" of the Royal Marines aboard some if not all RN cruisers and battleships. Unfortunately the names of the "two well known British cruisers" donating theirs to the 144th is not known but they could very well have been HMNZ cruisers ACHILLES and LEANDER. After all, ACHILLES was at Auckland for refit and LEANDER on convoy duty between Auckland and Noumea during November 1942 when the 144th got its guns. Were there any other RN cruisers in the vicinity at the time?

Perhaps my 6 honest serving men will come back to me soon! ( Where, What, When, Why, How and Who)



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