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Re: NZ and Aussie 3.7-inch howitzers

October 5 2015 at 4:27 PM
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Nelson  (no login)
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Response to The Royal Marines connection


I agree with your thinking, and indeed believe we can make one more leap of logic (also agree that it would be very nice to have corroboration in primary or even secondary source documents). Okay, to recap, sometime during the 1920s, New Zealand acquired eight 3.7-inch mountain howitzers, four each for 16 Light Battery in Christchurch and 20 Light Battery in Auckland. More than a decade and a half later, NZ got another four such howitzers that had served as landing guns aboard two unnamed British cruisers, to wit:

> 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. >

Indeed, these warships are such obvious candidates I can think of no other. [For those readers unacquainted, prior to WWII there had been no Royal New Zealand Navy, but rather that nation’s naval arm consisted of ships assigned to the NZ Division of the Royal Navy. Even after its establishment, the RNZN’s two Leander class light cruisers were on long-term loan from the RN without name change and were returned postwar to the parent navy. On the other hand, the three Leanders in the Royal Australian Navy were purchased, renamed for Australian cities, and became a legit part of the RAN.] Thus, two 3.7-inch “landing howitzers” each on HMNZS Leander and Achilles transferred to the army gave the land service a total of a dozen such small howitzers, all still on wooden spoked wheels (the four in navy hands included, because upgrading them to steel wheels and pneumatic tires would have not served well as landing guns, needlessly adding to their weight to be gotten and then used ashore). I would also hazard that the dozen mountain howitzers under consideration had about the same period of manufacture.

I agree that however it went down, at some point four of the pieces became separated and went as-is to the Australians, so that three or four were brought ashore for service at Buna in November 1942. They saw lengthy service in New Guinea before “running out of ammunition”. Prior to making their next appearance, the other eight still in New Zealand Army hands had been considerably spiffed up and high-speeded. I think that much is apparent—and constitutes that next leap of logic—but the question remains why not give the Aussie quartet the same upgrade? Transferred too early to enjoy that updo? The Aussies saith “No thankyew, we’re going to use these babies in the bush and they’re ideal as is”? The Kiwis saith, “Hey, they’re going to the Diggers and why should we spring for their conversion”? Now that last woulda been nasty. My own question remains the three versus four used in New Guinea: WHEN was that fourth lost at sea and what were those circumstances? Today still a matter remaining (ahem) murky and unfathomable.


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