Worked as an Assistant Manager at Trumans Ltd, Greymouth post war. Born in Underwood, Peel Forest South Canterbury.
Capt J. T. H. Halkett, MC; Greymouth; born NZ 22 Sep 1908; clerk.
(Kay, R. 27 (Machine Gun) Battalion. p. 269.) (Source: Kay, R. 27 (Machine Gun Battalion. p.269.)
'Sixth Brigade and the flanking South African brigade attacked south-westwards from Miteiriya Ridge on the night of 26–27 October to complete the occupation of their original objectives and straighten the line.
The plan required that 7 and 8 Platoons should move forward with 25 and 26 Battalions and also give supporting fire for the attack. After checking the gun positions with his platoon commanders, however, Major Tong was convinced that the task could be done more efficiently and with fewer casualties if the guns remained in their commanding position on the ridge, where they could support with overhead fire and engage known targets. He therefore arranged with Brigade Headquarters that they should not go forward.
The artillery barrage opened at ten o'clock in front of 25 Battalion, which exploited beyond its objective, and by two o'clock the supporting anti-tank guns and mortars were in position.
On the right 26 Battalion's advance was supported by artillery concentrations and overhead fire from 8 Platoon and the three-inch mortars (which were under Gardiner's command for the purpose). The infantry met unexpected opposition. Two companies could not get forward and withdrew, and the third (B) held ground about a quarter of a mile to the right front. Gardiner considered that two or three spandau nests were responsible for the hold-up and suggested that the battalion use its Bren carriers to ‘root’ them out. The suggestion was not adopted, but seven carriers were brought up and disposed along the ridge near 8 Platoon.
Because of some talk of the strong possibility of a counter- attack, the Vickers were fully manned for the remainder of the night, and Hawkins grenades were on hand to close the minefield gap if necessary. The machine-gunners lighted the gap to assist the anti-tank guns through to support B Company. A Crusader tank came up to help, and Black got in with the tank commander to direct him forward if necessary. The hostile fire died down and the anti-tank guns went quietly into position.
The Vickers were in action again at dawn, when 8 Platoon's first target was a battery of captured 25-pounders, probably those the platoon had engaged the previous day; they had gone farther back, but their gun flashes were seen, and the tops of three trucks were in view above the crest. Immediately the Vickers opened fire the 25-pounders stopped and the trucks departed.
The spandau sniper whom Cattanach and Black had stalked the previous day began shooting again in the afternoon; he was too close for searching fire by the Vickers, but the mortars kept him quiet. A shoot of twelve belts from each of 7 Platoon's guns drove the gun crews from an artillery position. A group of infantry went swiftly to ground when 9 Platoon opened up, and later some of them were seen retreating.
The Maori Battalion relieved the 21st on the night of 6 Brigade's attack. Next morning an artillery OP officer from the Highland Division joined 10 Platoon, ‘and we got together and did some combined shooting which completely silenced a group of 88s about 3500 yards out,’ says Halkett. ‘We made a good team until late morning firing at suitable targets, mostly gun positions. About midday the enemy started to withdraw is infantry from our left flank and beyond. During the next two hours we had a machine-gunners’ picnic. Infantry in the open. We gave them all we had and could see several tumble over every time we fired. We prevented them getting back and drove them across our front and forced the remnants to surrender to the Scotties on our right. We used 22,000 rounds to do this by indirect fire.
‘Continuous firing was having its effect on our platoon guns and barrels were short. All our gun water had been used and nearly all our drinking water had been used in the guns. It was fortunate that Sgt Barclay arrived at this stage with ammunition, water and our reserve barrels. During the lull which now developed our guns were overhauled one by one, sights and barrels getting special attention.
‘A little later the enemy LMG which had been well concealed on our right front and had caused the OP some unpleasant moments was located. Careful preparations were made to fix this pest for keeps. We opened up on it but one of our Vickers started to drop shorter with each burst and before we could stop its crew from firing its shorts struck the crest about 25 yards in front of its position. The Germans had tried hard to locate us and had kept searching the general area with shellfire. This was their chance and they took it. During the next half hour we had everything but the proverbial Kitchen stove thrown at us…. Ellis was badly wounded in the face and was evacuated by stretcher as soon as possible to 28 Bn RAP. Eleven shell holes over 2 ft deep were counted in the rocky ground between the two flank guns after this shelling, which was the heaviest I ever experienced during the Alamein affair.
‘Visibility had become poor and no more shooting was done by us.’
The following night (the 27th–28th) the New Zealanders were relieved by the South Africans on Miteiriya Ridge and went back into reserve at Alam Onsol, about 15 miles to the rear, where they made up for the lack of sleep and the strain of the last four days and five nights.
In the fighting on Miteiriya Ridge ten machine-gunners had been killed and eleven wounded—not many casualties if compared with the losses at Sidi Rezegh and in other desert battles. This might be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that the fighting had been less mobile. The German armour did not get the chance to counter-attack as it had done at Sidi Rezegh, Ruweisat and El Mreir. Also the troops had better knowledge of what they were to do—information had been passed right down to platoons before the battle.
On Miteiriya Ridge Gardiner won the only DSO awarded to a New Zealand machine-gun officer in the Second World War, Halkett and Beard the MC, and Cattanach, Black and Forsyth the MM.' (Source: Kay, R. 27 (Machine Gun) Battalion. pp. 289-91.) AWMM