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Sound: a veteran remembers Sangro River and the Italian campaign

Audio file

Gunner Gordon Johnston, 63740, was called up in 1940 and went into camp at Papakura near Auckland to train in the artillery. He left New Zealand at the end of 1941 in the Seventh Reinforcements on board the Aquitania. He served in North Africa before going to Italy with the New Zealand Division in late 1943. Here he talks about the Div's first action in Italy at the Sangro River. In Trieste in 1945, Gordon met his future wife, Luciana, who came to New Zealand after the war.


'It was our first, it was right at the bottom of Italy and that was our first big barrier, across the Sangro River. It was a big barricade across there and the Germans tried to stop us there. And we fired a lot of stuff there but we got caught shortly afterwards by the snow. We got snowbound and, here's another wee story because we, the Div-nobody could move... Most of the guys, they got either into bivvies or into casas. But I had this armoured car, and it had a hole. How did we keep warm? We had these, probably you've heard of these things - they had these, we had these charcoal - a tin with charcoal in, and a couple of bits of wire on it, and you poured a bit of petrol on, lit it and it would keep going but the charcoal would die down, so every now and then you had to get out, give it a swing round to get a bit of air in it. And at night time you'd look out over wherever everybody was, the Div was, and you'd see these, these things swinging round in the night.'

Soldier holding flaming brazier

Fanning a charcoal brazier by swinging it


Gordon Johnston collection 

Other image:
Alexander Turnbull Library
War History Collection
Reference: DA-05452 
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

How to cite this page

Sound: a veteran remembers Sangro River and the Italian campaign, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated