Signals from WW2

In the lead-up to Anzac Day on Tuesday, World War 2 veteran Ted Dominey talks to Wynsley Wrigley about some of his memories of fighting in Italy in 1944-45. He has strong memories of serving on the front line but doesn’t glorify what he did as a young man: “We were just doing our job,’’ he says.

In the lead-up to Anzac Day on Tuesday, World War 2 veteran Ted Dominey talks to Wynsley Wrigley about some of his memories of fighting in Italy in 1944-45. He has strong memories of serving on the front line but doesn’t glorify what he did as a young man: “We were just doing our job,’’ he says.

Mr Dominey when he spoke to The Gisborne Herald in 2017. File pictures
COMMS CENTRE: Signaller Ted Dominey takes notes as he receives a message at the front line during the Italian campaign.
ON THE ROAD TO TRIESTE: Ted Dominey pictured in Italy with fellow members of 2 New Zealand Division on their way to Trieste, at the northern end of the country, in April and May 1945. He is standing on the far side of the jeep in this picture.
He is third from the right holding a cup of tea.
Ted Dominey is the passenger in the jeep.

TED Dominey remembers a rare moment during the bloody Italian campaign of World War 2 when New Zealand and German soldiers shared a laugh together.

Mr Dominey, now 94, was a young signaller in General Freyberg’s 2 New Zealand Division in 1944.

He recalls a captured Nazi fanatic, only about age 18, proudly goose-stepping past his New Zealand captors.

He was heiling the Führer, only to slip backwards and body-slam into the mud.

New Zealanders and Germans burst out in laughter together, with the Kiwis mocking the Nazi relentlessly.

There was no more defiant bravado from the young Nazi.

Mr Dominey said the Kiwi soldiers got on “OK’’ with many captured Germans and would share chocolate with them.

But they hated Nazis.

His most famous battle was Monte Cassino, where 343 New Zealanders were killed.

Mr Dominey said his own unit saw little action there, as they were in “a holding position’’ in the event of a German counter-attack.

Monte Cassino was a bloody battle.

It was fought in demanding terrain, which the Allies compared to World War 1, while German soldiers, many of them paratroopers, compared it to fighting in Russia.

“The paratroopers were Nazis mostly,’’ said Mr Dominey.

“They got wiped out in Crete (fighting New Zealanders, Australian and British troops in 1941).”

The Allies were trying to take 500-metre-high Monte Cassino, which was topped by a historic Benedictine monastery.

Controversially destroyed by Allied bombing, based on the belief there were paratroopers located within it, the monastery was turned into a defensive stronghold for the Germans after the agreement by both sides to leave the monastery out of the fighting was broken.

If there were no paratroopers in the monastery before the bombing, there certainly were afterwards.

Destruction of 900-year-old monastery

Mr Dominey has his own theory over the still-controversial destruction of the 900-year-old monastery.

General Freyberg wanted to use anti-personnel bombs, which would keep the destruction of buildings to a minimum.

But the Americans used “blockbuster bombs”, which destroyed buildings, with the result that tanks could not get through to support the infantry, he said.

Shortly before the battle began, Mr Dominey was transferred from 11 Platoon of 27 Machine Gun Battalion to 12 Platoon.

Mr Dominey was initially not keen to leave his original unit but, in hindsight, it turned out to be a moment of great fortune.

He experienced one personally bad moment early on with 12 Platoon, for which he was a signaller/radio operator.

The platoon lost contact with other New Zealand forces in the dark.

While they were trying to orientate themselves he fell into a bomb crater half full of water.

It was not a great feeling, as it rendered his radio useless.

“So we got lost. It took us a while to get to our designated position.

“After eight days, we were relieved by a British infantry platoon.”

A worse fate was in store for 11 Platoon. They were stationed well behind the lines, presumably in a safe position, but two men were killed by inaccurate American bombing.

Mr Dominey said he most likely would have been in the truck in which two New Zealanders were killed.

The signaller remembers ‘‘going out” to repair the wires under shell fire.

“The infantry went out in pairs and got killed in pairs. I went out alone. I kept my head down. It was dangerous, but there were plenty of other dangerous times.”

He admired the fighting qualities of the Poles who finally took Monte Cassino.

“Four thousand Poles died at Cassino.That’s a hell of a lot.”

Mr Dominey is reluctant to speak of the Americans.

He did say that, back in Wellington during his training, he had seen an American soldier abusing a Maori sailor, which led to ‘‘a little bit of a scuffle’’ with “a big New Zealand soldier’’.

Battle of Manners Street

He also witnessed ‘‘the Battle of Manners Street”, a street fight between New Zealand and American servicemen.

The incident was suppressed by the government of the day and never publicised during the war.

Other Americans were very generous, says Mr Dominey.

At one stage he worked on the Wellington wharf with Americans, loading ships.

He remembers an American Sergeant telling New Zealand soldiers to help themselves to cigarettes — “They did.’’

Mr Dominey ended the war in Trieste where the New Zealanders encountered Marshall Tito’s partisans, who it was feared would try to annex the Italian city for communist Yugoslavia.

The partisans had fought in a merciless war against their German occupiers, with no quarter asked for or given by either side. The meeting of the suspicious parties — Tito’s partisans and 2 New Zealand Division — has been described as the first clash of the Cold War.

“We were still having problems with Tito’s men. They took life pretty seriously, but you can’t blame them.”

Mr Dominey said the New Zealanders got on well with Italian people.

“They could not understand why we had come from so far away, from the end of the Earth, to clear the Germans from their country.”

Mr Dominey finally returned home in 1946. The New Zealanders could not travel home any sooner.

“The Americans took all the ships.”

TED Dominey remembers a rare moment during the bloody Italian campaign of World War 2 when New Zealand and German soldiers shared a laugh together.

Mr Dominey, now 94, was a young signaller in General Freyberg’s 2 New Zealand Division in 1944.

He recalls a captured Nazi fanatic, only about age 18, proudly goose-stepping past his New Zealand captors.

He was heiling the Führer, only to slip backwards and body-slam into the mud.

New Zealanders and Germans burst out in laughter together, with the Kiwis mocking the Nazi relentlessly.

There was no more defiant bravado from the young Nazi.

Mr Dominey said the Kiwi soldiers got on “OK’’ with many captured Germans and would share chocolate with them.

But they hated Nazis.

His most famous battle was Monte Cassino, where 343 New Zealanders were killed.

Mr Dominey said his own unit saw little action there, as they were in “a holding position’’ in the event of a German counter-attack.

Monte Cassino was a bloody battle.

It was fought in demanding terrain, which the Allies compared to World War 1, while German soldiers, many of them paratroopers, compared it to fighting in Russia.

“The paratroopers were Nazis mostly,’’ said Mr Dominey.

“They got wiped out in Crete (fighting New Zealanders, Australian and British troops in 1941).”

The Allies were trying to take 500-metre-high Monte Cassino, which was topped by a historic Benedictine monastery.

Controversially destroyed by Allied bombing, based on the belief there were paratroopers located within it, the monastery was turned into a defensive stronghold for the Germans after the agreement by both sides to leave the monastery out of the fighting was broken.

If there were no paratroopers in the monastery before the bombing, there certainly were afterwards.

Destruction of 900-year-old monastery

Mr Dominey has his own theory over the still-controversial destruction of the 900-year-old monastery.

General Freyberg wanted to use anti-personnel bombs, which would keep the destruction of buildings to a minimum.

But the Americans used “blockbuster bombs”, which destroyed buildings, with the result that tanks could not get through to support the infantry, he said.

Shortly before the battle began, Mr Dominey was transferred from 11 Platoon of 27 Machine Gun Battalion to 12 Platoon.

Mr Dominey was initially not keen to leave his original unit but, in hindsight, it turned out to be a moment of great fortune.

He experienced one personally bad moment early on with 12 Platoon, for which he was a signaller/radio operator.

The platoon lost contact with other New Zealand forces in the dark.

While they were trying to orientate themselves he fell into a bomb crater half full of water.

It was not a great feeling, as it rendered his radio useless.

“So we got lost. It took us a while to get to our designated position.

“After eight days, we were relieved by a British infantry platoon.”

A worse fate was in store for 11 Platoon. They were stationed well behind the lines, presumably in a safe position, but two men were killed by inaccurate American bombing.

Mr Dominey said he most likely would have been in the truck in which two New Zealanders were killed.

The signaller remembers ‘‘going out” to repair the wires under shell fire.

“The infantry went out in pairs and got killed in pairs. I went out alone. I kept my head down. It was dangerous, but there were plenty of other dangerous times.”

He admired the fighting qualities of the Poles who finally took Monte Cassino.

“Four thousand Poles died at Cassino.That’s a hell of a lot.”

Mr Dominey is reluctant to speak of the Americans.

He did say that, back in Wellington during his training, he had seen an American soldier abusing a Maori sailor, which led to ‘‘a little bit of a scuffle’’ with “a big New Zealand soldier’’.

Battle of Manners Street

He also witnessed ‘‘the Battle of Manners Street”, a street fight between New Zealand and American servicemen.

The incident was suppressed by the government of the day and never publicised during the war.

Other Americans were very generous, says Mr Dominey.

At one stage he worked on the Wellington wharf with Americans, loading ships.

He remembers an American Sergeant telling New Zealand soldiers to help themselves to cigarettes — “They did.’’

Mr Dominey ended the war in Trieste where the New Zealanders encountered Marshall Tito’s partisans, who it was feared would try to annex the Italian city for communist Yugoslavia.

The partisans had fought in a merciless war against their German occupiers, with no quarter asked for or given by either side. The meeting of the suspicious parties — Tito’s partisans and 2 New Zealand Division — has been described as the first clash of the Cold War.

“We were still having problems with Tito’s men. They took life pretty seriously, but you can’t blame them.”

Mr Dominey said the New Zealanders got on well with Italian people.

“They could not understand why we had come from so far away, from the end of the Earth, to clear the Germans from their country.”

Mr Dominey finally returned home in 1946. The New Zealanders could not travel home any sooner.

“The Americans took all the ships.”

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Rosey Olliver - 2 years ago
I really like this article about Mr Dominey's memories. The memory of the German goose-stepping and the New Zealanders and Germans laughing about his slip-up is very funny! The encounter at Manners Street with Americans would have been a memorable sight. Well done Mr Dominey - you have added value to the memories shared by New Zealand soldiers in WW2.

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