Our Patron 1 2
Harry Verdun Spencer
2nd New Zealand Divisional Cavalry Regiment
Born 15 July 1916 in Ward, in the South Island of New Zealand, Harry Spencer joined the Nelson Marlborough Mounted Rifles, a militia regiment, in the 1930s. In 1939, he volunteered for service the first day war was declared, and joined C Squadron of the 2nd New Zealand Divisional Cavalry at Papakura Military Camp, near Auckland, in January 1940. He departed Wellington with the Second Echelon of New Zealand troops in May 1940.
Originally destined for Egypt, the troopships were diverted at Capetown, South Africa, for Scotland, where the New Zealanders disembarked and were deployed to defend the southeastern coast of England during the Battle of Britain.
A year later, Harry and C Squadron were reunited with the DivCav in Egypt and almost immediately shipped to Greece to mount a defence of the Greek nation. On April 10, 1941, Harry was part of an armoured car patrol on the border of Greece and Yugoslavia that became the first unit of the New Zealand Division to engage the enemy in battle in WWII.
During the planned retreat to the Southern beaches of Greece, Harry found a way to manage a hospital in Argos, attend to wounded New Zealand and British soldiers, and escape just ahead of German troops, arriving in Crete aboard the anti-aircraft destroyer HMS Calcutta. He fought in the famous Battle of Pink Hill on Crete, then hiked over 40 miles of rugged mountain tracks to Sfakia again to avoid capture by German troops, now arriving in overwhelming numbers.
After participating in three major battles, including combat in two of them, Harry's war was only just beginning. He returned to Egypt, regrouped at Maadi Camp, near Cairo, and then, along with thousands of fellow New Zealanders and other British and Empire troops, began the 'Desert War.'
DivCav Patron Harry Spencer (right) in a newly issued Stuart tank in Egypt 1942. Click on image for a closer look. National Library of NZ.
“The DivCav meant a lot to me, and the remarkable men that I met while I was with them, I will never forget”