The story of Lance Sergeant Eric Dennis Green

There is no blog today. Instead I thought I would share with you the story of my Grandmothers (on Mum’s side)brother Lance Sergeant Eric Dennis Green, 21 Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force who was killed on 22 September 1944 in a botched river crossing.

Through the second half of 1943 and 1944, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force had been progressing through Italy as part of the British Eighth Army. It had come ashore as part of the British 8th Army, which had defeated Field Marshal Rommel in the north African desert a couple of months earlier. The going was slow and covered mountainous terrain. Rivers that were inches deep in summer turned into raging torrents in winter and made crossings dangerous. At Cassino the N.Z.E.F. had become stuck in the shadow of the monastery. Cassino was the scene of substantial heavy fighting in March, April and early May 1944. 800 New Zealanders lost their lives in and around the town before a night action by the Polish troops outflanked the Germans and they abruptly withdrew.

Fast forward to September 1944, and the New Zealanders were near Rimini, on the east coast of Italy, not far from the city of Ravenna. Lance Sergeant Eric Green was serving with the 21 Battalion, which was ordered across a river, came under heavy fire, with lots of casualties and were withdrawn over a two day period. During this time it sustained more casualties. Now as the senior officer, (I think his  rank was a corporal) he was again ordered to cross the river and take and hold the ground on the other side. Again, after achieving this they were ordered to withdraw back across the river. He questioned this order as they were severely hampered by the numbers of wounded that they needed to get out. The orders held and he was shot carrying another soldier (injured) across the river on his shoulders. It is not certain whether the shot killed him or he drowned as he was carrying a full pack as well.

11,700 New Zealanders died in World War Two in the air, at sea and on the ground in both the Pacific and European theatres of war. New Zealanders fought at the Battle of the River Plate, in the Battle of Britain, in Greece, Crete, Egypt, Libya, Italy over France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in bomber crews. In the Pacific, New Zealanders saw action in the Solomon Islands.


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