22battalion crest

22nd Battalion 2NZEF

"Vrai et Fort"

The photographs of Charles MERRYLEES

Charles John Orchison MERRYLEES (6754) was one of the "Originals" in the 22nd Battalion. He was originally in 2 Platoon, HQ Company, led by 2Lieutenant Lowry LEEKS. Alos in this platoon was Ian Holms, the first soldier to be killed by enemy action after a stray bomb landed on the barn they were billeted in near Maidstone Kent (see Holm's story here).

As with many photo albums, Charles did not add many captions to the photos so it is difficult to determine where many of them were taken. Any information provided with the photos is included as italics text. I have added notes on other photos to provide some more information, in plain text.

Training in New Zealand

This group of photos were taken in New Zealand before departure on 2 May 1940. Some are clearly in New Zealand, others appear to be so from the context, as noted.

Trentham early 1940
Probably Trentham - with box of beer
Sitting on a howitzer - in NZ somewhere?
Probably NZ but could be Britain.
A rugby match - 22 Battalion in action. NZ or Britain.
Note the 22 badges on the jerseys.
Trentham perhaps?
Could be NZ or Maadi camp?
The large building in the rear left appears to be an aircraft hangar.
Wellington Harbour from Tinakori Hill
Looking across Kelburn Ridge in Wellington
"Empress of Britain" (42,500 tons) leaving Wellington May 2nd 1940 with 22nd Battalion and other Second Echelon personnel, destination UK. Launched Clydebank 1931. Torpedoed 1940.

In Britain

The next three photos are almost certainly in Britain.

A castle and moat, in either Scotland or Kent.
Horse or pony racing. The flat terrain, grassy field and sheep in the distance is more likely to be in Britain than NZ, Egypt or Greece.
A massed grouping of trucks and field guns. The flat, boggy ground is likely to have been in England, prior to the Second Echelon embarking for Egypt.

In Cairo and Maadi Camp

After leaving England at the end of 1940, the Battalion arrived in Egypt and set up camp at Maadi, just out of Cairo. Here they underwent intensive training, interspersed with concerts, tea and beer at the Maadi camp and occasional excursions to Cairo and surroundings. Most men visited the Pyramids and other ancient sites but Charles does not appear to have taken photos of these attractions.

Charles' platoon on the march
Maadi Camp
Maadi camp?
Bayonet practice
Unloading supplies
Swimming - too small to be the Nile.
Charles in the desert
Ticket to Lounge No.2
And a ticket for a cup of tea or beer....
Look closely, the Army Band has arrived!
Charles on a donkey. Note the slit trench in the background. This islikely to have been at Maadi camp.
Two locals on donkeys, accompanied by an Australian soldier in full kit.
Charles in Cairo. Probably the statue of Ibrahim Pasha in the square in front of the old Cairo Opera House.
Charles at the foot of the statue
An unusual view - looking down on circles of men playing "two-up"!!
Charles, with pistol holster, probably in Cairo.
Charles and young Farouka.
Three studio snaps of Charles.

In Greece?

After a short spell of training in Egypt, the Battalion was sent to Greece. The young faces, rocky ground and stunted trees suggest these photos could be from the north of Greece.

A tent pitched in rocky ground with stunted trees.
Charles driving a horse. Olive trees and a rocky ridge in the distance. Note Charles is carrying his rifle. These factors suggest Greece.
A group of local men. The chimneys are from a line of "copper" boilers that could be a laundry or some other factory. Probably Greece.

In the desert

After the disasters of Greece and Crete the battalion fought with honour in the North African Desert. Charles captured a few photos of life in tents and the aftermath of the battles.

Diggers! Alamein Soil. Port Darwin?
Photo supplied by Jack McCormack - "Taken in base at Cairo before leaving for the desert." Charles in front row, right end, looking to his left. Jack McCormack back row second from left.
Photo supplied by Jack McCormack - "sitting on the wing of a British Hurricane fighter plane shot down over our lines. South African pilot forced to belly land but was uninjured."
Sitting on an abandoned pile of ammunition
A crashed German tri-motor aircraft
A german self-propelled gun,
A Tiger tank
Knocked-out British tank

Wishful thinking...

Charles wrote this bet on a scrap of the local Cairo newspaper - he lost his £1. The wording of the bet is "I Charles John Orchison Merrylees do hereby wager £1 (one pound) that Germany is defeated prior to 31st November 1943 and I J.S. Moss do hereby wager that Germany is not defeated prior to 31st November 1943. Signed J. Moss. Witnessed by P. Newson. Pengelly, R.N."

J. S. Moss was Joseph Stanley MOSS 40297 who joined the Battalion after its return from Crete.

Keith Elliot VC

Keith Elliot was in the 22 battalion and won his Victoria Cross at Ruwaiset Ridge, near Elamein. He has autographed two photos for Charles, the first of him receiving the medal from "Monty" and the second in camp carrying his boots.

Now we skip 3 years... or 30

Charles and friends ready to leave Italy in late 1945...
and the same three men 30 years later.

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Last updated: 05/07/2018