Monday, September 08, 2008

Friday 20th December 1940


M1 was away early this morning, with the reconnaissance group. Rather rough road through the usual monotonous wasteland. I had a stripe from the tunic of an Italian soldier, also his pack (the property of Corporal Serre, by the way). In one pocket of the tunic was half of the business part of a black lace brassiere! Maybe a love token for the corporal.

As we went on, dust and bitter winds reduced our enthusiasm to a minimum. Sollum – a pretty bay surrounded by steep hills. We mounted the escarpment by a steep winding road. This was “Hellfire Pass” and apparently under fire from an Iti long-range-gun. It didn't trouble us, however. We dozed in the dust for some time, on the plateau above, then orders came and we moved on. Barbed wire barrier! We were in Libya! “Dawson the Invader” I grunted sardonically.

We passed the famous Fort Capuzzo; it was rather knocked about. And at dusk we were parked, shivering and alone, in the middle of a great plain, waiting for orders again. No sign of activity anywhere. “Action!” I said, “There's no enemy within 50 miles of us!” Just then Captain Judd came up. “What is the position sir, and where do you think the enemy are?” enquired Sid. “They are about 16,000 yards off,” he replied (shaking us) “But their patrols maybe within two miles of us. Bardia is still holding out, and we are going to join in the bombardment”. (The Siege of Bardia! Drama!)

We moved up and laid our lines in the dark. It was a hell of a job – and we were cold, hungry and thirsty. Occasionally there was the far-off flash and thud of a gun firing but it was generally not like “The Front” at all. We conversed in whispers and smoked with some caution. About a mile away, a voice kept shouting - “HELP!” Weird, that unanswered crying in the darkness...

After the lines were laid and the exchange established we dug ourselves in – shallow holes. Got a total of about two hours sleep. Just before dawn, it began to rain. Very miserable!

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