Sunday, October 19, 2008

Friday 5th December 1941

6:30a.m. Heavy shelling during the last few hours. Some is far away to the SW, some is near enough for me to hear the whistling of the shells. One of the Polish troops, “Gora” is a target but has not been hit yet.

1:45p.m. Apparently there was heavy shellfire in the S and SW during most of last night and this is thought to have been Hun artillery, covering a westward movement of their troops. Westward means a withdrawal. Anyhow two British armoured brigades have appeared from nowhere near the El Adem (southern or central) sector and things look more hopeful today.

Last night, the continuous shelling suggested the prelude to an enemy assault. The BC rang up the Command Post – from some far distant position outside the wire – and said that if Tobruch was about to fall, he'd like to be advised, so that he could send in a raiding party for rations!

Another humorous conversation in the early hours was between Major Howell, the 2nd i/c, and the Polish officer. “They may be withdrawing” said Howell. “Yes! Yes! Please?” “If your OP sees any such movement of German troops, give 'em stick!” “Please! Please! I do not understand! Give STICK?” “Yes. Fire on them. Give 'em every thing you've got!” “Yes! I understand! Thank you! Thank you!” And then the blood thirsty Pole was heard yelling excitedly to be put through to the “post of observation.” “Made up with it, 'e was!” said George, who was on the exchange at the time.

I'll have to stop now. Word just came through that we are to move tonight – if we can get some lorries.

6:45p.m. The order for the battery to move was cancelled and given again and finally cancelled! All between 2p.m. and 3p.m.! Eventually A Troop went alone, with 1000 rounds of ammo, bits of HQ Troop and most of RHQ. We stay here at present – spare files! The exchange is as quiet as death now. I believe there are only two officers left in the “battery” ie 2/3 of HQ and B Troops.

I reckon I'l have time to read “The White Cliffs” Now! Early in the evening!

9:30p.m. This is a queer show, be damned if it isn't! After all the preparations, orders, contradictions and final definite movements, the whole thing was dismissed in a few laconic words from the CRA just now, “You know the party's off, do you?”
Flabbergasted distant voice from somewhere outside the wire; “No sir!” “Well it is,” said the cool voice (not in the least like the savage, rapid accents of our Colonel), “So everyone can return to their old homes either now or tomorrow morning.”
“Yes sir,” said the dazed, distant voice. “That's all, I think,” said the Commandant Royal Artillery, thoughtfully, “Good night.”

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