Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thursday 27th November 1941

1:30a.m. The delight of waking from deep sleep in warm blankets on a cold morning! Last night I didn't go to bed until after 3a.m. When I did go, snug and warm inside five blankets (I recently scrounged one) I slept finely sound.

The most delicious way of slumbering would be to keep awake until the early hours, say two or three o'clock, in the winter, then sleep in a warm, soft bed and be awakened at 10a.m. or 11a.m. The pleasantest method of waking would be for the sound of soothing, gentle music to reach the sleeper, and for the volume of sound to be gradually increased until he awoke! (Then pass him a cup of tea!)

The battle at Sidi Rezegh still goes on, SE of Tobruch. The New Zealanders have reached there; they are not here. Last night our troops captured the strong point in the area of the wrecked plane and yesterday they made an attack on the Wadi Belgassem which – as I'd expected – was driven off. The enemy should be able to hold Belgassem for weeks. BBC news is reserved now. They state that both sides are bringing up reinforcements and the aim of both sides is to destroy tanks. The isolated German forces at Sollum made a sortie into Egypt! They're game, anyhow. They were harassed by fighters, bombers and guns and eventually retreated westwards again, having lost 1/3 of their tanks.

This desert battle must be about the bloodiest that British troops have been in, during the duration of this war, for it is the first battle which has not been a running fight. Dust covered ambulances are jolting into Tobruch all day long from the SE. And lorry loads of prisoners.

First it was “they have arrived,” then “the men who walk upside down are going to a place...” and now, at 2:30a.m., the duty officer has received a message:- “It is thought we have made contact with our friends. Confirmation is awaited.”

Fullerphone Message 6:30a.m. :-

“Junction has been made with NZ division El Duda area. Counter attack by the enemy is a probability, special vigilance to deal with this contingency is vital for next 24 hours.”

Phone message 10a.m. :-

“German 21st Armoured Division ordered up to help their forces at Tobruch, who are seriously threatened.”

Evening on the exchange,after a rainy day. At one time the pit was flooded to a depth of 14 inches by water cascading down the rocks above. Now a drainage trench has been dug and the pit baled out but we have a primus burning to dry out the remaining dampness.

Well, this campaign does not seem to be going so smoothly as expected. We in Tobruch will certainly be “for it” if this present effort to get Jerry on the run should fail for this is quite obviously the supreme endeavour. However, I think still, that we shall be the eventual victors in this present conflict. We are much stronger in air power than we have been hitherto. Flights of Hurricanes and Tomahawks – sometimes as many as 34 at once – have been roaring around all day; a strange sight for the Rats of Tobruch, unaccustomed to seeing friendly aircraft.

News is scanty – real news that is. Our forward elements contacted the New Zealanders this morning but it is not known whether the contact has been maintained. The enemy made a counter attack at El Duda but were repulsed, losing two tanks. A Polish artillery battery has dropped into position nearby, in case there is an attack on this sector tonight. An OP officer near the coast has just reported seeing a brilliantly illuminated ship, presumably the hospital ship which arrived this morning, sailing eastwards. So we can now trust them not to attack our hospital ships? That is very good.

“Exchange answering.” “That you, Steve? Did you hear last night's news?”
“Yes, George. Heard most of it. The general tone was fairly hopeful.” “Yeah?”
“Sure. Great enthusiasm in London at the linking up of the frontier forces with the garrison of Tobruch. There was a bit about the length of the siege and the importance of Tobruch as a base after we'd pushed Jerry further back. Seems we've now made a breach in the enemy line. But apparently there are still pockets of resistance... Just small pockets, George!” “Huh.” “We've recaptured Sidi Rezagh... Don't know when we lost it...” “Aw...” “We've done well in the air. Shot down about thirty for the loss of two planes or something.” “Mmm.” “I'm afraid things are bad in Russia. Hell of a push for Moscow under way. That's about all I heard, between calls.”

“Oh! OK Steve.”

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