Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saturday 4th July 1942

Went, with Britten and Ellis, for a swim in the Suez yesterday. Half a miles walk distant. As a result I've been in a torpor of fatigue all this day. Bloody malaria! And the bloody Egyptian climate! I'm as thin as the proverbial rail.

At El Alamein, presumably between Daba and Alex, the 8th Army is still holding Jerry. It is however thought that the main attack has not been put in yet.

Tiny Plane has arrived here. He left 519 Battery less than a week ago, near Mersa Matruh. 339 were last seen near El Adem; they probably went into Tobruch... Things were pretty disordered when he left, Tiny said. Troops had ceased to exist and 519 was a six-gun battery. Everyone was absolutely browned-off and tired to death. They didn't care a damn if they went “in the bag.” George Hignall seemed a changed man, very worried by his job as BQMS.

Except for the two gun teams there had been very few casualties in 519. Some RHQ men had been captured. “Oh!” said Tiny suddenly, “Did you hear about Whacker Newton? Him they called the Duke?” “No” I said wearily, “What?” “Him and your signals NCO... what was his name -?” “Gibbon. Tom Gibbon.” “That's right! He was in charge after you came down. Well, their truck hit a mine near El Adem...” “M2?” “Yes! That's right, M2.”

They were going along in desert formation and – it was dusk – the Duke hit a mine which had been left lying on the ground. The Duke lost a leg, Tom had leg and chest injuries. It was difficult to say who was worse hurt. The truck caught fire at once. The nearest gun-tower stopped, the men rushed across and dragged Newton, who was unconscious, out of the flames. The men in the back of the truck all seemed shaken and dazed. One of then quickly came round however and Tiny saw him dashing about the blazing truck throwing things off. “There were packs and haversacks flying in all directions!” said Tiny. “He was a little chap, too.” “Was it Jock Forbes?” “Yes, I think it was.”

Subsequently,said Tiny, Tom Gibbon and the Duke were taken to Tobruch hospital, where they were probably captured. This sort of news nearly breaks my heart. So far, it's Cooper, Morgan, Newby, Gibbon and Newton.

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