Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wednesday 3rd June 1942

2:45a.m. Busy time. Definitely RHA. Mass moves!

On Sunday night we bivouacked between Barrani and Sollum. Late that night I awoke to hear a plane swooping down. Brilliant moonlight near Barrani... Six bombs crashed down suddenly, about 200 yards away, with terrific noise in the night stillness. They fell in RHQ area. Seven slightly wounded and one seriously. The plane also used it's machine guns – don't know which caused the damage.

On Monday morning we were up at 4a.m. and moved on at sunrise. A good many Jerry tanks had been mopped-up and his advanced columns had been disposed of around El Adem and Gambut. His main body was withdrawing, W of Tobruch. The convoy crawled up Sollum Escarpment in bright sunshine. I was driving M2. On the plateau, in Libya, there was the usual dust storm. Quick, Fleming, King and Hatch were in the back of M2, “Whacker” Newton and I in front. As we went along, the “Duke” gave a running commentary to the “new boys”.

“Aye aye, there! See that heap of stones? Fort Capuzzo!” Or else, “On your right – mass graves!” or, “Oy, oy, this is Bardia perimeter, this wire. On your right, more mass graves!”

We halted for half an hour, moved on in 20 minutes. I drank my tea as we went along – slopping it all over – and ate an onion. We went through Bardia and on towards Tobruch.

Went into bivouac, made a brew and drew rations. Poured out the tea... “Orders! Number One!” Came back, drank my lukewarm tea and passed on the dope rapidly before we moved – to El Adem. Guns in defensive position near the aerodrome. A brew... and a frantic shout, “Number One!” Tea still warm when I got back. Made a stew just before it got dark.

Bright moonlight. Bombs about ½ mile away and droning planes. I'm scared now of night machine gunning and when one plane circled twice and then came nearer again I couldn't stand it. Jumped out of bed and into the slit trench, where I lay some time. Nothing happened near us, though.

On Tuesday morning we moved off rather hurriedly. No time for any breakfast but we all had a wash and some tea.

Travelled south. M2 had a special job, we followed a track, and the main column, a mile on our left, kept station by us. Quite enjoyable until a dust storm began. We eventually dropped into action, again in a defensive position. The dust storm became a khamsin. We laid lines and dug in. Quite a lot to do, but at last we were free to prepare some grub and have a brew. This was again interrupted by “orders”. We were under 10 minutes notice to move. Hastily bolted our tea and stew, just as we got the order to reel in.

Back towards El Adem. A ghastly journey. Choking, blinding clouds of dust and a burning khasmin wind. “C” Troop nearly got lost, but we eventually found the others, near El Adem. Rumble of firing to the westwards. Tank battle in progress. Many vehicles missing. I was sent off in M2, as a Don R, to locate any nearby stragglers. I found four RHA vehicles and led them in.

Opened a tin of apricots on my return and had a mug of tea which had been kept for me, and settled a dispute between M2 and M4. We moved off westwards almost at once. Dropped into action at dusk, laid lines, dug in, made a brew.

The firing stopped after dark. We haven't yet shot, during all these moves!
The line-laying had been impeded by an officer borrowing M4 whilst it was still in use and dashing off without warning, avec M4. I went to bed about 11:30 and was fetched out again at midnight to be reprimanded, over the phone, by the OC for slow line-laying. This seemed bloody unjust in the circumstances. Fed up! About an hours sleep and then phone duty from 2 till 4.

Reveille is at 5:15. The armoured car moves off in quest of Jerry at 5a.m. Quite a cold, dustless night; the wind has changed. During that dreadful journey, we drank nearly two gallons of warm, dirty water on M2!

So I've written the above by candle light in a blacked out wireless truck beside my telephones. It is the first chance I've had. I've savoured several cigarettes for the first time in several days. One can't enjoy them in the open. Too windy.

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