November 7th Fears of a German invasion are prevalent, and we are formed into Anti parachutist squads with dawn and dusk patrols. A push is in the air and also new lines are laid to the board.
November 11th-17th Dyson is appointed to man CBO exchange in the forward position. Our tanks are now on the move, and invasion scares are taken very seriously. Stand to continues dawn to dusk. The 17th sees heavy rain. The plain and our Wadis become “rivers” and we have to dig drainage channels.
November 18th 8th Army push from Egypt at long last. From now on my diary covers “SIT REP.” Reports of actions outside Tobruck and taken down by me and others over the exchange lines. Our bases are in action but there is lots of damage to lines. Air raids on Tobruck intensify as does the shelling. Zero hour at Sollum is 09-00 hrs November 18th.
“SIT REP” RTR are in the Scheferzen area and AA at Maddina. Fighter sweeps report no enemy planes. At 13-00 hrs the order of the day is read out from the King.14-00 hrs RAF straffed landing ground and planes on Abu Hamed. A JU-52 is shot down into the sea. 16-00 hrs RAF start large fires near El Adam. 7 planes are destroyed on the ground. On duty. “Stand to” cancelled. Quiet on the board as yet.
November 20th Our heavy AA is shelling the Acroma cross roads. I report 08-00. The Camerons are heavily engaged at hell fire pass (Halfaya) Amd brigade encountered 60 enemy tanks who withdrew. New Zealand division moving North. The RAF bomb transport on the Bardia road. 19 planes and crew are captured by the South Africa brigade. CBO at Pink house. Our zero hour is 06-00 hrs November 21st.
November 21st Tobruck (our part) Artillery barrage opens up at 06-30 hrs by all units according to programme. (Includes 1st 104. 107 RHA. 144 field, Polish Regt. And Bush artillery) Enemy shelling is very strong. His guns are firing on the El Adam cross roads and are searching for the 4•5. By 10-00 hrs the positions Jack and Butch are in our hands. Our forces are sitting outside Tiger. Tanks are in action. Squadron of Tomahawks patrol the area. By mid day Tiger is in our hands. 15-00 hrs and tanks attack Togun and we take this objective. Prisoners coming in are both Italian and German. No news of the S.A armoured brigade or the New Zealand division. German losses 170 tanks. So far 3-1.
November 22nd Sad day. John Steer is killed. His friends stopped at the cave and I went to the truck where John’s body was lying in his blanket. I paid my respects and I shall miss him. His body is taken to Tobruck cemetery. The RAF are over the area all day. Heavy enemy shelling on Butch and Jack. Tanks destroy enemy guns in the Togun area. South Africans are heavily engaged 28 miles south of our forward defence position. Proud, one of the flash spotters is killed. More German POW coming in. Rommell’s armoured divisions cut off for the moment. 23-00 hrs and all is quiet.
November 23rd Some slight artillery fire. Searchlights out on the Salient. Lion now in our hands. 02-00 hrs increased artillery fire. Shelling which killed john also killed Burroughs and badly wounded Raven. Butch and the 1st RHA shelled this morning. Little news of the main battle. The 144th field are having some good shots on enemy guns at “Bondi.” AA shelling Acroma cross roads and causing some confusion. A big tank battle is taking place south of Tobruck.
November 24th One of our 4•5’s is leaking oil and there is a talk of faulty ammo. Situation report:- Bardia and Caputuzzo in our hands. Here we have captured Adobi Square, and several guns. An attack by Italian guns is being repulsed by the New Zealander’s who are reported south of gambut. The Sidi Resaig action continues. Went over with Ray Rooke to see John’s grave. Battle moving North and West and the position is obscure. The enemy still continues his nightly air raids.
November 25th Zero hour at 07-30 hrs is cancelled. At 08-00 hrs there is heavy enemy shelling. Situation report. The New Zealand division have crossed the 44 grid line in the direction of Sidi Resaig. Our forces are advancing along the Bardia road with tanks in support. 4th division are cleaning up the Gambut area. The South Africans attacking Bel Amed. At 16-00 hrs a dog fight takes place along the coast, six Stukas are shot down without loss. Party on tonight at 21-00 hrs. heavy artillery barrage. 5th division are at Aigeila 100 miles South of Benghazi. Peter Raven is now dead from his wounds.
November 26th We had several near misses last night when the enemy shelled the cross roads. A German column has crossed the frontier into Egypt, but one third are destroyed and the remainder driven west. We lose Butch, and outside our tanks make contact with friendly tanks.
November 27th From 23-00 hrs last night and onwards, 0222 A group were firing on the harbour, El Adam cross roads and Wadi Auda. Despite frequent bombardments this group of heavy guns remains very active. MTB’s are seen in the harbour. The New Zealand division put in an attack last night, and our forces make contact, and take 350 prisoners of war. A heavy rainstorm blows up before lunch. As the ammo ship is in harbour, waves of RAF are overhead. The New Zealander’s hold Bel Amed and Doodah. The hospital ship left Tobruck at 19-00 hrs all lit up and looked a pretty sight.
November 28th One New Zealand battalion on El Doodah took 800 POW. 1st RHA have captured 15 tanks with crews. 17-00 hrs sees heavy Polish fire. Torrential rain is falling, and the Wadi’s are complete with water falls.
It will be seen that the push was not going to plan and several people were relieved of their commands. The object of the push was to destroy the enemy where he stood, between the triangle formed by Bardia, Fort Maddalena and Sollum, and then to relieve the garrison at Tobruck who were to sally out in support. Instead the Germans badly cut up the armour of the South Africans who had inferior tanks (Honeys) and so broke out of the pocket which was actually closed around them, and indeed things became so desperate that the garrison of Tobruck, after eight months of siege, sallied out to relieve the hard pressed Imperial forces. Fortunes of war.
November 29th The 1st RHA were last seen heading South. 0222A is still active. The HQ corps of the 8th Army is coming in along the Bardia road and is being shot up by the enemy. The Colonel, Major Fewkes, Boaz and Curtis arrive in Tobruck, as do RHQ and RHQ survey. The 60 pounders engage and destroy three enemy guns. Large batches of POW are marching along the Bardia road.
November 30th 182nd day in Tobruck. We loose El Doodah but regain it with the aid of tanks. Counter attack on Doc repulsed by fire from the 107 RHA. The 2/13 Australian battalion were brought in at El Doodah last night and they seemed glad to be at grips with the Hun. (These unfortunate creatures should have been relieved but missed the boat.) The GOC 23 Panzer division is captured, but Rommel is breaking through the British ring.
December 1st The hospital ship is in again as there have been many casualties. The news is not so good, we loose Bel Amed and perhaps Resaig. The SR base is to be switched around to face SW. Enemy attacks on Jill are repulsed. 200 Germans surrender at Bel Amed, they have no water. The German forces are now in three groups, one at Halfya, one at Tobruck and the other in the Benghazi area. These various places do not mean towns or villages, but mostly reference points on the map i.e. “high ground” in the desert, where tracks meet, and other code names for certain areas.
December 2nd BBC News. We learn about the new Russian offensives and it cheers us up. Troop ships with a naval escort are in the harbour. It is raining again. Very quiet all afternoon. 1st RHA successfully engage enemy tanks near leopard. The Germans link up their South and North forces, and once again be damned lays siege to Tobruck.
December 3rd We at last have an air shoot on 0222A and it is very successful. Some Wops surrendered to the Bedfordshires and Hertfordshires last night. We are pleased to hear that one of the Bardia harbour guns has been captured.. Enemy occupy Doc. Leopard attacked by three companies of the Africa Corps. 2 destroyed and one captured.
December 4th My 22nd birthday. The enemy is shelling Pilistrino. Infantry is seen moving away from the Doodah area. Position on Bel Amed and Leopard is quiet. El Adam road is being shelled as usual. Large fires are seen burning in the enemy lines. The cooks make me a birthday cake. The enemy engage us on the Bardia road and we suffer and inflict casualties. Enemy are concentrating in the Sidi Rezaig area. SR to move base and HQ.
Situation report:- 30 Corps and 7th Armoured division are South and West of El Adam. Enemy attacks on El Doodah repulsed by the Borderers. 7th Amd. Capture 14 heavy tanks. SR moving tonight near Fox. 30 Corps is shelling El Adam from the South. 400 POW.
December 6th Much movement along the Trig Capuzzo road and was fired upon by our artillery. Freddie area in our hands. Our patrols are moving North. Bardia area should be clear by tonight. 1st RHA wipe out a column of German infantry. Bardia Bill a 155mm gun is captured. Also captured is a large medical dump on Tiger.
December 7th There were about 20 air raids during the night. 1st RHA make contact with the 11th Hussars at Sidi Rezaig. The German divisions are astride the El Gobi-Adam road. There was a battle reported in that area. We occupy Walter and Bardia road block. 150 POW. Situation report:- Guards Bde at 4236, remains of Panzer divisions at El Adam. Mobile columns of the Kings with tanks and RHA reach Gambut without incident.
December 8th We capture points 157 and 162. Snow White, Plonk, and Queen with a great deal of equipment. The Bardia road is open. Japan declares war on the USA.
December 10th The 1st RHA are now some 4000 yards South of Madua and Polish troops occupy the salient which was formerly held by the Bersagleire. Enemy retreating Westwards, and action is taking place West of Acroma on the coast road. SR and FS bases coming in. A general line is now being consolidated, Acroma, Bir Beltona, El Duda. 5th New Zealand division and 32 tank brigade ready to move forward. 32 brigade report that they have reached the grid line 394 and no enemy encountered.
Tobruck is now relieved for us after 191 days.
N.B. Sound ranging and flash spotting are for “Static areas.”
December 11th-25th Mobile columns of FS formed but later cancelled. No1 company. Bty (that’s us) are now out of action. RAF using advance dromes. Acroma in our hands. The exchange closes down, and we join the troop at the SR HQ. RAF take over Pink house. The 5th New Zealand brigade are at Gazala. 13th Corps leave Tobruck and head for Derna. FS mobile columns leave the front. December 13th and we man a temp. exchange. “S” troop are some 8 miles up the road. We begin to think of leave, and all the comforts of civilization which have been lacking these last eight months, good food, water without salt, pretty girls (only to look at) and what have you. FS columns return, not being wanted. Battle in the desert now becoming more mobile. The Hun still sends his planes over at night, how he loves this place.
December 19th We learn the sad news that we are to deploy at Bardia where a pocket of Germans and Italians are still holding out. Derna is now in our hands.. The advance party leaves tomorrow.
December 20th South Africans arrive with transport.
December 21st Situation report:- Our troops are advancing on Solluch and Agedabia 80 miles South West of Benghazi. 300 POW.
December 23rd We leave the fortress of Tobruck after a stay lasting 205 days. At 09-15 hrs we skirt the harbour, now full of shipping, and soon reach the main Bardia road. Soon we pass through the perimeter and pass through former enemy country. Passed the air field at Gambut where evidence of battle can be seen in burnt out tanks and trucks. We soon spot the usual herds of wild camels, returning to their watering holes. About six miles from Bardia we leave the main road, turn South and climb the scarp, then East bringing us to our camp, just South of the Bardia road. Find ourselves another cave. SR base laid. There are no troops between us and the Germans. It is raining.
December 24th Slight artillery activity by both sides. Heavy rain falling. CO 68th sends his Xmas greetings. Some Xmas eve, bitter cold, raining, and we are in action. Two bases in action.
December 25th Xmas day 1941 dawned cold and wet. Our breakfast consisted of biscuits and bacon. I shaved (a rare event) and washed in a pool. Lunch was Bully beef and more biscuits. The dinner at night was a better effort, spuds, peas, and steaks, followed by fruit and tea. The officers waited on. Planes were over at dusk bombing Gambut and Bardia. Impromptu concert given by R and A troops.
December 26th Cold but the skies had cleared. Situation report:- Benghazi in our hands. Bread issue once a week. We send a Sgt. Down to Mersa Matruh in search of NAAFI.
December 27th-31st For several days formations of Blenheims and Marylands bomb the enemy positions in and around Bardia. Little AA but lots of SA fire. Spend a day looting. December 30th sees heavy artillery barrage laid down by the enemy. December 31st and Zero hour is 04-00 hrs. Heavy barrage laid down by the 6" and 4•5 lasting until 07-30 hrs. Situation obscure but by 08-00 hrs our tanks had penetrated the enemies defence lines. 2nd phase cancelled at 18-00 hrs. The first phase was successful with positions south of Bardia in our hands. New years eve, Rum issue.