Sam Falle was an officer on board the destroyer HMS Encounter, operating out of Alexandria in October 1941. Their principal role was to do the overnight ‘beef and spuds’ run along the coast to the besieged garrison of Tobruk. Apart from resupply, the Australian troops were being withdrawn during these operations, being replaced with Polish and English units:
Three destroyers and a minelayer carried fresh troops, supplies and ammunition under cover of darkness. We made two successful trips and it was a great joy to take 350 gallant Aussies on board each time, fill them with beer and take them back to Alex.
This was fine as long as it was dark, but then some crass idiot decided we should make the trip by moonlight. Crazy, we were spitting distance away from the German North African airbases. We were lucky they had not spotted us in the dark – it is never completely dark – but to try in moonlight… one wonders at the idiocy of man.
As we approached Tobruk the Germans spotted us and launched a fiendish dive-bombing’attack. They quickly scored direct hits on the minelayer Latona, which was carrying ammunition. She was soon a blazing inferno, with ammunition exploding all over her. The ship’s company either jumped overboard or ran to the fo’c’s’le, which was the only part of the ship not blazing.
Rattler Morgan [HMS Encounter], an unsung hero if ever there was one, decided that we were going to rescue Latona’s survivors.
Under furious bombing, he took Encounter alongside Latona’s fo’c’s’le, our starboard to their port side, and we lowered ladders down our port side. We got most of Latona’s crew and returned safely to Alex. Morgan received no recognition at all for this extraordinary achievement, but somebody up there loved us.
It had been a busy day in Tobruk:
The garrison of Tobruk have continued their offensive patrolling and have inflicted considerable casualties on the enemy. Enemy shelling was continuous throughout the week and was particularly heavy on the 25th October, when 267 rounds were fired in the western sector, 187 in the southern sector and 181 in the eastern sector. The damage has, however, been slight, and there is evidence that our counter battery-fire has been effective.
From the Military Situation Report for the week, as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/19/25.