Bardia Captured

The cold light of day - a few of the 40,000 Italians that surrendered to the 6th Australian Division at Bardia

The first major engagement of Australian forces in the war had been an unqualified success. The lessons of the First World War had not been forgotten, the close integration of artillery with the infantry assault and then the rapid exploitation of the breaches in defence line. Some 16,000 troops had overcome a defending force nearly three times their size. The Australians lost 130 men killed against over 1000 Italians. Huge numbers of prisoners once again had to be dealt with but the enormous amount of material captured, including over 700 lorries, proved especially valuable.

Corporal Hoffman watched the prisoners being escorted away:

Fascist flamboyance was exhibited by a captured major in a column of prisoners. When it had reached a safe spot he rushed to the head of the column and baring his chest to them, cried (in Italian): ‘Shoot me … and save my honour’. This brave Roman exhortation must be read with the obvious knowledge that whatever the prisoners had, they certainly had nothing with which to shoot anybody. The ‘suicidal’ major repeated his gesture of honour several times until an Australian sentry approached with a bayonet levelled at the seat of his pants and said: ‘Get back, you mug, before I shoot you’. The terrorized Fascist major skipped back into line at the double.

See The Imperial War Museum Book of the Desert War 1940 – 1942

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Keith McLennan January 6, 2012 at 11:38 pm

‘Get back, you mug’ has the authentic Aussie ring to it. Sounds like the SCG!

But I think it should be “baring his chest” (not “bearing” it).

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