As St Valery was a picking up point for the wounded, a lifeboat was stationed there. This was brought into action to ferry the wounded out of the harbour in spite of the fact that no hospital ship was stationed outside the harbour. A brisk fire fight was now taking place across the harbour and a German machine gunner made the lifeboat his target. A row of bullet holes appeared on the side of the boat and it drifted away – the rowers, being wounded, were no longer able to manoeuvre the boat.
General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief, Middle East Command, led 82,775 men from the United Kingdom, India, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Britain’s African colonies. They faced 415,000 Italian troops stationed in Libya and East Africa. Nevertheless, it was British forces that took the initiative on the night of 11-12 June 1940, when units of the newly arrived 7th Armoured Division crossed the Libyan border and took the first Italian prisoners.