1941

Nov

26

1941

Panzer attack causes confusion in North Africa

A British tank passes a burning German during Operation Crusader, November 1941.

Prisoners became gaolers. Men were captured and escaped three or four times. Half a dozen isolated engagements were going on. Field dressing stations and hospitals were taking in British and German and Italian wounded impartially, and as the battle flowed back and forth the hospitals would sometimes be under British command, sometimes under German.

Nov

25

1941

The sudden loss of HMS Barham

The moment when HMS Barham's magazine exploded after being torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

I saw water pouring into her funnels. There followed a big explosion amidships, from which belched black and brown smoke intermingled with flames. Pieces of wreckage, Hung high into the air, were scattered far and wide, the largest piece being about the size of my writing-desk.

Nov

24

1941

HMS Dunedin sunk in the south Atlantic

Built in 1917 the aged cruiser HMS Dunedin was patrolling between Brazil and Africa when she was sunk on the 24th.

The swell gave the rafts a considerable motion which made it difficult at times to keep on them, but the men got some sleep by huddling together and the night did not seem unduly cold. Many of the men were scantily clad and some were naked. Some were without lifebelts. Most of the badly wounded cases died during the first night…

Nov

23

1941

Captain Philip Gardner wins the VC

Captain Philip Gardner after recovering from sustained wounds whilst rescuing a fellow soldier in the desert.

With the tow-rope now secured, Gardner was signalling the driver to move when a bullet struck him in the leg, fortunately not breaking it. As the tank moved, the tow-rope parted — probably shot away. Despite his own wound, Gardner returned to the armoured car, lifted Beame out and staggered back to his tank, half carrying and half dragging him.

Nov

22

1941

Another VC at Sidi Rezegh

Campbell at his investiture with the Victoria Cross by the Commander in Chief, General Sir Claude Auchinleck. Campbell was awarded the VC for his action at Sidi Rezergh, 21 - 22 November 1941.

During the final enemy attack on the 22nd November he was wounded, but continued most actively in the foremost positions, controlling the fire of batteries which inflicted heavy losses on enemy tanks at point blank range, and finally acted as loader to one of the guns himself. Throughout these two days his magnificent example and his utter disregard of personal danger were an inspiration to his men and to all who saw him.

Nov

21

1941

John Beeley wins the VC at Sidi Rezegh

Comrades of Rifleman John Beeley VC of 1st King's Royal Rifle Corps, who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross at the Battle of Sidi Rezegh on 21 November 1941, working on a cross to be placed over his grave, 22 May 1942.

On his own initiative, and when there was no sort of cover, Rifleman Beeley got to his feet carrying a Bren gun and ran forward towards a strong enemy post containing an anti-tank gun. The post was silenced and Rifleman Beeley’s platoon was enabled to advance, but Rifleman Beely fell dead across his gun, hit in at least four places.

Nov

20

1941

High expectations of Operation Crusader

Matilda tanks on the move outside the perimeter of Tobruk, Libya, 18 November 1941.

For the first time British and Empire troops will meet Germans with an ample equipment in modern weapons of all kinds. The battle itself will affect the whole course of the War. Now is the time to strike the hardest blow yet for final Victory, Home and Freedom. The Desert Army may add a page to history which will rank with Blenheim and with Waterloo. The eyes of all nations are upon you.

Nov

19

1941

HMAS Sydney sunk with all hands

There were no survivors from the sinking of the light cruiser HMAS Sydney giving rise to much speculation over the years.

At 3.55 pm the look-out reported a sighting fine on the port bow. It was at first thought to be a sail, but was soon identified as a warship. At 4pm Detmers – Kormorans captain – sent his crew to action stations, altered course WSW into the sun, and ordered full speed-about fifteen knots

Nov

18

1941

Operation Crusader aims to relieve Tobruk

A 25-pdr Field Gun firing at night in the desert, somewhat later in the war.

‘FIRE’ and another shell hurtles into the enemy front line. We have just fifteen seconds to get each shell loaded, the gun correctly aligned and the firing lever pulled. The range is four thousand, five hundred yards. Fifty yards are added to the range, the Gunlayer makes the correction to the elevation and Number One checks ‘FIRE’ and another shell screams away into the darkness.

Nov

17

1941

Raiding party attempts to capture Rommel

Geoffery Keyes, the youngest L c in the British army at the time, was fatally wounded whilst leading the raid on Rommel's desert base.

From the outset Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes deliberately selected for himself the command of the detachment detailed to attack what was undoubtedly the most hazardous of these objectives—the residence and Headquarters of the General Officer Commanding the German forces in North Africa. This attack, even if initially successful, meant almost certain death for those who took part in it.