June 1942

Jun

21

1942

‘Stunned amazement’ and confusion in the desert

The Axis Offensive 1941 - 1942: The exposed nature of the terrain made air raids a serious hazard for troops in the desert. The crew of a British truck lie on the ground and cover their heads while their vehicle is bombed.

The NAAFI storemen are machine-gunning stocks of beer worth £20 000. I feel an enormous apathy as I watch others rushing about with cases of canned fruit, liquor, jam. There is a mad abundance. I see men hacking tins open with bayonets, drinking the syrup and chucking the cans aside.

Jun

20

1942

The fall of Tobruk

German troops make their way into the burning port of Tobruk.

Shells were coming more often now, the tanks with their big guns, had now got sight of the harbour. Boats of all kinds were trying to get away. Some were burning from end to end, passing just by our port, some of the men were jumping off and swimming to shore, some jumped off with kit on their backs and sunk. Later the rocket guns on the Harbour side were blown up, we began to think then.

Jun

18

1942

The British retreat in the Desert continues

A Grant tank crew loading up with ammunition from a truck, 18 June 1942.

Old King Cole was hollow cheeked and was beginning to look drudged with weariness. His moustache was droopy and his eyes were red. He had two septic places on his face and, every now and then his right eye twitched uncontrollably. He was unshaven and gaunt. From his dusty boots to his battered hat he was taking on the colour of the desert.

Jun

17

1942

The strain of constant battle readiness on Malta

A Vickers Wellington Mark IC of No. 38 Squadron RAF Detachment, taxying at Luqa, Malta. Seven aircraft of the Squadron were detached to Malta from Shallufa, Egypt, between August and October 1941 for operations over the Mediterranean and Italy.

What really worries me is the way my body’s in open revolt. For weeks past I’ve fought the increasing Dog pain, and, in the last few days, its utter lifelessness; but this morning I’ve been vomiting without success in the ruins of a stone house behind my Spitfire, vomiting into my oxygen mask while flying over the harbour, and repeatedly leaving this tent after coming down on the ground again.

Jun

16

1942

The ‘Gazala Gallop’ gets under way

A 25-pdr field gun firing at night, June 1942.

A troop of heavy artillery pieces were attacked by German tanks which closed in under the range of the guns. The men stood to attention by their pieces after the guns were spiked and awaited capture. They were shot to a man. The only men who escaped were the ammunition files some distance behind the guns. Whether this deed was committed out of sheer savagery or because of the inability to take prisoners no one knows.

Jun

15

1942

HMS Bedouin charges the Italian fleet

The 'Tribal class' destroyer HMS Bedouin at anchor in Iceland when she was waiting to join an Arctic convoy.

I knew the bridge had been hit; the compass repeater was shaken out of its gimbals and I had had water and paint flakes dashed at me, but the splendid Bedouin was forging ahead and closing the gap minute by minute, Montgomery was passing news to the plot and Moller was standing by to fire torpedoes – wounded himself and with his assistant lying dead beside him.

Jun

14

1942

Under Stuka dive bomb attack in the Mediterranean

The old World war I battleship HMS Centurion had been reclassified as a convoy escort ship and was at the centre of Operation Vigorous.

The enemy was obviously using every available aircraft in a determined effort to claim as many victims as possible before nightfall restricted aerial activity. But, in spite of the number of bombers engaged, they obtained no more hits. As the day slowly advanced, weary cursing, sweating gunners, firing as fast as their ammunition could be loaded, cast many an apprehensive glance at the sun. They dreaded the coming twilight but hoped that the following darkness would bring them a little respite.

Jun

13

1942

‘Black Saturday’ for the British Eighth Army

German panzer III tank with burning British lorry.

The front line British tanks called for assistance, and launched an attack from the north to cut through the base of Rommel’s wedge. They ran at once on the 88-millimetre guns that had been concealed in the night. Simultaneously, the tip of the enemy wedge threatened the British armoured headquarters which were forced to decamp hurriedly eastwards. During this move the headquarters lost contact with a great part of the tanks joined in battle.

Jun

12

1942

Under Stuka dive bomb attack in the desert

A CMP 3-ton truck carrying infantry passes along a road as bombs from Stuka dive-bombers explode in the distance, 4 June 1942.

A solitary Bofors gun to the north loosed off a magazine clip of five. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. We knew only too well what that meant. The familiar prelude to an air raid. Someone shouted, ‘Coulu’ and Lieutenant Hester Hewitt, who was relaying fire orders form the O.P. yelled, ‘Take cover.’ We dived into the slit trenches. ‘The bastards are early this morning,’ said Ross, ‘they must have taken off in the fugging dark.’

Jun

10

1942

Public now optimistic about the war’s outcome

The Photographic Division of the Ministry of Information kept  a comprehensive record of life on the home front in war time Britain.Mrs D Cheatle of 16 Athol Road, Sheffield, operates a Capstan lathe at a munitions factory in Yorkshire, 1942

One marked feature of this steadily mounting wave of optimism is a belief, reported from many quarters, that the war against Germany will “be over this year”. The emergence of a similar belief lias been noted in the U.S.A. and the leaders in that country have been setting themselves to combat this feeling and to warn their public that there is still a long and hard task ahead of them before victory.