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.




Red Army assault on the German lines

A German soldier keeps watch from his trench with a Panzerbüchse - an anti tank rifle - at the ready.

Our observation post is quickly altered into a defensive position. The camouflage tarp is removed and a step is dug into the wall in order to bring the machine gun into place. Hand grenades are lined up, ready to be used. The bayonet is attached to the rifle to prepare for one- on-one battle. The Reds have managed to break through to the right of our position. Quite a few are torn apart by the mines, but the Red devils don’t mind a few hundred casualties.




Fighting off a heavy bombing raid on Tobruk

The bombing of Tobruk harbour on the 1st September 1941, the port was littered with sunken ships.

After that they came in thick and fast, bombs landing continuously all round us. Three guns went out of action but the fourth (Sergeant Edwards) went on battling magnificently, fighting them off as they came in. The L.A.A. gun fought gloriously, fighting back with 120 rounds until a bomb landed within three feet of them wounding all of them and putting their gun out of action. All were taken off in an ambulance. One lad was killed and six wounded.




Tribute to the Garrison of Tobruk

The 'Bush artillery' in action at Tobruk - soldiers from all branches of the army were drafted in to make use of captured Italian guns.

Everyone in Tobruk thinks the other fellow is the best in the world. Each Australian Brigade maintains that its associated British Artillery is incomparable. All within the perimeter share the day’s hazard, and at Fortress Headquarters a General, who fought in Gallipoli, calls his garrison a team.




Falling back in Greece

German artillery during the invasion of Greece, 1941

One morning three bombs landed not twenty yards from the hole we were crouching in, covering us with filth, my tent was torn in three places by jagged pieces of bomb splinters. Forty yards from my tent a huge bomb tore a hole in the ground twenty feet deep and seventy feet wide. After dropping their bombs they fly low and machine-gun us because we have no planes to chase them-off – the sky is THEIRS.




Germans and British clash in the desert

German panzers in the Libyan desert as they prepared to strike against British positions.

The Fusiliers had a most fearsome reputation. The unit was made up of hard, uncompromising men of little polish; they obeyed their own officers but treated anyone else in authority with contempt, particularly base depot personnel. They were the dourest fighters we were to meet in a long day’s march and we were always glad to have them about.




British forces enter Italian Eritrea

Indian troops cross the Atbara river with their motor transport on a pontoon raft as they move into Italian occupied Eritrea.

On the 19th January the first of the 4.5 Batteries went into action and did some very accurate shooting, so vindicating or justifying our ‘fudging and improvisation’. On the same day Italian Savoyas strafed us and we managed to bring one down with rifle fire and one LMG. A newly arrived Hurricane, probably the only one in East Africa, brought down another. Although all a little bit “gung ho”, the South Africans were all a very good crowd but so different from the Army types I had been used to. Discipline was there one assumed, but it wasn’t too obvious.




British forces maintain pressure on Tobruk

The siege of Tobruk continued. A battery of the famous British '25 pounder' artillery guns.

The garrison of Tobruk, believed to comprise one Italian division and certain ancillary troops, including 6,000 frontier guards, is still invested by our forces. There is also reason to believe that it has been reinforced by the two Blackshirt generals who retired from Bardia. If Tobruk falls, it is difficult to forecast where the Italians will make their next stand.




British capture Sidi Barrani from Italians

Sidi Barrani

08.30 direct shell burst on gun-fell flat on my side & passed out for half a minute – came to and saw my left arm jerking up and down – thought at first it had been blown off – heard someone say ‘Gawd-the Captain’s been killed’ – so managed to sit up and say ‘no, you bugger, fire the gun’




British coastal defences prepare for invasion

The crew of a coastal gun emplacement 'somewhere in England' prepare for action.

All forward companies have completed very good defensive positions. In the interior there is plenty of room and the men are very comfortable when they have to sleep at their posts. On the exterior there is a diversity of camouflage varying from rubbish heaps to innocent looking fishing huts. Along the beach both at Dunwich and Southwold, also Walberswick, there is an imposing array of concrete anti-tank obstacles, which in some places pass right in front of the section post.