Germans reach the first of the Russian oilfields

9th August 1942: Germans reach the first of the Russian oilfields

We had reached the Maikop area, and the village ahead of us was held by the enemy, who hung on tenaciously and would not give way. We made a snap decision and set the thatched roofs alight to burn the enemy out. Within a few moments of opening fire with incendiary rounds, the first houses were on fire. The infantry then began to make good progress. In accordance with my orders, I moved my gun forward to the center ofthe village square to cover the infantry attack against possible surprises from the south. But there was not a single enemy tank to be seen.




A narrow escape in the Desert

22nd July 1942: A narrow escape in the Desert

The Aucklanders and my own H.Q. crew were hard at work, scraping shallow foxholes in the silt of the depression, and the battle looked like pausing until first light. Might as well rest a bit, ready for the day ahead; so I got down on the old bed-roll and “died”, leaving Crowley to dig in the Div. wireless set against possible trouble.

Forty minutes later, Cliff George woke me up, reporting his safe arrival. I told him what the plan would be at first light, and to rest his men until we could see enough to put them at it. The hour was probably about a quarter to five. He disappeared into the dark and I started putting my boots on.

Then hell broke loose. An Auckland carrier came dashing in across the depression, yelling “Stand to! Tanks! Lots of the bastards”. But that was obvious. A deluge of “golden rain” fell on us from the northern edge of the depression about four hundred yards away.




‘Black Saturday’ for the British Eighth Army

13th June 1942: ‘Black Saturday’ for the British Eighth Army

With the first light the two armies were engaged. Almost at once the battlefield was covered over with rolling sand and the smoke of buming oil. Confused orders and messages were flying over the radio on both sides.

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.

And the battle was ferocious. In an attempt to get within range the British charged headlong upon the German positions. In a few minutes it was a massacre for both sides. From dozens of concealed positions the 88s opened up a tremendous belt of fire. Those British tanks, which had somehow escaped the opening salvoes and got right up to the enemy, found themselves exposed and deserted by their comrades who had fallen by the way.




South African dawn patrol snatches prisoners

24th February 1942: Desert War – South African dawn patrol snatches prisoners

They were miles out, in a kind of valley. Stirton stumbled on a German position about a company strong, only a Sentry half-asleep. Barney yelled, ‘Share that with your friends’ and lobbed a grenade. There was pandemonium. Shouts, screams the patrol’s tommy guns pouring in fire.




Rommel remains confident despite retreat

Operations going as planned so far. Our mines and Luftwaffe are making things difficult for the enemy pursuit. To think that we’ve got our force back 300 miles to a good line, without suffering serious harm, and in spite of the fact that the bulk of it is non-motorised! That our “ unemployed ” generals are grousing all the time doesn’t surprise me. Criticism doesn’t cost much.




Intense cold brings misery to the German Army

Lorries have long since been off the roads. Horse-drawn sleighs are the only means of locomotion. Tragic scenes of retreat recur with ever greater frequency. We have few aircraft. In temperatures like these engines are short-lived. As previously when we had the initiative we go out in support of our ground troops, now fighting to hold the attacking Soviets.




British tanks still outgunned in the desert

Closer and closer the German tanks came, and miraculously our line held. Again, somehow, the enemy had been able to muster almost fifty tanks. Against the inferior armour and gun-power of our only slightly more numerous Honeys it was almost enough to give victory.




Panzer attack causes confusion in North Africa

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.




Captain Philip Gardner wins the VC

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.




Another VC at Sidi Rezegh

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.