Deir el Shein sources - July 1942

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Tom OBrien, May 17, 2023.

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    On my visit to the RUSI Library last week I found that no copies of ‘The History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Second World War’ by Arthur Crookenden, pub. 1949. were on the shelves now, though listed in the catalogue. A member here has the book, so PM'd them for a "look up". The Cheshire's provided x4 MMG (Vickers) to the 18th and won a Battle Honour.

    I have got used to many historian's book either miss Deir el Shein out completely, or give it a few lines, but not a significant error like this:
    From pg. 175 in 'the Desert War: The North African Campaign 1940-1943' by the late Australian author Alan Morehead, pub. 1965.
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  2. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    That's the worst description of 1 July 42 I have ever seen.

    All the best

  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Thanks to dryan67 for a scan of the relevant pgs. from the official history of The Cheshire Regiment, I have assembled a short section on their presence as below.

    The Cheshire Regiment 2nd Battalion (detachment)

    There are a few references to a detachment with four MMG (Vickers) being present and that they earned a Battle Honour, however there is little else.

    The regimental history[1] has very little detail.

    The (2nd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment[2]) used trucks for transport and appear to have had a number of carriers (i.e. the Bren Gun Carrier). During the retreat instead of four companies it became two, each of four platoons (one platoon had one Vickers and five German Spandaus).

    ‘On 26-27/6/1942 Major (P.J.[3]) Gold took command of ‘B’ Company[4], with Lieutenant P. Huddlestone[5], (they) had reached the El Alamein line on the 29th June and had had been sent at once to the El Shein point on Ruweisat Ridge. A position was taken up with a company of Gurkhas on Point 63[6], on Ruweisat Ridge.’

    ‘Soon after breakfast on 1st July, after a summons to surrender, the Germans attacked and overran the two other battalions, while several German tanks were loose inside the perimeter.’

    ‘Major Gold and the Gurkha Company, Captain P. Joynes[7], decided to hold onto dark… and left’ (eventually arriving at Amiriya-Meropolis transit camp). Major Gold was using a tracked carrier.(Regt. History ends).

    The CWGC shows twelve dead in the 2nd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment 26/6-4/7/1942; seven have no known grave and are commemorated on memorials. None appear to have died on 1/7/1942.

    Comment: Point 63 is at the western end of Ruweisat Ridge and nothing has been found that anyone was positioned there before or on 1/7/1942. The 2/3rd QAO ‘B’ Company was commanded by a Captain Joynes, they were positioned alongside the battalion defending Deir el Shein. There is no mention of ‘B’ Company in the QAO War Diary of their escape nor that Captain Joynes was captured. Ruweisat Ridge is solid rock, so digging in was impossible (as others found after 1/7/1942). Jephson’s book refers to a hundred Gurkhas who escaped from Deir el Shein joining ‘RobCol’ the next day to defend the ridge. Crookenden’s account is simply wrong.

    [1] See pgs.59-60 in ‘The History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Second World War’ by Arthur Crookenden, pub. 1949.

    [2] A full battalion establishment was x24 Vickers MMG. Assigned to the 50th (Northumbrian) Division, from 1 February 1941 to early December 1944. See for 1942: 2nd. Bat. Chesire Regiment MG during 1942

    [3] Original commissioning details not found and unable to fully name him. Transfer from RASC to Cheshire, as a Lieutenant 10/9/1938. From: Promoted to Lieutenant to Captain with 4/5th Cheshire (as Acting Adjutant) from 20/4/1939. From: Promoted Lt. to Captain 31/1/1943. From: From pre-D-Day notes as with battalion. From: 2nd Battalion The Cheshire Regiment Febuary 1944, War Diary » Normandy War Guide Promoted from Captain (68513) to Major 31/1/1948. From: Leaves Army Reserve on age 2110/1963. From:

    [4] Ancestry do have their War Diary 2nd Cheshire Regiment 1942 - pp. 18924-19526; it may only be ‘B’ Company. See: Ancestry - War Diaries Update: access gained see Post 212.

    [5] Not identified.

    [6] There are many references to Ruweisat Ridge here, Deir el Shein is at the western end of the ridge and various distances are cited for the distance they are apart. Point 63 is at the western end. A sketch for after the battle is in the Imagery Section. Nothing has been found that anyone was positioned there.

    [7] Fully id’d as ‘B’ Company C.O. and full name Charles Peter Anthony Joynes commissioned in Indian Army 6/6/1940. From: Appears to have joined British Army, reached Lt. Col. in Royal Artillery by 1962. See: 1962 New Year Honours - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2024
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  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Attached are the four pgs. from Crookenden's book.

    Attached Files:

  5. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Thanks again for upgrading me from dryan67 to dryan69, but I prefer the old moniker.
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  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    If it's an allusion to your year of birth, he's generously striving to make you younger.
  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    OK, a repeated error I shall go for a walk! Thanks David & Charley for your encouragement and help (plus others).
  8. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Good guess, but it is the year I graduated high school.
  9. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Here is the 2nd Cheshire Regiment M-G war diary for the period from 29 June to 5 July 1942:

    WD01.jpeg WD02.jpeg WD03.jpeg WD04.jpeg
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  10. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Here is Captain Martin's account of events in the 2nd Cheshire Regiment from 28 June to 1 July 1942 from the war diary:

    Events_28_Jun_1_Jul_42A.jpeg Events_28_Jun_1_Jul_42B.jpeg Events_28_Jun_1_Jul_42C.jpeg
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2024
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  11. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    More homework then. Thanks. Might take a couple of days.
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  12. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    2nd Cheshire Regiment War Diary for the period 29 June to 5 July 1942

    Provided by dryan67 and comes in two parts the Diary (4 pgs.) and an Appendix (3 pgs.) which is Captain C. Martin's account of events 28 June to 1 July 1942. All the pgs. can be viewed on Post 209 on: Deir el Shein sources - July 1942

    I have extracted a few points relevant to the context of events on 1/7/1942 and some details, including new information. Information in brackets has been added.

    War Diary

    The battalion used a mix of tracked ‘carriers’ and trucks to move around in. (It was the 50th Division[1]’s machine gun battalion, it too suffered heavy losses before Deir el Shein).

    On 29/6/1942 Battalion HQ, only part, stopped two miles from Deir el Shein in a night laager.

    On 30/6/1942 1200hrs ‘B’ Company led by Captain Gold[2] was at El Alamein and (were directed to Deir el Shein[3]) where they established ‘a position on high ground with ‘B’ Company, 2/3rd Gurkhas.

    On 1/7/1942 1030hrs a “surrender party”[4] arrived and ‘this turns out to be Captain Martin’s party’.

    Comment: There is a note ‘P.L. de ‘C[5] and he is fully identified.

    On 2/7/1942 a platoon was on Ruweisat Ridge, under the command of Lt. Col. Stansfield[6].


    This refers in some detail to the capture, escape and re-capture of “Captain Martin’s party”, the other two members being Lieutenant Mathieson, of the Cheshire 2nd Battalion and Trooper Hoyle[7], 4th (Queens Own) Hussars[8].

    The party were initially captured by soldiers from 21st Panzer Division, on 30/6/1942 at 0800hrs and were moved away in a small convoy. The officers hid their identity – when the officers were separated from the Other Ranks. At one point a German officer in a staff car flying a black & white chequered flag[9] appeared and the party were told they would be questioned – this did not happen. They moved on in a four column ‘B’ Echelon convoy, with twenty-four Mk.III tanks and two thousand captured British trucks. At one point their truck was looking without success for Hauptman(n) Schott[10] (an intelligence officer) and then stopped.

    (On 1/7/1942)

    ‘As it became lighter German (captured) 25-pounders began firing and we could see shells falling about a mile and a half away. Shells from our own 25-pounders came back and were falling short.’

    With daylight came Boston bombers[11] ‘their moral(e) effect was considerable…’

    At 1030hrs the party were taken to Divisional HQ and Lt. Mathieson was told by Hauptman(n) Schott to deliver a surrender message[12] to the nearby box, using a Bren Gun Carrier and told to use a white flag.

    The party left at 1105hrs and arrived by 1110hrs, Initially they were met by a Company Commander from the Essex Regiment, then taken to Brigade Headquarters, where there was an Acting Brigadier from the Gurkhas, their story was told and the party was sent onto 1st Armoured HQ and then to 30 Corps HQ[13]. The party then learnt their captors were the 15th Panzer Division. The tale of the German officer in a staff car, with such a flag. We were told it could have been Rommel.

    [1] See: 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division - Wikipedia

    [2] Not id’d in online research.

    [3] From Crookenden’s regimental history

    [4] Recorded in several war diaries and documents seen.

    [5] There is a thread for Peter Lawrence de Carteret Martin, 95604, of the Cheshire Regiment. Who served with the 2nd Battalion in North Africa. See: 95604 Major-General Peter Lawrence de Carteret MARTIN, CBE, MiD*, Cheshire Regiment

    [6] He was the new C.O, after Deir el Shein. of 121 Field Regiment till September 1942, when he too was ill and replaced (possibly for two months). He has been fully id’d in the main paper..

    [7] Not id’d in online research.

    [8] See: 4th Queen's Own Hussars - Wikipedia They were in North Africa and badly mauled before 1/7/1942.

    [9] Not verified by online research.

    [10] Not id’d in online research.

    [11] See: Douglas A-20 Havoc - Wikipedia A light bomber when in North Africa.

    [12] Fully recorded elsewhere

    [13] There are different accounts about where they went first, Brigadier Nichols wanted them to attend 10th Indian Division (where he was in command) and he may have known them when with 50th Division’s 151 Brigade.
  13. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Just re-reading "Crisis in the Desert" by Agar-Hamilton and Turner about the 1st July 1942 and note on p.275 that they say that:

    "18th Indian Brigade in Deir el Shein was instructed to send back two of its battalions and all 'surplus' personnel and transport, and was in the middle of re-organisation on the 1st July."

    Has anyone seen sources for either (a) those instructions and/or (b) the remark about "re-organisation"?

    Would the latter have impacted on the digging-in of anti-tank guns perhaps? Given that the South Africans were instructed to form two colns from 1st and 2nd SA Bdes which each consisted of an infantry battalion and two batteries of artillery (25-pdrs I assume), is there any evidence to suggest whether a similar 18th Indian Bde coln was intended to be organised? But where located?


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  14. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    Back late from the funeral for Mike Sadler, ex-LRDG and then an 'original' in the SAS, so an interim reply. There are from memory a few comments on the form a column from the 18th Indian Brigade. I will endeavour to reply tomorrow.
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  15. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Some more on the macro-scale for you to digest.

    SmartSelect_20240420_161501_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161516_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161544_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161604_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161636_Gallery.jpg
  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    And this is more interesting (I may be biased):

    SmartSelect_20240420_161647_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161711_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161818_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161839_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161854_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161905_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161926_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_161952_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_162018_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_162059_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_162124_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_162143_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_162205_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20240420_162228_Gallery.jpg
  17. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Thank you Charley. I've skimmed through both gifts over breakfast and will pick out items later.
  18. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Back to Tom's question in Post 213:
    It does appear in the 121 Field Regiment regimental history and War Diary, summarised as: '0330 1/7/1942 18th Bde CO, Lt. Col. Gray and OC 121 FR return with orders to form a mobile column.' Plus in the Essex Regimental history.

    The Official British History[2] states the brigade: ‘was struggling to organize itself on the latest column idea.’[3]

    The orders to retire feature in statements[4] later made by General Norris 30 Corps Commander) and Brigadier Meade Dennis[5] (Commander Royal Artillery, 30 Corps).

    Rooney also refers to such an order before 1/7/1942: 'In addition to two major tasks (defence of the box and becoming a Jock column).'

    Tom has provided 30 Corps War Diary and it states:
    Comment: It is odd that only one of the three infantry battalion war diaries or regimental history, mention this and the consequent disorganization. That one battalion's history was the Essex and not the Sikhs who were to go. So, 18th Brigade's orders were for the defence of the box and becoming a Jock column (plus a being a checkpoint for retreating units). I don't recall seeing such a written order. Then on the night before the Afrika Korps offensive - which intelligence exists for, hence Auchinleck's Army Order - someone at 30 Corps remembers or decides time for a column, summons the two officers to a meeting and they return to start the reorganization at 0330hrs. By 0700hrs the Germans began shelling.

    I hope this helps Tom and others understand. I have used a word searches to find the information.

    For The South African ‘Official History Crisis in the Desert: May - July 1942’ by J.A.L. Agar-Hamilton and L.C.F. Turner. See the scanned pgs. on Posts 15-16: Deir el Shein sources - July 1942

    [2] Page 331-341 Chapter 14: The Fighting in the El Alamein Line; History of the Second World War: United Kingdom Military Series, Edited by Sir James Butler The Mediterranean and Middle East: Volume 3, British Fortunes Reach Their Lowest Ebb. From: UK MME 03 British Fortunes Reach Their Lowest Ebb: Table of Contents

    [3] Tom O’Brien found in ‘Dilemmas of the Desert War’ by Michael Carver refers to Auchinleck ‘tried to break up infantry divisions on 25th June 1942’ pg. 100 and ordered the reorganization on 27th June 1942 see pg. 127.

    [4] See: WO 106/2235 covers 6/10/1941-8/7/1942. Operations in the Western desert 1942 May-July: court of enquiry report Vol.II | The National Archives Note Colvin refers to this as the Tobruk Enquiry - I have not pursued this document.

    [5] See for background only: Biography of Major-General Meade Edward Dennis (1893 – 1965), Great Britain and 5574 Major-General Meade Edward DENNIS, CB, CBE, DSO, MC, MiD***, Royal Artillery
    Tom OBrien likes this.
  19. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Great finds, thanks.

    I just got back from walking the dog and halfway round thought "Niall Barr"!! He references statements by Norrie (Cmdr 30 Corps), Dennis (CRA 30 Corps) and Brig. G.S. Hatton (BGS 30 Corps). All from WO 106/2235 which is the second file containing details of a Court of Enquiry. I've heard before that there was an Enquiry into the fall of Tobruk but hadn't realised that it was broader in scope.

    There is more about Auchinleck's thoughts (or maybe D-S's?) about the best structure of divisions in the desert in his letter to Brooke of 25 July 1942 and the difficulty he faced because of the Commonwealth nature of his army and the resulting independence of some of his formation commanders. Others might think that the latter, at least, was sensible resistance to mistaken direction from 8th Army and actually helped rather than hindered. That's probably for a different thread though!

    I'm off to Kew at the beginning of May for a day so will take a look at the Court of Enquiry file as that looks like it probably contains much of interest.


  20. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    See Post 12 in: Fall of Tobruk I think that is how I became aware of the Court of (Tobruk) Enquiry.

    Oddly, both an online search and using the forum's search option does not identify anyone - here - who has encountered this document / set of documents.

    An online search did find the below footnotes from 'Raising Churchill's Army: The British Army and the War against Germany 1919-1945' by David French, pub. 2001 and has a chapter on The Desert War 1940-1942, with x28 pgs. The book appears in a few threads here and is in two local libraries in Birmingham. One for the "To Do" list.


    The Court is referred to in three other places via Google Books, in the footnotes. Not a book I recall encountering before.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2024

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