Tobruk

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by spidge, Jan 28, 2007.

  1. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Hi Brian,

    My fathers name was Arthur Richard Lovett.

    Regards

    Des


    Des,

    I have Gnr A.R. Lovett 946402 In PG65 as of August 1943.

    Brian
     
  2. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Des,
    PG 65 Gravina was quite a large Camp with 5 sections and two Detachments PG65 I & PG65 11.
    Lt. Col. Attilo Coppola was in overall Command.

    In 1945 you Father is show as registered in St.4D/Z Annaburg. His P.O.W. No.was 228078

    Hope this fill a few gaps.

    Brian
     
  3. SeasideAndy

    SeasideAndy Junior Member

    Many thanks for that Drew 5233. I do have the info the MOD sent me but as you probably know they are very basic.
    Again thanks
    seasideandy
     
  4. penance

    penance Member

    Hi all, my first post here. I recognise a few names from other forums, hi guys!!

    Regarding SeaqsideAndys post:

    Headquarters, TOBRUCH FORTRESS, 20 Oct 41.
    My dear Muirhead,
    Would you please convey to all ranks of the 4th Anti-Aircraft Brigade the appreciation and esteem of the 9th Australian division. We shall always associate Tobruch with their magnificent and sustained defence and ever remember their courageous and victorious fight against great odds. The fire discipline and steadiness inspiration to all and we are sad to have to sever an association which has meant so much to us in the execution of our task here. Yours sincerely, (Sgd) L.J. Morshead.
    Brigadier J.S. Muirhead DSO, MC, TD., Commander 4th A.A. Brigade.



    I also have a copy of the letter, issued to my Grandfather BDR Wallbridge.

    He served with 51 HAA Regiment 153 Battery.
    I also have a book that is an officers diary from the 51 HAA Regiment, in the book he states it as a departing message from the fortress Comander.

    I believe the letter was issued to the AA defence batteries that helped against the raids on Tobruk.
    The book is called 'Top Hats In Tobruk' by Kenneth Rankin.
    The 51st HAA had been home defence at Hyde Park before going to Norway, hence the top hat refference.

    I hope this is of some interest.

    As an aside, here is a picture of my Grandads battery in action. I knew this was taken near Tobruk but have recently discovered (with help from IWM) that the picture was taken during January 1941, it shows the 3.7" guns of 153 battery being used in field artillery role, shelling Italian installations in Tobruk.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. Bodston

    Bodston Little Willy

    Hi all, my first post here. I recognise a few names from other forums, hi guys!!

    Regarding SeaqsideAndys post:



    I also have a copy of the letter, issued to my Grandfather BDR Wallbridge.

    He served with 51 HAA Regiment 153 Battery.
    I also have a book that is an officers diary from the 51 HAA Regiment, in the book he states it as a departing message from the fortress Comander.

    I believe the letter was issued to the AA defence batteries that helped against the raids on Tobruk.
    The book is called 'Top Hats In Tobruk' by Kenneth Rankin.
    The 51st HAA had been home defence at Hyde Park before going to Norway, hence the top hat refference.

    I hope this is of some interest.

    As an aside, here is a picture of my Grandads battery in action. I knew this was taken near Tobruk but have recently discovered (with help from IWM) that the picture was taken during January 1941, it shows the 3.7" guns of 153 battery being used in field artillery role, shelling Italian installations in Tobruk.

    Hello and welcome. That is a terrific photograph! belying the oft stated claim that the 3.7" AA Gun was too big to be used as an A/T gun in the same way as Jerry used the 'dreaded' 88mm.

    The AA Order of Battle for Egypt and the Western Desert, January 1941, states that 4th AA Brigade were under command of the Western Desert Force/13th Corps. The Brigade consisted of HQ 51st HAA Regt: 152, 153, 16/2 HAA Btys.
    HQ 13th LAA Regt: 37, 38, 1, 155/52 LAA Btys and a Detachment, Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry SL Squadron.

    This Table from 'Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914-55' by Brig. Routledge, shows the deployment of 4th AA Brigade at Tobruk 1941.
    [​IMG]
     
  6. penance

    penance Member

    Hi Boston,
    Thanks for the welcome :)

    Also, thanks for the info. I am currently researching Grandads war history and any info is useful.

    Regarding the picture, although not AT role it does show that the 3.7" could be used at a much lower elevtaion than many say. Also in the war diaries for 51 HAA in north Italy it states the use of the 3.7" in counter battery role. It seems that was the predominent role in Italy due to allied air superiority.

    I do know that 153 battery did fire in AT role near Tobruk, sadly no picture of this. Grandad told me about the action, also that they were overun and had to scupper the guns, making a rather hasty escape!
     
  7. penance

    penance Member

    I should of mentioned, Grandad was an RDF operator. Although did take part in gunnery when they were not operating in AA role.
     
  8. Bodston

    Bodston Little Willy

    Hi Bodston,
    Thanks for the welcome :)

    Also, thanks for the info. I am currently researching Grandads war history and any info is useful.

    Regarding the picture, although not AT role it does show that the 3.7" could be used at a much lower elevtaion than many say. Also in the war diaries for 51 HAA in north Italy it states the use of the 3.7" in counter battery role. It seems that was the predominent role in Italy due to allied air superiority.

    I do know that 153 battery did fire in AT role near Tobruk, sadly no picture of this. Grandad told me about the action, also that they were overun and had to scupper the guns, making a rather hasty escape!

    We have had a few threads on that very subject.. combined together here
     
  9. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    penance,

    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    I agree with Bod that the photograph you posted was great as it shows the gun being used against ground targets.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  10. penance

    penance Member

    Ah, sorry Bodston, I called you Boston!
    Anyway, thanks again and I have posted in that thread.

    I can see there is much info on this forum and i'll certainly enjoy trawling thru it.
     
  11. Bodston

    Bodston Little Willy

    While browsing Pathé's video archive I stumbled across this piece of newsreel from Tobruk.
    British Pathe - (INSIDE TOBRUK - AUSTRALIAN TROOPS)
    It shows the Top Hats of 51st HAA Regt. at about four minutes 50 seconds, and then a bit later at a church parade with a chaplain.
     
  12. My Grandfathers 107 LAA Batttery of 27 LAA Regt were deployed to Tobruk in May 1942. In their War Diaries it describes how before the move they were practising using their 40mm Bofors Guns in an Anti Tank Role

    [​IMG]

    There is also a reference to this episode at BBC - WW2 People's War - Dad's War Diary 1 taken from the personal diary of another Gunner with 107 Bty.

    Chris
     
  13. steve barnett

    steve barnett Junior Member

    Hi all. My dad was a member of 51st HAA (City of London) and did the lot from Norway to Italy. Great to see some comments from relatives of other battery members. I have a photo album containing some excellent pictures, including one that is reproduced in K Rankin's book. If anyone would like to see them let me know.
     
  14. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Hi Steve,

    Welcome to the forum.

    Post away with the photos.

    Cheers

    Spidge
     
  15. steve barnett

    steve barnett Junior Member

    View attachment 43236

    Having a real job scanning and posting but will keep trying. This is 153 at Tobruk.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. Oggie2620

    Oggie2620 Senior Member

    Am just reading Together we stand by James Holland. Love the fact it covers not only the British Army but the Air Force and Navy of all the countries! Such a shame Alexander and Montgomery didnt take over earlier! But it wouldnt have happened cos the time wasnt right!
     
  17. I'm so glad I stumbled across this thread. I'm researching my town's war memorial & one of our guys died whilst serving with this unit. My version of his story is;

    Gunner Harold Leslie Clark, 1533362, aged 21, 153 Battery, 51st Heavy Ant-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
    Killed in action 14 April 1941, buried Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Libya Grave 10.A.16 and commemorated on Malmesbury’s Memorial Gates.

    Harold was the youngest son of Thomas & Sarah Clark of 26 St John’s Street, Malmesbury. Thomas (1863-1945) was married twice, first in 1884 to Annie Bond (1863-1895) by whom he had six children, Mary in 1885, Arthur 1888, Ernest 1890, Tom 1891, Annie 1893 (died the same year) and Reginald 1894, then secondly in 1907 to Sarah Ann Spencer (1875-1955) with children Alice 1908, Stanley 1909, Herbert 1911, Ethel 1913, Richard 1915, (Violet) Mildred 1917 and finally Harold in 1920. Thomas started out as a baker although by 1901 was a butcher’s assistant but by 1911 he had reverted to his original trade. Later he was well known in local markets as a cattle dealer and for the last few years of his life he was an invalid. Ernest and Tom were both Police officers – Ernest retired from the Metropolitan Force in 1935 whilst Tom joined the Palestine Police at the same time and later emigrated to Canada.
    After leaving Westport Boys’ School Harold joined Wiltshire County Council working in their Malmesbury Highways depot at the junction of Bristol Road and Bremilham Road. He was also a member of Malmesbury Old Students’ Badminton Club. By 1938 the club, comprising ex-pupils of the Boys’ School including Peter Boulton, Gilbert Moore, Stanley Smith, Harold Wheadon and Mark Wilkins, had been running for three seasons with an excellent record.
    At the start of the war Harold volunteered to join the Decontamination Squad which was based in the depot where he worked. In February 1940 this squad comprised 13 personnel, 12 of whom had been trained with one new recruit. On 8 February Harold submitted his letter of resignation (probably because he had been called-up) which led the Town Clerk to write the following to the County’s A.R.P. Control Office; You will remember our conversation of the other day when I expressed my opinion that the members were losing interest through lack of exercises and instruction and I regret to have to inform you that I have received a resignation from one of the best fellows of the Squad.
    He then joined the army and after training was posted to the 51st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (51 HAA), Royal Artillery, a Territorial Army unit. They were equipped with the modern 3.7” gun which had been developed by Vickers Ltd. in line with a War Office specification issued in 1934. By the outbreak of war only 452 had been produced, many of these being simpler versions intended for static deployment. Each Regiment had 24 guns, 8 per battery, each battery being divided into two troops named Left and Right.
    The Regiment had been deployed to Norway in April 1940 to protect the administrative base at Harsad/Skaanland which supported the land attack on Narvik. At the beginning of June the troops returned to the UK minus much vital equipment and a number of casualties but had gained valuable experience of the ferocity and destructiveness of the Luftwaffe. In November 1940 they were despatched to the Middle East and Harold probably joined them there.
    The unit arrived in Egypt just as Major General O’Connor’s Western Desert Force expelled the huge Italian Army from the border and drove them deep into Libya. 51 HAA, less 151 Battery sent to Greece, moved through Tobruk, where they found and reconditioned some abandoned Italian guns, to Derna and Benghazi. Here they stayed for two months from the beginning of February 1941. During March attacks were started by Fliegerkorps X of the Luftwaffe, old opponents of the regiment from Norway. On 31 March Rommel launched attacks against the Empire forces which were inexperienced in desert warfare and sadly depleted by the need to send forces to counter German attacks in Greece. The defences were quickly broken and the defenders were pursued back towards Egypt whilst under attack from the air. 9th Australian Division supported by British units including 4th AA Brigade, of which 51 HAA was part, retreated into Tobruk which was by-passed by the Germans. Here they prepared for a siege renovating the Italian defences as well as digging, wiring and mining.
    The Germans quickly began attacking the fortress from the land and the air. They sought to cut off the sole supply line through the port by fierce bombing raids. The Australian Official History described these;
    The defensive air battle began with a struggle to defeat the dive bombers, which predominated in the early attacks. With the exception of Brigadier Slater, who had commanded the 4th Anti-Aircraft Brigade with the British Expeditionary Force in France, none of the anti-aircraft personnel in Tobruk had experienced dive-bombing attacks before the siege began.
    By 14th April, when the first large-scale dive-bombing attack was made, an elementary fixed horizontal barrage at 3,000 feet had been prepared to give protection to the ships and waterside installations. A serious weakness was immediately revealed: aircraft had penetrated unobserved before the barrage was fired. This was successfully countered by establishing an observation post on the escarpment overlooking the harbour.
    153 Battery had two gun sites – “A” occupied by the Right Troop on the small peninsular to the north of the harbour and “C” on the Derna Road near the Solaro escarpment, home to the Left Troop. The whole terrain was hard rock and the guns were surrounded by stone walls together with wooden boxes and empty oil barrels filled with rocks to provide some protection from bomb blasts and machine gun bullets. At this early stage these defences were not fully developed and Harold at the A site fell victim to a bomb. The Battery’s War Diary records the following for 14 April;
    Hour
    Summary of Events
    0001
    One unidentified plane fired on.

    0645
    A warning of a break through by tanks in EL ADEM district was given. The R.H.Q. and B.H.Q. rifle and L.M.G. Parties reported at “C” Position, in accordance with the plan to strengthen the position most likely to be threatened.

    0730
    More than 30 planes, amongst them JU.87’s, P.32’s, G.50’s and C.R.42’s dive bombed the area. The objectives were the H.A.A. Gun Positions. Many bombs were dropped in and around “C” Position. LT. COL. MCINTYRE was wounded in the arm. Two men were killed and eight injured, of whom one died in hospital later in the day. Two vehicles were destroyed and telephone communications broken. No injury was caused to H.A.A. equipment. “C” site fired 330 rounds during this engagement.
    A Stuka which dive bombed “A” Position released its bombs too soon and turned away.

    Gunner John Kelly in the same Battery kept a diary which is now lodged at the Imperial War Museum. He recalled that only one bombing raid had occurred on Easter Sunday but the next morning there was more action; 50 dive bombers attacked this a.m. 4 bombs dropped on our site. Killed Nobby Clark and Watts, injured eight other men, and the Colonel got a broken arm, Boris a piece of shrapnel in chest too ill to be moved. Bert Fullick not expected to live. Doug Marchant is still unconscious. Gunner Guy Ainsworth Watts is still buried close to Harold but in a different place, Knightsbridge War Cemetery. Gunner Herbert Charles Fullick did die but as had been transferred to a medical unit his grave is in Tobruk War Cemetery, whereas Doug Marchant appears to have survived. It is thought that between six and eight dive bombers attacked this one position. Afterwards extra steps were taken to protect the guns and their crews including more digging and providing dummy sites to confuse the attackers.
    It was not until 28 April that Harold’s father received the telegram informing him of his son’s death. This was reported on 1 May; MALMESBURY CASUALTIES Driver Harold Leslie Clark (21), youngest son of Mr. Tom Clark, St. John Street, Malmesbury, has been killed by enemy action in the Middle East. Driver Clark attended the Malmesbury Boys’ School, and later was employed by the Wilts County Council. He had been in the Army for one year. (Gazette)
    Two letters followed from his unit, the first from his troop commander;
    Lt. E. F. Pinkney R.A.
    153/51st HAA Regt R.A.
    Middle East Forces

    15.4.41
    Dear Mr Clark,
    You will no doubt by now have received the unhappy news regarding your son’s death which happened during an air raid yesterday morning & I should very much like to offer you my sincere sympathy in your loss.
    It must have been a great shock to you to receive such news but you may be a little comforted to know that he was killed instantly by a bomb splinter & could not have possibly suffered any pain.
    Although your son was a comparatively new member of the Battery he had nonetheless made many friends and I feel sure that they also would wish me to convey to you their sympathy. He was buried yesterday a short distance from the guns under the guidance of the padre who officiated & he will be remembered by all who knew him as a good gunner who was killed while doing his duty.
    I don’t think there is much I can add except that I can well appreciate your feelings in your loss but you may rest assured that such unhappy occurrences can only strengthen our firm resolve to bring this wretched war to a satisfactory conclusion as soon as possible.
    If there is any further information which you would like to have, please do not hesitate to let me know.
    Yours very sincerely
    Ellis F. Pinkney
    Then from the Regiment’s Padre;
    In the Field

    15th April 1941
    Dear Mr. Clark,
    By the time this reaches you I expect you will have been told that your son, 1533362, Gnr. H. L. Clark was killed in action yesterday – Easter Monday. It was during an air raid just after dawn that a bomb exploded close to him and killed him instantly.
    One of the other lads died at the same time. We buried them quickly quite close to their gunpost and this afternoon I have been out to read the Church Burial Service over them. Their comrades were able to attend the service and we gave them all the battle honours that were possible. We placed an old Union Jack over their graves and erected two strong wooden crosses, with their names burnt on the surface, to mark the spot.
    We placed stones round the graves. I believe one of the officers is taking a photograph of it, which he will no doubt send on to you in due course. All your son’s possessions have been sent to 2nd Echelon H.Q. from whence they will be dispatched to you.
    What an awful thing war is. It carries away the very best of our lads. But, thank God, death is not the end of things and we shall meet them again in the next life.
    You may feel very proud of him. He was a good lad and with the rest of his pals he was doing such splendid work out here.
    May I offer you my deepest sympathy.
    Yours sincerely,
    J. P. Adler (Padre)
    Rothwell Vicarage
    Northants
    Once the war had moved from North Africa the grim task began of clearing the battlefields. Harold’s body was moved from Tobruk to Knightsbridge War Cemetery. The defence against Rommel's drive across Cyrenaica towards Suez consisted of a number of irregularly spaced strong points or 'boxes' linked by deep minefields. Those nearest the Axis forces were held by infantry, while those further back served as reserve static positions and as bases from which the armour could operate. The chief 'box', known as Knightsbridge, was round a junction of tracks about 20 kilometres west of Tobruk and 16 kilometres south of Acroma, commanding all the tracks by which supplies came up to the front. Knightsbridge was thus a key position and the pivot on which the armour manoeuvred during the heavy fighting which commenced in late May 1942. Fierce actions were fought at all these places, and a battlefield cemetery was created at each for the burial of the dead. The graves of many of those who gave their lives during the campaign in Libya were later gathered into Knightsbridge War Cemetery from the battlefield burial grounds and from scattered desert sites.

    Can anyone add anything or have any photos I could use in a book?

    Charles Vernon
     
  18. steve barnett

    steve barnett Junior Member

    scan0005.jpg

    scan0006.jpg

    View attachment 43963

    tobruk pictures.jpg

    Aha! We managed. We have a selection of scenes from Tobruk including another one of 153, a Bofors crew in the harbour area, a downed Stuka crew receiving medical attention under their own parachute canopy and an improvised Stuka cockpit machine gun in use as light AA!!
     
  19. steve barnett

    steve barnett Junior Member

    Charles I have many photos that were my father's (Harry Barnett), of the 51st HAA campaign in North Africa, including off duty recreational pictures. If you wish I can send you a selection which you may find of use?
     
  20. Steve - yes please. As you can see it seems Harold Clark only joined the unit shortly before his death so I'm really interested in the weeks before 14 April 1941. If you don't want to post them in this thread perhaps you could send them as a personal message.

    Charles
     

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