4th and 6th Reserve Mechanical Transport Companies
CHAPTER 8 — Beyond Tobruk
ADRY moat, barbed-wire entanglements, and deeply dug fortifications made up the outer defences circling well into the desert to protect Tobruk. Like drawbridges, bridges which could be whipped away at a moment's notice spanned the anti-tank ditches. Across such bridges and through narrow but strongly guarded openings in the entanglements appeared 4 RMT on the first morning of December 1941. The convoy struck the bitumen coastal road—it felt like velvet after the desert—leading past large dumps of Italian guns and vehicles of all descriptions, together with tall stacks of bombs and shells. The earth was torn and furrowed with bomb craters and scarred with old earthwork defences. The convoy passed the prisoner-of-war camp and the British cemetery. Both had grown a great deal since the company called in at Tobruk a year ago on the way to Benghazi. In the harbour all types and sizes of stricken ships were seen, some practically submerged, others resting on the sea bottom with sterns jutting up duck-fashion.1 Still in the same position after more than a year lay an Italian cruiser and two grounded and burnt-out Italian liners.
Praying they would never be evacuated by sea,2 drivers skirted the battered township and about 10 a.m. drove into the dispersal area below the escarpment running south of Tobruk. Empty dugouts harbouring enormous rats and fleas were taken over promptly. A few enemy shells came over and artillery in a wadi replied. Before nightfall aircraft bombed page 155 Tobruk in a thunder of anti-aircraft guns. More raids followed daily, but not until 8 December—a black day with news of Japan now at war—was 4 RMT3 affected: six D Section lorries were damaged by 22 diving Stukas. In no time Workshops, flat out all this month on repairs of all kinds, had them running again.
For four days gangs of RMT men worked on the wharves, handling between air raids and occasional shelling a great deal of ammunition and explosives. One party under Second-Lieutenant Battersby4 worked non-stop for 13 hours before a relief under Lieutenant Burt took over to carry on from dawn to dusk. Among mail received at this time was a glum newspaper cutting saying wharf workers in Auckland were demanding ‘danger money’ for loading ·303 ammunition for overseas. Turning briefly from wharf work, a party helped stretcher-bearers move wounded, among them survivors from the shambles of the Chakdina. This ship, crammed with prisoners and wounded men, was torpedoed on 5 December on leaving Tobruk. Some of those rescued told of a pipe-smoking officer among about eighty New Zealanders who went down. Severely wounded and without tobacco, he accepted a cigarette, his first for many years, and smoked silently to the end.
With Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed again occupied, Tobruk once more was encircled. Wasting no time, the enemy struck against the garrison's outer defences, to make slight headway in his final attack on 4 December before being driven off. But by now growing pressure from mobile columns, reaching out from reorganised 30 Corps in the south, began to tell. With reluctance or relief, depending mainly on nationality, the Germans and Italians turned west and Tobruk stood free.
The job of rooting the enemy from defences at Gazala, west of Tobruk, was handed over to 13 Corps. This sent 4 RMT Company on the move again, out into a raging dust-storm. Back to the frontier, Major Stock navigating, nosed A, C, and D Sections, to pick up riflemen of 5 New Zealand Brigade. page 156 The RMT trucks, with 22, 23, and 28 (Maori) Battalions aboard, made off towards the enemy at Gazala, together with 4 Indian Division and British and Polish units from Tobruk. Bringing up the rear came B Section, springs weighed down with supplies for the brigade. On 11 December the three-tonners had taken 5 Brigade infantry to Acroma. From here C Section, carrying 23 Battalion, drove along the main Derna road, the other two sections moving with the rest of the brigade along the inland track running west from Acroma. C Section watched precise British gunners support 23 Battalion's successful attack on a well-defended ridge, Mengar el Hosci, which yielded 500 prisoners. D Section spectacularly carried the Maori Battalion into a triumphant and bloodthirsty assault on Sidi Mgherreb. Charging into heavy shellfire, the RMT lorries kept on to within 100 yards of enemy positions, then swung about while the Maoris vaulted out and, in full battlecry, bayonets up, swept over the ridge. Italians streamed back in hundreds until 1123 were rounded up, the Maoris losing only five killed and eleven wounded.
Mustering his last resources, Rommel counter-attacked with dive-bombers and tanks on 14 December, the day the Polish Brigade from Tobruk came into line alongside 5 Brigade. The thrust failed—and Driver Martin5 was dead out of luck. He had just had a poisoned finger dressed and bandaged when the first bombs fell. A fragment severed not only the poisoned finger but its neighbours as well. Driver Park6 was also injured. Another driver sheltered unhurt in a cave while, ten yards away, his load of ammunition blasted to bits for an hour.
By the following afternoon the advancing Poles and Maoris had won parts of the escarpment overlooking Gazala. Enjoying a modest triumph of their own were Captain Coleman, Bill Ritchie, Joe Boland7 and Bryan Ward.8 After investigating a 10-ton Fiat diesel truck stranded in a slit trench, the four towed page 157 it out and were about to leave when Coleman, peering through field-glasses, saw a party moving along the bottom of an escarpment. ‘We're going to bring this crowd in,’ Coleman told his drivers. The canopy of the three-tonner was let down (to give the impression of infantry concealed within), and the two lorries charged boldly towards the escarpment. A white flag went up. Led by a major, 24 Italians surrendered their arms, climbed back happily into their diesel truck, and were delivered by the RMT men to a rather astonished Brigade Headquarters.
The Maori and Polish successes left a strained Gazala line in poor shape to meet further attacks on 16 December. That night the enemy fled, abandoning equipment and guns, and leaving behind many smashed and derelict vehicles. Fifth Brigade had fired its last shot in the Second Libyan Campaign, but 4 RMT was to continue behind the advance into the west. Pursuing along the coastal road, British forces reached the plain south of Benghazi by 21 December, while others hunted enemy columns across the inland desert to Agedabia. From there the enemy drew back to strongpoints behind salt marshes at El Agheila and his retreat ended.
By New Year's Eve 4 RMT was working at Msus, about 200 miles on from Tobruk. For the last supper of 1941 D Section enjoyed four gazelle, shot by a hunting party which also collected one chicken from a bedouin for ‘a small cup of tea and two packets of biscuits’. Drivers were now back on the old routine of bringing up supplies and building dumps, for although barges were expected to unload at Derna, the advanced army still depended on petrol and supplies brought up by the lorries of three RASC companies and 4 RMT. In four days the New Zealand drivers saw two field supply depots filled and another dump moved. Some 25,000 gallons of petrol were brought on from Tobruk, but the company's vehicles alone had almost used up this amount of petrol in covering practically 160,000 miles in December. Christmas Day—and that Christmas dinner—passed almost unnoticed except for a bottle of beer and 50 cigarettes for each driver.
The 6th RMT celebrated a dusty, gritty Christmas in ‘the hell-hole of the desert,’ Bir Abu Misheifa, at the end of the page 158 desert railway in Egypt. With trains running no further, trucks took over supplies for the desert soldiers still attacking Halfaya and Bardia. From the Conference Cairn area the scattered company had gone back to Fuka, where counting and reorganisation showed that about seventeen vehicles had been lost.9
A mean, dusty wind scraped almost ceaselessly across Misheifa's rocky, barren plateau, too arid for even the tough camel-thorn bush. Sand sneaked by the spoonful into food and tea, piled up against dusty bivvies, buried possessions left outside for a day or two, and plagued mechanics working behind a meagre awning for a wind-break. Marquees or even bits and pieces of building material were unobtainable. Entertainment or sport was nil. The only bright moments came from the visits of Captain (bogus) Jackson to the Naafi, where his legally worthless signature and fictitious regiment won alcohol reserved for officers. Yet in this desolation a sudden act of gallantry deeply impressed drivers. A young Hurricane pilot, on his first flight after leaving the green aerodromes of England, crashed to his death rather than pancake his faulty machine in 6 RMT's lines.
From their wretched base 6 RMT lorries jolted westwards at a steady twelve miles an hour. On their two-day return trips they carried supplies, petrol, water, ammunition, food, and mail to Sheferzen, a forward base for the siege of stubborn Halfaya and Bardia. This rocky run was among the worst in North Africa. ‘When dust storms weren't about we made ones of our own. Dust clouds rising from trucks ahead merged into a dirty swirling curtain which boxed all sense of direction,’ noted one driver. ‘The inside of a cab, no matter how sand proof you thought it, soon became like the inside of a vacuum cleaner, choking and blinding both drivers. Men used handkerchiefs and goggles, or eyeshields for protection, but before long these felt hot, sticky and irritating and were chucked away.’ When Bardia caved in on 2 January two sections switched to the Tobruk run, a six-day return trip soon cut to four days. This inland trail was more interesting. C Section drivers one day swore they had seen lions near Gambut—a statement open to doubt. page 159 When Halfaya fell 15 days after Bardia, trucks took to the damaged coastal road, using Sollum Pass on the way up and returning through Halfaya Pass. Backloads varied from troops to empty (and often worthless) petrol tins. One lot of antiaircraft shells was taken to Tobruk and back again, just another unsolved military mystery.
Well to the west of 6 RMT Company, 4 RMT's convoys from Msus shuffled nearly 2000 tons of supplies to Bir Rgheua and to Saunnu, a dismal outpost with a windmill and a decayed fort. Once tracks were established, delivering the goods became routine work. Dissatisfied with the beaten track, Second-Lieutenant Smith navigated a direct route from Msus to the windmill, saving 15 miles.
‘Towards the end of our stay the newly formed 1 Armoured Division arrived, mostly straight from England, no desert training, and as raw as you like,’ recalls Major Stock. ‘They had come across from Tobruk. Our first notification of their arrival was a few trucks in our area one day with a large white elephant [rhinoceros] as the Divisional sign, which soon became known as “the pregnant pig”. They were completely lost, had no food and not enough petrol to get them any further. Their destination was vague. From then on, for a good fortnight, trucks, scout cars, despatch riders, and tanks were continuously pulling in to ask information as to their destination. It was bitterly cold, and the varied dress of the officers was astounding. Sometimes we had to look hard to find the face, almost submerged by the huge collar of the sheepskin coat, etc. Corduroy trousers were everywhere. This was our first introduction to the motley dressed English officer, later caricatured as the “Two Types”. However, for all their odd outfits they put up a great show later on—the few who got out.’
In the middle of January, when heavy rains turned sand into mud, the German swept out in strength yet again, to bypass Agedabia and thrust towards Antelat. Msus had to be evacuated, and once more 4 RMT with little delay turned to Tobruk, leaving a group of lorries to lend a hand in the evacuation. After much shuffling and scuffling of orders this group, except for twelve lorries under Sergeant Gill, returned through Derna to Tobruk.page 160
Events now taking place led to two remarkable escapes, both by 4 RMT men. While carrying two companies of Welsh Guards, Gill's party of twelve lorries was attacked six miles out of blitzed and broken Benghazi.10 After giving an order to ‘abandon vehicles and make a get-away’, Gill attempted a breakthrough, but the road was mined. He split his men into small groups, each party managing to raise a compass and a map, and led off a group of three RMT men, Corporal Roa,11 Drivers Blackburn12 and McKinnon.13 Behind followed Drivers Martin and Wyatt14 with two Welshmen. The plan was for all RMT men to rendezvous eight hours later and about 24 miles south. Nobody turned up, and although one or two got as far as Derna, all but Gill's party were captured.15
Daylight showed Germans on the hunt. In vain Martin and Wyatt covered themselves with a blanket. A kick in the ribs told them they were in the bag, together with the two Welshmen. Crouched behind a stone wall, Gill's party held their breath while Germans filed past little more than a yard away. When the enemy moved off at last Gill, who spoke fluent Arabic, questioned a passing Senussi woman and learned that British troops were nearby. Sure enough distant trucks turned out to be British, but the occupants were Germans. The party crept away and the long trek across the desert to freedom began. In the afternoon enemy forces bobbed up in all directions, and capture seemed inevitable. As luck would have it, a few camels appeared on the scene to give the sergeant a brainwave.page 161
He and his men walked in among the camels while the helpful owner drove them towards an abandoned cemetery. Leaving the sheltering animals, the drivers leapt over a low wall and hid among rubble and graves until dark. In the night they walked south for eight hours, waiting in vain through a quiet day for RMT men to appear. In the dark they headed due east, aiming for Tobruk. If the port were cut off again, they would swim for it. McKinnon, who had injured a leg, was limping badly. He showed great spirit in his determination not to handicap the party. Blackburn, the fittest of them all, was very tired that evening. Whenever the party halted he crumpled to the ground, instantly asleep. That evening the party learned its first lesson: never to walk in pitch darkness. In the gloom they wandered into a German aerodrome, passing within a few feet of Germans sound asleep in their cars. Fortunately the enemy troubled as much about sentries as we did.
In the moonlight next evening dogs started barking furiously, and from the shadows four armed Senussi lifted their rifles. This looked like the end. Yet the moment the sergeant explained his men were British flashing smiles appeared. Delighted at the drivers' escape, the Senussi mixed flour and water and baked a damper on a strip of tin over a small fire. McKinnon, fascinated at the ritual of making tea, noticed that first a half-filled teapot was brought to the boil, then tea, sugar, and mint were added. Next the teapot was filled to the brim and boiled again. The eldest man tasted the brew, strengthened and sweetened it until satisfied, poured it three times, and then handed it around. The warm food tasted delicious after the day's meagre allowance: one small bar of chocolate each for breakfast and lunch and a tin of meat and vegetables divided among the four for tea. Questioning the Senussi, Gill, whose compass and map readings never once were at fault, checked and pinpointed their position on the map and learned of areas where friendly nomads could be found. Most of the tribesmen detested only the Italians.
After this the four, walking sometimes by day, sometimes by night, went from one Senussi family to another, passing through the shifting, tiny communities sprinkled over the desert and the worn-out hills inland. The men averaged a steady 24 miles page 162 daily. The leader, holding the compass to his belt, would guide the rest for 50 minutes. After a ten-minute spell the next man would take over. They were never desperate for water—for the first few days it rained steadily—their boots were good, and not even ‘a pitiless sun’ drove them mad, but they certainly got mad at one another now and then, and several times one couple nearly came to blows. The Senussi kept them comfortably supplied with water and food (some of it British bully beef). One well-meaning Arab insisted that the refugees should share his precious store of army biscuits, badly soaked in kerosene. Feigning hunger, the drivers put on a good act and departed belching kerosene for the rest of the day. Occasionally they discussed the food they would eat when free, and later an over-sympathetic press report, describing how their stomachs ‘were groaning for oysters and juicy steak with half an inch of lovely fat around it’, resulted in Gill receiving tinned oysters from New Zealand until he hated the sight of them.
The main trouble came from blistered and bleeding feet caused by having no change of socks, and the hem of soaked greatcoats chafed more skin away from the backs of their legs. Senussi women healed this with camel fat, for the nomads in their homespun tents were sympathetic and kind. On the New Zealanders' arrival a bowl of milk passed from hand to hand, and from this milk was sucked vigorously and noisily, never gently swallowed. Copying the custom, the drivers nearly choked themselves. McKinnon liked sheep's milk best of all: ‘a lovely drink very much like a vanilla milkshake.’ After the milk came a bowl of sour curds or macaroni, scooped up sandwich-fashion between bits of flat bread. Titbits were barley or wheat toasted over a fire on a tin tray and eaten husks and all. Over coffee the nomads questioned the drivers for hours, showing insatiable interest in farming and education. ‘Priest, schoolteacher, everything’ in the community was one man, sometimes little better than an ignorant loud-mouth. Late at night drivers bedded down with the family under one blanket. Womenfolk were usually sent to another tent, but after they had gone curious eyes could be seen peeping under the tent. One night a young Senussi girl looked adoringly and silently at one of the RMT men. The RMT man looked at the muskets page 163 near by and coughed sadly. Approvingly, the old man handed him more baked barley.
The drivers learned how the nomads with small flocks of goats, long-tailed sheep, and a few camels moved steadily from place to place in the desert and in the scraggy hills, following centuries-old tracks which invariably travelled due east and west. Once a year a couple of men would go to the sea for salt and to town markets for trade and provisions. Everyone else remained in the desert, eternal in their simplicity. The New Zealanders saw how an old man would sit singing and talking for hours to his sheep. The moment he stopped the sheep huddled round him, for his silence warned of foxes and other beasts of prey.
The drivers skirted El Mechili after circling Italian staff-cars had spotted and then lost them as they took prompt cover in shallow hollows. Next morning an RAF plane flew overhead, dipping its wings while the party waved coats, shouted, and danced up and down with joy. Surely transport would pick them up now. But nothing happened. In the late afternoon Gill went forward to investigate transport which he thought was captured German and Italian vehicles. Drawing close, and seeing with a start that the soldiers had peaks to their caps, he lay flat on the ground until dusk, and then failed to find his three companions. How could he identify himself without giving himself away? The sergeant moved in widening circles, calling softly ‘morepork’ in the dark until he heard: ‘Is that you, Tom?’ It was McKinnon's voice. He was back in the fold again.
Following familiar tracks the four made for the south of Tmimi. Thirst now threatened. Only half a bottle of water was left. Systematically shaking and kicking a litter of tins and scattered junk, Roa found a 44-gallon drum of water. ‘We cleaned up fine, drank as much as we could, and went on. Sleeping one night until the moon rose we woke up to find Jerry transport had moved in all round us, a fine setup. They were all sleeping by their trucks. We tiptoed through unchallenged and walked like hell.’ The new day brought dust trails in the distance and, sick and tired of delays and alarms, Blackburn went on alone, to return, beaming, on the bonnet of a page 164 South African armoured car. It was all over now. Taking all chances, the four had walked 300 miles, zigzagging over desert and foothills to safety near Gazala, in twelve days and nights they would never forget.
On the morning Gill's party escaped, Drivers Martin and Wyatt were whisked from the cover of their blanket to a cage near Benghazi and separated. With 14 other prisoners, Hori Martin received no food or water for 36 hours. Then each man got a mug of water and a piece of brown bread daily.
After ten days Martin could stand no more. His hopes soared when he noticed one evening that the guard outside their barbed-wire pen did not close the padlock properly on the gate. Inside the pen he found and scraped free a large rock from the soil. The Maori smuggled the rock to the gate and settled down to watch the guard like a cat. Two hours after midnight his chance came. The sentry, yawning, turned his back on the prisoners and seemed to lean wearily against the wire. Martin seized the rock, wormed his way towards the guard, ‘and it was a comparatively easy matter for me to reach through the fence and tap him on the head with the stone. The guard dropped without a sound. I then aroused the rest of the party, opened the gate, and we escaped, splitting into parties of twos and threes.’ With an English sergeant who had a compass, Martin headed for Soluch, meeting a friendly Senussi who gave them food and water and hid them for the day. They then made north and followed the coast east for two days without food or water. Again a Senussi came to their aid. After hiding all day from enemy transport streaming east, they struck south into the desert and sheltered in a cave. Avoiding long lines of German traffic next day they kept on south, suffering severely from rain and cold in the night. Morning brought them close to a native village where they received food and water before pressing on, but they soon grew weak, covering less and less ground as the days passed.
One day, like a vision, a white house appeared behind trees. In spite of all Martin's warnings the Englishman went forward and was seized by a sentry. Martin fled, running into a native who took him to a Senussi officer and his wife. The two treated page 165 him kindly, offering food and details of how to reach the British lines. After four more days in the desert, when ‘nothing very eventful took place', Martin met more nomads, among them to his astonishment an English-speaking Italian, a deserter from the Italian Army, ‘and quite a nice chap too, married, with a wife and kids. Maybe he'd deserted from them too. He was very happy.’ Here the RMT man rested for several days. Now and again he and the deserter would chat amiably about the war. When Martin left the Italian gave him a complete Arab outfit. In these robes and with battledress and rations in a sack slung over his shoulder, he strode manfully over the desert, passing from one band of helpful Senussi to another, until early in April he walked into British soldiers around Tmimi, nearly 200 miles away from Benghazi. He received the MM for this escape.
The retreat which began at Agedabia slowed up and stopped at the Gazala line, where only a few weeks ago the enemy had manned his second line of defence. Behind a dusty, windblown strip of no-man's-land, each side worked night and day to build yet more powerful barriers of strongpoints. The importance of efficient transport increased.
Weaving like ants between the frontier, Tobruk, and the Gazala line, columns of 4 RMT lorries carried South Africans, the President Stein Regiment (Palestinians), Sikhs, the Durham Light Infantry, Poles, and the Louis Botha Regiment. At the end of February, when sandstorms licked gaunt escarpments and swirled unchecked down desolate wadis, the news came through that Libyan duties were drawing to a close. Drivers and their trucks were creaking for a spell, for 4 RMT's men had driven, altogether, more than 1,109,000 miles in the last six months.
During the last few weeks, with the final resistance at Libya's frontier overcome, 6 RMT Company had moved up from the dreary frontier area to El Adem, handy to Tobruk and not far from the battle zone at Gazala. On this move the company had helped 5 New Zealand Infantry Brigade, fresh from training in the Gulf of Suez, travel from the railhead to El Adem. Captain Good had replaced Major Hood as OC 6 RMT page 166 on 2 February, and Captain ‘Boundary Bill’ Davis,16 soon to win wide popularity, took over A Section from Captain Collins. Settling down at El Adem, 6 RMT remained on transport duties to and from Tobruk.
A convoy arriving in the Tobruk supply depot would disperse among the food stocks until its turn for loading came. Loads were always mixed, from all kinds of canned goods to fresh vegetables. Many Greek and Cypriot labourers worked in the dumps. They were rather inefficient and seemed incapable of checking a load. Often drivers got odd tins of preserves ‘buckshee’, and inevitably this grew into full cases. Around each bivvy tent in the camping area rose small stocks of supplies. More and more drivers stopped going over to mess. Men lived on the best of food until the company went on to petrol-carrying. This coincided, perhaps significantly, with one enterprising chap taking a small truck extra to Tobruk for ‘buckshee’ supplies. Away from the luxuries of running supplies were 18 RMT trucks attached to 22 Battalion. Their lot was manoeuvres and patrols, and drivers congratulated themselves that the enemy was never sighted.
Calling at El Adem, Colonel Crump, commander of the NZASC, told of RMT changes. From now on the RMT sections would be known as platoons. The fourth operating platoon was training in the Canal Zone before becoming part of 6 RMT. With the fourth platoon added, the company would be able to lift the riflemen of a complete infantry brigade.
A large Saint Andrew's cross was now ordered to be painted on each truck canopy for air identification. Although the RAF outnumbered the Luftwaffe, the enemy was active over the Tobruk-El Adem area and occasionally swooped to bomb and strafe concentrations of vehicles. German planes often flew high over the area, leaving vapour trails by day; at night their uncanny alternating drone drifted down from the stars. Strict air-raid precautions were taken and relief drivers on convoy work spotted for planes. The first morning 2 Platoon's (formerly B Section) spotters began work they saw trouble aloft. The 6 RMT trucks had just left camp and were moving past the page 167 El Adem aerodrome. Aircraft were flying south, low, a few hundred yards apart, parallel to the road. Traffic was two-way and fairly dense. One 2 Platoon relief driver standing on the running-board said ‘Ours’ and began counting, ‘one, two—twelve—fourteen—eighteen—and they are Jerries!’ At that moment the formation broke up, drivers slammed on brakes, bolted, and flattened out in the desert while planes raked the convoy. Corporal George McWhinnie,17 wounded, was the only casualty, but incredibly enough no trucks were damaged seriously. Drivers grinned at a newspaper report later on, boldly headed: ‘nz transport drives nonchalantly along highway as planes strafe’.
No grins came from 3 Platoon drivers stuck nose-to-tail in a congested area in Tobruk on 7 March when the air-raid alarm sounded and twelve escorted Stukas swept overhead. Anxious eyes watched the raiders turn, then open their tearing dive on shipping in the harbour. Heedless of fierce anti-aircraft fire the planes concentrated on a hapless oil tanker. Seamen could be heard screaming as they frantically tried to leap from the blazing decks. The tanker was still burning eleven days later when the company moved back to Maadi.18 On their daily deliveries of petrol from Tobruk to the dump at El Adem, drivers often thought of the great loss of the precious stuff through leakage. They thought, too, as they handled dented and leaky cans, of the seamen who risked their lives in bringing petrol from far-away places. These petrol containers included flimsy tins, captured Jerricans (the best of the lot), 44-gallon drums, and recently arrived American cans, similar to Jerricans but still using a screw plug.
The desert farewelled young 6 RMT Company with a flood and a sandstorm. Heavy rain swamped the camp, and in one badly flooded area trucks bogged down for days. Rain brought grass, the grass brought bedouin, the bedouin brought low dark tents and a few animals from nowhere. Their supply problems were simple.
1 Over the last eight months the Royal Navy had lost 27 ships on the Tobruk run, the two largest of them destroyers. The Navy took into Tobruk 32,667 men, 33,946 tons of stores, 72 tanks, 92 guns, and 108 sheep, and took out of the port 34,113 men, 7516 wounded, and 7097 prisoners of war. The Navy's other losses were: 28 ships damaged, 469 sailors killed or missing, and 186 wounded. The merchant service casualties during the same period were: 70 men killed or missing, 55 wounded, one schooner and six ships sunk, and six ships damaged.
3 In the 1941 Libyan campaign 4 RMT's casualties were: Killed in action: Dvrs W. Hewlett (3 Dec), A. G. P. Kirkwood (27 Nov), L. E. Maxfield (23 Nov); wounded: Dvrs C. E. Driver, F. J. Keogh, S. L. Lobb, D. M. L. Martin, A. D. Park, H. A. Price and E. W. Sinclair.
10 Aircraft based in Egypt raided Benghazi 1014 times between June and November and also attacked Bardia, Derna, ports and bases in Greece and Crete, and enemy shipping. In the same time Malta planes made 548 raids on ports and bases in Southern Italy and Sicily, 544 raids on Tripoli and Benghazi, 373 attacks on enemy shipping, and other raids on coastal camps and aerodromes. Between them in these months the Navy and the RAF accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the total Axis shipping between Europe and Africa. Of 95 ships (totalling more than 370,000 tons), 43 were sunk by planes and 52 by the Navy.
15 They were: Cpl R. A. Smith (died while p.w., 16 Apr 1942), L-Cpl H. A. Rowse, Dvrs D. C. Adams, J. H. Bush, W. C. Casey, F. E. P. Frickleton, M. N. Hibberd, C. W. Kennedy, L. J. McFadyen, E. J. McGeady, R. H. McGillivray, G. F. McHugh, F. Y. Martin, L. J. Morris, S. E. Purdue, S. G. Thear, and V. O. Wilkins (wounded).