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New Zealand Engineers, Middle East


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The haven where, after a period of leave, the harried New Zealand Division began to refit, train and absorb reinforcements was not the safe retreat the troops thought it was. In addition to the German-Italian menace, halted on Egypt's western frontier by the necessity of reducing Tobruk before advancing further, the Arab states were also a source of anxiety.

In Iraq dissident elements, encouraged by enemy propaganda, overthrew the government (1 May), invested the British air base at Habbaniya and seized the pumping stations on the oil pipeline to Haifa. But Germany, having first declared eternal friendship with Russia, and now preparing to invade her friend,1 was unwilling to assist the insurgents with more than words and some material. The revolt was put down within the month and a friendly authority installed.

French-mandated Syria, after declaring for Vichy France, had permitted German planes to refuel on Syrian airfields and allowed stores for the Iraq rebellion to be carried on Syrian railways. A Free French and Australian force, bent on clearing hostile leadership out of the Levant, was getting into position to attack.

Part of the planning for the offensive was the sending of two officers (Captain D. A. Clarke,2 second-in-command 17 Railway Operating Company, and Captain J. N. Nicholson,3 Adjutant, HQ Railway Operating Group) as early as 20 April ‘to report on length of unused Railway as to its suitability to operate in case of extreme urgency.’

A little Levantine railway geography is essential at this point Traffic from Egypt was over the standard gauge Palestine system as far as Haifa,4 where the line ended. Haifa was also the page 161 terminus of a narrow gauge line to Damascus5 via Deraa Junction, which connected with Amman6 and Nagb Ashtar, of which more anon. Connection between Haifa and Beirut7 was by a good motor road and from Beirut another narrow gauge line ran to Damascus, with a branch at Rayak to Homs and thence to Turkey, but that system does not concern us at the moment.

map of railways in Syria and Palestine

chief railways of the levant in 1941

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Yet another line, the one to be reported upon, built by the Turks during the 1914 - 18 war to avoid the coast and the British naval guns, went from Tulkarm on the Kantara-Haifa line to Affule on the Haifa-Deraa system. Some sections of this line had been derelict for years but were being put in order by Australian engineers.

The report, with appendices, covering nineteen pages and worded in terminology intelligible only to a railway man, said that there was sufficient engine power and rolling stock available for requisition, and that the permanent way had been brought up to a usable standard.

Major Poole was ordered to concentrate his 17th Railway Operating Company at Geneifa, from which place, less some detachments not yet available, it left partly by train and partly by MT on 1 June to operate the Tulkarm-Affule railway in Palestine. On the same day Railway Operating Group Headquarters moved from Moascar to Geneifa and Lieutenant-Colonel Sage began the difficult job of administering his command with one half in the Western Desert and the other in Palestine. To overcome the obstacles of distance and slow communications the powers of a detachment commander were conferred on Major Aickin, who was then authorised to deal directly with higher formations.

This assignment was the first real railway work that the 17th Company had been offered since its arrival in Egypt nearly eight months earlier. This is how Major Poole saw it:

‘We were more or less a “nuisance” so our companies were split up and some put on to wharf labouring work at Tobruk, Sollum and other hot spots to keep us steadily employed. Others were retained to “shadow” the Egyptian engine drivers, guards, and station masters, in case they left their posts when any bombing started. That seldom happened however.

‘As a very great proportion of our men were too old to draft into the infantry other jobs had to be found for them. By degrees we were found jobs for most of the remainder (those not on dock labouring jobs) at the ASC depots at Port Tewfik, Tel el Kebir, Abu Sultan and El Kirsh in the canal zone on shunting duties. The 16th Company were more fortunate as they had plenty of work up in the Western Desert.’

An operating company is capable of staffing a complete working railway, with fitters, stationmasters, guards, shunters, drivers, firemen and clerks, so when Major Poole was offered, after page 163 settling in at Affule (3 June) some old engines that had seen better days, the fitters and drivers soon had them in going order.

Strict anti-malaria precautions had to be enforced in the new area. ‘Those in Affule camp had to take tiny quinine pills every day. It was amusing to see men standing around acting like the ostrich at breakfast endeavouring to swallow two small pills while an NCO stood by watching and waiting to certify on the company that pills, two, malaria for the prevention of, had been duly swallowed by the aforesaid ORs…. several parties of soldiers each man armed with a container holding a measure of Condys crystals, sandfly fever for the prevention of, gargling their throats and expectorating into tins that had a different use after dark.

‘We discovered considerable musical talent not always under reasonable control. Evening visits to the local wine shops and occasional calls at communal farms I fear did much to undo the work of the “gargle parades”.’8

The first train, preceded by a pilot and with two engines running tender first, made a trial run over the Affule-Tulkarm section on 6 June, two days before the offensive against Vichy France was launched. For the following four months three trains ran daily each way carrying army supplies. The Company was pleased to be doing the job it knew from years of experience in New Zealand how to do very well.

Its operations were soon extended for on 9 June the 17th was called on to take over and operate within twenty-four hours the line from Samakh, on the Palestine-Syrian border, to Deraa.

The invasion force was not operating in that area but Free and Vichy French adherents began skirmishing, while the Druses from the Jebel Druse, with a strict eye to the business of looting, were firing on the contestants impartially. It was rather like a South American revolution where nobody knows who is fighting whom. A party of drivers, shunters, firemen, guards and tradesmen, 31 all told, went to Samakh—the whole line from Samakh to Deraa inclusive had been deserted—and took over station by station to Deraa. Minor damage caused by the warring factions, blown crossing points and the like were replaced by Workshops staff, and even a damaged water tower at Deraa was repaired within a couple of days. A glittering prize was a beautifully equipped workshop at Deraa which was immediately ‘liberated’ and staffed. The Company received a page 164 small accession to its strength at Deraa, where two French drivers who would not be separated from their diesel engines were put on the New Zealand payroll.

Damascus was occupied by Free French forces on 21 June and on 11 July General Dentz accepted armistice terms for a cease fire in Syria. Two months later the sappers handed back the Syrian section of the line to the French, the Affule line was closed on 13 October and the Company returned to the Canal Zone.

General Rommel did not advance beyond the Egyptian border and 16 Railway Operating Company, working the Daba-Matruh section of the Egyptian State Railway system, settled back into routine and shared the running of trains with the Egyptian regular staff. Eight trains daily were all that were needed for the requirements of the attenuated desert force, but Major Aickin had other things on his mind.

There were frequent conferences with the Assistant Director of Railways, a lieutenant-colonel representing GHQ Middle East, where the Company share of the schemes for advancing and retiring, with emphasis on the former, were worked out. Additional crossing loops were put in to provide flexibility in train movement and suitable areas in the rear of Alamein were selected as railheads in the event of a further withdrawal. An Australian engineer unit was speeding up construction on the Amiriya supply base, which would be needed in either case, and a procedure was worked out for the destruction of rolling stock in the event of a hasty retreat.

Rommel, besides ground troops, had been provided with the makings of an air force, a fact soon noted by the Kiwi railwaymen, accustomed by now to the high-flying and cautious Italians who flew around on moonlight nights. Early in July a train, picking up a small change-of-air leave party at It Nooh above the Baggush escarpment, in railway language the Fuka bank, was ground strafed by seven Messerschmitts. There were casualties in the coaches, while in the engine three of the crew of two Egyptians and two New Zealanders were wounded, one fatally,9 The driver, Lance-Corporal Padlie,10 hit in several places, managed to apply the brakes and instructed an English officer who had boarded the loco how to shut off steam and save a page 165 possible runaway down the steep Fuka bank. Part of the citation for his immediate Military Medal runs:

‘His action in applying the brakes so as to bring the train to a standstill, and subsequently instructing Captain Brown how to complete the operation and shut off steam which his own failing strength did not permit him to do, while suffering from at least four body wounds, showed courage of a high order and devotion to duty worthy of recognition.’

As the weeks passed reinforcements and replenishments began to alter the balance of forces on the frontier, a fact that the enemy air forces were quick to realise and to take steps against.

Standing at Fuka early in October were twenty or so wagons loaded with bombs up to 500 lb weight, a rake of ammunition wagons and some twenty-five wagons of aviation spirit. A well directed attack certainly produced results. First the petrol went up and the heat set fire to the wooden ammo wagons. The resultant explosions threw bomb fragments, unexploded bombs, parts of wagons and lengths of rail over a wide area of desert. It took two days to repair the damage, during which time 4 Reserve Motor Transport Company, which was camped nearby, ferried troops and urgent goods between trains halted at a safe distance on each side of Fuka station.

It was not wholly a bad thing (for this raid was distinguished from many others only by its success) because it produced antiaircraft protection at Daba and Fuka.

‘At Fuka a fortnight later an Egyptian engine driver who was at the throttle of a heavy goods train failed to notice, first, that he had arrived at Fuka, and secondly that there was a petrol train standing on the main line at the station. The accident cost us one of our young firemen11 who was killed instantly. The brakesman of the standing petrol train, a 16 Company man, did a few somersaults in company with his brake van which immediately caught alight, having been sprayed with petrol. Without knowing exactly how it came about the brakesman stepped unharmed from the blazing and derailed vehicle. His escape was miraculous as the brake van took the first blow from the heavy engine of the colliding train, the total weight of which was over 800 tons. As mentioned previously there were no signals at stations, no headlights on engines and no tail lights on the brake vans….’12

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The enemy viewed the accelerating build-up with increasing rancour and all through October and early November some part of the line came in for nightly attention, while saboteurs did their best by placing stones on the rails and by inserting explosives between the points. Two engines were derailed in one night and a water train was damaged while unloading. The drivers and firemen, both Kiwi and Egyptian, earned the admiration of front-line troops who realised that they had no protection and could not jump for cover. The Egyptian railway High Command, who were not the men their train crews were, at last gave express approval to the Kiwis, already operating the trains sub rosa, to do so with their official sanction.

On 6 November 17 Company took over station by station the Daba-Matruh length of Egyptian railway from 16 Company; the newcomers were welcomed by the enemy, who after a year of near and not so near misses landed a bomb fairly on the Daba station.

Sixteenth Company began to operate a new line from Similla to a temporary terminus at Mazhud (Lieutenant Hayman13), 68 ½ miles south-west in the Egyptian wilderness of sand, rock, stones and desert scrub. As on the main system, engines could not use headlights nor could the brake vans carry tail-lights; there were no signals and the only communication was through a three-exchange circuit, Matruh-Sidi Barrani-Sheiba. This is an opportune time to explain how that desert railway came to be there. But first it is necessary to bring 9 Survey Company into focus.

The Transportation Directorate, GHQ Middle East, was anxious to improve the line of communication along the Nile Valley by linking the Sudan and Egyptian railway systems; another urgent project was a rail connection between Upper Egypt and the Red Sea.

While the campaign in Crete was being fought Major Pack-wood, Captain Halley, Lieutenant White14 and the Chief Engineer of the Egyptian State Railways were looking for a route to the Red Sea from Qena,15 where the Nile takes a big sweep to the east.

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Safaga, where a British company was working a phosphate deposit and had built a small jetty, was eventually chosen as the seaward terminal of the new line. It took a vivid imagination to see a port and facilities being built on the dismal stretch of desert between the sea and the encircling gaunt limestone tableland. Utterly lifeless and waterless, oven-hot Safaga, 250 miles south of Suez, is in a bay two miles wide and hidden from the view of passing ships by a sand spit covering an outcrop of coral.

A route along the wadis and through the hills was located after some trouble, whereupon 9 Railway Survey Company was directed to survey both the railway for construction and the port for development.

Captain Halley, Lieutenants White and Macky, and No. 1 Section went by road to Qena, then across country to Safaga and set up camp near the beach, where Sergeant Jim Douglas16 and Hori Diamond17 found a plentiful supply of crayfish. The phosphate company welcomed the newcomers and made its club and canteen available to the men.

Captain Halley describes how to survey a railway line in a hurry, for over-all strategy, in the event of the Nile Delta being lost, envisaged the forces of Egypt retiring up the Nile Valley. Some of the planners also envisaged Safaga as the scene of a beach evacuation.

‘The first job was to traverse and level the proposed route and the section split up into several parties, each party taking a section of the 110 mile route. The pegging gangs kept well ahead of the theodolite and level parties, who enjoyed being carted from point to point by truck. Even the Staff-men travelled by truck. Surveying at this rate, from dawn to dark, it is not surprising that the route was traversed and levelled in about three weeks. No. 1 Section was thought as still on Long Range Desert Patrol scale of rations—which included a generous rum ration, so perhaps it was.

‘After the Qena-Safaga route had been traversed, the final alignment was drawn in and pegging for construction started, construction being carried out by the Egyptian Railway Department. The baby of the Survey Party at Safaga was Curley Neame,18 who, to the horror of the older PWD chainmen, did all his chaining at the double—the hotter the day the faster he ran. When the job was over, Curley packed up with a poisoned foot which he had had the whole time without letting on—his work at Safaga got him a well deserved Mention in Dispatches. One feature of the Qena-Safaga Railway worth mentioning is that owing to the steep grades necessary to get over the Red Sea mountains, at several stations special rail spurs were constructed up side Wadis to take care of possible run-a-way trains. The line fortunately, never had to fulfil its planned function, and after the War was pulled up.’

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map of road and rail construction

the qena – safaga road and railway

page 169

By this time it was the end of August and there had been several changes in the command of 9 Railway Survey Company. Major Packwood transferred to the Directorate of Works, Middle East, on 16 August. Captain Young,19 promoted major, left 10 Company to command the Survey Company. Lieutenant Marchbanks, promoted captain, replaced Captain Young as second-in-command 10 Company. Captain Nevins with his No. 3 Section was kept busy until December on a ‘recce’ for a line to close the Wadi Halfa-Shallal 190-mile gap between the Sudan and the Egyptian railway systems.20 They had also to locate a line from Wadi Halfa to Toshka, a river distance of about 63 miles, where a series of sandbanks made the river unreliable for three months each year. This was a No. 1 priority for an increasing amount of war material, including much of the troops' mail, was being sent to the Canal Zone via rail from Port Sudan to Atbara on the Khartoum-Wadi Halfa section of the Sudan railway system, thence by rail, river boat and road for a thousand miles to Alexandria.

The rail link between Wadi Halfa and Toshka would make the passage of warlike goods more secure—if we remained in Egypt. But the return of the enemy to the border of Egypt, better armed and reinforced with German troops led by German generals, suggested that we would be thrown out of North Africa unless something was done about it; something dynamic, like throwing the enemy out first.

Captain Clark21 and No. 2 Section left work along the Suez Canal for a survey project in the Western Desert.

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An offensive to clear North Africa could not be supplied by sea for the enemy had practical command of the Western Mediterranean and even to maintain Tobruk taxed the resources of the Navy. Nor could an army of the size needed be wholly administered by lorry; the thousands of tons of water and petrol used daily ruled that out.

Administration must therefore be carried out at least partly by railway. Beyond Matruh there was no railway. Very well, one must be built. That was the position when the New Zealand Division was landing at Alexandria from Greece and Crete. British generals needed to be lionhearted in those dark days. But though they did not know it, they had a tool to their hands that could build railways at a speed little short of fantastic, providing supplies of labour, plant and material were made available, as and when wanted.

Colonel Anderson and his officers had been working out drills for track laying and designing gear to implement the drill. The military textbooks on the subject envisaged one mile per day ‘end on’ track laying, but the Kiwi engineers thought they could double that rate.

Tenth Railway Construction Company, less 2 Section on its way back from the Tessenei bridge job in the Sudan, made a camp at Similla and on 26 June restarted work on the line to Charing Cross, 19 miles away on top of the escarpment dominating Matruh from the west. Incidentally, although the Army always called the place Charing Cross, the Egyptian Government took a dim view of unbelievers christening railway stations in the land of the faithful and insisted that the correct name was Mohalafa.22 Charing Cross was always Mohalafa to the Railway Group, but later, when the line ran into Libya, it got its own back with Killarney and, out of respect to the Aussies who had held Tobruk, Gundagai. It would hardly be necessary to describe the sign indicating the Gundagai station.

The job was begun with almost no equipment; the first three miles of track was laid by trucking sleepers and dragging rails with tractors because there was no locomotive. By 21 August rails had been laid only to Mile 7 and formation completed to Mile 9, less than a mile a week.

A new formation soon to be known to fame as the Eighth Army was in the process of formation.23 Some of the reper- page 171 cussions were the arrival of Headquarters Railway Construction and Maintenance Group at Qasaba, following instructions to Major Rabone to have the Mohalafa depot completed and operating on 14 September. Material suddenly became available and two Indian units, 1209 and 1212 Pioneer Companies, were attached to 10 Company.

depot construction plans

mohalafa depot

The unit was split, half the Company and one Indian company platelaying and the other half and the second Indian company working partly on formation and ballast and partly on loading banks and shunt lines for the Mohalafa depot. The line was completed from the seven to the nineteen mile peg in ten days, an average of 1.2 miles a day.

This was the first attempt at fast platelaying and the drill perfected during the period was used in all future work. On 3 September 10 Company's diarist must have penned the following lines in the war diary with satisfaction:

‘Railhead at Mohalafa this evening. 1 Mile 2480 feet of track laid today. For the seven day period including today 7 miles 3630 feet of steel sleeper track was distributed, laid and linked, representing an average of 1 Mile 519 feet per day for the period.’

On 6 September advice was received that, commencing on the following day, 140 truckloads of pipes for the extension of the Western Desert pipeline which would service Eighth Army were to be taken by construction train beyond Mohalafa and page 172 unloaded as near as possible to the road running south to the Siwa oasis24—the Railway Construction sappers' first job for Eighth Army.

Much of the petrol, ammunition and other warlike stores now went to the new railhead and enemy ‘recce’ planes were not slow in reporting streams of vehicles in what used to be an innocent piece of desert—with the usual nightly consequences.

Thirteenth Company's arrival at Mohalafa in mid-September completed the concentration of C and M Group. It was warmly greeted, for the next objective was Piccadilly, 64 ½ miles away, and the target date was 25 October, which meant improving on the already fast time put up by 10 Company Group. Two miles per day was aimed at and was first attained on 24 September, when two and a half miles of formation and two miles, 860 feet, of track were completed.

It was some compensation to the toiling sappers, whose first shift on the earthmoving plant was roused at 4.30 in the bleak desert morning and whose second shift stopped the discordant noise of their diesels at 6.30 p.m. Mention might be made at this point of the way the material was sent forward from Alexandria. Two miles of track required a train of eight doublebogie cars for rails and from 30 to 35 single-bogie trucks for sleepers and fastenings. There were five trains, one at railhead, one on the way up, one on the way down, one being loaded and one spare. Sometimes the trains were not properly balanced and brought up the wrong numbers of components, but it says a great deal for the RE Railway Stores Company and the Railway Operating Companies that, in spite of enemy action, the construction sappers were kept supplied from dumps 350 miles back.

Colonel Anderson had, since 1 September, taken over command of all railway construction in the Western Desert. It was not long before the Kiwi construction expert had to show his quality. He was called to Eighth Army Headquarters and told that the line would have to go 12 miles past Piccadilly to Misheifa, where a depot, marshalling yard, sidings for all services, vehicle recovery and ambulance train sidings, locomotive facilities, watering and coaling must be completed by 16 November. All told, 86 miles of track in 57 days, otherwise 5000 motor lorries would have to be scraped up to do the work.

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‘Eighth Army promised to make it a Priority 1 job if we could guarantee it, and to give us valuable plant and motor transport. We said we could, and set off with our new organisation. They were difficult days. There was never enough of anything to give us a feeling of security. The motor lorries given us were old and in short supply. There were not enough compressors, there was not enough earthwork plant, and there were too few trucks and locomotives. Spare parts and tools were inadequate—for instance there were several delays because there were no augers for sleeper boring.’25

By the middle of October the job was 12 miles behind schedule and Cain was being raised with the harassed authorities about defective vehicles and slow deliveries. In spite of shortages, over two and a half miles of rail was spiked by 13 Company on 19 October, an achievement hitherto unequalled in the desert and not unremarkable in the history of military railway construction. Transport breakdowns and shortage of augers notwithstanding, over two and three-quarter miles were laid on the 23rd and an attempt to break the three-mile barrier was defeated by the fact that the permitted grade was too much for the construction train, which had to be split.

depot construction plans

misheifa depot

Besides the actual line, a depot had to be constructed for unloading all the necessities of an army. Colonel Anderson had already submitted a novel but practical plan for a circular page 174 depot instead of the orthodox type and gave his reasons, largely technical and without meaning to the layman.26 The Air Force said that such a set-up would be harder to put out of action and the ‘Ack-Ack’ people said it would be easier to defend. Everybody having to do with transportation chewed the idea over and approval was finally given on 27 October. The depot was required to handle six trains daily—one passenger, three stores, one water and one ambulance.

The importance the extension had now assumed was shown on 3 November, when all the generals concerned with the battle about to be thrust on the enemy inspected the New Zealand job.

Were the line and extras finished by 16 November? Let us take a look at the war diary of 13 Railway Construction Company, who were working ahead of 10 Company during this period:

  • 4/11 Fine day, Formation completed to 86M3000. Track completed to 85M3800 (2.35 miles today). Material did not arrive at trackhead until 1045 hours. Brigadier Miller, Eighth Army, had arranged for special supply of beer to men which arrived today and assisted in assuaging the accumulated thirst of about 10 days, the last three being particularly hot and dusty.

  • 5/11 Formation completed to 88M. Track completed to 87M1255 (1.50 miles today). 0.88 miles of track was tacked down in first 2 ½ hrs work this morning, but track was chasing material distribution so closely that laying was knocked off at noon.

  • 6/11 Completed to 89M3000. Three shifts being worked on formation now. No tracklaying because of material shortage.

  • 7/11 Formation completed to Depot (93 ½M)…. Tracklaying completed to 89M2400 (2.22 miles today).

  • 8/11 Formation of depot 30 per cent complete. Track laid out to 91M2630 (2.04 miles today). Shunting delayed arrival of materials.

  • 9/11 Formation for depot 45 per cent complete. Main line complete to 91M4000.

  • 10/11 Depot formation 55 per cent complete. Main line of depot loop complete…. (1.8 miles today).

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  • 11/11 Depot formation 70 per cent complete. Main line track completed through marshalling yard and up to materials siding turnout. Water siding complete (1.16 miles today).

  • 15/11 Depot formation complete and formation for main line complete to 93M3000. Main line laid to 93M2200…. (1.11 miles today).

First train to use Misheifa railhead arrived this evening when a water train was taken into the water siding.

Misheifa was staffed by fifty other ranks commanded by Lieutenant G. L. Hayman and eventually had full terminal facilities for locos, coaling, water and running repairs.

From Colonel Simner, Director of Transportation, GHQ, Middle East, to Colonel Anderson:

‘… I am just writing to express my personal appreciation and thanks for the first class show put up by you and the whole of the NZE group officers and men, in pushing through the Western Desert Extension to the new desert railhead in record time, ahead of time table, and, I am certain, ahead of the original expectations of the powers that be. The first step to Capuzzo, I hope!

‘While construction work was going on I frequently had many anxious moments but never as to your ability to complete the job to programme, only as to our ability to keep you supplied with the necessary materials at the required rate. I know you will convey these congratulations to all working under you.’

The Kiwis were quick to pass the congratulations on to the Indian pioneers, who were excellent workers and took a keen interest in the race against time. Sappers will no doubt strongly deny that there was any connection between the negligible sick parades of that period and the desire to see the job through on schedule; nevertheless the MO had a very slack time.

One unforeseen consequence of building a railway in the desert was the effect on the nerves of sundry drivers who, on returning from convoy duties along the route made on the outward journey, were confronted by a set of rails complete with train that had certainly not been there before.

As early as 6 November Eighth Army had approved an idea for the protection of Misheifa railhead. The scheme, based on the supposition that the enemy would not recognise the circular depot for what it was, was to build a dummy depot of regular design on a likely prolongation of the route, but far enough page 176 away for any air attack not to interrupt traffic. ‘No. 2 Desert Railhead’ became the joint affair of the NZE who built it, a camouflage section of the RAF 253 Wing who photographed it daily to see that shadows were in the right places, and the Mobile Section of 85 South African Camouflage Company who provided dummy fuel and ration depots, accommodation and slit trenches for straw soldiers, goods trains of timber and black cloth with furnace glow effects, wooden Bofors guns, cloth lorries and an erection whose sole claim to be a water tank was that it looked like one. Not all the Bofors were wooden for the success of the deception relied on the keeping of inquisitive planes at a respectful height. The job must have been convincing for, besides the usual attentions to the whole line in general and Misheifa in particular, the Luftwaffe gratifyingly plastered No. 2 Desert Railhead heavily and often. No doubt both Generals Rommel and Cunningham were completely satisfied with the damage reported as being inflicted on No. 2 Desert Railhead.

There was a break in railway construction during December when the sappers worked on strengthening the fillings and reballasting the line.

1 Germany invaded Russia on 22 Jun 1941.

2 Maj D. A. Clarke, MBE; born Palmerston North, 7 Dec 1895; clerk.

3 Capt J. N. Nicholson; Lower Hutt; born Napier, 25 Jul 1895; locomotive inspector.

4 Chief port and one of the principal cities of Palestine (now Israel).

5 Capital of Syria and reputedly the world's oldest inhabited city.

6 Capital of the Kingdom of Jordan.

7 Capital of Lebanon and formerly of Syria as a whole before the partition of Lebanon and Syria.

8 Letter, Cpl J. Dangerfield.

10 Cpl H. Padlie, MM; Maungaturoto; born Kaikohe, 14 Aug 1909; enginedriver; wounded 7 Jul 1941.

12 Lt-Col F. W. Aickin, manuscript history of 16 Railway Operating Company.

13 Capt G. L. Hayman, m.i.d.; born Kaiapoi, 26 Jul 1905; stationmaster.

14 Maj D. U. White, DSO; Napier; born Kaituna, 2 Mar 1908; civil engineer; twice wounded.

15 Qena, with a population of 43,000, is the capital of Qena province, on the eastern bank of the Nile.

16 Lt J. S. Douglas; Temuka; born NZ 8 Mar 1914; engineer's assistant, PWD.

17 Spr G. T. Diamond; Okaihau; born Pakanae, 10 Sep 1906; chainman.

18 Spr G. Neame, m.i.d.; born NZ 14 Jul 1919; labourer.

19 Lt-Col W. F. Young, m.i.d.; born NZ 6 Jan 1902; civil engineer; OC 9 Ry Svy Coy 1941-42; 10 Ry Constr Coy 1942-43; CO NZ Ry C and M Gp Jun-Nov 1943; Deputy Commissioner of Works, 1955-59, and Director of Roading; died Rotorua, 17 May 1959.

21 Lt-Col C. Clark, m.i.d.; Wellington; born NZ 9 Aug 1906; civil engineer; OC (in turn) 10 and 13 Ry Constr Coys, 7 and 8 Fd Coys; wounded 28 Mar 1944; Chief Civil Engineer, NZR.

22 Also spelt Mohalfa.

23 Eighth Army started as Headquarters Western Army on 9 September and was redesignated Eighth Army as from midnight 26 - 27 September, when it took over operational command of all troops in the Western Desert.

24 Siwa is one of the five great oases in the Libyan Desert and is situated about 400 miles west of Cairo. It lies 50 feet below sea level, is inhabited chiefly by Berbers and produces fruits, olives and vegetables.

25 ‘Military Railway Construction in Middle East 1941–43’, by R. Trevor Smith, OBE, AMICE.

26 A balloon type depot was laid out by 3 Section on its first assignment at Wadi es Serar in Palestine during September-October, 1940. See Chap. 2, p. 35.