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The desert Rats
Started by: elizabeth (5439)  Report abuse
, Has any one got Grandfathers living that were there and recall the names that are all over the news these day ,Bengazi/Libia/Tripoli Cairo, I wonder what tales they could tell about these places , if they are still around ask now before they are gone

Posted by: orrellite (2350) Report abuse
my Dad was in the whole of that region through the war ,sadly he is no longer with us, I must admit that he was not particularly fond of the locals and their attitude towards the British Army ,he was brought off his motorbike ,he was a despatch rider, by a wire across the track leaving him with a broken arm and a dented ego.He went through to Pallestine and then all the way up through Italy where he ended up at the end of the war.

Posted by: elizabeth (5439)  Report abuse
Orrellite there is not enough mentioned of the Dispatch riders who were very brave men going through unknown terretory to del news as to where the battles and such was happening . be very proud of your Dad , which I am sure you are

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
My dad served as a gunner with the Lancs Fusiliers in the North Africa Campaign. All the place names we are hearing about in the current Libyan conflict, I can recall him speaking about.
I was 3 months old when he went to war, and nearly 6yrs old when he returned. He saw action all across Libya and into Egypt. Then, like Orrellite's dad, went on to Italy where he was wounded. Shrapnel was removed from his temple and his legs. This must have been done in a field hospital. He wasn't sent home to recuperate and was still in Italy when the Germans surrendered. After hostilities ceased, he was involved in repatriating the German prisoners back to Germany. They were taken there in convoys of lorries.
Like many service people of his era, he didn't elaborate much about his experiences, he just got on with rebuilding his life and looking after his family.
I have some of his photos from North Africa -:
No 3 Gun in action, Capuzzo, May 1942.
Grant Tank, Mersa Matruh, Dec 1942.
Also a photo of him with two friends which seems to be taken at some relatively safe base. They are all looking smart in their uniform. Written on the back, June 21st 1943. M.E.F. Does anyone know what M.E.F stands for? Middle East Force possibly, or maybe just an mail box address as was common at the time to keep their location secret.
My dad was lucky to come home from war relatively unscathed as many of his comrades paid the ultimate price and we should never forget that we owe our freedom to these brave troops.

Posted by: elizabeth (5439)  Report abuse
Nokomis I quite agree

Posted by: İartİ (6154) Report abuse
A chap I used to know from Appley Bridge served in the North African campagne with Monty's army. He worked down Standish Hall Drift Mine, & the nickname he answered to was..."Rommel", never got called owt else.

Posted by: orrellite (2350) Report abuse
my dad did thankfully return, but as you say many others did not, my wifes father did not he was in the Royal Artillary carrying out the first counter attacks at Monte Casino he was one of the first casualties in Jan 1944, at which time the History books say the campaign there had not started, the area in which the allied forces were, was a wide open plain below the surrounding mountains occupied by the German forces ,sitting ducks comes to mind and thousands were killed the vast majority being Polish.

Posted by: elizabeth (5439)  Report abuse
Orrelite I also remember the yanks suffering enormous casualties as I think everyone there did God Bless all of them where ever they came from

Posted by: orrellite (2350) Report abuse
elizabeth you are correct I think all the early allied forces suffered terrible losses'
we have been to the cemetery there and to stand by his graveside and look up at the Monastery towering down on the area below gives some little impression of what they faced from the German emplacements in the hills and mountains above.
Of course when the bombing of the Monastery took place the Germans had fled and hence they a few casualties in comparison

Posted by: joseph 1 (inactive) Report abuse
How speedily the years have flown,
and we who came back safely home
from arid deserts far and wide,
still wear with honest pride
Now dimmed with age, it's meaning
a merest page in history,
Long forgotten by those who didn't see them die,
those gallant youngsters of Alamein
and many another War Campaign,
And as we stand in silent prayer,
within our hearts we'll be aware,
that these our Comrades of long ago,
are still with us, row on row,
flanked by friends who died in Peace.
So Grant us Lord that wars shall cease.

Capt. Eddie Plunkett.

Look around the mountain in the mud and rain,You see the scattered crosses, there's some that have no names. Heartbreak and toil and suffering gone, The boys beneath them slumber on.

They are the D-day dodgers who stay in Italy.

God bless and thank the 8th Army.

Posted by: baker boy (15221) Report abuse
the d day dodgers who stayed in italy,some of the worst fighting was against the jerries in italy

Posted by: the_gwim_weaper (inactive) Report abuse
D-day dodger was a heavily sarcastic term, coined by a soldier in fighting on the Italian front line, in a letter to Parliament I think.

Posted by: joseph 1 (inactive) Report abuse
That's right Gwim.

Baker Boy, my old dad was there with the 1st Armoured Div/2nd Armoured Brigade, after getting through Alamein. It was very bad indeed, I have some old stuff of my Dads in boxes somewhere were he has wrote about his movements from Durban then up to Libya all the way through to Italy then ending up in Lubeck, Germany at the end. I shall try to dig them out and post bits on here, that's if I don't choke up reading them again. (Been many years since I last read them) His stuff about getting out of Dunkirk is real heartbreaking stuff. These people were truly a great generation and without a doubt our saviours.

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
Joseph and Gwim

My dad always told me that the MP Lady Nancy Astor was responsible for coining the insulting phrase "D Day Dodgers", and the men hated her for this. She is said to have made the comment in the House of Commons.

The lines quoted by Joseph -: Look around the mountain, in the rain and mud, etc., is the last verse of a song written by Major Hamish Henderson 51st Highland Division,in response to Nancy Astor's comments. It was sung to the tune of Lilly Marlene.

My dad and his mates had their own version. I can remember a particular verse he sang......

Listen Lady Astor, Get a load of this
Don't stand on you soap box and talk a load of *iss
You are the Nation's joy and pride
But your horse's mouth is much too wide
That's from the D Day Dodgers
The boys from Italy

The real version by Major Henderson, comprises many verses and can be seen on the web site


Sorry not mastered doing links yet.

I look forward to seeing your dads stuff Joseph. I only wish I had asked my dad more about his experiences while he was still with us.

Posted by: joseph 1 (inactive) Report abuse
What must never be forgotten is that the 8th Army and it's units had quite a few of their own D-Days well before the 6th of june 1944. I believe it was actuall a British Tommy who used the D-Day Dodger phrase and not that Astor woman, who had always denied it.

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
That's interesting Joseph. I had never heared about the British Tommy before...only my dad's version. Whoever said it, it was surely untrue and despicable. All that brave generation played their part and as you say, saved us from an unthinkable fate.

Posted by: joseph 1 (inactive) Report abuse
The Tommy sent a letter to the Govt or whoever because the soldiers in the Italian theatre of war thought their sacrifices were being overlooked after the 6th of June landings and he signed the letter sarcastically "From a D-Day Dodger" on his and the mens behalf. Lady Astor read the letter and used the term somewhere and she got blamed for calling them.

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
Ah, I understand now. Thanks for that.

Posted by: joseph 1 (inactive) Report abuse
Most welcome,Nokomis.

Posted by: tuddy (1016) Report abuse
Vary moving verse joseph, my own dad was awarded the Africa star, but he never talked much about his experiences. We all owe that generation so much. I think I heard somewhere that Astor wanted to quarentine all the returning servicemen before they were allowed home. Did'nt she also describe coal miners as earthworms?

Posted by: elizabeth (5439)  Report abuse
Joseph, what heart churning words, they make you stop in your tracks and make your heart bleed for those men , and thats why I get furious with the way of people today the stabbing and killing,God if only we could put those sort of people in those Dug Outs and play the noise of the battle continually to them and not for a few days put them there for a month, sorry I go on and I remmeber a friend of mine who had done over 40 sorties flying over Germany and whilst onn leave dancing he broke down and cried , he didnt want to go back but knew he had to, 20yrs of age and he never did return from one of those bombing raids , and in a way I am glad i am not a youngster any more in these days

Posted by: İartİ (6154) Report abuse
You're right Tuddy, Lady Astor described miners as "dirty commom earthworms"

Posted by: tuddy (1016) Report abuse
I thought she'd said that art, speaks volumes about her dos'nt it?

Posted by: İartİ (6154) Report abuse
She was famous for stupid quotes in her day. There's quite a list of 'em if you care to look..

Posted by: the_gwim_weaper (inactive) Report abuse
My Grandfather was a desert Rat. He was awesome.

Posted by: moodysue (inactive) Report abuse
My Grt Uncle was a desert rat sadly he is no longer with us to tell any stories.

Posted by: john joseph (3197)  Report abuse
on April 19 ysterday My dad would have been 100 years old if he was alive he started his african campagn in Freetown West africa and fought his way up through Egypt and on to Salerno in Italy

Posted by: rosbott (198)  Report abuse
Brave heroes every one of them.

Britain won the war, but Germany won the peace, when you now concider
The Common Market.

What a waste of lives.

Posted by: keno (2840)  Report abuse

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
I was in N.Africa before going into Italy then back to the Middle East. Syria,Lebanon,Palastine 1945/46. The Syrians wanted the French out of Syria and we had the job of separating them on an internal security basis.We freed Damascus and were congratulated by the Commaner in Chief of MEF, General Sir Bernard Page for a We also had to round up escaped prisoners from Damascus Prison.Damascus had been shelled by the french.
The French were evacuated to Tripoli on the Eastern Mediterranean coast. This took place all the way from the French Barracks in Aleppo near the Turkish border where The KDGs escorted them with their families in theit French Army trucks from Aleppo to Hamma Where we took over for the rest of the journey to Tripoli. We had Staghound Armoured Cars for this except for four of us in a three tonner bringing up the rear and attending the casualties in both personnel and vehicles.
During the journey through the town of Homs the locals were waiting with large piles of stones and every truck suffered.The badly injured driver in the truck in front of us could not negotiate the last corner which led onto the Tripoli road and went straight into the railway station yard with us in support,followed by the Mob.
We radioed for help from the Armoured Cars and the ambulance from the front of the Convoy which had already stopped and came to our assistance.
At an Inquiry that evening I passed the information on and from then on the Streets of HOMS was defended by having troops of the Indian Brigade of which we were a part on duty every few yards along the streets.
Later we went into Palastine during the troubles there.
As the news from all that area comes on TV i follow every inch of the places as though I was still there.

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
Hello Norman

It is marvellous to see a post from someone who was actually there and experienced those battles in the Middle East and Italy. When you see the area now on TV news, does it still look generally similar....long roads, deserts and dust? It certainly looks very much like the scenes in the few photos we have from my dad's time there. His were obviously taken during lulls in proceedings....no images of casualties or destruction. What we see now on TV really brings home what he must have witnessed, as no doubt you did too. You must have been just a slip of a lad........I have looked at the photos on your profile. Is the 4th from left the D Day landings?
Thanks for sharing your experiences, I am so glad I spotted your post.

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
To nokomis. No, I was not involved in the D Day landings because I was in Italy at that t5ime.The photo I think you mean was taken on the 9th June 1940 in Bristol after my return from Dunkirk.
I have photos taken in Egypt and Italy.
You hear so much of GAZA nowadays and that is a place we used to stop during trips across the Sinai desert to and from Egypt and where we exchanged Egyptian pounds for Lebanese,Palastian or Syrian currency.The Arab doing the deals used to sit at a small table on the station platform.
Even in those days, drugs,(Hashish) was a roaring trade among the Arabs.
To get ready for return to the UK for Demob I did a spell in Palastine railway workshops including a couple rides on the engine footplate during test runs. I also did a course in a Colledge in Cairo before my time came to become a civilian again.
I have the Palastine medal for Service there which I only received about five or six years ago.
All happy memories after nearly seven years service and for which I do not regret any of,good and bad.
Being semi computer literate my life story from 1923 up to about 1950 is on record, with more to do yet.

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse

Is your story on this site? If so,I will look it up.
At present I am reading a book called "It is bliss here".
It is by Myles Hildyard and is a collection of his letters home 1939-1945. He saw action in Palastine, Crete, N.Africa, Italy, the D-Day landings and finally Berlin in 1945. It's interesting, especially the letters from Libya. However, he was an officer seeing things from a different perspective than say my dad would have. He seems to have had more perks as well, but he did have very bad times, captured at the battle of Crete, and then escaped from a German POW camp on the island, across the Med to Turkey. You might enjoy it...it's a hard back on sale at The Works clearance book shop in Wigan for £1.99..original price £17.99.

Posted by: the_gwim_weaper (inactive) Report abuse
Splendid read. Norman.God bless.

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
nokomis, My story is not on line.Parts of it are with the BBC archives some with Age Concern and other media including some in MENews from 1980 and more recent.
Up to date I have about 30,000 words on the computer but as I said before, I have much to do yet
Also I am still a member of the Lancashire Fusiliers association and the Queens Royal Hussars,the Regiment which amalagamated with other Hussars including the 3rd The Kings Own Hussars in which I served and rose to the dizzy heights of Sergeant.
Regarding storing information, it was forbidden for troops to keep a diary even though some would but I suspect not for Officers.
To go back to Dunkirk time, we were not allowed to go into Action with personal letters in out pocket.We were advised to complete the WILL Form in the back of our AB 64s
When the Evacuation started on 26th May, we were 50 miles plus inland from Dunkirk and fought our way back via countless numbers of rearguard actions. I am here to tell my story and remember with sadness and pride at having known them, the Comrades who paid the ultimate price.

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
Yes, MEF was Middle East Forces. Later it changed to MELF, Middle East Land Forces.

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
Thanks for clarifying that Norman. I have had a quick look at the BBC archives. There is a lot to see re Middle East so I will keep going back for a browse. I would love to read your memories. Have you given them a title? Might help me to navigate to it quicker.

The present news from Libya doesn't get any better. Just hope Gaddafi is ousted and brought to justice soon.

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
To nokomis.
If you click on to Google and enterNormanP4105 you can open the history site on which several item re Dunkirk are entered.

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
Thanks Norman

I will have a good browse

Posted by: aussie94 (2313) Report abuse
We have recently buried my sister-in laws father, he was a "rat of Tobruk "a great Aussie bloke , copt some terrible injuries during the campaign . But never whinged , solid to the end , was in his 90 year and still liked RL and a beer .God Bless him!

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
aussie94. Thanks for the info,It is nice to hear of someone who was there.In those testing times. As you say, he never whinged and that was the attitude of the majority who served in all campaigns. Misfortune was always acce3pted that it might happen and everyone just got on with it.
Saying that, I always think of the families back home who could not know what loved ones were doing or what was likely to happen next and thank them for the efforts in muition factories to provide the means and support to those of us at the Front in spite of the devastating air attacks they had to endure That is war.We hope that no future generation is called upon to experience such times.


Posted by: elizabeth (5439)  Report abuse
Wouldnt it be nice if these veterans that have written on here could meet up one evening and remanice

Posted by: the_gwim_weaper (inactive) Report abuse
Or start blogs so everyone can read about their experiences.

Posted by: tuddy (1016) Report abuse
Nice reading of your experiences norman prior. aussie94,my dad used to say the Aussies were some of the best soldiers he came across, naturals at living off the land and roughing it.

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
nokomis, did you manage to open the web site i told you about or are you still browsing?

Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
norman...yes thanks, I did find it.........went straight to it with your info. NormanP4105. I now see where your Bristol photo fits in. I enjoyed reading your contributions and I will be browsing again on the site and showing it to my 13yr old grandson. He has been asking questions about WW2 recently so he will be find it interesting too.
My dad was only called up in the summer of 1940 so he would have been in a later intake than yourself. I was a baby of 4 months when he went, perhaps his call up was delayed because of that, I don't know.
Sorry not replied sooner....had plenty of outstanding jobs needing to be done (not done them all yet)

Posted by: norman prior (817)   Report abuse
So many questions and so many answers to WW2 events.
I think most who served lived off the land at some time or other especially those at the Front.Italy was a great place where the fruit trees, peaches, Cherries and all the others including helping ourselves to the produce from gardens where the occupiers had been evacuated.
What I don't think is so well known is that at the beginning of the war, there was so little prepared that the TA in Bury could not be accomodated in the barracks and slept in the Drill Hall and had meals in the Coop.

When I arrived at the Barracks there were no Uniforms etc available and my intake were doing Drill etc in our own civilian clothes for which I received one shilling and seven pence per week for the first three weeks. Eventually the pre war Service dress of 1914 was issued because the battle dress was still unavailable.
After training in the Bury area we went to Rhyl into a boarding house which had been taken over and we had to march to Woolworths for meals. A shortage of cooks so anyone who could boil water could volunteer After about ten days we went to Denbigh billited in the Memorial Hall before moving to Newbury and then down to Southampton for the crossing on the Isle of Man ship ship "Ben mi Chree"to Cherburg to join the BEF in France
Likewise, a shortage of vehicles.
Trucks of all descriptiond were commandeered. Private cars, Ford V8s, Coop wagons, Tizer wagons, you name it they were all there in their original Livery etc to facilitate training drivers.
It was exciting though. Here we were driving these posh cars that we could never have dreamt of driving before enlisting.

In France we were issued with a cotton bandalier with 50 rounds of .303" rifle bullets, then wait to see if any more would come up with the rations.

Those were the days, no wonder the Germans were able to advance so quickly.


Posted by: nokomis (768) Report abuse
Fascinating memories Norman....please keep them coming.

I have just had another browse on the "Yesterday" website. What a terrible time you had on that beach and in the rowing boat......2½ days cold,wet,tired,hungry and under German bombardment. I hope other WW members will take time to read it...well worthwhile. Thank you!


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