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With 6 Field Regiment at Sidi Rezegh

23268 RS Wait

Colonel Steve Weir arrived at our gun position during the heat of the battle and his first words were, 'How about a drink of water, my oath! I'm dry.' He gave orders that we were to withdraw only when the position became untenable ... and it was now not far off that! Machine gun bullets beat a tattoo on gun and trailer. We were on the other side not feeling altogether comfortable. 'Prepare to withdraw, independent limber up!', we were to move, what a relief! The gun had to be pushed forward off the platform, the trailer had to be swung around. Our spare ammunition trailer required moving. The Quads were coming up, luckily they had not been put out of action. We smartly got the spare trailer hooked up and away. In came the gun tractor, gear and blanket rolls were hurtled in. The Quad was backed on to the trailer eye, and curse it, stones prevented the gun wheels from moving. We had to rush here and there around and about the gun pushing and straining. The advancing Germans had a sitting target. My! how we worked. 'Mount', I yelled as the trailer eye connected with the tractor hook. We were away. How we cheered.

There were two or three hundred yards to go before we could dive down over the escarpment. The trucks went flat out. We cheered our driver on (Gnr RW Bunton MM). Bullets crashed into the back of the Quad. What a din. When leaving a position I usually stand up through the 'roof' to watch for movement orders, but as luck would have it I could not this trip, we couldn't move for the pile of bed rolls we had just heaved in. I was seated. Whang! A hole appeared over our heads, a bullet had gone clean through the canvas roof and out by the window-frame at just a height, had I been standing, that would have collected me somewhere in the region of the neck!

Strange as it seems, only one man was killed, a hit right through the temple, as we made our dash from the ridge. Many received minor wounds and our trucks and guns stopped many a bullet and tank shells. One of my team got a 'spent' bullet lodged in his neck muscles. Gnr CH Brown was later evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station. Except for tanks taking pot-shots at us as we moved along the wadi below that fateful ridge, we were in comparative safety until ... we were not sure of our ground, desert warfare is so fluid, and once the remnants got into column of route we continued a mile or two towards the Tobruk By-pass road, a highway constructed by the Axis to pass around the Tobruk garrison. We slowed down to let vehicles ahead spread out. Some of us had halted. Bang! The Quad about twenty yards ahead of us went up in smoke. We were being shelled so it seemed. As quickly as possible we made off. I was looking for the next shell, when a gun, an A Troop one to our right, dropped its trails and went into action. A close range tank shot. It was a tank shell which hit the truck beside us and now I had a grand view (the rest of the crew couldn't look around from inside the Quad, but I'm in the cockpit) of this same tank being shot sky high by the shot fired from our No. 1 gun. It was a great piece of work and should not be surprised if you read about this incident in the next list of Awards. More tanks, eight or nine, appeared but when they saw what had befallen their leader, they smartly made off, firing only a few long range shots after us.

For about a kilometre we travelled this quite good road. Trucks and troops were seen ahead, His or Ours? They were ours, and before long our guns were in action again, beside this road, with a troop of the RHA (Royal Horse Artillery, a British unit - no horses now). Our gallant infantry, or what was left of them, made a successful counter attack as soon as they got down from the escarpment. Later we learned that these RHA guns and the supporting Australian infantry from Tobruk were going to shoot up our column as we came along the By-pass road. Ten minutes before we arrived a German despatch rider and a truck load of Jerries passed over the same ground as we had. They were fired upon with good effect. Guns and rifles were layed on us as we approached, luckily our trucks were recognised as British .. and all this happened before we got our breakfast, which made matters worse!

RS Wait, November 1941

This excerpt has been extracted from the book 'Letters Home', written by Robin Wait and reproduced here with permission. All text is copyright Robin Wait.

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