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One week on the Alamein Line
Struan MacGibbon, 'F' troop, 26th Battery
This excerpt has been extracted from the book 'Struan's War', edited by John MacGibbon and published by Ngaio Press. It is reproduced here with permission. All text is copyright Ngaio Press 2001.
Four columns moved off at 11pm and after three miles we waited for the infantry to attack. Things opened up in fine style and tracers were tearing all over the place. White ones and red ones following one another like snakes. Look all the world like a glistening string of beads. Mortars and heavy stuff making the ground quiver, with Verey lights making it as day. A beautiful sight, but deadly.
5.00am Hun prisoners coming back.
5.30am Digging in. Spent bullets fuzzing by.
10.45am Stick of bombs behind us and I was caught in the open. Dived under a truck and did I feel exposed.
2.45pm Bombs landed 100 yards, away right near a swag of prisoners. What a smoke and blast and three trucks further away are in flames. Prisoners coming in all the time.
6.15pm Prepare to move.
6.25pm Action, tanks. We are now waiting.
7.45pm Twenty Huns overhead. Ack-ack fire by the mile, hit one near the tail and down she came not quarter of a mile away and went up in a sheet of flame. That's the stuff. Our fighters overhead now.
8pm We got hell that time. A dozen big Junkers came over and let go everything. Sticks of four at a time and the ground fairly shook. Two more trucks on fire. Those must have been Hun fighters overhead because they did not interfere with the bombers. Very little damage compared to the number of bombs dropped.
8.30pm Hell popping now and our guns forward one going flat out. My slit trench and I will be good friends tonight. What a hole a bomb makes. Five feet by five feet hole and the earth for 30 feet around all blackened.
The stink died down very soon last night. Got enough water off my ground sheet to have a sponge. Artillery duel at 8am. Hun planes in distance. Quite a number of the Hun 25 pounders are duds and they hop across the sand like giant grasshoppers.
3.30pm Bombing raid and they caught us all unawares. The bombs were already landing before the Bofors opened up. Three more trucks gone. I was dozing under my shelter and made one mad dive right into my trench, skinning my elbows in the process.
7.45pm Hun fighters overhead again.
Stick of bombs away to our left and our fighters made them leave off. No dog fights.
8.10pm A lone Hun bomber.
Wakened up by our guns. Merry hell up in the front by the sound of things. The boys have some enemy gear now.
1.30pm I was up on a 'Quad' when a Hun fighter came tearing over a ridge not 50 yards away and at a height of 30 feet. Boy, did I move, but he was intent on getting away from a Hurricane. They were out of sight in five seconds. A very quiet afternoon and only our boys pooping over a few. Jerry has been driven back, I believe. Sergeant has just told us that there are two cans of beer per man coming up. Yum! Yum!
8.10pm One can of beer and it was good. No barrage tonight.
Hun sent up some Verey lights last night and they drifted over our lines. As bright as day, and a plane bombed at the same time.
8.00am Pooping over a few shells.
10.25am Air raid ¼ mile away, no damage.
1.25pm Air raid by Junkers and one of our troop trucks is blazing ten yards away. Those bombs have a blast. It felt like a gale over my trench. The ground around the truck is covered with torn debris. I saw one stick of three bombs leave a plane but they went well past. One of our wee runabout cars was touring round here this morning and we believe it might have been a Hun. What a nerve.
6.00pm We have been shelling for over 20 minutes now. They are passing over from behind from all over the place.
6.30pm Barrage over and the Infantry are sweeping them back.
Tanks by the dozen are going up at dawn.
8.30am Hun planes doing a reconnaissance up above. Bashed some Army biscuits to bits this morning. Added milk and water and it was quite good.
10.30am 45 Stuka dive bombers passed over well up. A very quiet afternoon, with hardly a shot. Rumour says that the RAF cleaned up 33 of those Stukas. Wrote some letters.
Pooped a few shells off. Quiet otherwise. Made a cover for our Bren gun. Huge transports with tanks aboard pass now and again.
2pm Had a look for John Brook, but he is too far away. Made sure I went from slit trench to slit trench too. Rum issue tonight.
Things have been very quiet lately. Jerry does not seem to be able to find us here. His shells land well in front and behind and since landing here four days ago, no shell has come near us. Planes scarce too. A lot of Jerry's bombs are duds and the engineers have exploded six near here. Two big RAF bomber formations went over. We are supposed to be advancing tonight.
8.45 A terrific tank battle going on up forward by the sound of things. A fearful rumble and flashes.
DIARY EXCERPT ENDS
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