1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
The 1st Battalion of The Durham Light Infantry were the first of the Durham Battalions to arrive in the middle - east well trained,fit and well over 90% of its contingent north east men . The 1st DLI arrived at Suez on the 30th January 1940. On the 11th February 1940 the orders to mobilize arrived from the Headquarters of 23rd Inf Brigade.The 1st Battalion were spread over three seperate locations at this time,`HQ`Company and` A`Company (Less a single Platoon) were part of a centre section at Moascar .The `missing` platoon were in the Northern Section at Kantara.The rest of the Battalion `B` and `C` Companies together with nine signallers were at Port Said (also Northern Section)Strength of the battalion at this time consisted of 28 Officers;-18 Warrant Officers;-5 Colour Sgts;-27 Sergeants;-10 Paid Lance Sgts;-1 Unpaid Lance Sgt;-42 Corporals;-40 Paid Lance Corporals;-19 Unpaid Lance Corporals;-586 Privates and 2 Boys a total of 752 OR`s.The officer strength given at this time was a little misleading with one of the officer number enroute to England,five officers already in England and another one of the stated number being RAMC attached to the 1st DLI at this time.
On the 13th February 1940 the death of 4444881 A/Lance Corporal John Smiles of `HQ` Company was recorded in the Battalion War Diary.A/Cpl Smiles was from Grangetown in Sunderland and was the son of John and Mary Jane Smiles.Cpl Smiles was a married man (wife Edith Smiles also Grangetown Sunderland)The cause of death was due to a fracture at the base of his skull due to a MT accident the exact circumstances are not recorded and remain unclear.John was laid to rest and today lies in Good company at Ismalia War Memorial Cemetery Section 7 Row D Grave 12.
The 22nd February 1940 saw the arrival of three new 2nd Lieutenants R G Hill,John Meikle and Robert Meikle to the 1st Battalion ranks they were joined by one Sgt one Cpl and 42 other ranks.On the 23rd February 60268 Lieutenant R L Collier,one Warrant officer,2 Sgts,1 Lance Sgt,1 Cpl,5 lance Corporals and 20 other ranks headed in the opposite direction taking up new posts and various periods of leave entitlement in the UK .Not all of those were leaving for the right reasons for after their departure it was announced to the battalion on the 24th February that Lieutenant R L Collier had been court marshalled on February 20th 1940,for what reason is unclear but the sentence of the Court Marshall was that he be dismissed from Service a very strong sentence ruling considering the war situation at the time.
On 27th February 1940 Lt Colonel Edward Henry Lysaght-Griffen left the battalion to take up the post of Assistant Quartermaster General for BTE (British Troops Egypt which pre dated Wavells GHQ Middle-East).Lysaght-Griffin`s succesor was Major George Thorburn Goldschmidt who assumed command of the battalion.
Training and war preparations continued the only major change in the routine came with the handing over of the Centre section which now came under control of the Northumberland Fusiliers .This saw the 1st DLI Intelligence section (18th March 1940),Signal Platoon(23rd March 1940) Battalion HQ and carrier platoons (25th March 1940) returning briefly to Fayid Camp before moving on again to Moascar/Ismailia (1st April 1940).The Inter Company change overs (6th April)also brought `C` Company back to Moascar their place at Port Said being taken by `D` Company.`C` Company moved back to Fayid Camp for further training after just two short weeks at Moascar arriving on the 15th April 1940.
In July 1940 as part of 23 Inf Bde the battalion moved up the line,with elements of the Battalion reaching as far as Mersa Matruh which it was expected the Italian army would make a prime objective .Here defences were prepared. On 23rd July 1940 the battalion moved into 22 Infantry Bde where it remained until 1st September 1940. During this time 1 DLI suffered several casualties from daily enemy air raids . In September 1940 the Italians were still based around Sidi Birrani and their anticipated move to Mersah had not materialized, the British Command then ordered an offensive of its own as part of an operation code named Compass.
1st DLI preparing positions Mersa Matruh November 1940
In December 1940 under Brigadier A R Selby, four officers and 70 NCO`s of the 1st Durhams were part of a 1700 strong force whose orders were to contain the Italian forces around their camps at Maktila whilst the main British attack was made around Sidi Barrani .During the 8th-9th December the men of `Selby Force` established a brigade of dummy tanks in a wadi just west of Matruh .
1st DLI Regimental Headquarters Photograph of four soldiers, Battalion Headquarters in the tombs: Oscar Norman, Private Davidson(see below) , Lance-Corporal Ford, Sergeant (ORS) Ford: Mersa Matruh , [Egypt], 1940
(Private Davidson W.E. 4451804 joined in 1936 at Fenham Barracks and went to China in 1937 ended the war as Colour Sergeant and went on to serve with 4/5th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, becoming CSM of X Company at Newburn and then Y Company at Walker. He was awarded MBE (Military) for his services in New Years Honours, 1962.My thanks to his son William L Davidson for the additional information)
On the 10th December 1940 the DLI were in positions just short of Maktila .Whilst the main British attack had been a spectacular success Selby Forces many small attacks had not produced the results its commander had hoped for, on the 11th December under the command of Lieut Colonel E A Arderne the 1st DLI were part of `C` Column who advanced on the positions of the numerically superior 1st Libyan Division who much to the surprise and relief of all concerned surrended with only token resistance. Reorganised ,the company were utilised alongside the 7th Hussars and took part in the Fall of Bardia on the 3rd January 1941.
Officers 1st Durham Light Infantry Western Desert
In February 1941 the Battalion was withdrawn from Matruh and as part of the 22nd Guards Division found itself in intensive training for what was a projected attack on the Dodecanese Islands however Rommels Africa Corp`s appearance in the Western desert put paid to those plans and on the 8th April 1st DLI found themselves back at Matruh before moving on to Sollum. Captain P H M ` Crackers` May commanded `A` Company who with the assistance of a company of light tanks were ordered to hold Bardia.On the night of 11th/12th April 1941 he successfully withdrew his company to positions at the foot of the Halfaya Pass,after first destroying the wells.
DLI officers Mersa Matruh L to R 2/Lieut .K. Kershaw,Captain .A .St George and Lt Colonel E. A Arderne
On the 23rd April 1941 it was ordered back to positions on the Matruh/Barrani Road in preparation for an operation codenamed Brevity in which 1st DLI as part of 22nd Guards Division were to form the centre of a three column advance along the top of the Escapement clear the Summit of the Halfaya Pass secure Fort Capuzzo and move northwards
Military Medal Action 4450989 Pte George Owens 1st Durham Light Inf
4450989 Pte George Owens The 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
For continuous good work over the period under review and in particular for coolness and gallantry during a heavy bombing attack at Mersa Matruh on July 24th 1940.In attending and evacuating wounded comrades in the open,this soldier showed complete disregard of danger and was undoubtedly instrumental in saving life.
Military Medal Action 4448485 Bandsman Charles John Gower 1stDLI
4448485 Bandsman Charles John Gower The 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
For continuous good work over the period under review and in particular for coolness and gallantry in attending and evacuating wounded comrades in the open during a severe bombing attack at Mersa Matruh on July 24th 1940.His prompt action and disregard of danger was undoubtedly instrumental in saving life.
Band of Brothers 1st DLI Military Medal Winners
Military Medal Action 4451243 Pte Eric Arthur Ford 1st DLI
4451243 Pte Eric Arthur Ford The 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
For continuous good work over the period under review and in particular for coolness and gallantry in attending and evacuating wounded comrades in the open during a severe bombing attack at Mersa Matruh on July 24th 1940.The complete disregard of danger on the part of this young soldier was undoubtedly instrumental in saving life.
After the Air raid which occurred at11;37 am on Wednesday 24th July 1940.I submitted a report on the results.Since then certain facts have come to light regarding the action taken by five soldiers-Gower,Ford,Owens,Kirkup and Hunter,the first three of whom are Regimental Stretcher Bearers which I feel justified in reporting officially.stricktly speaking I know that they committed a grave fault in carrying out their duties of collecting casualties before the `all clear` sounded,but I consider this error should be condoned in view of its gallantry.
No4448485 Bdm J Gower on reaching his slit trench looked out and noticed No 4451182 Pte Richards J. lying wounded about five yards away.Although bombs were still falling and the enemy was using his machine guns,he crawled out of his trenchand went to Pte Richards aid.He realised that it would be impracticable to try and move him and remained beside him applying digital pressure to stop the bleeding which he soon got under control.Shortly afterwards No 4455647 Pte Kircup R.and No 3244382 Pte G H Hunter arrived with a lorry and a stretcher and Pte Richards was removed to the R.A.P.
No 4450989 Pte G Owens and No 4451243 Pte E A Ford were both blown into the same dugout by a bomb.Immediately afterwards C.Q.M.S Hatton who was also wounded,entered the dugout and said that there were two men outside `Bleeding to Death` Owens and Ford immediately left the dugout .Fortunataly neither of them stood up because as Owens emerged a bomb burst approximately 15 yards away without effect.They then made their way to where a pile of stretchers was stored.This entailed having to take cover twice as the raiders were now using their machine guns.Twenty yards from the stretcher dump was situated `HQ` Company office,one side of which had been blown away.From the wreckage Ford heard cries of someone in pain.They then tackled the pile of debris .After several minutes work they succeeded in reaching the feet of No4453955 Pte Richardson T. but it was impossible to extricate him,as the main side of the wall was pinning his head and shoulders to the ground.Pte Hunter then arrived and lent his assistance.By breaking the wood into partitions they were able to free Pte Richardsons head but they could not remove the wood off his chest as there was nothing with which to lever it.This was finally accomplished by Owens getting his back underneath the whole structure while Ford and Hunter dragged the injured man out and placed him on a stretcher.It was obvious that he was beyond the aid of the stretcher bearers so Ford went to find transport.Forty yards away he found a 15 CWT truck which he started up but as he had never driven before in his life he was unable to get it very far.He then got out and began to search for a driver and finally managed to find an Artilleryman.They then placed the wounded man on the lorry and accompanied by Pte Kirkup ,who had a slight chest wound,proceeded to the R.A.P.There was not sufficient room in the bottom of the lorry for two stretchers so Gower and Ford stood up holding the stretcher on which lay Pte Richards.On arrival at the level crossing they found a train halted across it.The driver was sheltering in a hole.Owens endeavoured to persaude him to move the train without success and it was not until he actually got into the drivers cab that the driver was constrained to move his engine and the lorry passed through to the R.A.P.
Both Ptes Richards and Richardson were placed on the `seriously ill` list and it may be possible that,but for the prompt action of these five men their condition might have been more serious.Pte Richards was removed from `The seriously ill` list on the 30th July 1940
Commanding 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry.
Military Cross Action Capt/A/Major Harley Edward Fitzroy Fox-Davies
A/Major Harley Edward Fitzroy Fox-Davies The 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
On the night of14th/15th April 1941 this officer led a fighting patrol which climbed the escarpement at Salum and reached the barrack area.Two enemy posts which were encountered were destroyed and three prisoners including an officer,captured and ten killed.This officer by his enterprise and iniative obtained valuable information of the enemy dispositions.Although wounded in the leg he collected his patrol withdrew them safely without loss despite the fact that the enemy were now bringing down a heavy defensive fire.The success of the patrol was almost entirely due to the personal courage and determination displayed by this officer.
Operation Brevity 1st DLI
The 1st DLI had moved into positions at Sofafi on the 13th May 1941 ready for a planned attack on the 15th May 1941.The battalion were briefed their role, supported by a squadron of `I` Tanks was to carry out the main assault a battalion of the Scots Guards were in reserve ready to support the Durhams.The battalion?s objectives for the 15th May were the Italian of Fort Capuzzo to the Italian positions at the frontier wire on the Sollum Road once secured the reserve company were to move through and occupy the airfield beyond (1mile down the road from Bardia)
On the night/early morning of 14th/15th May the battalion moved out in their lorries no artillery,few tanks and no covering smoke. Prior to the attack the battalions Padre had held a service and had openly said to the assembled Durhams?`A lot of you will not be coming back!` Yet the first initial stages had gone well .The battalion moved through in trucks deployed into desert formation supported by the thirteen tanks they had been promised they had moved off to the direction of Fort Capuzzo. There was no radio communication between the trucks and the tanks and commands were relayed to the Battalion by Coloured flags. The tanks disappeared over the ridge and the noise of heavy fighting was heard.
When the DLI reached the ridge Colonel Arderne (CO) saw tanks at the objective and vigorously waved his advance flag .1st DLI orders were to press home the attack hot on the heels of the tanks and the commanding officer did not intend to be late. The DLI motor transport stepped on the gas on a broad front of 8oo yards they raced for the frontier wire, on reaching the wire they converged on the gaps then onto the objective (Fort Capuzzo) It was at this time that the Colonel realised the tanks he had seen from the ridge were in fact enemy tanks, but the battalions luck held for they too had been mistakenly identified as German troops fleeing from Halfaya.
The battalion got within a thousand yards before the enemy opened fire .The three leading companies `C` on the left (Adrian Keith), `A` Company (`Crackers May`) centre, `B` Company (`Whistle` Crosthwaite) right disembarked and straightaway suffered a number of casualties as they left their transport. Casualties in general were light until the companies reached the objectives. Bayonets fixed there ensued a bloody pitched battle with the Italian defenders. Major Peter `Crackers` May came upon one Italian in particular who was very skilled in the art .if it can be described as such!,of bayonet fighting turning to one of his men he yelled `Fix this Bloody Wop!` A nearby Durham duly obliged with a typical pre-war answer of `Got him,Sir! Sgt Thomas Wilson of `A` Company recalled the noise and screaming and his awareness of men being killed around him a young Durham Light Infantryman, Pte Woodall was grabbed and wrestled to the ground by one of the Italian defenders Sgt Wilson killed the Italian but no sooner had Woodall gotten to his feet then he was grabbed again by another of the Italians who was again despatched by Sgt Wilson and so it carried on with no quarter given or asked!
`C` Company occupied Capuzzo and `A` and `D` companies also reached their objectives at the frontier wire. It was now that the enemy hit back with ferocious intense fire. `A` company found there objective was only a hundred yard from a German gun battery and this was causing mounting casualties. German armour was also moving forward and no anti-tank guns had moved forward. With no radios it was left to battalion runners to report back the situation two DLI runners 4451197 Pte Arthur `Popeye` Davis from Sunderland`s East End was first to try he was killed instantly when he had his head blown from his shoulders ,the second 4452159 Pte Robert `Tiddly` Binks tried next and was also killed in the attempt before Pte Harry Metforth finally got through despite being under consistent fire. He was awarded a Military Medal.
1st DLI during the battle were reported to have bayonet charged the Enemy in complete silence instead of emitting the standard ear splitting battle cry however this was not always true as Sgt Wilson recalled using a large selection of swearwords during his sections charge.
It was now the turn of `D` Company in reserve to pass through the other companies and take the airfield. As it did so they met the full force of a German armoured counter attack supported by infantry the company were massacred with only a single soldier returning the rest were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The other DLI positions were quickly overrun. First `C` then `A` and `B` companies fell back helped by a sand storm which had blown up. The battalion fell back into a square formation with what guns they had left placed in the centre, the Germans for whatever reason did not press home its attack and the battalion were able to extricate more of their wounded .The 1st battalion was now down to a meagre three rifle companies each company in turn down to half strength and below nearly all of the officers had been killed wounded or captured. Amongst those killed were the twin brothers Jack and Robert Meikle both of the regiment. 4450709 Cpl Joseph Lamb and the remnants of his section were under almost constant mortar and machine gun fire they kept to the open ground as any sort of landmark was used by the enemy to zero in their fire.Six tanks were seen briefly giving the section a glimmer of hope but instead of shelling the enemy positions they were wiped out by German 88`s an hour later six German tanks were seen approaching Cpl Lambs position it was at this point that Cpl Lamb gave the order `Everyman for himself to remain in such an exposed position would have resulted in either death or capture. At last light as the enemy tanks pulled back the remnants of the batalion were able to pull back to positions at the top of the Halfaya.
4452156 Pte Robert Hawksworth had been attached to the MO and had seen the casualties coming in he had witnessed Colonel Arderne leading the attack on the back of a Morris pickup then his time was taken up with bandaging and comforting of the ever increasing numbers of DLI wounded he recalled the screams of the wounded lying out in the open and remembers one wounded Durham Light Infantry Corporal despite being seriously wounded trying to crawl and drag himself back into the action.
113546 2nd Lieut. George Harold Blakey who had lost an arm and part of his leg was one of those more seriously injured officers who succumbed to their wounds as the
operation was finally called off early on the 16th May 1941 The 1st DLI had suffered losses of 11 officers and 185 NCOs and men killed or wounded from A Company alone only 46 survived. For no ground gained.Those 1st Durham Light Infantrymen who died during the Fort Capuzzo/Offensive actions were;-
190303 Second Lieutenant Jack Arthur Balding The 1st Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67
113546 Second Lieutenant George Harold Blakey The 1st Durham Light Infantry .Died 16th May 1941 Fort Capuzzo Husband of Mary Dorothy (née Mannock) Father of Elizabeth At rest Hallfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 19 Row f. Grave 8
4460828 Pte John Edwin Bell The 1st Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Norman and Mabel Bell, of Billingham, Co. Durham.At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 68
4452159 Pte Robert Binks The 1st Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th - 17th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Henry and Isabella Binks, Co. Durham.At rest Hallfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 2. Row E. Graves 7-10
3131773 Pte George Mervyn Brammall The 1st Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941Aged 23 .Fort Capuzzo.Son of James William and Amy Gertrude Brammall At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 68
4458194 Pte Harry Britton The 1st Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941Aged 22 .Fort Capuzzo.Son of Henry and Mary A. Britton, of Trimdon Village, Co. Durham.At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 68.
4450572 Pte Sidney Brown The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941 Aged 27 .Fort Capuzzo..At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 68.
4458875 Pte William Clitheroe The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 16th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 23 Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Ann Clitheroe, of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 11. Row G. Grave 9
4270622 Pte John James Coulthard The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 23 Son of John and Mary Coulthard.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 2. Row D. Grave 5
4458981 Pte Arthur Cross The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 21 Son of Bertha Cross, of Macclesfield, Cheshire.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 3. Row A. Grave 7
4451197 Pte Arthur Davis The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo.Aged 25 Son of Ethel Davis, of East End, Sunderland, Co. Durham. At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 68.
4460753 Pte Cecil Richard Devon The Battalion 1st Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 25 Son of William and Alice Jane Devon, of New Herrington, Co. Durham.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 4. Row F. Graves 5.
4459690 Pte John Robert Dixon,The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 22 Son of Robert and Hilda Mary Dixon, of Whitby. Yorkshire.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 8. Row F. Graves 2.
121635 Second Lieutenant Wilfrid Denis Fairclough The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 22 Son of Dr. Wilfrid Fairclough, and of Eveline Mary Fairclough, of Hexham, Northumberland At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67.
4453156 Pte Thomas Henry Featherstone The 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941 Fort Capuzzo.Aged 28.Son of George and Esther Featherstone, of Houghton-le-Side, Co. Durham.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 1. Row G. Grave 3.
4453332 L/Cpl Albert Fletcher The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 17th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Jane Fletcher, of West Hartlepool, Co. Durham.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 2. Row E. Graves 7-10 .
4458243 Pte Norman David Proud Foster The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of John Robert and Edith Foster, of Witton Park, Co. Durham.Aged 22. At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 4. Row F Grave 6
4460880 Pte William Foster The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th-17th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 21 Son of Arthur and Elizabeth Foster, of Hartburn, Stockton-on-Tees, Co. Durham.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 2. Row E. Graves 7-10 .
39436 Major Harley Edmond Fitzroy Fox-Davies The 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry born 17.9.1907 London SW resided London SW Son of Arthur Charles and Mary Ellen Blanche (nee Crookes)Fox-Davies,Coalbrookdale,Shropshire Fox-Davies was educated Radley and RMC Sandhurst (prize Cadet) awarded MC (with DLI) 1941 attached LRDG for short time (led one patrol)Died Fort Capuzzo,15th May 1941. Aged 33.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 2. Row D Grave 1.
4451140 Pte Norman Gair The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th-17th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 21 At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 68.
4459088 Pte William Green The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 18th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Joseph Patrick and Catherine Green, of Ancoats, Manchester.Aged 23. At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 8. Row E Grave 7.
4451113 Pte James Heaney The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Harry and Emma Heaney, of Gateshead, Co. Durham.Aged 25. At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 8. Row F Grave 4.
4450420 Pte Malcolm Kenny The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 26 At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 69
4453066 Cpl Arthur Ronald King The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Arthur and Ellen King, of South Bank, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire .Aged 20 . At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 4. Row D Grave 4.
4459614 Pte Thomas Knight The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 21. Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Knight, of Stobhillgate, Morpeth, Northumberland.At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 69.
4453096 Pte John Langley The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Born December 1919 in Middlesborough, Teeside (Yorkshire). Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 21. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. P. Langley; husband of Ivy Langley, of Middlesbrough, Yorkshire .At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 69.
4460827 Pte Charles Percy Littler The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 24. Son of W. Littler, and of Mary Hannah Littler, of Billingham, Co. Durham.At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 69.
4450741 Lance Sgt Thomas Stuart Lough The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th-17th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. A member of `B` Company 1st DLI whilst in China pre-war he was the battalion goalkeeper when the battalion won the 1937-38 Scottowe Cup in Shanghai At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 4. Row F Grave 1.
4458670 Pte Albert Mackay The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 27. .At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 69.
4453383 Pte Frank McManus The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of George William McManus, and of Elizabeth Ann McManus, of Millfield, Sunderland, Co. Durham. At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 4. Row F Grave 7.
4451229 Sgt James McNally The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo.Son of John McNally of Felling, Nephew of John and Theresa Drummond Aged 27. .At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67.
109567 Second Lieutenant Robert Coulson Miekle. The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Archie Miller Meikle and Emily Meikle, of Monkseaton, Northumberland. Chartered Accountant. Aged 24 Twin brother of John Cunningham `Jack` Meikle also killed during this operation. At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 19. Row F Grave 6.
109566 Second Lieutenant John Cunningham Miekle. The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th-16th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Archie Miller Meikle and Emily Meikle, of Monkseaton, Northumberland. Chartered Accountant. Aged 24 Twin brother of Robert Coulson Meikle also killed during this operation. At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67.
4460829 Pte Norman Mickle The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Aged 24. .At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 69.
4451193 Pte Richard Miller The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 11. Row A Grave 1.
4449778 L/Cpl Eddie Morgan The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Formery served in the Sudan with 2DLI before moving to join 1st DLI in China served with `C` Company Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo.Aged 25 Son of William and Jane Ann Morgan, of Shincliffe, Co. Durham. At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67.
4454427 Pte Abraham Noble The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo.Son of Abraham and Louise Noble; husband of Olive E. Noble, of Gateshead, Co. Durham Aged 29. .At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 69.
4448027 Sgt Freddie Pegram Killed in Action 15th May 1941
4448027 Sgt Freddie Pegram The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. Son of Richard and Frances Annie Pegram, of Gateshead, Co. Durham.Aged 27. At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Section 8. Row F Grave
4458166 Pte Thomas Pick The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.Died 15th-17th May 1941 Son of Thomas and Mary Alice Pick, of Boldon Colliery, Co. Durham.Aged 22.At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 70
4450600 Pte James Albert Rafferty The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th-17th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo. .At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 2. Row E. Graves 7-10
4453560 Pte Frederick Reather The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th-17th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo.Aged 22. Son of Gnr. Francis Reather, Royal Artillery, and Alice Reather, of Welling, Kent.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 2. Row E. Grave 6
4452193 Cpl George Hills Richards The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 16th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 4. Row C. Graves 7
4450489 Cpl Henry Robinson The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.Died 15th May1941 Aged 25.At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67.
4458162 L/Cpl Humphrey Ross The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May1941. Fort Capuzzo.Aged 22. Son of Annie Ross, and stepson of Frederick Tate, of Fatfield, Co. Durham.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 2. Row D. Grave 8.
4452819 Pte John Albert Smart The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.`C` Company Died 15th May1941 Aged 20.Son of Philip and Dora Cameron Smart, of Newcastle-on-Tyne At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 70
4453566 Pte Edwin Thompson The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May1941. Fort Capuzzo.Aged 20. Son of Francis Brian and Maude Thompson, of Hull At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 6. Row H. Grave 8.
4450452 Pte Leslie Thorpe The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry .Died 15th May 1941.Fort Capuzzo.Aged 31.At rest Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery Coll. grave Section 23. Row D. Graves 4.
4451176 Cpl Harry Wild The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.Died 15th May1941 Aged 24.At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67.
4450759 Cpl George Ernest Wilson The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.Died 15th May1941 Aged 25.Foster-son of William and Annie Gibbons At rest commemorated on the Alamein Memorial Column 67.
The next three casualties are buried elsewhere away from the Capuzzo battlefield and may have succumbed to wounds in earlier/later actions but all three are 1st Durham light Infantrymen and are rightfully commemorated here;-
4458205 Pte Thomas Alfred Pybus The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.Died 15th May1941 Aged 22.Son of Ernest and Jane Ann Pybus, of Ferryhill, Co. Durham.At rest Knightsbridge War Cemetery Acroma Coll. grave Section 16. Row H. Graves 2-5.
4459215 Pte George White The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.Died 22nd May1941 Aged 21.Son of George and Alice Harriet White, of Wingate, Co. Durham.At rest Benghazi War Cemetery Section 8. Row E. Graves 28.
4450729 Sgt John Christopher Young The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.Died 20th May1941 Aged 25.Son of Joseph William and Alice Young, of South Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne.At rest Ismalia War Cemetery Section 3. Row B. Graves 5
Military Medal Action 4446277 PSM Frederick Walter Charles Hutson
4446277 PSM Frederick Walter Charles Hutson 1st Battalion DLI
Frederick Walter Charles Hutson 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry commanded a platoon which went through the ruined Fort of Capuzzo on 15th May 1941 and was finally pinned to the ground by very heavy Machine Gun and shell fire.
Throughout the action this warrant officer displayed marked qualities of leadership and coolness.
He visited and encouraged his sections although under heavy fire the whole time.
He remained in his position until his platoon ammunition was exhausted and then withdrew skilfully despite intensive fire.His steadiness throughout the action was a splendid example to the rest of his platoon.
4446277 Frederick Walter Charles Hutson pictured right in 1938 as part of the 1st DLI corporals group in Shanghai
Frederick Walter Charles Hutson of 46 Toronto Terrace,Brighton in Sussex enlisted in the DLI and saw service with the 2nd Battalion where he was promoted to Corporal on the 16th October 1935 moving to the 1st battalion Durham Light Infantry for service in Shanghai and Tientsin.As a Platoon Sgt Major he was awarded a Military Medal for the battalions actions around the Italian fort of Capuzzo during May 1941.He was commisioned as a 2/Lieutenant within the 1st DLI on 16th May 1943 his Regimental number changing to 288943,captured on the Island of Kos he was imprisoned in OflagVIIB and given the PoW number of 99772.Released at the end of the war he returned to the 1st DLI and saw service in Salonika after the war.Promoted to Captain he later saw service with the RAOC.
Military Medal Action 4447759 Sgt John Rogerson 1st DLI
4447759 Sergeant John Rogerson The 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
On 15th May 1941 during his company?s attack on the ridge north of the Customs House Sgt John Rogerson saw several of his platoon lying wounded about 600yds north of the road. He went back and got one of the Company Troop Carrying Trucks brought it forward and picked up two wounded men then brought the truck back.
The whole time the truck was under heavy machine gun and
By his action Sgt Rogerson saved the lives of the two men as they could not have been evacuated any other way. He was slightly wounded himself whilst going forward with the truck
Sgt John Rogerson MM his brother William Rutter Rogerson also served with the 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry being Killed in Action during the Siege of Malta in 1942.Photograph courtesy of David and Beryl (Niece)
Indian Distinguished Service Medal Action Sepoy Abdul Rahim att 1DLI
508170 Sepoy Abdul Rahim, R.I.A.S.C. (M.T.) attached 1st Durham Light Infantry
Military Cross Action Captain Peter Harry Mitchell May 1st Durham.L.Inf
Captain Peter Harry Mitchell May 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry
During the initial attack on the Customs House Area on 15th May 1941 Captain May`s Company came under intensive MG and Breda fire and all his Platoon Commanders were killed.Captain May at once took control and led a bayonet attack onto the Customs House where a number of the enemy were killed.He then led a further attack with the bayonet onto a position 500 yards beyond his objective which he again captured.His personal courage and example were largely responsible for the capture of the Company objective which was held in the face of intensive MG and Breda fire for five for five hours It was only given up in the face of a strong counter attack by enemy tanks.
Military Medal Action 4450564 Pte Harry Medforth 1st DLI
4450564 Pte Harry Medforth The 1st Durham Light Infantry
During the attack on Capuzzo on 15th May 1941 when the attack of his company was held up by heavy machine gun and Breda fire Pte Medforth was in a small sanger with with his Company Commander with seven other men.Two men were sent back to Battalion headquarters with a message and each was killed in turn.Pte Medforth immediately volunteered to take the message back. He was heavily fired upon while going back but still stopped to give his water bottle to a badly wounded man, and eventually reached battalion headquarters delivered his message and returned to the Company.
His coolness and cheerfulness during the whole action set a fine example to the men with him. In the evening after the position had been evacuated he returned and brought back a Light Machine Gun which had been left behind
Military Cross Action T/Capt Adrian Lionel Stobbart Keith 1st Durham.L.I
62653 T/Captain Adrian Lionel Stobart Keith 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
Captain A L S Keith supervised the debussing of his Company under heavy MG and Breda fire.He led the attack into Fort Capuzzo on 15th May 1941 and during the five hours that they were in occupation under heavy MG and Artillery fire and counter attacked by tanks he continually visited his forward posts.In the withdrawal he was the last man to leave the position and he himself brought back the abandoned LMG`s in spite of the fact that he had been twice wounded.His conduct throughout showed a complete disregard of danger and was a very fine example to all ranks under his command.
Fortifications and Digging in!
The Interior of an Officers living quarters(The Durham Light Infantry) in the
Western Desert 1940-41
Work party 1st DLI Western Desert
Trench digging Western Desert (The Durham Light Infantry)
Fortifications Desert Style The 1st Durham Light Infantry
Men of The Durhams with a 2 Pound Anti tank Gun in a concrete bunker
Smile for the Camera! Men of the DLI Western Desert
Camoflage netting being applied to a Bunker Western Desert
Concrete Bunker being prepared DLI Western Desert
Wiring Party DLI complete with Tropical Hat!
Snipers Post Western Desert The Durham Light Infantry
Both brothers joined the 1st DLI they were the first Non-Regular officers to join the 1st Battalion since the outbreak of War in 1939.Both were Second Lieutenants
2Lt JOHN CUNNINGHAM MEIKLE, regimental no 109566
2Lt ROBERT COULSON MEIKLE regimental no 109567
Sons of of Archie Miller Meikle and Emily Meikle, of Monkseaton, nr Newcastle upon Tyne (Northumberland) CWGC lists Robert as a Chartered Accountant.
The twins are listed in the SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 19 DECEMBER, 1939 as obtaining their commissions from the 17th December 1939 into The Durham Light Infantry.
Listed here are the other second Lieutenants posted with the Twins
Durham L.I.—John Cunningham MEIKLE
Robert Coulson MEIKLE (109567)
David William Wyatt BLACKMAN (109563)
Bertie ELLETT (109564)
Robert Clayton MASON (109565)
Colin Charles MONK (109568
John(Jack) is recorded to have been killed between the 15th and 17th May1941 he has no known grave but is commemorated on Column 67 of the Alamein Memorial he was killed at Fort Capuzzo serving with1st DLI who at that time were part of the 22nd Guards Brigade taking part in Operation `Brevity`. 2Lt John Cunningham Miekle was recommended for a Mention in Dispatches for his actions in the Middle East (Egypt, Libya) this was granted and the announcement was made in the London Gazette on the 30th December 1941
Robert is recorded to have been killed on the 16th May 1941again at Fort Capuzzo he is buried in 19. F. 6. at the Halfaya Sollum War Cemetary which is on the main coast road from Mersa Matruh through to Libya, and is on the east side of Halfaya Sollum, approximately 12 kilometres from the Egypt/Libya border.During their short lives they saw action with 1stDLI in Egypt and Syria.They were just 24 yrs old when they were killed
I have found some local memorials (North East) which commemorate both the Twins and their uncles the first one is in Monkseaton itself it is in the form of a book of remembrance held in a wall shrine at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, which is situated on Claremont Gardens Davison Avenue, Monkseaton. It holds the names of 51 soldiers/sailors/airmen/civilians who lost their lives between 1939-45. The book carries Name Rank Number and Specific place of death in the case of the twins it reads
MEIKLE ROBERT COULSON
2 Lieut 1stDLI Killed in Action, Fort Capuzzo, Libya
16thMay 1941 –Aged 24
MEIKLE JOHN CUNNINGHAM
2 Lieut 1st DLI
Killed in Action, Fort Capuzzo, Libya
16th May 1941 –Aged 24
Memorial Window featuring the Meikle Twins
The Twins - John Cunningham Meikle and Robert Coulson Meikle
The DLI War Diaries for WW2 [WO 169/350 and WO 169/1713] show the twins arriving for duty on 22 February 1940 when the battalion was at Moascar, Ismailia. In July 1940 Jack was briefly evacuated to hospital, and Robert, then with 'B' Company, took over the Prisoners of War camp. At the time of the battle of Fort Capuzzo, Robert was with 'A' Company and Jack was with 'D' Company. There is a patrol report for the night of 23/24 April 1941 where Jack was the Commander of a Patrol to search the area of Landing Ground East of Musaid which briefly describes the action for which he obtained a Mention in Dispatches.
RELIEF OF TOBRUK
The 1st DLI were on the move again on the 6th October1941 the destination was no real secret when the Australians arrived at Allepo orders were received to hand over all supplies to them much to the disgust of the Quartermasters who had worked hard to replenish the equipment the battalion had lost in Syria.
The journey from Allepo onboard cattle trucks was most unpleasant reaching The Suez canal on the 9th October 1941.On the 12th the battalion headed for Alexandria en-route to Tobruk.Loaded into two destroyers and a minelayer they were shipped into Tobruk disembarked onto a sunken hulk the men were pushed down the Gangplanks and their kit was thrown after them the whole thing lasted less than half an hour as the Navy withdrew out of range of the German airforce.
Two days later the battalion moved into `Figtree Sector` so named because of the one solitary tree which remained near to the 1st DLI`s Headquarters.At this time they relieved the men of the 2nd/48th Australians.The sector was on the perimeter of the Tobruk perimiter and it is unlikely that many of the men of the 1st DLI would have saw the town of Tobruk (or what was left of it) during their time there.A week later the battalion were moved back as part of the divisional reserve into positions which were constantly rained with shrapnel from the daily bombing of the harbour ,before moving to the Southern sector of the Tobruk Fortress. On the 6th November 1941 a fighting patrol led by Lieutenant John Craig crawled within one hundred yards of the enemy wire before opening fire on the enemy positions this brought a swift responce by the germans who mortared and machine gunned the DLI patrol for nearly half an hour but the patrol made it back with one man killed.During the 6th November 1941 1st DLI lost two men near Tobruk they were 4451824 L/Cpl Wilfred Ashworth 1st Durham LIght Infantry he was the son of Robert and Susannah Ashworth, of Durham he was 24 years old. A pre war regular who served in 'A' Company, 1st Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, joining them in Port Sudan, Sudan following service with 2DLI ('A' Company),at Newcastle; Blackdown; Khartoum, Sudan he served with 1st DLI at Shankaikuan, China, Gibeil, Egypt Shanghai, China; and Tientsin, China.and Hong Kong . The second was 4449391 L/Cpl Vincent Stainton 1st Durham LIght Infantry he was born in Stockton in 1916 and was aged 25 when he was killed.4451824 LCpl Wifred Ashworth (pictured above right) lies at peace in 6. Q. 8 of Tobruk War Cemetery. Whilst L/Cpl Vincent Stainton lies alongside in 6. Q. 9 .One other 1st DLI casualty is recorded on this day he was 4458026 Pte Frederick John Newman who is buried at Knightsbridge Cemetery Acroma,his date of death is recorded as between 06/10/1941-07/10/1941 he lies in good company in 10. B. 22.
On the 9th November 1941 `D`Company plus a platoon of `A` Company led by Major Hugh Vaux and Captain Jack Stafford assembled for a night attack upon the enemy position known as `PLONK` formerly a British position it had recently been lost to the Germans who were now preparing a defensive wire stretching from `PLONK` to The El Adem Road, support was to be given by Artillery and two platoons of heavy machine guns from 1st Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.
Under a dark sky and only a half moon the platoons advance began at around 22.00hrs the machine guns fired accurately into the enemy positions but the artillery fire seemed to sail clear over the top but the advance went well until the first set of German wire was crossed ,the enemy firing machine guns on fixed lines began to inflict casualties on the attacking Durhams,two and a half platoons managed to bypass the wire only to stumble on a second line of wire and even more withering enemy fire when a third line was encountered casualties became even heavier and it was soon apparent that if the Durhams pursued their objectives then they would suffer grievious losses with no guarantee of success at the end of it. A decision was made to withdraw a most difficult task dragging the wounded back whilst crawling along on their bellies to avoid the machine gun fire and negociate a path under the enemy wire.Pte Oswald Temple the HQ stretcher bearer performed heroic work along with 4449759 Sgt Obadiah Matthew Stewart and Pte Crawley who toiled for over three hours to bring `Home` two badly wounded men of the battalion. The raid had accomplished...nothing!
Killed in Action 09/11/1941-10/11/1941
Pte James Beckwith 4451185 1st DLI is listed as missing presumed killed on the night/morning of the 9th Nov-10th Nov 1941 he was the son of John Henry and Edith Beckwith, of Bedlington, Northumberland he has no known grave and is commemorated on The Alamein Memorial Column 68 he was aged 26 years.A pre-War regular he had served with the 1st Durham Light Infantry in China 1937-38 he was at that time a member of HQ Company.
Pte Arthur Charles Elston 4449929 1st DLI is listed as missing presumed killed on the morning of the 10th Nov 1941 he has no known grave and is commemorated on The Alamein Memorial Column 68 he was aged 24 years.
Cpl Frederick Gilbert Fidgeon 6024979 1st DLI (Formerly Essex regt) is listed as missing presumed killed on the morning of the 10th Nov 1941 he has no known grave and is commemorated on The Alamein Memorial Column 67 he was aged 21 years.Son of Richard and Mabel Fidgeon; husband of Patricia M. Fidgeon, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex
L/Cpl Ronald Griffiths 4464196 1st Durham Light Infantry is listed as missing presumed killed on the morning of the 10th Nov 1941 he has no known grave and is commemorated on The Alamein Memorial Column 67 Son of John and Emily Griffiths, of Lower Crumpsall, Manchester he was aged 21 years.
Pte Robert Hall 4450480 1st Durham Light Infantry is listed as killed on the morning of the 10th Nov 1941 he is at rest in Tobruk Military Cemetery 7. A. 12. He was the Son of John William and May Hall of Hamsterley Colliery, Co. Durham he was aged 25 years.
Pte Robert Thomas Purvis 4459225 1st Durham Light Infantry is listed as killed on the morning of the 10th Nov 1941 he is at rest in Tobruk Military Cemetery 7. K. 5. Son of Thomas and Gertrude Elizabeth Purvis, of Horden Colliery, Co. Durham he was aged 24 years.
Pte Robert Welch White 4460467 1st Durham Light Infantry is listed as killed on the morning of the 10th Nov 1941 he is at rest in Tobruk Military Cemetery 7. A. 13. Son of Jacob and Mary White, of Tyne Dock, South Shields, Co. Durham he was aged 25 years
4449759 Sgt Obadiah Matthew Stewart 1st Durham Light Infantry
On the night of the 9th/10th November 1941 this NCO took part in a night raid on the enemy strong point of PLONK. The Enemy opened intense machine gun fire on his front line wire but in spite of this Sgt Stewart showed complete disregard of personal danger and with a party of his platoon penetrated the enemy position and led an attack on one of his MG nests. He continued to lead his section until ordered to withdraw when he dragged two mortally wounded men a distance of 400yds from the enemy wire under very heavy fire he then remained with them and was found two hours later by our patrols
(4449759 Sgt O M Stewart MM , would eventually,like my uncle `Bill` leave 1st DLI and take his place with 6th DLI in Normandy,Sadly like `Bill` Sgt Obidiah Matthew Stewart would die in the Bocage of Normandy on the 15th June 1944 serving with the sniper section he was in the grounds of a French Chateau near Verrieres when he went looking for enemy soldiers ,the enemy he was seeking were hiding in rhododendrons and surprised Sgt Stewart and he was killed Son of Robert and Eliza Ann Stewart. of Ferryhill, Co. Durham he also lies in good company in Bayeux War Cemetery Section XV. Row G. Grave 16)
Code word `POP`
Whilst 1st Durham Light Infantry were restricted to fighting patrol activity as a bold new plan was being formulated in which it was envisaged that the newly formed British 8th Army would advance from the Egyptian border and meet with the Tobruk garrison who would advance to meet them. As the DLI waited the codeword `Pop` was received to mark the start of the operation which when it was revealed gave the battalion only a supporting role.
The main battle raged on to the East, South and South East of Tobruk on the 30th November 1941 news was received that the New Zealanders were advancing on El Duda,yet the DLI patrols still reported these positions held in strength by the enemy.The truth was that the New Zealanders had suceeded in joining`hands` with the Tobruk garrison on the 26th November 1941before a strong German/Italian counter attack had inflicted heavy casualties on the New Zealanders and forced them from Sidi-Rezegh and to withdraw to the South-East.
On the 3rd December 1941 the 1st Durham Light Infantry received orders to support the Border regiment in an attack focused on an enemy held position known as Point 157 if successful the Durhams were them to move through and attack a second position known as Point 162 both positions were on the escarpement east of El Duda.The evening of the 3rd was spent in preperation as the men of 1st DLI were lorried to positions occupied by the Essex Regt near El Duda.On the 7th December the go-ahead was finally received,with one small amendment,The 1st DLI would lead the attack supported by the Border Regt..
At 17;00hrs the men assisted by scouts of the Essex Regt set out for their start line,this was reached at 19;20hrs,zero hour was 20;30hrs..With `A` Company on the left and `C` Company on the right supported by `B` Company and elements of HQ Company with `D` Company also following up the 1st Durhams set off at 20;30hrs precisly in perfect text book order.Indeed Captain Browne was recorded to remark just how much like a training exercise this had been so far,a fact which was bourne out during the advance when one of the infantrymen accidentally discharged his weapon ,RSM Flanaghan disappeared into the darkness and returned a short time later and told his officer "not to worry,Sir, I have that mans name!" but all comparrisons to a training exercise were about to end.
There was a three quarter moon illuminating the starry desert sky when suddenly the Desert air was filled with tracer and machine gun bullets which all seemed to be heading in the direction of 1 DLI.`B` and `HQ` infantrymen found what cover they could in holes and disused sangers,`A` Company unfortunately were caught in the frontline of the enemy fire.`C` Company ,un-be-known to Mr Arderne had reached the enemy and had began clearing them.2Lt Bruce Ballantyne attempted to lead a platoon of `A` Company in a move up the enemies flank yet despite their efforts the move failed and 2/Lt Ballantyne was himself killed.
The overall picture however was not good to continue the advance as it was would result in a great number of casualties,with this in mind Captain Jim Gray,the Adjutant,was sent back through the Durham Lines in an effort to bring up tanks to support the floundering infantry attack.A short time later through the pith blackness the British armour was sighted,and promptly fell into the holes and sangers which `B` company were sheltering in!.They managed to haul themselves free and laid down very accurate fire on the enemy positions .Rallied by this Colonel Arderne gave the order to `B` and `D` Companies to fix bayonets and charge,following behind the tanks they advanced into the enemy positions only to find `C` Company already there! Led by Adrian Keith they had cleared out the enemy and were busily rounding up prisoners ,it was at this point that Adrian Keith was killed by an Italian who had surrendered but was still in possesion of an hand grenade.
Adrian Keith had been killed, capturing the position and 50 Italian prisoners. Colonel Arderne later wrote that Sgt Blenkinsop ,who took over tempary command,was with me as we hit the other Italian positions after seeing his officer killed in such a way he was out for blood and disappeared into the Italians dug out after a great deal of noise and gunfire, Sgt Blenkinsop, surfaced..”Well!” I said expectedly Sgt Blenkinsop looking sheepish straightened up and replied loudly ”Sorry Sir! They offered me chocolates…I didn't have the heart to kill them!” Behind him trooped a line of Italian prisoners.The British soldier can never hate for long added Col Arderne
At 02;30hrs on the 8th December it was over the Border Regt advanced through the Durhams and took Point 162 without opposition.The cost to The 1st DLI was Three Officers ,Eight other ranks Killed in Action and a further twenty six other ranks and one officer wounded.The credit for the nights actions understanderbly was with Adrian Keiths `C` Company.
The rest of the battle seemed to pass The 1st DLI by on the 12th December they were salvaging equipment from the battlefield when they received orders to move back to the reserve positions.On the 19th December they were on their way back to the Delta for re-fitting and a period of well earned leave.
All that is except for members of `B` Company who were detailed to the prisoner of war cages they were to be unfortunate enough to be selected to accompany the POW`s ,the sick and wounded from Tobruk by sea a journey that over forty would ,unfortunately, not survive.
Military Medal Action 4451161 Sgt Thomas Blenkinsop 1st DLI
4451161 Sgt Thomas Blenkinsop The 1st Battalion The Durham LIght Infantry
At Tobruk on the night of 7th/8th December 1941 `A` Company who were attacking on the left flank of the battalion were held up,Sergeant Blenkinsop was the platoon Sergeant of a platoon of `B` Company which was sent around the left to assist `A` Company.During the assault the Platoon Commander and four men were killed and a number wounded.Sergeant Blenkinsop at once rallied his platoon and although he was unable to carry the position he assisted in the capture of an enemy Anti Tank gun.He then brought his platoon to the escarpment on the right hand flank and
Thomas Blenkinsop served with The King's Shropshire Light Infantry in Korea but rejoined the DLI afterwards and was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1956.Thomas Blenkinsop, lived in Witton Gilbert, near Durham City,and was a neighbour of my wife until his death in January 1992.
For those in Peril on the sea
For over forty of those men of `B` Company assigned to the POW cages it was to be a tragic end to the early Desert campaign.Detailed to accompany their Prisoners as well as the battalions sick and wounded they were part of convoy TA-5 spread amongst the various merchantmen some were allocated the SS Shuntien, a passenger steamer built in China in 1934 by Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Co of Hong Kong Ltd, Hong Kong it was owned by China Navigation Co Ltd, London. The Shuntien as Part of Convoy TA-5 as mentioned above left Tobruk bound for Alexandria carrying between 700-1200 POW`s soldiers and crew it never made it .At 19.02 hours on 23 Dec, 1941, the Shuntien(Master William L. Shinn) was torpedoed and sunk by U 559 northeast of Tobruk.HMS SALVIA picked up forty seven survivours however these too were all lost were when SALVIA was sunk by U-568 (Kapitan Preuss) the next day, Christmas eve 24th December 1941. A very small number of survivors were picked up by HMS Heythrop (L 85) (LtCdr R.S. Stafford, RN), but over well over 700 men or more were lost added to those onboard The Shutien it was not a happy Christmas.Over forty Durham Light Infantryman lost their lives on the 23rd December 1941 .These men who have no known graves are commemorated on The Brookwood Memorial.
Pte Robert Davison 4458569 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 22 Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Robert Elliott 4463153 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 28 Son of Robert and Jane Hannah Elliott; husband of Ada Elliott, of Durham Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Arthur Francis 4461304 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 26 Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Joseph Gallagher 4464083 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 21 Son of Albert Coulson Gallagher and Elizabeth Gallagher, of Wrekenton, Co. Durham Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Philip John Gray 6028206 (Formerly The Essex Regt) The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 29 Son of Philip and Mary Jane Gray; husband of Ada Elizabeth Gray, of Tilbury, Essex Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Albert Gregg 4460884 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 25 Son of Joseph White Gregg and Mary Gregg, of Netherton Colliery, Northumberland, Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Richard Morgan Hart 6028960 (Formerly The Essex Regt) The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 27 Son of William and Jane Hart Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte George Horsman 4452933 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 24 Son of John Robert Horsman, and of Martha Horsman (nee Kelly), of Howden-le-Wear, Co. Durham Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial.
Pte James William Hume 4453094 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 22.Son of William and Josephine Mary Hume, of Houghton-le-Spring, Co. Durham Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Joseph Bracewell Ingham 4458821 (above)The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 24 Son of Joseph B Ingham and Catherine Ingham (nee Hawke) of Burnley Lancashire.A member of `B` Company Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Stanley Johnson 4453379 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 22 Son of Charles Johnson, and of Beatrice M. Johnson, of Newcastle-on-Tyne Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Charles Edward Liddle 4468035 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 35 Son of William and Mary Ellen Liddle of Sunderland Co Durham Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte William Lumsdon 4460889 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 25 Son of William and Jane Ann Lumsdon, of Fulwell, Sunderland, Co. Durham Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Peter John McEvoy 4452806 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 22 Son of Peter McEvoy, and of Isabella McEvoy, of Southwick, Sunderland, Co. Durham Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Joseph Henry Morris 4453601 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 26 Husband of Minnie Morris, of Coventry.Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Charlie Preston 4460894 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 21.Son of Charlie Preston, and of S. J. Preston, of Meltham, Yorkshire.Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Alan Richardson 4463277 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 28. Son of Rebecca Richardson; husband of Doris Margaret Richardson, of Kenton North, Northumberland.Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
L/Corporal George Simpson 4450743 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 26 Son of Joseph and Jane Ann Simpson .Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte George Stubbs 4468241 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 20 Son of Benjamin and Anne Elizabeth Stubbs.Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Sgt John Usher Thompson 4445460 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 35 Son of Joseph and Mary Thompson; husband of R. Thompson, of Springwell, Sunderland, Co. Durham .Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Thomas Traquair 13022977 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 24.Son of James and Elizabeth Traquair, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire .Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte John Wallace 4459519 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 22.Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte Thomas Raisbeck Watson 4456685 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 25.Son of Thomas and Jane Ann Watson .Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
Pte George Wilkinson 4450495 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 27 Son of Robert Wilkinson, and of Elvina Wilkinson, of Pelton, Co. Durham.Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
L/Corporal Anthony Woodvine 4037423 The 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died 23/12/1941 Aged 26 Son of J. Woodvine and Fanny Woodvine, of Wellington, Shropshire. Commemorated Panel 14 Column 1 The Brookwood Memorial
News from the Front Evening Chronicle Thursday June 18th 1942
WITH THE DLI IN LIBYA
For almost two years The Faithful Durhams" have played a valiant part in the Battles of Libya, continuing to justify the confidence expressed by the King "that they would do their duty with exemplary devotion." Now that certain phases of the desert warfare have passed into history, I am able to write with greater freedom of the 'gallantry displayed by one 'battalion of the Durham Light lInfantry during the 17 mouths that ended in December last with the audacious and successful sally from the beleaguered fortress of Tobruk that so amazed the Germans. In fierce heat and blinding clouds of dust, suffering untold hardships, they faced with characteristic courage and epic endurance the onslaught of German and Italian armoured forces.
Their stubbornness in defence and brilliance in attack is epitomised in a tribute paid by a 'company commander in a letter written from his Prison camp in Italy: "I lost a lot of first-class men. They all dld magnificently and went on without flinching." The writer is Lieut. J. L. Sutherland Oliver, of South Shields, who was wounded and captured at HalfayaPass on the attack on Fort Capuzzo on May 15, 1941. "By taking the brunt of the enemy attack we enabled the remainder of the battalion to get out of an awkward spot." Lieut. Oliver adds that it was a comfort to him to know that he was knocked out in "a decent show".
The operations emphasised the importance of the infantry, whose essential Place in warfare is apt to be overshadowed by the mechanised might which science and engineering skill have made possible. On several occasions deter-mined attacks were literally thrust home at the point of the bayonet, the quality the men being just as important as the machine. The commanding officer,who was awarded the D.S.O. and O.B.E. and mentioned in dispatches, stated in one account "Everyone is most cheerful, I think due to the fact that when we have managed to get the Boche at close quarters we have always been met with shouts of ' Kamerad`"
In the memorable attack on Fort Capuzzo on May 15, "C" Company (Captain A, L. S. Keith) advanced at the double on the left flank, and No. 14 Platoon, commanded by P.S.M . F. W. C. Hutson,who was later awarded the Military Medal,had penetrated the ruined fort and were inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Meanwhile, on the right flank. "A" Company (Captain P. H. M. May) came under fire, but continued to advance steadily and captured their objective in a final bayonet charge. It was in this encounter that Second-Lieut. John Meikle and Second-Lieut. Robert Meikle 24-year-old twin sons of Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Meikle, of Monkseaton, were killed.
One of many acts of daring was performed by the commanding officer, who in a carrier took Captain R. A. Lees, medical officer, to "A" Company's position and under heavy fire brought in Lieut. Robert Meikle, who was lying severely wounded at an exposed point. A month earlier Second-Lieut. John Meikle "showed a lot of guts",to quote the words of the Colonel in getting seven wounded men away under a hail of machine-gun bullets. The night patrol of which he was in charge had rushed a small enemy post, but they suffered many casualties when the defensive barrage opened out. Corporal McKenzie, Private Tomlinson and Private Hagan were killed. Lieut. Meikle withdrew his patrol, evacuated his wounded and personally returned to the top of the escarpment to rescue a wounded man who had been left behind. Never parted in life, the Meikle brothers were not separated by death. They went to school together, played together and. worked together. On the same day, at the age of 21, they both passed the examination that made them chartered accountants. Their commissions in the Durham Light Infantry were received simultaneously, and together they went to the Middle East. Their father is a well-known figure in the North Shields fishing industry and a director of R. Irvin and Sons, trawler owners and fish salesmen.
Second-Lieut. W. D. Fairclough, of Sunderland, was killed at the beginning of the attack, and Second-Lieut. G. H. Blakey, who belongs to London, was mortally wounded very soon afterwards. Isolated groups of the enemy were still holding out 500 yards to the front, and Captain May , with a small party, attacked them with the bayonet and forced them to retire. These positions were held by Italians backed by German machine. gunners. 'B" Company (Major D. F. Crosthwaite), in the centre, had reached their objective with only one casualty, but were pinned to the ground by heavy machine-gun and Breda Fire. Without any outside support the battalion completed their task with no more than 10 casualties which, however, included three officers killed.On the left flank a force of ,10 enemy tanks now appeared, and "C" Company came under heavy fire. With great determination German machine-gunners at once began to infiltrate between the companies.
Odds too great
Armoured cars were threatening "A" Company on the right, and two or three of the remain-ing British tanks moved up to the wire in support. This rapid and gallant action in the face of a withering barrage of fire stabilised a desperate situation. In the early afternoon Axis panzer forces attacked on both flanks, necessitating a withdrawal. The forward company held on for five hours, and retired only in face of over-whelming odds. Covering fire could not be provided by the artillery, as nothing could be seen from the observation post Owing to a heavy dust storm which blew up rapidly from the direction of the fort. Disaster befell "D" Company (Major H. E. Fox-Davies) who had orders to advance around the left of Capuzzo, capture the landing ground on the Bardia road, and destroy the enemy machines.
In open desert formation the company moved forward in the early stages of the attack expecting to receive tank support on the far side of the fort, but they were not seen again Messages were received at battalion headquarters that they were being counter-attacked and were running short of ammunition .. and then silence. A runner reported that Major Fox - Davies was wounded in the shoulder. and when last seen was leading a bayonet charge against some enemy machine-gunners. At that time none of the company had surrendered, although they were surrounded and completely cut off. When the advance started Major Fox-Davies was travelling In a DLI.truck in the centre of the formation. As they approached to within 100 yards of the fort a German tank suddenly appeared on the left, with a motor-cyclist following close behind. apparently acting as observer for the tank.
On seeing this, Major Fox-Davies signalled for all the lorries to halt. The men took up their fire positions on the ground, and the motor-cyclist was shot with the first few rounds. The tank stopped, and one man began to run back towards the fort. Picking up his driver's rifle. Major Fox-Davies fired at him In the standing position. Then the enemy in Fort Capuzzo opened out with all the weapons at their disposal, inflicting heavy casualties on the doughty "Durhams" who, how-ever, pressed forward with dogged determination.
One mans torment 4455477 Sgt Patrick Arnold 1st Durham Light Infantry
Patrick Arnold,a pre-war regular with the 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry, was wounded in the battalion attack on Sollum and Fort Capuzzo in 1941.Enemy machine gun fire severed an artery in Sergeant Arnolds leg ,he was given first aid but was unable to be evacuated and was left on the battlefield the advancing Germans who took him prisoner a short time later.
The Germans gave no further medical treatment to Sgt Arnold who was taken to Bardia, as he waited in agony for some form of relief he was informed he could receive no medical attention until he was moved to the Australian PoW Hospital at Derna,but Sgt Arnold was not taken to Derna!..at least not straight away and this was to have almost fatal consequences for Sergeant Arnold later.
The Germans instead of moving Patrick Arnold straight to Derna took him instead to the German Hq just outside of Tobruk here he was reassessed and next day sent to an Italian Military Hospital. On his arrival he was searched and asked for money, of which he had none, then along with another thirty DLI prisoners he was again informed that due to the shortage of medical supplies treatment for any wounds would have to wait ..until they were moved to Derna!.
A shortage of Ambulances meant a long wait with walking wounded prisoners given priority as more of this type of casualty could be moved rather than a few stretcher cases like Sgt Arnold Despite the pain he realised his only way out was to force himself to sit up which he achieved with great difficulty. Once selected for transportation he was roughly handled into an awaiting Ambulance ,feeling every bump in the back of the Ambulance his situation was made worse when the Italian driver crashed the vehicle and rolled it over an embankment. Lying amongst the wreckage and unable to move Patrick was pulled clear by passing German troops and continued his journey to Derna on the back of an ammunition truck.
Once at Derna an Australian Medical Officer made valiant efforts to save Sgt Arnolds leg and informed him that had he received even the most basic of medical care at either Bardia or Tobruk then amputation would not even have been a consideration. As it was despite the Aussies best efforts three days later the amputation of Sgt Arnolds leg took place.
The Australian medical staff had no medical supplies of their own and relied on what the Italians deemed they could `Spare`. Three months Sgt Arnold spent in that bed, three months of agony as the Australians gave him the best treatment they could in far from ideal circumstances.
After the three month period Sgt Arnold ,on a set of crutches made for him by one of the Aussies, was moved to Benghazi .With the terrors of Derna left behind Sgt Arnold could not have imagined it but he was heading for a far less hospitable place, christened `The Black Hole of Calcutta` by the allied servicemen who ended up there, Sgt Arnold was placed in a blacked out room with twenty eight other men and literally left to rot! Only one dirty bandage was applied to his stump in the ten day period he spent there. At the end of that period it was a much relieved Patrick Arnold who boarded the Italian Hospital ship the Arno (Ironically built in Glasgow) bound for mainland Italy.
A more pleasant stay at Casserta Hospital followed before Sgt Arnold found himself moved to Campo Concentramento P.G. 66 at Capua which was a transit tented camp(1941) of over 500 prisoners.
Sgt Arnold moved on to Campo Concentramento P.G. 52 at Chiavari near Genoa ,unable to work because of his wounds Sgt Arnold padded around the compound on his trusty Aussie crutches but at times it was that cold that his hands froze onto them. Life continued in much the same way until early in 1942 news arrived in the camp that seriously wounded British soldiers were being repatriated Sgt Patrick Arnold having lost a leg in the service of his country was one of the first to be approved by The International Medical Board.
Sgt Arnold together with fifty eight other seriously wounded men and a further sixty essential medical personnel were taken to Piacenza Hospital in preparation for their repatriation after a series of frustrating delays they finally boarded an electric train to Bari on the 2nd April 1942.Two days later they boarded the hospital ship Gradisca reaching Smyrna on the 7th April where a British vessel awaited them for the final leg of their journey.
4455477 Sgt Patrick Arnold who had served faithfully with the Durham Light Infantry and had suffered both mental and physical torments at the hands of his captors was finally going home..
My thanks to Sgt Arnolds daughter Maureen for contacting me to ammend his date of repatriation.Thank You
...........Carried Soldier 4 Miles to Safety Despite being wounded
4460779 Pte Vivian Swinhoe 1st DLI MEF
My thanks to Mrs Ruth Myers for kindly supplying the article on the left regarding the extraordinary act of bravery performed by her Uncle Pte Vivian Swinhoe whilst serving with the 1st Durham Light Infantry in the Middle East.Pte Swinhoe was a friend of my uncle `Bill`
The text reads;-
ORDEAL OF NORTH EAST PALS IN DESERT
A further instalment of the desert photo mystery which the `Evening Chronicle`helped to unravel in December last is told in a letter from Jack Raison DLI to Mrs Swinhoe of Sycamore House,Throp Hall,Mitford,Morpeth.
It was established that the photo-of two girls taken at Whitley Bay,one being his sister-belonged to Raison whose home is 10 Park Parade Whitley Bay.It was later announced that Raison had been wounded and was in Hospital in the Middle-East.
Raison tells Mrs Swinhoe how he and her son Vivian went into battle together,were wounded together and reached safety together,thanks to Vivian.
He tells how Vivian though wounded in the hand carried him for four miles under fire to safety and succour
Pte Vivian Swinhoe (Back left) 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry Western Desert also in the photograph Pte Rose (front left) and Pte Ingham (front right)
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