- Contributed by
- Bert Meakin
- People in story:
- Bert Meakin
- Location of story:
- North Africa
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 January 2004
My name is Bert Meakin and I was a gunner with the 51st Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery. After a 14 week voyage from Liverpool to Suez my regiment, the 51st Medium Royal Artillery attached to the 51st Highland Division arrived in North Africa as part of the desert campaign. We arrived at the beginning of October 1942 and our first assignment was to Alexandria to guard the Free French Navy. All the talk was about the navy sailing off to join the Germans so we were ordered to range our 8 45 and 55 guns on the ships with orders to fire if they moved. After a week or so the threat seemed to subside and we were ordered to move off into the desert to what would be the battle of Alumein. We travelled for nearly a month doing about 30 miles a day but never caught up with the main thrust of the battle. We first saw action at a place called Wadi Ackeret where we ranged our artillery battery with another 30 or so regiments supporting the Highlander infantry and tank regiments, firing six miles into the distance. We were there for a week or so, mainly firing night barrages on enemy positions. It was hard work handling 50 and 100lb shells in hot weather for hours at a time. We had no cover and felt exposed if the enemy managed to range on us but we didn’t come under attack.
There were local Arabs around our position and we bartered with them to supplement our rations They seemed to have a good supply of eggs and were willing to barter them for tea, which was one of the few things we had plenty of. They were very canny and quickly recognised when we tried to mix in some used leaves. They learned very quickly to inspect it closely before exchanging!
From here we moved on through several positions to the outskirts of An Fedaville where it was hoped to trap the Germans and capture their whole army. It was here that we received our first casualties. The Germans found our range and dropped 2 or 3 sells on our sister battery and killed several gunners and an officer. Rather than captured the germans were driven out of North Africa and escaped to Italy, the rest of our time was spent in victory parades and rest camps. We returned to Tripoli, about 100 miles back We were there for a couple of months with nothing to do but swim in the sea and enjoy the sun.
Our next action was to be landed in Italy.
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