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Captured in the Desert of North Africa

by Wolverhampton Libraries & Archives

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Contributed by 
Wolverhampton Libraries & Archives
People in story: 
Dennis Middleton
Location of story: 
The Western Desert Of North Africa
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 November 2004

Before the war broke out I was in the South Notts Hussars of the Territorial Army in Nottingham. On September the 1st 1939 I was called up and in January 1940 sailed for Palestine. After six months Italy entered the war and immediatly my regiment moved to North Africa. I spent the next three years moving up and down the desert and at intervals fighting the Germans and the Italians. During this time I went through Officer training and joined a new regiment the 76th Anti-Tank. In April 1943 we were only ten days from the end of the fighting in Africa and were thirty miles from Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. I had a troop of four anti-tank guns but there were no infantry with us together with four machine gunners of the Northumberland Fusiliers. We were therefore the frontline and the Germans faced us about a couple of miles away. That night I was asleep on the back of my truck when in the middle of the night I felt something hard pressing into my ribs. I opened my eyes and saw the outline of a German helmet above me, and a voice said "Hands op". I obeyed his instruction. Then he said "Sit op". I had wrapped myself tightly in my blankets, so I found it impossible to sit up with out putting my hands down. Every time I tried to do this he would shout "hands op". Eventually after much cursing I put my hands down and sat up and he didn't shoot me. This was just as well since I knew that the German regiment opposite us was a SS unit and had the reputation of taking no prisoners. I was marched off together with my driver and as we disappeared into the darkness I could hear that they had shot the machine gunners of the Northumberland Fusiliers. I learned later that they had killed all four. After about half an hour we reached the German lines, I was put into a temporary prison camp in a French school. What worried me most at this point was that I had nothing to read and that I was going to be very bored. Fortunately I found a school room with rows of novels in French so I grabbed a couple, luckily I could read French. We were then transferred to a German camp in a factory on a main road in Tunis. After a few days I woke up to find this road was almost empty of traffic. About 10am it became completely empty until a German armoured car came speeding through back toward the city centre. On the top was a German soldier with a machine gun and as he sped by he loosed off with this gun at the two Italian guards outside our camp. He killed one and wounded the other and you will recall that the Germans and the Italians were supposed to be allies. this says something for the state of feeling between them. We were all now able to walk out onto the pavement as there were no guards. Nothing happened for five minutes and then along came the first British armoured car follwed by other Army units. So we were free! I literally jumped up and down on the pavement with delight. I walked into the centre of the city and had the pleasure of being kissed by lots of French girls who were celebrating their liberation. I found an abandoned German truck with the key in the ignition and set off to find my regiment. I eventually found my regiment and the first thing I saw was the Sergeant Major wearing my corduroy trousers! So I said "you can get those off for a start Sergeant Major". Four days later the Germans in North Africa surrendered.

[This story was submitted to the People's War site by Wolverhampton Libraries on behalf of Dennis Middleton and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions]

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Message 1 - Re: Captured in the desert of North Africa

Posted on: 17 November 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper


Just a line to say that I very much enjoyed reading your story, quite an adventure!

Best regards,


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