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15 October 2014
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Drive to Tobruk: June 1941

by cbeanz

Contributed by 
cbeanz
People in story: 
John (Jack) Hawken
Location of story: 
North African desert
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2256112
Contributed on: 
02 February 2004

Here is a letter sent by my father to his mother with details of his latest adventure.

952104 Gnr Hawken J. F.

B/O Battery
1st Reg. R.H.A.
M.E.F.
28/6/41

My Dear Mother

Please forgive me for not writing for some time but as you will understand it is not an easy task to write from here as there is very little to write about. I hope that you have not been unduly worrying yourself about me. I sent you a cablegram about a fortnight ago and hope that you have received it O.K.

................. Undoubtedly you would like me to be able to tell you where I am and what is going on here, well I can tell you this much: I have been in the Desert eight months without a break. We began by pushing the ‘Eyties’ out of Cyreneacia and then ‘Jerry’ took a hand and pushed us back. (You must realise that all the time we were advancing we knew that we had gone beyond our objective, and it was only because the Italians were so easy that we carried on like we did.) Any rate while we were retreating three or four of our vehicles got separated from our Regiment, including the one I was on, and after being lost for about two or three days (once we were only 1 mile from the enemy) we landed at a place called El Machili. I don’t know if you have read anything about this place but whether you have or not I can tell you that we had a very hot time of it there. Things got so bad that we were told that the Major-General was going to surrender. This didn’t suit our lads (about 20 of us) so we filled our water bottles and decided to make a break for it. We drove through a line of machine gun fire and drove ‘hell for leather’ for about 4 miles until we came to a ‘waddi’ (type of valley) with a few fair size bushes under which we drove the vehicles and lay hidden there from 8.30am until dark. I can tell you it was a nerve wracking experience what with German reconnaissance planes flying overhead and the rumbling of German lorries etc. passing quite near to us. Anyrate, that night just as it got dark we pulled out of this ‘waddi’ and decided to go due south and trust to luck that we would miss the ‘Jerry’ camps. Well of all that we had been through I reckon that night was the worst, there were rockets being shot up on both sides of us and as we were passing German camps they, thinking that we were parts of their own convoys, kept flashing lamps to guide us into their camps. As you can realise this was very helpful to us but also very nerve wracking but after a few more experiences we eventually got clear of the vicinity and we travelled night and day for three days across Desert. Luckily we had a petrol wagon in our little convoy and we reached an Aussie camp with about 2 gallons of petrol apiece. The lorries and trucks were a bit bashed about with bullet holes and one had a tank shell through its door but none of us was injured and after a couple of days rest we rejoined our Reg. at Tobruk where we are holding the garrison with the Aussies. Plenty of bombs, shells and pamphlets but otherwise everything is O.K. but I think that everyone here is looking forward to the time when we can see a bit of civilisation. .......................

Best love to yourself and keep smiling

Jack

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