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15 October 2014
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My Father was a Desert Raticon for Recommended story

by VonniePearce

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Charles W Blanks
Location of story: 
Tobruk, North Africa
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
28 October 2004

I think I was about ten years old when the film Tobruk was made. Dad went along to watch it, and on his return was sombre, and clearly upset. I knew he had been in Tobruk, and asked him why the film had made him sad... He produced a crumpled piece of paper from an old wallet and gave it to me, explaining he had written the poem whilst in Tobruk.

The Siege of Tobruk, by Charles W Blanks

In drab army lorries we drove past the waves, 'Til we entered Tobruk, with her harbour of graves. At reveille next morning the bugles were sounded, We were told the grim news: 'Tobruk is surrounded!' That night came the terror of bombs that rained down And smashed this last vestige that once was a town.

We gritted our teeth, and dug in the sand, For we meant to hold on to this torn foreign land. The Germans still hovered like an army of bats And their radio called us Tobruk's Desert Rats. We jeered then and laughed, 'Dear Adolph, you're barmy!' 'You'll never beat us, we're British... Eighth Army!'

Memories of Dad

Dad was with the 8th Army throughout much of the war. I was born in 1949, when the memories, and the effects of the war, were still very much in evidence.

I would often hear my parents discussing incidents and recalling memories with family friends, and as a child I enjoyed looking through photos that Dad brought back with him, and often asked him questions. He was a darling of a man and would invariably answer my questions by relating to me some funny story about his mates, or some other anecdotes. Never once did he give me any indication of the horrors and hardships he must have faced during those years.

My father wrote wonderful poetry and also recited monologues and poems to keep us entertained on occasions. I can still see him using a broom to present arms, before he recited 'A Soldier's Farewell to Egypt'. This was the cause of great merriment to my sister and I, especially as my mother and Auntie Mary would admonish him greatly, 'Charlie, how could you? Not in front of the children!' etc.

He stood just 5'2" tall - but he is still one of the biggest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He never collected any of his campaign medals after the war - he said he wasn't a hero, just a lad who was called to do his duty. I am very proud to be the daughter of a Desert Rat!

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Message 1 - Desert Rat

Posted on: 28 October 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Vonnie -
as well you should be proud - it was Field Marshal Smuts - President of South Africa who said "if anyone asks what you did in the war - it will be enough to say that I marched with the 8th Army "

That says it all !
Good luck

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British Army Category
Siege of Tobruk 1941 Category
North Africa Category
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