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Oakham School Archives

Explore the history of the school through the documents and objects that have been left behind...

Introduction

The North-African Campaign (June 1940-May 1943)

Before the war, Allied and Axis powers were present in North Africa. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were French colonies; Libya was an Italian colony; British and Commonwealth forces had been based in Egypt since 1882 to defend the Suez Canal. The campaign in North Africa can be described as a series of brutal pushes back and forth across Libya and Egypt. The conditions in the desert were harsh. The troops had to cope with extremely high temperature in the daytime and extremely cold nights. Visibility was hampered by heat haze, dust and sandstorms. Sand caused abrasion on engines and vehicles often broke down. The British sent their newly arrived soldiers to the Nile delta to acclimatise first before going to the desert. The troops were also exposed to diseases and flies, attracted by food, human waste and dead bodies.

On 11th June 1940, Mussolini declared war on Great Britain and France and the conflict reached North Africa. In September 1940, Italy invaded Egypt and set up fortified camps around Sidi Barrani. In December 1940, the Western Desert Force, comprising of 36,000 of British and Indian divisions, launched a counterattack at Beda Fomm. The Italians were forced to retreat back to Libya and the offensive ended at El Agheila on 7th February 1941. The Italians had lost nine divisions and 130,000 of their men had been captured.

Hitler sent his “Afrika Korps” led by Major General Erwin Rommel. They landed at Tripoli on 11th February 1941. On 13th April 1941, the Afrika Korps successfully pushed the British back to the Egyptian frontier, leaving the 9th Australian Division besieged in Tobruk, a Libyan port. After two failed attempts at relieving the siege, the British launched Operation Crusader, a surprise infantry and armoured offensive, on 18th November 1941, and the siege on Tobruk was lifted on 7th December 1941. Rommel’s troops were forced back on El Agheila. From January to May 1942, the Afrika Korps launched a series of attacks on the Western Desert Force, now the 8th Army, who defended a line from Gazala to Bir Hacheim. The Germans finally broke through the defensive line and captured Tobruk, forcing the British to retreat to Egypt.

Battles of El Alamein

In July 1942, the German and the Commonwealth forces met at El Alamein, 150 miles from Cairo. The German advance was halted by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery’s 8th Army.

The Second Battle of El Alamein began with Operation Lightfoot on 24th October 1942. New Zealander, South African, Australian and British divisions started the attack with a heavy artillery fire from around 1,000 guns, followed by an infantry assault, to try and break the enemy’s defences. However, the British and Commonwealth troops were unable to take advantage of the gains made by the infantry. The second phase, codenamed Operation Supercharge, began on 1st November 1942. Lieutenant-General Montgomery ordered the British infantry to force open a path for the armoured. On 2nd November 1942, the German tanks were running out of fuel and Rommel was forced to withdraw. On 4th November 1942, the armour brigade broke through and pursued the defeated German and Italians. Many Italians were captured at El Alamein. By the end of December 1942, the 8th Army  had retaken Tobruk, Benghazi and El Agheila.

Casualties: at El Alamein, 25,000 Germans and Italians were killed or wounded; 13,000 Allies of the 8th Army were killed or wounded.

Operation Torch

Operation Torch, led by General Dwight Eisenhower, began on 8th November 1942 when the Allies landed in Morocco and Algeria. They encountered some resistance from French-Vichy but France quickly asked for a ceasefire. The Allied advanced into Tunisia. However, their advance was halted by the German on the route to Tunis at Kasserine. Eisenhower’s troops were successful against the Afrika Korps and on 20th March 1943, they linked up with the 8th Army, who had taken Tripoli and was marching across Tunisia. The Allied entered Tunis on 7th May 1943 and four days later, 250,000 German and Italian troops surrendered.

Old Oakhamians who Fell in North Africa

Jack Butler Astle

5th November 1914 – 20th June 1942

 

Jack was born in Nottingham. He was the son of Leonard and Nellie Alcock.

 

Life at Oakham School

Jack attended Oakham School between 1928 and 1931. He was in School House. He was in the O.T.C. Unfortunately, we do not possess further information about his life at school.

After Oakham and the War

After school, George worked in lace manufacturing. He married Agnes Katherine Fleming of Nottingham in 1940. He enlisted in the Royal Artillery, 227 Battery, 68 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment as a Bombardier.

The Royal Artillery badge.

The Royal Artillery badge.

George was killed in action during the siege of Tobruk by the German and Italian forces. He was 27.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1942, Vol.57.

He is buried in grave 2.B.24 at Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya.

 

Bibliography

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Regiment_of_Artillery_Cap_Badge.jpg

John Charles Bartleet

4th May 1903 – 17th July 1942

 

John was the son of Rev. Edwin Berry and Sophie Bartleet of Meole Brace, Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

 

Life at Oakham School

John attended Oakham School between 1917 and 1920. He was in School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Debating Society: Spring 1918 to Spring 1920.
  • Cricket Hornets 2nd lot: Captain – Summer 1920.
  • Drama: played Thisbe in scenes from Act V of Midsummer Night’s Dream – Spring 1920.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, John studied Theology at Hertford College, Oxford. He was ordained in 1927. He was appointed vicar of Meole Brace in 1931. He wrote The Secret of Happiness. He married Alice Elizabeth of Tettenhall, Shropshire. When the war broke out, he became Chaplain to the Forces, 4th Class, the Royal Army Chaplain’s Department.

The Royal Army Chaplains Department badge.

The Royal Army Chaplains Department badge.

John died on active service in a road traffic accident in the Middle East on 17th July 1942. He was 39.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1942, Vol.57.

He is buried in grave C.A.6 at the Gaza War Cemetery.

 

Bibliography

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2897833/bartleet,-the-rev.-john-charles/

Patrick Selwyn Fraser Bland

5th September 1919 – 27th May 1942

 

Patrick was the son of William Parlby and Florence Mary Bland of Nottingham. He was born in West Bridgeford, Nottingham.

 

Life at Oakham School

Patrick attended Oakham School between 1933 and 1936. He was in Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Form 4 English Prize: Summer 1935.
  • Writing: Oakhamian prize for best short story – Winter 1935.
  • Rugby 2nd XV: awarded Colours – Winter 1935.
  • Hockey: Spring 1936.
  • Drama: played the Earl of Pembroke in Shakespeare’s King John – Spring 1936.
  • Philatelic Society: Spring 1934 to Summer 1934.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Patrick worked in the Stock Exchange. When the war broke out, he joined the Royal Horse Artillery. He became a Sergeant with 425 Battery, 107 The South Nottinghamshire Hussars Regiment.

The South Northampshire Hussars badge.

The South Northampshire Hussars badge.

Patrick was killed during the Allies’ campaign in the Western Desert on 27th May 1942. He was 22.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1942, Vol.57.

He is remembered on Column 10 at Alamein Memorial, Egypt.

 

Bibliography

http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Nottinghamshire/NottsAmateurCC.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Nottinghamshire_Hussars

John Hardyman Elliott

5th August 1913 – 26th November 1942

 

John was the son of John and Dorothea Hardyman Elliott of Exmouth, Devon.

 

Life at Oakham School

John attended Oakham School between 1927 and 1932. He was in School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Debating Society: Spring 1930; Honorary Secretary – Summer 1931.
  • Drama: played Charles Elmitt in the School Players’ production of The Old Bull by Bernard Gilbert – Spring 1931; played James Watson in the School Players’ production of Eldorado by Bernard Gilbert – Spring 1932.
  • Rugby 2nd lot: Captain – Winter 1931.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Summer 1930; Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1930; promotion to Sergeant – Spring 1932​.
  • Prefect: Winter 1931 to Summer 1932.
  • Head Musician: Winter 1931 to Summer 1932.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his acting skills.

Spring 1932 Drama review: ‘Elliott’s sympathetic presentation of the hectoring old farmer was a splendid foil.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, John studied Architecture in Liverpool and became an Architect. He became a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Force. He served on board HMT Leyland. HMT Leyland was a trawler used as an anti-submarine vessel. She was lost in a collision off Gibraltar whilst on Admiralty service on 25th November 1942. John was 29.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Spring term 1943, Vol.58.

He is remembered on panel 7, column 3 of Lowestoft Naval Memorial.

 

Bibliography

https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?169131

Peter Severn Hitchcock

14th November 1917 – 23rd January 1946

 

Peter was the son of John Francis and Alice Daisy Hitchcock of Southport, Lancashire.

 

Life at Oakham School

Peter attended Oakham School between 1930 and 1934. He was in Greylands. He was in the O.T.C. Unfortunately, we do not possess any information on his school achievements.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Peter worked in Commercial Photography. He joined the Pioneer Corps and was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 23rd December 1943. He later became a Major.

The Pioneer Corps badge.

The Pioneer Corps badge.

The Pioneer Corps was entrusted with light engineer tasks such as building anti-aircraft emplacements on the Home Front, repairing railways and working on the Mulberry harbours for D-Day. Peter died in an accident on active service on 23rd January 1946 in Libya. He was 28.

He is buried in grave 8.F.2 at Tripoli War cemetery, Libya.

 

Bibliography

https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/royal-pioneer-corps

https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/4445/pioneer-corps/

John Lawson Kirby

24th January 1924 – 23rd July 1945

 

John was the son of John H. and Ida M. Kirby of Leicester.

 

Life at Oakham School

John attended Oakham School between 1937 and 1942. He was in Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Swimming two lengths free style (under 14): 3rd place – Summer 1937.
  • Swimming one length free style (under 14): 3rd place – Summer 1937.
  • Swimming obstacle race (junior): 3rd place – Summer 1937.
  • Swimming two lengths free style (junior): 3rd place – Summer 1939.
  • Swimming two lengths back stroke (junior): 2nd place – Summer 1939.
  • Swimming two lengths breast stroke: 3rd place – Summer 1941; 1st place – Summer 1942.
  • Swimming two lengths back stroke: 3rd place – Summer 1941; 1st place – Summer 1942.
  • Swimming plunge: 3rd place – Summer 1942.
  • Boxing: bantam, won his match in the house competition – Spring 1938; in the junior team, won against Stamfords Junior – Spring 1938; won his match in the house competition – Spring 1941; drew with C.J.W. Charters in the house competition – Spring 1942.
  • Rugby: played in Wharflands’ house team – Winter 1939.
  • Rugby 2nd lot: awarded Colours – Winter 1940.
  • Rugby 1st XV: awarded Colours – Winter 1941.

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Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1941 - John is standing on the far right.

  • Drama: played Lennox in the Form 5 production of Macbeth – Winter 1938.
  • Debating Society: Spring 1941.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1938; promotion to Lance Corporal – Summer 1940.
  • J.T.C.: promotion to Corporal – Summer 1941; promotion to Sergeant – Summer 1941; promotion to CSM – Winter 1941.
  • Form 4 Trustees’ Prize: Winter 1937.
  • Form 4 Science and Mathematics Prizes: Summer 1938.
  • Prefect: Winter 1941 to Spring 1942.
  • Head Prefect: Summer 1942.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his rugby prowess.

Winter 1941 Rugby review: ‘Has not quite fulfilled the promise he showed at first; tackles well; with more weight should develop into a good forward.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, John joined the Royal Artillery. He was promoted to Lieutenant.

The Royal Artillery badge.

The Royal Artillery badge.

He died of polio on 23rd July 1945. He was 21.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1945, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave 1.A.3 at Christianborg War Cemetery, Accra, Ghana.

 

Bibliography

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Regiment_of_Artillery_Cap_Badge.jpg

Guy Meredith Myles Mathews

15th November 1915 – 15th January 1943

 

Guy was the son of Charles Myles Mathews and Edith Annette Meredith of Penn, Buckinghamshire. He had two sisters, Alizon and Rosamund.

 

Life at Oakham

Guy attended Oakham School between 1929 and 1932. He was in Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Form 4 Mathematics Prize: Summer 1930.
  • Lower Form 5 Science Prize: Summer 1931.
  • School Certificate: Summer 1932.
  • Debating Society: Winter 1932.
  • Philatelic Society: Honorary Secretary – Summer 1931.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Spring 1932; promotion to Lance Corporal – Winter 1932.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Guy worked as a Solicitor. He served in the war as Lieutenant with 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, Royal Armoured Corps, seconded to Staffordshire Yeomanry.

The Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards badge.

The Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards badge.

The Staffordshire Yeomanry was part of 6th Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. It was deployed in Palestine in January 1940 and joined the 8th Armoured Brigade in North Africa. They fought the Afrika Corps at the battles of Alam Halfa and El Alamein. Guy was killed in action near Dur Umm-Er Raml Ridge on 15th January 1943. He was 27.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Spring term 1943, Vol.58.

He is remembered on column 15 at Alamein Memorial, Egypt.

 

Bibliography

http://irish-merediths.com/g1/p139.htm

John Thornton Nobes

23rd January 1917 – 25th December 1942

 

John was the son of Harry William and Christabelle Ida Mary Nobes of Bedford Road, London.

 

Life at Oakham School

John attended Oakham School between 1926 and 1933. He was in Junior House, and then moved to School House. He was in the O.T.C. Unfortunately, we do not possess any more information on his life at Oakham School.

After Oakham and the War

After school, John became a Sergeant in the Coldstream Guards. He married Lily. He served in the war as Sergeant with 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards.

The Coldstream Guards badge.

The Coldstream Guards badge.

His battalion was part of the British Expeditionary Force in France. It was then sent to fight in North Africa. On November 1942, Commonwealth and American troops landed in Algeria and Morocco. The Allied advance eastward was checked by the German troops in early December 1942 at Medjez-el-Bab. John was killed in action on Christmas Day 1942. He was 25.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1943, Vol.58.

He is buried in grave 3.A.5 at Medjez-el-Bab War Cemetery, Tunisia and is remembered on a gravestone at Mitcham Burial Ground, Merton, Greater London.

 

Bibliography

 

http://www.ww2guards.com/ww2guards/COLDSTREAM_GUARDS/COLDSTREAM_GUARDS.html

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coldstream_Guards_Badge.jpg

Ivan Roy James Perkins

18th August 1912 – 4th May 1942

 

Ivan was the son of Ernest and Edith Perkins.

 

Life at Oakham School

Ivan attended Oakham School between 1924 and 1929. He was in Junior House and then moved to School House. He was in the O.T.C. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Music: played the violin in the orchestra – Summer 1926 to Summer 1929.
  • Boxing: feather, won the final against J.L. Baines – Spring 1927.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Ivan married Theodora Joan of Bingham, Nottinghamshire. He served in the war as Pilot Officer with 108 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

His squadron served as an advancing training unit at the beginning of the war. It was then reformed at Kabrit, Egypt, as a night bomber squadron in August 1941. From November 1941, the squadron operated a number of Liberators, flying bombing and supply dropping missions over the Balkans. Ivan died when his Liberator II AL 511 was shot down while raiding Tripoli harbour. He was 29.

He is remembered on column 249 of the Alamein Memorial, Egypt.

 

Bibliography

http://www.rafcommands.com/database/wardead/details.php?qnum=102215

http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/108_wwII.html

Arthur John Michael Richardson

19th March 1921 – 28th October 1942

 

Arthur was the son of Donald and Dorothy Richardson of West Bridgeford, Nottingham.

 

Life at Oakham School

Arthur attended Oakham School between 1931 and 1937. He was in Junior House and then moved to School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Three-legged race (junior): 1st place – Spring 1932.
  • Music: played the trumpet in the band ‘Rhythm Rascals’ – Spring 1936.
  • Music: played the trumpet in the orchestra – Spring 1937.
  • Drama: played Arthur, Duke of Bretagne, in the Form 5 production of King John – Summer 1936.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Spring 1937.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Arthur served as Captain with 121 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. He was mentioned in despatches.

The Royal Artillery badge.

The Royal Artillery badge.

Arthur died on 28th October 1942 during the advance on El Alamein. He was 21.

He is buried in grave 19.G.6 at El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt.

 

Bibliography

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Regiment_of_Artillery_Cap_Badge.jpg

Frederick Arthur Sills

1st June 1906 – 28th October 1942

 

Frederick was the son of Frederick Caldwell Sills and Edith Nellie Sills, née Stevenson. His cousin, Charles Caldwell Sills, attended Oakham School and was killed during the First World War.

 

Life at Oakham

Frederick attended Oakham School between 1915 and 1922. He was in Junior House and then moved to School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Royal Drawing Society Examination: passed Division II with Honours – Summer 1917.
  • Royal Drawing Society Examination: passed Division III with Honours – Summer 1918.
  • 100 yards (under 12): 3rd place – Spring 1918.
  • Half-mile handicap: 4th place – Spring 1919.
  • Quarter-mile (under 14): 1st place (73 sec) – Spring 1920.
  • Swimming one length (under 14): 2nd place – Summer 1919.
  • Cricket under 14: Summer 1919.
  • Rugby under 14: Captain – Winter 1919.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Frederick worked as an Executive Officer in the Merchant Navy. He married Nellie Maria Danson of Sudbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, and had two sons (Charles Frederick, O.O., and Richard, O.O.).

He served in the war as Lieutenant with 7/10th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s).

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The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders badge.

The 7th Battalion was part of the 51st Highland Division in France in 1940. It suffered numerous casualties and fled through Le Havre. The battalion was reformed, based on the 10th Battalion in Scotland. The 51st Highland Division was then sent to North Africa and fought at El Alamein in 1942. Frederick was killed at El Alamein on 28th October 1942. He was 34.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Spring term 1943, Vol.58.

He is buried in grave 23.E.9 at El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt.

 

Bibliography

http://www.aboutscotland.com/argylls/ashww2.html

Geoffrey Vincent Smith

3rd June 1921 – 29th April 1943

 

Geoffrey was the son of Edward Vincent and Violet Agnes Smith of Chorley Wood, Hertfordshire.

 

Life at Oakham School

Geoffrey attended Oakham School between 1936 and 1940. He was in Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Boxing: light weight in the house competition – Spring 1937.
  • Quarter-mile handicap (open): 2nd place – Spring 1938.
  • Cricket 1st XI: Summer 1940.
  • Rugby 2nd XV: awarded Colours – Winter 1938.
  • Rugby 1st XV: - Winter 1939; awarded Colours – Winter 1940.

Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1940 - Geoffrey is standing third from left.

  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Summer 1937; Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1937; attended a course of Instruction at the Depot, the Leicestershire Regiment – Spring 1938; promotion to Corporal – Summer 1938; promotion to Sergeant – Spring 1939; won the Blair Shield for the Platoon Competition with No. 10 Platoon – Summer 1939; promotion to Command Sergeant Major – Spring 1940.
  • Prefect: Winter 1940.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon both his rugby and cricketing prowess:

Winter 1939 Rugby review: ‘Hooks well at times; must try and keep the ball at his feet when dribbling; lacks the attack in matches which he has shown in practice games.’

Winter 1940 Rugby review: ‘Has led the forwards well; a consistently good hooker and does his full share in the loose.’

Summer 1940 Cricket review: ‘An excitable wicket-keeper, who is apt to snatch at the ball; an erratic batsman.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Geoffrey served as Lieutenant with 2/5th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), 35 Infantry Brigade, 12th Division, later 169 (Queen’s) Brigade.

The Queen's Own Regiment (West Surrey) badge.

The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) badge.

His battalion fought in France in 1940. Then, 169 Brigade joined 56 London Division (the “Black Cats”) and took part in the capture of Tunis in May 1943. Geoffrey as killed in action on 29th April 1943, during the Allied offensive in north-eastern Tunisia. He was 21.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Spring term 1943, Vol.58.

He is buried in grave 4.D.22 at Enfidaville War Cemetery, Tunisia.

 
Bibliography:

http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/ww2/ww2.shtml

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Queen%27s_Royal_Regiment_(West_Surrey)_Cap_Badge.jpg

Peter Plumpton Wilson

30th October 1918 – 13th June 1942

 

Peter was the son of Geoffrey Plumpton and Constance Mary Wilson of Hildersham, Cambridgeshire.

 

Life at Oakham

Peter attended Oakham School between 1928 and 1932. He was in Misses Daniels and then moved to Junior House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Relay race (under 13): 1st place with team B – Spring 1930.
  • Junior Steeplechase: 5th place – Spring 1932.
  • Cricket under 14: Summer 1932.
  • Form 2 Trustees’ Prize: Winter 1929.
  • Lower School Drawing Prize: Summer 1930.
  • Form 2 Latin Prize: Summer 1930.
  • Middle School Drawing Prize: Summer 1931.

After Oakham and the War

After school, Peter was also educated at Repton. During the war, Peter served as Pilot Officer with 213 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. His squadron was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force and fought in the Battle of Britain.

The squadron boarded HMS Furious in May 1941 and flew to Malta and Syria. Peter was commissioned Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 25th October 1941. He took part in missions in Cyprus and was on air duties in Egypt from December 1941. From June 1942, 213 Squadron was on offensive missions and supported the 8th Army at El Alamein. On 13th June 1942, Peter’s Hurricane II Z3507 took off from RAF Gambut West at 07:00am. His squadron was attacked by German Messerschmitt north of Acroma and the aircraft was seen to crash into the sea. Peter was declared missing on a sweep over Tobruk road. He was 24.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Spring term 1943, Vol.58.

He is remembered on column 249 of the Alamein Memorial, Egypt.

 

Bibliography

http://www.rafcommands.com/database/wardead/details.php?qnum=122528

North Africa Images

General Erwin Rommel, inspects his troops with General Garibaldo, in North Africa, March 1941. © IWM HU 39482

Aerial photograph of Tobruk. © IWM C 5496

British infantry rushes an enemy strong point at El Alamein, 26th October 1942. © IWM E 18513