Early in December 1940 news reach the 6th ,8th, 9th Durham light Infantry battalions that they were soon set to move overseas once more. The 6th DLI following a period of training and a spell of embarkation leave embarked on the `Duchess of Windsor` known to her crew as `The Drunken Duchess` due to her tendency to roll even in the calmest of waters.A total of over three thousand men embarked alongside 6th DLI were the men of the 8th Durham Light Infantry and various Greek and Free French Units.The 9th DLI sailed on the SS Orduna a converted meat carrier!
As the convoy set sail on the 23rd May 1941 their destination was known only by a select few although most aboard voiced their own views on where their ultimate destination lay.Not many would have been able to plot as varried a route as the actual one the convoy took during the course of it`s journey.After three days the men heard the worrying news that `Bismarck`was loose in the area and had already sank HMS Hood.Never-the-less the convoy sailed on the occasional bombing raid did not stop it reaching the port of Freetown,South Africa on the 4th June 1941 after a three day stay the convoy having sailed once again arrived at Durban on the 20th June 1941.
The 9th DLI went on to Aden (4th July) shore leave was denied to all but the officers something the men of 9DLI did not take kindly to indeed they turned the ships fire hoses on their officers on their return to the `Orduna`!
Port Suez,Egypt was reachedon the 8th July.The men of the 6th & 8th DLI disembarked on the 9th July and after an uncomfortable wait in the blistering son were ferried by lorry and train to a vast tented camp covering almost 12 square mile situated at El Qassassin,the 9th DLI joining them shortly after.Just as the Durham Brigade were settling into a routine orders were received to re-embark,the fall of Greece and Crete had worried the British and they feared the Germans would turn their attentions to Cyprus so it was decided that 151 Durham Brigade consisting of 6th 8th & 9th DLI would form part of its defence.
On the 24th July 1941 the 6th DLI were herded aboard the destroyers `Kimberley` and Abdiel whilst the 2nd Cheshires boarded the `Abdiel`.The three destroyers left at 1430hrs in a bid to land their Human cargo during the hours of darkness to avoid any possible Luftwaffe bombing raids. Once landed the 6th DLI were moved first to Larnica before being deployed in the Hamlet of Kokinni Trimithea
The 8th DLI to were split into two groups one traveling on a standard type destroyer whilst the second travelled on HMS Latona which at the time was regarded as state of the art.Once landed in the early hours of 30th July the 8th DLI were transported via a narrow gauge railway to the islands capital Nicosia where it was deployed preparing defences around the airfield
The 9th DLI had travelled on the `Leander` and `Jaguar` the `Leander` carried Colonel Percy part of HQ Company together with `A` & `B` Companies before anchoring off Famagusta they were then ferried ashore by the `Jaguar` with `C` `D` ad the rest of battalion HQ following later under Major Slight.On the 27th July the two groups were reunited at Kato Lakkatamia before moving to take up defensive positions at Nicosia Satalette Aerodrome here defences were prepared should the Germans attempt to land parachutists.
Men of the DLI photographed on Cyprus shortly after their arrival in late July 1941.
Kokinni Trimithea is situated on thePlain of Nicosia in the centre of Cyprus here the men of the 6th DLI were dispersed to various concealed positions beneath the olive and fruit trees which grow in the area.They set about the construction of fortifications and defences which would be soon required if the Axis powers decided to turn their attentions to the island.An underground base was envisaged to hold both supplies and personnel protected by a network of pillboxes,trench and wire systems and surrounded by minefields.It was during this period that command of the 6th DLI passed to Lieutenant Colonel Battiscombe who suceeded Lieutenant-Colonel Yate who had not been in the best of health second in command at this time passed to Major P B Robinson who had saw service with both the 9th DLI and the 10th DLI. Time other than that spent on fortifications was spent training in both day and night fighting.One member of the 6th DLI was killed during this period on the Island a second member of 6th DLI lies alongside although he did not die until 1944 presumably of wounds because at this time 6th DLI were in NW Europe.
2987713 L/Cpl John Taylor Robertson formerly of The Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders now 6th Durham Light Infantry.Son of Robert and Annie Robertson, of Shettleston, Glasgow
4467617 Pte Thomas Flatley 6th Durham Light Infantry.
The 8th DLI worked hard on their airfield construction and defences,solid rock had to be blasted away and the large number of ex-pitmen in the Durham`s ranks made excellent progress.Italian aircraft occasionally put in an appearance with recce flights and the odd bombing raid but they were kept very much at bay thanks to the Hurricanes of 213 Squadron.When not involved with construction the men of 8thDLI took part in various training exercises.It was during one such exercise that `C` Company were involved in a most tragic accident when a grenade exploded prematurely and two men received fatal injuries.
4463871 Pte William Wilkinson 8th Durham Light Infantry.Son of Charles Fredrick and Catherine Wilkinson, of Gateshead, Co.
The expected German Invasion did not materialise,Hitlers attention had turned East,to Russia, and his rapid progress towards the Caucasus,and the Iranian and Iraqi oilfields,would determine the Durhams next move.Although not an unpleasant posting Cyprus was left behind the Durham battalions leaving on the 4th November 1941.
Men of the 8th Durham Light Infantry man a mortar position during the campaign in North Africa and the Western Deserts
.The 9th Durham Light Infantry performed many acts of gallantry that day the most notable was Wakenshaw`s VC action which has been covered on the awards section of this site, but what many people perhaps do not realise was this was not Wakenshaw`s first act of Gallantry. This occurred earlier when the Company cookhouse, which was a large hole in the ground covered with various tarpaulin ,scrim nets and camouflage, caught fire trapping some of the battalions cooks Pte Wakenshaw using his bare hands and his bayonet tore away at the netting enabling the cooks to make good their escape.
The 27th June 1942 will be remembered by many as the day Pte Wakinshaw won his Victoria Cross,but the action in which it was won had an even more important meaning for the families of those serving within the ranks of 9th DLI.This was the day the battalion were all but annihilated by Rommels Africa Korps,those lucky few who escaped would soldier on but for many it would be their last
The morning of 27th June 1942 9 DLI were some 15miles South of Garawla at a place called Raqabet El Sikka .151 brigade whom 9DLI were part had the job of protecting part of the Mersah defences so the town of Mersah Metruh was not cut off. Rommels armoured columns swept around Matruh and cut off the 10th Indian and 50th Tyne Tees division.At 0200hrs on the 27th `B` Company of the 9thDLI were attacked by a German patrol,at 0515hrs the whole of 9DLI were attacked by superior numbers of German infantry supported by tanks,mortars and heavy artillery fire this was a heavy frontal assault and casualties were high on both sides in the ensuing hand to hand combat,at 0730hrs all three rifle companies found themselves isolated
from each other and their battalion headquarters and were overun with large numbers of casualties killed,wounded,missing and taken prisoner.
At 0900am orders were given for survivours to withdraw unfortunately due to their positions many could not and were forced to surrender. 9th DLI lost 20 killed on the 27thJune 1942 many more died of wounds over the next few days/weeks .
The other Companies who were sheltering in a basin on the scarpe had dug in yet the fierce shelling was inflicting heavy casualties at about 1100hrs most of the rifle companies had either been killed or taken prisoner.One such group including 4037297 Cpl (A/Sgt) James Hawkins he amongst others were marched away into the desert with no food or water and clad in only the clothes they were wearing when initially captured during the march a British armoured car appeared and the German escort fled the men took their chance and made a break for it over a hundred men ,most were recaptured(including Hawkins) but some did make it back to the British lines and rejoined the battalion.
Columns of individuals attempted to break free of the German encirclement the 9th DLI along with the other DLI battalions the 6th and 8th DLI assembled at Ikingi Maryut and Amiriya on the 1st July 1942 most of 9DLI survivors came from HQ Company and battalion headquarters staff other stragglers came in during the next couple of days,however on the 2nd July when the battalion moved to camp 3 at Mareopolis it comprised around 10 Officers and 283 other ranks
Amongst the casualties on the 27th June 1942 was a young man from Staffordshire.
Cpl Frederick Ernest Harrison 9DLI Photo courtesy of Mick Baker
Frederick Ernest Harrison was the son of Alfred Ernest and Alice Maud Harrison, of Upper Gornal, Staffordshire.Frederick Ernest Harrison was born on the 2nd March 1920,he originally joined the Royal Engineers at Brompton Barracks, Chatham, Kent before joining The Durham Light Infantry his brother Bert was a Dispatch rider and it was hoped by the family that Frederick too would eventually join his brother sadly,1877013 Lance Corporal Frederick Ernest Harrison was killed in action on June 27th 1942. He was at this time serving with the 9th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry in the Western Desert Campaign .He was aged 22yrs
IN THY GRACIOUS KEEPING
LEAVE WE NOW
THY SERVANT SLEEPING
L/Cpl F. E. HARRISON
THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY
Today he lies at peace and in good company in The War Cemetery at El Alamein Section XXIX. Row B. Grave No 9
PHOTOGRAPH SUPPLIED COURTESY OF MICK McCANN at BRITISH WAR GRAVES
Pte Adam Herbert Wakenshaw 4270383 9th Btn The Durham Light Infantry
Page from the London gazette of 11th September 1942 announcing the award of the Victoria Cross
War Office 11th September, 1942
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve posthumous awards of the VICTORIA CROSS to the undermentioned: —
No. 4270383 Private Adam Herbert Wakenshaw, The
On the 27th June, 1942,. South of Mersa Matruh, Private Wakenshaw was a member of the crew of a 2-pounder anti-tank gun that was sited on a forward slope in front of the infantry position. Shortly after dawn the enemy attacked and an enemy tracked vehicle towing a light gun was brought to within short range of, the position. The gun crew opened fire and succeeded in putting a round through the engine immobilizing the enemy vehicle. Another mobile gun then came into action. All members of the crew manning the( 2- pounder including Private Wakenshaw were killed or seriously wounded and the 2- pounder was silenced. In this respite the enemy moved forward towards their damaged tractor in order to get the light gun into action against our infantry. Realising the danger to his comrades, under intense mortar and artillery fire which swept the gun site, Private Wakenshaw crawled back to his gun. Although his left arm was blown off above the elbow, he loaded the gun with one arm and fired five more rounds. These succeeded in setting the tractor on fire and damaged the light gun. A near, miss then -killed the gun aimer and blew Private Wakenshaw away from the gun giving him further severe wounds. Undeterred he slowly dragged himself back to the gun, placed a round in the "breach, and was preparing to fire when a direct hit on the ammunition killed him and destroyed the gun.
In the evening after the action the body of Private Wakenshaw was found stretched out at the back of the breach block beside the ammunition box. This act of conspicuous gallantry prevented the enemy from using their light gun on the infantry Company which was only 200 yards away. It was through the self sacrifice and courageous devotion, to duty of this infantry anti-tank gunner that, the Company was enabled to withdraw and to embus in safety.
ADAM HERBERT WAKENSHAW V.C
Adam Wakenshaw was born in
In February 1941, Adams son John Wakenshaw, aged just seven years, was killed in a road accident near his home. His father was given a few days compassionate leave to return home to
In June 1942 at Mersa Matruh on the Egyptian coast 9 DLI was part of a force trying to stop the German advance. Before dawn on 27 June, 9 DLI lay in wait behind boulders and low stone walls. In front of them were 9 DLI's 2-pounder anti-tank guns. Each of the four guns had its own crew. One of those included Private Adam Wakenshaw. The German infantry attacked just after 5 o'clock, supported by tanks and artillery. As they advanced, a tracked vehicle towing a gun came within range of Adam Wakenshaws anti-tank gun. His gun opened fire and hit the vehicle but another German gun returned fire and all the soldiers manning the anti-tank guns, including Adam, were killed or wounded. With the DLI's anti-tank guns silenced, German soldiers moved towards their damaged vehicle and gun in an attempt to bring it back into action. Pte Eric Mohn and Adam Wakenshaw crawled back to their gun in a bid to stop the Germans opening up on the exposed infantry ,at this point the DLI gun received a second direct hit killing Pte Mohn and once again inflicting serious wounds on Pte Wakenshaw Unbelievably, he once again dragged himself over the rocky ground and back to his place by the gun. As he was placing one more round in the breech and preparing to fire, another direct hit killed him and silenced his gun for ever. After that, there was nothing to prevent the German attack and within a few hours the Durhams were surrounded. On that day, 9 DLI lost 20 men killed and 300 taken prisoner.
Dorothy Wakenshaw and their eight year-old son Thomas went to Buckingham Palace on March 4, 1943, to receive Adam Wakenshaws medal from King George VI; the King pinned the medal on Thomas`s chest.
On the 3rd December 1942 the 9th DLI (The position of the British Forces now much improved) moved to Galal. During the capture of the 300 prisoners the battalions payroll of £600 had been buried by Lt Pickering somewhere near Mersah Matruh with the new camp, not far off from this area, some of the more enterprising members of the battalion decided,although it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, to return to the scene and search for the missing payroll.
Adam Wakenshaws Gun stands guard over his lonely grave.
Sgt George Lambert , Pte Arthur Thompson, Pte Len Green and Pte Dai Jones returned to the scene of the battle but did not find the payroll what they did find was the body of Pte Wakenshaw and two other DLI soldiers untouched ,unburied lying exposed in the desert (The bodies may have been buried in shallow graves but George Lambert states in the book `The Gateshead Gurkhas that it was obvious no one had been to the site since the action) The DLI men re-buried their comrades and Sgt Lambert organised a cross for the graves.,but instead of the standard transfer printing Pte Dave Walton,a sign writer in civilian life,painted on the details and added a regimental badge.
Official Re-Burial of Pte Adam Herbert Wakenshaw VC
On February 16th 1943 news was received from the Graves Registration Unit that Pte Wakenshaw had been re-buried with full military honours, at El Alamein,Plot: XXXII. D. 9 Egypt there were two members of the regiment present and acted as pallbearers His gun after spending some time as a gate guardian at the cemetery was returned to England together with the last shell Wakenshaw had loaded into it and is now on display at the DLI Museum in Durham City.
4458979 Pte Eric Mohn who was killed with Adam Wakenshaw also lies at peace in the Cemetery at EL ALAMEIN Section XXXI Row D Grave number 1.He was the eldest son of Harold and Lillian Mohn of Hayfield Road,New Mills in Cheshire.A member of The 9th Durham Light Infantry Eric Mohn was never officially recognised for a medal yet he to played a vital part in the above action.He was aged just 22 when he was killed on the 27th June 1942.Eric who worked in the finishing department of Birchvale Printworks joined the army in 1940 and had been serving in the Middle-East for about twelve months.He was a member of Bich Vale Cricket club and was reported to be a very promising young batsman.Eric Mohns hobby was fretwork and was reported to have produced some very artistic work prior to his enlistment.News of Eric Mohns death was received just prior to the Cricket Match between Birch Vale and Dove Holes where a two minutes silence was strictly observed to a true hero.
4458979 Pte Eric Mohn The 9th Durham Light Infantry
4453215 L. Cpl. W. Charlton, 8th Durham Light Infantry
London Gazette 24 September 1942. The original recommendation states ‘At Gazala, during the night of 14th-15th June 1942, when the 151 Infantry Brigade broke through the enemy lines, one of the columns of the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, ran into an enemy minefield. A mine exploded and blew up a Quad, but it did not damage the Gun or Ammunition Limber. A truck was called for and without hesitation 4453215 Lance-Corporal William Charlton drove his vehicle forward into the minefield and hitched it up to the Gun and Limber. He then towed them out of the minefield to safety. His personal courage in the face of great danger was an example to all.’
William Charlton was a native of Ebchester, Co.
4455484 Lance-Sergeant T. M. Swallow 8th DLI
London Gazette 24 September 1942. Recommendation states: ‘4455484 Lance-Sergeant T. M. Swallow 8th DLI has proved himself most courageous under fire. He drove his vehicle in the lead of “C” Column both in the withdrawal from Gazala and Mahtruh. When leading “C” Column from the Gazala box, his vehicle was blown up and damaged on a minefield. When others showed hesitation at continuing through the minefield, and though under heavy enemy fire at the time, he succeeded in getting his engine started again and unhesitatingly led the way through the enemy lines. His coolness and bravery have certainly greatly contributed to the successful evacuation of the column on both occasions 14th and 27th June’
Thomas Meldrum Swallow enlisted into the D.L.I. T.A. on May 2nd 1939.He was with the 8th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry at Honiton on 4th March 1941prior to his service in the
4440719 Pte Bernard Holmes. 8th D.L.I
Awarded for services in North Africa Citation reads. In the MERSAH MATRUH area on the night of 28th/29th June1942. the Btn B Echelon group were passing through enemy positions when they came under heavy M.G. fire from enemy positions. Casualties to personnel and damage to trucks was caused and 4440719 Pte Bernard Holmes , although under heavy M.G. fire went to the assistance of some wounded men, dressed their wounds and brought them safetly out of danger. By his coolness and initiative the wounded were safely brought back to hospital and he showed complete disregard for his own safety because transport was limited and he risked being left behind in an enemy position to attend to the wounded men. During the operations his courage and cheerfulness was an example to all and materially assisted in saving the lives of several men. He served in the 8th D.L.I.
Pte Holmes was also awarded The 1939-45 Star,Africa Star,Defence Medal and War Medal.For his long service in the Territorial Army he was granted The Territorial Efficiency Medal bar Territorial.
4457457 Corporal Henry Pearson 8th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry 4457457 Cpl Henry Pearson Born in Sunderland in 1922, he served with the 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry during the Second World War. He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery during the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942, when he was severely wounded.
4457457 Cpl Henry Pearson Born in Sunderland in 1922, he served with the 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry during the Second World War. He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery during the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942, when he was severely wounded.
4457457 Corporal Henry Pearson`s recommendation reads as follows;-
`During the night attack of the 1st/2nd November 1942an enemy post in a vehicle held up the advance of Company Hq and another section.Cpl Pearson,who was in command of the section charged the post but was unable to reach it before he was wounded.He then reorganised his men again and after engaging the enemywith LMG fire he charged the post again and cleaned it out though in doing so he was once again wounded.He set a very high standard of courage to all his men.`
After recovering, Corporal Pearson returned to 8 DLI and was killed in action at the Battle of Mareth on 22 March 1943. He was 24 years old. He is buried in Sfax War Cemetery in Tunisia Section XIV. Row E. Grave 19.. Henry Pearson was the son of John and Emma Pearson, of Sunderland, Co. Durham.His mother Emma collected his Military Medal from Buckingham Palace.
4448907 Sergeant (A CSM WOII) Ralph Foster Diston, 9th DLI
4448907 CSM Ralph Foster Diston was CSM of `A` Company 9th DLI he was ordered to seize the redoubt Oerzi Est (Wadi Zigzaou) in the Mareth Line on the night of March 21/22nd 1943 .Distinguished Conduct Medal Citation;- Throughout the attack CSM Diston showed a complete disregard of danger and magnificent leadership. He personally led many an assault on enemy fortified positions, clearly the numerous trenches and hideouts in the huge redoubts. His inspiring leadership rallied the dwindling numbers of his Company on numerous occasions before the final surrender of the redoubt, and the capture of 120 prisoners have been obtained. CSM Diston guided them through the only safe exit from the redoubt back to the anti-tank ditch, where he obtained more ammunition and re-orgaanised them CSM Diston was killed on the 18th July 1943 during an attack on the Primosole Bridge in Sicily he was the husband of Frances Elizabeth Diston, of Hendon, Sunderland, Co. Durham he was aged 30yrs.
At about 1300hrs 22nd March, German Infantry and Tanks approached the redoubt at 200 yards range on three sides. CSM Diston went around the defenders with great coolness, urging them to greater efforts. Finally their ammunition expended, they were orderd to withdraw.
4448907 CSM Ralph Foster Diston was CSM of `A` Company 9th DLI he was ordered to seize the redoubt Oerzi Est (Wadi Zigzaou) in the Mareth Line on the night of March 21/22nd 1943 .Distinguished Conduct Medal Citation;- Throughout the attack CSM Diston showed a complete disregard of danger and magnificent leadership. He personally led many an assault on enemy fortified positions, clearly the numerous trenches and hideouts in the huge redoubts. His inspiring leadership rallied the dwindling numbers of his Company on numerous occasions before the final surrender of the redoubt, and the capture of 120 prisoners have been obtained.
CSM Diston guided them through the only safe exit from the redoubt back to the anti-tank ditch, where he obtained more ammunition and re-orgaanised them
CSM Diston was killed on the 18th July 1943 during an attack on the Primosole Bridge in Sicily he was the husband of Frances Elizabeth Diston, of Hendon, Sunderland, Co. Durham he was aged 30yrs.
3660867 Private James Hudson, 6th DLI
Citation ;-On the night of 21st/22nd March during the 151 Brigade attack on the Mareth defences 3660867 Private James Hudson was with 'C' Company 6th DLI. On sighting an enemy Machine Gun post he immediately led a group of men forward with fixed bayonets. He succeeded in capturing the post, killing many of the enemy personally.
This action of Private Hudson's enabled the rest of his Company to move forward onto the position. Before leading the charge, his Company Commander had been seriously wounded beside him. He showed outstanding courage and complete disregard for his own safety
Citation ;-On the night of 21st/22nd March during the 151 Brigade attack on the Mareth defences 3660867 Private James Hudson was with 'C' Company 6th DLI. On sighting an enemy Machine Gun post he immediately led a group of men forward with fixed bayonets. He succeeded in capturing the post, killing many of the enemy personally.
4453016 Sergeant Edward Gallon, 9th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
Citation Immediate Award;- 4453016 Sergeant Edward Gallon found an abandoned Bren Carrier on withdrawing from the Mersa-Matruh Box and having repaired it as well as they could, proceeded to Alamein, arriving on 29th June 1942. By this time Sergeant Gallon was very weary and the carrier was breaking down every half mile. Eventually, at Alamein they ran into heavy shelling and the carrier was repaired again by Sergeant Gallon, with complete disregard to his own safety. He had just withdrawn from the shelling area when he was asked if he could tow a serviceable 3 ton lorry, which was out of petrol, from the centre of the shelling area, so that it could be refuelled and used for evacuating the many troops needing transport. Without a moments thought Sergeant Gallon and L/Cpl Ferguson drove their carrier straight to the lorry. The rate of shelling increased immediately, but Sergeant Gallon dismounted, affixed a tow rope to the lorry and towed it to safety where it was refuelled and used to evacuate troops. Sergeant Gallon proceeded a few hundred yards when he observed that the path of a Ration Convoy, coming up the line was blocked by four immobilised 3 ton lorries which were a direct target for the enemy shelling which was very heavy. Sergeant Gallon, at once, drove his carrier to the four trucks and one at a time, with his life in immediate danger, he affixed a tow rope and managed to tow out all four lorries thus allowing the Ration Convoy to make its effort to get through the barrage.
The complete disregard for his own safety under heavy and continuous shelling his devotion to duty under these conditions and in his tired state and above all his rapid appreciation of the urgency of clearing the way for the Ration Convoy, regardless of personal cost, his patience in the unsuccessful evacuation by the abandoned Bren Carrier, all showed the most distinguished conduct and inspired those who were privileged to see him.
4449153 Pte George Robert Fearon The 8th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
During the night withdrawal from the GAURAWLA NULLA on the 28th JUNE 1942 a column was surprised at the head of the NULLA and became heavily engaged.The Column became divided by heavy machine gun,mortar and A/Tank fire and further advance was help up.Pte Fearon immediately came forward with his Bren Gun placed it in position and engaged the enemy remaining in position for a good hour although under very considerable machine gun fire at very close range.By his actions the enemy fire was sufficiently reduced to enable the withdrawl to continue.
George Robert Fearon was a native of Sunderland Co Durham and before enlistment had lived in Woodbine Street ,Hendon,a former regular member of The 2nd Durham Light Infantry he saw service pre-war with the 2nd Battalion in India and the Sudan.He enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry between 1st May 1931 - March 1933.
During the withdrawal from MERSAH MATRUH on the evening of June 28th 1942the rear party of the battalion was attacked by a strong enemy force. There were many casualties and during the whole engagement L/Cpl McFarlane a stretcher bearer attended to the wounded with outstanding efficiency .He continually showed complete disregard for his own personal safety by attending to wounded in full view of the enemy. On one occasion he crawled towards a badly wounded gunner who lay in a most exposed position he found the gunner so badly wounded that it was apparent that little could be done for him.L/Cpl McFarlane crawled back to the Regimental Aid Post obtained Morphia and bandages and once more crawled forward to the wounded man and did all that was possible. The whole ground was being swept by machine gun fire from enemy armoured fighting vehicles.
On the 26th and 27th July the battalion was again in action on the El Alamein front and again L/Cpl McFarlane showed the same disregard for his own safety. Seven badly wounded men were lying in an open position under shell fire. As there was no transport available for the evacuation of the casualties. L/Cpl McFarlane went forward 200yards at a time when shell fire was very heavy, obtained a truck and himself directed the truck back to the casualties. During the action as at other times his work was outstanding and of the highest character.
John Owen McFarlane was a proud Scotsman from Holytown who had worked with the Pit ponies in his local colliery before the war.John originally joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Left) and was initially deeply disappointed to be transferred to the Durham Light Infantry.Joining the 6th battalion in the desert he became a true`Durham` in every sense of the word and later wrote to his wife `They`re a grand crowd of chaps and we`re all as thick as thieves`Deeply loyal to the Durhams his loyalty was repayed by the Army in the forfieture of his treasured Military Medal following his conviction for mutiny at Salerno when half fit men from the 50th and 51st Divisions eager to rejoin their Battalions were misled by the Army and used as reinforcements for other units other than ,in Mc Farlanes case,his beloved Durham Light Infantry.
McFarlane was nearly captured at Tobruk but managed to escape in the breakout his MM citation hardly bears any real detail of his couragous efforts to save the gunner trapped beneath a Gun and Limber by his arm,it does not touch on the heart rendering decision he made to amputate the gunners torn limb with a Jack knive in an effort to save his life or the fact that the gunner did not die but succumbed to his wounds days later.
As John Owen McFarlane stood on that beach at Salerno together with three Sgts,four corporals,seven lance corporals and sixty one privates of the 6th,8th and 9th DLI he recalled how he had no intention of obeying an order to move because it would mean an end to his time with the Durhams,He recalled later If I moved I knew that I would be joining a new unit and I was`nt prepared to do that,it was rejoin the 6th Durham Light Infantry or nothing...they could have shot me then and there but I was`nt moving!
Convicted of mutiny John never did rejoin his beloved DLI and instead reluctantly saw action with other units.The British Army did its best to have the mutineers killed with extra duties in the frontline no rest,no relief but John was determined to survive but spent many days/months/years imprisoned or on the run and all because of his loyalty to his Regiment and comrades.
4457637 L/Sgt Albert Dunn The 6th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
During the night attack on the night of 1st/2nd November after his platoon commander had been wounded, L/Sgt Dunn led his platoon throughout with great dash and enthusiasm .He himself set a fine example closing with the enemy and personally bayoneting three men. Throughout the action he kept his platoon under control although the advance was a long one and showed leadership of the highest order,
During the next night his platoon was so toughly organised that it was able to quickly overpower and destroy an 88mm Gun and tractor which drove into the Platoon lines.This was in great part due to the way L/Sgt Dunn had organised and controlled his platoon.
Born in Sunderland, he was working in Pyrex glass factory before the War Once he was called up he joined the 6th Battalion DLI. He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery on the opening night of the Battle of El Alamein, when he led his Platoon "with great dash and enthusiasm, .
On 11 August 1943, he was killed trying to defuse a booby-trapped mine on the road near Altarella in Sicily. Albert Dunn was buried in Catania War Cemetery in Sicily
4457637 Sgt Albert Dunn was selected to front the Salute the Soldier Campaign this photograph taken from `The Daily Sketch in April 1943 shows him with rifle and Pick Axe on his shoulder a typical `British Tommy`.
4455810 Private Norman Flynn
8th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry
Norman Flynn was the son of Mr. and Mrs. O. Flynn of 10 Kepier Crescent, Durham,he was mobilised with 8th Battalion at the outbreak of the war; served in France, Belgium and after escaping as part of the BEF returned to England.Norman served in the Middle East and is presumed to have been taken prisoner in the retreat from Libya to Egypt,possibly wounded he died as a prisoner of war in a field hospital in Benghazi, Libya, 31st October 1942; Norman is buried in Tripoli Military Cemetery, Libya
164872 (T)Captain Geoffrey Bartlett Beattie 9th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
on November 2nd during an attack by the Company under my command on the German positions between the 300-301 grid line this officer showed throughout the operation the greatest personal courage,leadership and initiative.
He attacked,single handed with the bayonet,a dug in tank by which an Italian was standing ,forcing the remainder of the crew to surrender and so undoubtedly saved an already depleted force further casualties.
His leadership and iniative in dealing with numourous strong points was an inspiration to all who saw him throughout the operation.
He set a fine example of Bravery and disregard of his own safety.(Operation Supercharge El Alamein)
Photograph of Geoffrey Bartlett Beattie taken in 1941 displayed here by kind permission of his Grandson David
4460624 Corporal Stanley Lishman The 6th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
Cpl Lishman was NCO in charge of four stretcher bearers travelling with the Battalion HQ and the Medical Officer at the rear of the battalion in the attack on the night of November 1st/2nd.Many casualies were brought back from the forward companies for the MO to deal with.While these were being attended to the medical officer and the medical orderly Sergeant were killed by very heavy Machine Gun fire.With complete disregard for his own safety Cpl Lishman continued to attend to wounded and with the help of others moved them back out of the fixed lines of fire.At first light he obtained a truck and took the wounded to the Advanced Dressing Stationsubsequently reporting to battalion HQ which was then established well forward about mid-day.During the afternoon the battalion suffered casualties from heavy shelling and Cpl Lishman continued to attend the wounded .On one occasion going forward in a carrier to badly wounded in the forward companies and bringing them back.Cpl Lishman`s actions were responsible for saving many lives in the battalion and his conduct throughout was of thehighest order.
4460708 Pte C W Swatten The 9th Durham Light Infantry
Area of El Alamein.This man is a company stretcher bearer and was attached to No 12 platoon for the attack on November 2nd 1942 on the area 300-301 grid lines.
During the operation this man was a prisoner for two hours gaining valuable information about a counter attack and the layout of enemy positions-He escaped then decided to go back and try to obtain a marked map of whose existance he was aware.He was unsuccessful in this but succeded in escaping again by pretending to look for German wounded.
Subsequently on return to the platoon he performed numerous deeds of gallantry in bringing in and attending to our own and enemy wounded,under heavy mortar fire-at all time showing a complete disregard of his own safety.
He set a fine example of brave and unselfish devotion to duty to all who saw him.
He was finally severely wounded in the execution of his duty,after giving his slit trench up to a wounded man whom he was attending.
4464185 Pte (A/Cpl) Joseph William Young 9th Durham Light Infantry
Area of El Alamein.Cpl Young throughout the action conducted himself with conspicious bravery and great determination.
On one occasion he approached an enemy tank and singlehand and regardless of personal danger compelled the crew to surrender.
On another occasion when his section was fired on by a trench full of Germans he advanced and standing above them raked the trench with Tommy gun fire killing the Germans.
5046992 A/Cpl Patrick Bernard Jordan The 9th Durham Light Infantry
During the attack on November 2nd on the German positions between the 300 & 301 grid lines this NCO showed courage iniative and leadership of the highest order.
He led his section throughout the operation with a complete disregard of his own safety and by his example encouraged and inspired all those near him.
His individual actions in the encountering of all enemy strong points with speed and the maximum of offensive action were mainly responsible for thesmallness of our own casualties in the area.
After capturing and consolidating the final objective he volunteered and came on a small recce party 500x into the enemy lines showing great coolness and personal disregard for danger.He was always the first man of his section to attack enemy strong points and gave his platoon a fine example to work under.
1857292 Sgt Frank Columbia D`Auvergne 6th Durham Light .Infantry
During the night attack made by the battalion on the early morning of November2nd 1942 Sgt D`Auvergne was with `A` Company as Platoon Sgt of No 7 Platoon
During the advance the platoon was temporarily held up by heavy fire from a dug in tank.An attempt to stalk it was unsuccesful and the platoon forced to withdraw a short distance.Having got behind a low ridge Sgt D`Auvergne shouted "This is no good! Give me that Bren!"He seized a Bren Gun and ran forward fifty yards where he took up a fire position and brought accurate fire to bear on the bank from an exposed position.He kept the gun in action until he was seriously wounded but his action caused the crew to withdraw and abandon the tank.The platoon then continued their advance made possible by Sgt D`Auvergne`s action.
4455641 Pte James Edward Coglan The 6th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry
Between the 27th May and 14th June 1942 a small column provided by the Battalion supported by other arms was carrying out harrassing operations against the Enemy.Pte Coglan was a driver of an anti-tank gun portee in the newly formed anti tank platoon of the battalion.On the last day a small force comprising one section of carriers,four detachments of anti tank guns,of which Pte Coglans was one, and a section of Machine Guns was ordered to attempt to dislodge a force of approximately 17 armoured cars from a high feature which had been used as an O.P by the column.This small force made a dash for the enemy,but being hopelessly outnumbered were compelled to withdraw-it was noticed that another gun had received a direct hit and that the driver was lying seriously wounded on the ground clear of his vehicle.Although under heavy machine gun fire at the time Pte Colgan ran over to the wounded man,carried him to his own vehicle and then drove to safety.Pte Colgan`s action showed a complete disregard for danger.Again in action in the ALAMEIN line in July he showed the same courage and set a wonderful example by his coolness and daring spirit to the other members of the Anti-tank platoon.
4034189 Corporal (A/Sgt) Charles Reginald Haseley, 6th Bn. Durham Light Infantry
During the Battalion attack on the night 1st/2nd November when a gap was formed in enemy lines, 'D' Company was Right Forward Company of the Battalion. No.4034189 Corporal Haseley, C.R. was in command of No.3 Section of 16 Platoon and during this attack and throughout the entire action his dash and personal leadership were most outstanding. When the Company came under fire of fixed lines from enemy MG's Cpl. Haseley, with complete disregard to his own safety moved about among the men of his own platoo, leading them through and giving them encouragement by his own personal example
Two enemy dug in M.13 Tanks which had been holding up the advance a short while previously were rapidly engaged and once again Cpl. Haseley lead his section with great dash, and himself killed the crews of both tanks. Immediately afterwards Cpl. Haseley gave chase to a third M.13 tank. Cpl. Haseley was responsible for taking many prisoners during the advance and whilst the Company was consolidating the position gained he led his section forward searching the ground and bringing in two more prisoners. His leadership was of the very highest order