Monday, August 18, 2008

[Image] Fleecing the Saffas

21st July, 1942. El Alamein, Egypt.

9th Div troops play cards with the South Africans

These two 9th Division Machine Gunners pass the time in their weapons pit, between engagements, with a game of cards with two members of the South African Army.

The British War Photographer who stumbled across this scene must have had a good laugh at the sight of dominion troops so engaged in gambling that they haven't even noticed they are being photographed. This is a great photo to demonstrate the different, yet distinct, styles of head wear in service with dominion troops at Alamein. The slouch hat and the pith helmet, symbols of their respective armies, and both being quite practical in the Western Desert. I suppose Aussies and Saffas know a thing or two about the desert. There are no deserts in England, Italy or Germany.

image E14671 Imperial War Museum.

[Image] A letter home from Alamein

10th September, 1942. El Alamein, Egypt.

A precious letter home.

This unidentified Digger of the 9th Division enjoys a few hours out of the front lines in organised relaxation at the Alamein beachfront. Rather than go for a much deserved swim this soldier prefers to write a letter home but ponders what to write.

In typical Australian fashion this soldier is shirtless, yet still wears the very practical slouch hat. The leather thong of his identity discs are visible around his neck and this lucky soldier writes with a fountain pen and appears to have a ready supply of proper writing paper. Both pens and paper were always in short supply for Diggers in the Western Desert. Letters would often be written home on any kind of scrap paper available. It was not uncommon for Aussies to write letters home on paper that they had captured from Italian or German troops.

Troops of the 9th Division always enjoyed their brief stints at the Alamein beach front. Often the swim in the ocean would be the only wash the troops would get for weeks on end and one wonders how much the trips to the beach were motivated by a genuine concern for the men's welfare or more an opportunity for the officers to rid their men of the horrible smell that accompanied them where ever they went.

image 042004 Australian War Memorial.