Saturday, September 6, 2008

[Image] An Incredible Escape

22nd April, 1941. Tobruk, Libya.

The Benghazi Handicap's Wooden Spooners.

Meet two of the 9th Division's luckiest men. QX1698 Sapper Stanley Curtis and QX2454 Sapper Edward Hetherington-Harford of the 2/7th Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers enjoy a well received cigarette after their late arrival in Tobruk on foot after a 16 day trek.

Left behind in Benghazi to plant demolitions on Italian supply dumps so that the advancing Afrika Korps could not take advantage of them the two Sappers planted explosives to cover the 9th Divisions retreat, known as "the Benghazi Handicap". When surprised by the rapid approach of the advancing Afrika Korp the two men hid and were overtaken by Rommel's Panzer Divisions.

Finding themselves behind enemy lines and surrounded by thousands of Axis troops the men hid by day and travelled by night where possible overland on foot. After a journey of 16 days, and 300 miles (483 kilometres), the men managed to sneak past German positions surrounding Tobruk and return to their units. Immediately hospitalised for treatment of their injuries it is not known if the men played any further part in the Western Desert Campaign. If so I believe they well deserved any rest coming to them after that.

image 041710 Australian War Memorial.

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