Sunday, August 17, 2008

[Image] Rommel in Colour

1941, Western Desert, Libya.

Lt. Gen. Erwin Rommel.
GOC Deutsches Afrika Korp.

This rare photo of Rommel in colour in the Western Desert gives a great insight into the German high command of the Afrika Korp. The formality of the uniforms is astounding considering the heat experienced in the desert. Even Morshead wore shorts.

An interesting anecdote I have come across worth sharing is one about Rommel's goggles. It was written that Rommel found these goggles in the wreckage of an Australian armoured vehicle lost in the Benghazi Handicap. Liking the design so much he discarded his German issued goggles and for the rest of the North African campaign Rommel wore Australian goggles.

[Image] The Digger of Alamein

The Australian Digger, Alamein 1942.

This photo taken at the Alamein War Museum in Egypt shows the typical Australian Infantry soldier of the Western Desert of 1942. A Lee-Enfield .303 rifle, a bayonet and of course the tin hat are ever present.

Several things differ between the model soldier here and photos of actual Aussie soldiers at Alamein that are worth mentioning. I think that this photo is how the regulation Australian soldier should have looked. In reality the Australian soldier at Alamein was most likely bare chested. He was more likely to wear a slouch hat than a tin hat and was more often than not bare footed. This Digger is also way too white in skin tone to have spent any length of time in the Western Desert.

The Diggers of the 9th Division may have gone away white but came back the very image of the 'bronzed aussie'. This was an era decades before sunscreen. As a result skin cancers were a huge concern for returned men of the 9th Division even way into their latter years. For some it wasn't the Germans that killed them but the Western Desert sun itself many decades later.

The Australians were a casual lot with their uniforms in all theatres of the second world war. This is what makes some of the photos even more powerful because of the contrast in their casual appearance and the horrible nature of their surroundings.

image Alamein War Museum, Egypt.

[Image] Crocodile Dundee of Tobruk

26th September, 1941. Tobruk, Libya.

SX1417 Pvt. V.J. Fuller models the new look slouch hat

Pvt. Victor John Fuller of the 2/3rd Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, finds a new way to accessorise with a belt of captured Italian Breda Model 37 8mm machine gun bullets making a nice hat band for his weathered slouch hat.

I think Paul Hogan has a lot of explaining to do after seeing this photo. Crocodile Dundee anyone?

image 020644 Australian War Memorial.