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TITLE
Interview with Major-General Robertson about an accident in North Africa
EXTERNAL ID
WD_BF02_TRACK02_ROBERTSON
DATE OF RECORDING
2005
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Major-General Robertson
SOURCE
Am Baile and War Detectives
ASSET ID
3151
KEYWORDS
World War 2
World War II
Second World War
2nd World War
Armed Forces
army
audio

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Major-General Robertson recalls an unplanned incident during the North Africa campaign of World War 2.

We had one funny experience. We'd been, well I suppose it wasn't very funny at the time, but we had been marching. As a rule, we travelled in lorries, in three-ton lorries, but at this particular time in North Africa, the lorries weren't available. They had to go back to get supplies from Benghazi or Tobruk or somewhere else. They were being used for supplies, so we had to march. And we got to a place called Homs. Anyone been to North Africa? Anyone heard of Leptis Magna? Leptis Magna is a ruined Greek city - beautiful, beautiful architecture. And we halted there and I thought, well, this is lovely. I'm going to have a good look round Leptis Magna, which is the Greek ruin. And no sooner had I said that when somebody came rushing up and said, 'Ready to move in half an hour.' So off we set again. We were all very tired because we'd marched a long, long way and I was rather fed up not being able to see this place.

And we marched all through the night to where we thought the Germans were going to be. But unfortunately, the person who was guiding us got the wrong place. Instead of turning behind the Germans, when we would have caught them up and made them prisoners, he turned us just before we got to the Germans and we ran into a great big waddy or a ravine. And a lot of us were travelling on the tanks at the time, standing on the tanks, and the tanks couldn't get across the ravine, so the tank-driver, the tank-driver said, 'Very sorry, I can't take you any further' and we had to hop off and go on our feet. And it was very difficult because everyone was split up. We hadn't been able to plan it at all. And I found myself with four or five people. We moved up to where we thought the enemy were and I said to my friend, when we got to a ridge, 'You go that way and I'll go this way.' And in about three minutes, I was told, the man who I told to go to the left had been made a prisoner. And I never heard anything about it. I went on to the right with three or four people.

And we only had rifles with us and Sten Guns, and Sten Guns don't shoot very far, and we only had rifles. And we got up towards the Germans and then suddenly the Germans opened fire on us. I got hit - not very badly, just on the shoulder - and got behind a rock. I could see the Germans quite well, about 300 yards away. There were two German officers sitting on the side of the bank. And I got my rifle out and I had about ten shots at them. And I missed every time! [Laughter] I was terrible. The difficulty is, you have to be able to judge, with those rifles, how far away the target is. Today, you have high-velocity rifles and the bullet goes phwit - straight. In those days, you had to judge the range and put the range on your sights, and the bullet went like that. And if you got the range wrong, then you missed the target. And I missed the target. So that was that.

And a lot of Italian prisoners rushed towards us, trying to surrender to us, and the Germans opened fire on us, and it was, it was funny; you could see the bullets going through them - pshwitt - and we couldn't do anything about it. We left them with the field dressings that we had and wished them luck and that was it. We had to get on with our own job.

This interview was recorded as part of a War Detectives project in 2005 at Cawdor Primary School.

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Interview with Major-General Robertson about an accident in North Africa

2000s

World War 2; World War II; Second World War; 2nd World War; Armed Forces; army; audio

Am Baile and War Detectives

War Detectives (interviews)

Major-General Robertson recalls an unplanned incident during the North Africa campaign of World War 2.<br /> <br /> We had one funny experience. We'd been, well I suppose it wasn't very funny at the time, but we had been marching. As a rule, we travelled in lorries, in three-ton lorries, but at this particular time in North Africa, the lorries weren't available. They had to go back to get supplies from Benghazi or Tobruk or somewhere else. They were being used for supplies, so we had to march. And we got to a place called Homs. Anyone been to North Africa? Anyone heard of Leptis Magna? Leptis Magna is a ruined Greek city - beautiful, beautiful architecture. And we halted there and I thought, well, this is lovely. I'm going to have a good look round Leptis Magna, which is the Greek ruin. And no sooner had I said that when somebody came rushing up and said, 'Ready to move in half an hour.' So off we set again. We were all very tired because we'd marched a long, long way and I was rather fed up not being able to see this place. <br /> <br /> And we marched all through the night to where we thought the Germans were going to be. But unfortunately, the person who was guiding us got the wrong place. Instead of turning behind the Germans, when we would have caught them up and made them prisoners, he turned us just before we got to the Germans and we ran into a great big waddy or a ravine. And a lot of us were travelling on the tanks at the time, standing on the tanks, and the tanks couldn't get across the ravine, so the tank-driver, the tank-driver said, 'Very sorry, I can't take you any further' and we had to hop off and go on our feet. And it was very difficult because everyone was split up. We hadn't been able to plan it at all. And I found myself with four or five people. We moved up to where we thought the enemy were and I said to my friend, when we got to a ridge, 'You go that way and I'll go this way.' And in about three minutes, I was told, the man who I told to go to the left had been made a prisoner. And I never heard anything about it. I went on to the right with three or four people. <br /> <br /> And we only had rifles with us and Sten Guns, and Sten Guns don't shoot very far, and we only had rifles. And we got up towards the Germans and then suddenly the Germans opened fire on us. I got hit - not very badly, just on the shoulder - and got behind a rock. I could see the Germans quite well, about 300 yards away. There were two German officers sitting on the side of the bank. And I got my rifle out and I had about ten shots at them. And I missed every time! [Laughter] I was terrible. The difficulty is, you have to be able to judge, with those rifles, how far away the target is. Today, you have high-velocity rifles and the bullet goes phwit - straight. In those days, you had to judge the range and put the range on your sights, and the bullet went like that. And if you got the range wrong, then you missed the target. And I missed the target. So that was that. <br /> <br /> And a lot of Italian prisoners rushed towards us, trying to surrender to us, and the Germans opened fire on us, and it was, it was funny; you could see the bullets going through them - pshwitt - and we couldn't do anything about it. We left them with the field dressings that we had and wished them luck and that was it. We had to get on with our own job. <br /> <br /> This interview was recorded as part of a War Detectives project in 2005 at Cawdor Primary School.