In Memory of my Father - Joseph Albert Willis 26th November 1916 - 28th February 2007
The following pages recount his experiences in Africa and Italy and were written by my Father in 1991 Page 2.
Got as far as Tobruk, were surrounded there by Germans and Italians. The siege of Tobruk started April 1941. We had to stay in Tobruk – dug a hole about three feet down to sleep in, and hoped for the best. German bombers and fighters day and night. Noise awful, the place was lit up at night with gunfire and bombs. Watched Ladybird sunk by German bombers. I was only about 300 yards away. German fighters patrolled above us most days. Watched Wellington Bomber shot down by German fighters, into the Mediterranean about 600 yards away. Wing Commander Black was on board. German heavy guns shelled us nearly every day, shells passed over our heads and landed about 400 yards away, loud explosion and then a whistling noise. One day my friend and I counted about fourteen German planes, Dive Bombers, flying in a straight line, not high up. All of a sudden the leading one turned straight for us in a dive, I ran at the double, like a hare, to the cave about 20 feet away – into the cave and was forced down with the blast. I lay there until it was over, the pressure was like a roller passing over me. My friend was killed, no other damage done. Some awful sandstorms and a lot of flies – drinking water was one pint per day and one tot of rum. Australian soldiers holding front line, some of them would come back and talk to us – great fellows. We never strayed far from the side of the escarpment. I washed my clothes in petrol – dry in 20 minutes. Every day very hot – very cold at night. Only about a quarter of a mile from beach but dare not go to swim in case of German fighters strafing. Some weeks later I was taken out of Tobruk, by an Australian Destroyer called Vampire, between 1.00 and 2,00 am to Alexandria, stayed in a hotel about 4 days and then on to Tel Aviv, Palestine for three weeks rest leave. Camped in tent about 20 feet from the Mediterranean – swimming every day for hours. Did Batman to Medical Officer Dr. Marchant. Went one day to Haifa with a lorry load of bombs – stayed overnight and back next day. Went sight-seeing in Haifa first, in the morning, one armed guard with each lorry. From Palestine to Sudan on ship Lotus, it was lovely sailing down the River Nile through Aswan Dam and on to Wadihalfa. On to the desert near Wadihalfa, camped beside the Nile – was not allowed to swim in case of Yellow Fever. Was very hot, average each day was 120 degrees. The sand would nearly burn you. Carried water from Wadihalfa to our camp in water tanker. (Most days in a Chevrolet Lorry).