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 3
Helped load lorries onto Barges for return journey up River Nile. Boarded the ship Thebes and sailed up River Nile, called at Abu Simbel 2.00 am (Historic Place), through Aswan Dam on to Cairo and stayed only a few days, visited the Pyramids and walked up inside one to see the tombs – very narrow stone steps, very cool inside. On up Western Desert past Pyramids, on as far as Daba. After a few weeks back to Egypt, Shandur to fit new 40 mm guns to Hurricane tank busters IID. Hurricane pilots trained for a few weeks and then away again to Western Desert to Fuka. Only there a short time, back to Daba, slept beside lorries. Called one morning very early and had to get away in 20 minutes – Germans getting very near. On past Alamein. Burg El Arab, Amriyah, not far from El Alamein. Germans were stopped there by 8th Army. We stayed at Landing Ground 89 in the desert – sandstorms fairly often, could see nothing, very hot but cool at night. Slept in tent with three other MT drivers – bed, ground sheet, blanket and gas mask for pillow. The flies woke you early every morning, dozens of them and we had them for company all day. Nuisance. On average our food was good, plenty of bullybeef, stew and porridge. I learned to put marmalade in my porridge and still do. No German Aircraft ever came near us so we lived in luxury. Sometime late September, we moved up nearer to El Alamein. I had a small single tent and dug a hole about three feet down x three and a half wide, tent over top, ground sheet on floor – that was my private hotel. When sandstorms came you were covered with sand. We were bombed only one by one German plane – no one was hurt. We knew the “big push” against the Germans and Italians was soon to start at El Alamein. One evening a few of us MT drivers and others were sitting in a circle in the desert, talking and joking, all of a sudden the whole place lit up and one could hear the guns quite plainly. Over 1,000 of them. That was 23 October at 9.40 pm. I will always remember that! That was the start of the Great Battle of El Alamein. We were all kept very busy doing our own particular jobs. For some days before 23 October, the bombers and fighters would fly over and about us, all day long they never stopped. Sometimes the pilots would wave to us as they were very low. The bombers were Baltimores and Bostons South Africans. Fighters were Spitfires, Warhawks and Kittyhawks, Shark Squadron. When flying near, you thought they were going to eat you. Real sharks mouths. Red and white – looks very vicious and they were. No. 6 Squadron Hurricane IIDs were busy with their 40 mm guns – their armoured shells passed through any German tank they came across and that was many. We worked under the noise of aircraft all day flying to and from place to place. How on earth the Germans and Italians stood such a hammering day in and day out is a mystery. Was good enough for them.