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 4
Saw a lot of prisoners and they looked awful and they all were wary of RAF No. 6 Squadron Tank Busters with a tin-opener painted on all their motor vehicles. Everyone worked very hard and enjoyed helping to deliver the goods to the Nazis and Company. After some weeks we moved on to another forward area, always keeping fairly near the 8th Army. Often went swimming in the Med. On through Tobruk and memories came back of when we were battled up there. On the way up, stopped at Fort Capuzzo, on to Gazala. Down Derna Pass, one slip and you would fall hundreds of feet, first gear only from top of pass to bottom. Into Derna, German and Italian ships destroyed in harbour. Nice little village natives trying to sell us black bread. On along the coast road, Apollonia and on to Barce, where our first retreat started in 1941, on through Benghazi, Magrun, Agedabia El Agheila Marble Arch. Built to commemorate Italian victory in Libya. On through to Sirte, a lovely village, had a walk in Sirte (Gulf of Sirte), lots of German aircraft and Italian aircraft and lorries destroyed all the way up from El Alamein, lots of tanks and a lot of German and Italian graves, some with Iron Crosses on them. There were also British graves. On to Hams, Castel Benito, Tripoli, Ben Gardane. We stayed in Ben Gardane some weeks, lived in a tent about eight feet from the Mediterranean in swimming every day – was lovely and warm. Drew petrol most days with Crossley lorry and some days on Water Tanker. Germans never came near us to bomb – bed was ground sheet on sandy floor – life was healthy. Always had a good friends “the flies” for company, they loved to walk over your face and body. On to Gabes near Mareth Line where some heavy fighting took place. Flight Sgt. Harris was killed at Mareth on 24 March 1943 aged 20, flying one of the tank buster Hurricanes, later I helped to put a cross on his grave beside his badly broken Hurricane – was very sad. From Gabes to Sfax, stopped for a while, a lovely village and had a walk round. On along the coast road and lovely olive groves to Menastir, from there on to Sousse, stayed there for some weeks and often went swimming – loved it. Sousse was a lovely place. Visited the Holy City of Kairouan and went on a guided tour through one of the mosques – was lovely to see. Left Sousse driving Crossley lorry and trailer and on along to Tunis – lovely city, had a good look around German and Italian ships, which were destroyed in harbour. One had a large hole in the side. Natives were quite friendly, only stayed a few days. Journeyed from Alexandria to Tunis – 1,890 miles.