British infantry meets German armour
5th June 1942: As the Gazala battles continue in the Libyan desert advancing British infantry suddenly encounters German tanks
Henry Foster was with the 2nd Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment, he had left the UK in January, travelling to Egypt via South Africa and then up to the Gazala Line.1
They formed part of the defence force based at Tobruk but on the 4th of June they were transported out of the town to join the battle in the desert. As they approached their position they passed large numbers of damaged and burnt out vehicles:
We were than told that the Division would be in action the following morning 5th June, the objective was to close some gaps in the British line and to form several defensive boxes, the Italians being to our front it was expected that the opposition would be light with their Infantry and Artillery. Food was brought up along with rations and water for the following day.
Next morning we were to move off at 04.30 hours. This was one hour before day break, as we were all aboard trucks, each truck carried a small light at the rear, we were now in the hands of the C.O. moving along on a compass bearing the lights on the trucks assisting each truck driver to keep in line. As day-light broke as far as one could see, to our right there were literally hundreds of trucks all moving in the same direction carrying the rest of the 5th, Indian Division.
We the West Yorks were on the left flank and 16 Platoon were on the extreme left of the whole line, to our left was sand and more sand, miles of it, (has Lawrence of Arabia appeared, we would not have been surprised for this used to be his stamping ground).
Very soon we were joined by seven or eight Tanks which took up position immediately to our front, everything was now moving forward at a steady pace, soon we came under shell fire, high explosive anti tank and air bursts, trucks were being hit and taking fire, the soilders who had been on board were picked up by another truck. Soon we were ordered off the trucks and were to advance on foot, each company now operating individually.