Shipped out of Tobruk as a POW
8th July 1942: Improvised arrangements by the Italians mean that men must suffer an squalid ordeal until they reach Italy
In North Africa Rommel’s month long offensive had finally come to a halt in front of the new British line at El Alamein. It was too late for the many thousands of men who had been taken prisoner.
Bob Mallett1 had been captured, along with 33,000 others, when Tobruk fell on 20th June. The Germans handed them over to the Italians to deal with. It took time for the Italians to organise facilities for them and to find transport to take them back to Italy. When the ship did arrive it was very basic:
A motley crowd was herded onto the quay. We were now on our way to a prison camp, somewhere in Italy. Guards stood around us, dirty and unshaven, leaning on their rifles. We numbered about 400 English, South Africans, Indians, Australians and a collection of nationals from almost every European country. We were all dirty, hungry, lousy and miserable.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial