News from the Green Howards
MR REG MUMFORD RECALLS ANOTHER TIME IN LIBYA
The Museum received a letter today from R.J. Mumford who recounted below some of his experiences when serving in Libya during 1942 and 1943. Also attached were two excellent photographs; of Tripoli Cathedral and the Libyan Marble Arch.
"As you know, Libya is very much in the news these days. Well, we the Green Howards were there a long time before Col. Gadaffi so of course I have been thinking a lot about our time there in 42 and 43. I have been looking through my old snaps, and I enclose an enlargement of Tripoli Cathedral, and one of what we always called the Marble Arch, some 20 miles from Benghazi.
Because either we had been chasing the Germans and Ities, or they had been chasing us it was known as the Benghazi Stakes. I remember arriving at Gazala in 42, and being on 2 pints of water per day for all purposes, obviously we could not do a great deal of washing, no wonder we got various skin complaints such as Impetigo etc. and no wonder a lot of us got Jaundice. I remember in our trenches we at Gazala we had 40 gallon drums of water as a reserve. These were inspected daily to make sure that we did not use this reserve, but the boys, rather foolishly found a way round this by taking a few pints and then dropping in a few stones, rather like Aesop's Raven. After the Gazala disaster, we reformed in Egypt. We then moved to a Fleet Air Arm station called HMS Grebe, it was not far from Alexandria. We had a great time there, good food, swimming in the sea, I had my first flight in an aircraft, a biplane a Fairey Albacore. I cannot remember how long we were there but I know we used to be taken into Alexandria and were issued with a Station Card, which I still have today with my name and Regiment, and may use RNAS transport.
We next moved up to El Alamein, and took over a section from The Queens Regt. The Germans showed themselves every morning. They emerged from their trenches, stretched their limbs and shook their blankets. Well our new Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel D.A. Seagrim wasn't going to have anything like that, so every morning at first light, we had a stand to, and everyone fired at the Germans and we did the same in the evening. I had a captured German Spandau Machine Gun, and boxes of ammo and I enjoyed Firing at the Germans with one of their own weapons. After that the Germans kept well out of sight.
I remember well the night of October 23rd, that absolutely terrific Barrage by the Artillery. We then advanced and were involved in two more major battles on the way to Tripoli. The first was the Mareth Line, and the second was Wadi Akarit, where our C.O. Lt. Col. D.A. Seagrim and our RSM Jos. Jaye were both killed. I had known Jos. since I joined the 7th Battalion in either late March or early April 1940 and the C.O. was posthumously awarded the VC.
One of the discomforts we suffered was the Sandstorms, the sand getting in our tea, and the flies, and we could not afford to throw the tea away, just because there were a couple of flies in it. In certain parts of Libya, we had the Mosquitoes to contend with, but it was not always doom and gloom. In those days Libya was divided into two parts, in the east Cyrenaica, and the western part was Tripolitania. I think that Tripolitania was the more pleasant I think we discovered more Oasis, and I think it was that half Mussolini tried to develop more by creating farms. Each farm had an arch over the entrance, on which was written a date 193? and then the words something like this "Constructed by Il Duce for the people of Tripolitania". Each farm was exactly the same with land, a farmhouse and out buildings, and of course a windmill water pump.
I know that like his partner in crime, Musso. was a crook, but he did something good.
Another thing I remember about desert life was, that unless we were in a position for long, we would be on Cat sanitation and buried all our waste, and tried to leave no evidence of our presence."
Reg Mumford joined the 7th Battalion Green Howards in Hull at the end of 1939 at the age of 21 and is still happily reminiscing at the age of 93.View more pictures