Appendix to the War Diary of 7 RTR, which was in the Tobruk fortress during the battle. Many thanks to the Tank Museum for their great work in transcribing these, and the very courteous handling of my requests to get them copied in pieces and shipped to France.
32 A. Tank Bde. 70 Division 8 Army
Unit – 7 R Tanks
Rank and Name: Lieut. McGinlay, Alexander Oliphant
Recommended by Major J.R. Holden, DSO
Honour or Reward DSO.
TOBRUK – 22nd to 30th November 1941
Lieut McGinlay was in action continuously from the night 21/22 November to the morning of 30th November. During this time he performed his duties with the utmost gallantry and was largely responsible for three successful attacks on enemy strongpoints. On two separate occasions he led the tanks to a startline on foot when under the most intense artillery and mortar fire, with a complete disregard for his own safety. He has acted as troop leader, liaison officer, reconnaissance officer and even F.O.O. and at all times has been absolutely reliable. His magnificent courage and unquenchable cheerfulness have been unsurpassed. His leadership and advice have been first class at all times.
Sd/J.R.Holden, O.C. “D” Sqdn. 7th Bn., Royal Tank Regiment
Matilda tanks lined up and ready to move off near Tobruk, 12 September 1941. Picture shows Matilda II tanks of ‘D’ Squadron 7 R.T.R. lined up while exercising (photoshooting) inside the Tobruk Fortress (IWM E5541)
His Bar to the MC was gazetted on 24 February 1942, his original MC was numbered 140577.
Following contact with the daughter of the late Major ‘Jock’ McGinlay MC and Bar, it turns out that somebody higher up the foodchain in 8th Army decided that a DSO might be too much, and the decoration was downgraded to an MC. A difficult to understand decision, unless one presumes that what Lieutenant McGinlay did was somewhat expected of a troop leader.
It appears from some further research that a DSO for a junior officer was seen as an indication that this officer had just about missed a recommendation for a Victoria Cross. Given that this recommendation came from a very experienced Squadron Leader, who himself had been in command at the very tricky action against 15 Panzer at Capuzzo/Pt.207 during BATTLEAXE, it speaks very well of Lt. McGinlay.
Lt. McGinlay was wounded during the last stand of 4/7 RTR outside Tobruk in the desastrous Gazala battles, and captured in hospital when Tobruk fell. He returned to the Royal Armoured Corps in Italy in 1944, commanding Churchills after his escape from captivity, and fought until the end of the war.
See also this post about some information from the Major McGinlay’s papers.
I would still be interested to hear what became of Major Holden DSO.