A Literary Field Return

The picture below is a bit unusual. It’s a picture those of us spending too much time going through war diaries see often, it is a battalion field return of officers, by rank (actual/temporary), name, and whether they are with the unit or not. So far, so boring (unless you happen to have a relative on the list). But this one is from October 1941, for 3 R.T.R., and it is a bit special, at least to us nerds, and maybe to those who were boys in the sixties, and lapped up anything that was written about the desert war.


3 RTR war diary, Return of Officers, October 1941. The National Archives, UK.

This return contains two names that many will recognise, first that of Captain Cyril Joly, at the time Adjutant of the battalion, and author of Take These Men, a fictionalised but in my consideration highly realistic novel of tank men in the desert war (you can find it at this link). Second is Acting Captain (actual 2nd Lieutenant) Robert Crisp, author of Brazen Chariots, a first-hand account of Operation CRUSADER, and The Gods Were Neutral, a first-hand account of the disastrous campaign in Greece in 1941 – the books can be found at these links: The Gods Were Neutral (wrong tank on the cover, never mind) and Brazen Chariots (and whoever designed that cover should be severely chastised!).

I would also highly recommend Men and Sand by the Earl of Onslow, better known as Viscount Cranley, who participated in CRUSADER with 4 CLY, and was later captured at Villers Bocage in Normandy.

Happy reading!

5 thoughts on “A Literary Field Return

    • No, not in this form. You get officer lists with Westphal (very interesting memoirs) and von Mellenthin (very famous memoirs) of course, but that’s as close as it gets. I’ll post one over the weekend.


  1. Crisp himself refers to Joly’s book as a “novel”, and not w/o a detectable twinge of jealousy…since TTM is a better piece of writing than BC. But I don’t know what to make of it…Joly led supply columns through the thick of the early Crusader fighting, then took command of a tank squadron later on. I think TTM is basically a first-hand account with some names changed and the like. And the later, 1942 Gazela/Tobruk Battle material is straight first-hand stuff.


  2. Pingback: Totensonntag–the Experience of 3 R.T.R. | The Crusader Project

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