On 1 December 1941, Wartime Pictorial News No. 32 was released to theatres in the UK. It ran a four-minute clip of the preparations and start of Operation CRUSADER, focusing primarily on the army and the navy. It starts at 05:48, which is well worth watching.
The IWM holds the newsreels. No sound, but in a way that’s not so unfortunate if you know what you’re looking at, because it takes away the pathos and the received pronounciation.
This one shows quite a few interesting things. ‘Bush’ artillery (captured Italian guns) being fired; a quite comprehensively destroyed Panzer IV; the bombed out wreck of the Italian navy’s obsolete armoured cruiser San Giorgio, amongst others.
Well worth your time!
The siege of Giarabub (also called Jaghbub) was the final success of Empire forces related to Operation COMPASS, the first counteroffensive, which destroyed the Italian forces in North Africa. It was taken on 21 March 1941 following a 3-month siege, by a combined Anglo-Australian force consisting of 2/9 Australian Infantry Battalion, 6 Australian Divisional Reconnaissance Regiment, and a battery of 4 Royal Horse Artillery. 10 days later the Axis commenced it’s second offensive.
Giarabub came to play a role later in 1941, when Oases Force set out from it for its raid on Gialo (Jalo/Jalu), the topic of our first book. In 1942 it was re-taken by the Axis, and occupied until the withdrawal to the west in October 1942.
To get everyone in the mood, here’s the Italian movie about the siege, from 1942.
Below you can find Youtube videos as well as direct links to three newsreels from the Italian Archivo Luce website.
The commentary is obviously in Italian, but the imagery is interesting, showing off a lot of Italian kit, and some of the very nifty camouflage used for positions.
Supply in the desert (this is from August 1942 and about the logistics chain to El Alamein, but still of interest)
You need Silverlight installed to view these on the Istituto Luce website. The quality there isn’t great. If you get a white screen, hit return. You may have to do that 2-3 times for the movie to appear.
For those who like to get a feel for what the desert looked like, and the period propaganda, the AP archive has a lot of Movietone reels online:
First up, Rommel at Bay (with a nice view of the shortened Beaufighter wing referenced in this older post), of 18 December. Quite a bit of staged shots, my favorite being the Italian soldiers forced to climb out of a German Panzer IV…
Jingoistic tone, Germans are ‘gangsters’, and of course gets Ed Duda wrong, as El Duda, who presumably abides. Lots of hardware shots though.
Next up, Rommel on the Run, of 15 January, which of course he wasn’t anymore then.
I used ‘Libya “World War 2″‘ as search terms.
This is quite a nice intro to a tank that in small numbers still saw service during CRUSADER. Some of them made it up to the Axis counter offensive in January 1942, but my guess is most if not all of these would have been lost in it.