Attack on Sollum Barracks

This account is taken from the November
1941 28 (Māori) Battalion diary.

With a bearing of 83° true and a distance of approximately 3 miles the advance on objective commences. C Company on left, D Company on right forward while B Company and (A Company less two platoons) follow behind. Bn Hqrs is in the centre of the infantry. The attack is launched upon the Barracks from the left flank but nothing happens until the forward sections have actually passed through some groups of buildings on the North side of the Barracks. 0605 hrs Five single rifle shots break the stillness of dawn. C Company's forward sections have started but still there is no enemy opposition. Fifteen minutes later it begins with the crash of mortar shells from two enemy posts, one placed to the West of the Barracks near the water tower and the other to the North side of the Barracks. There is also a machine gun nest somewhere spattering the area uncomfortably. Capt, Love can be heard rallying his men. They are moving forward from the escarpment North of Barracks and during their advance they capture an extremely strong anti-tank gun together with crew. C Company is on their left flank moving through and the forward elements proceed down the escarpment towards Beacon Point. It is now first light and then the Mk III tanks of the 8 Royals push through in two waves from the right flank, their 2-pounder guns shooting through and ricocheting off the barrack buildings. Several tanks pass into the square itself. The mortar near the water tower is silenced and the other is eventually taken with 9 German prisoners. Light rain begins to fall and it is bitterly cold, then in the middle of all the interchange of fire Halfaya Pass opens an artillery barrage from four guns which can be clearly seen along Halfaya Escarpment. Methodically and with concentrated fire they shell the area we have taken working from left to right then back again with precision, repeating this process for several hours. 0930 hrs the situation is in hand. We have taken the Barracks and with it approximately 247 prisoners, mostly Italians of the 4 Compagnie Lavaratori - an Italian pioneer unit which was employed here making roads.

Although the Barracks had fallen and its perimeter defences had been silenced the artillery shelling from Halfaya continued persistently making any movement dangerous. In the consolidation that followed Capt. Royal withdrew his company a half mile North-West of the water tower. Enemy shelling was particularly fierce at this stage and it needed the strong will of a good commander to keep the troops from falling back in disorder. Lt Porter had placed his platoon just forward of the Barracks above the road overlooking Lower Sollum. Capt. Love had place D & C Companies on the escarpment north of the barracks running east to Bir el Quattara, noth of Beacon Point and overlooking that area. The Intelligence Section placed its observation post in a building overlooking the escarpment on to Pier Pt forward of the main Barrack buildings. Halafaya pass and Sollum Bay with the township of Sollum were clearly visible from this point.

The command of the Battalion is handed over to Capt. Love by the C.O. who has been wounded by shrapnel. Spasmodic shelling from Halfaya pass still continues apace, while C Coy ocassionaly engage pockets of enemy positions on Beacon Point with S.A. fire. The German P.W.s are somewhat truculent in manner but the Italians are somewhat pleased with the whole procedure. 54 of them were hiding in an air raid shelter and one man took them without any resistance. These prisoners were allowed to collect blankets and personal kit before being marched back to Brigade.

Capt.Tureia was killed by machine gun fire from Becaon Point. O.C. of C Company he was the type of gentleman who belonged to the older Maori school of thought and was held in the highest esteem by his men of the East Coast tribes and no less by this unit. A veteran of the last war the loss of his experience as a leader of troops is a heavy one to his men. 2/Lt Rota of B Company fell while advancing in the wake of the first wave of tanks, thus ending the career of a young and most promising officer.

16 other ranks were killed in this action and another two died soon after. C Company suffered the heaviest in casualties. Five officers were wounded: Lt-Col Dittmer, Capt. Harvey, Lt Urlich, 2/Lt Wirepa, 2/Lt Addie Mitchell and 29 other ranks. With the fall of Sollum Barracks the Battalion settles down to the siege of Lower Sollum and the Halfaya area. 

See image of captured barracks at Sollum.


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.
Ref:  28 NZ (Māori) Battalion Diary, WAII 1 1664 DA 68/1/23.
November Diary, pp 25-36




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