No 11521 The Kaffrarian Rifles
Captured: Tobruk, 21st June 1942
Dennis joined up in September 1939, at the age of 22, and in 1941 was sent to North Africa. As well as searching for dead and missing soldiers in the dessert Dennis also saw action at Bardia and Tobruk. Stationed at Tobruk during June 1942, they witnessed the Gazala Gallop as hundreds of allied troops withdrew from the Gazala Line back towards El Alamein. On 21st June the Tobruk Garrison was ordered to surrender and so Dennis began his period as a Prisoner of War. Initially transported to Derna and then onto Benghazi, where after 10 days they were marched to the harbour and loaded onto the small Italian cargo ship 'Rosilino Pilo' bound for Naples. From Naples they were herded into rail cattle trucks and moved to Compo PG54 Fara Sabina.
Dennis's daughters, Lorraine and Avelyn have very kindly given permission to reproduce Dennis's story here, please click on the image below to read part 1-leading up to his capture, in pdf format. Part 2-as a POW and life on the run, to follow.
Remarkably Dennis acquired a number of photographs taken inside Campo PG54 by a South African Sergeant:
"The heat was almost unbearable on the day Tobruk fell and drinking water was only a dream. Nevertheless, a South African sergeant deliberately cut out the bottom of his water bottle and then inserted in his (now useless) water bottle, his camera and what film he could fit in. During the months that followed in the Italian prison camp 'Campo 54', the sergeant very secretly took a series of snapshots of POW camp life. After a period of almost a year behind German front battle lines, we were both able to breach the German front line and return to Allied held territory. Eventually we both ended up at a remedial camp and it was there that I was given a series of snapshots of our POW sojourn. Although now dulled by the passing years, a few of the snaps are published herewith. These snaps are absolutely unique for I doubt if any others were taken and survived the war."
The photographs are reproduced below by kind permission of Lorraine Ralston
Information supplied by Dennis's daughter, Lorraine Ralston(Born)