Film: 9650

War + Military | 1940 | Sound | B/W


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The North African campaign of World War Two 1940's

World War Two. 23 October 1942. The 'desert rats' of the Eighth Army offensive on Rommel in El Alamein in the West Desert of Libya. The introductory shots are of men loading an artillery canon, washing, looking over a map, using a radio transmitter. Man playing the bagpipes leading other soldiers. Title followed by long distance shot of tanks crossing an empty desert. Army camp in the desert. Close-up of a soldier looking through a compass and checking a map. Soldier sitting on top of a tank on 'look-out', wearing sunglasses. Man fans flies away from a seated soldier cleaning a gun. Another soldier is working on the underside of a vehicle, wearing a meshed hat. Long shot of an incoming sandstorm approaching the camp. Brief day/night shots showing living conditions. Shots of tanks, four aircraft in the sky and armoured cars advancing rapidly. The convoy of army vehicles pushes on and officers in a jeep glance back at a tank that has stalled/been abandoned at the side of the road.
A contoured map of the Libyan coast shows Tobruk, Bardia, Sollum, Mersa Matrum, Quattara Depression, El Alamein, Alexandria, the Nile Delta and Cairo. The narrative outlines cities that could have been General Claude Aukinleck's choice for a defensive stand against Rommel. The map fades to shots of a shepherd and his flock in the Nile Delta, principal buildings in Cairo (seat of British headquarters), the port of Alexandria and the banks of the Suez Canal, however despite these choices, Auckinleck chooses El Alamein. The reason he does this because it is difficult terrain to get through. A shot of the sea is shown through barbed wire, the city is also flanked by the Quattara Depression which is shown to have hilly terrain and cracked earth - impenetrable by vehicles. Allied army vehicles travel by road through the desert. Two [officers] pause to talk at the side of the road as the convoy passes along. Narrator announces that Auckinleck has assumed full control and refused to retreat any further, El Alamein is to be the last retreat. Cuts to shots of soldiers digging with shovels and picks and drilling with electric drills. All soldiers are wearing helmets or protection from the sun. They dig trenches and pits for machine and anti-tank guns. Shot of men planting mines in the sand. In a military camp, soldiers are setting up weapons, anti-tank batteries, much equipment lays on the ground as army vehicles pass by in the background. Shot of soldiers sand-bagging trenches, camouflaging weaponry as a digging-machine moves earth for trenches.
It cuts to a battle-field with much bombing. Soldiers run towards a tank for cover. A closer shot sees them firing their weapons and throwing grenades. Other shots of men loading missiles with a close shot of the artillery machine in operation. Returns to soldiers taking cover on either side of the tank. Two men on the left operate a portable missile launcher with a soldier crawling on his stomach on the right hand side. An explosion and the smoke clears to show a [German] tank on the move, there is a marking of a cross on the back of the tank. More firing from soldiers in a tank with others running across a smoke-filled battle-field climbing over a wall and some wire. Smoke clears to see close shots of soldiers running through three dead [Allied] soldiers on the ground. Shot of one of the dead soldiers face-down in the sand and another soldier lying face-up with his rifle at his side and face showing. The Allies have now broken through Rommel's defences. Shot of tanks going at speed through the desert. An [officer] looks through binoculars ahead.
A map of Libya shows the Mediterranean and an arrow moves forward to represent the Allied forces breaking through Rommel's defences. A pan of a battalion of tanks pressing forward, shelling in front of them as they go. Soldier looks through binoculars ahead. Cuts back again to moving tanks. Shot of ranked officer pointing ahead as he 'explains' something to his comrade. Soldiers on foot follow a tank as they all press forward. Similar shots of moving tanks firing and being fired upon follow. A wrecked tank smoulders on the battle-field. Soldiers firing artillery weapons followed by a pan of many tanks burning after being shelled. Soldiers fire a machine gun, the gun operator smokes a cigarette as he does so. Smoke clears to see a soldier running quickly past and away from the camera. A succession of shots of tanks, artillery weapons and machine-guns fire into the distance followed by an explosion. Some soldiers lie on the slope of a trench, one of them avoiding an explosion overhead. Profiles of soldiers firing rifles and machine-guns. A brief view of of explosions is seen from within a tank is followed by a shot of a seated soldier using a megaphone with a soldier standing over a map table on one side and two soldiers lying on their stomachs on the right. More shots of artillery weapons being used and soldiers running with weapons past tanks.
Tanks and soldiers advance and twenty planes fly overhead. Cuts to missiles being dropped from the plane, followed by explosions on the ground. It is 1 November and there has been a major tank battle at [El Acateer] , three quarters of the Axis tanks have been destroyed and many are burning and wrecked on the battle-field. The Allies are beginning to succeed. Dramatic shots of night explosions and bombing are shown.
Sound of church bells ringing. A BBC radio broadcast in an English munitions factory reports the success of the initiative. The reaction from the women workers is positive and enthusiastic. Cuts back to the desert, a tank forges ahead passing destroyed German tanks on the side of the road. There are shots of the one thousand pieces of artillery and one thousand wrecked aircraft that we are told have been captured by the Allies. Italian soldiers abandoned by Rommel in the south lie on their stomachs drinking from pools of water on the ground. They are ushered along by the Allies, their captors. Thousands of German prisoners captured in the north follow a tank. Among those captured are Commander of the African Corps, the Leader of the German Parachuters and eight Italian generals. Twenty thousand of the enemy have been killed, the Allies have had to be careful about disposing of the bodies of their own dead because the Germans have booby-trapped the bodies. An enemy officer is being escorted from the beach. The prisoners are marching on foot along the desert carrying their belongings.
Twelve planes are in the sky, they drop missiles to the ground in an attempt to stop the enemy columns from advancing. Close-shot of a plane and its pilot flying low as it attacks a convoy. As the plane leaves the site we see a burning vehicle.
Allied vehicles travel through rain and muddy roads. The chase to follow Rommel is impeded. Sign indicates the way to Sollum and Mersa Matrum which has just fallen to the Allies. Tanks enter the town of Mersa Matrum and we see a Union Jack flying from a flag post. The town's port has been used to deliver supplies by the Navy. The convoy moves on by road to Sidi Barrari where it meets the heavily mined roads at Hellfire Pass. Engineers spend night and day clearing the roads for trucks to pass through. Soldiers work among rocky hillside. They move to Bengazi 450 miles west, the road is cleared along the way. View of coastline as vehicles travel parallel to it along a hilly road. A naval boat with a marking of 138 is docked in the port, sailors are unloading fuel and munitions supplies onto the convoy. Sign shows Tobruk and Bardia, the swastika flag is lowered.
Sign for Cirene and the army convoy moves along a developed road in the green hillside. The Union Jack is raised at Bengazi and tanks enter the town. A great deal of damage has been done to the port but the Navy still manages to off-load supplies. Cuts once more to the battle scene, men run through shell-fire and moving tanks. A sign indicates that it is 54km to Misurata and 38km to Homs, the army marches on.
A soldier directs the convoy along the road. A man is being carried face-down on a stretcher, other injured men are in the background. Scene cuts to soldiers loading a missile launcher and is followed by explosions. Ranking [Italian] officers looking grim meet Allied officers outside Tripoli. They salute each other. The town has been surrendered by the governor of Tripoli and the mayor of the town. All cities and towns have now been ceded to the Allies. Allied tanks enter the town victoriously, the streets are lined with civilians and soldiers. The army band proceeds down the street, playing bagpipes and drums and wearing kilts. The procession is reviewed by officials. A white [Rolls Royce?] bears [General Alexander], he salutes the soldiers on review. The Union Jack is raised from a roof-top and the crowd cheers. A telegram from general Alexander to the Prime Minister confirms that his orders of the 15 August 1942 have been carried out and the army awaits instruction. A parade continues in front of the review stand. It closes with a shot of the Union Jack blowing fully in the wind.

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