Monday 27 February 2023

Sedjenane, 80 Years On and Book Progress Update

I just thought I would put on record that today marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Sedjenane, in which the 16th Durham Light Infantry suffered huge casualties between 27/2/43 and 4/3/43. There's a wealth of material on my web site relating to the Battle, see previous posts for links to some of the most salient pages and photographs. With the Battalion's Commanding Officer, Lt Col Richard Ware MC and his five Company commanders away on a recce to what would have been the Battalion's new frontline positions when the crisis emerged, the unit was led into action on the morning of the 27/2/43 by the Second in Commands, Major David Bannerman, 2 i/c of the Battalion and the 2 i/cs of the four rifle companies. It was a disastrous start: Captain Denis Stark, commanding the leading Company, 'A' was killed as the very start of the advance, as was his CSM, John Plemper. Capt Derek Clarke, leading the second forward company, 'D' was seriously wounded and his CSM, George Broadhead, was killed. So today I particularly salute their courage in leading their men into what soon turned out to be another veritable 'Valley of Death.'....... I'm still working flat out on the book project, but there's still a huge amount of interview material to transcribe and information to collate, so I would describe the project's current status as just over half way there.... I'm not getting any younger, so the important thing now above all is to get all of this priceless material out of the cardboard boxes and off the ageing cassette tapes and into the public domain before my inevitable demise--when otherwise it will all end up discarded in a skip.... Obviously the IWM interviews I undertook are safely out there to listen to online, but my long, more informal, telephone interviews with Les Bernard, C Coy, Duggie Wakefield, HQ Company, Laurence Buck, 46th Division Signals, awarded the MM and wounded during the Battle and several others, still need to be transcribed. Also I have a huge collection of wartime letters between Sgt Charles Bray, ex D Coy and his Mother, which I scanned from originals loaned by him many years ago. These letters will provide the spine of the narrative in the chapters covering the 16th DLI in Home Forces between 1940 and the end of 1942. I've now got a definitive 1940-1947 casualty listing for the Battalion, including wounded and POWs, or as near to definitive casualty listing as we can hope for after all this time. Also I now have full transcripts of two of my longest IWM interviews, with Sgt Joe Drake MM, who was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the Battle, and Sgt John Lewindon MM, who was with the 16th DLI from the start in 1940 was awarded his MM for his actions at Salerno in September 1943. So, the project continues.........So all that's left for me now is to make the usual plea for the missing 1942 group photographs of 'A' Company, 'C' Company and the various platoons of HQ Company. They ARE still out there somewhere and someone must have them.... The quest continues!