Murder of Tobruk Africans???

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Andy H
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Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Andy H » 19 Jun 2006 16:05

In Ashley Jacksons book 'The British Empire and the Second World War' published in 2006, he states on Pg185

"In one horrific episode in 1942, 202 soldiers of 1823 Company (Royal Pioneer Corps) surrendered on the fall of Tobruk and were murdered by their captors"

He gives no further details as the statement along with others was used to define the sacrifices made by East African soldiers in WW2.

Most view the war in North Africa as 'clean'. Can anyone throw any light on this incident?

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Andy H

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Post by PF » 20 Jun 2006 13:43

Try Query on FOrum on the following website--link:
http://www.royalpioneercorps.co.uk/rpc/index.htm

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Post by Andy H » 04 Jul 2006 12:25

I'm hoping now that after contacting the author I'll be able to post some further information on this event.

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Andy H

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by David Thompson » 29 Mar 2009 02:59

A post from UMachine, not really relevant to this thread but interesting in its own right, now has a thread of its own at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=151369 .

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by tommy303 » 30 Mar 2009 20:47

According to this source:

http://books.google.com/books?id=i-7FMS ... any+tobruk

The killing was done by Italian troops, with 202 killed, 71 escaped to British lines, and 49 made prisoners of war.

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Peter » 31 Mar 2009 09:00

I hadn't seen this mentioned anywhere before so I spent some time researching it yesterday. It is usually quite simple to identify an incident in which a large number of British Commonwealth service personnel were killed because of the excellent records of their graves which obviously include all of the diverse associated units under British command, right through to men of the locally raised units such as the Libyan Arab Force, the Western Arab Corps (I mention this to demonstrate how complete these records are). Men are buried near where they died and not shipped home.

In standard British & Commonwealth practice all of the bodies of their casualties in the fighting in the Tobruk area were "concentrated" in a major war cemetery at Tobruk where their graves could be maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

These include a number of soldiers of African origin who were serving with the following units/times:

1938 (Basuto) Coy, African Pioneer Corps (Jan 44)
1997 (Swazi) Coy, African Pioneer Corps (Jan 43)
African Pioneer Corps (West Africa), RWAFF (several casualties Jan/Jul 43 & Sep 44/Apr 45)
African Pioneer Corps (West Africa) (several casualties Nov 43/Jul 44 )
African Pioneer Corps (East Africa) (Several casualties Dec 41/Jun 43 )
Pioneer Corps (Mauritus) (several casualties 13 Apr 41/Dec 42 )
Pioneer Corps (Sierra Leone) (Several casualties Nov 44/Apr 45 )

I am unable to trace a single casualty from 1823 Company.

I am now searching the records of the "Alamein Memorial" which includes all 7,500 British & Commonwealth forces personne who were missing without trace in Libya & Egypt during 1940/43.

It would be unusual for every single one of these men of 1823 Company to have disappeared and no trace of 202 bodies been found - we are not talking here of the SS in Russia with Paul Blobel following along behind destroying the evidence of their crimes.

Does anybody have a record of the post-war trial, that may help me to narrow down a search
Last edited by Peter on 31 Mar 2009 17:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Peter » 31 Mar 2009 17:56

It took a few hours but I have been through the records of every man commemorated on Alamein Memorial, and I have recorded 7 men of 1823 Coy, African Pioneer Corps.

Three men of 1823 Coy apparently died in 1942 -
TML/83110. Private Magige Nyehita. on 27 May 42.
TML/85822 Private Makewga Makura on 28 May 42.
ML/85048 Private Constantina Goyale on 9 Jul 42.
and 4 more men died 1944/45.

So I cant see where the 202 reported murdered have gone.

The total number of casualties - to all of these African Pioneer Corps units above, below and including 1823 Coy - doesnt total 80 men in the 4 years between 1941/45.

97 Group, African Pioneer Corps (East Africa) one man Feb 45
1501 (Mauritius) Coy, Pioneer Corps several men 13 Apr 41/Jan 43
1502 (Mauritius) Coy, Pioneer Corps three men 13 Apr 41
1808 Coy, African Pioneer Corps (East Africa) 28 Jun 42
1816 Coy African Pioneer Corps (East Africa) three men 8 Mar 42
1849 Coy African Pioneer Corps (East Africa) one man Sep 44
2413 Coy African Pioneer Corps, (West Africa) one man Jul 44
2418 Coy African Pioneer Corps, RWAFF (W Africa) one man Dec 45
African Pioneer Corps (East Africa) several men 1944/45

I would like to have some positive details of the 202 casualties or the witness statements or the investigation/trial that would have followed post-war.

For me this does not add up based on the official records I have reviewed. Although something must have happened on 13 April 1941 because there are about 10 or 12 casualties on that date.

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by David W » 31 Mar 2009 18:18

13th April 1941 sounds like the "Easter Battles"
Rommel's first attempt to take Tobruk.

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by tommy303 » 31 Mar 2009 19:46

The May 1942 dates would be about the time of Rommel's attack on Gazala, and the July 1942 casualty may have been during the retreat from Tobruk or a wounded man dying in field hospital following wounds received. Is it possible that the 202 casualties were presumed after deducting known killed, the men who escaped capture, and the men who actually were captured? Perhaps a full accounting was never made. I would have expected the Alamein Memorial to have those 202 men listed as missing in action unless they turned up later and were accounted for. They may well have found themselves with other units during the retreat from Tobruk and only later been returned to their proper unit.

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by UMachine » 31 Mar 2009 20:27

Peter,that there are no graves attached to these men does not surprise me at all.What trials?Possibly Sid might have something to add here.

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Peter » 01 Apr 2009 06:52

UMachine wrote:Peter,that there are no graves attached to these men does not surprise me at all.What trials?Possibly Sid might have something to add here.
Hi UMachine

The reason for my interest is that in the British & Commonwealth system it is found that every serviceman who died 1939-47 either has a war grave or his name is recorded on a War Memorial and they are commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

If a body is found then it has a war grave with headstone (whether identified or not) and if a dead serviceman has no named grave, either because his body was not identified or because it was not found, then he would be named on a War Memorial. I dont doubt that there are occasional exceptions and mistakes but I do not accept that all 202 men were missed in error.

So if there had been a massacre of 202 British/Commonwealth servicemen they would either have a grave (presumably at Tobruk War Cemetery where other African Pioneer Corps casualties were buried) or they would be commemorated on the Alamein Memorial where their colleagues are to be found commemorated beside other APC soldiers.

I suspect here that "tommy303" is correct and an author may have done his/her calculations wrongly and that others have subsequently followed the lead. Where has this massacre story come from ?
tommy303 wrote:The May 1942 dates would be about the time of Rommel's attack on Gazala, and the July 1942 casualty may have been during the retreat from Tobruk or a wounded man dying in field hospital following wounds received. Is it possible that the 202 casualties were presumed after deducting known killed, the men who escaped capture, and the men who actually were captured? Perhaps a full accounting was never made. I would have expected the Alamein Memorial to have those 202 men listed as missing in action unless they turned up later and were accounted for. They may well have found themselves with other units during the retreat from Tobruk and only later been returned to their proper unit.
My only interest is to identify the victims of the massacre and here I cannot.

In the 1970's (before the names became readily available) I was easily able in this way to ID the individual No.2 Commando soldiers murdered following Operation Freshman & those of No's. 9 & 261 (Airborne) Field Coy's, Royal Engineers following Operation Musketoon, also the air forces victims of the Gestapo murders following the "Great Escape" from Stalag Luft III and the SAS victims of Operation Loyton and the other Normandy "behind the lines" missions (killed in France/Germany 1944/45.

UMachine wrote
"What trials ?"
It was normal for the British/Commonwealth to investigate any murder of their servicemen and bring the guilty parties to trial. I am unable to locate a trial in respect of this incident.

I dont know what was the source of the author's data and I'm hoping that somebody can identify this because I would like to confirm the identity of the victims of this massacre which I had not heard of before.

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Peter » 02 Apr 2009 07:06

I have also checked the only other British/Commonwealth War Cemetery within 70-80 miles, Knightsbridge War Cemetery at Acroma/Libya.

No men of 1823 Coy APC are to be found and none of the African Pioneer Corps at all.

I attach pics of my sources for those interested (details of 12,500 men checked, all British/Commonwealth casualties in 70-80 miles.)

The map is from one of the War Graves Registers and shows (in red) the location of the War Cemeteries.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

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Peter H
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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Peter H » 02 Apr 2009 08:54

Ashley Jackson can be conducted here if anyone wishes to ask for a source for the massacre:

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/defen ... ckson.html

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Peter » 02 Apr 2009 10:45

Did he reply to you Peter ?

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Re: Murder of Tobruk Africans???

Post by Peter H » 02 Apr 2009 10:55

I just provided but link but haven't contacted him.

Perhaps someone in Britain might be better able to contact him--time zones etc.

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