Desert War: Two-part documentary film about the conflict in North Africa during World War II
As Anzac Day approaches, documentary maker Steve Westh, hopes more people will look beyond the parades and ceremonies to their elderly relatives and neighbours, whose experiences of war too often remain untold. In making Desert War, his latest two-part film about the conflict in North Africa during World War II, Westh met with men from both sides of the trenches of Tobruk and El Alamein. Gathering stories which paint a vivid picture of the soldiers' ordeals.
El Alamein veterans gather in Egypt for 70th anniversary of battle
The Battle of El Alamein, which opened with a 1,000-gun artillery barrage on the night of Oct 23 1942, amounted to a turning point in the Second World War for the British Army. In a 12-day offensive, the British Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery routed the German Afrika Korps commanded by Desert Fox Erwin Rommel, destroying about a third of its fighting strength and wrecking Hitler's hopes of capturing the Middle East. Perhaps most importantly, the Eighth Army renewed Britain's belief in final victory, shaken by the disasters at Dunkirk and Singapore.
The forgotten WWII heroes: 500,000 African troops served with British forces
At the age of 19, Christopher Kagwa was taken from his home in Uganda to fight in a faraway war he knew nothing about. "In the year 1939 we were told King George was going to come for us ... to go fight in Germany against Hitler and Mussolini, so after a few days a truck came... were taken to the barracks... we did not even know what a gun looked like let alone how to fire one... but they still took us to the frontline." In "Fighting For Britain: African Soldiers in the Second World War", David Killingray says over half a million African troops served with the British forces 1939-1945, mostly in the King's African Rifles.
More than one million African soldiers fought in World War II
The 70th WWII anniversary is marked around the world, but one group of soldiers is ignored: over one million African soldiers. Many live in poverty, bitter about being written out of history. For Africa WWII began in 1935 as Italian Fascist troops, backed by Eritrean colonial forces, invaded Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie fled to the UK, but others, known as Patriots, fought on. Among them was 15yo Jagama Kello, who raised a guerrilla force that struck at the Italian invaders. Africans learnt what Fascism means: John Henry Smythe's teacher gave him Hitler's Mein Kampf. "We read what this man was going to do to the blacks if he gets into power."
PanAfrica: Across the Sahara in 1941 With Pan Am
Before the U.S. got into WWII, American civilians traveled to the Sahara Desert to set up an air route across Africa. The route became a lifeline in the Allies' victory over the Nazis. Tom Culbert has co-authored a book of the air route. "PanAfrica: Across the Sahara in 1941 With Pan Am" was published in 1999 but sold out, now copies are available again after a 4th printing. In 1941 Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill made a deal to send Pan Am employees to Africa - At times Pan Am pilots even took fire from U-boats. Known as the Trans African Air Route, it delivered warplanes to British armies that were fighting Germans in Africa.
Nazi landmines block Egypt's access to natural resources
Desert Fox Erwin Rommel and the British 8th Army left behind about 22 millions mines and unexploded shells in their North African battles of World War II. The explosive relics are preventing Egypt's access to oil and gas reserves in the desert. Many of the mines are near the battlefield of El-Alamein, where the British Eighth Army forced the Africa Corps to retreat back to Tunisia. Anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines and unexploded artillery shells block today's routes because wherever the armies of the Axis powers and the Allies clashed in North Africa, they limited each other's mobility by minefields.
World War II battlefield Al-Alamein becomes Egypt billionaire's resort
Billionaire Ibrahim Kamel plans to construct a $500 million seaside resort with 4000 rooms in Ghazala Bay, near the WWII battlefield of Al-Alamein, that will rival with Red Sea vacation sites in Egypt. Kamel built a $45 million airport at Al-Alamein, a few kilometers from the resort in 2005. Egypt's Mediterranean coast has 500kms of beaches, mostly undeveloped. Al-Alamein is where the Allies beat Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in 1942, stopping a German drive on the Suez Canal. The fighting, between General Bernard Montgomery's 8th Army and Rommel's divisions, began along a German defense line stretching 5 miles inland from the sea.
World War II internees exiled to Uganda by the British still intact
Most of the internees deported to Uganda by the British were up early preparing to welcome 1944 in their camp in Bombo. They had hung to their beliefs all the time, keeping alive the Italianità that had landed them there originally. There were 43 Maltese exiles and they had been in Bombo since April 1944. Sir Arturo Mercieca and his family had got preferential treatment, unlike Nationalist Party leader Nerik Mizzi who were often put to carry out the most undignified of tasks. "Native servants stand surprised and confused... they have never seen white people doing lowly functions," Fr Patrick Perjes noted in a colonialist comment.
Libya Honors National Hero, Calls For Italian Compensation
Libya celebrated the 76-year anniversary of the death of Omar Al Mukhtar. On August 16, 1931, Italian forces in Solouq executed Mukhtar. He led the resistance movement against the Italian for over 20 years. The Libyan hero was captured after being wounded in a battle when he was in his late sixties and publicly hanged in Solouq. Libyan reports say 75,000 people were killed during the Italian invasion and occupation of the country, which ended after Italy's defeat in World War II. Libya has asked Italy to "compensate Libya for its colonizing period" during a speech he gave on the 35th anniversary of the Libyan revolution he led that toppled the monarchy.
The race to find £10m Nazi gold hoard - Was Erwin Rommel Unaware
Field marshal Erwin Rommel had battled in North Africa with Africa Korps for 2 years, first making gains, then seeing Montgomery push his panzers back to the sea. The German adventure in the desert was ending in chaos: all the German forces in North Africa were fleeing. But did the Field Marshal, or some senior officers, take away a treasure? A legend was born that Rommel's men had not left empty-handed. Packed into ammunition boxes were gold and diamonds - fruits of their pillaging. There seems to be some evidence from Peter Fleig: He was with the SS in 1943, and he was ordered to help 4 officers hide 6 boxes in an underwater cavern near Corsica.
Patrolling the WWII coast of Somalia as a British soldier in the 1940s
Sergeant Iddi Abdallah Pengo retains fond memories of his time patrolling the coast of Somalia as a soldier in the British army in the 1940s. "I served under British officers who were fair but firm. I learnt a lot, how to fire a gun and how to be a good soldier." He receives $3 a week in recognition of the time in the British army. "I can't live on this allowance; I have no other sources of income as I am too old to work." He was one of the thousands from across British colonial East Africa who joined the Kings African Rifles. "I had heard of Adolf Hitler and that he was coming to conquer my country so I signed up to the army."
Black Victims of the Nazis by Z Nia Reynolds (Article no longer available from the original source)
"Black Victims of the Nazis" highlights the horror of blacks caught up in the horrors of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. While the Nazis were anti-Semitic, their myth of Aryan superiority extended to all racial groups outside the Teutonic. This included peoples of African origin, and the idea of the "final solution" began in German colonies in Africa. The medical experiments made on live inmates in Nazi camps were initiated in Africa. Germans were confused by the physical prowess of black athletes - like Jesse Owens and Joe Louis, who knocked out Max Schmelling in fight which Nazis had promoted as a showpiece of Aryan power.
Where tanks fought fiercely: Golf and minefields at El-Alamein
The sands of El-Alamein are being readied for tourism, but only once the land mines are cleared. There are 20 million landmines buried in the area. Wartime maps are hardly helpful because the mines have moved due to erosion. "The worst ones are the Riegel mines placed by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel as he was fleeing to Libya," after Allied forces led by General Montgomery, broke the Axis line in Oct 1942. The defeat of Afrika Korps ended the Nazis' hopes of capturing the Suez Canal. The absence of natural barriers led both armies to fortify their positions by mines. Since 1945, 700 people have been killed and 8,000 mutilated by anti-personnel or anti-tank mines.
Lost Stories - The Schindlers of the North Africa
Robert Satloff believes that if contemporary Arabs knew about Arabs who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, they would reject the Holocaust denial. He begins by relating the often-ignored story of how Nazi Germany, Vichy France and fascist Italy exported their anti-Semitic policies to North Africa. One Arab volunteer military unit, after being flown to Berlin for training, fought with the Germans in Tunisia. Some Arabs were so aligned with the Nazis that they fled to Nazi Germany when the Allies landed. But Satloff has discovered "noble, selfless deeds" by Arabs.
WW2 in Africa is over; Gen. Von Arnim and 150,000 men captured (Article no longer available from the original source)
Col. General Dietloff von Arnim, the Prussian Commander in Chief of the Axis forces in North Africa, has been captured by the British, on Cap Bon. In all, 150,000 POWs are believed to have been taken since May 5, when the final assaults on Tunis and Bizerte began. This brings to 400,000 the total of Axis prisoners taken since the North African campaign. General von Sponeck announced that he would fight to his last bullet. Then, that Prussian point of military honor having began satisfied by fire from British guns heavier than his own, he surrendered.
Film honours africans who liberated France from Nazi occupation
Yoube Lalleg expressed no regrets about leaving his village to liberate France from the Nazi occupation. He just wished more people knew his story. On August 15 1944, more than 100,000 African soldiers landed on the beaches of Provence and made their way up to the bloody standoff with the Nazis in Alsace. Despite being overshadowed by the Normandy D-day landings, the African assault was crucial in liberating occupied France. More than 23 nationalities from the French empire fought to liberate the motherland, and a new action film is about the forgotten, but mistreated, north African heroes.
African WWII vets fought for Britain - In return they got £10
Hiding in the branches of a tree in the Burmese jungle, Richard Chandaengerwa knew he would receive no mercy if he fell into the hands of the enemy. "When Japanese killed blacks, they would cut up the bodies into pieces for fear they might resurrect." He fought for Britain in the Second World War. He was shot and twice injured in the leg during 3 years in the Rhodesian African Rifles. But while Britons returned to a hero's welcome, he went home to then the British colony of Rhodesia, and received a payment of £10. The Second World War saw around 421,000 troops called up from Britain's African colonies.
Australians denied the advances of the German Afrika Korps (Article no longer available from the original source)
A new book on the Rats of Tobruk fleshes out the Australian legend - the story unfolded over nine months in 1941, when 14,000 Australians denied the advances of the German army in North Africa. The German Afrika Korps, commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, believed that once the Australians who had positioned themselves in the strategically crucial port were dealt with, all Africa would fall into their hands. However Tobruk and the Australians proved a thorn in the side of a previously unstoppable Nazi war machine that had already used its Panzer tanks and blitzkrieg fighting style to take Poland, Belgium and France.
French movie rescues forgotten history of Africa's WWII soldiers
A handful of Allied troops stare at the barrels of Nazi panzers, hurling grenades that bounce harmlessly off the vehicles' armoured skin. The Germans aim squarely at the Allied hideout and fire. These soldiers, giving their lives to defend a deserted village, are Africans - and the subject of a new French movie. Les Enfants du Pays (Hometown Boys) is the story of the so-called Senegalese Infantrymen, soldiers from France's former colonies in Africa who fought in Europe's wars. Formed to bolster France's dwindling ranks, colonial men fought in both World Wars. 300,000 soldiers from French colonies fought in the WW2.
The fascist invasion of Abyssinia (Article no longer available from the original source)
Abyssinia had been one of the few states to survive "the scramble for Africa" by the major European powers in the late 19th century, having defeated Italy at the battle of Aduwa in 1896. Now Benito Mussolini, Italy's fascist dictator, dreamed of taking revenge and carving out a "New Roman Empire" in East Africa. The Abyssinians were left isolated in the face of fascist Italy's far more technologically developed war machine. The Italian military used poison gas to wipe out the Abyssinian civilian population. The Italians bombed civilian targets, hospitals and even the International Red Cross.
Nazis had "Einsatzgruppe Egypt" ready for Palestine
Nazi Germany planned to expand the extermination of Jews beyond the borders of Europe and into British-controlled Palestine during WW2, two German historians say. In 1942, the Nazis created a special "Einsatzgruppe," a mobile SS death squad, which was to carry out the mass slaughter of Jews in Palestine. They say "Einsatzgruppe Egypt" was standing by in Athens and was ready to disembark for Palestine in the summer of 1942, attached to the "Afrika Korps" led by the famed desert commander General Erwin Rommel. The Middle East death squad was to be led by SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Walther Rauff.
Stopping Rommel's Panzer divisions - Brigadier Sir Rainald Lewthwaite
Brigadier Sir Rainald Lewthwaite had a distinguished career with the Scots Guards. At the start of March 1943, the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards formed part of a slender line of troops which had been hurried forward to face a counter-attack by Rommel's Panzer divisions at Medenine. The battalion position extended for 2,000 yards with the ground rising for about 300 yards in front. There had been no time to lay a minefield. The aim of Rommel's Panzer divisions was the high ground behind the battalion position, dominating the Medenine plain. If they took it, the 8th Army's position would be indefensible; if they failed, the days of the Afrika Corps might be numbered.