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A Military Policeman's Experience in the Desert

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posted on 2024-06-05, 16:50 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

My Dad, Edward De Voy Glen ( "Big Eddy Glen") joined the army originally in the Dorset Royal Artillery but moved to 154 Brigade as part of the 51st Highland Division after Dunkirk. I have brought in his Military Police notebook and photo album. It contains photos taken by Big Eddy but also by Uncle Willy, who was also part of 1st Argylls and 11th Commando Lay Force.

My Dad was shipped out to Egypt and arrived in August 1942 after a long sea voyage via Durban in South Africa. The album starts with a photo of Field Marshal Rommel with an Italian sub in the background in Derna off the North African Coast. He liberated this photo from a German prisoner of war. There's a photo of my Dad in his MPs uniform in front of a signpost to the Western Desert - he always used to say that this was "typical war office" admin, pointing out the bleeding obvious! There are two photos of sandstorms in the desert too.

He photographed captured German equipment (such as a German Self-Propelled Gun) and downed German planes. He used to say that, contrary to stories, the Italian soldiers used to stand and fight - especially the Young Fascists and Ariete divisions. A photo of El Alamein shows that it was a station outpost in the desert.

He took some dramatic photos of AA Barrage at Tobruk and Benghazi, which just show the intensity of fire. He picked up Italian from the prisoners of war that they took during the desert and there are photos of POWs at El Daba and Derna.

As part of his job, he had to deal with some horrendous scenes and there's a photo of a British Tank Crew after their tank 'brewed up'. There is an incredible photo of German parachutists landing on Crete taken by Uncle Willy, with a Junkers plane trailing smoke in the foreground.
He took two photographs of German Graves at Tobruk - Obergerfrieter Block. There are also photos of buildings in Alexandria, the sphinx, and the pyramids.

My Dad was attached to the 2nd New Zealand Division and there's a photo of him and his mate wearing NZ hats in the album. This is next to a photo he took of Winston Churchill in a pith helmet visiting the troops in the desert.

Before the Battle of El Alamein, mass was given to the troops and a photo can be seen in the album. The Military Police worked with the Sappers going first into El Alamein, clearing the minefield and laying out a taped corridor for the Allied tanks to follow. He picked up a minor wound at El Alamein and was sent to Palestine to recover.

Big Eddy was sent back to the front and took part in the Mareth Line action in Tunisia. As an MP he was responsible for directing traffic at a cross-roads and the Germans used to often target cross-roads with their artillery. He experienced a heavy bombard on one such posting and, although not physically injured, his nerves were shot and he had to be invalided out and sent home.

His notebook contains sketches of the Highland Division logo and the Escercito Italiano symbol. He was involved in the logistics planning of different units travelling to the front. You can see the Staging Area description of the Staging Area at Sirte before jumping off towards Wadi Ghebir.

Another entry details a convoy route involving 482 vehicles strung out over 24 miles 176 yards. Before El Alamein, there's an entry showing how the boxes were divided between the 2nd NZ, 51st Highland Division, and 9th Australian Division, plus a message from the General, "Scotland for ever and Second to None!". This still makes me emotional when I read it.
My Dad had a very active war and you can see the effect on his face comparing photos from 1939 to 1945 in the album.

My Uncle Willy fought in Crete, Tunisia, and Italy. As part of the 51st Highland Division, he was one of the soldiers involved in the Mutiny at Salerno in 1943. They were asked to fight under different Divisions - they wanted to fight, but only if they could fight under their Division's banner. Uncle Willy was sent to a Glasshouse in Tunisia but was sprung out of prison by his old Lay Force Commander.

My mother worked in the foundaries in Bonny Bridge making stoves during the war. My father and mother met in 1940. Growing up in Bonny Bridge, I remember many of my schoolboy mates were children of troops who fought in the Desert.

History

Item list and details

1. Photo album (including photo of Rommel (liberated from German POW, AA barrage at Tobruk, and parachutists over Crete) 2. Notebook entries

Person the story/items relate to

Edward DeVoy Glen ("Big Eddy Glen")

Person who shared the story/items

James Glen

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Father

Type of submission

Shared at Great Missenden Library, Buckinghamshire on 30 September 2023.

Record ID

96118 | GRE017