Longstaff, John Edward (Oral history)
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- whole: Duration 500, Number Of Items 17
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- object name: Oral history
- object category: IWM interview
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British private served with 1st Bn (London) Rifle Brigade in GB, 1940; private and NCO served with 7th Bn Rifle Brigade in GB, North Africa and Italy, 1940-1945
REEL 1 Recollections of enlistment and training with 1st Bn (London) Rifle Brigade in GB, 1940: reasons for initial refusal of his enlistment offer, 9/1939; his attitude towards war as an anti-Fascist one; enlistment, 1/1940; instruction in regimental history; delay in issuing official gasmasks; kitting out; pace of march in Rifle Brigade; origins of Rifle Brigade uniform. REEL 2 Continues: change in unit’s designation, 1940. Recollections of period as private and NCO with 7th Bn Rifle Brigade in GB, 1940-1942: need for him to keep quiet about Spanish Civil War experience; relations with officers and NCOs; incident with Royal Military Police at political meeting, spring 1940; officers’ enquiry about his service with International Brigade during Spanish Civil War; attempt to have him removed from battalion, 1940; prior recollection of meeting with Winston Churchill, 7/1939. REEL 3 Continues: British Army discrimination against International Brigade veterans; his opinion of collapse of France, 6/1940; dispatch of sister battalion to Calais, 5/1940; defence duties at RAF Hawkinge, summer 1940; attempt to make him an officers’ batman; his batman’s work under duress; release from batmans’ duties, 6/1941. REEL 4 Continues: his support for a Russian alliance after 6/1941; encounter with left wing medical officer; political work in army; comparison between German and Allied heavy guns; troops’ attitude towards rifle fire against German aircraft. Aspect of voyage from GB to Middle East, 1942: journey to Clydeside; discussions with Communists on board; ashore in Cape Town, South Africa; arrival in Egypt, 7/1942. REEL 5 Continues: lack of anti-tank training prior to voyage; conditions on aboard troopship. Recollections of operations as NCO with 7th Bn Rifle Brigade in North Africa, 1942-1943: opinion of equipment; demoralisation in 8th Army, 7/1942; opinion of 8th Army tactics; lack of preparation for service in desert; lost in desert; first unit casualties at Ruweisat Ridge; failure to mark own minefields; halting of attack; decimation of 23rd Armoured Brigade; question of ration absurdities. REEL 6 Continues: unit morale; relief of 5th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment south of Ruweisat Ridge; taking up positions at Alam Halfa; organisation of patrols; cleansing after defecation; promotion to sergeant; novel way of capturing Axis POWs; lessons learnt from service with International Brigades in Spain. REEL 7 Continues: impressions made by Montgomery; importance of keeping troops informed; deception tactics employed by 8th Army; his participation in Battle of Alam Halfa; re-organisation of Rifle Brigade units; preparations for Battle of El Alamein; role of his battalion during Battle of El Alamein. REEL 8 Continues: character of El Alamein barrage; the gaps through the minefields; anti-tank work at ‘Woodcock’ and ‘Snipe’ positions; retrieval of hit Axis tanks; accidental firing on 51st Division; opinion of medal allocation; allocation of military policemen to divisions; fire power of 8th Army compared with International Brigades; his earlier contact with Cairo Parliament organiser. REEL 9 Continues: question of how Egypt provided first contact between British troops and foreigners; second part of Battle of El Alamein; mauling of unit company on Star Track; criticism of tactics which led to mauling of his platoon; entry onto El Dharba airfield; bogging down by rain at Mersa Matruh; reasons for hampering of advance, winter 1942-1943; move into Medenine Line in Tunsia, 3/1943; Allied plans for left hook round Medenine Line. REEL 10 Continues: locust plague, 3/1943; arrival of new commanding officer; opinion of battalion officers; attack on Gabes Pass; surrender of Italians at Gabes Pass; opinion lack of artillery support at El Hama; cartoonist’s portrayal of officer types; linking up with 1st Army, late 3/1945; last action at Cap Bon; sight of drunken Afrika Korps POWs. REEL 11 Continues: reflections on North African campaign. Recollections of period as NCO with 7th Bn Rifle Brigade in Egypt, 1943-1944: political objection to him by unit officer; how he saw his platoon received best rations and facilities; training; prior recollection of how he was taught to shoot during Spanish Civil War; Greek Army mutiny, 1944; his arrest of Greek trade union leader; his contact with Henri Curiel. REEL 12 Continues: fate of Henri Curiel; outbreak of Greek Army mutiny; punishment of Arab thief by Congolese troops, 3/1944; use of stones for counting in desert. Recollections of operations as NCO with 7th Bn Rifle Brigade in Italy, 1944-1945: move up to Monte Cassino area, 4/1944; opinion of Allied in action at Anzio; attack on Monte Rotunda. REEL 13 Continues: hospitalisation in Naples; prior recollection of his ‘lending’ library in North Africa; opinion of hospital regime; encounter with New Zealand who treated him in Spain; background to his return to front-line, 7/1944; malingers; demoralisation of troops in Italy; return to unit near Florence, 7/1944; contact with partisan group; discontent of anti-aircraft gunners acting as infantry REEL 14 Continues: his wounding on patrol, 7/1944; strong feelings of units about returning to own unit; prior recollection of mutiny in Tripolitania, 1943; story of how he was victimised by guards regimental sergeant-major at Caserta; return to front-line at Castel del Rio, 10/1944; question of Italian theatre was starved of supplies. REEL 15 Continues: loss of comrade drowned in mud; sending back of young officer at Osara, 10/1944; story of how he was awarded US Bronze Star near Bologna, 10/1944; learning to use flame thrower; living conditions, 12/1944; withdrawal of battalion out of front-line, 2/1945; unit esprit de corps. REEL 16 Continues: humour and troops’ morale; sharing comforts; training at Cattolica; final advance in northern Italy; feting by partisans; different characters of different troops in different divisions. Aspects of period as NCO with 7th Bn Rifle Brigade in Italy, 1945: crossing into Austria; his revenge on inmates of SS headquarters at Klagenfurt. REEL 17 Continues: dealing with remnants of German Balkan army; his opinion of post war settlements in Trieste and Greece. Attitude to ten years of military service. Attitude to war.
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