At this stage, Tubby Bruce was the driver of the Sig. truck which had been hit in the left wheel, leaving a great hunk of shrapnel embedded in the tyre but miraculously had not punctured. Butta McKeague and I were the two linesmen. I was in charge of the detail although one wouldn’t think so by some of the language addressed to me by my colleagues! We topped the rise amongst all the dust and confusion on our way to what we fondly imagined would be approximately 2/3 Bn H.Q. if its advance had been to schedule. Instead, on a salient about 150 yards away, was an enemy machine-gun firing from a pill-box towards the forward troops of B Coy, of the 2/3 Bn. Beyond the pill-box and fifty yards away was a battery of Italian field guns.
A wadi was between us and the enemy. The enemy obviously had not sighted our truck which Tubby smartly spun down into a gully. We had two rifles, plenty of grenades and a .45 pistol each. Using the wadi as cover, we got within firing distance. Butta and Tubby kept the gun crews’ heads down with rifle fire. They returned our fire but the traverse of the machine-gun was restricted by the concrete loop holes and we had got around the back of them. I ran forward and managed to get a grenade down the back of the pill-box . . . minced machine-gunners!
The enemy field guns still firing on our troops next came to our attention and we gave them some rapid fire from our rifles. They ducked down into a labyrinth of trenches behind the guns and waved a white flag. I advanced on them with a grenade, pin out, while Butta and Tubby covered them with rifles. Their major had been wounded in the arm and there were several badly wounded men in the gun emplacements. We got them all out, about sixty, made them pile their rifles in a heap and then in came B Coy. This action taken by us was reported by O.C. leading platoon, 2/3 Bn to Brigade H.Q. and ‘J’ Section later.
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Citation of Award
On 21 Jan 41, during the battle of Tobruk at approximately 1000 hrs, Signalmen Clift, McKeague and Bruce proceeded in the direction of 2/3 Bn to lay cable back to Brigade H.Q. They had been informed that 2/3 Bn was in front. They proceeded as directed, but after going about two miles realised they were too far ahead and swung left. Shortly afterwards they saw an Italian battery.
Signalman Clift, in charge of the line party, immediately decided to attack the battery. They headed for the battery firing with their only weapons, two pistols. When about 50 yards away, the Battery Commander ordered the guns to stop firing and held up a white flag. The line party then disarmed the officers and men and marched them in the direction of a column of prisoners. Then the party found 2/3 Bn H.Q. and laid cable back to Brigade H.Q.
It was only by the quick decision, initiative and daring of Signalman Clift that this party was able to eliminate this battery, which was still firing at our troops in rear.