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Desert Rats The

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(in German) Good. Huh? Huh? What does he say?
The English are running away, sir.
Aha! Throw in the German tanks. Attack. Quickly.
Use the ninth tank division. Immediately!
Well? A complete rout, excellency.
- We're pushing them here and here. - I know. What else?
Only Tobruk is still holding out. There is a unit of considerable size there.
Well, Tobruk. We'll have it in a few days. What else?
We should regroup now. To Alexandria, over Alamein, or to Cairo.
Alexandria, Cairo. Nonsense. Suez. We're pushing through to Suez. Suez.
(narrator) Suez: the key to the Middle East.
And with the British in full retreat,
nothing stood in Rommel's way but the tiny garrison of Empire troops
cut off in the fortress town of Tobruk.
This is the story of Tobruk and the men who made up its garrison,
of the fight they made against the pick of Hitler's troops
and of the nickname they won with blood and bore with pride: "The Desert Rats. "
and of the nickname they won with blood and bore with pride: "The Desert Rats. "
- Message, sir, from the Corps signal officer. - Thanks. Barney, glad you got here.
The General's waiting for you.
Orders came in from Cairo. The General's laying it out now.
I want these minefields re-laid immediately by your sappers.
Exactly the same as the Italians, sir?
They had nine months to determine the best locations.
We may have nine hours before Rommel attacks.
- Or less, if that artillery is any indication. - Yes, sir.
- Message for you, sir. - Thank you.
It's good to see you, Barney. I need your help.
Cairo's said to take up defensive positions and hold for two months.
Two months? Can we?
If we stop Rommel tomorrow, I'll tell you better.
And now if I may have your attention, gentlemen,
in order there may be no misunderstandings,
these are our present defense positions.
Our first line of defense:
using much of the old Italian perimeter,
our second line: Colonel White's supporting artillery
and our inner fortifications.
Now, Rommel is preparing to attack.
The most logical place to strike is here.
He sends his tanks in, pushes up this corridor,
and with his infantry, fans out and creates havoc with our inner defenses.
Thus, our plan of defense is based chiefly on the belief that Rommel will attack here.
You gentlemen will have the honor
of being the first to expose the blitzkrieg for what it is:
a highly limited tactical maneuver.
I propose to let Rommel's tanks come through here unopposed.
You infantry commanders will engage and stop
all German infantry here at the perimeter,
leaving the tanks to proceed up this avenue alone.
Colonel White will have moved as much artillery as he can spare
to line both sides of this avenue.
Across here, we are already digging positions
for the captured Italian field pieces.
So, the longer we hold our fire,
the deeper Rommel's tanks will advance into this box
and the easier they will be to destroy.
Am I right, Barney?
I most certainly hope so, sir.
(all chuckle)
That'll be all. Thank you, gentlemen.
No, thank you, sir.
Cairo wants to hold on for two months.
If those tanks get in among our inner defenses, we shan't even be able to evacuate.
It'll be a wholesale slaughter, sir.
- Interesting, isn't it? - Yes, fascinating.
How many men do we have in the officers' pool?
Too many. Four more came in today from that battalion wiped out on the Derna Road.
I need an infantry captain with battle experience.
Mm-hmm. I have one.
Been out here a year. Twice decorated.
Name of MacRoberts.
The reserve company I asked for a week ago has just come in.
They're at the docks now.
Green or not, I've got to put them into the line.
- What? - I've got to do it.
Detail this MacRoberts to them as an adviser. That's the best I can do for them.
Very good, sir. I'll get him down there right away.
- Captain. Captain. - What's up? What is it?
- Captain MacRoberts, sir? - Yeah. What is it?
- Orders from headquarters. Colonel White. - What are they?
Temporary duty with an Australian company. They're at the dock.
Australian company? What do they want me to...
Oh, never mind. Find my sergeant, will you?
Donaldson. He's in there, I expect. And leave me your torch.
Get out of the way!
These your men, Lieutenant?
- Why, uh, yes, sir. - Then get 'em under control.
All right, you men! Break it up!
Form up here! Fall in!
I'm, uh, sorry, sir. One of the men fell in the water and...
I don't care what happened, Lieutenant. This is an assembly area.
You'll have all the military police in Tobruk down here.
Company! Attention!
Ready for inspection, sir.
This the best you can do, Sergeant?
What do you think this is, bush week?
Straighten that line!
Who is this bright-eyed little...
Shut up, Mick. You're just asking for it.
That's better. Now where's your commanding officer?
- Captain Currie? Down the dock, sir. - Let's find him.
(glass shatters)
- But the... - (whispering) Shut up!
Get your head down.
Man was seasick, sir. He, uh...
That's right, sir. A very weak stomach.
He's tight as a tick. Look at him.
Mr. Bartlett, sir.
Little Tammy MacRoberts.
What are you doing here?
I was about to ask you the same thing, sir. You all right?
Perfectly. Not a care in the world.
- We'll take care of him, sir. - No, no, he can't march in that condition.
Put him in my car. You'll find it up there on the street.
I'll give you a lift, sir.
It's a pleasure, I assure you, Tammy.
Thank you.
Pete, Rusty.
Right. Easy, boy.
All right, Lieutenant. Let's find your Captain, uh...
Currie, sir.
Tom, give us a bit of help. Come on.
Lift him up here. Stay with him, Pete.
Comes up smelling like a rose every time.
He'll ride and we'll walk,
and that ruddy captain will turn out to be his long-lost son.
(bomb approaching)
Where'd you get it, Jim?
Must have been a shell splinter. Get his coat off.
All right, stand back.
- What are you men doing there? - We have a man wounded, sir.
You'll have five more if you bunch up.
- Now get 'em moving. - But he might die.
- Let the medics handle it. - He's my best friend.
- Are you gonna get these men out of here? - Yes, sir.
Take cover!
Now get up and get out of here!
Move out at the double!
Come on, move! And spread out at the double!
Keep moving there.
Noisy show you're running, Tammy.
That fool of a lieutenant could have had his platoon killed.
Ah, don't be too hard on him.
After all, it's only his first night here.
He'll never see another if he doesn't learn something about Rommel's artillery.
You're still impatient.
You haven't changed much, Tammy.
Well, I suppose I haven't either.
I say, you haven't got a little nip of something, have you?
It's all I've got.
I could have done with something stronger.
Ugh. What on earth is this?
Desert water. You'll get used to it, sir.
No one but a camel could get used to that.
Yes, and I wish you would stop "sir-ing" me.
You know, in our positions, it's, well, a little embarrassing.
How did you get into this?
I suppose the way I get into everything.
A schoolmaster with the nickname of "Blind Tom" doesn't last long.
I got an idea I might find greener pastures in one of the dominions.
Unfortunately, I picked Australia, where it appears everyone volunteers.
I made my usual mistake of being in a pub the day war was declared,
and on a wave of beer suds, I...
You might at least have got yourself a commission.
Commission? I'm the perfect private soldier.
No worries, no responsibilities.
I can't even be demoted.
Don't believe that for a minute.
Being an infantryman is the toughestjob in the Army.
You'll never...
(bomb approaching)
Let me get you a transfer, sir. I know a staff officer in headquarters that...
No. It's good of you, Tammy, but no.
I'd only mess that up, too.
And don't you worry about me. You've got your own job.
All right.
There's your new home.
There's, uh, one thing you might like to know, sir.
At school we all thought you were the best of the lot.
When sober. Uh, good night, Tammy.
Good night, Captain.
And thank you, sir.
- You'll need about 2 feet more. - 2 feet?
You'll wish it were 10 when the mortars stop dropping. Then put the dirt in sandbags,
and camouflage the position with brush.
Anything else...
Yes. Save that water. That's all you'll get.
Cheerful sort of a bloke.
What's an English officer doing with Aussie troops, anyway?
The last time I heard, we were still on the same side.
Now, listen, stow the chatter, mate, and get on that banjo.
What's your field of fire, Mr. Carstairs?
480, sir.
- Better clear back here for a full circle. - Behind us?
Behind you. The Afrika Korps is not committed to frontal attack.
- Yes, sir. - How's your ammunition?
The men are bringing it up now, sir.
(plane flying overhead)
Better get plenty.
That's practically your entire air support.
A bit free with the rough side of his tongue, that pal of yours, Tom.
Yeah. I must have a word with him.
But he's right about them getting in behind us. Let's get it cleared away.
On your feet, digger.
( orchestra)
( orchestra)
(in German) Excellency, General von Helmhotz.
Kaffee. Helmhotz!
The weather observer has something important, sir.
Schultz! Put it down here.
High-pressure area here.
- Low-pressure here. Prevailing eastern wind. - And this?
- Sandstorm in the direction of Tobruk, sir. - Sandstorm? Sandstorm!
- Yes, sir. A strong sandstorm. - Thank you. You can go.
The tanks attack with the storm.
Please, sir?
Use the sandstorm. Immediately. Go! Ulrich!
That's a sandstorm, all right. Moving fast.
(phone rings)
Roger. It's a sandstorm all right, sir.
- 5,000 yards out. - Think they'll attack under cover of it?
If you were Rommel, wouldn't you? Get me Colonel White.
Yes, I see. Thank you, MacRoberts.
Same thing, sir. Sandstorm.
Mm-hmm. He'll come in with it.
It may even work for us. Tank men can't hear anything.
Now they won't see much either.
(wind howling)
What's up?
Tanks! I hear them!
Tank! You see it?
There's more than one of them.
Carstairs, sir. Tanks moving across our front,
bearing 65 degrees about a thousand yards out.
Have you double-checked that direction?
Yes, sir, with the perimeter observers themselves.
It doesn't look as if they'd attack where we thought, sir.
No, it doesn't.
Tell your commanders it may be necessary to shift our forces at a moment's notice.
- And get Colonel White here immediately. - Yes, sir.
Remember now, you're under orders not to fire!
If they don't attack through here, my guns will be useless.
- And it will take me time to move them, sir. - Uh-huh.
- Mechanized equipment ready to move, sir. - All right. Hold them.
Yes, sir.
Sir, don't you think we'd better shift along with them?
They're turning. Coming right down on us.
Now remember, hold your fire!
Column's turning! Coming in!
- Coming right over us. - Get that gun off!
Under here, Tom!
Tom, get under here!
Tom, what's the matter with you?!
(men shouting)
Your attention, please, gentlemen.
Alert your artillery, Barney. I want to know the moment the tanks start to fan out.
- What about fire discipline? - Haven't fired a shot yet, sir.
There's two machine guns that we can see, sir.
But there must be more.
Medium tanks passing "C" Battery, sir. Within range of the Italian guns.
Hold your fire.
Hold your fire.
Range 500 yards and closing.
Yes, sir.
Hold fire!
Range 450 and closing.
Hold fire.
On target!
On target!
What are we waiting for?!
Yes, I know. They're still coming in, sir.
Almost on top of the Italian guns now.
Release them to fire.
Yes, sir. Open fire.
- Fire! - Fire!
(bullets whizzing)
Donaldson, get headquarters and tell them to send us an antitank gun.
- Yes, sir. - Get your reserves up and ready to move up.
It's Captain Currie.
He's alive.
The dirty...
- They're going after him. - I need three men.
- (both) I'll go, sir. - Cover us.
Look at that, sir.
- What's he doing leaving that position? - Going out after the Captain.
Going aft... That idiot. That fantastic idiot. He's left that position wide open.
- Take enough reserves and get up there. - Yes, sir.
You heard him. Let's go.
- Donaldson, what about that antitank gun? - When they can pull one out of the line.
Too late. What was that New Zealander's name? We worked together in Bardia.
- Fitz... - Fitzgibbon. Fitzhugh.
- Fitzhugh. - See if you can find him.
Tell him we need that gun badly. I'll try to get up to the perimeter.
I'm with you, Skipper.
You shouldn't have left your position. Get...
- Skipper? - Harry, look!
- Of all the flaming... - What is it?
The machine gunner must have copped it.
- We must get into that position before them. - Let's go.
How many men have we got?
- There should be two more over there. - Hey, Ginger! Bill!
Right here, Blue!
When we go, you go!
When you're ready, Captain.
Oh, you little beauty!
Oh, bless you, Fitzgibbons or Fitzhugh or whatever your name is.
There's Carstairs, sir.
I reckon the old man must have bought one.
- Get up to the position. - Right. Let's go!
Come on!
- It's got to be the first one, Captain. - Yes.
Traverse left.
Traverse left.
Traverse left.
Up a bit.
On target.
We'll take care of him, sir.
Hey, what about your hand?
Position secured. Our tanks and carriers chased them into the desert.
- That was a beaut shot on the tank, sir. - Thanks. You got ammunition going up?
Yes, sir., and I've asked headquarters for replacements on our casualties.
I want him put in for a decoration.
Yes, sir.
I want court-martial charges prepared on Lieutenant Carstairs:
leaving his position against orders and under fire.
Yes, sir.
He got the old man killed, didn't he?
The captain got himself killed.
He was there. Why didn't he go?
It was the company commander's job, and he wasn't the company commander.
- Ah. Not then he wasn't. He is now. - Yes, he is.
And whether you like him or not, he's a good soldier.
Then let him soldier with the king's flaming guards.
Listen, he saved your neck this afternoon, and the position, too.
Ah? Now I hear he's court-martialing Carstairs.
What about that, Blue?
I wouldn't know.
- The C.O. 's boy. - Why...
Sergeant Smith? Did you get the men out to the forward position?
Just moving up, sir.
Come on. Get going. Come on. Move.
If any man goes to sleep out there, I'll have him shot.
Get goin'!
There'll be none of that in my company, or I'll tear you apart with me bare hands.
Better get down, Blue. I was only thinking.
Never mind thinking. You're a foot slogger.
Now get moving.
Who is it?
Oh. You, sir.
How's your hand, Tammy?
Burning like brimstone. How are you, sir?
I found a very deep hole.
If you can dig deep enough, only your pride gets hurt.
Look, let me get you a transfer...
No, no, no. Don't say it again.
I'm afraid I might take you up on it.
- I wanted to talk about something else. - Oh?
Harry Carstairs.
There's a rumor he's to be court-martialed.
It's no rumor. I forwarded the papers tonight.
But why, Tammy?
It was a perfectly natural and courageous thing to do.
Certainly it was. And that has nothing to do with it.
He disobeyed orders and jeopardized the position.
- But he's just a boy. - We've no use for boys here,
particularly not as officers.
You can't be much older than he is.
I don't know whether I am or not.
I do know that I've been here a year,
and one of the first things I learned was that this isn't a game for children.
Men get killed and stay killed.
- I know that. - I don't think you do, sir.
Only a line officer knows that any decision he makes in battle
may involve somebody being killed or wounded.
His job is to follow orders and make decisions
without letting sentiment, loyalty, friendship or anything else interfere.
When he can't do that, he might as well get rid of whatever he's got up here.
He's no good to himself or anybody else anymore.
That's a pretty cold estimate, Tammy.
Perhaps it is, but it's the truth.
(planes approaching)
(gunshots in distance)
They'll head for the harbor and try to knock out our supply convoy.
How do you know?
I'm just guessing. Would you sooner get in there?
That's all there is to it.
Now, what's all this concern for an officer?
I thought you were a confirmed private.
I like him.
He's honest, fair to his men, and for a young man, very understanding.
What'd he do, let you off a couple of work details?
Well, maybe, but he's done other things.
He gave me the bottle that was responsible for my, uh, condition the night we docked.
(chuckles) So that's what's behind it.
Well, no, no, not all.
It was the reason he did it.
Because he knew I was a coward and that I'd fall apart without it.
Oh, come off it, sir. You're no more of a coward than anybody else.
Yes, I am. You noticed itjust now.
I'm frightened to death.
Well, all of us are afraid part of the time.
You'll get used to all this.
No. No, I won't.
I get sick... physically sick...
and I want to run anyplace just to get away.
That's not right, sir. You shouldn't be in the Army. You should get a medical discharge.
- The psychiatrists have... - No. I'm afraid of that, too.
You don't know much about real fear, Tammy.
Maybe it comes with age or the bottle.
You don't know what it is to be a coward... really a coward.
To know it, you have to hope that one day something will happen to prove you're not
and yet half the time not really believing that either.
Oh, but I'm off the point and I'm embarrassing you.
What I really wanted to ask you was
to withdraw the charges against Carstairs.
Withdraw them?
- Didn't you hear anything I said out there? - Yes, I heard.
Then you ought to understand why I can't.
I know how you feel about him, sir, but... I can't. No.
Do you remember a long time ago
your coming to my study before a final exam?
The time I thought I was going to fail.
It seemed a terrible thing to me at the time. Ruined me for life.
It might have.
You gave me a real going-over. I remember that particularly.
I thought you were worth it.
I think Carstairs is, too.
That was in school, in peace time,
not in the middle of a war.
Besides, I passed the exam.
And I did, didn't I?
Yes. You passed.
Thank you, sir.
Gentlemen, one of the few real pleasures of rank
is the ability to make promotions in the field.
There's no question of your deserving them.
I congratulate you and I thank you.
Um, yes, uh, that'll be all. Thank you, gentlemen.
Up! If you gentlemen will follow me,
I'll give you new orders.
- Congratulations, Mac. - Men, come in for a minute.
I have a few matters I want to discuss with you.
At ease, MacRoberts.
I have here court-martial papers on Lieutenant Carstairs signed by you.
I also have a request for the dismissal of the charges, also signed by you.
Yes, sir.
If these charges were as specified, the young man endangered the entire operation.
And you still wish to withdraw the charges?
Yes, sir.
You realize, of course, that he will succeed as company commander.
- Sir? - He's the senior lieutenant.
He'll have a highly competent battalion commander, sir.
- Of course. - You need one.
Yes, yes.
As you know, Major, we're extremely short of field officers,
so on the advice of Colonel White, I'm giving you the battalion.
You'll assume a temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.
- Yes, sir. - Fast-moving war, isn't it, Major?
Now you'll have three Australian companies.
Congratulations, Colonel.
- I might have known... - Careful, Colonel.
You may have seen the press dispatches on our magnificent defense, MacRoberts.
I don't like them.
Defense is a state of mind. I don't want our troops to fall into this type of thinking.
We're committed to holding Tobruk for two months.
But unless we take the offensive, Rommel will overcome us in a week.
- Or less. - Yes.
We're in no position to mount a major attack,
but we can hit and run.
There are the German positions as accurately as our intelligence can give them to us.
From now on, every company on the perimeter
will raid one of these positions every night.
It'll be up to the battalion commanders to select the targets, brief the companies
and send intelligence a daily assessment of damage done.
Can you handle it?
- If that's it, that's it, sir. - But...?
Well, casualties may be high.
These troops have been bloodied, but they're still green.
They won't be for long.
And I'll look to you to keep casualties down.
Yes, sir.
That's all, Colonel, and good luck.
Thank you, sir.
- Good luck, Mac. - Yeah.
Well, now what?
Hmm? Oh, I was just thinking how happy I am I'm not an infantryman.
- We start with those. - Mm-hmm. Right.
I won't lie to you. This is hard, dirty work.
But if it's done and done right, it'll pay off.
The Jerries don't like people wandering about in the dark.
There's one thing you've got to remember:
if a man is killed or badly wounded,
you've got to leave him.
You can't endanger the rest of your patrol for one man.
- Yes, sir. - Right.
That's it.
But, Colonel?
I wanted to, uh, thank you for dropping those charges.
Don't thank me. Thank the General. I had nothing to do with it.
The copy of your letter's in the company files.
Well, I could have made a mistake.
Maybe you did, but the thanks still goes.
- Good night, sir. - Night.
He did drop the court-martial proceedings, didn't he?
(Mick) How do I know he did? Maybe the General told him to.
And what about his orders for tonight?
If a bloke cops one, you flaming well leave him there.
You reckon he'd be so free with English troops?
Put a sock in it back there. Let's go.
(narrator) Night after night, through the months of May and June,
little bands of desperate men went out from Tobruk
to spread havoc, confusion and fear among the enemy.
On the vast dark stretches of the Libyan desert
they ranged like their freebooter ancestors
who had once made England mistress of the seas.
They struck in the darkness and disappeared into darkness.
(bullets whizzing)
And in the cold light of dawn, came back to their shell-pitted refuge.
Go on. Get a move on, Fritz.
You reckon this'll make the colonel happy?
Oh, hysterical. He might even let us go out tonight with our bare hands.
Come on, you. Get a move on. Get movin'.
You're a difficult man. Also an intelligent one.
I think further questioning is useless, don't you, Captain?
Definitely, sir.
Take him out, John.
I regret that I was of no assistance to you gentlemen. Come along.
(phone rings)
Give me the clever ones every time. The minute they get away from name and rank...
I cross-checked eight lies. And that business of being a tank man. His collar tabs...
Stop taking bows. Come along. The general's waiting for us.
No doubt about it, sir. Rommel's moved his long-range guns up against us.
- It's obvious from the pounding we've taken. - From what he said...
or rather, from the lies he told us, I'd bet a month's pay that that's their encampment.
We thought it might be a rest area,
but that over here could be a camouflaged gun emplacement,
and that and that.
And this spot here that we thought was a firing range
- May be an underground ammunition dump. - Barney?
Nothing could touch them. They're out of our range.
Could you find out if Rommel was planning a new attack?
I mean, a major one?
Nothing as definite as that, but...
It sounded awfully like it to me, sir.
No other reason for moving up heavy artillery.
I think we'll have to get that ammunition dump, sir.
Commandos could never get in and out in a night. Must be 20 miles from the perimeter.
If we could get an air strike...
No, not much use against an underground dump.
That line there... that's a highway?
Mmm, supply route from Benghazi.
There are still some Italian vehicles they left behind with their guns, sir.
If we took them and could break through here where that Italian regiment is holding,
we could cut to the highway and drive down it.
And lose your expedition first time it was challenged.
I'm not so sure, sir. There must be men here who speak Italian.
Of course. And German.
I've got two Arabs in my section, who'd lead you across the desert blindfolded.
Simple. Delightfully simple.
And has about one chance in a hundred.
Perhaps. What were the chances of Rommel sending his Panzer Division in
where you said he would, sir?
If your men are as cocksure as you are, MacRoberts, they mightjust get through.
They've had two months of commando work and are tired of being shelled 24 hours a day.
So am I.
It's a calculated risk, but then, that's the whole theory of warfare.
- If we broke out here... - Yes.
And you could give us a diversionary attack say, here...
All right, fellas, make it snappy.
See you got all your papers ready.
Come on, come on. Hurry.
Any of you new men, remember: you take nothing with you.
No identification, no letters, no pictures of the kids or the old lady.
And don't take all day. The trucks are waiting.
Uh, Tom, that's for the old lady, just in case.
I'll give it back to you in the morning.
Marsch, there's four months' pay there, mate, and I'd like to see it again.
Don't worry about the dough, chum. Just worry about getting back in one piece.
- Tom'll have it for you, won't you, Tom? - Yes, I will.
Tom's always here, no fear of that.
- Just don't take no chances while I'm gone. - All right, all right.
What's the matter, Tommy?
Oh, nothing, nothing. I'm sorry.
(knocks on door)
Yes. Come in.
Oh, it's you, sir. What's up?
- I've come to ask you a favor, Tammy. - I can do it. It's yours.
I want to go on this raid. Honestly. It's important to me.
I believe it is. But why?
I'm the only man in this company that's never been on one.
- Are they suggesting... - It's nothing like that.
It's just seeing the men go each time,
and, well, looking after their valuables and letters...
Oh, please, Tammy. I'll try not to disgrace you.
Oh, it's not that.
It's just that I...
Well, I need you for something else.
I've just put through a request for you to be transferred to me.
My paperwork's in a mess. I need someone I know and trust on the files.
That's a lie, Tammy, isn't it?
You just made it up.
Well, part of it.
I am transferring you.
But this is a rough assignment. Most won't come back.
- Well, there's no reason... - You're not to go, and that's it!
I suppose, truthfully, that's what I hoped you'd say.
You're probably right, too.
Look... you'll be four times as valuable to me in an office
as you would be thrashing about with a gun.
And, uh, four times less dangerous.
- Pretty girl. - Yes.
Someone from home?
Yes, from Scotland, that is. My wife.
I didn't know you were married.
Or to such a lovely girl.
Not much time for an announcement.
We did it in '39, just before I went to France.
Have you seen her since?
A week, after Dunkirk.
Any children?
One. Little boy.
And you've never seen him.
That's tough.
But all wars come to an end sometime. This one will, too.
If I have anything to do with it, it will.
(picks up papers)
- Look after these for me. - Yeah.
If I don't...
I'll see you tomorrow.
(narrator) And so on the 9th of July, 1941,
(narrator) And so on the 9th of July, 1941,
began one of the most daring raids of the North African campaign.
With their sole objective a gigantic ammunition dump,
54 picked men jammed into three captured Italian trucks
and prepared themselves for a wild ride.
30 seconds.
Remember, once that dump blows, you're on your own.
Never mind about anybody else. Get your men out.
(explosions in distance)
Good luck.
Get that back up, too.
Easy One to all units. Follow me. Stay close. Let's go.
- Let's go. - Yes, sir.
Looks like a roadblock, sir.
Slow down but keep rolling, whatever happens.
Easy One to all units.
Proceed with Plan "C." Keep moving. Follow us.
(in German) Roadblock. Travel orders.
(in Italian) We belong to the Florentine group. We are going to the front.
- (in German) Your travel orders, please. - Keep talking.
(in Italian) We have orders. Understand? Order of General Rommel. We can't stop.
(in German) Wait, now. You can't... Stop!
(man) What happened, Muller?
Crazy Italians.
They don't even know where they want to go. May the devil take them.
We'll be there in a minute.
- Keep your eyes peeled for a wadi. - Yes, sir.
That's it ahead. Pull in. Give the rest of them room to clear.
The camp is 200 yards down the road.
All those detailed, dismount and proceed to stations.
Convoy will follow in three minutes.
No contact until you see the flare. Get going.
That's it. Dead ahead.
All right, men, let's get 'em!
Take care of those wounded. Come on!
See if you can get that gun working.
Demolition team!
Quickly now!
Let's have a wire, quick!
Come on! Come on!
All set, Colonel!
Clear, everybody!
(whistle blowing)
Come on! Come on! Let's go!
Get 'em out of here!
Get moving!
Get moving!
- Ready, Colonel. - That's it. Get in the trucks.
Get in there.
Let her go!
Get 'em out of here!
Get 'em out of here!
Can't you ever obey an order?! Get out of here!
Shut up and push the ruddy plunger!
Come on! We can still get out!
Carstairs! We can still get out!
We can still get out! Carstairs!
(man, speaking German) Take prisoners! Take prisoners!
Get me a prisoner, understand?
There! Over there!
There's one of them!
Wet down all canvas!
Look there, corporal!
Leave him alone!
(man speaks German indistinctly)
(in German) Put six men on that hose!
(MacRoberts) You butcher, keep your hands off me!
(speaks German)
I am a lieutenant colonel and I demand to be treated according to my rank!
If he touches me again, I'll break every bone in his body!
- If your wound is to be dressed... - Get a doctor!
By the terms of the Geneva Convention I'm entitled to one.
Now get a doctor here, you incompetent clown!
(in German) Call a doctor here.
A doctor will come, Colonel.
That's better.
(in German) There is a wounded English officer.
He wants a doctor, something like on grounds of a...
(haltingly)... Geneva Convention?
It's called Geneva Convention. You're getting all the time more stupid.
Yes, doctor.
There are certain questions...
When you get a doctor here, I'll be happy to discuss them, Herr Leutnant, not until.
(in German) Couldn't you do it without me?
Are you a doctor or another faith healer?
- Huh? - A doctor! Are you a reputable doctor?
- (in German) What does he want? - He wants to know if you're a good doctor.
I studied in Heidelberg and Tosten in Vienna.
You see, sir, the bullet...
(in German) Quiet.
Let's not barge into things too quickly.
(in German) Quiet. Stay still.
Jensen, a probe.
Ha, passed right at the artery. A difficult position.
A little higher and it'd be a bone splinter. Ha-ha.
I hope you roast in a flaming fire.
(in German) Well, just one more moment and...
Brandy, quick!
(glasses clink)
(in German) Drink.
That'll taste fine.
Ready. Good!
Very good, Herr doctor.
(in German) You see...
Obviously got your training before Hitler.
(in German) What does he want from Hitler?
(vehicle door closes)
(in German) Here, Field Marshal.
Doctor! Doctor, quick!
One moment, one moment. Please.
The Field Marshal is wounded.
Jensen, finish this.
What happened?
- A machine-gun bullet. - Damned spitfire...
A spitfire. Nothing trivial, I trust.
Shut up, you!
(in German) Quiet!
You have the advantage of me.
- Colonel MacRoberts, sir. - A pleasure.
(in German) He conducted an attack on our ammunition store.
(in German) Is that so?
I have not yet inspected the damage, but from what I hear you are to be complimented.
Thank you, sir.
My heavy artillery must have interested you.
It was perhaps making life exciting in Tobruk. Or are we confined
to name, rank and serial number? (grunts)
Only when you touch a tender spot, sir.
Uh-huh. Well, we will devote ourselves to general subjects.
Your commanding general, for instance.
Tell me, MacRoberts, since it is now long past,
was it he who organized the defense against my panzer attack
or was it Cairo?
It was the general.
If I remember correctly, he described your attack as a highly limited tactical maneuver.
Yes, yes.
It had worked well for us, but I used it once too often.
- I underestimated your man, Colonel. - Grave mistake, sir.
Yes. But he is Australian, and you are English, no?
My intelligence has given me to understand
there was considerable friction between the two.
I would suggest some changes in your staff, sir.
It will be interesting to meet this man the British think so highly of.
When will that be, sir?
Mmm? Oh, I imagine whenever I decide we've had enough of your Tobruk.
I would have thought that might have been weeks ago.
Colonel, I fully understand your natural pride in holding a position,
and since it is the only position the British hold,
I can understand the extravagant claims for it.
Actually, it plays little part in our plans.
(in German) Please, excellency.
Uh-huh. I'm afraid my general has other ideas.
I suppose he has, but even you must be aware
that my forward elements are within 200 kilometers of Alexandria
and that within the month we will have taken Cairo.
(in German) Yes, excellency.
- Not until you take Tobruk. - Oh, now, MacRoberts, I respect your pride
in this little rathole you call Tobruk,
but don't insult my intelligence
by telling me that if it stood in my way
I couldn't crush it like that.
Normally, I would defer to your rank
and the fact that I'm your prisoner.
If you can crush Tobruk, crush it.
But don't tell me it isn't a constant threat to your supply line,
that it isn't an open sore in your side, or that you can take Egypt without first smashing it.
(officer) Silence. You are addressing the Excellency.
(in German) Quiet, Kramm. Let him talk.
And this is what keeps you in those flea-ridden caves?
That's part of it.
And the rest?
Well, the rest is that by holding Tobruk,
we prevent you from taking the Suez.
And if you don't take the Suez,
I suggest you start planning for the next war.
Cognac for the field marshal.
You British pig!
Leutnant! Halt!
(in German) Take it away!
Colonel, you are a brave man, and were you not so stubborn,
I might have enjoyed your conversation more.
When I have brought your country to its knees,
it is possible we may meet again.
This gentleman seems to have other ideas.
You are a prisoner of war and will be treated as such.
- (in German) Kramm, take care of this. - Yes, excellency.
Thank you, sir.
(man speaking German indistinctly)
Quicker, down.
Here, in, out, faster, before the planes are back.
Everybody out. (continues indistinctly)
(engine revving)
What do you think, sir?
Well, we can't move by daylight and we've got a long trip tonight.
Time for some sleep.
(man speaking German) Who's there?
What is it now?
I heard something over there.
Move away.
- Ahh! - (in German) I'm sure I heard something.
I'd give my stripe for a mouthful of water.
You'll have a bellyful when you get to Tobruk,
if I don't take the wrong turning.
- Somebody out there. - Where?
Down by the wire. Put a burst over their heads. It may be our patrol.
Who goes there?!
Oh, break it down, you mugs! I had me flaming foot caught in the flaming wire!
It's Bluey!
Stone the crows. It's the colonel, too.
What about Harry?
I mean, the captain, sir?
He bought one. I'm sorry.
If you'd lowered your aim a bit,
you could've gotten me, too.
(narrator) The heavy and desperate fist of Rommel fell on Tobruk again and again...
through the Luftwaffe, massed artillery and frontal attack.
The men of Tobruk had been asked to hold for two months.
By July, they had held for four.
Through August they held.
September, October.
In Egypt, an army was being rebuilt during these precious months.
In November...
Our relief column under General Auchinleck has broken out of Egypt
and is quite definitely on the move.
The general will push straight across here to us.
Our supply convoy, already at sea, will arrive here tomorrow night.
I don't need to tell you yourjobs,
nor do I need to tell you this column will be in vital need of supplies.
I think that both Rommel and I can promise you a very interesting week ahead.
Same thing last night, sir. On the move along the front.
Yes. I think you'll find pressure all around our defenses.
However, it seems to me that this hill... Ed Duda...
is a key position.
It commands the Bardia Road and our supply road to the harbor.
Consequently, I'll have to move troops to hold it.
But I can only spare one battalion,
so it'll have to be our best and most experienced one.
That's it, gentlemen.
We will hold for three days or until relieved.
We will need every round of ammunition we can carry.
- Start moving the men out right away. - Yes, sir.
- Any questions? - Well, I...
I just wondered why it had to be us. After all, we've been in the line the longest...
In the first place, it's an order. In the second, if it's any good to you,
the general asked for the best and most experienced troops.
Is that all?
Well, that'll put the cap on it, if nothing else does.
There'll be some choice comment on this.
Oh, come off it, sir. It's only an order.
They may even get a kick out of the general choosing their battalion.
Uh-huh, and I may even run for prime minister of Australia.
(blows whistle)
- What's up, Blue? - The war over, Blue? We getting relieved?
- Beer ration? - Don't sit on it until it hatches, Blue.
You gents will be proud and happy to know
the general considers you the pick of the garrison.
- Here we go again. - Another dirty deal.
Consequently, you've been selected
to hold the key position in the coming festivities. We're moving out.
Oh, that ruddy MacRoberts. He's volunteered us again. He's pushing for general.
Rally 'round and I'll show you the points of interest.
Now, this here's Ed Duda.
The mob's supposed to be coming up from Cairo, and we're gonna hold it for three days.
(narrator) They were asked to hold for three days.
eight freezing nights of roaring gunfire,
eight blazing days of searching the horizon for a sign of the relief column.
On the morning of the ninth day...
See anything?
Not a ruddy thing.
"Just hold it for three days, and the relief column will be along."
Well, it's eight flaming days now, and there ain't a sight of them.
Gone back to ruddy Egypt, I reckon.
One more night of this, and they'll take me off in a sack.
They'll be along in a bit.
In a bit! Yeah, in a bit! Always in a bit!
Well, I ain't waitin'! I can't...
Let me up.
All right now?
Give me another tin of grub.
Three wounded and two dead.
Company strength down to 57 men.
About a thousand rounds of small arms ammo and 23 mortar bombs.
And "C" Company?
Lost four more last night.
Down to 41 men, one officer,
1,200 rounds, 17 mortar.
One machine gun completely destroyed.
You'll have to take command of "A" Company. What about the forward post?
That's where we lost two of our four, sir.
Is it manned now?
Well, no. I...
I haven't been able to pick the men, Colonel.
Four hours is about as long as anyone lasts out there.
- I thought after they had breakfast... - All right. Let it go.
If headquarters could send us some replacements...
They can't. Rommel's throwing everything he's got all around the perimeter.
I don't suppose there'll be any change in orders?
If there is, I'll tell you!
Change, change. What are they asking me for?
I don't give the orders. I just obey them.
Headquarters told me to hold. I can't!
Get me headquarters.
Let them decide.
- Colonel Orten? - Yes.
Diamond Red.
Coming on.
MacRoberts here.
It was a tank roadblock, but they knocked it out last night.
They're moving now, Mac.
By 9:00, Mac. Noon at the latest.
No good, Orten. You told me that four days ago.
No. We've had it. We're through, finished. The first attack will sweep the hill.
- Maybe we can detach a unit... - Don't lie to him. Let me have it.
Yes, sir?
There isn't a chance of getting anything to you for at least six hours. Maybe not then.
I've called for air strikes, but...
They've been pounded for eight days, General. I'm down to less than a company.
I know. All I can tell you is the relief column is moving.
Maybe one hour, maybe four.
All I can do is release you to make your own estimate of the situation.
Whatever you do, I'll back yourjudgment.
Yes, sir.
Thank you, sir.
Thank you for what?
Dumping it back in my lap.
The old army game. My estimate of the situation.
Well, what else can he do? He's not here.
- He can only trust yourjudgment and hope... - And hope I pull off a miracle,
take what's left of a battalion...
- Make the right decision. - The right decision...
Jerry artillery moving out in the desert, sir, and plenty of it.
Tell the platoon commanders to await orders.
- Right, sir. - Get the artillery.
Tell them we want covering fire when we pull out.
Call 'em. What are you waiting for?
Are you sure that's what you want, Tammy?
Suppose they stand off one more attack? The general...
They'll be lucky to have the strength to march out of here, let alone stand off Germans.
- Well, they might, if you asked them to. - If I asked them.
I might have known it.
Now let's forget the old school tie nonsense and face reality for once.
I'm the English colonel that got their captain killed, that got Carstairs killed.
The pommy officer that's whipped them in and out of these caves for nine months.
They'd rather see me dead than Rommel.
No, Tammy. You don't understand men yet.
Oh, I don't say they love you, but they do know you.
You're authority to them.
The general, why, he's just a name.
You're the one that's running their war.
If you give the order, they won't like it,
but they're just stubborn enough to follow it.
Uh-huh. And my order is to pull out.
Get the artillery. That's an order.
You know that if Rommel takes this hill,
the advance could be held up for days.
Quite a tactician. Get the artillery.
The general said that there may be a...
You drunken old fool!
There are over 100 men out there, and I'm responsible for them.
If I order them to stay, they'll be killed! I can't ask them for what they haven't got!
I can't do it and I won't do it!
I'm old, I'm a drunk and maybe I'm a fool.
But I do know what I'm talking about.
Don't take all this on yourself, Tammy.
Everybody needs help sometimes.
Let them help you. Ask them.
No. I've had it.
I can't.
All right.
It's your decision, but if you make it,
you'll be no good to yourself or to anybody else.
You told me that yourself once.
Then I'll be no good to myself.
Ah, Tammy, an hour and...
Don't call me that!
Go and tell each of the commanders we'll move out in 20 minutes, and that's an order!
Yes... sir.
Devil? Give me Colonel White.
Barney? I'm pulling out in 20 minutes.
Give me all the covering fire you can spare.
It's that rough, Mac?
It's that rough.
I'll put up a green flare when we're ready.
Sir, I think they have an O.P. dug in on this first rise.
Well, if that's the case, perhaps we can manage to get some...
What's the matter with you? I ordered you to get these men out of here.
- Where's Bartlett? I'll have him... - He told us, sir.
But it don't make no difference. The men won't go.
We ain't going either.
Won't go?
I, uh...
Where's Bartlett?
He went out to the forward position, sir, alone.
That'll be him.
(siren wailing)
- Barrage! - Come on!
(bombing in distance)
In there!
Fix bayonets!
Come out of your holes, you desert rats!
Let's go. You! You!
Come on! This is it!
Come on! Fix bayonets!
Get out of your holes, you desert rats! Let's go!
You go! Come on! You, you!
( bagpipes in distance)
What's that?
Look at them go!
What about Bartlett?
(narrator) So after 242 days ended the siege of Tobruk:
not the biggest action of the war and far from the last,
but one in which a sweating, dirty, hopelessly outnumbered garrison,
by its stubborn courage, won for itself
an unforgettable place in the world's history of battles.
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