Dr Bobby Headley interview: German equipment

The Germans were also better armed than you were?

The Germans had a thing called the 88mm gun which had started life as an anti-aircraft gun but they found it was a wonderful anti-tank gun because it had a much higher velocity than any gun we had. A greater range. They could knock out our tanks with the 88mm gun before our chaps could close enough to fire back. This 88mm gun was a great source of loss. Considerable. The only thing that won us this battle was that we had huge reinforcements with American tanks which occurred just before Alamein. There were a lot of them. Those tank chaps had a dreadful life. They were so hot they couldn’t get out of them and they had to eat, sleep and live alongside them. Of course if they caught fire it was goodbye.

Alamein had about 20,000 dead yet a friend of mine went to have a look at it the other day and couldn’t even find a signpost to show where it was. They are not keen on the British, really. They never have liked us. It was a British reservation pre-war after the First World War. We had always had British troops there so that luckily there was quite a good collection of troops there when the war started who had actually captured no less than two or three hundred thousand Italian troops and about 30,000 of their own. Then the Germans brought back larger reinforcements. The Germans were much better fighting people with much better equipment. Everything they had was better than ours. The only thing they were defeated by in the end was the distance. You see if you are in the desert and you have to fight there and the nearest place you can land anything is there or there or even there, you have to bring it all that huge distance. So as you fell back, your enemy had longer and longer lines of communication and you had shorter and shorter ones as well as getting nearer the beer and the reservation, or the stores too. So there was quite a different attitude. The only war, I would have thought, was fought like a proper war with one there and one there. [This] was almost like a football match. Honestly, they didn’t mind the retreat really because they got away. Not that they wanted to retreat but it had its advantages. Lovely thought, anyhow.