|War Memorial Profiles for Tollesbury
DONALD GEORGE BIBBY
Gunner, Service No. 899881
104 (The Essex Yeomanry) Regiment., Royal Horse Artillery.
Died 4 December 1941 Age 22
Buried Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya
Commemorated on the Roll of Honour at St Mary's, Tollesbury
Son of Walter and Edith Olive Bibby, of Tollesbury, Essex. He was a bright boy and a keen footballer. In 1929 he got a place at Maldon Grammar School. Donald passed the School Certificate Examination in 8 subjects in July 1934 aged 15. When he left school he worked at the County Offices in Chelmsford. He joined the 104 (The Essex Yeomanry) Regiment about a year before the war and served in Palestine & Libya in the North African Campaign.
Donald's only brother (no sisters) was Walter James Bibby, who was a school teacher at Maldon Primary School when he was called up in
the R.A.F. His job was physical training instructor; he served from 13.9.40 to 23.11.45; service number:1201272 and rank corporal.
His release book dated 22.11.45. and signed by his Group Captain 'Has been a first rate N.C.O. and has given every satisfaction in
his work. He was accepted for commissioning prior to his release. Has great administrative ability and a very high standard of
intelligence. Recommended with confidence'.
Above Walter John Bibby and his wife Betty Constance
While in Tobruk Donald met another Tollesbury friend, Radley Carter in a forward dug-out in November.
Below is his last letter home to his mother and written 28 days before he was killed. Just a normal matter of fact letter about friends
he met. You would not realise that at that stage he had been in a besieged garrison already for 7½ months.
Written 16 November 1941 to Mrs E. Bibby, North Road, Tollesbury
A 25 pounder of the Royal Horse Artillery at Tobruk 1941
The Siege of Tobruk took place in the Western Desert of North Africa in 1941 at the height of the Second World War The German Afrika Corps under the command of General Erwin Rommel had commenced the offensive which drove the British forces eastwards across the desert to the Egyptian frontier. The Commander-in-Chief, Sir Archibald Wavell, instructed that the seaport town of Tobruk was to be held, if possible, for two months in order to give time for the assembly of reinforcements, especially of armoured troops for the defence of Egypt. On 8th April 1941 the garrison of Tobruk consisting of the 9th Division, the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division with British and Indian Troops, came under siege which was to last for 242 days. The German forces made two serious attempts to capture Tobruk using "blitzkrieg" tactics of a deep armoured thrust through defences followed up by infantry. Up until this point in the war these "blitzkrieg" tactics had never failed. Numerous attempts to relieve Tobruk by land failed and the garrison was supplied by ships of the British and Australian Navies, across seaways dominated by a hostile air force. Because of the almost daily enemy air attacks, arrivals and departures of the ships were conducted under cover of darkness. Between April and the end of August, the garrison was subjected to 593 enemy air raids. The relief of the 18th Brigade commenced in August and by October the Australians with the exception of 2/13 Battalion were relieved by the Polish Carpathian Brigade and British Troops. The 2/13th remained to fight its way out in December when the garrison broke out to join up with the British Eighth Army which effected the relief of Tobruk on 10th December 1941.
It cannot be claimed that Tobruk stopped Rommel and his Africa Corps but it cannot be overlooked that the siege had an important effect on the war for another reason. Here the Germans had suffered a serious reverse and the Tobruk garrison had demonstrated that the hitherto successful "blitzkrieg" tactics could be defeated by resolute infantry who held their ground, by defence in depth and by individual courage. During the siege, German radio propagandists directed a constant stream of derision at the defenders, likening them to rats. Far from weakening morale the term was enthusiastically adopted by the troops who thenceforth called themselves "The Rats of Tobruk". (1)
104th (Essex Yeomanry) Regiment RHA went to the Middle East in 1940 and took part in the North Africa campaigns, the Italian campaign
and ended the war in Austria where it was disbanded. The highlight of its war was the siege of Tobruk from April to November 1941 when
all Afrika Corps attacks were repulsed. Apart from its 25 pounders the regiment successfully used captured Italian howitzers and
anti-aircraft guns. (2) The Essex Yeomanry journal 2002 quotes the dying words of Gunner Donald Bibby near Tobruk as "they got me
Below is the communication that every mother dreaded.:-
Above is his original cross photographed by his friend R.J. Folkes - see letter below
In May 1946 the War Office sent Mrs Bibby some more photographs. In the one below
the grave has been made up and there is a later wooden cross.
1939-1945 Star; Africa Star; 1939-1945 War Medal
Above: one of the very many letters of condolence received by the family, this one from his colleagues at County Hall.
Grave Ref. 7. L. 14.TOBRUK WAR CEMETERY, Libya
Tobruk is a Mediterranean port with an excellent deep water harbour. During the war it was important to Allied and Axis forces alike,
for the reception of supplies and reinforcements. In January 1941, it was taken from the Italians by General Wavell's forces, and after the clearance of the demolitions in the harbour the port was usable and proved invaluable. When Rommel commenced his drive across Cyrenaica towards Suez it was deemed essential that Tobruk be held, and the resulting siege lasted from 11 April to 10 December 1941, when the Axis forces were driven back. They recovered far more quickly than was expected and by early February 1942, it was the Allies turn to fall back towards a line running southwards from Gazala to Bir Hakeim. Again orders were given to hold Tobruk, but it fell to Rommel on 21 June. It was retaken five months later by the Eighth Army in their final sweep along the North African coast into Tunisia. Tobruk War Cemetery incorporates the burial ground used during the siege and the memorial erected there at the time by the Australians has been replaced by a permanent memorial of similar design. Many battlefield graves in the desert have been brought into the cemetery. There are now 2,282 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in Tobruk War Cemetery. 171 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate a number of casualties known or believed to be buried among them. The cemetery also contains 171 war graves of other nationalities, most of them Polish. No. of Identified Casualties: 2308
Donald's name is recorded on the Roll of Honour at Saint Mary's Tollesbury
March 2022 the article above was converted from Edwin Sparrow's Memorial Profile with few changes. Edwin's original article is also in On Our Doorstep Part 2 - see On Our Doorstep