Charles Henry AWMM
Also known as
2 January 1942 AWMM
POW liberation details
POW serial number
Charles Brown was the son of Charles and Marion Brown. His wife was Myra Brown of Dannevirke.
Evacuated from Tobruk on the Chakdina which sank after being hit by torpedo. Eighty New Zealanders were drowned, most of them survivors of the fighting at Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed.
During 1941 and 1942 North Africa was the scene of much military activity as the war raged in Egypt, Syria and Libya.In the Western Desert the 7th Armoured Division was being re-equipped and preparations were being made for a fresh drive westwards to recapture Cyrenaica and relieve Tobruk.As a result of the fighting during May, the Germans established themselves at the Halfaya Pass, which they proceeded to prepare for defence. Although the two armoured brigades of the 7th Armoured Division were both lacking one regiment, and although they were equipped with different types of tanks whose actions could not easily be co-ordinated, an offensive was launched on 15 June 1941.One column advanced along the coast towards Sollum, while a second, climbing the escarpment to the south, moved along it, occupied Capuzzo and was intended to take Halfaya with the aid of the coastal force.A third column still farther south was to protect the left flank and threaten the rear and supply columns of the Axis armies.On 15 and 16 June progress was fairly satisfactory, although neither Sollum nor Halfaya was taken;but on 17 a critical situation developed, when strong enemy columns advanced southwards from Bardia and eastwards from south-west of Capuzzo, from Sidi Omar. Operations came to a standstill for some months following this brief sally, recommencing in November. The early strages of the battle were fought out between 30th Corps and the German and Italian armoured forces in the vicinity of Sidi Rezegh, south-east of Tobruk, on the desert track known as the Trigh Capuzzo. The New Zealand Division and the Tobruk garrison had been making headway in the vicinity of Sidi Rezegh. On the night of 25/26 November the New Zealand Division captured that much-disputed point, and the following night saw the first contact between the Tobruk garrison and the Eighth Army.This had caused the Germans to call back their armour from its thrust into Egypt, and by the afternoon of the 28th it was obvious that the positions held by the New Zealand Division would be strongly assaulted.The expected attack came the following day, and as a result the Sidi Rezegh ridge fell once more into the hands of the Germans, the 6 New Zealand Brigade being overwhelmed by superior numbers on 30 November. The New Zealand Division had by now suffered very heavy casualties and was withdrawn to the Egyptian frontier which it reached on 2 December. Hospitals in the Tobruk area were overcrowded as a consequence of the unexpectedly long and bitter fighting and it became a matter of urgency to move the wounded to less congested hospitals for treatment. During the first few days of December this became a priority and as there was no indication of when the land route eastwards would be opened the few hospital ships available were packed to capacity. The s.s. Chakdina sailed on its return voyage to Alexandria on the afternoon of 5 December 1941 with 600 men, 120 of them New Zealanders. Shortly after 9 pm an aerial torpedo struck and exploded in an after hold and in three and a half minutes the ship sank in a strong swell. Eighty New Zealanders were drowned, most of them survivors of the fighting at Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed. AWMM
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Charles Henry Brown
- Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. (1941). Nominal Roll Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force No. 3 (Embarkations from 1st July, 1940 to 31st March, 1941). Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer. AWMM
WW2 3: WW2 57 AWMM
- Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. (1941). Nominal Roll Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force No. 4 (Embarkations from 1st April, 1941 to 30 June, 1941). Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer. AWMM
WW2 4: WW2 43 AWMM
- List of 2NZEF Prisoners of War. 1941-1945. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS 2009/8. AWMM
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