Oliver Marsden Roscoe, Sgt., 4th. Battalion, The Border Regiment

Oliver Marsden Roscoe was born in Tattenhall, Cheshire, 13th. June 1909.

Border Regiment (4th. Bn., Westmorland and Cumberland).

Service Record

Army Number:            3603999

Date of Birth:              13/6/1909

Date of Enlistment:     12/6/1940, TA (W)

Date of Discharge:      6/12/1942, WIA, Para (XIV) KR 1940.

Home Service:             12/6/1940 – 18/3/1941

Middle East:                19/3/1941 – 30/9/1942

Home Service:             1/10/1942 – 6/11/1942

WIA:                            5/12/1941 (Tobruk breakout battle)

A role in the Middle East

In March 1941, the men of the 4th Battalion, The Border Regiment left on the troopship H.M.T. ‘Orontes’ bound for Suez. Disembarking, they moved to El Quassasin by rail. From there, they went by troop camels up the desert to Sidi Barrani.

After being earmarked for support in General Archibald Wavell’s offensive ‘Battleaxe’ the next departure was for the Syrian campaign. Occupying the village of Kiam in the central sector, the battalion were engaged in patrolling. These patrols included the entering of the Vichy French village of Mergyioun and taking prisoners. During the daylight hours, shelling of the British positions in Raschid-el-Fokkar was continuous. But then at night, the Australian artillery returned the compliment tenfold!

By now part of the 6th British Division, the 4th Battalion of the Border Regiment were moved back to the Western Desert. In October 1941, they were taken by destroyer to Tobruk. Here, the 6th British Division was relieving the Australians who had been besieged there since the previous April and who had inflicted the very first defeat of German arms on land.

During the siege, after being the Western Desert Force the Division became the 70th British Division. It was the only British Division of infantry in the Middle East at the time.

The 4th Borders at Tobruk

Bombing and shelling here in Tobruk became the daily and nightly ‘portion’. But even so, the fighting patrols still went out, many of them at night. There was much suffering but also much success, including the taking of many prisoners.

When the ’breakout’ came, more aggressive raids began, until they were relieved by the Polish Carpathian Division. The whole of the 70th Division became engaged in the fighting on Sidi Rezagh and El Duda. On the retreat of the German / Italian Forces, the 4th Battalion The Border Regiment occupied the airfield of El Adem.

It had been from this airfield of El Adem that the garrison of Tobruk had suffered the attentions of the Luftwaffe dive-bombers almost daily. So, all the units of the 70th Division were glad to take the airfield. The relief of Tobruk, the capture of Sidi Rezegh and the capture of El Adem was thus the second defeat of the German land forces.

At this point I should mention that the 51st Regiment of the Royal Field Artillery, comprising of men from Carlisle and all over Cumberland were present during the whole of the siege. They were highly thought of by the Australian troops and the commander, General Leslie Morshead. So, men from Cumberland and Westmorland were present at both checks on Rommel and the German Afrika Corps!

He was seriously wounded in action in the battle to relieve Tobruk, his hospital ship was torpedoed off Alexandria and but he survived this and was sent to Beirut, St. Goerges Hotel, then in use as a hospital. From there he was evacuated to Durban, South Africa where he recovered from his wounds. He lost the use of his right leg and was discharged as unfit for service in November 1942.

Oliver and Rebecca Helme, marriage, 17 Abril 1933
Rebecca Roscoe (nee Helme)
Oliver with his Daughter Kathleen Mary Roscoe, born 17 November 1936
Rebecca with Kathleen
Kathleen with Colin Palmer (center), her husband to be.
Oliver in 1983
Oliver 1980’s
50th. Wedding Anniversary, 1983.