Friday, July 01, 2005

The water shortage during Compass (December 1940)

A contingency plan for keeping Mersa Matruh supplied if the Italians had succeeded in cutting the supply line allowed the British to supply their troops being gathered for an assault on Bardia. The navy had organized a unit with the sole purpose of keeping Matruh supplied. Now, they were used to bring supplies to the troops in eastern Libya, near Bardia. Sollum would provide a useful port, but at first it was not yet in working order. The greatest problem was the water supply. Fort Capuzzo had storage tanks, but the water was contaminated with salt, so it was unusable. 12,000 gallons were shipped by road from Mersa Matruh. Part of the problem was the 4 gallon can, which would often leak. The navy used the gunboats Aphis and Ladybird, the water-carrier Myriel, and the monitor Terror to bring water forward in sufficient quantities.

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