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Private Papers of H H Kassman – Two Airgraphs from Kassman to Mother, Excerpt from Book by Kenneth Rankin, May 3, 1941




בריטניה, טוברוק, לוב, סקוטלנד


H. Henry Kassman, Kenneth Rankin, Rudolf Hess


הצבא הבריטי


Imperial War Museum (IWM)

Folder Number:

Gunner HH Kassman 1-6.1941


Two airgraphs from Gunner H. Henry Kassman to his mother, and a book excerpt (diary entry), from within a file of Kassman’s correspondence between 1941-1943 compiled by his daughter in 2010. File’s contents are primarily typed letters and other correspondence, occasionally reproduced (often in addition to the typed version), and also include photographs, diary entries from Kenneth Rankin’s book Top-Hats in Tobruk, some other written materials, and some explanatory material. For further information, please see the folder summary. For all posts about this collection, please click on the “H. Henry Kassman” tag in this post.

Top-Hats in Tobruk by Kenneth Rankin is a published version of the author’s diary from his time in Tobruk while serving as an officer in the 152 HAA Battery, 51st HAA Regiment RA during World War II. The titular top hat was the Battery’s insignia. Excerpts from this book were likely chosen for inclusion in this file due to Kassman’s having been in 153 Battery (and later 152 Battery as well), in order to round out and give additional context to the events described in his correspondence.

Page 20: An airgraph from Kassman to his mother, including a scan of the original. This was Kassman’s first use of this new air-mail system, which was supposed to be delivered seven days after being written. Per his mother’s note, it arrived approximately a month later (30/4/1941, received 1/6/1941). Kassman writes that he has received February 14th‘s Manchester Guardian (around when Benghazi fell), and is pleased to have it despite the news in it being “rather ironic” to read.

Page 21: An excerpt from Top-Hats in Tobruk by Kenneth Rankin (152 Battery – Kassman was in 153 Battery at this point), part of the entry for May 3, 1941. Rankin describes waking up to battle. Describes alarms, military events, actions taken. “Encouraging rumours persisted; an advancing army of ours said to be coming up from Sollum.” “Quite a few of our boys” returned from being hospitalized – “mostly cases of shell shock, who were more subject to bombings and loud bangs in the hospital than they would have been on the gun site.” They were told stories by one of them (Tom C.). They visited the hospital to see the remaining fifteen or so injured of theirs. Hospital described as a “tragic place”: “[…] battered and bashed to glory, and the mere sight of it made you wish to get out quickly.” Patients were repeatedly disturbed by bombings and gunfire. “Cases of nerves all over the hospital, and we felt everyone would get nerves after a few days there.” Hospital was located close to the docks, hence the inevitability of bombing.

Airgraph: Kassman to mother. Mentions received mail. Kassman was given a Fellowship Certificate, seemingly from the Institute of Actuaries, mentioned in their year book of 1940/1. Very few from this institute were serving, it seems – the President said it was unique, and Kassman notes that he is still more or less unique.

Mentions they have heard Hess [Nazi leader, Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess] landed in Scotland [on a self-proclaimed peace mission, on May 10th]. Alec (Kassman’s brother) thinks it might be “a new Trojan Horse.” Both are well. The camp site has been temporarily changed and allows swimming every day, so long as there are no sandstorms. Airgraph is from May 14, 1941.


2 pages typed, including scan of an original document (airgraph, handwritten). Dated April 30, May 3, and May 14, 1941.

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