Colin F. Jones

THE ROAD TO KEREN
(Western Front – 1941)

Subedar Richpal Ram, V.C., 4/6 Rajputana Rifles
Subedar Richpal Ram, V.C.
4/6 Rajputana Rifles
~ 1 ~

Skinners Horse scouted down Ascidera Valley,
At the southern bend near the gorge to rally.
The Italian rear-guard set bombs to explode,
Destroying the retaining walls along the road,
They set up machine guns and anti tank guns,
Behind giant boulders they were doing their sums
“The Eritrean Fortress was bolted and barred”
To march on to Keren was going to be hard.
But the orders were to take Keren then on to Asmara,
Through the Dongolaas Gorge on a desperate tomorrow.
So the heights were attacked with gains and great costs,
The Punjabis Knew the battle for Cameron Ridge was lost.
The Italian Savoy Grenadiers were cunning and brave,
Fighting grimly their ridge top positions to save.

~ 2 ~

The names given to the hillocks in between told the tale,
Like Bloody Hell Hollow and Pinnacle a high vale.
The second attack was as bloody as the first,
And again was a failure and their losses were worse.
So the advance was halted against the Italian lines,
To rethink the strategy as such an experience defines.
Water holes were bored; wells found and cleared,
Mountain tracks widened the Tank troopers cheered.
Generators were installed sterilization and ice,
Old machines were collected and every device,
Trucks recovered and serviced and filled up with gas
Stone walls erected along approaches to the pass,
The rail line was fixed and wide axels were installed,
Into lorries that the rail trucks of provisions were hauled.

Author’s Note: In this battle Subadar Richpal Ram, a Jat from from Patiala State, earned the first of four VC’s won by the 1st Indian Division, one of which went to the 4th/6th Rajputana Rifles