Reminiscent of a gangster hold-up, the capture in Libya of Lieut.-Gen. Sir Richard O'Connor and Maj.-Gen. Philip Neame, V.C. on 6 April 1941, was carried out by German motor cycle troops who had pushed on towards the coast from Mechili in the moonlight, and who whisked the officers away from a British convoy.
STAFF cars bearing Gen. Neame, Gen. O'Connor, and three senior staff officers were travelling to new headquarters. They did not follow the main Derna road, on which demolition work was in progress, but took a desert by pass, where they came on a stationary British convoy. The staff cars were attempting thread a passage through the convoy when a German patrol on motor cycles, coming from Mechili, in the moonlight took the officers' staff cars by surprise.
A British soldier eyewitness says that a Germany soldier, armed with a tommy gun, approached the stationary staff cars, and ordered the generals to alight.
A Tommy nearby challenged the German, who shot him. Where upon another Tommy shot the German gunman.
By the time the situation was realised the Germans had carried off the generals.
The incredibly bad luck of the capture is shown by the fact that another staff car, with the generals’ aides-de camp, remained on the main Derna road, and reached headquarters safely.
Maj.-Gen. M. D. Gambier-Parry, the other senior, officer missing, on 7 april 1941, was taken prisoner together with Brigadier Vaughan during the battle of El Mechili.