03.18.13 4:00 PM ET
South Africa's Soldier-Cricketer Bob Crisp
The wonderful story of the RAF pilot photographed in mid-haircut inspired Twitter follower @saileshkrish to forward this March 5 story from the Guardian about the extraordinary life of the South African cricketer Bob Crisp, whose wartime heroics were (if possible) nothing close to the most amazing chapters of his life.
Crisp had three tanks blown up underneath him, hijacked a New Zealand officers' Mess lorry, and shot down a low-flying German Heinkel bomber with a burst from his machine gun while it was in the middle of a strafing run. The beating he took seemed to fuel his thirst for action. He found it at the battle to lift the German siege of Tobruk, where he fought continuously for 14 days, on an average of 90 minutes sleep a night. He won his DSO at Sidi Rezegh, where he led his tank in a single-handed charge across an airfield that temporarily checked an advance of 70 German Panzers. …
After the attack on Sidi Rezegh, Crisp seemed to catch a fever for fighting. The next day, stranded on foot, he commandeered a signals tank whose crew had "never even fired their gun before", let alone been in battle. Crisp hauled their officer out of his turret, and with a cry of "Driver advance! Gunner, get that bloody cannon loaded!" led them in a surprise attack on a group of German anti-tank guns. Afterwards the driver was so shell-shocked by this startling turn of events that he started running around in small circles with a wild look on his face. The poor chap hadn't the faintest idea where he was or what he was doing." Crisp cured him with a "tremendous kick up the backside".
The battle at Sidi Rezegh nearly cost Crisp his life.
Shell shrapnel hit his head. As he lay crumpled at the foot of his turret, Crisp felt "beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was going to die. The darkness I was sinking in to was the darkness of the grave. Strangest of all, I didn't care a damn. As I went out into eternal darkness the last thought I had was … death is easy." He survived, thanks only, he was told by the gynaecologist who performed emergency surgery on him, "to the good thick bit of skull" that the metal hit. …
He survived and was awarded the Military Cross.
He was presented with it by King George VI, who asked him if his cricket career would be affected by the wound. "No sire," Crisp replied. "I was only hit in the head."