Forgotten black World War 2 hero sank German ship with bomb made from milk can
A campaign has been launched to honour a forgotten black Second World War hero who was denied a Victoria Cross by South Africa.
Job Maseko served with the Allies against Rommel’s troops in North Africa and later sank a German ship with a bomb he made from a can of milk.
The former miner was in the Native Military Corps in the 2nd South African Division earned less than white troops who racially abused him.
Job was captured and tortured by German and Italian troops after Tobruk fell to the Germans in June 1942.
The PoW was later detailed to offload ships laden with military hardware.
Bill Gillespie, of Milverton, Somerset, who is one of the campaigners, said Job created the bomb using a condensed milk tin, cordite and a long fuse.
It is believed the ship sank quickly after the device was placed deep in the hold.
Bill said: “He lit the fuse and ran to join his friends on the dock. A few hours later there was an almighty explosion.
“It is anyone’s guess but this small act by a very brave man could have assisted in the decisive Allied victory by Montgomery’s troops three months later.”
As a member of the Native Military Corps, Job would have been armed with a traditional spear while guarding military bases or PoWs.
By 1941, due to manpower shortages black soldiers’ roles were increased to transport drivers, medic and office roles.
Job and other black colleagues were eventually given rifles and ordered to fight on the frontline despite a lack of ammunition and training.
Job later escaped from the Italian PoW camp in Tobruk and walked for three weeks though the desert and enemy lines to El Alamein.
In 1942 he became a stretcher bearer with the 1st South African Infantry Division in the Second Battle of El Alamein and attained the rank of lance corporal during his service.
British generals had nominated Job for a VC but his South African commanders found the idea alarming.
Instead he was awarded the Military Medal, the lowest honour at the time, for “ingenuity, determination and complete disregard of personal safety”.
Job was given a reduced pension because of his colour and died a pauper after being struck by a train in 1952.
Bill said he is starting a petition for him to be posthumously awarded the VC.
He added: “I hate injustice of any sort. I think this incident requires addressing.”
In his honour, the township of KwaThema near Springs has a primary school named after Job.
In 1997 the South African Navy renamed the missile attack craft SAS Kobie Coetzee as SAS Job Masego.
A documentary about the soldier and his army division called A Pair of Boots and a Bicycle was aired 10 years later.
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