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I have just come back from Libya, yesterday in fact.
During my trip there I was taken to El Adem and shown the murals on a wall of a cell. I took several photos and wanted to find out more about the artist.
I have attached the pictures for your perusal. They were taken last Saturday night, the 10th. (ed. June 2006)
It appears that it has not been looked after or preserved, after 64 years the mural is showing excessive signs of wear and some abuse, surely a piece of history such as this should be protected in some way so that many more visitors (ed. tourists) can appreciate the skill and passion of the artist, who tragically lost his life in the liberation of this country which houses his creation
I may be going back out there again soon, I will try and get back to El Adem and take more detailed and close-up pictures so that there will be a record kept of this incredible work.
Andrew D J Lamnea
I did two tours at El Adem, the second,sadly cut short by Kadafi. During my first stint we visited the Roman ruins at Cyrene and stayed a night at the villa of the Kings bee keeper, Miss Brittane. What a dear ol soul she was to put up our mob for the night. I remember laying out our sleeping bags etc in pitch darkness on her floors. About a dozen of us. I don't think any of us had a torch and she seemed to be living in darkness.
I have a couple of snaps taken of the property at that time and will turn them out to send you. I vaguely remember one of Miss Brittane and hope it is in my batch, I will make it a priority to find it and post it on. I was a fireman from 62 to 64. Then i/c Safety Equipment 69 to 70. I lived in Tobruk and loved it there. I can be happy anywhere within a stones throw from the sea.
All the best and have a great Xmas and New Year.
I visited the room in May 2009 on a tour of Tobrouk and Sidi Rezegh battlefields.
A Syrian born Italian -based architect was restoring the building and had just uncovered a further mural.
It was quite an historic moment. A lot of effort is being put into restoration, including the opening up of a tunnel out onto the cliff face.
Hello Mr Simmonds
I write to you with reference to the artist J Brill and his artwork in Bardia, Libya. My husband and I lived in Tobruk from 1977 to 1982 and whilst living there heard about the artwork from a local man.
We visited the house and were amazed at the beautiful work and sad that such a talented artist had been held in such awful conditions. For how long we did not know. And did he survive the war years? We also did not know.
That is until tonight, when I found your website and learned that J Brill sadly did not survive the war and died at a very young age. What a terrible loss both to his loved ones and to the world, that such a talent was not allowed to flourish. I was really quite upset and sad to hear that news.
Today my husband and I set out for a drive to Perthshire. En route we came upon an amazing place of which we were completely unaware.
A POW camp just outside the beautiful wee town of Comrie - Camp 21 Cultybraggan. Even luckier, this weekend was Open Doors Day in Perthshire and the camp was open to visitors and tours were available.
We spent a wonderful couple of hours there and learned that the site is now owned by the Comrie Development Trust, who are attempting to make improvements to the camp and broadcast it's existence. A worthwhile task.
Talking to people today who are involved with this project brought back memories of our stay in Libya and of all the war memorabilia we found on walks in the desert and on beaches, visits to the war cemeteries, Remembrance services held there every Remembrance Sunday in November when the British Ambassador came down from Tripoli and stayed with us expats. This then brought to mind J Brill and his artwork and I decided to again look for information on the artist.
Thank you for putting this information on the internet, for putting photographs of his beautiful work there for all to see and for answering my question as to what became of this talented artist. We too have many photographs (somewhere) which we took on our visit to Bardia. I must go look for them.
Thank you for your prompt response to my email.
As per your suggestion, I have read in full the website pages, including the 'update' page, and now understand the full and true story behind the murals, which is quite different from what we had been led to believe.
I still find it incredibly sad that J Brill did not survive the war years and live to paint many more beautiful pictures and the letter his mother wrote was extremely moving. How wonderful it is that she so strongly believes she will be reunited with her son in the afterlife. That has obviously given her a lot of comfort.
I was completely unaware of the 'copy' mural at Derna, or indeed that there was a Community Museum in Derna. For many years myself and some other expat wives used to visit Derna every month, after payday, for shopping, and also to go sit in the telephone exchange for hours on end attempting to get a phone call through to home......... how times have changed! No mobile phones in the 70s.
I also recall how shortly after we arrived in Tobruk in 1977 there was a 'skirmish' between Libya and Egypt and indeed we stood on the balconies of our flats and watched Egyptian fighter planes bombing El Adem airfield, which was over the horizon on the other side of the bay. I remember seeing a Libyan plane flying down the length of Tobruk bay at eye level with us on the 4th level of our block of flats. We could plainly see the pilot in his cockpit. So this was a pretty scary time for us expat wives.
All Libyan males over the age of 15 were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and we were probably more at risk from this than from the Egyptians. Eventually the women, kids and assorted pets were 'evacuated' along the coast to Beida, but the menfolk had to stay behind to keep the oil Refinery operating. During this time we had no contact with our husbands in Tobruk as the telephone lines were disconnected and the television was blacked out. This incident gave us a little insight on how it must have been for our families during the war years and is something I will never forget.
Now, bearing in mind the recent situation in Libya, I am wondering whether you have received any up to date information on the murals. I understand there has been a lot of destruction to war graves in the country, which is terrible. The British and Commonwealth war cemetery outside Tobruk was such a well cared for, calm, serene place and I hate to think what it is perhaps like now. I do hope the murals have survived.
Well I have enjoyed my 'little walk down memory lane' and would welcome any further information you can offer. And, as per your request, I am happy if you wish to publish my emails in your website 'Comments' page.
Briefly, having typed in El Adem and many links later I happened on your web site and there it was the Bardia Masterpiece!
I served from Nov 1960 - Nov 1962 on TASF and perhaps like you being fed up with too much sand in our food, perhaps too much alcohol, the heat and boredom jumped at a trip out to Apollonia, The Derna Pass, Bardia,The Roman site at Cyrenia and Benghazi.
Like you I had no particular leaning towards art but was so surprised to see such an accomplished work on the wall of a vacant building in such an out of the way place! (eat your heart out Banksy!) Until today I have often wondered about it's history. Such a sad ending though, but he lives on thanks to you and all those that have gazed at it over the years.
I will pass on your web site to my friends who also served, who knows you get some more emails.
Have enclosed a few memories of El Adem do with them as you will, who knows they may trigger a response.....that's me on the image with "GENT" on the door which is pure coincidence! Were we really that young then how time flies!
Best Regards.....Jim (Downes)
Copied from El Adem section, for pics see here