All right, here it goes
I accept the Almasy diary to be authentic and correct, for the following reasons:
It was found by allied intelligence after the War in Austria, and a raw translation was sent to Bagnold as he was referred to in the text. I have a copy of this original version, together with the cover letters from the intelligence officer and MI8. (This contradicts several sources which say that the diary was among documents captured during the war.)
The text is definitely Almasy's. I've translated his writings, am familiar with the style, there is no doubt.
There is much corrobating evidence: Eppler & Stansteade (though Eppler tends to colour the story, and come up with a different version each time, but still the basics are correct), the capture of Almasy's enigma messages (which match exactly the messages referred to in the diary), the photographs taken by one of the german soldiers of the party (located by Michael Rolke), etc.
The geography described matches perfectly my knowledge of the terrain, never found any discrepancies.
If we accept the diary to be correct, then the possible locations for the 'robbers camp' are pretty much narrowed down:
On their way coming and going, the party passed through 'Bab al Misr', the gates of Egypt, which can be one of two places:
Either the single passable defile in the row of foothills leading into the big sandy bay of 'mushroom rock', or the northern end of the bay where a narrow valley continues north, eventually ascending to the black shingle plateau Almasy refers to (both on the convoy tracks, about 4-5 kms apart).
The morning after making camp on the way out, they visit Wadi Sora - so the camping spot must be between Bab al Misr and Wadi Sora, somewhere along the edge of the foothills.
On the return journey, Almasy explicitely mentions that Bab al Misr is 20 km from the camp. With a few kms uncertainty this places the campsite in the close vicinity of Wadi Sora.
The Wadi Anag Almasy refers to is the wadi north of wadi Sora with Clayton's Giraffe rock, where Almasy found further engravings in 1933 spring (and camped at it's entrance, in a closed rocky bay, as attested by the Italian newspaper from Kufra found there). This spot neatly fits Almasy's description of the 'robbers camp' too - and we know that Almasy (like ourselves) had the habit of returning to old camp spots.
There is one major contradiction to this, but I think explainable:
One of the above mentioned photos show a 'camp at the foot of the Gilf', which does not match the mentioned place. However to me the photo only seems to show cars parked at the foot of the cliffs (which apear to be the wadi next towards wadi sora), but camp is not yet made. It would have been a few hundred metres more to the spot I'm referring to.
For me the all overriding proof is the mentioned cigarette tins, which are definitely german army ration issue, and the tins with german labels. The campsite is hard to decypher, as it was also apparently used by convoy drivers later. Unfortunately sometime after october 2002 it was thoroughly looted, all of the better preserved things (including the hidden italian newspaper) are gone.
The fact that there are no german petrol cannisters is no contradiction - there was much care taken to camouflage the cars to look as british as possible, while retaining the faint german markings so in case of capture they would not be shot on the spot. I'd assume that they would have used captured british tinned petrol rather than the heavyer german jerrycans.
Given all above, I'm reasonably convinced that we have located the spot of the 'robber'scamp'. If it was not there, the only alternative location could have been some adjacent defile in the Wadi Sora promontory. In the diary Almasy mentions keeping a watch on convoys coming from 'three castles' just outside the camp, and then driving in a 'deep rain gully' away. If the camp were further north, it would have been impossible to sight the way towards three castles, and the only deep gully runs along the west side of the promontory.
The whole Wadi Sora area had been searched on foot by many (including ourselves), I'm sure nothing the size of an abandoned car would have been left unsoptted.
Why is it not there ? There was an extensive search for Almasy based on the decyphered radio messages, but unknown to the Brits, weeks too late (there was a good two week lag in decoding the messages). The search itself is well documented, though there are no field reports attached, I assume because once it was established that Almasy evaded capture, HQME became uninterested (this was the time of Rommel's main advance, let's not forget). The car may well have been found, and pressed into convoy service, as the SDF was desperately short on vehicles for the Kufra supply convoys.
Of course if one ventures away from the well known spots, any number of things may be left to be discovered - I just dont think Purzel will be one of them (by the way, I'm keeping my fingers crossed to be proven wrong
PS: for those of you wondering what the discussion is all about, in 1942 Almasy transported two german agents accross the desert into Egypt, then returned the same way (leaving one of the cars, Purzel, behind). The diary was published in german in the latest re-edition of Almasy's writings, but is not available in english in published form.
[This message has been edited by andrasz (edited 02 July 2004).]