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Extract From John Campbell’s War Diaries

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Extract From John Campbell’s War Diaries

Note from the transcriber:

John’s original WW2 diaries are pocket sized, the pages measuring around 75mm x 125mm and lines spaced around 5mm apart. They have been mostly written using a fountain pen and there are many abbreviations to save space. I have attempted to transcribe the diaries as accurately as possible, keeping the spelling, grammar and punctuation true to the original. (John was not big on using full stops or apostrophes.) I have tried to clarify with John any words that I found illegible or did not make sense as well as checking any names and places that would help to give meaning to the reader. I have added footnotes to explain some of these things.

According to John, Australian soldiers were discouraged from keeping personal diaries as information contained in them could potentially help the enemy if they fell into their hands. John was not the only Aussie soldier to keep a diary anyway but he tried to make sure it did not include details about Allied operations that could assist the enemy.

Ian Campbell, 15th January 2020

1941 Thursday Jan. 30

This morning was a very busy one, packing up our gear ready to disembark at Haifa which was sighted at 8.30 and anchored in the harbour at 10. Our packing however was useless, as after loading ourselves up with all our kit like a packhorse and standing on the deck for 2 hours we were dismissed and will now disembark tomorrow. Haifa is a very modern city, this new section being built since 1918 and is situated on the slope of a steep range of hills running down to the sea. Buildings are very thick up half way + from there thin out, they all appear to be much the same design and are all light colors mainly yellow. After leaving Port Said last night there were only the “Dilwara” + “Devonshire” escorted by a destroyer. Where the others have gone to I don’t know. Heard this afternoon Huns bombed El Cantara + Ismailia1 last night also Pt Said we just got away in time.

1941 Friday Jan. 31

At 9.30 were all packed up again and on deck waiting to disembark which was finally accomplished at 11.30. We had a lunch consisting of 4 hard biscuits + cheese which was really enjoyable later on our trip. The gangway from the ship to the wharf was very steep but was negotiated safely but very slowly by all. We were lined up on the road and marched to the train, only a few yards away where we climbed up Bob + I getting window seats. Were given a bun and orange here which was thoroughly enjoyed espec the orange which was a big juicy one. The train pulled out about 1 pm and travelling through the city of Haifa I could see it was not quite as good as from the distance as the building were yellow mud and had collapsed in a numerous cases. Camels + donkeys etc were very prevalent. From the train could see a ship which had Jewish refugees on and which was blown up by a time bomb while it was anchored. Many bodies were still in the ship which was on its side. After a 5 hrs train journey arrived at El Mad Jal2 where we loaded into trucks and taken to Khassa (4 miles) which is our camp. Country we travelled through was absolutely covered in orange groves bearing luscious fruit, which we are told is liable to give one a bad stomach ache as there are germs in the skin. Had a good tea of stew + bread and retired to the tent for the night to sleep on straw paliases again. The country is devoid of trees but looks very fertile for oranges. There is plenty of grass. The camp is situated between hills.

1941 Saturday Feb. 1

Reveille 6.30 + it was quite dark so I stopped in bed until breakfast 7.30, when I arose quite a wonderful sight greeted me tents were visible for miles around different camps are situated all around for miles there must be thousands of troops around. First thing we were shifted to another tent and sub-sections are sleeping together although there is only 6 in this tent where there are usually 8 We were then issued with some beds which are alright as long as they are staked up otherwise in a few nights they will collapse. I staked mine up well, made the bed and it looked OK. Sea is visible about five ml away I hope we will be able to get there sometime when on leave. Comforts are not at this camp. Washing is done in cold water of which there is very little shaving the same and the razors rasped a bit. Received mail today 9 letters and were they appreciated 2 from Lo, 2 from home + 4 from Mrs Sullivan It took quite a while to read them all. Daylight is very short from 7 AM till 6.30 pm after that is black out so there is very little time for writing during the day as there is little spare time.

1941 Sunday Feb. 2

Sunday but it has today been just like any other day as we have been camoflaging our tent by plastering the mud all over the fly and digging a slit trench to each tent 3’ wide and deep about 10’ long. At 9.30 this morning we were taken to RHQ3 where our money was changed to Palestine notes + coinage. I changed about [£8?] Aust. All the afternoon I was trying to get a letter written home but would just open the pad up when we would get called on parade so have had a difficult time but managed to finish with the light of a lantern which went out just as I finished I will now have to scrounge some Kero4 from somewhere. The other 5 boys are all on guard + sentry duty tonight so I will have a lonely night tonight. The Arabs are very clever thieves last night the stole 14 Rifles the blanket from over a few boys and the tent over their head without waking anyone or being seen by any of the guards which is a good performance. Any Arab seen near the camp after 7 at night can be shot at sight it only costs the shooter 10/-5 to bury him if he is shot stealing it costs nothing. I believe a lot are spies.

1941 Monday Feb. 3

Another day in Palestine which this morning brought me another 2 letter 1 from home and 1 from Mrs Sullivan. Yesterday went for a route march along the main road through a village it was entirely made of mud walls with thick mud + grass walls the grass growing greenly making a lawn on top of all the houses from the distance the buildings blend in with the countryside very well. There seem to be 100s of Arabs living there + it is alive with children. No’s of girls only looking about 10 – 12 carting babies around just about as big as themselves just in one arm and running full tilt around corners etc, there must be a few killed that way. Prickly pear forms a big part of their fences it grows up to 8’ high and makes a very effective fence. The people as a whole are very ragged and dirty clothes being patched all over until the original has prac6 disappeared. Believe Uncle Bert + Uncle Les are somewhere in the vicinity. The camp is a hive of activity with Arabs + Jews laying water pipes, building, etc. Camels, donkeys etc are moving around all the time. Last night while on guard Eric Harrower noticed one man digging away after others had knocked off so asked for his pass he did not have one so Eric gave him a good thump in the tail with his rifle butt + Arab scooted off as hard as he could. He was evidently spying out the land.

1941 Monday Feb.


12 AM + I woke up bitterly cold, the wind coming in gusts through 7 blankets, it was also raining and the top blanket was quite wet. However I did not move until 2.45 when we shipped a sea over the rail, which lifted me off the deck and let me down again, leaving everything wet including my uniform. Bob + I hopped out wrapped a blanket around ourselves and got into a corner out of the wind where we took stock. One blanket of each of us was ringing wet. The others damp in places but not too bad then my uniform soaked. Leaving the wet blanket in a corner and hanging the uniform near the engine room we went below where Bob decided to be ill as the boat was tossing a lot. He came up, after feeding the whales we could see the funny side and had a laugh so went below found a corner each and with over coat for covering went to sleep till 6.30 when found uniform dry. Blankets are still wet in a corner. Spent a cold morning on deck. Bob feeding whales at irregular times, me managing to cling on. The boat was rolling horribly. At 12 sighted Tobruk and anchored at 12.30 Had good dinner + feel good but cold now. This land seems barren and bleak, the town appears to be deserted but there is quite a bit of shipping in the harbour. We were supposed to land this morning but it is now 4 pm and nothing has happened, evidently tomorrow is the day. Slept below tonight and took no risks, just slept in our clothes with O’coat as blanket.

1941 Tuesday Feb.


Up anchored this morning and went into the harbour where I saw much damage. The tops of four ships showing through the water and two beached. Another was burning at the shore while another had a wrecked stern the story of the last two is this. Germans had dropped 7 mines a few days before and the oil tanker (the burning ship) coming in harbour struck one it caught fire and while going for the shore swung around and struck the “Rome” and wrecks the stern. There were about 6 naval vessels in port too. Throughout the day large loads of Iti prisoners were taken out to a ship evidently going to an internment camp. In the water were numerous cases of oranges some cases broken and oranges floating round one Iti7 was hanging on to the side and picking them up he got a bit wet doing so. During the day nothing happened on the Warsaw regarding disembarkment. Iron rations Bully beef + biscuits mainly, which had been our tucker since leaving Khassa was getting rather boring and Bob + I going to the deck above the galley found a sky light into it , getting our plates pointing to dinner on stove the Polish cook understood and gave us two dinners which were delicious. Veal roasted, potatoes + macaroni. We then brought blankets up for the night to that deck + had no sooner done so when orders came to disembark. It was a lightening disembarkation and were off in about ½ hr. While waiting on lighter the man in charge of the tug told us of an incident caused by the mines mentioned before. A lighter with 50 Tommies going on leave mainly +150 Iti prisoners struck a mine only 4 It is survived The Tommies had been in the desert since 1936. We stepped ashore in Tobruk at 8 and sat down for a while when kit bags and blankets were taken from us and remainder of equipment marched 4 miles over rough stony ground. Tobruk seemed dead, no civil life at all, while the buildings were all knocked about. Passing through the town passed a big concrete pill box. Once into the open could see things all around it was a brilliant moonlit night passed a burnt tank first and a couple of rock and concrete forts nearing our destination came to dozens of cars all burnt and wrecked by the Itis. Came to our camp at 12 where had to wait for blankets then turned in under the stars and slept on rocks. ARIVED TOBRUK 20 DAYS AFTER CAPTURED8

1941 Monday Feb.


This morning we have the dry shoot with the Breda on the beach. Our first job was the cleaning of papers etc from around the camp and we then wandered down to the beach where Bob + I basked in the sunshine for a few hours watching the guns being manned by Freddie Troop. These guns just rattle the shells off in no time and the tracers could be seen flying in the air. After lunch Don Troop fired I being No 1. for my detachment. It was not too bad at all, there is very little time to think at all. I also had a tray of 12 shells which seemed to go in a split second as they do, they can fire 220 rounds a minute. The experience was very good and I am looking forward to more perhaps in the real thing. After it was all over Bob + I indulged a swim. This evening B + I visited out food supply. While going over AA started off. Breda’s tracers flashed up from all around and we seemed in the middle of things. The plane came right across us seemingly a little sick. Heard a few bombs drop.

Believe a cruiser sunk + Bakery hit. Three planes down. It was a wonderful experience we got down behind a box away from schrapnel and watched it all. Hundreds of 3.7’s were fired also 100’s of Breda’s.

1941 Monday April 7

At 6.40 this morning while still in bed had a phone call from Wilbur telling us to be ready to move as soon as the trucks arrived The evacuation of El Adem had started. [?] left early in the morning. We were all packed up in a hurry and the truck arrived at 7.30. Packing was done in a hurry and two guns crews had to go on the one truck. Whit’s + I. There was a terrific load and all could not be taken in the one trip so two had to be made. It was a very rough trip on top of all the baggage but it was only a short trip to Tobruk. After a deal of messing around I at last got a position near the end of the left point of the harbour it is a good position near good billets with a battery horn from pit to quarters altogether the best position of the lot I think as we are right on the sea

1941 Tuesday April 8

Spent today cleaning the gun, + ammo + fixing the pit up properly. Had a great swim in the sea it was very enjoyable indeed. A quiet afternoon on the whole spent in reading a few letters which arrived per Mr Barry. One letter from Lois telling me she was recuperating but as yet I dont know what from. But I do hope my dear you are quite alright now.

1941 Wednesday April 9

A very pleasant day, the first since I have been here. The gun is in a great position up fairly high with a concrete floor and we are all satisfied. Mounted air sentries during the night and day I wrote letters for the best part of the day. Were called out early in the evening and had an air raid. The majority of bombs dropped on our point, a couple 120 yds away another about 15 yds they certainly go off with a bang. When we heard the whistle of the bombs dropping we all grovelled in the bottom of the pit as you cannot tell where they are going to land. They all sound as if they are coming right for you. About thirty bombs were dropped but little damage done. This was our first real experience of an air raid it was quite thrilling

1941 Thursday April 10

A very pleasant day spent near the gun pit I had a swim this morning as I do every morning since arriving here, the sea bathing is really good after the desert. This afternoon the dirty dogs of Huns dive bombed the hospital killing 31 including two doctors. These Huns are inhuman. Were called out tonight and an “Iti” I think it was bombed from very high. His bombs dropped in the sea so did no damage. The patients in the hosp were shaking like a leaf hearing the plane about. The first raid had unnerved them completely. Did not fire as he was too high.

1941 Friday April 11 (Good Friday)

Good Friday and while they are having easter eggs at home, I am in the middle of a dive bombing raid. At lunch time today eight or nine Junkers came diving down out of the sun. Bob was absent at the time giving way to nature so Eric took the chair and did not do too well. Bob bounded in near the end and let two trays off and think we got a plane. Wilbur put in a claim for it. Later in the afternoon had another raid We are now getting quite used to them. All day today we have been standing by the gun just in case of a quick raid, that was why we were so quick on the first raid this morning but it was tough luck Bob being absent.

1941 Saturday April 12

A very dirty day and instead of practically living on the gun as we did yesterday just left the sentry on. Just about 11 had an air raid warning so dashed out to mann the gun, nothing happened however we could see nothing so just sat round the gun for a while talking. Ten minutes later we heard engines coming from the sea but could see nothing owing to the dust, suddenly out loomed six or seven Junkers well in our range so immediately opened up on the leader. All planes veered off and gave us a wonder full view of their under side so let them have it. Fired at three planes and three came down, Hurricanes got one and reckon we got other two – One came down in sea and the other on the beach It was really exciting while it lasted and we fired off 100 rounds. The two Jerrys were captured before they had time to destroy the plane. At three this afternoon were told to be ready to move so packed all our gear and a Tommy crew took over the gun. I had a cable made out and it was going this afternoon but was not able to get it into Tobruk owing to that move.

1941 Sunday April 13 (Easter Day)

Up at 0645 and without preamble had to pack all our gear on to the truck Sgt Hepworth’s gear had to go on too so there was not much room by the time 12 men had boarded. We had to go to Fort Palestino which was about 10 miles from Tobruk, when we arrived there my position was on the hill in the wide open spaces. There was only a very shallow trench, that was the only thing about so we dug that a bit deeper and with ammo boxes made a lean to to, to shelter us from the dust. On checking over the gun found that it would not fire so Slick is going to get a new body tomorrow. All told we had a fairly busy day getting things in order and only ate very little. The ration of water is ½ gall per man per day so a wash is going to be a luxury, drinking comes first. There are such a lot of troops in the area that water may be scarce if wasted. The front line of infantry is just three miles ahead of us so we are right in the middle of things now. Tobruk is now cut off by land as Bardia has fallen and also Jerry is inbetween us + Derna so we must fight. The sea is our only chance of getting away if we have to. But we wont!

1941 Monday April 14 (Easter Monday)

At three this morning Lieut came round + said a push by Jerry was expected so we were on our toes. At 6 he came around again and said the push had begun and there was a possibility a few tanks may break through. We watched dozens of our tanks go forward it was a great sight At 7.15 something we wanted to see began, an aerial battle. Five Jerries came over first and Hurricanes + Ac Ac fire were into them. More Jerries arrived and nearly together one Hurricane + 3 Junkers came down near each other. One Hurricane had just brought down two Jerries when another four came on his tail and he crashed in a steep dive. Another Hurricane was forced down by two Jerries after getting one he flew about twenty feet from the ground from side to side to evade machine gunning. While all this was in progress seeing as we had no gun, we gave Hepworth a hand in spotting and carting ammo from our post to his. In the midst of it all Bob + I shared a tin of pineapple for breakfast. In the afternoon a Hurricane was shot down and dived into the ground at a terrific speed bursting into flame and smoke. They also bombed the hospital ship in the harbour and damaged it I dont know if there are any casualties Altogether 15 Huns were brought down and [?] Hurricanes

1941 Tuesday April 15 (Easter Tuesday)

Another day is here again but this time a very pleasant one, there is no dust and it is going to be hot. I did not feel too good this morning so layed down and slept for an hour or so, I sweated a good deal and felt much better after that. The boys finished the pit and put the gun in position while I slept , they are certainly a bonza lot of chaps. The Artillery 25 pdrs moved forward a mile this afternoon + started to slather Jerry so Jerry replied and for a while he dropped shells all around us. Once heard a shell coming so dropped to the ground + grovelled in the dirt, three landed in a line some hundreds of yards away. That was our first experience of shelling. At 10 tonight there was a great rattle of fire but have not as yet been able to find what it was. This morning a Jerry could not be seen + found him 5 miles back, he had set a trap for us to advance but we did not bite.

1941 Wednesday April 16

Had a very good nights rest apart from having to do the two hours duty. While doing these hours I have seen and heard many things which seem to be inexplicable such as flares dropping loud bangs and verey lights but daresay they all have a meaning. Had to get up to a dust storm this morning and it was certainly blowing cold as well as dusty. Put a tin of water on and made tea heated bacon + beans and had a reasonably good breakfast in the close confines of my low hut. Storm abated a bit and I had a shave, first for five days and a wash in a plate of water second for four days. I must try + wash my feet later. At present an artillery duel is going on and shells are landing not very far away.

1941 Thursday April 17

Woke again this morning to greet another dusty storm every day seems to be windy and dusty here. Spent the morning cleaning ammo and reading Very little seems to be doing today. Artillery has moved forward 2 miles. Heard this morning 800 Itis had marched to our lines during the night and gave themselves up. Jerry machine gunned them killing 50. Had a raid by Junkers 87’s this afternoon 23 of them dive bombed round about after firing 2 trays my gun had the usual stoppage, the rotten thing, these were some wonderful targets if only we could have fired. No bombs landed near us but a big fire was started some miles out. This afternoon pulled my bedding out of the hut and cleaned the dirt out. We were told to stand to this evening with water bottles, haversack + respirator as Jerry tanks had broken through our lines and 400 infantry were coming through after them. Our tanks went forward just about dusk to clean them up and our infantry are waiting too

1941 Friday April 18

Your birthday Lois, how I wish I was home to see you again. I hope you are quite recovered and able to enjoy your birthday dear. Today has been a reasonably fine day with not a great deal of dust to spoil it. I spent the day writing and reading This afternoon Slick fixed the gun she now fires like a lady thank the Lord. Artillery has been pounding away all day they evidently have found something. This evening a truck arrived with two drivers Sid + Jack, they are Pommy Service chaps and are standing by us now in case we have to move. Hear Colonel Connor who was captured by Jerries at Derna escaped dressed as a Wog woman and walked to Tobruk along the coast in five days, 150 miles. The battle ship Ramillies is now standing by off the Coast and has been shelling Jerries lines the gun flashes can be seen at night.

1941 Saturday April 19

At 5 this morning had an Air raid on Tobruk. Dozens of flares were dropped + everything even out here was practically bright as day , there seemed to be a lot of planes, raid lasted 1 hour but heard very few bombs drop. This morning has been fairly quiet only a little artillery fire has been done and a few shells have been sent over by Jerry.

1941 Sunday April 20

Awoke this morning to the patter of rain on the canvas roof. I rained nearly all day and was quite wet. Spent day indoors writing and reading Nothing else of any importance occurred.

1941 Monday April 21

Early after breakfast this morning pulled our hut down to air and clean it when it was all at pieces along came a relieving a gun crew to take over for the day, we were going to the seaside for the day to have a bath and clean up also took a little dirty washing. After hurrying to put our hut together had to wait for some time for the remainder of the troop. Went down near our old Waddi got there about 11 + had a swim afterwards washing my clothes not a very good job resulted. However things are cleaner and I am too. After the swim layed on the beach reading. During the day watched a dog fight high up in the clouds it was all very indistinct. Came back here at 4.30 and hoed into a big tea and hope to sleep the sleep of the just. Today is my birthday PW Stokes9 must have known and given me a holiday. Bob presented me with a chocolate.

1941 Tuesday April 22

A strict stand to was held from 6 AM to 8 AM and a lovely was forthcoming. About 6.30 a shell from Enemy Art10 came over and brought Bob + Eric out fast. For some time after that shells came over thick + fast landing only 200 yds away, quite close enough for me. Butler had one land next to their hut We could hear the whistle and all grovelled on floor of pit every shell sounded close and then the burst would come occasionally shrapnel landed all round the pit. The glass in cabin of Wilburs truck was smashed also tyre punctured + many holes in metal work. About 300 yds away two Queenslanders were killed + one injured Further down the valley three Aussies were killed. Later in the morning 5 Ju + 4 Me11 followed along our lines doing low level bombing and machine gunning, they did that three times Unfortunately they were too far away for us Later a Me came over, fired a tray + had a stoppage During the day we got five enemy and lost three Hurricanes Saw and heard many dog fights which were most interesting.

1941 Wednesday April 23

A nice day as has been lately with three lots of action but we did not do any good as we had quite a few stoppages. Spent day in putting more bags around pit and writing letters home. How I wish I was home I have read the letters I got yesterday over + over again. it would be lovely to be home.

1941 Thursday April 24

Early this morning the enemy Art were at it again but this time lobbed the shells much closer to us some only 100 yds away We all grovelled in the dirt. Had a lot of schrap land around us Dick had two holes made in his leather coat which was on the top of the pit. Had a very quiet morning only one or two rec12 planes over. About 5.15 this evening just as we were about to have tea heard a roar coming. At a good height 27 Jerrys went over Junkers + Me. + Bombed Tobruk A tremendous haze of dust + smoke was raised by the bombs dropped but after it cleared away no fires were going. 2 planes were brought down by heavy AA fire. They were too far away for us worse luck. All day Art. has been pounding away and now 8 PM is still going strong.

1941 Friday April 25

Anzac day at home where everything will be a close holiday but just another day to us here. We all I think had our own thoughts on the subject. Saw a number of enemy planes but only opened up on one lot + they were extreme range. 7 Bomber + 4 fighters passed overhead in morning for Tobruk but did not drop bombs. Later a few bombs were dropped over toward our Art. lines dashed to gun and opened on 7 Bombers at extreme range. Later in the day heard planes manned gun + five bombers went over too high did not drop bombs. Just as they had gone we were sitting in pit when two German Shells landed a 100 yds away. For a few minutes had quite a hectic time grovelling on the bottom of the pit Shrapnel was landing all around. One bit hit sandbags and dropped into pit near Dick. We were all OK though. Heard that two chaps copped it, one was blinded in both eyes. Such is war you can never tell when you are going to get it next Just like these chaps walking around full of life one moment, the next killed or blinded for life, But I suppose that is war. It is a utterly stupid thing; War I wish all this could be settled without it.

1941 Saturday April 26

Just at breakfast time this morning the dust began to blow and it certainly did blow, it has been the thickest today that I have ever seen it or ever want to see it. It was impossible to see past 5 yards away. It was very hot in under the canvas but worse out side in the dust. I lay in a sweat all day from 8.30 until 5 + was only outside for one hour. Did not bother having dinner it was too dusty and nobody felt at all inclined to move. Spent a rotten afternoon on my bed reading and did not at all feel inclined for tea only had a little pres. fruit + cup of tea. The dust which had been coming from the South now stopped + we had a few minutes break but not for long as I saw a big black cloud of dust coming back from the north and we got all the dust back again. Did not feel too well so I went to bed early hoping to have a good nights rest. Gosh I would love to be home out of this rotten desert.

1941 Sunday April 27

My good nights rest did not materialize I had a rotten nights rest with very little sleep. The wind blew strongly all night, the canvas roof flapped wildly nobody slept much. The dust was still blowing about this morning but not so badly. The gun was filthy and took a bit of cleaning. I have been inside all morning not feeling 100% but will be OK shortly. Wind is still blowing but not so much dust. Have just been reading in Sun Feb 15 of a go slow move in a non-ferrous works where emp13 want £1 – £1-4 more per week because of danger to health, such things make my blood boil as well as all others here. The boys of the A I.F14 want their health as much as anyone and by these people going slow in munition works it endangers our lives more by lack of equipment which to my mind is bad enough already.

1941 Monday April 28

At 6 this morning was awakened by A.A shells, a raid on Tobruk was in progress. Got up and stood to no action, cleaned gun thoroughly. At 1 PM heard the throb of many engines in the West and after waiting for some time 12 Bombers + 8 fighters came into view and raided Tobruk. Had a shot at a Me. + had a stoppage “Curse the Gun”. Spent the afternoon writing letters in the lovely sunshine. Just about 5.30 we again heard the throb of Engines in the West they were certainly Jerries. Manned the gun + saw the sun glinting on many planes. As they drew overhead thought they were going on to Tobruk but the leader fluttered wings and dived seemingly right at us. Fired while he was diving and the lousy gun stopped after 12 rds. All went for cover as we saw him drop bombs right over us. Must have been 50 bombs dropped by 12 planes. Landed all around us, made ground rock with concussion Shrapnel was heard whining everywhere one piece hit Dick’s tin hat. Corrected stoppage in time to fire another 12 Rds. There were some wonderful targets and if the gun was any good we could have got one plane at least. It was not a very nice experience watching the bombers diving and watching the bombs come hurtling down from the bomb racks After gun stopped + saw first bombs start on their downward descent we all went for mother earth after that I rectified the stoppage and sent another 12 rds at the retreating planes. the windows of the Bgde HQ ¼ mile away were all broken and the roof of Palestrino was all fallen in due to the concussion. On the whole it was not a very nice feeling. After stoppage when I went for the ground I vividly remember curling myself up as small as possible so as there would not be as much of me exposed. I laughed later.

1941 Tuesday April 29

Today is a very clear day and I expect we will have them over but 8.30 came and a relief crew came down to take over for the day while we go down to the beach It is a bonza day and we went eagerly. The water was lovely this time did not have the cold sea breeze. Did my washing Saw a few raids during the day – one which appeared to be over our position However found out later it was not. Returned to G Post 4 Just in time for a raid at tea time. There were a great number of bombers and bombs were dropped all round. Shelling was in full force by both sides tonight + we got to bed about 9.30 At 10.30 were awakened by telephone + truck to say to pack immediately + take gun into ord15 to be fixed as spring had broken during last action. Packed immediately and got going at 11.30 it was very dark and I had to walk in front of van finding way others also walked it took 2 hrs to go 8 miles it was a big strain on the eyes. Arrived at workshops at 1.45 AM and had to wake the mob unloaded gun and then had to make way back to BHQ.

1941 Wednesday April 30

Arrived at BHQ 3.30 after a quicker journey unloaded truck and got between the blankets at 3.45. After three hours solid sleep woke to hear Me’s machine-gunning some miles away. Saw Beaufor pump lead into plane and it went into dive and crashed into flames immediately about a mile from us. After breakfast crept into a dug out and slept for an hour so when was told gun was ready Went + collected it and returned here to our position. Put gun in position and was again ready for action. In late afternoon had a raid by 60 Jerries it was a great sight but my gun is no good at all and had to cower in the pit a bit instead of hoeing into them.

1941 Thursday May 1

After the stand to last night I retired for a while but was disturbed quite a bit. Huns put over many shells none within 300 yds of us. Our Art. fired nearly all night the flashes + bangs making a lot of noise. Up at 6.30 to hear that 30 Jerry tanks broke through, all troops stood to, tanks pushed back but a battalion of inf. are being dealt with. After breakfast had a big raid about 40 Ju16 about 100 bombs dropped. Our Gun as usual was up the pole only fired a few rounds at a time. 3 Bombs dropped 50 yds away and piles of shrap came in and lobbed around the pit. After exploding a thick haze of cordite covered our pit blotting out every thing. Looking at the holes after two are 10 ft across and 6 ft deep the other 4’ by 18”. Just as well they did not land on us. Jerry made another two raids during the day. Our gun would not fire so packed up. Into Ord where it was fixed immediately, I hope, returned to GP17 where we had third raid at tea time had a couple of stoppages but gun went much better a number of bombs dropped very close and we were machine gunned by a Me but did not know it at the time. Tonight I hear that 12 Hurricanes are due to arrive here it’s not before time either for the past fortnight we have only had one or two Hurricanes and it would be suicide for the pilots to go up against 40 bombers and 12 fighters. We have been told to hold this place at all costs + without Air force our boys are just being murdered I don’t know what the big wigs have been doing or thinking of. Tonight our infantry are supposed to be going over the top. A heavy Art duel is raging this evening but no shells landing very near us. I hope to get a good nights sleep. In this evenings raid the Beaufor crew near me shot the cowling off a plane but plane seemed to continue OK.

1941 Tuesday Sept. 23

Wow, Wilbur came around today with NEWS. We are being relieved and leaving Tobruk on Friday night. Tommies are coming up to relieve us tomorrow. But Bob + Bill have to stop on gun till Sat + me till Friday. What news we are tickled pink.

1941 Wednesday Sept. 24

Tommies arrive this afternoon (4 of them) and 3 of my chaps left for HQ. Things seem all topsy turvey. Started to instruct the Tommies on the Breda. The Sarg is a funny chap. These chaps relieving us are the [5th] Battery of an English light AA they have been on the harbour defence in Alex for 2 yrs. Tonight went over to get the news but the wireless is off. This afternoon writing out a form for the Sarg I placed my pen in hip pocket and tonight found I had lost my pen and cannot find it any where I hope it turns up before I leave.

1941 Thursday Sept. 25

This afternoon when Tommy Lieut came round he had news for us. This morning when the 8.30 milkman18 came around he dropped two Molotovs on the RHQ killing V Morrow, Hardingham, Cowie, wounding Dan Evans, Jim Moyes, Jim Bell19 . Also killed 6 Tommies + wounding quite a no. The boys were lined up for a cig issue. It is certainly bad luck after all we have been through.

1941 Friday Sept. 26

Today is the day I go to RHQ. I packed early + got cleaned, before I was finished the truck arrived and off I went leaving Bob + Bill with the Tommies We picked up the other No.’s 1 + arrived at HQ in time for dinner RHQ is in the old Wadi after the rotten affair yesterday. Dan20 died this morning making the fourth to die. Jack Matthews21 is also in hosp with a little shrap in his leg + a burst ear drum the bomb landed 1½ yds from him. Spent the afternoon talking + had tea The place seems to be dead. Hung around till dark and were told we would be moving off about 9.15

1941 Saturday Sept. 27

Left RHQ about 9.15 last night by MT. arriving at the wharf, there was a big crowd there awaiting to go out. Watched the destroyers come slinking into the harb in darkness + sidle up to the wharf. Finally struggled on board up a steep gang plank and into the mens qtrs, it was 1 AM when we pulled out and slipped thro’ the water at 25 knots, Jackal built 1938 is the boat. Dozed in an uncomfortable position all night In the morning were sent on deck and saw escort of 5 Martletts22 The convoy 3 dest. + 1 mine laying cruiser approached Alex at 1pm and as we did saw the British fleet coming into harbour too 20 ships. From Alex entrucked and were taken to Amerya23 Staging Camp where we had a a good meal and we are now under two hrs notice to move + will probably do so tonight. The boys have been getting plenty of booze and will be well + truly full by tonight and have to march 1½ miles to Amirya station.

1941 Sunday Sept. 28

What a night we had last night with the boys full it was like a retreat with stragglers and kit being dropped or left behind, fellows not so drunk helping helpless cobbers. The walk in full kit sobered some up and we eventually entrained at 11pm. and started on the trip to El Cantara. Had another restless nights sleep in the train and reached Cantara early in the morning, immediately detrained and were ferried over the Canal to Palestine where we had a great breakfast and then entrained again and set of again. Travelled all day till just on dusk when we pulled up at a camp and got of at Bijurga24 10 miles from Khassa dumping our kit there and had a slashing tea, after that a cold shower and then the picture hut a rotten show. There are dozens of camps here very well set out with all conveniences


1 El Qantara, Egypt (also called Kantara by the Allies) on the east bank of the Suez Canal and Ismailia on the west bank of the Suez
2 probably Al-Majdal, Palestine
3 Regimental Headquarters
4 kerosene
5 10 shillings
6 practically
7 Italian
8 The 6th Australian Division captured Tobruk from the Italians on 21-22 January 1941
9 Major PW Stokes, 8th Battery Commander
10 artillery
11 5 Junkers and 4 Messerschmitts German aircraft
12 reconnaisance
13 employees
14 Australian Imperial Force
15 ordinance
16 Junkers
17 gun position
18 German reconnaissance plane
19 V Morrow – Gnr, SJ Hardingham – Gnr, JG Cowie – Gnr, DD Evans – Gnr, JL Moyes – Sgt, RJ Bell – Gnr RHQ or JT Bell – no rank all members of 8th Battery
20 Dan Evans
21 JR Matthews – Gnr, 8th Battery
22 Grumman Martlet AL246 fighter plane (Grumman Wildcat)
23 most likely supposed to be Amreya (Amriya), Egypt
24 Beit Jirja (Bayt Jirja), Palestine