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World War II Diary of a No.3 Squadron RAAF Ground Crew Member
- Tommy JONES, Electrical Fitter (Service No.41652)
Africa and Italy, 1942 to 1945
Kairouan, Tunisia. c. 18 April 1943.
A long line of airmen of No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF being served lunch rations outdoors on the plains.
Craig Twaddle, Cook, is seen here serving Leading Aircraftman Tom JONES, Electrical Fitter. [AWM MEC0421]
Sunday 15 Feb 1942.
- Played tennis in the afternoon with Wak, Laurie, Tom and Joan at the RIVER. Got engaged today.
Monday 16 February 1942.
- Up at 6 and reported at 1.E.D. [No.1 Embarkation Depot] at 7.30. Spent all day getting our kit etc. and marking it. Home about 5pm, got some money and met Joan in town and had a look at the ring. Had tea in the City and saw “Love on the Dole” – a good show.
Tuesday 17 February 1942.
- Back at camp 7.30am. Getting more kit and still marking it. The C/O had a word with us and told us we may get a bit of leave. Got home about 4.30 and was digging the trench when Bid came home with the ring and so I put it on. On leave for a week after tomorrow.
Tuesday 3 March 1942
– Port Moresby, Wyndham and Broome bombed.
Wednesday 4 March 1942
– Darwin bombed.
Saturday 7 March 1942.
- Digging trenches at Kellow House til 3pm.
Friday 27 March 1942
– told they are embarking at 12.00 tomorrow.
Adelaide Railway Station, March 1942.
Sat 28 March 1942
- Marched to Adelaide Railway Station and took train to Port Adelaide. Embarked on Eastern Prince. [3SQN Reinforcement group embarking from South Australia led by Ken McRae.] Sleeping on hammock about three decks below. Food and general conditions awful.
Monday 30 March 1942
- Most of the chaps bad with stomach trouble. Played cards
Tuesday 31 March 1942
- Feel pretty crook.
Thurs 2 April 1942
- Ordered to pack kit after tea and we went to another boat - the Dilwarra, a ship built especially for troop carrying and it is spotlessly clean. It looks 100% and is a vast improvement on the Eastern Prince, so we look like having a decent trip after all.
Easter. Fri 3 April 1942.
[Tommy's 1st day out of Australia.]
Left Port Adelaide about 8am. Had final look at Aussie for the time being. It’s a strange feeling to be going to sea for the first time. Hard to explain. Sea pretty rough and most of the chaps sick. Slung hammock on deck and turned in about 8pm.
Sat 4 April 1942
Still very rough and most of the boys well and truly seasick but am feeling OK. Did a shift of spotting [anti-submarine lookout] and 1hr of looking at the sea, for something you hope is not there, is quite enough. Played cards through the day and turned in about 9. Big wave over bow of ship woke most of us and had us thinking.
Sun 5 April 1942
Still very rough sea. Couple of shifts spotting. Officers are too sick to worry those who are well. The cold is not the best.
A model of the Dilwarra, by Robert Wilson.
Mon 6 April 1942
Sea calm and men getting better and more life about the ship. Ships newspaper reads that Bombay has been bombed.
Tue. 7 April 1942
Sea calm. Lecture by M.O. [Medical Officer] and PT [Physical Training exercises]. Sighted a couple of whales today. No sign of putting into Fremantle. I think we would have passed there by now.
Wed 8 April 1942
Sighted smoke of ship – but nothing happened. Cold while spotting on deck.
9 April 1942.
Had a good tea of ham and tomatoes. Played deck quoits in the afternoon and a game of 2Up. Dorsetshire and Cambridge sunk in Indian Ocean.
Sat 11 April 1942
Hermes (aircraft carrier) sunk off Ceylon.
Sun 12 April 1942
Sea calm. Showery morning. Deck quoits between officers and men [score] 110-109. All nearly broke – still holding a bit more than my own. (Spotting shifts continue each day.)
Mon 13 April 1942
Lecture by MO on heat and heat effects. Had game of crown and anchor and turned in 9.30. We have changed from Westerly to Northerly direction so it looks like India.
Tues 14 April 1942
Plenty of flying fish. Strong north wind and fairly hot. Needle parade today [medical injections], but was lucky enough to miss it.
Thurs 16 April 1942
Rain. Sea a bit choppy. Engines stopped for about 5 minutes and caused a bit of talk. Lecture by MO on camp hygiene and gas drill. Started a raffle for 10/-. Had a game of poker.
Saturday 18 April 1942
Saw a school of dolphins playing around bow of ship. Had 6 bottles of Fosters [beer] and herrings in sauce and pineapple for tea.
Sunday 19 April 1942
Very hot. Engines half stopped. Few games of quoits and went to church.
Mon 20 April 1942
Tuesday 21 April 1942
Pay parade in morning.
Wednesday 22 April 1942
Getting hotter and hotter. Some heavy showers. Everybody on edge – double shifts for spotters – a big scare.
Thursday 23 April 1942
Land about ½ mile away. Ships all around us so do not feel so lonely as when in the ocean alone. Under escort now and the war boats make an imposing sight. Lamps flashing and flags flying etc. Everybody trying to dodge fatigues. Felt a thrill to see land and we finally dropped anchor about 10.00 (in Ceylon). Small native boats trading fruit made an interesting spectacle. Feel a bit crook today. Some bastard stole 20 pound from my shirt pocket about 12.30. General parade etc. and a search but a man could have hidden a horse and got away with it. Finally found wallet in the sewer trough and in it was one pound.
Sat 24 April 1942
Sat 25 April 1942
Anzac Day service aft. Concert broadcast over amplifiers.
Sun 26 April 1942
4th day in port. Wet night last night and got wet sleeping on deck. No parade today and we played cards. Gunners on duty all night tonight – may be something doing. Syndicate worth about 4 pounds. To bed about 9.30. Spent a good night.
Mon 27 April 1942
Still no leave. The ALTMARK steamed into harbour and dropped anchor alongside of us. Rumour is again rife and the GG merchants are into it like steam. Played cards through the day and had PT and GAS drill through the day. Had a session in the sergeants' baggage room and then found our hammocks had gone off. Pinched a few blankets and turned in about 1 o’clock. Syndicate now worth about 7 pounds.
Colombo Harbour 1942. [AWM025701]
Tues 28 April 1942
And still no leave. Had a sunbathe on deck. CO and MO went ashore and feeling among men pretty high. Cards in the afternoon. About 20 refugees taken on board. Ship up anchor and steamed into the harbour. Refuelling and rewatering during the day. At tea the men organised a swim parade and sure enough they were into it like the Watsons. Ocker [Gordon Stevens] rushed up to me all dressed and said “Come on, we may get ashore”. Got dressed and missed the 1st boat. Slid down a rope and got in a row boat. Landed on jetty and got through Customs without looking sideways. Went for a tram ride and got 12 rupees for one pound. The bums by this time were 12 strong so we shook them off. Got to YMCA had supper and met some more of the men. Seven of us hired rickshaws and toured city for about 1 hour. Got back to jetty and found an officer waiting for us. Came back to ship in launch and told we were under open arrest. Finally turned in about 1am well and truly satisfied with our day in Ceylon.
Wed. 29th April 1942 (27th day)
Sea calm - hot day. Sailed from Ceylon about 8am in convoy with 5 other ships and 2 corvettes. Did shift of spotting. Played cards and had lecture by MO on effects on the body by flying. Paraded before CO for being naughty and told we are to receive extra duties. Played cards and turned in about 9.30.
Thursday 30 April 1942
Spotting, played cards. Lecture by M.O. Spotting 8.30-10.30, had supper and turned in.
Friday 1 May 1942
Spotting 7.30-8.30. Played cards, passed a fair few sailing boats.
Had to help holystone the Mess out today [sanding the wooden deck with blocks of sandstone] and it was a job and a half. Wrote to Mum and Joan last night. Played cards and had a shower and did some washing in readiness for Bombay and spotted from 10.30-12.30.
Saturday 2 May 1942
Very hot today. Sea calm. Played cards. Pay parade – got 2 pounds. Won 6 bottles of beer in a raffle and promptly sat down and drank a few with Alwyn and Oc. Turned in about 10. Spotting 12.20 to 2.30. Up to about 10 pounds again. Harbour literally full of ships.
Sunday 3 May 1942
Packed our kit bags once again. Had shower, shave and all ready for Bombay. Hanging about most of the day. Played a few games of monopoly B.B.S.P. at V6 [meaning unknown] and told we are going ashore tomorrow at 2pm.
Monday 4 May 1942
After lot of B.S. [bureaucracy] we boarded ferry and finally got ashore about 3.15pm. Ock and I dodged march to camp by going with luggage van. Colabar Camp. Got leave and caught bus to Bombay. Had tea at service canteen and sent some presents home. Streets full of hawkers and beggars. Give them 1/8 of the price they ask and they are still robbing you. Most of lower Indians chew betel nut. Oxen carts and sacred cows – beautiful buildings and striking streets – cosmopolitan crowds.
Tuesday 5 May 1942
Up at 6. B.B.S.P. at 9 o’clock. Typically English. Leave for day – into Bombay. Spent four hours lugging watch tools etc. Had a look at the Bazaar. Finally had lunch at Green Hill Café. Saw mongoose kill cobra near “ Gateway of India”. Hired taxi to Beach Candy, had swim and took a few snaps. Back to camp and Bombay. Had tea and spent hours trying to get to Bird Cages. Finally got there and the Brothels and dives would turn one sick. “Five rupees master”. Natives are very frightened of Australians. The AIF have been through before. Finally back to camp in a lorry and turned in at 1am.
Into the Red Sea:
Wednesday 6 May 1942
Up at 7, shaved. To the wharves in buses. Boarded Varela about 11am. Also some Ceylon and Navy troops aboard. Quarters fairly clean though cramped. Indians, Greeks, Ghurkas, Singalese, Burmese, Sikh, Pavo, about 1000 on board, left wharf 11am and anchored in harbour waiting for convoy. Had fair meal at 2pm. Ceylon troops well educated and proud to be in HM army although they are very sick at the treatment they are getting. No pay for 3 weeks and no food for 26 hours. Turned in about 10pm and hardly room to swing a cat.
Transport Ship Varela.
Thursday 7 May 1942
“Washy decky” woken about 5.30am. Boys found cookhouse so filthy they refused to draw breakfast. Parade in lifejackets but they were so lousy men refused to don them. O.C. troops ordered them on but troops told him to get ____ - Big stink followed, signals sent ashore and an AIF captain was sent aboard. He agreed conditions unsuitable and we were asked whether we would go ashore or stay on ship and send Ceylon boys off. We decided on latter and ship immediately sailed. The convoy had been held up 3 hours. Our own cooks are now in cook house. Ocker and I rigged up a good little workshop in the cells but when we returned we were locked out.
Friday 8 May 1942
Up at 6. Two shifts of spotting. Ocker doing good business with the watches. Had a good sleep through the morning. For tea we had 3 biscuits, 1 oz cheese and one cup cocoa. Lights out 7o'clock so were sent to bed. Convoy left us about this time and we are now alone. Feel very lonely today. Slept on deck.
Saturday 9 May 1942
Sea calm still. Up about 6.30. Had fair breakfast. Got our kits etc. parked in the workshop. Spotting 9-10. Fair bit of work. Had lecture by Major on India – very good.
Sunday 10 May 1942
Up at 6. Spotting 6.30-7.30. Had lecture on Indian states by an Indian Captain. Drew up the Crown and Anchor board.
Monday 11 May 1942
Jeep and Ocker tried to get C & A [Crown and Anchor game] going in morning and after an hour's hard work they won about 8 [Rupees]. Spotting and wrote letter to Mum and Joan and heard lecture by Burmese on Burma. Got paid R.21. Ran C&A in evening and won R.30. Lots of dolphin and flying fish about burning Nav. Lights. [Probably a reference to the fish exciting phosphorescence in the tropical water.] Very hot and ship sailing very slow.
Tuesday 12 May 1942
Hardly a ripple on the water and blue as can be. Run C & A in the morning. Spotting. Had good lunch today. Lecture on Bengal Lancers. Run C & A after tea and got R7. Very hot and still – not much wind. Turned in about 9.30. Have now got R. 50.
Wednesday 13 May 1942
In Aden. Case of smallpox so we and the ships are quarantined. Played unders and overs in the morning and A. and f. snaps. Run C & A in the afternoon and evening and got R.25. Ship coaling and taking on water all day and the bloody coal dust is everywhere. The wogs put on a good turn fighting for the pennies the boys toss down. Turned in about 11.00.
Thursday 14 May 1942
Sea calm. Up at 6am. Washed clothes this morning. Spotting from 1.30-2.30. Played 2Up broke about even. Euchre party in evening. Ship weighed anchor about 1 o’clock and we steamed away from Aden. It seems to be a small place, situated amid very rocky and rough country.
Aden Harbour 1942. [AWM 028036]
Friday 15 May 1942
Sea choppy. Up 5.30 for spotting. 3 shifts through the day. Passed the 12 apostles about 12 o'clock. Played C & A in the evening and got R.6 each. Inspection by M.O. for smallpox but no cases found. Lecture by Officer on Indian villages.
Saturday 16 May 1942
Sea very calm. Today the Red Sea is very blue and the mercury must be over 100. Up about 7. Two shifts of spotting. Played 2Up lost 3R. Alwyn, Noel and Oc went broke. Turned on the C&A in evening and got R.4 each. Sighted a few schools of dolphin and porpoises etc. Passed hospital ship – a blaze of lights and colour.
Sunday 17 May 1942
Sea calm. Up at 7. two shifts of spotting. Concert by the Indian magicians in the afternoon which was a very good show. Run C&A in evening and won R.5. Very cold in bed and the canvas covers are off the hatches.
Monday 18 May 1942
Fairly rough seas. Run C&A in the morning and got about R.12. Divided the kitty. Handed in money we had been winning to get changed to Egyptian currency. Sand easily visible on both sides and have passed 3 or 4 ships, one towing a blimp. Have to sleep below tonight because we are in danger area [possibility of German air attack].
Tuesday 29 May 1942
Sea calm. Ship tied up at 9 o'clock at Port Suez. Bit of a mix-up about the eating utensils and the fan. Went to a transit camp about 3 miles from Suez and 6 miles from Tewfik. The town is a stinking hole. Had a few beers at the canteen and went to the movies. Home about 10 – got no sleep – everybody drunk and tearing about, etc.
Wednesday 20 May 1942
Very hot. Up at 5 and taken by tender to Pt. Suez on train to Cairo. Buzzed off and got caught by WO McRae and got taken back to station. Went off again and got well and truly p. [drunk] up at New Zealand Club.
Towards the Front
Thursday 21 May 1942
Very hot. Getting over the night before. Had a look at El Maria and got back on train [into Western Desert]. Had a bugger of a trip – passed many wrecked trains especially at Fuka. Finally got to Sidi Haneish about 3.45 after a 6 mile truck ride. Had a feed and the chaps who we are to relieve are very pleased to see us. Had a few beers. Jerry [Germans] bombing Mersa Matruh about 15 miles away.
Friday 22 May 1942
Very hot. Up at 7 and messed about getting the kit packed. Had dinner and then went for a very enjoyable swim in the Mediterranean. Back to camp and had a game of 2Up. Won 5 Ackers and gave them to Cooksley to spin. Had a few glasses of beer with the boys in the tent. Wrote a letter home and turned in about 8.
Saturday 23 May 1942
Very hot. Supposed to go to the front today but slept in and missed the bus. Had toast for breakfast and reported to Orderly Room. Had a bit of a talk on Kittyhawks and had a look at them. Went for another swim in the Med. and saw some A.A. (anti-aircraft) out to sea. Back to camp and got some beer – few bombs Mersa Matruh. Played R.Kate [card game - Rickety Kate] and turned in about 10.30. Have to report to Orderly Room at 8.30 in the morning for missing the bus.
Sunday 24 May 1942
Very hot. Hung around all morning and finally got away with some chums from 250 [SQN RAF]. Waited for about 3 hours down the bend and then pushed off. Passed through Mersa Matruh, Sidi Barani, Sollum - had tea with some Libyan troops and turned in about one mile from Hellfire Pass. All up the road there are signs of war – wrecked buildings and ragged towns. It’s played fair dinkum out here.
Monday 25 May 1942
Very hot. Up at 7 and on the track again. Came up Sollum Pass – very steep. Passed Fort Capuzzo – cemetery only thing left standing. Bardia – had a few meals on the way and passed “Young and Jackson's” [a hut formerly occupied by 3SQN ace "Old John" Jackson, borrowing the name of a famous Melbourne pub] and got to Gambut. Spent the afternoon digging a trench in solid rock – blistered the hands.
"In the slit trench, Gambut" painting by Sir John Dargie, 1942. [AWM copyright ART23895]
Jerry blew beggary at us all night [aerial bombing] and eased up about 5am.
Tuesday 26 May 1942
Very hot. Worked on 'E' [Kittyhawk CV-E] most of the day – the [propeller] feathering was crook. [Tom was an Electrician working on multiple aircraft as required, he was not allocated to a particular airframe as was the case for some other trades.] Jerry pushing up near El Adem – all the chaps packed ready to move but we stayed the night and Jerry kept us awake with some big ones. Slept in the hole. Received 10 letters today, the first lot since leaving and it was good-oh to hear of home again.
Wednesday 27 May 1942
Hot. Up at 8 and about 20 of us lifted in a one wheel job. They must have halted Jerry because our gun crews are back. Not much work today. Got an issue of beer and turned in at 11. Plenty of Jerry about and the Hurrys [night-fighter Hurricanes] just can’t pick him up. He kept it up till dawn.
Thursday 28 May 1942
Warm. Did gun sight on 'A' [Kittyhawk CV-A].
3 Squadron RAAF Mark Ia Kittyhawk, "CV-A", after refuelling, 1942. [Image from ADF Serials]
3ME’s [Messerschmitts] over top but nothing happened. Two chaps killed at 250 from night before bombing. The Bostons made 3 trips today so Jerry must be getting beggary. Our kites carrying one 250lb bomb each trip. Jerry dropped a few every half hour or so during the night just to keep us awake.
Friday 29 May 1942
Hot. Feel a bit off with a cold. A bit of ACK-ACK [Anti-Aircraft fire] at the Spotting crates [Axis reconnaissance planes]. Wrote a letter to Bid. Did a fair bit of spine bashing [stretched out resting on bed]. Dust pretty bad. Went to Gambut main and bought back six drums of water. Got back about 8 and had a feed. Jerry did not visit us this night - undisturbed sleep.
Saturday 30 May 1942
Fairly warm. Up about 8 and had a gun sight to do. Dust pretty bad today. Wrote a few letters home today and put in an application for a re-muster to Gap 1. Allan Crouch posted back to base today. News of war seems a bit more cheerful tonight. 1000 of our boys over Cologne and I think our tanks are getting better of Jerry out west. [Battle of Gazala - Tom was being misled by whoever told him this!] Sqdn had a letter from Wing Cdr congratulating all ranks.
Sunday 31 May 1942
Fairly warm. Very dirty day. Went for the petrol and did some washing. Not much work doing. Wrote to Oc and sent it down with Tom Cooksley. Jerry dropped a fair few 'basket bombs' [Tom is using a jocular reference to the largest childrens' firecracker available back in Australia] during the night.
Monday 1 June 1942
Very hot. No jobs today. Hell of a dust storm blowing – visibility about 15ft. Beer ration arrived tonight and we had our share. Jack O’Reilly burnt his arm with petrol. Jerry over but a good way off during the night.
Tuesday 2 June 1942
Warm. Not much doing. Had a good spine bash. Artillery fairly constant and also a fair amount of burst [rumour] going on as to when we will get out of the desert. The GG ['good gutz' - slang for best information] is that it will be about 10 days.
Wednesday 3 June 1942
Fairly cool. Left camp about 12 on a wood carting trip. Bruce had a shot and let the smoke bomb go which caused a bit of a panic. Turned over a hut and got some wood. Reached the Beach Camp and had a good feed. Had a most enjoyable swim and finally got back to camp about 7pm. Jerry over but did not worry us much.
Thursday 4 June 1942
Warm. Did a job on 'J'. Changed over a starter switch and had a hell of job. Two Recco kites came over and the A.A. had a shot, but got no results. Had a couple of drinks in the tent. Small amount of bombing overnight.
Friday 5 June 1942
Lovely day. Up at 8. Did some washing etc. Copped the condenser job on 'J' and an oleo switch on OK-V [450 Squadron Kittyhawk]. US and Jap naval action near Midway island.
Saturday 6 June 1942
Warm. Worked on OK-V oleo again and helped Slim [Moore] with the cowls etc. Yanks seem to have made a job of Japs at Midway Island. Did a battery change and prop motor and sight lens after tea.
Sunday 7 June 1942
Fairly busy today. Boys got paid and we received a packet of biscuits, 20 cigarettes, 1 oz tobacco, handkerchief, shaving soap and stationery from comforts. Tank buster Hurricanes got three tanks and lost three planes.
Tank-buster Hurricane Mark IID KW704 of 6SQN RAF, with 40mm under-wing cannons. [Picture by J. A. Willis.]
Monday 8 June 1942
Up about 7.30. Killed small snake on way to breakfast. Radio still crook on 'J'. Spent nearly all day pulling it off. The comm [commutator] was busted and throwing solder.
Tuesday 9 June 1942
Wrote to Joan and went to the Beach. Had a hell of a ride but the day at the beach was worth it. Had a rough ride home and got three Sporting Globes [horse-racing newspapers] from Joan. Sat talking in the tent till about 11. Had a crook night – think I must have a touch of G.G. ["Gypo Gut" - stomach trouble].
[Slim (Reg) Moore recalls that the group in the 8-man tent were Jack (Junior) O’Reilly, Jack Shepherd, Pat Baker, Rip Chard, Curly Hoare, Tommy Jones and himself.]
Wednesday 10 June 1942
Feel a bit crook and didn’t go to breakfast. Went to Clive Piesse’s tent [Slim recalls he was the Sergeant Electrician] and had a look at the Curtiss Book. [Slim says this was the manual of the Kittyhawk.] Feel a bit better and had lunch and then fixed up the cart – socket switch on 'F'. Jerry recaptured Bir Hakeim today.
Thursday 11 June 1942
Up about 8 and saw 'D' hit the deck with a bomb on, which luckily did not explode. Big battle on about 20 miles west. 'I' had motor [electrical] leads shot up. 'H' had a shell through each tail plane and 'A' copped one in the battery. [German] Recco kite over about 11 and the AA got very near. A Spitty [Spitfire fighter] finished him with a couple of bursts. Jerry column reported coming our way and all are ready to move. Flight truck packed. Did a prop motor on 'E' finished about 10pm. C Flight lost two kites today.
Friday 12 June 1942
Old Bill [Slim recalls Bill Carrey, Duty Corporal and the oldest member of the Sqn, having previously served in 3AFC during WW1] tried to get me up at 4am to do 'E'. Did it after breakfast and it was OK. Spent the afternoon cleaning up and wrote to Mum and Aunt Elaine and Joan. Had a yarn in the tent. Turned in about 10pm. Jerry over in the night and dropped a few.
Saturday 13 June 1942
Dust storm. Went down to mobile Base and got some details about the kites [aeroplanes] and told we had to pack. Got ready and pulled down the tent. B Flight moved off. Operation about 6pm. 'H' came down over Gambut and Chinchen parachuted. Ship burning off the coast. The Wing got about 14 today.
Sunday 14 June 1942
Did a battery on 'K'. Ship still burning off coast. Jerry came over about 7pm and dropped a few over Gambut. Still packed and ready to move. Chinchen a prisoner. Fuss over the “taxi service” truck. Bedded down in the hole again. 3.7s [heavy A.A. gun] got a 109 (Messerschmitt). We lost five of the Beaufighters today, escorting 50 mile convoy to Malta.
Monday 15 June 1942
Busy all day. We made 68 odd deliveries [bombing missions] – a record for Middle East. Two pilots got theirs today Ryan and Biden. CO very pleased with the work. Plenty of noise and bombs over Gambut tonight.
Tuesday 16 June 1942
Had a bath and shave and pitched the tent. Copped a prop job on 'C' and worked with Malcolm like hell. Just had it finished and were told to get going. [Retreat] Packed up again and had a meal at the Mess. Got over the escarpment after a hell of a struggle. Lost the convoy and finally got to Sidi Aziz about 11pm. First in. The Corporal got into a big panic. Jerry reached Gambut about 8pm. Slept on rocks but was too tired to worry. Saw a good AA barrage over the way.
Thursday 17 June 1942
Very hot. Had a feed of bully [tinned corn beef]. Got going about 10 on a fairly good road. After about an hour Turner has a look at the maps etc. We reached the Egyptian border about 11 and buzzed off from the convoy again. Had a hell of a trip through dust etc. and Slim took over and we made better time. We finally reached the railway and after a rough ride reached Bermilar about 6pm. First in again. Had a most acceptable feed and had a cup of tea. Had a hell of a headache and turned in about 8.
[Slim recalls that 2 x water tankers were filled up at Gambut and water was precious]
Friday 18 June 1942
Had a good breakfast. Spent the morning digging the tent in and getting settled again. Had a bath and did some washing during the afternoon. Dick Willis and Arthur Lee left (posted) for air ambulance. The roads and tracks literally full of M.T. [motor transport] etc. never saw so much of it before. Plenty of bursts [rumours] about us going out of the desert. We all hope they are true. Jerry reported to be well past El Adem and Gambut (heading east).
Saturday 19 June 1942
Have a couple of days to rest. B Flight now has the kites. Spent the day reading and wrote to Joan. Got a couple of bottles of Vic [beer] after tea and they were most enjoyable. More bursts getting about. We now have the GG that we are going to Syria. Listened to the BBC news and talked to the Chum from the Bofor Gun. Jerry strafed the next door drome overnight.
Saturday 20 June 1942. (80th day since leaving home)
Very hot. Packing to shift back to Sidi Haneish. Had tea and left about 6.30. Urged along by the boys. Jack Breen passed the Wing Com. and when flagged caught us there was a bit of a scream. Went along OK until we got puncture and had to wait for the armourers so we could get their jack. Made coffee and had a bit of yaffle [food packages] and got to Sidi Haneish about 1.30am. Plenty of flares over the hill but they seem a fair distance. Saw Noel Scoope.
Sunday 21 June 1942
Picked out a spot and pitched the tent. Went down to the canteen and got a crate of beer. McArthur lined us up at his tent to allot the kites and give us a couple of 40-hourlys [maintenance overhauls] to do. He looks like being N.B.G. ['No Bloody Good'] Had plenty of sips during the evening and a good old chin wag. A couple of flares down [dropped from Axis aircraft for bombing illumination] but a good way off. The Wimpies [Wellington bombers] and Bostons are flat out.
Monday 22 June 1942
Had a talk and a few drinks with 2 Pom Sergeants from the tank delivery corps. Slim and Shepherd got the Ford today [Slim says they found it and intended to fix it up] and also a BMW (motorbike). Jerry reported to be massing at the 'Wire' [Egyptian frontier]. Swim parade today but missed it – had to drag a few wires through 'W' which took all the afternoon. Slim working on the Ford and we all had tea about 8.
Tuesday 23 June 1942
Everybody has had their share of grog especially Pat. Changed a battery in the morning and did a prop motor on 'O' which then went back to base for a 40 hourly. All the boys working on the Ford. We each got five cans of beer and soap and toothpaste from the loot which B Flight got at the NAAFI [an abandoned British canteen]. Slim, Shep and Pat came home and turned on a drunks act. Para flares [parachute flares to illuminate the ground for bombers] all around us and the bombs started about 12. They dropped the b___ lot and one stick landed a bit close. A Hurry night fighter got on a Hun and the cheering started when we saw him aflame. He crashed a mile away and burnt like hell.
Wednesday 24 June 1942
Chapman got a slight head wound from shrapnel. Jerry using [Landing Ground] 075 as a bomber drome. Had to do a motor wiring on 'A' and it was a cow of a job. Worked until dark and went to bed at 11. Everybody crawled out of the tent when the AA opened up and I got jammed in the doorway. S/L Barr shot down and taken prisoner.
Thursday 25 June 1942
Finished the job on 'A' and helped Slim with the wobble pump. Tried to get the BMW [motorbike] going with Curly to go out and get a snap of the Ju88, but gave it up. Had tea and were told to get ready to move. Packed the old truck and couldn’t get it going. Finally got mobile and spent the night near the Officer’s Mess. Plenty of bombs etc.
Friday 26 June 1942
Hot. Up at 6 and saw the planes off. [Retreat] Had a good trip to [Landing Ground] 106 near El Daba. Had to do a battery on 'F' and a starter on 'C'. Jerry dropped everything he had tonight. Set the two Wimpies [Wellington Bombers] on fire and the AA was very thick, but was too tired to get out of the hole. Chums [Brits] on the Bofor panicked and we got a bit of a laugh out of them.
Saturday 27 June 1942
Hot. Up about 8.30 and the sleep in was good-oh. Had breakfast and had to pack again. Picked up a new tent and assembled at the Mess about midday. Started another day of retreat. The truck went well and at times a bit too fast. Stopped for a meal at El Alamein No.5 Staging Point. Reached 91 Landing Field 10 miles from Amiriya. Met Ocker and Charlie and slept in their tent after a bit of a reunion. Passed a lot of MT and new troops [going forward] during the day.
El Alamein Defensive Line
Sunday 28 June 1942
Received five letters from home and also three Sporting Globes. Helped Ocker to solder a flap indicator wire on 'B'. Feel as though I’ve just about had it today and full up of the whole bloody lot. Found the tent after a search.
Monday 29 June 1942
Very hot. Flies and heat are very bad. Had to try and find a short on 'F' and it took us most of the day. Rumour about that we may lose our truck to Sgt Moore. Pat Baker being shifted to B Flight. Spent the latter part of the afternoon in the tent and the old Bostons are still as regular as clockwork. Listened to the news at Carly’s and heard that the N.Z. were in action at Mersa.
Tuesday 30 June 1942
Hot. Mersa Matruh reported retaken and we all hope that it is true [it wasn't]. Went to Amiriya in the truck to see if the AIF were there. They were and it was good to see them and have a chat. They seem to be anxious to get into action and help the effort a bit.
Wednesday 1 July 1942. 91st day.
Wrote to Joan. Not much work for me to do today although the Squadron is busy. Went to the movies at Amiriya in the evening and it was a crook show, crook machine and crook night. It is good when night falls, just to get rid of the flies.
Thursday 2 July 1942
I had a starter to fix on 'A' but found that Mal Baxter had already done it. Did a gun sight on 'T' and wrote to Mum. Listened to the news in the evening and we seem to be holding them. Rumours about that we may move up (back to Daba). A few bombs about.
Friday 3 July 1942
Had a leg oleo on 'B' also a gunsight. Gunsight on 'A' and started a 40-hourly on 'F' when we were told that we may move up. B Flight moved up about 6pm. Spent most of the latter afternoon working on the Ford.
Saturday 4 July 1942
We have got all B Flight kites again. All of us on standby all day and it’s a hell of a day. Had a couple of jobs and a gun sight on 'J'. Had tea at the Mess and spent a good night having a yarn of home. B Flight are supposed to be coming back – we hope they do.
Sunday 5 July 1942
Did work on 'X' with Mobile Base, and had a look at the Ford – must have a cracked piston. Wrote to Es. Got grabbed for a gunsight on 'E' after tea – finally got back to the tent after walking about the prairie for a bit.
Monday 6 July 1942
Worked on the Ford all morning and found a cracked piston. Slim and Rip went off to get another motor and we started to get the old one out. The lot of us landed a job and McArthur wanted to know where they were. I put a gun sight globe in 'K'. The boys pinched a motor OK. Had a good bath and Capt Hurley taking photos about the place. [Slim recalls Hurley was the famous WW1 and WW2 official photographer.]
WESTERN DESERT, EGYPT. 1942-07-20. AUSTRALIANS BATHING IN THE SEA NEAR EL ALAMEIN.
WATER RATIONING MAKES SEA BATHING AS MUCH A SOURCE OF HEALTH AS OF PLEASURE IN A DESERT CAMPAIGN.
FORTUNATELY, AT PRESENT, THE MAIN BODY OF AUSTRALIANS IS WITHIN REACH OF THE SEA.
Tuesday 7 July 1942
Working on 'B'. It has a 120 drop. Changed the mag leads over, but it was till the same, and worked on [Ford] truck in afternoon. Fitted the new motor in. Had another go at 'B' and found it was in No.5.
Wednesday 8 July 1942
Finished the job on 'B'. No.5 plug was crook. Told we are to have a day’s leave tomorrow in Alexandria. Had a bath, shave and haircut and started a letter to Joan. Feeling crook with Gyps [stomach trouble] – up a couple of times in the night and does not look to be too good for tomorrow
Thursday 9 July 1942
Left for Alex [Alexandria city] about 7. Truck broke down about 5 miles from Alex and we hitched it into town. Had breakfast at the Long Bar and was feeling pretty crook. Went around the streets and bought a few photos etc. Could not eat any lunch. Went to Sister St. and had a look. [Slim recalls Sister St. was the Army-run brothel in Alexandria.] Went to movies and saw Melody Ranch and Citadel of Crime. Went to Long Bar and could not eat any tea. Went to Syracuse Hotel and it was a treat to use a bed again.
Friday 10 July 1942
Feeling OK today and had breakfast. Went for a drive around Alex and caught the bus back arriving at camp about midday. Had to go to M.U. and get a new post lead for 'C'. Got back and the lead was too short. Had to go back and get the complete housing. Fitted that and the battery was flat. Changed that and that was flat too. Felt cheesed off and finally got back to tent about 9.
Saturday 11 July 1942
Very hot and dusty. Had to go to M.U. for a new hydraulic pump motor for 'E'. Got it finished about lunch time. Huge dust storm during afternoon. Had to have a look at the bomb globe on 'K'. Bought a bit of tinned fruit from the canteen and had a feed. Posted a letter to Bid to catch the mail.
Sunday 12 July 1942. (102nd day)
Very hot and dusty. 'K' has a crook starter, got it off and Ken told me he had one U.S. on 'C' also. After dinner went with Chappie and got one off a pranged kite at 450 [SQN]. Went to about six other places but to no avail. Came back and Ken fitted the starter to 'K' while I went to 53 RSU [Repair & Servicing Unit]. Had no luck and got back about 7.30. After tea, B, a new kite reported to have a crook solenoid and worked on it till 9. Got no. 22 and 23 from Joan today.
Monday 13 July 1942
Spent the morning fitting C’s solenoid to 'B' and adjusting the Oleo switch. It also has a gunsight globe burnout. Wrote to Joan and sent 2 photos. Fitted new starter switch to 'B'.
Tuesday 14 July 1942
Fitted a new starter switch on 'C' and got it serviceable. 40 Jerry tanks broken through and attacking the AIF. Squadron went to lend a hand. Had a look at the prop gears on 'B'. Spent remainder of day on standby but nothing unusual. Jerry can’t know where we are because he is leaving us alone.
Wednesday 15 July 1942
Dust very bad today but the Bostons are going over in an almost continuous stream. Having afternoon tea when old Basil pulled me out to do a gunsight on 'L'. Slim, Rip, Shep and I went out about 6 miles to tow in A which had come down due to lack of oil pressure. Rip and I went to M.U. (maintenance unit) after tea and cliftied ['requisitioned without paperwork' - or stole!] about ½ doz tyres and wheels. Will use one as a spare.
Thursday 16 July 1942
Had a bath and shave etc. ready for my leave. Got to Alex about 2. Saw “Wild Man from Borneo”, had tea at Long Bar and few drinks. Walked the streets after tea and there is plenty of interest doing this in a foreign city. Back to Syracuse (Hotel) by 9.30 and spent a pleasant couple of hours with two Aussie sailors. Fierce fighting at El Alamein.
[Slim recalls that the Long Bar was run by two Greeks who had relatives in Melbourne, and they favoured Australians.]
Friday 17 July 1942
After breakfast went back to Kom el Dik. Caught bus back to camp. Received a C.F. [Comfort Fund] issue in afternoon. Rumour about that we may get a Gosshawk [new model of Kittyhawk] within the next couple of days. Hell of a dust storm and confined to the tent.
Saturday 18 July 1942
Changed a circuit-breaker from 'C' to 'J'. Hell of a dust storm blowing all the afternoon. Extra bad. Big do up the front today – about 150 planes taking part in it. Still no news of us getting away from the desert, so we shall just have to put up with it.
Sunday 19 July 1942
Had a gun sight to do on 'B'. 50 Bostons and 100 Kittys on a big do. 'L' came back with no electrical gear working. Changed the battery and then had to change the generator from 'C'. Worked on it after tea and got finished about 9.30. Made a cup of tea for supper. Jerry came over and dropped about 100 flares so he seems to have found us.
Monday 20 July 1942
Curly Hoare posted back to base so sent my watch and camera down to Ocker. Had no job to do today. Bostons and Kittys still keeping up their bus service. Told that our push is starting at 7pm tonight and C Flight are on ½ hr notice. We packed up and slept in the tent.
Tuesday 21 July 1942
Packed and ready to move. B Flight has taken over the planes but I still managed to get a gun sight to do on 'B'. Spent the afternoon getting ready and went over to the cook’s tent for the news. Had a chat in the tent and turned in about 11. No result from the Recco’s visit. [ie. No Axis bombs fell.]
Wednesday 22 July 1942
Hot. Still on ½ hr notice but according to all reports the line is still much the same. Adjusted the generator regulator on the Ford and got a new centre bolt for it. Went to Binders concert [Slim recalls this as the Pommie Entertainment unit] after tea and it was an excellent show. Plenty of planes about but nothing happening. They must be ours.
Thursday 23 July 1942
Cleaned the starter connection on the Ford. Was over having dinner when [Dick] Moore came over and took the truck away. Ken and I did a 40 hourly on 'L'. Had a few drinks after tea with Slim, Shep and Tub. Wrote a letter to Joan and turned in about 11. Plenty of planes about but nothing happened.
Friday 24 July 1942
Hot. John Curtin announced last night that the Services may get another rise – good old John. Still on ½ hrs notice and heard a bit of a burst that we may be going up tomorrow or Monday. McRae came down about 8 and grabbed Slim and Shep to finish a job on 'L' – 40 hourly. Had a few drinks in the tent and wrote to Aunt Kate. Had a bad stomach for about an hour.
Saturday 25 July 1942, 115th day.
Got 23 letters from home and was very pleased with them. Went on leave in the afternoon. Had a feed at the Jewish Club and enjoyed a shave, haircut and shampoo. Had tea and a few drinks at the Long Bar. Caught bus home at midnight.
Sunday 26 July 1942
Hot. Up about 8. Still on ½ hr notice but think that we wont move up somehow. AIF casualties very heavy [at El Alamein]. Not much doing and the planes only did a couple of operations. Spent morning reading letters and sent cable to Mum and Joan. Played a few games of Euchre after tea and had a chinwag. Full moon and he is still leaving us alone [German bombers]. We must be lucky.
Monday 27 July 1942
Very hot. It’s a steamer today and the dust does not make things any better. Got my watch back from Charlie Burdis. Still not much doing. Only a couple of ops [combat operations] today. Plenty of search lights over Alex and El Alamein. Anne is pretty consistent. Had a game of 500. Mosquitoes were bad tonight and they prevented good sleeping.
Tuesday 28 July 1942
Very hot. About the hottest day yet. Canteen meeting at the Bomb Dump. A few D.A.s [delayed action bombs] going off a bit away from the camp area. Wrote to Mum and Joan. Hell of a dust storm came up about 2pm. Stood down after dinner – still plenty of bursts about – no getting out of the desert. Went to church in evening. Slept well thanks to the mosquito net.
Wednesday 29 July 1942
Mild. Not much doing. Spine-bashed most of the morning. After lunch we went for a swim at De Ceilia and enjoyed it pretty well. Met Slim’s cobber from 450 and had a few drinks with him. Bit of artillery in the distance. Bedded down about 12. One bomber over through the night but he only dropped a few a fair way off. Slept well.
Thursday 30 July 1942
Had a 40 hourly to do on 'J' and finished it before dinner. Had a hell of a dust storm after dinner and spent the rest of the afternoon in the tent. Plenty of bursts about going out. We hope they are true. The bloody dust here is so lousy. Went to the cook house and listened to news. Russia in a bad way. Turned in about 10.
Friday 31 July 1942
Fine and warm. Still plenty of bursts about going out of the desert. Only a few ops. today. After tea we were called to a meeting and told we are to get 7 days leave. Put up the new Canteen tent after the meeting. Had supper in the tent and had a yarn with Sheriff about the W.A. goldfields.
Saturday and Sunday 1-2 Aug 1942.
Shep, Rip and Pat lost the truck in Alex. Squadron stood down about 10. Got pay after dinner but had to wait till 5pm for leave pass. Shep, Slim Moore, Charlie Burdis, Alan Wand, Chappie, Wilbur, Laurie, Jinks, Frank Cooney, Sheps Farmer, Skeriff Keane, Ted Bevins and myself left camp at 7 for Palestine. Called at half way house and had a drink. Struck a bit of generator trouble with the Ford and also rigged up a headlamp on it after nearly hitting two Free French in an outfit. Reached Cairo about 11.50. Drove past the pyramids and over English Bridge and had a bit of fun with the wogs at the Rail Station. Continued about 1am and went along a channel for about 50 mile. A very picturesque drive. Kept going all night only stopping to pick up oil and petrol. Crossed the Suez at 5.40am. The next few hours we spent crossing the Sinai Desert – rolling sand dunes. Desert was covered with mist and was very cold early but very hot when sun rose. Kept going till noon when we reached NAAFI and was slugged 6 shillings for 3 sandwiches. Continued and crossed border about 1.30pm. Then about 150 miles of winding roads over mountains and past several ancient villages. Plenty of war material on the road. Reached Jerusalem about 3pm. Booked in at Faust Hotel. Had a good tea and walk around City. Bath and bed at 9pm.
Monday 3 August 1942. Missed a day.
Tuesday 4 August 1942. 128 degrees.
Walking tour of the holy places of Old Jerusalem- visited the Omar Mosque, St Anne’s church, Pool of Bethesda, through Damascus gate, walked on the Road of the Cross. Through the Old Jerusalem market, saw the Wailing Wall. Car trip to Bethlehem – passed Well of 3 Wise Men, visited Church of All Nations, Church of Holy Sepulchre, Church of Nativity, Bells of Bethlehem and Garden of Gethsemane. Car to Jericho and Old Jericho. Passed the Inn of Saville, Mount of Temptation, Mosque of Moses. Had swim in the Dead Sea. Crossed the Jordan into Transjordan. Passed Good Samaritan Inn. Tea. Saw “In the Navy” with C. Burdis.
Bethlehem, Palestine. 1942. Interior of the Church of the Nativity where troops are attending a service. [AWM 100275]
Wednesday 5 August 1942
Car to Haifa. Passed Sea of Haifa, Sea of Galilee, Nazareth Church of Annunciation, Church of St Joseph. Passed through beautiful avenues of gum trees, rolling hills etc. Lunch at Haifa. Drove along beach road to Tel Aviv. Returned to Jerusalem about 7. Went to a couple of cabarets.
Thursday 6 August 1942
Walked city and got pair of shoes and sent them to Joan. Visited YMCA and looked around in general. Left for Tel Aviv at 3.30. Beautiful scenery – 7 Sisters very steep hills, and dangerous. Much Australian gum and wattle en route. Fruit farms are very nice. City itself clean and gay. Counted 19 nationalities in one café. Wandered streets and went to movies “Move over Miami”. Broke into café and had to pay one shilling for a slice of bread.
Friday – Saturday 7-8 August 1942
Had breakfast in the open air garden. Walked around the city most of the day and visited Mrs Selkareich in afternoon. Had tea at the Aussie Club and two Kiwis had a drunks fight. [Slim Moore recalls that this was his 21st birthday and Tommy played the piano as a celebration.] Was sitting in café when air raid siren went and it certainly caused a panic. Two [Junkers] 88’s flew over but no bombs. Got back to hotel about 12 and we got mobile. Chappy was driving and he gave us a hell of a ride. One of the coldest day trips I’ve put in. Finally struck some Arabs about 3am and they told us we were heading for Jerusalem. Turned about and stayed at Beersheba at the bakehouse for a couple of hours. Travelled on and crossed border and it was very hot. Had a puncture and drove two miles on a flat to a water point. Ten of us got a lift with a Pom Captain and they treated us very well. Gave us some eats and tea. Reached Cairo at 7 and booked in at the NZ club.
Sunday 9 August 1942
Had a good feed and caught train to Alex arriving at 1pm. Lunch at Jewish club and went to races with Charlie. Backed Home Fleet but finished up losing 125 P. [piasta]. Booked in at British Hotel and went to movies. All pretty tired and we’ve got about 10P. each left.
Back to the Squadron...
Monday 10 August 1942
Caught Gharrie (horse and buggy) to Com el Dick. Watched a good display of tent pegging by some of the Egyptian Cavalry. Back to camp by tender [truck] and got a parcel from Mum and some Globes from Joan. We ate the cake and the boys enjoyed it. Cleaned up the tent and started a letter to Joan. Had tea with B Flight.
Tuesday 11 August 1942
Eating at B Flight. Squadron stood down for the day and boys went for a swim after lunch. I spent rest of the day resting and reading the Globes. Got eight parachute cushions from Charlie and they make an extra good bed. Had about ½ hr exercises.
Wednesday 12 August 1942
Hot. Up at 8 and we are back at C Flight Mess. Had to shift the Operations Tent and while I was up there I had a look at our Lysander [British Communications Flight plane]. Fair bit of dust about and a few of the kites are on standby. Wrote to Mum. Did the exercises.
Thursday 13 August 1942
Spent most of the day in the tent and this quiet spell is no good. One of the [RAF Squadron] 112’s trainees went in from 100 ft this morning (crashed).
Friday 14 August 1942
Hot. We are still training pilots and there is not much work. Battle in the Med. We lost an Aircraft Carrier Eagle. Wrote to Es. A half-dozen Liberators (four engined American bombers) went over about 12 o’clock. Hope they do OK. Restless.
Saturday 15 August 1942
Hot. Up at 8. The food is crook. Hope Curly [Morrison] and Co are back soon. Ken and I inspected the kites and topped up the batteries. Received a telegram from Bid. Spent rest of the day reading The Citadel. Good book. Some kites about but they are ours [Allied] and they landed at the Wimpy drome.
Sunday 16 August 1942
Fair breakfast this morning. The cooks are coming back tomorrow. No work about much and we are still killing time. Went for swim in afternoon and had a great time. The surf was pretty good and we had a bit of fun with the Wogs. The tea was N.B.G. ["No Bloody Good"].
Monday 17 August 1942. (137th day)
Nothing much doing and we are still training pilots. Only one or two Ops each day and time passes slowly. Weather is getting a bit cooler and the evenings are drawing in a bit. Read most of the day and heard there was some mail in down at the base. Turned in about 10 and slept fairly well. Few kites about.
Tuesday 18 August 1942
Hot. Up at 7.30. Did a solenoid on 'E' and helped Shep before lunch. Did a solenoid on 'L' after lunch and Pat and Rip went to town AWL. Mail arrived in afternoon but no Victorian. 'E' went into the deck about 7pm and Mactaggart was killed. Chaffie and Brown under close arrest. Curly Howe spent afternoon and night with us.
Wednesday 19 August 1942
Warm. Generator burnt out on 'L'. Spent all the afternoon working on 'F' with Slim [Moore]. Plenty of burst about that replacements are coming for the remaining 60 of the old hands. Batch of mail in but none from Victoria. Heard the news at the Canteen of large scale commando raid on France [the Dieppe fiasco].
Thursday 20 August 1942
Warm. Hell of a dust storm and the kites were off at dawn to escort the C.C. [Commander in Chief Middle East, General Alexander] to Burg el Arab. The first operational for a couple of weeks so we may get a bit of work. Jerry reported to be pushing. Canberra [Australian Navy Cruiser] reported to be lost at Solomon [Islands, in the Battle of Savo Island]. Squadron stood down from Ops. about 10am. Received telegram from Mum and a couple of Globes from Bid. Quiet afternoon.
Friday 21 August 1942
Warm. Had a gun sight wire to connect on 'E' and also 'H'. The Squadron on ops again, so things may be starting. Spent quiet afternoon. Turned in at 10 with a headache. Jerry over about 10.30 and dropped a few over the Wimpy drome, and left about 12. Had a crook night. Now it’s started I dare say we can expect a bit.
Saturday 22 August 1942.
Had to fix runaway guns on 'E' [guns firing without the trigger being pressed]. Had a look at the Lysander with Ken. Spent afternoon with Charlie and had letter from Ocker. Believe some Vic mail in at Base. Turned in about 10. Jerry [German Reconnaissance plane] was over about 10.30pm and there was plenty of A.A about. No bombs though - he was taking flashlight photos – will probably get some at full moon.
Sunday 23 August 1942
Very hot. Pay Parade and caught the beach truck about 10.30. Had a good swim and day in general.
A 3 Squadron truck to the beach.
Back to camp for tea and went to the Sth Africans concert. Fair turn but the shed was crowded out. Indian troops camped on drome to deal with paratroops.
Monday 24 August 1942
Hot. The flies are slowly driving us ratty. Had morning tea with Charlie and spent the afternoon in his EPI [tent]. Plenty of precautions being taken for the paratroops – Six Beaufighters with the new tail turrets landed at [Landing Ground] 92 tonight.
Tuesday 25 August 1942. (145th day).
Hot. Up at 8 and it’s a cow of a day. Dust and flies pretty bad. Still pretty wary about paratroops and our first all-night guard starts duty tonight. Wrote to Mum and Joan. Went to the Canteen after tea and we had a good talk about general topics. Turned in at 11 and Jerry was over taking photos again but no bombs. Slept well.
Wednesday 26 August 1942
V. hot. Spent most of the day working on 'E'. Generator was not charging. Fault was somewhere in the voltage reg. Fitted new cut-out which I got from R.S.U. [Repair a& Service Unit]. Had a hell of a day. Turned in about 10 and Jerry was over at 11. He took more photos but still no bombs.
Thursday 27 August 1942
Spent a couple of hours looking for McRae [Engineering Officer] and got my trade test over. [Slim Moore recalled that Tommy got upgraded from Electrician to Electrical Fitter which could have doubled his pay.]. Nothing much doing and the kites only got one op. USA seem to be doing OK in the Solomons and Russia has stacked a push west of Moscow. Jerry over through the night but no bombs.
Friday 28 August 1942
War seems to be at a standstill here and we didn’t have any ops [combat missions] at all. Had afternoon tea with Charlie in the fabric section (parachute). Went to Canteen after tea and had a couple of bottles. Jerry was over till 5am. Plenty of A.A. and bombs but none on our drome.
Saturday 29 August 1942
Hot. No ops at all today and we are sick of doing nothing. Bursts [rumours] about that there is a list ready for the chaps who are going home. Went to Canteen after tea and had a couple of drinks. Jerry over about 11 and the night fighters are up. Two Spittys got a Hurricane and a Beaufighter got a Liberator (friendly fire).
Sunday 30 August 1942
The kites went on a fighter sweep but got chased home by [German Messerschmitt] 109s. Churchill [3SQN pilot] pranged but got out of it OK. Turned in about 10 but was awake most of the night watching the fireworks. Plenty of incendiaries and basket bombs about. Saw the Bofors get an 88 [German bomber Ju88] about 5am and heard that the nightfighters got two more.
Monday 31 August 1942
Very dusty. Spent most of the morning on 'J'. The trimmer tab motor not working. Hell of a dust storm today and the crews have shifted to [Landing Ground] 175. The Bostons are on the go again and they had three Mitchells [B-25 bombers] with them. Jerry supposed to be pushing. First night on guard tonight and was lucky enough to get 8-10.30 shift. Turned in at 11.30 and Jerry woke us about 3.30 and made things uncomfortable with flares, H.E. [high explosive] and Basket Bombs. He kept it up for about an hour.
Tuesday 1 September 1942
Mild. We are on ops again in earnest. Second flip [operation] was off at 10.30 to escort 18 Bostons – they look well in faultless formation.
A formation of Boston bombers over North Africa . [Imperial War Museum]
The Wing got 27 tanks and 9 kites today [combat victories]. Good show for no losses although 'A' was well shot up. Jerry was over for most of the night and he is getting too close. Will dig the hole a bit deeper. Had an interrupted night.
Wednesday 2 September 1942
Warm. We are escorting the Bombers. Did a [landing gear] warning on 'C' and gunsight on 'F'. First of the base boys arrived today. Big battle raging up at El Alamein and it looks like being vital. Jerry dropped a few basket bombs on 450 [Squadron] drome.
Thursday 3 September 1942
Had to change a starter on 'A' and clean the Solenoid. Went to A.S.P. [Air Stores Park] with [Brian] Palmer for the new part. Some more of BASE [ground staff] arrived at A.L.G. [Advanced Landing Ground] and the Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells have been over all day. Had a bit of supper with the Indian Troops after tea. Jerry not over tonight.
Friday 4 September 1942
Squadron doing ops flat out and the Bostons are almost non stop. Practically all base here now and the Flights are to be reorganised. Wrote home. Dust pretty bad this afternoon. Not much work about, but the Bostons are still hard at it and we escort them about four times a day.
Saturday 5 September 1942
Warm. A couple of ops. this morning. Had to go across to 175 L.G. this afternoon on standby. Got back about 6 and there is a burst [rumour] that mail is about. Listened to the news after tea and Stalingrad is in a bad way. The nights are getting fairly chilly again.
Sunday 6 September 1942. (157th day).
The battle up here seems to have abated because we haven’t done an op today. Victorian Mail expected tomorrow. Hope it gets here OK. Had to fix the charging rate on 'E'. The cutout was dirty. Had a couple of A.I.F. [Australian Army] chaps to tea. Spent evening reading.
Monday 7 September 1942
Pay parade. The battle must be at a standstill again because we are doing training flights again. Not much work and the mail is not here yet. Received a cable from Wak. Getting ready for a day’s leave. Fitted a new circuit breaker on 'I' [Kittyhawk CV-I].
Tuesday 8 September 1942
Had a bath in the kerosene tin. Left for town about 1pm and saw a couple of movie shows Pinocchio and The Lady is Willing. Had tea at the South African Club and booked in at Hibbert House. Not many troops in town but its pleasing to see that some of them are Yanks.
Wednesday 9 September 1942
Have a touch of G.G. [stomach trouble]. Went to Stanley Bay but was too lazy to go swimming. Came back to Fleet Club, had a game of billiards and lunch and then caught the bus back to camp. Was extra pleased to receive 7 letters when I got to camp. The Squadron got four kites today – 2 ME’s [109’s, shot down] and 2 Stukas.
Thursday 10 September 1942
Very dusty. Wrote to Joan and Mum and Es. The kites went over to 175 but I was glad I didn’t have to go. It’s a cow of a day and can see about 20 feet. Went to a concert after tea at the M.U. [maintenance unit] shed and it was a good turn. Got back to camp and turned in at 12. Few kites over and one flare.
Friday 11 September 1942
Dusty. Did a gun sight on 'F'. [Danny] Boardman got a probable this morning. Had to go to 175 for afternoon ops. Kites took off once and we came back about 5pm. I’m well and truly sick of this desert and wish I was back home. There were a few kites over during the night but they must have been ours.
Saturday 12 September 1942
Cold. Had a fair shower of rain this morning. Was going to town but could get no money. Had to go over to [Landing Ground] 175 on standby and did a gunsight on 'F'. Got back to camp about 6. Heard burst that a Yank Squadron will be with us soon. Received a cable from Bid.
Sunday 13 September 1942
Got ready for leave and had to change a circuit breaker on 'A'. Got to town about 2.30. Went to a movie and saw a very good show, Boom Town. Had tea at the French café and then had a look at the floor show at Grand Trianon. Had a few drinks at Long Bar and then went looking for a bed.
Monday 14 September 1942
Didn’t think the bed was worth 10 Ackers so I didn’t pay. Had breakfast at the Fleet Club then had a good walk around the city. Had good dinner at Jewish Club. Slim fell for 3 card trick. Got back to camp about 4. After tea we dismantled the Iti [Italian] mortar bombs and set fire to the charge and they caused a bit of a panic when they exploded.
Tuesday 15 September 1942
Spent most of the day at the workshop fixing up the Bofor shells for vases.
The kites got badly shot up today about 5 pm. Jack Donald and Scribner missing. [Slim recalled that Donald was taken POW and Scribner was killed.] 'S' must have stopped about 100 rounds. After tea I fixed the generator on 'F'. The cutout was dirty.
Wednesday 16 September 1942 (167th day)
Not much doing today – only a few ops. Got an issue from ACF today [Comforts Fund] – chocolate, cigarettes, tobacco, razor blades. Good burst that we are moving from the desert, and some mail coming. After tea we all had a look at the ME109E that we captured. Few flares about and also a plane or two.
Thursday 17 September 1942
Fitted a new reflector mirror on 'E' and then helped Slim with some ignition trouble. We found that the arc magneto was burnt out and spent the afternoon fitting a new one. Listened to the news after tea – Stalingrad still holding out. Moon is about half and we are not being troubled.
Friday 18 September 1942
The war up here is practically at a standstill. We didn’t do an operation today although the kites were on standby most of the day. Transport have had orders to get their trucks into A1 order and the bursts that we are going out are thicker than the evening fog. Hope they are right.
Saturday 19 September 1942
This morning we visited the Yanks who are on the drome next to ours. There are 3 squadrons of them and they have about 70 Gosshawks. [Similar to Kittyhawks with Merlin engines]. They are very raw and can’t understand why we are not pushing. On the whole they seem OK. Drew 2 pound from the pay office today. Felt like a drink after tea but had to do without, because canteen had none.
Sunday 20 September 1942
The fuel pump on 'E' not working. Spent most of the day working on it and finally got it right about 4pm. Today Greeves and Hickson [Col Greeves, Adjutant and Dick Hickson, Supply Officer] collected all the Jerry tins from the tents etc. and caused a stir. Went to the canteen after tea but there was not much doing. Fifteen Mitchells were over this morning escorted by Yanks.
Monday 21 September 1942
Not much doing today and spent most of the day reading. The burst that we are moving is gathering strength and the camp is full of speculation and rumour. Was called out after tea to have a look at 'K'. The whole electrical system had failed. Told the Flight Sergeant to take it off the line and would do it tomorrow.
Tuesday 22 September 1942
Went down to 450 [Squadron] area and adjusted the charge rate on 'K'. Stayed there talking to Pat and Sly till midday. The kites went to 175 [:Landing Ground] this afternoon but we did no ops. The war here has just about ceased. Was pulled out after tea to fix the G.S. [generator] on 'J' and the starter on 'C'.
Wednesday 23 September 1942
Up at 7 to do a job on 'C'. Had to fit a new starter complete. Finished about 11 and caught Leave Truck to town. Went to see “Westerner” with Noel and had tea at the Fleet Club. Listened to the concert in the Beer Garden till 9 and then went to the Long Bar for an hour or so.
Thursday 24 September 1942
Had a quiet morning walking the City. Caught truck back to Camp and arrived about 4pm. After tea went and had a few games of Crib and some supper with Ted Bevans.
Friday 25 September 1942
Not much doing today. The tank busters [Hurricanes] were back last night – we may be moving and the Squadron has about 15 kites. Went to the pictures after tea – “She Knew All the Answers” – a good show. We were left alone tonight. It is a full moon. [The German bombers would be vulnerable in the moonlight.]
Saturday 26 September 1942
No jobs today and spent all day in the tent. On guard tonight and drew the 4am-7am shift. Went to Canteen after tea and had a few drinks. We had a visit from Trewavis today just to see that everything was mobile. We are still very slack – must be waiting for a big push or something.
Sunday 27 September 1942
Up at 4 to do guard but was back in bed by 5. Spent morning in the tent. Went to do a gun job on 'J' after lunch but found that the pilot didn’t know how to use them. Umpired the cricket match between ourselves and AIF and had good time. Went to Walsh’s tent after tea and had a toast and tea supper.
Monday 28 September 1942
Went to dentist this morning and had a filling. Today is one of the dustiest yet I’ve struck. Spent all afternoon in the tent. Four yank pilots attached to us to learn tactics. Still no ops and the game is very monotonous. The A.A. [anti-aircraft] opened up at tea time and it caused a bit of a panic at the Mess.
Tuesday 29 September 1942
Life is becoming more monotonous each day. The planes have not been up again today and we are spending most of our time in the tent. Listened to the news at Snow Horne’s tent and he is very pleased that he has been posted home (who wouldn’t be). Plenty of kites about tonight but nothing doing.
Wednesday 30 September 1942
Had to fit a new prop motor relay on 'J'. It was a cow of a job and the warm sun didn’t make it any better. Also cleaned the cutout points on 'J'. Wrote to Joan and sent a Xmas card to Joan and Mum. Went to canteen after tea and had a bottle. Had a talk in the tent.
Thursday 1 October 1942
Generator not charging on 'F'. It turned out to be the regulator. Had to go to MU [Maintenance Unit] to get a part. Big batch of mail arrived in the afternoon and the usual bull fight resulted. Received 23 letters and was just getting into them when had to do a fuel light on 'B'. Spent a few hours reading the news and was it good-oh.
Friday 2 October 1942
Had to fix an oleo horn on 'F' and guns on 'E'. Also checked cutout on 'E'. More Victorian mail in at canteen about lunch time and got another 10. Planes were out on a sweep about 4 and [Garth] Neill got a 109 confirmed. Rip refused to take a kite before Baker and a bit of strife resulted. Saw “Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen” [Ventriloquist]. Four new Wireless Ops arrived today.
Saturday 3 October 1942, 184th day.
Hot. Sky was very cloudy this morning but sun pretty hot by 10. More mail in. Kites on standby all day but they didn’t do an op. Wrote to Joan and spent most of the day in the tent. This spell of inactivity is putting the boys on edge. Believe there are some replacements on the way but it may be a burst [rumour].
Sunday 4 October 1942
Warm. Received a cake from Mum. The kites only on training ops and we look like being here for the bloody duration. Wrote home and sure wish I could go with the letter. Plenty of planes in the air tonight – think they are Bostons because there are no bombs.
Monday 5 October 1942
Very hot. Gave Shep a hand with his kite and nearly passed out in the heat. After lunch the clouds blew up and we had a marvellous shower of rain. Not much doing but the kites did a couple of ops. Our tent is C.B. [confined to barracks] because of the untidiness of it. [Slim recalled that Tommy was pretty untidy.] Visited the S.African at the bore last night and was given 150 cigarettes.
Tuesday 6 October 1942
Squadron had their photos taken today for identity purposes. The kites went off at 1.30 on a bombing raid. Had a job on 'F' – it had a short in the pitot line. The S.African spent the afternoon with us and we gave him some rations. The Yanks are in full force now.
Wednesday 7 October 1942
We must be here for the winter because we got an extra pair of blankets each. Kites did a bit of good yesterday. Two [Junkers] 88s on the ground and the Beaufighters got an ammo train. Had a bit of supper in the tent and turned in about 9. Bit of A.A. about but I think they must be fooling, for we can’t hear the [enemy] kites.
Thursday 8 October 1942
Showery. Had to go to 175 on standby at 11am. A line-up of 70 odd kites. Spent the afternoon in the tent and went back to 175 after tea. Got back to camp about 7pm and had to charge the battery on 'J'. Had a few drinks at the canteen with Noel, Pat and Tom Bentley. Wrote to Joan.
Friday 9 October 1942. 190th day.
Showery. Wrote to Es. Spent the morning with Noel and when I got back they were after me. Have to do a week’s standby for punishment. 'F' was giving a bit of trouble after lunch. The starter was burnt out and it nearly caused a fire. Got the starter off and then had to go on to 'J'. The generator was U/S [unservicable]. Kite is fitted with air cleaner and sure was a crook job. Knocked off at 7 and went to movies “Our Husband”. One big bomb at 12.
Saturday 10 October 1942
Hot. Fog very thick. Spent all the morning working on 'J' and got it finished about 11. Mail in after lunch and I got 11 letters. Andrew was down to see us in the afternoon and he stayed for tea. Mosquitoes nearly ate us. Lucky to have nets to sleep under. Wrote a note to Joan.
Sunday 11 October 1942
Warm. Spent morning helping Slim look for a glycol leak on 'A' and then had lunch. Spent most of the afternoon in the tent reading and answering letters. Turned in about 8 to escape the mosquitoes which were bloody awful. Spent a cow of a night – was up about 3 times trying to get them out of the net.
Monday 12 October 1942
Wrote to Joan. Sqn. not very busy today – one operation. We now have 198 confirmed [enemy planes shot down] and we have been promised a good dinner when we reach the 200 mark. Heard plenty of AA about but nothing eventuated. Definitely no replacements here or on the way, we were informed. Also told by Gibbes [Squadron Leader] that the Sqn may be converted to an army co-op.
Tuesday 13 October 1942
Wrote to Mum, Es, and Mr. Waghorn (Joan’s father). Sqn. stood down till 1pm and only a couple of training flights. Had to fit a camera gun on 'J' but was taken off it to fix the prop motor on 'C'. Somebody had left the brush leads out. Fixed the horn on 'H' and the Sqn. did two ops in the afternoon – 1 bomb and 1 fighter. Yanks as top cover and did a good job. Saw good dogfight [practice] between a Hurricane and two Spits.
Wednesday 14 October 1942
We look like being busy today. Fitted new gunsight globe in 'B'. Two fighters ops in the morning. Coningham (air chief RAF) gave us a lecture about 3.30pm. We are going to endeavour to finish the war in Nth Africa. Tunis is the goal and our Wing is to go the whole way. The boys are in high spirits and speculation is high. Went to canteen after tea and the mosquitoes nearly ate us.
Thursday 15 October 1942
Went to [Landing Ground] 175 for standby and got the batteries in the kites topped up. Went to the concert after lunch. Fair show. Sqn. got into a do [dogfight] this afternoon but got no kites. Few planes about.
Friday 16 October 1942
Worked all the morning on 'E' fixing the guns and the landing lamp. After lunch had to go to 175. A hell of a dust storm blowing and we took 2 hours to get back to the tent. Had tea in the tent and also a few bottles of ale. The dust kept going about 1 and then the rain started. Rip and Slim got wet but I managed to keep dry.
Saturday 17 October 1942
Windy and wet. Had a helluva night. Spent most of the morning cleaning out the tent and digging drains. Junior O’Reilly’s birthday [Slim recalled that it was his 20th] today and we got a case of beer to the tent about 3pm. We all had a good time and turned in about 9pm. The kites are still at 175 and a guard was sent over to mind them. Wrote to Joan.
Sunday 18 October 1942
Cold. The storm has passed – had a look at a couple of the kites in the morning and took my leave out in the tent during the afternoon. A few ops through the afternoon and things will probably get busy from now on. We now have 10 kites in C Flight. Wrote to Mum and turned in about 8pm. One Jerry over.
Monday 19th October 1942. 200th day.
Cold. Spent most of the morning pulling down the tent and packing the gear etc. to move to 175. 24 bombers over about five and our kites went with them as top cover. Turned in at 7 but the mosquitoes soon had us out and we rigged up the nets. Few bombs about but they didn’t worry us much.
Tuesday 20 October 1942
The kites on ops in earnest. Two flights this morning escorting 22 bombers each time to Fuka. Changed a battery on 'C' and 'E'. We lost 3 kites on the 2nd op – two at Fuka and one in the sea. Got the sea kit today and sorted out the winter kit. Gave a hand to the boys to remove the long range tanks. Had a couple of drinks at the canteen.
Wednesday 21 October 1942
Had to do a prop motor on GA-V [British 112 SQN] which took most of the morning. The Squadron got into a do and damaged a Jerry. Did a bombing raid on Fuka in afternoon. Bombers over practically all day and things look like starting any day now. None of our trucks allowed into Alex. Had to do a starter solenoid on 'A' after tea.
Thursday 22 October 1942
Things look like coming to a head any day now. We are doing plenty of ops. Garth Neill got his today [pilot killed in action]. He had [shot down] 6 or 7 Jerries . Bombers still carrying on the “bus service” and if there aren’t some bomb-happy Jerries about I’m a bad judge. Stayed on the line most of the afternoon. Wrote home.
Friday 23 October 1942
Changed the starter solenoid on 'A'. The bombers are hard at it and Jerry must be stopping the lot. On standby most of the day and the sky above the neighbouring dromes looks like Swanston Street on Friday night. Rip posted to 103M.U. Went to the Wing movie after tea “Mating at the Big House”. Turned in about 10 and Jerry got a petrol train near Amiriya – it certainly burned. Plenty of AA and a couple of bombs, but had fair night.
Start of the Final Land Battle at El Alamein:
Saturday 24 October 1942
Adjusted leg indicator on 'H'. Changed battery and generator reg on 'A'. 'Push' or battle started last night about 10pm and everybody hard at it. Clabburn got a probable today. Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells are going over practically every few minutes and our chaps aren’t exactly loafing either. Did a gunsight on 'F' and a trimming tab motor on 'J' after tea. Plenty of artillery up the front.
Sunday 25 October 1942
Up at 6 and did the daily inspecs. on the line. Had to remove and free the starter on GA-V before lunch. The bombers are flat out – either going or coming almost continuously. Must have been a few hundred at least over today. We have pushed Jerry back 30 miles, so things must be OK so far. Posted the Xmas cards. A few bombs fell on [Landing Ground] 91.
Monday 26 October 1942
Up at 6.30 and did the dailies on the line. The planes going flat out – only down to refuel and then off again. Richardson lost [pilot shot down]. Yanks got 4 x 109s confirmed and the Beaufighters got 15 without loss – a very good effort. Stayed on the line most of the afternoon and Bullwinkle had to bail out and got a broken leg. Went to movies at Wing: “Charlie Chan at the Opera”.
Tuesday 27 October 1942
Went to the dentist this morning and had one filled. The Bostons, Baltimores, Mitchells [2-engine bombers in formation] taking off in groups of 18 every few minutes. They must be making a hell of a mess somewhere. Back to work about 1 o’clock. Had a look at the starter on 'B' and nearly had the kite burn. Churchill lost [pilot shot down]. Worked on 'B' 'til dark and turned in about 8. A few bombs about but slept well.
Wednesday 28 October 1942
Up at 7 and started on 'B'. Went to R.S.U. [Repair and Salvage Unit] and spent all the morning pulling the wires etc. out of a kite there. Spent the morning working on 'B' with Earn Marshall and Stan Roberts and it was a hell of a job. Knocked off when too dark to see. Only one operation today but Gibbes got a kite confirmed – our 200th. The bombs still very regular. Had a couple of drinks and turned in about 9.
Western Desert, El Alamein. 28 October 1942. A Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk III fighter aircraft taxies across the airfield
before taking off on a sortie. Only a short time before, fitters and electricians had begun working upon the engine
in their non-stop tour of duty. [AWM MED0687]
Thursday 29 October 1942. 210th day.
Up a daybreak working on 'B'. Got it finished about 11am and sure was glad to see the end of it. Adjusted the charge rate on 'H' after lunch. Spent most of the afternoon on the line and fitted a few [instrument light] globes. One gets sick of trying to count the bombers overhead and am sure glad that they are ours. Had a chat in the tent and turned in about 9. Fair night.
Friday 30 October
Up at 7 and gave the kites a once over on the line. The bombers still continue their work and Jerry is reported to be making a general move westward. Had a bath etc. and got spruced up for a party in honour of the 200th [3 Squadron victory]. Had a wonderful feed of chicken, beetroot, tomato, trifle, ice cream etc., but the drunks got out of hand towards midnight and the show turned into a bohemian affair. Got home about 12 and slept well.
[Slim recalls the story of the RAF Wing Commander’s staff car being taken this night and driven into a dug-in stores tent. No-one confessed. A couple of years later, when in Italy, Laurie Whitford owned up to being the culprit, along with Wilbur Graham.]
Saturday 31 October 1942
Up at 7 and feel OK after the party but there are some thick heads about. Had a muster parade to find out who stole the WC’s car and a few flags etc. A couple of ops today and the pilots are claiming about 6 kites. No losses. Spent a fair part of the day reading Pendulum Swing. All the clocks back 1 hr tonight. Read in the tent till 9 and the mossies drove me to bed. Slept well.
Sunday 1 November 1942
Mild. Up at 5.30 for a gunsight on 'K'. Also had to fit a new gunsight lead on 'F'. Haven’t noticed any bombers today. They must be having a rest. Had a 5 minute dust storm and was glad when a sharp shower of rain settled it. Sqdn did quite a few ops after lunch and Holder [pilot] failed to return. Had a job on 'F'. The fuel gauge wire is broken. Turned in about 8 and had a good night.
Monday 2 November 1942
Up at 7. Soldered the wire on 'F' and Junior [O'Reilly] and I had a cow of a job getting the instrument panel back. Spent all day rushing about. 'C' has a crook governor and it took a fair while to fix. Also cleaned the prop motor brushes. Got 10 letters from home and sure was glad to get them. We have now got six Warhawks [Merlin-engined P-40s, known as Warhawks in the USAAF and 'Kittyhawk II' to the British] and will probably have them on the line tomorrow. Turned in about 7.30. Slept well.
Tuesday 3 November 1942
Hot. Up at 8. Fixed the gunsight on 'A' and had a look at the War-Hawks. The bombers are very consistent today and according to all reports we will soon be moving westwards in pursuit of Jerry. Sure hope we can do something definite this time. Wrote home after tea. We had a good talk in the tent about “getting home” after bedding down.
Wednesday 4 November 1942
Warm. Up at 7. Had to work on 'A'. The gun was not charging. A yank came over and gave us a hand. Finally decided that the gun was in the generator and pulled it off. It sure was a hell of a job. Knocked off at dark. Received 18 letters from home and some tobacco from Bid. (3 kites in C Flight U/S with generator). Read the mail and turned in. Slept OK.
Thursday 5 November 1942
Fine. Up at 6. Have to get ready to move (up this time). Moved out at 9.30. Had slow but good ride to El Maiah staging and had good feed. Formed big convoy with 450 [RAAF], 250 [RAF] and 66 [USAAF]. Passed numerous Jerry and Iti prisoners. Camped about 20 miles from [Landing Ground] 106, boiled the billy and turned in about 6.30pm. Jerry was over practically all night and forced me into the ARP Hole (air raid precaution – slit trench) with his bombs and strafing. Up again about 4.15. Packed up again and got cracking.
Friday 6 November 1942. 218th day.
Dull. Passed through El Alamein. Plenty of battle signs about (burnt out tanks etc.) and also a few bodies. [Slim says these were AIF men.] The road is full of our M.T. mostly moving up. Reached [Landing Ground] 106 El Daba 8am. Pitched tent and had a yaffle. Had a look at the burnt-out Hurry [British Hurricane] and a Macchi 202 [Italian fighter]. The kites got here about 5pm and we were kept going till about 8 covering and checking them etc. Turned in about 9 and Jerry was over but he didn’t worry us much. Had a bad dream. [Slim says that the Army engineers cleared the ground of mines so it could be used as a drome.]
Saturday 7 November 1942
Cool. Up at 5 in the dark. Fixed the gen. on 'H' – the reg. was U/S. Spent the rest of the day on 'A' and had a hard job of it. Changed the gen. with Slim and fitted a new reg. Finally got it right about 4 and worked till 7 getting the kite together again. The kites were out strafing most of the day. The boys got into a Jerry dump and got lugers [German pistols], cameras and all type of good loot. B Flight moved on. Slept well.
Sunday 8 November 1942
Cool. Up at 6. Sqdn did only one op today and [Tom] Russell pranged 'L' taking off. Fixed a gunsight on 'F' and had a look at the rest of the kites. Heard good news today that Yanks have invaded Algiers. The battle is going well with us here too and we may be able to do something decisive. Have to be packed and ready to move by 7am. Turned in about 8 and had a good night. Plenty of Wimpys [Wellington Bombers] going up and back.
Monday 9 November 1942
Cool. Up at 5.30 and all packed by 7. Moved out about 8. Moved along well till lunch time but after that the traffic was blocked all the way and we moved along about 2mph. There are so many knocked out Jerry tanks that a man gets sick of counting them. Passed numerous truck-loads of prisoners. Convoy got bogged but we got going again after an hour or so. Pulled in to Sidi Haneish at 6 o’clock and found B Flight had gone and left us with the kites. Covered them etc. and had a bit of jaffle [tinned provisions] and turned in. We have about 80 Spittys on the drome. [Keith] Kildey got a 109.
Tuesday 10 November 1942
Warm. Up at 7 after a good night. Fitted a gunsight and globe in 'F' and fixed the trim tab on 'Y'. Had a look round the drome and there are plenty of crashed and shot-up Stukas and 109’s. Singed the eyebrows with a Jerry flare. ‘A’ pranged through the 450 [SQN] cookhouse. News very good and it looks as though Jerry has almost had it in Nth Africa. Bedded down about 7. A few kites over through the night but nothing extraordinary.
Wednesday 11 November 1942
Warm. Up at 5.30 after good night. Packed up etc. and fitted a circuit breaker in 'Y'. Convoy moved off about 8. Passed through Mersa Matruh and Gerawala. Had lunch and turned off main road about 1pm. Travelled about 30 miles over the blue [desert]. Reached [Landing Ground] 076 Bir el Malla about 6pm. Passed many knocked-out tanks and planes en route and it is a good sight to see the knocked-out Jerry equipment.
A disabled German Mk.3 tank on the battlefield in North Africa, November 1943, with prone Australian troops nearby.
[The explosion was not as dangerous as it looks, as it was 'staged' by official Australian photographer, Frank Hurley. AWM 013345.]
Listened to the news which seems very good. Germany invaded unoccupied France. Slept under the truck.
Thursday 12 November 1942
Warm. Up at 5.30. Moved out about 6 and stopped a few miles out for breakfast. We are trying to reach Gambut by tonight. Had good trip till 1 o’clock and then pulled up for lunch about 20 miles east of the wire [Egypt/Libyan border]. Crossed the wire about 4pm (quite a bit of M.T. going through the gap) and continued on the track till about 6pm. Had tea and feeling very tired. Our aircraft covered us practically all the way up. Turned in at 7pm and slept under the truck.
Friday 13 November 1942
Warm. Up at 5.30 for a feed and on the way again by about 6. Pulled into Gambut about 1pm and no sooner had lunch than the planes arrived. We have 18 of them now [P-40 Kittyhawks] so they are keeping the aircraft up to us. Had a few jobs to do on them and the battery was well stewed on 'T'. There are a fair few Stukas and 109s on the drome and also a 170. The bombers did a good job here. Slung the tent and turned in about 8pm on the same sight from which we left so hurriedly just 4 months ago.
Saturday 14 November 1942
Cool. Up at 7. Got a voltmeter out of a Stuka and had a look around in general. Helped Noel to a 40 hourly on 'J'. Took a battery out of the crashed 'LD' kite [250 RAF Squadron] and fitted it in 'F'. Had a water issue this afternoon – the first for a week and we all had a bath and a brush up etc. Jerry is west of Benghazi according to all reports and we look like going to Msus tomorrow. B Flight moved through on their way to Gazala. [When moving, A, B and C Flights leap-frogged each other, so that the fighter planes were kept flying while some of the ground-crew were on the road.] Was called out to do a generator on 'F' (they didn’t have it switched on). Turned in about 9.45.
Sunday 15 November 1942
Mild. Up at 6.30 after a fair night. Was packed etc. by 7.30 but the convoy did not move out till 10.30. Passed numerous knocked out tanks and planes etc. Reached Tobruk about 1pm. Harbour literally full of sunken ships and the approaches to the town littered with [army] stores and knocked out vehicles etc. Reached El Gazala about 4pm and had a feed. Turned in about 7pm. Had a bit of rain and wind – was fairly cold.
Monday 16 November 1942
Wet. Up at 6.30 and convoy moved out about 8 headed for Martuba. Slim and I had a front seat with Alec Finlayson. Had a fair ride till 12 o’clock. A jeep hit a mine a few cars behind us in the convoy and two Squadron Leaders (one of them Terry) and two airmen were blown up. Too close for comfort. Spent a couple of hours at the turnoff to Martuba waiting for the traffic to clear. Reached the drome about 3 and there are about 10 x 109’s, a couple of Stukas and gliders here. Turned in about 9.30 and managed to keep dry.
Tuesday 17 November 1942. 229th day.
Wet and cold. Up at 7.30 and we’ve had a fair bit of rain so B Flight look like having the kites at Gazala for a few days yet. Heard the news and Jerry has left Derna but he has mined the roads and pass thoroughly. Had a bit of rifle practice in the Wadi after lunch. Drome still pretty wet and it will probably be a day or so before we get the kites and the rest is OK. Turned in about 9.30 but was up through the night with touch of GG ['Gypo Gut' - diarrhoea].
Wednesday 18 November 1942
Cold. Woken up at 7 by four bombs which Jerry dropped near the Martuba Village. The planes are still at Gazala but will probably be up tomorrow. Wrote to Joan and sent a couple of cables. Had a few shots after lunch in the Wadi. A Sth African pilot landed on the drome today badly wounded – he got a Ju52 and damaged an 88. Heard on the road that Benghazi had fallen. Turned in about 9.30 but was up through the night with Gypo.
Thursday 19 November 1942
Cold. Did a bit of washing after breakfast – still a bit wet but the drome looks fairly good and the kites should be here today. Wrote to Mum. Nothing to do and just as well because the stomach is not the best. Kites arrived about 4 pm and I checked them over. Trimming tab motor on 'A' was U/S and the gunsight on 'B'. Listened to the news after tea which is particularly good. Turned in about 9 but was up most of the night with Gypo.
Friday 20 November 1942
Cold. Up at 8 and went on sick parade – 3 tablespoons of castor oil and a big glass of salts. Met the kites and 'A' and 'O' were not charging. Fuse was gone in 'A' and also the regulator. 'O' had a crook generator and it took me all the afternoon to remove it. Fixed the field lead and had a bit of fruit for tea. The news was very good tonight. 4th Army 40 miles from Tunis and we are past Benghazi. The Japs are almost finished in New Guinea. Turned in at 8 after a game of 500. Good night.
Saturday 21 November 1942
Cool. Up at 7 to do a gunsight on 'T'. Spent rest of morning putting the gen. back on 'O'. We had to crank the kite to start it and it just about flattened us. The regulator was crook too. Had lunch. Finished it after lunch and did the boost coil on 'A'. An 88 [Ju88 German bomber] was over about 4 and dropped a few sticks [groups of bombs] around the drome. A Kitty had a burst at him [tried to intercept the German] but the AA was too thick for the Kitty. A 3.7 [AA gun] finished up getting the 88. Listened to the Melbourne Cup after tea - [winner] Colonus. Turned in about 9 – fair night.
Sunday 22 November 1942
Cool. Up at 7.15. Kites on 1 hr standby. [German] Recco over about 10am so we might be visited tonight. Mail truck has gone to Tobruk so we may get some mail tomorrow. Did a bit of washing etc. Played 500 after tea till about 9 o’clock when Jerry came over. He dropped ½ doz big ones across our dispersal and we sure hit earth in a hurry. Turned in after that and could hear him dropping a few round about, but he left our camp alone. Fair night.
Monday 23 November 1942
Mild and dull. Up at 7.15. Had a look at the bomb craters after breakfast and they appeared to be about 1000 pounders. Kites on ½ standby all day but did not go off. Received a parcel and wire and 3 letters from Joan and also a couple of Globes [sporting magazines]. Spent most of the day in the tent. Wrote to Mum. Things pretty fair up front and the army is being regrouped for the 2nd phase of the push. Turned in about 8 but was up with the Gypo.
Tuesday 24 November 1942
Cold. Up at 7. Kites on 1 hr standby so we don’t have to get them out. Noticed quite a few invasion barges going up to the front – will be used when the push restarts to cross the salt lakes. 112 Sqdn moved out from our Wing today and their place was taken by 260 [SQN RAF, coded:] HS. Wrote to Bid. El Agheila has been taken so things will probably stand for a few weeks as they are. Turned in at 7 but the G.G. [stomach trouble] had me up a couple of times. Few bombs a fair way off.
Wednesday 25 November 1942
Mild. Up at 7. Did a boost coil on 'A' and checked the mag. earth leads on 'F'. C Flight pilots going on leave and B Flight pilots will follow them. We are on 1 hr standby so things will be quiet for a day or so. Had a good game of 500 with Pat, Shep and Slim after listening to the news. Things out here have come to a temporary lull but the Russians are doing well near Stalingrad. To bed about 9.30 but the Gypo is still with me.
Thursday 26 November 1942
Dull. Up at 7.30. Planes on 1 hr standby so it looks like being another idle day. Went for a drive with Wandy [Alan Wand] after lunch but there was nothing about that had not been gone well over. Listened to news after tea and Russia is making things hum – war may have reached turning point. Played 500 and had a read – to bed about 9.30 Was up with Gypo. Few planes over but nothing happened.
Friday 27 November 1942
Fine. Did not get up till about 10am. Planes on standby and ready to intercept “Recco Planes”. They had 3 or 4 flips, but did no good. Spent the afternoon in the tent and did a few odd jobs. The 1st Army is reported to be only 25 miles from Tunis and we are all stuck in at El Agheila. Have the day off tomorrow so may go into Derna. Played crib and euchre after tea. Turned in about 9 and had a fair night.
Saturday 28 November 1942. 240th day.
Wet. Up at 7 – drew 1 pound pay and bought up some tinned fruit etc. Wrote to Joan and Es. Too wet to go out to Derna today. B Flight moving on to Antelat tomorrow (about 200 miles) so we will probably be here for a week or so. 1st Army only 15 miles from Tunis so the Africa Korps [German army] seems to have had its day. (We hope so anyhow.) Played cards after tea – a few bombs about but fair way off. Turned in about 8. Good night.
Sunday 29 November 1942
Cold. Up at 7 – still no ops and we are tired of doing nothing. Spent most of the day loafing around and wrote a couple of letters home. Listened to the news after tea and its pretty good. Played 500 until 10pm and then heard Churchill’s speech. Things seem to be pretty good. The Russians are doing OK. The Africa Korps seems to have had it and the Japs are finding the going far from easy in the Pacific. Roaming around is OK but I would sooner do it in peace time. Turned in about 11. Good night.
Monday 30 November 1942
Cool. Up at 7. Just had breakfast when Walshy came down in truck and we took the day off to see Derna. Must have been 2 or 3 acres of wrecked Jerry kites on the Derna Drome. Sighted Derna from the top of the Pass which is the steepest I’ve ever seen. The town is very neat and has not been so ravaged by war as other coastal towns. Tea is worth its weight in gold in the town. Arrived back to camp 5pm and received 7 letters. Played 500 after tea and turned in 9.30 after most enjoyable day.
Tuesday 1 December 1942
Autumn day. Woke at 7. Bit of a stink over going into Derna. Had to take all the batteries out of the kites to recharge them. Fixed a new booster coil to 'A'. Things here still pretty quiet but we may be moving in a few days. News still pretty good and the latest burst is that after this do is over we will go to Burma. Pat got 2 cartons of beer after tea and we had a pleasant evening yarning and drinking. Turned in about 9.30 and had a fair night.
Wednesday 2 December 1942
Autumn day. Woke at 6.45. Jerries stooging about strafing and bombing. A Hurricane took off from our drome, shot one of them down and was back all within ½ hour. Spent most of the day changing and re-charging batteries. No sign of moving for a day or so yet and the kites are doing a few training flips. Played cards after tea and wrote home. Things seemed to have quietened down here. Turned in at 9 and had a good night.
Thursday 3 December 1942
Wet. Up at 7.30. Nothing much doing and we are released for the day. Sent an airgraph home – wish I was going with it. Heard today that Curly Riley (B Flight) was killed up at Antelat [machine gun accident]. Spent most of the day resting not that we need it because things have been unusually quiet the last week or so. Played cards after tea and had supper of toast and coffee. Turned in about 9 and Jerry was about most of the night.
Friday 4 December 1942. 246th day.
Fine. Spent most of the morning on 'W' fixing the charging rate – the regulator was U/S. Went mushrooming after lunch and got a good lot. Replaced the batteries in the planes during the afternoon. Went to the picture show at Wing (Clark Gable ‘Love on the Run’). Back to camp at 8.30 and fried the mushrooms and had a good feed. Jerry was over most of the night and though he kept us awake he did no damage.
Saturday 5 December 1942
Wet. Up at 10 after breakfast in bed. Did a daily on all the kites and it looks as though we may move any time now. Got wet through and back to camp before lunch. Kites were supposed to go to Antelat this morning, but if the rain keeps up the drome will be U/S. Kites not going today and things still about the same. Not much doing. Played cards after tea and had a bit of supper. Good night.
Sunday 6 December 1942
Wet. Up at 7. This M&V [canned meat and veg] is getting to be on the nose. Three times a day. Had a look at 'V'. The Wet Efficiency gang sure made a job of it – left the main bus bar off and the cockpit junction box undone. Spent nearly all day on it and knocked off about 5. Planes supposed to moving tomorrow. Hope they do and the army can push Jerry to beggary out of [Libya]. Turned in about 9. Plenty of planes over but most of them are Wimpys – fair night.
Monday 7 December 1942. 249th day.
Fine. Up at 7.30. Had a look at the prop motor on 'O'. Finished the leg indicator and flap indicator on 'V'. Did a battery change on 'W' – also fitted a new fuse and regulator. Did a bit of mending and washing and packed things up in general. We are moving at 9 tomorrow. Listened to news after tea and it is still much the same. Played cards after tea and had a bit of supper. Turned in about nine. Planes over most of the night but must have been our own.
Tuesday 8 December 1942
Fine. Up at 6.30. Early breakfast and all ready to leave by 8 but it was nearer 10 before we got going. Plenty of M.T. etc. on the road and it took us till 2pm to do 40 miles. Had lunch and travelled on till about 5.30. Cooked a bit of tea. Countryside here much better than in Egypt and noticed quite a few Italian settlement farms en route. Turned in at 6.30 and slept under the engine cover with Pat. Had a fair night.
Wednesday 9 December 1942
Wet. Had breakfast and packed etc. by 7.30 but were delayed for an hour or so by a crook truck. Beautiful country we are now passing through and quite a change from the sand of Egypt. Reached Barce about 2pm, had lunch and moved on again. The convoy had a few breakdowns on the way and our truck was held up a fair bit. Finally got to outer suburbs of Benghazi about 7.30pm. Cooked a bit of tea and turned in about 8.30. Very fine night and camped under a grove of palm trees.
Thursday 10 December 1942
Fine. Up at 7 after a good night. Travelled on the truck again and reached Benghazi about 8. The town is well knocked about and there are plenty of wrecked ships in the harbour. One is still burning – it has been burning about 3 weeks. Travelled on and had lunch at Magrun – plenty of wrecked Jerry kites about. Passed through Agedabia about 3pm – reached the Belanda Drome at 4.30 and pitched the tent. Tea at B Flight. Turned in about 7.30 and had a good night.
Friday 11 December 1942
Wet. Up at 7 and the water position is serious – no tea – no wash – no nothing. Jerry reported to be moving west and only leaving some large field pieces to hold us up at El Agheila. Bursts [rumors] are very strong at present and the latest is that we will be withdrawn and sent to Palestine in January. Our planes bombed and strafed most of the day. The Jerry Air Force was conspicuous by its absence. Truck has gone for mail and should be back tomorrow. Wrote a couple of letters home and also one to Rip. Played cards after tea. Turned in about 10. Good night.
Saturday 12 December 1942
Wet. Up at 7.30. Planes were on ¼ hr standby but were released about 9am. The mail has not turned up but will probably be here tomorrow. Got our first water ration after lunch for 5 days. Was reading in the tent at 3pm when we heard a bit of strafing. Had a look and a Ju88 was coming our way at about 600ft. The AA was right on him and the Scotty Bofor near our tent got a few into him and he came down aflame a mile away. Played cards after tea and turned in about 9. Fair night.
Sunday 13 December 1942
Fair. Up at 7. Flight on 2 hrs notice to move. Strong burst that next move we make will be finished by plane. Soldered a bomb toggle on 'B'. Had a crook prop motor on 'F' after lunch – the relay solenoid was loose – soldered it back on. News pretty good tonight. Japs almost finished in NG and Jerry up here is moving west. Had a look at the guns on 'J' after tea but knocked off when a couple of bombs dropped a few miles down. Played cards after tea. Turned in at 10. Had good night.
Monday 14 December 1942
Foggy. Up at 7.30 and can hardly see 5yds for the fog. Worked on the guns on 'J' after breakfast and had to go over to 'Z' to get a new switch. Finished the job after lunch and got back to the tent and had to pack up and get moving. Pulled out about 3.30 and we’re headed for Marble Arch. Our kites have been flat out the last few days and the pilots say that Jerry is going west at a fair rate. Covered 24 miles and then had tea and a bit of a sing song with the accordion [played by Scotty Kemp according to Slim]. Turned in about 8.
Tuesday 15 December 1942. 257th day.
Up at 8 and we are not moving today. Spent most of the morning playing cards etc. and did a bit of washing. Filled in the afternoon playing cards and as its good weather we can take a lot of this sort of thing. News pretty good and the 8th Army is still chasing Rommel across Libya. The AIF and Yanks are slowly finishing the Japs in N.Guinea and the Russians are giving Jerry plenty to think about in Russia. Turned in about 8 and had a fair night.
Wednesday 16 December 1942
Cool. Up at 8 and still not moving today. Played cards during the morning and had a game of 2Up in the afternoon. The Kittys and Spitfires are doing a ceaseless patrol and there have been about 100 bombers over during the day. The New Zealanders have got Marble Arch but there is a Jerry Panzer between us and them. Listened to the news and turned in about 8. Very cold night but slept OK.
Thursday 17 December 1942
Cool. Up at 8. Still on ½ hr notice but don’t look like moving yet. Spent most of the morning playing cards. Had lunch and had to pack. Moved out at 3pm. The convoy is about 10 mile long and takes a bit of handling. We moved about 20 miles and turned off the road to bed down. News pretty good and Jerry is doing a general move west but his mines are holding us up quite a bit. Turned in about 8 and had a good night.
Friday 18 December 1942
Mild. Up at 6.30 and had a feed. Convoy finally got moving about 9. Pace was very slow owing to condition of road. Mine holes everywhere and the sappers are hard at work clearing the roads etc. Saw a few trucks which had hit them and gone up but the chaps were lucky enough to get out OK. Passed thru Agheila and camped at 1pm. Run 2Up for afternoon and got 1 pound. Slept well.
Saturday 19 December 1942
Cool. Up at 6.30. Got moving again after 3 or 4 hours messing about and finally reached Marble Arch about 2.30pm. Heard bad news that four of B Flight were killed by mines on the drome – Horne, Gates, Thompson, and Waugh. And Bartsch [Slim recalls he later died in Benghazi], Gurney and Mellow injured. The Douglas and Lockheed and Bombay Transports are certainly bringing up some supplies. Listened to news after tea and turned in after playing a few games of crib. Very cold night.
Studio portrait of 39549 Leading Aircraftman (LAC) George Bartsch, 3 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.
LAC Bartsch from Solomontown, South Australia, enlisted in Adelaide on 10 June 1941. On 18 December 1942,
on the airfield at Marble Arch, El Agheila, Libya, several airmen set off to load petrol.
An "S" mine was detonated and five men, including LAC Bartsch, were killed and two others were badly wounded.
LAC Bartsch died of wounds in hospital on 19 December 1942, age 21.
Sunday 20 December 1942
Cold. Up at 7.30. No sign of moving for a day or so. Had a good look at “Marble Arch” and inspected a few mines. S type. The Douglas Transport planes are arriving and departing regularly and some of our boys had to load and unload them. The Wing are doing many ops and keeping up a “shuttle service”. Had to move over the hill in case of a raid. There was one Jerry over about 12pm but the AA put up such a good barrage that he was driven off. Fair night.
Monday 21 December 1942
Fine. Up at 7.30. A Spitfire got a plane about 20 miles out to sea. Canteen arrived during the morning and we bought up a bit of yaffle. Told to move at 1pm and got going about 1.30. Travelled about 50 mile and parked near the Nofilia Drome. Jerry has blown up many bridges along the road and sown mines everywhere. Saw one go up and kill an R.E. (Royal Engineer). News still good and the A.O.C. [Air Officer Commanding] expects the show up here to be over within 3 or 4 weeks. Turned in at 8.30 and slept well.
Tuesday 22 December 1942
Fine. Up and ready to move by 8.00 but we stayed here all day. Played cards most of the morning and went for a swim – very cold. A recco was over about 10.30. Spent the afternoon playing cards and loafing about the place. Listened to news after tea and things are still pretty good. Squadron got 7 ME 109s and damaged 4 more. Gibbes flew Bayly back to camp on his knee. Turned in about 8.
Wednesday 23 December 1942
Cold. Up at 7 and moved with Wing convoy. Turned off main road and travelled a few mile along a very dusty [road] then passed through Nofilia Forte – a small village of recent building – was very nice at one time but the war machine has left its mark. Had a chat with some chaps from 7th Armoured Division and they are confident that this push will end things here. Passed a few knocked-out tanks and several Jerry anti-tank guns. Dispersed [i.e. parked the vehicles in a dispersed pattern, in case of enemy bombing] about 4pm. Turned in at 8.
Thursday 24 December 1942. 266th day.
Fine. Up at 6.30. Convoy got moving about 7.30 and we travelled about 40 mile into the desert. There was no drome at the destination and the boys had to clear the stones and camel bush etc. by hand. Played cards most of the afternoon with Laurie. Looks like being a very quiet Xmas. The country is as flat as a board except for the Wadi we camped in. Water still very scarce and looks like remaining so. Turned in about 8pm. We are 45 miles SE of Sirte.
Friday 25 December 1942
Warm. Up at 7.30 and spent most of the morning filling in holes on the new drome which we are making. The cooks put on a great feed for Xmas dinner – gazelle soup, roast turkey, pudding, and we each got a couple of bottles of ale and a rum issue. When the grog acted, the horseplay started, and I’ll never forget some of the acts put on. Pat and I were lost after tea for a few hours. Finally found the truck after a bit of trouble. Wrote home. Turned in about 12midnight and Xmas Day was not so dull after all.
Saturday 26 December 1942
Dusty. Up at 8. We moved a few mile and pitched our tent near the drome – the first time for a fortnight. Had to work filling holes on the drome and got into a bit of an argument with Anderson (Warrant Officer Engineer). The army occupied Sirte yesterday and there have been quite a few convoys of tanks, field guns etc. passing here the last few days. The planes are supposed to be here tomorrow. Turned in about 7.
Sunday 27 December 1942
Cool. Up at 7.30. Went to communion at Wing and also a church service before lunch. Some of the boys still working on the drome but we managed to miss it. Hundreds of trucks and artillery passed through today on the way to Sirte. News still pretty good and the Russians are doing very well. Big RASC [supply] convoy parked around us and we entertained a few of them to tea. They gave us a couple of guns and we sat up till midnight. Fair night.
Monday 28 December 1942
Frosty. Up at 8. Have got a bit of a chill in the back. Still working on the drome and still no sign of the planes. Things have quietened down again but the AOC says that we will be in Tripoli before February. Slim and Shep went back to Nofilia and bought a couple of guns and I spent the afternoon working on the drome. There are a couple of hundred Kiwis here also filling in holes. Turned in about 7.
Tuesday 29 December 1942
Cold, frosty. Up at 8 and feel pretty crook. Spent most of the day lying down and had a yarn to a Kiwi during afternoon. Things still much the same here and the Army must be waiting to get organised before pushing again. Kildey arrived before tea. He and Boardman have finished their tours. No news and no mail. Still no planes and we may move up again in a couple of days. Turned in about 6.30.
Wednesday 30 December 1942
Cold. Up at 8 and not too good. The planes landed through the day, refuelled and took off looking for 109s. They got into a do and we were pleased to hear that Watts got 2, Boardman and Righetti one each and Roediger chased the recco from 28,000 to the ground and got a damaged. 260 [SQN] also got 4 kites. Heard that the planes will be here tomorrow. Had a couple of Kiwis stay the night with us. Turned in about 9.30.
Thursday 31 December 1942
Fine. Up at 7.30. Went sick with the boil. The planes all arrived and are to be operated from here. Had to do a prop motor on 'H' and a gunsight on 'E'. B Flight arrived for tea and bought some mail with them. Got 7 letters. The two Kiwis are still with us. Half a dozen reinforcements expected tomorrow. So ends ’42, a year of new experiences and a very satisfactory year as far as the Allied nations are concerned. Turned in at 10.
Tommy Jones Diary 1943
Friday 1 January 1943
Fine. Up at 7:30. Only one op. today - 12 of our kites off to cover two Hurricanes on a recce. Roediger and Ritchie did not return. B Flight moved on after lunch. Five replacements arrived today. One of them (Jacobs) was shot in the foot an hour after arriving. The Lockheed Hudsons have been arriving all day loaded with ammunition. Jerry reported to be at Buerat. Stomach not too good – turned in about 8:30 but was up during the night with G.G.
Saturday 2 January 1943
Cool. Planes off first thing on a scramble and we were kept fairly busy during morning. Heard good news that Roediger was safe but had sustained a foot wound. Ritchie arrived back at camp on a camel. Jerry reported to be digging in 100 mile west of Sirte. Played Wogville after tea and lost 90 [Ackers]. Were paid today in British Military currency. Turned in about 10 but was up through the night with G.G.
Sunday 3 January 1943. 276th Day.
Dust storm and cold. Sandstorm and blowing (visibility about 20ft), and wind very cold. Felt very crook all day and spent most of the day in bed. Played a few games of cards and cooked our own meals in the tent. [Slim Moore recalls that these meals were tins of bully beef from the Mess.] Wrote to Es and Joan. One of the worst days we’ve had yet and it was impossible to get away from the dust. Much more of this and a man will be properly brassed off. Had another crook night.
Monday 4 January 1943
Up at 8 and the sandstorm is still blowing. Chaps had to clean the aircraft and cover them etc. Few cases of lice etc / we’ve been on half a bottle of water per day for the last 14 days so our M.O. had a parade. Feel much better today and hope I’ve got rid of the Gyppo. Played few games of cards and turned in about 9. S/L [Squadron Leader] Gibbes was awarded the DSO today, had a good night.
Tuesday 5 January 1943
Fine. Cold. Up at 7:30 and the big panic was on. Was kept busy cleaning booster-coils and changing batteries. Had to change over a gunsight in 'L' for [pilot Ron] Watt and fit a new bulb in 'B'. Had to fit a couple of new shutter switches in 'H' and 'C'. Received 3 cables from home. B Flight were strafed at Hemarat and 9 N.Z.s killed. Played few games of Crib at Ted Bevan’s tent. Turned in at 10 but was up through the night with G.G. ["Gyppo Gut"].
Wednesday 6 January 1943
Dull cool. Up at 8 and the planes are on half hour standby. Spent most of the day stripping parts off 'L' for Watt. Four of our planes escorted the AOC (Air Officer Commanding) up to the front. B Flight was strafed again and according to all reports things are warm on their drome. Had to fit a battery in 'H' after tea and just caught the truck to the picture show (Marlene Dietrich in Seven Sinners). Had supper and turned in about 10. A fair night.
Thursday 7 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Had to fix a short behind the panel on 'F'. Planes went off on an op but struck nothing. Had a look at 'A' and the boost coil ferrule was burnt out and also the magneto. They had flattened about 6 batteries trying to start it. Had a look at 'L' after tea – the cart socket was opened. Had a bit of supper in the tent and turned in at 9:30.
Friday 8 January 1943
Cold wind. Up at 8. Kites off on an early do and they shot down a 109 between them. Spent most of the morning and a fair bit of the afternoon fitting a new magneto on 'A'. Fair bit of dust about and also a burst that we may be out of the desert within a month. Had to fit 'Z's gill switch to 'A' after tea. Bofor (Bill Carey) taken over the Flight [A-Flight] from Frank Kirkland.
Saturday 9 January 1943
Dusty. Up at 8. Worked part of the morning on 'A' [Kittyhawk CV-A]. Cleaned the mag. switch and tested the leads. Started taking the starter switch out of 'W' after lunch. Still only doing a few ops but the push will start any day now and the army expect to be in Tripoli for the 21st. Big South African Wing moved into the drome today, so we may be going on again soon. Had a bit of supper and turned in about 9 and was up through the night with gyppo.
Sunday 10 January 1943
Dusty. Up at 8. Spent best part of morning replacing starter switch on 'W'. Had a look at the cutout on 'T' with Noel after lunch. Solenoids all stuck in on 'H' and I spent most of the afternoon working on it. Fitted new circuit breaker on 'F' after tea. Wrote to mum. Maybe moving tomorrow.
Monday 11 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Worked all the morning on 'H' on the mag switch and battery. Helped Pat lift the long range tank on 'S' after lunch. Got packed etc. and the Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells were arriving before we left. Got cracking about 2pm and travelled west for 40 miles. The track is well worn – must have been thousands of trucks across this way. Had tea at 5:30.
Tuesday 12 January 1943
Dusty. Up at 8:30 and moved out at 9:30. Passed a few hundred tanks and many convoys of trucks etc. Finally decided at midday that we were lost and spent a fair time asking directions etc. Reached drome about 3pm and had a feed at the Mess. Some mail in and I received a parcel from Aunt Polly. Told we are to move at 7:30 tomorrow with 3 other Wings and S & T (Supply and Transport) column and the NZ’s.
Wednesday 13 January 1943
Fine / windy. Up at 6:30 and ready to move on again at 7:30. Had only gone 10 mile when we got lost again. Reached Beach Road about midday and was very pleased to get away from the dust which was as thick as could be. Travelled about 20 mile along road and then turned back. Reached an MP post [Military Police] about 10 mile into the blue and had a much needed cup of tea. Tee Em Up [Ted Tunbridge MiD, Transport Officer] found us and let us into Squadron Dispersal about 5 pm. Passed the Highlands and NZ divisions on the way. Turned in about 8:30. A fair night.
Thursday 14 January 1943
Fine / Windy. Up at 7:30 and told to be ready to move at any moment. Loitered about until midday and then ran the 2 Up. Finally got rolling at 3:30 but had only been going for half an hour when we dispersed again for the night. Could hear plenty of artillery about and our fighters and bombers were over practically all day long. Turned in about 8 and Jerry dropped a few a fair way off. Had a good night.
Friday 15 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8 and hung around most of the day. Still plenty of our aircraft about and the artillery is consistent. Got moving about 4pm and covered another 13 mile. Had tea and played game of 2 Up. News pretty good and looks as though we will be in Tripoli within a fortnight. Jerry plane over and dropped a few bombs a few mile away. Had a fair night.
Saturday 16 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8 nothing much doing and spent most of the day waiting to move. Got going about 4pm and covered about 12 mile. Played a bit of 2Up after tea. Our planes over most of the day and the artillery hardly let up at all. Turned in at 9 but spent a fairly cold night.
Sunday 17 January 1943
Fine. Up at 6:30 packed up and moved out at 7:30. S/L. Gibbes walked into our camp - was shot down and spent 3 days behind Jerry lines. He has finished his hours, so S/L Watt is leader now. Bayly got a 109 and [pilots] Hooke and Stevens got one between them. Miles of M.T. [Motor Transport] around us and according to all reports things are going extra well. Played 2 Up after tea and had a game of Pontoon. Had a good night.
Monday 18 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8 got moving at 9 and travelled past the drome (Sadada) where B Flight is stationed. Plenty of mail about, but we can’t catch up with it. Kept going and travelled about 30 mile to the drome which is just being made. Run a game of 2 Up before tea and the kites arrived about 5:30pm. Fitted new circuit breaker in 'A' and removed belly tank from 265 [probably a new Kittyhawk with no code letter]. Finished about 9. Turned in at 9:30. Good night.
Tuesday 19 January 1943
Fine. Up at 7. Kept busy all day and Kites doing plenty of ops. Tripoli expected to fall within a couple of days. There are about 200 fighters on ours and the next drome and they are a good sight to see in the air together. Armourers worked till well after midnight reloading and bombing up etc. So looks like an early do tomorrow. Turned in about 9:30. Fair night.
Wednesday 20 January 1943
Fine / Warm. Up at 7 to fix the gen on 'O'. Dirty cutout. Sqdn very busy – operating over Tripoli – using 40lb [antipersonnel] bombs. Worked on 'H' most of the day modifying the prop motor. Finished it after tea. Mail arrived from home and I received 23 letters and a couple of Xmas cards. Had a look at 'A' (crook starter). Water position very crook – can’t get enough to clean the teeth everybody is pretty filthy. Have had the same socks on myself for about a fortnight. Turned in about 9:30 and had a good night.
Thursday 21 January 1943
Fine Warm. Up at 8. Starter was U/S [unserviceable] on 'A'. Spent most of morning fitting a new one. Sqdn very busy and we are on the line continuously. Pilots expect Tripoli to fall today or tomorrow. Fitted new circuit breaker in 'O' and had to look for a short in 'X'. Worked on it nearly all afternoon until 10:30pm. Bostons and Baltimores bombing Tunis from our drome and their flare- path may draw the crabs (German bombers) tonight. All the chaps received parcels from home today and there is plenty of good food about. Turned in about 10:45. Fair night.
Friday 22 January 1943
Fine. Planes off on an early do - Hankey, Gibbes and Stephens claimed a Macchi 202 each and Willis was shot down in flames. Went to hospital on the “louse”parade but was OK. A few of the chaps were “lousy”. Had a bath, first for about a month and it was great to get clean clothes on again. Fitted a new battery and voltage regulator in 'J'. Adjusted leg rheo on HF-B [260SQN RAF]. Righetti bailed out over Jerry lines and Russell stopped one in the arm. Had a look at 'H' after tea (prop motor) and had to fit a new generator fuse. Turned in about 9 and had a fair night.
Fall of Tripoli, Capital of Italian Libya:
Saturday 23 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Went over to 450 to have a look at the Wimpy with the mine exploder fitted. Saw the Very Flares from Wing to announce the fall of Tripoli. Got back to camp and packed up again – left after lunch in convoy headed for Castel Benito. Travelled till 5pm had tea and ran the 2 Up. Passed through Beni Ylid, a small village, and there were several knocked out tanks and guns there. Reached main road about 12pm and the country is capital A1. Gum trees and orchards. Pulled up about 4pm and 10 of us slept in back of truck.
Wellington with electromagnetic ring for sweeping mines. [Lou Kemp collection]
Sunday 24 January 1943
Warm. Had breakfast on the roadside about 8am and started off again. Pulled into Castel Benito about 9am and it’s a beautiful drome. Gardens all around and the drome itself is well sown with grass. He left here in a hurry. The drome is simply covered with planes and the hangars are full of parts and equipment but have been well bombed and strafed. Had first hair cut for about 3 months. Worked on 'J' after lunch until about 8pm. Had a jerry can of wine in the tent and had a few drinks and turned in about 10.
Monday 25 January 1943
Cool. Up at 10:30 and had a terrible hangover. Thought the old head would burst. Got on to the job on 'J' about 11am because the felt washer was U/S. We each received a Xmas Hamper from the Comforts Fund today and I got 6 letters from home. The Sqdn did not do an op today, so things look like quietening down for a while. Lockheeds and Douglas [transports] landing all day with petrol and ammo. Lockheed hit a mine on the drome yesterday and blew the tail off it.
Tuesday 26 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Worked most of the morning on 'H' (prop motor) and boost coil after lunch. Went into the village at Castel Benito and saw the posting up of the proclamation that Gen. Montgomery is Governor of the Village. The Italians around the village are very timid and despondent and a great number of them have left the place. Our planes went off on one op but nothing doing. 112 Sqdn rejoined our Wing today. [Slim Moore recalls this squadron as having the distinctive 'shark-mouth'.] Had a bit of supper in the tent – turned in at 9. Fair night.
Shark-mouthed Kittyhawks of 112SQN RAF. [Imperial War Museum]
Wednesday 27 January 1943. 300th day
Wet. Up at 8. Kites off on a job. Bombing up near Tunis. Spent most of the day cleaning the battle dress and shaving the beard. Some of the chaps had leave into Tripoli today and they were very disappointed in it. Will find out all about it myself tomorrow. Planes had another job after lunch and [Ron] Watt failed to return. They ran into 109s. Wrote to Mum and Joan. Had a bit of supper in tent and turned in about 9:30. Fair night but the cold is pretty crook.
Thursday 28 January 1943
Cold / Wet. Up at 8. Left camp for Tripoli and reached there at 10:30. The city itself is practically deserted and the wharves and harbour have been bombed very heavily. Most of the shops are closed but a few articles could be purchased from the Wogs who are there in fairly large numbers. Must be 20 or 30 large ships sunk in the harbour itself and a couple right in the entrance. One of our convoys is outside unloading with the aid of Lighters. Food is scarce in the city and the army is feeding what’s left of the civvy population. Saw Scotties (51st HD) change the guard. [Slim Moore recalls they pulled out and went to Europe.] Back to camp at 6pm. Good night.
Friday 29 January 1943
Cold Wet. Up at 8. Had to have a look at the Mag leads on 'L' and messed about on it practically all day. Planes were on 'half hour' [standby] but did not take off. Plenty of Spitfires and Hurricanes in the air – probably to patrol the Tripoli area and the Beaufighters take off about 7:30 each night. Wrote home. Turned in about 8:30. Fair night. Tedder (AOC) landed here at dusk in a Fortress.
Saturday 30 January 1943
Fine. Up at 7 to do a boost coil on 'D' and also 'H'. Was over at the hangars when old Bill (Bofor) grabbed me to fit 'H’s magneto onto 'L'. Worked most of the day on that and then Shep and Slim took over. Had to go and have a look at prop motor on 'K'. Run up OK but have to modify it tomorrow. Had a bit of supper and turned in at 9:30. Fair night.
Sunday 31 January 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Messed about most of the day. Mobile Base took the prop off 'K' and I modified Governor after tea. Jake and I put it on about 9pm. Beaufighters still operating from here and according to reports are getting good results. This weather is OK and we can take a lot of this sort of thing. Turned in about 10 and had a good night.
Monday 1st February 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Left camp and arrived in Tripoli about 10 o ‘clock. Bought a fair few vegetables etc. at the market and spent a few very interesting hours looking over the docks. There is hardly a square yard of them which did not show signs of the bombing etc. and a good percentage of the army is working there trying to get things organised. Had tea with Bofor (gun) crew and spent afternoon looking around the city. Back to camp about 6. Had supper at Joe’s [Roy Stanley] tent. Turned in at 9 and had a fair night.
Tuesday 2 February 1943
Fine. Nothing much doing, so spent most of morning trying to get the wireless going. We were relieved from Ops about 12 and hope it is for a few weeks. Jerry was over Tripoli for a few hours and the A.A. was very thick. Three Beaufighters left our drome but don’t know how they got on. Had a bit of supper and turned in about 10.30pm. Good night.
Wednesday 3 February 1943. 307th day.
Fine. Up at 7 to do a boost coil on 'H' and also 'D'. Sqdn did a bombing Op during the morning. News in general very good and the AIF are supposed to be on their way home. Prime Minister Churchill arrived at our drome in a Liberator at 4pm. We turned up in force and gave him a cheer and cameras were working overtime. Berlin Radio announced that their 6th Army had been wiped out at Stalingrad. General news still pretty good and we may move up again on Sunday. Plenty of A.A. over Tripoli. Turned in at 9.30.
Thursday 4 February 1943
Fine. Up at 8 and everything here is OK – weather, surroundings and food. Had to solder a wire in the fuel light on 'K' and it was a crook job. Had a bath after dinner and got ready for the parade for Churchill’s visit. Planes did two ops during the day. Went to the concert which the RAAF padre organised – it was a great show and the Tahitian Free French boys put on some good turns. Back to the tent about 10.30. Plenty of AA over Tripoli. Turned in at 11.
Friday 5 February 1943
Cold wind, overcast. Up at 8. Went on leave to Tripoli. Saw result of a bomb which dropped there at 7am this morning. They dug three [victims] out while we were there – it killed 10 altogether. Met three chaps of the merchant navy – 1 Pom, 1 NZ and 1 Aussie and we got into a lot of fun between us. There are 5 ships in the harbour and supplies are coming in in a steady stream. Got mixed up with the wireless sets which were commandeered by army and bought two good sets for 6 pounds, ten shillings. [Slim Moore recalls that he sold one set for quite a profit.] Returned to camp at 6 – saw the AA shoot a plane down over Tripoli at 8pm.
Saturday 6 February 1943
Fine. Up at 8.30. Sqdn did one fighter sweep but saw nothing. Told we are to move at 9am tomorrow and thought it was too good to last. Had a look at the footy match (AFL) between No.3 and 450. We won by 10 goals.
They got 5 Jerries over Tripoli last night, so the AA is doing OK. Darkie (NZ) came and spent the night with us again. Turned in at 9.30 after a bit of supper.
Sunday 7 February 1943
Rain and cold. Up at 8 and we were so late that the convoy left without us. Rain was fairly heavy so we kept the canvas covers well over us. Reached our drome (Sorman) about 2pm and Greeves (Adjutant) put on his star turn – made us shift the tent three times before he got us in the right spot. Got the 109 generator and cleaned it out etc. while the boys (Shep and Slim) went to the hangars and got a few 2 stroke motors for our charging plant. Had supper and turned in about 9pm. Crook night.
Monday 8 February 1943
Fine. Up at 8.30 and this drome is OK. Plenty of water and the dispersal area is covered with date palms. Planes did an Op from Benito but did not land here because drome was too wet. The tent was a hive of industry today – all working on the charging plant etc. Got it going about 4pm amid much cheering. Walked to the hangars after tea to get some copper pipe etc. and there are a few Macchis there knocked out and all that remains of the hangars is the frame work.
Tuesday 9 February 1943
Dull, cold. Spent most of morning playing around with the generator – she shot the drive after dinner and has been U/S since. Planes not here yet – drome must still be too wet. Plenty of wogs in the vicinity of the camp. They trade eggs for tea and sugar. A fowl is worth 25 shillings and a packet of biscuits for an egg. Heard that Japs had evacuated Guadalcanal and that the Russians were almost into Rostov. Had rabbit and eggs for supper. To bed at 10.
Wednesday 10 February 1943
Dull, wet. Very wet all night and rain kept most of the boys in bed till about 11.00. Junior and I spent most of the morning and a couple of hours of the afternoon making brackets for our charging plant. Got it going about 5pm and it was extra good – the radio is OK too. Probably moving in 3 days time so we may have time to get organised. Had a game of 2Up and Slim got the lot again. Had a bit of supper and listened to the radio. Turned in about 10pm.
Thursday 11 February 1943
Dull, wet. Another storm last night but we managed to keep dry. Still not moving but may be within a day or two. Went to see Sabratha and had a look at the old ruins (200BC) most of them just recently discovered and the Ities were digging them out. The old amphitheatre and lions dens etc. and some of the mosaic flooring is still well preserved. Back to camp at 4pm. Listened in after tea and had a bit of supper.
Friday 12 February 1943
Dull, wet. Very stormy again last night – the orderly room and pay section left to return to Castel Benito. Wrote to Mum, Joan and Wak. Spent most of the day around the tent. News still pretty good and it looks as though Jerry will make a decent stand up in Tunisia – is reported to have 1/5 of his fighter planes up here. Listened to the radio after tea.
Saturday 13 February 1943. 317th day.
Cold. No sign of the planes yet – getting a bit sick of hanging about doing nothing but expect things to get moving with the end of the month. Rain on and off most of the day. Got word to pack up ready to move at 8.30 tomorrow. Also heard that there is a bit of Typhus in Tripoli so may be just as well to move on. Had a bit of supper and listened to radio till about 11.
Sunday 14 February
Dull. Packed up and got moving about 9. Country very desolate and very swampy. Travelled about 30 mile west along the main road and then about 40 mile SW and reached El Assa drome about 3pm. Hell of a drome - very windy and dusty – back into the shit where we belong – thought the other dromes were a bit too good for us. Heard great news that Russians had captured Rostov.
Monday 15 February 1943
Fine. Things pretty quiet but there were a couple of reccos over this morning. Jerry reported to be pushing up in Tunisia and 8th Army is also over the border – expect things to get cracking again here very soon. The planes arrived after tea (first time we’d seen them for a week). Was dragged out to fit a circuit breaker of 'X' to 'V'. Got it finished about 8.30. Had a bit of supper in the tent and went to bed about 10.30.
Tuesday 16 February 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Planes did two ops – bombing Medenine drome. Did the boost coil on 'O' and then pulled the prop off 'X' to do the governor. Was on it till 5pm. 'L' and 'C' were also U/S. Started on 'L' after tea and worked till dark. Believe that the 'push' [attack] is to start tomorrow. Henry and the boys were over after tea and we had a good night in the tent. Had supper etc. and turned in at 12mn.
Wednesday 17 February 1943
Fine. Worked on 'L' most of the morning doing the prop motor. Mobile Base took the job over after lunch. Planes did a couple of ops during the day and heard that the push will start on 21st. The 1st Army [coming in from the West] is having a pretty tough time up in Tunisia. Listened in till 11.
Thursday 18 February 1943
Dust storm. Planes on 5 min standby. Caldwell and Susans did a recco and they say the country is pretty crook up West. The dust started about 12 noon and blew like hell till about midnight. Wrote a couple of letters home. Turned in about 11.
Friday 19 February 1943
Fine. Did a boost coil and cutout on 'H'. Planes doing a bit of training and we are released from ops for the day. Worked most of afternoon on 'J' fixing the gill gauge and also after tea. Got it right about 7.30. Attended a dental parade. Listened in till about 12mn. Had a bit of supper.
Saturday 20 February 1943
Fine. Up at 8 and nothing much doing. Only a few training ops during the day. Tim was caught with a clock when the kit inspection was on and is awaiting a Court Martial. May be getting 4 days leave shortly and also heard that the push is off for a couple of weeks. Ran 2Up after tea and got 15 shillings. Turned in about midnight.
Sunday 21 February. 325th day.
Fine. Sqdn did a bit of training during the day. Had a FF1 inspection at the hospital and handed in our gas clothing for inspection. Fitted a new prop governor on 'H' after dinner. Ran 2Up after tea and got 35 shillings. Went over to 450 [SQN] and had a game in the truck. Received some papers from home. Had a cup of tea and turned in about midnight. Was awake through the night with the throat.
Monday 22 February 1943
Cool. Went sick with a sore throat. Our pilots did training during the day and there was nothing much for me to do. Ran 2Up after tea then went to 450. Finished a couple in front. To bed at midnight. Few kites over but must have been ours.
Tuesday 23 February 1943
Cool. Nothing much doing. Two of our planes crashed on the drome during training and both were wiped off. Hardly stirred from the tent during the day – ACF [Comfort Fund] issue tobacco, socks etc. Run 2Up after tea and then went to 450. Planes were going over practically all night so it looks as though things might start again at any time. To bed at 12pm. Clocks back 1hr.
Wednesday 24 February 1943
Fine. Planes did a couple of ops during the morning. Push is supposed to start tomorrow – we hope so. Wrote home. Received 10 letters and a parcel from Norm. Another op after lunch. Bombers were over practically all night so someone is stopping a bit. Ran 2Up after tea. Turned in about 10.30.
Thursday 25 February 1943
Hot. Planes did a few ops during the day and Ritchie got a probable 109. Things are starting to move again and will probably be on the roll again shortly. Pulled a gill switch out of 'O'. Run 2Up after tea. Listened to radio and had a bit of supper. Our bombers were over practically all night.
Friday 26 February 1943
Hot. Planes did three ops during day. Sgt Beer was lost and a few of our planes were shot up. Stevens got two and the Wing Co. got one and there are a few to be confirmed. Best day for some time. Canteen returned from Cairo and we got a bottle each. The First Army has re-taken to Kasserine Gap and also Kasserine. Ran 2Up after tea. Our planes were over again most of the night.
Saturday 27 February 1943
Dusty. Things still very quiet but the Sqdn is alive with a burst that there are some reinforcements in the M.E. (Middle East). We’re trapped in the tent most of the day by the dust. Started work on the cart socket after lunch. Things still much the same here but the 1st Army is doing well. Run 2Up after tea – had supper in the tent and turned in about 10.30.
Sunday 28 February 1943
Dusty. Worked most of the day on the cart. According to the latest cookhouse special the reinforcements will be here in about 6 weeks. Planes spent a few hours training. Run 2Up after tea. B Flight may be moving up tomorrow. Spitfires landed here late in the night. Their drome had been shelled by armoured cars.
Monday 1 March 1943
Fine. Worked on the cart socket most of the day. Dust storm blew up during afternoon. Planes did a few training ops. Run 2Up after tea. Gordon Holloway tossed 15 heads and broke up the school.
Tuesday 2 March 1943
Fine. Did a boost coil on 'U'. Spent the morning topping up batteries in the kites. Finished the cart socket after lunch. B Flight pulled out this morning for Ben Gardan. Sent a couple of cables. Went to Wing movie after tea “Confirm or Deny”. Run 2Up after tea but was stopped by W.O. [Warrant Officer] - Big raid on Berlin by RAF. – 19 bombers lost.
Wednesday 3 March 1943
Fixed up the motors for the charger – Sqdn did a few ops looking for a Jerry Panzer but did no good. The Wing Com. and Eaton were forced down but both flew back OK. Fitted new gill switches to 'Y' and HF-B. Burst about the reinforcements is very strong and must be dinkum this time. Heard good news that Jap convoy had been wiped out north of Aussie. We were paraded to Clabburn and told to stop running the 2Up.
Thursday 4 March 1943
Fine. Sqdn did a few ops during the day but nothing unusual happened. Greeves [Squadron Adjutant] arrived back from Cairo with the Gen Pucka [good news] and bursts were thicker than ever – chaps who think they are going home are all smiles etc. No news of us moving yet and looks as though we will wait for the full moon again. Big air raid on Tripoli and 200 men killed there last night.
Friday 5 March 1943
Fine. Sqdn on ½ hr [readiness] all day and they did not do any op. Had a look at 'Y' but Mobile Base took over the job. About 30 corporals and sergeants [promotions] were received today – mostly AHG, GAUROs and D.M.T. [drivers]. Heard that the [reinforcements] are at Castel Benito, but doubt it. Listened in and had a bit of supper.
Saturday 6 March 1943. 338th day.
Fine. Spent nearly all day working on the air intake cable off 'T'. Some of the chaps who are going home have been told so the reinforcements must be well on their way. Had a bit of rain during the afternoon. Few flares dropped during the night but they were a fair way off. Could hear artillery most of the day so must be something doing up the front.
Sunday 7 March 1943
Fine. Jerry has started a push up here and things are on the go again – our planes went out to bomb Medenine. Changed a gill motor from 'S' to 'J'. Spent most of the afternoon in the tent and wrote a couple of letters home. Went to 450 after tea and won about 10 pound at the 2Up.
Monday 8 March 1943
Fine. Was told to pack up etc. and be ready to move by 10am. Followed the usual drudge and getting the kit together and pulling down the tent. Left El Assa about 10.45 and crossed into Tunisia about 12.30. Drove through Ben Gardan and reached Neffatia about 5.30. Plenty of fresh bomb holes etc. about the camp so we may be in for a bit with the coming moon. Got settled again after tea. To bed at 7.30.
Tuesday 9 March 1943
Cool. Planes are on 1 hr [standby] but as B Flight has them for the day we have few worries. Finished reading the “Red Knight of Germany” – a good book. Got the battery out of a Sth African plane for a U/S one. Fixed the charging plant and had a look at the pranged Spitfire. Heard that Jerry had retired to the hills that we can see in the distance and that he left 50 tanks behind.
Wednesday 10 March 1943
Cool. Planes on ½ hr most of the day – took off about 3pm and got about 50 trucks etc. Were all set to go again but the job was called off. The pilots were very pleased with their work but they pranged two planes on returning. Apart from the one op things were pretty quiet. The Free French were surrounded but the timely arrival of our Wing saved them a good deal of trouble and they were able to take their objective. They sent us a letter of thanks and congratulations.
Thursday 11 March 1943
Fine. Planes were on ½ hr most of the day but did not go off. Soldered a Bowden cable of 'F'. Eighteen Bostons passed here on their way up and took about 30 fighters with them and were only away a short time. Their reappearance may mean that there is something doing. Nothing much during the afternoon.
Friday 12 March 1943
Fine. Things still pretty quiet. The Bostons were over again and three of them landed at our drome on their way back. They had been shot up and a couple of the crew had been wounded. Expect things to get going within the next day or so but we hear so many bursts that we don’t know what to believe. Went to 450 to play 2Up but it was not on. Played poker in the tent.
Saturday 13 March 1943
Fine. Things still very quiet – our planes did one op. The reinforcements should be here any day because the cooks have been told to draw extra rations for 43 men. The chaps who think they are going home are in high spirits and looking forward to their home-going no end. Wrote a letter to Bid. Fair bit of artillery fire up the front. Played poker after tea.
Sunday 14 March 1943
Cool. Was a bit of rain during the night. Today was supposed to be the opening of the bomber offensive but it's 12 noon and there hasn’t been a plane leave our drome as yet. Went to hospital to have the sore on my hand dressed. Some mail supposed to be about – hope so. Wrote to Joan. Played poker and listened in after tea.
Monday 15 March 1943
Fine. Planes did a few training ops thru the day but generally speaking things are very quiet – too quiet. Changed a battery solenoid on 'J'. The reinforcements should be here almost any day now and we are certainly looking forward to seeing them. There were about 20 of us in the tent playing cards etc. when Jerry lit the place up with flares. He dropped a fair few B.B. [large bombs] and was over most of the night. Turned in about 10 but he had us in the ARP hole [Air Raid Precaution, or slit trench] about 5am. Maybe something doing.
Tuesday 16 March 1943
Windy. Nothing much doing and some of the pilots have gone to a rest camp a few miles from here. Planes did a few training ops after lunch and I had to change a battery in 'J'. Played cards after tea and listened to the radio. The artillery opened up about 7pm and was very heavy – mostly 25 Pounders with an occasional Long Tom (90mm long range guns). A couple of Jerry over but they only dropped a couple of flares and a few B.B [basket bombs].
Wednesday 17 March 1943
Windy. Planes were on ½ hr from 7am but were relieved after lunch. Strong burst that our re-musters are out and that they have been back-dated to 1st Nov. Artillery very consistent and maybe something doing, although I doubt it. Re-musters came through OK - got about a tenner backpay. Went to 450 after tea and played 2Up. Did a couple of pounds.
Thursday 18 March 1943
Windy, wet. Things still very quiet and the Liaison Officer (British Army) who was here last night to give us the gen [news] says that things will start within a week and that the whole Nth African show will be over by the end of April. We hope so because we are very sick of the desert. Went to 450 after tea and won a few pounds.
Friday 19 March 1943
Cold, windy. Still not much doing and push should start within the next few days. Sent 30 pounds home today and also made an extra 2/6 allotment. The mail arrived today and I got 20 odd letters. Went to 450 after tea and won a few bob at the 2Up.
Saturday 20 March 1943
Cool. Things still fairly quiet. Must be the lull before the storm. The reinforcements (40 of them) arrived about 12 noon and the chaps who were going home were rushing around them like clucky chooks. Got word to move and the convoy pulled out about 4pm. Said goodbye to the chaps who were going home and sure wish I was one of them. Travelled about 30 or 40 mile and reached Medenine Main about 7pm. Bedded down in the truck but Jerry was over all night and didn’t get much sleep. The Bofor gunshot [anti-aircraft ammunition] ran out on a run that might have been dangerous for us. Our push started tonight - the artillery fire was like hell on earth – sure glad they’re getting it and not us. We are parked on our first line of anti-tank guns, so hope they shift up a bit soon.
Sunday 21 March 1943
Cool. Up at 8 after a hell of a night and got the tent pitched and settled in again. The planes arrived about 4pm and have been doing a few sweeps and raids. Had a tent full to hear Churchill’s speech on the radio] and when they had gone we had a good supper – cocoa and fruit cake. Jerry was over about midnight and had another shot at us but not as bad as last night. But nevertheless he had us out of bed a couple of times.
Monday 22 March 1943
Cool, rain. Plenty of planes left our drome about 6am so they are keeping it up to him. Fixed a short in the prop motor on 'S' [Kittyhawk CV-S] before dinner. Our planes went on a couple of bombing raids and they must have Jerry out of their positions up here because they are using daisycutters [Slim recalls these 40lb bombs that explode before hitting the ground.] The 50th [Division] made a good dent in the Mareth Line the other night so we may be moving again any time now. He [enemy bombers] was over again practically all night long – the Bofor got a couple.
Tuesday 23 March 1943
Very fine. Planes going most of the day and a few of them got shot up. 'F' stopped a bullet in the reduction gear housing, 'B' one in the gun cable and earth cable and an explosive in the main plane. We are on 2 hrs notice to move and according to all reports things are going OK up the front. Noel (Scoope) shifted into the tent today. Worked on 'B' after tea. Jerry was over about 9 and dropped a couple of bombs behind our drome. Had us out a couple of times.
Wednesday 24 March 1943
Very fine. Fitted an earth cable to 'B' and also one to 'F'. Wrote a couple of letters home. Our planes did a few ops through the day but nothing unusual happened. Plenty of tanks and guns going through our dispersal area. Jerry was over again with the first of the moon but he did no damage. The artillery is very heavy again tonight and someone must be getting hell.
Thursday 25 March 1943
Dusty. There has been a convoy moving through here for the last 48 hrs. They are evidently going Sth of the Mareth Line. Just a continuous stream of 25 Pndrs [artillery] – Bofors and tanks etc. Our Sqdn did one op during the day – strafed a few dromes but the pilots thought that Jerry had already vacated them. Planes were over most of the night – most likely our own because the AA never opened up. Our radio was off the air tonight for first time.
Friday 26 March 1943
Dusty, hot. Things seems to be due to burst at any time. Our Sqdn was one of 18 Fighter-Bombers which did a bombing and strafing raid near El Hamma. There were also 50 bombers – Spits and Hurricanes – the biggest sortie ever sent on a job by the RAF Middle East Command. We lost two pilots – S/L Eaton and Sgt. Goulder today but they may walk back. A few of the kites were shot up and 'B' had a gun solenoid shot off. The Jerry is reported to be on the run so we have reason to believe that it won’t be long now.
Saturday 27 March 1943
Dusty, hot. Dust very bad and looks like keeping up for a few days. The planes in the district took off and did Jerry over. It looks as though he’s just about had it and we will be glad when its all over. The flies are starting to reappear. Still plenty of tanks and guns passing through our camp. Played cards after tea.
Sunday 28 March 1943
Dusty. Planes off the drome every time they got a chance but the visibility was very bad. The army got through the Mareth Line this afternoon. Good news but the dust stopped the air force from operating flat out. About 25 truck-loads of Iti [Italian] prisoners came through the camp after tea and didn’t seem to be worrying much. I suppose they are glad to be out of it all. Wrote a letter home and played cards after tea.
Monday 29 March 1943
Fine. Planes were off at first light and kept it up till dark. There were a dozen taking off practically every few minutes. They bombed and strafed the road and sure must have done a lot of damage. The Hun is reported to be in full retreat so will be on the move tomorrow. Packed the truck after tea and played a few games of 500. Rest of the chaps left to go home this morning and they were pleased to be going. Played cards after tea.
Tuesday 30 March 1943
Fine. Up at 6.30. Had a cup of tea and formed up with the Wing convoy. Messed around for a couple of hours and got started about 9am. Passed through Mareth and also the line of same name. Has been some very heavy fighting about and at several places along the road – our chaps (British Army) are still burying the dead. Passed the Kiwis near Gabes and camped about 5 mile out of the town. Four or 5 Jerries were over after tea strafing, but the AA chased them off. The place here is lousy with mosquitoes and sand flies. Turned in at 9 and had a crook night.
Wednesday 31 March 1943
Fine. Up at 6.30 – artillery going practically all night. We are on one hour’s notice, so things must be held up a bit at the front. Played crib and pontoon most of the day. Had a swim but the water was a bit chilly. Run 2Up after tea. Darky Dixon looked us up so he came through the Mareth do OK. Turned in about 8.30 but the mosquitoes kept me awake most of the night. Artillery still very heavy a few miles N.E.
Thursday 1 April 1943
Fine. Up at 7.30 and got a couple of hours leave. Went into Gabes. The town has been badly knocked about by bombs etc. Was lucky enough to see Gen. Montgomery formally take over the town at the Embassy. The crowd cheered him enthusiastically and there is a different atmosphere here than there was at Tripoli. Missed the bus back but caught a 250 [RAF SQN] vehicle and was only an hour late. Played Newmarket and crib all afternoon – run 2Up after tea and played poker till 10.30. To bed about 11 but the mosquitoes prevent good sleep.
Friday 2 April 1943
Fine. Still stuck here being fed to the insects – played cards most of the day. Three Spits and four 109s entertained us with a good dog fight which lasted the best part of 10 minutes. One Spit was free and the other two were head and tail. The 109s attacked from above and stayed there despite their opponents efforts to get them down to the AA. A Spitty finished a 109 with a well-placed burst. We moved about 3pm to El Hamma about 15-20 mile – got tent up about 8. Played 500.
Saturday 3 April 1943. 366th day.
Cool. Quite a change to be parked in a green field – the oats are about 4-5 feet high. Plenty of birds etc. about and even heard a church bell this morning. This time last year we were on the boat wondering what was in store for us. The planes arrived first thing after dinner. We did a coolant gauge on 'F' and a mag switch on 'T'. Scotties got a belting up front and things are not as good as they could be but general opinion is that the check is only temporary. Six [Junkers] 88s came over about 7pm. The A.A got one first shot and the others dispersed. He was over all night and we didn’t get much sleep.
Sunday 4 April 1943
Cloudy. Our planes did one sweep today but saw nothing. Pulled ignition switch out of 'T' fixed a short in prop motor on 'F' and started work on a short in 'L'. Just after tea Jerry started to shell the road and the drome – he landed well on his target and things were a bit uncomfortable. A dozen 109s bombed the place after lunch – killed a few chaps in 250 [SQN] in the locality and burnt a few trucks. Had two other raids during the day. He hit a target further down the road but missed the drome. Played 500 after tea.
Monday 5 April 1943
Fine. Jerry must have half a dozen guns on us now because shells fell on the road and dispersal area 4 or 5 a time for about 40 minutes. He set a 450 [SQN RAAF] plane on fire and damaged another. Fitted an English gunsight in 'L'. The guns were right on our tent area after lunch and a few of the chaps panicked rather badly. The planes were moved to a safe area. A dozen 109s were over at tea time but the A.A kept them away. Push started about 3am Tuesday and the artillery kept most of us awake during the night.
Tuesday 6 April 1943
Fine. Our planes were off most of the day – Ward was shot down in flames so looks as though he got it. [3SQN pilot Ron] Susans got a Macchi and they also did a bit of bombing. Things went pretty well up the front and the Army have broken through Jerry lines [Battle of Wadi Akarit] and taken thousands of prisoners. Fitted a new circuit breaker in 'B'. Jerry was over at dusk and a couple of our unexploded 3.7s [antiaircraft shells falling back to earth] made us flatten out very smartly. He was over most of the night and dropped a few about the place. Artillery went continuously most of the night.
Wednesday 7 April 1943
Fine. Planes off twice during the morning to do over Jerry M.T. [motor transport]. Jerry reported to be pulling out. Kept going all day and at times there were so many of our planes in the air that it was impossible to count them. Heard that there was some mail between here and Gambut. Played 500 after tea and had supper. Jerry was over dropping flares and an occasional bomb during the night but he didn’t find the drome.
Thursday 8 April 1943
Fine. Planes off most of the day – bombing and strafing – they must be handing plenty out. First and Eighth Armies reported to have joined hands so it should not be too long now. Artillery moving further north and not so loud as it was, but there is still plenty of it. The Indians (Gurkhas) captured the 88mm [German artillery] that were shelling the drome. There were eight of them (guns). We should get some peace now. Jerry over most of the night but he didn’t pick us up.
Friday 9 April 1943
Fine. One op during the day and things are going OK up front. The army expect to get Sfax tonight or tomorrow morning. About 15,000 prisoners taken since Mareth – mostly Ities – looks as though Jerry is leaving them to it as usual. Topped up the batteries in the Kites – had to change a starter switch on 'A' – finished about 8pm. Played cards – had bit of supper.
Saturday 10 April 1943. 373rd day.
Fine. Planes went on a do about 6 but were recalled. Adjusted fuel light on 'F' and had a look at generator on 'K' – the switch was off. Wrote a couple of letters home. Army well past Sfax and will soon be in Sous. The liaison officer was here again today and gave us a bit of pucka [good info]. He didn’t expect Jerry to last any more than the end of May and thought that the invasion of Europe would take place about the same time. Played cards after tea.
Sunday 11 April 1943
Fine. Our planes did a few ops as cover to the Wellingtons which are fitted with the anti-magnetic mine device. Our Army reported to be well on the way to Sous so it looks as though we will move at any time now. It will probably be our last move up for ops. Wrote home. Went to movies after tea (Desert Victory) and enjoyed it OK. Home about 9pm.
Monday 12 April 1943
Fine. Planes released for the day – things have quietened down considerably and we will probably move any time now. Spent most of the day doing nothing.
Tuesday 13 April 1943
Dusty. B Flight pulled out about 8am. A couple of our planes off to look for a drome for us. Were on 2 hr standby all day. News still very good. Had a bit of supper in tent.
Wednesday 14 April 1943
Cold. Had just had breakfast when we had to move. Got packed etc. and saw the kites off about noon. Travelled in the armament trailer. Passed plenty of knocked-out Jerry trucks etc. He had also blown the bridges and railway line at many places. Ran into a major road blockage about 4pm and decided to camp for the night. Took possession of a house and moved in for the night. Played few hands of poker.
Thursday 15 April 1943
Fine. Got moving about 8am. Travelled about 40 mile and reached Sfax about 12 noon. Plenty of trucks etc. on the road and Jerry has had a lot of losses in MT etc. Couple of our petrol trucks hit a mine and 9 chaps [Slim Moore recalls they were RAF] were burned to death. Sfax a fair sized place and there were 3 ships in the harbour unloading. Moved on after lunch and travelled on for another 40 mile or so and reached El Djem about 3pm. Did not unpack the truck as we may move tomorrow.
Friday 16 April 1943
Cool. Up at 7 after a fair night in the back of the truck. On immediate notice to move. B Flight have the planes and they did a few ops. Some yank Cobras landed on the drome – probably from 1st Army. Moved out about 3.30pm. Travelled about 40 mile – road was full of traffic and headway very slow. Got to within 12 mile of Sous and turned West. Bedded down about 9pm. Saw kite go up in flames a long way off.
1943. Two Bell P39 Airacobra aircraft on an airfield in Tunisia. [AWM MEC0085]
Saturday 17 April 1943
Fine. Up at 5.30. Got moving again about 6.30. Passed through Kairouan and reached the drome about 9am. All this move was on first class roads and Jerry had blown the bridges etc. every chance he got. Had the tent up by noon. Nothing doing during the afternoon except a couple of 109s were over and the A.A. had a shot at them, but were a long way off. Played cards after tea.
"Palm Sunday Massacre"
Sunday 18 April 1943
V. hot. Planes arrived about 10.30. Freed the starter on 'H', adjusted horn on 'F'. Planes were operating all day and another Sth African Sqdn has appeared. Planes all out looking for Jerry Ju52 [transports flying supplies in to the besieged Germans at Tunis] – the Yanks got 50 odd this morning, about 120 in last 3 days. Wrote a letter home. Squadron Leader Eaton has now taken command of the Sqdn and Gibbes will be going soon. Played cards after tea. To bed at 10.30. Artillery fairly constant.
Artwork depicting the "Palm Sunday Massacre".
Monday 19 April 1943
Hot. Planes off all day long – the Sth Africans ran into Ju52s off Tunis and got the lot. Our kites can’t seem to get onto them at all. Had the afternoon off so went in and had a look at Kairouan. A few French people there but mostly wogs. Although it’s called the city of mosques (450 of them) it’s a dirty hole and was glad to get out of it. Back to camp for tea and I’ve started work on 'A'. Has a crook fuel pump.
Tuesday 20 April 1943
Dull, warm. Spent all day working on 'A'. Had to fit a fuel pump to it which we took off 'L'. It was an awkward job. Our planes off on ops most of the day and so were the neighbouring sqdns. The bomb line has shifted back a bit. Heard that we may move nearer the coast. The SA Wing got another 20 transports today – our chaps just can’t seem to get onto them. Had a bit of supper in the tent and turned in about 10pm.
Wednesday 21 April 1943
Dull. Planes off most of the day but did no good. Things working out OK up the front according to all reports but the Army are suffering heavy casualties. Rex Palmer burned himself severely priming the Kitten [captured Italian trainer]. Mail arrived and I got 10 letters and was pleased to get them. Wrote a letter to Mum and Joan. Played 500 after tea and had a bit of supper. The fleas kept me awake.
Thursday 22 April 1943. 385th day.
Fine. Had to do a receipt inspection on a couple of HS planes [260 Sqdn – British]. We are getting Kitty IIs so will probably be getting more battery trouble. Heard the bad news that Rex Palmer had died. Supposed to be another batch of mail at Wing. Greeves, Gibbes and Shaw all left today and everybody pleased that they have gone. Played poker. Had a fair night except for the fleas.
Friday 23 April 1943
Fine. Our planes off on an early job but they saw nothing. Changed a battery and did a boost coil on 'C'. Wrote a letter to Tom Connell and Wak. Things very quiet the rest of the day and we spent the rest of the day in the tent. Heard that the 1st Army were doing some good work and had wiped out the Goring Battalion. Fighting is very bitter up on 8th Army front. Went to church service in Pilots' Mess. Played cards after church.
Saturday 24 April 1943
Cool, windy. Planes did not leave ground today but the RAF got 20 odd over Tunis [heard] over the BBC. Wrote a couple of letters home. Played cards after tea. The fleas are still bad.
Sunday 25 April 1943
Cool. Planes operating most of the day – bombed a couple of ships and Goulder got into a [Messerschmitt] 110. Went to communion in the morning. Things pretty good up here and the Army is doing very well. The show may be over before we expected it to be. Played cards after tea.
Kairouan, Tunisia. 1943. Padre R. E. Davies conducting a communion service. Note the Australian flag in the background. [AWM MEC1168]
Monday 26 April 1943
Warm. Planes did one op during the day. Bombed shipping near Tunis – scored a hit on a destroyer and several close ones. Spent most of the day in the tent and played cards after tea.
Tuesday 27 April 1943
Warm. Things still pretty quiet as far as we are concerned but the Army are doing very well. Our Sqdn did one op during the day. Played 2Up at B.F. [Bofor gun position] after tea.
Wednesday 28 April 1943
Hot. Planes did a couple of ops during the day. Hell of a storm seemed to be going to catch us after lunch – had to face the kites into the wind etc. but the storm passed us by. Played cricket after lunch and enjoyed it good oh. Things still hard up the front but the Army is still getting a few yards consistently. Played cards after tea.
Thursday 29 April 1943
Hot. Planes out bombing thru the day. Bursts are very thick and 450 have been told they are going to Ben Gardan for a spell etc. We will probably go with them. Played cricket all the afternoon. Spent the evening reading. Fixed the footage indicator on 'K'. Had the blankets fumigated as it got rid of the fleas.
Friday 30 April 1943
Dull, mild. Planes off all day bombing shipping and scored a couple of near misses. The battle is still very fierce up front and Jerry is hanging on for all he’s worth. Played a cricket match after lunch amongst the C Flight men and enjoyed it OK. Canteen meeting after tea and the new Adj. (Dick Hood) appears to be OK. Fitted new prop relay to 'K'.
Saturday 1 May 1943
Warm. Things still reported to be going OK up front but our planes are not used very much. Played B Flight cricket during the afternoon and they beat us by 20. Played cards after tea.
Sunday 2 May 1943. 395th day.
Hot. Planes did an early op. Worked on 'A' – prop motor governor was U/S and had to be changed. Fixed the film footage indicator on 'K'. Church service after tea and after church we went to movies and enjoyed it OK./ The Fleets In.
Monday 3 May 1943
V. Hot. Did the batteries during the morning. Our planes did not leave the ground all day. The 1st Army captured [Longstop near Tunis]. Had a bit of a hit at cricket during the afternoon. Played cards after tea.
Tuesday 4 May 1943
Mild. The Baltimores were on their way back about 8am. Planes on a few ops during the day. Bursts [rumours] are plentiful at present but the favourite [next destination] seems to be Syria. Played B Flight cricket after lunch and they beat us by 3 runs. Few planes over during the night but think they must have been our own.
Wednesday 5 May 1943
Hot. Planes did one op during the day and got into a do with some 109s but did no good. Things still lively up front and according to the Liaison Officer the push starts at 5am tomorrow morning. Had a look at a noisy fuel pump on 'J' and went to the cricket after tea.
Thursday 6 May 1943
Hot. Planes off on ops most of the day and the bombers were over practically continuously. The push was reported to be very satisfactory and Jerry is on full retreat on a 10 mile front. Had a look at the VR on 'J' and went to the cricket after lunch. Wrote a letter home.
Friday 7 May 1943
Hot. Sqdn pretty busy and the air is practically full of our aircraft. Army going well and have taken many prisoners. Was doing a receipt inspection on 'E' when the Very Lights went up to announce the fall of Tunis and Bizerta. Everybody in good spirits over the victory and we hope to get some leave shortly. Played cards after tea.
Saturday 8 May 1943
Fine. Drome very wet after the heavy rain and our drome will be U/S for a few hours at least. Planes took off about 2pm and we all had to turn out in case of bogs. The whole Wing got off OK – about 70 planes. Played Mobile Base cricket during afternoon and they beat us by 1 wicket.
Sunday 9 May 1943
Fine. Planes busy and got a ship on one of their sorties today. The enemy in complete retreat so we look like going from here at any time now.
Monday 10 May 1943
Cool. A couple of jobs during the day and the pilots can’t find any Jerry aircraft about. Wrote a note to Wak. Walked over to Wing after tea and saw “Torrid Zone”. Had a bit of supper.
Tuesday 11 May 1943
Hot. Planes did an early op. Spent all the morning and most of the afternoon fitting a new generator on 'K'. Received a parcel of Players cigarettes from England. Don’t know who sent them. The bomb line has been wiped out now [no more areas authorised to bomb] so Jerry has definitely had it here now. Wrote a couple of letters home. Played cards after tea.
Wednesday 12 May 1943
Hot. Sqdn on 1 hr standby all day. Parade after lunch. S/L Eaton told us we will probably be going on the 2nd front within a month or so from now. Looking forward to going in Tunis tomorrow. Sqdn played 450 [RAAF SQN] cricket – won by about 50 runs. Sold wireless today. About 8pm the Very Lights went up everywhere to announce the capitulation of the enemy and a great moment. It looked like the firework display at Stanley.
Thursday 13 May 1943
Fine. Up at 4am and left for Tunis at 5.30. Passed through Pont du Faks and there were about 15,000 prisoners there. Reached town about 10am and had a look round. The city is OK but the docks etc. have been bombed flat. The French people here treated us pretty well and made us welcome. Left to come home about 5.30pm and decided to go through Enfidaville. About dusk we run into hundreds of truck-loads of Jerry and Iti driving their own trucks to the PW [Prisoner of War] pens. A few of them were bogged and we pulled them out to clear the road a bit. Reached camp about midnight after a most enjoyable day. Slept like a log.
Friday 14 May 1943
Fine. Went through with a few of the boys to have a look round. Got past Enfidaville and saw the defence system which held us up for a few weeks. Very hilly country and a man would need to be a fly to climb some of the slopes. Came back to the POW camp near Souse but did no good. Went on through Souse and Msaken and got back to camp in time for tea. Wrote to Wak.
Saturday 15 May 1943
Fine. Decided to stay home for the day – hardly a soul in camp – all out on the scrounge. Darky and Lou (NZ Army) rolled up about 10am and we got on the wine. The boys got back about 9pm and we made a night of it. Finished up about midnight as drunk as lords. The Kiwis left for home and we turned in.
Kairouan, Tunisia. May 1943. The morning after sees a nice batch of "dead marines" (empty wine and spirits bottles)
outside the Officers' Mess of a No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF. [AWM MEC0241]
Sunday 16 May 1943
Fine. The Kiwis arrived about 8am. Worked on the motorbike for Darky for most of the morning and got on the wine again. Would certainly like a bottle of beer. Drank so much wine that we lost count. Couple of 450 chaps came over and we got some petrol from them for the trip tomorrow. Everybody in the Sqdn drunk and they have got through 200 gals wine in 2 days.
Monday 17 May 1943. 410th day.
Fine. The tent is like a doss house. Tried to get going but by the time everybody got mobile it was 10am. Had a good trip up and reached Tunis about midday. Darky and Lou were drunk all day and the rest of us weren’t far behind them. Got the field glasses today from Darky in Tunis. Left town about 6.30 and reached camp about 8.30. Received 13 letters today and the beer arrived so we finished off a good day.
Tuesday 18 May 1943
Wet, cold. Planes all U/S – had a look at 'B' and then changed the prop motor on 'F'. B Flight moved out for Zuara this morning. Don’t feel too bright this day but have had a good time. Darky and Lou left for Tripoli about 11am. Wrote home. Got the planes OK after tea and had a bit of supper.
Wednesday 19 May 1943
Wet, cold. The mud around the place is about 1ft deep. Did nothing much all day but wrote 3 letters home. Heard that we may be moving back within the next day or so to Zuara. It’s near the sea so may be able to get a swim – may even get leave in Cairo but doubt it.
Thursday 20 May 1943
Fine. Went to the POW cages near Souse with Ock, Noel, George Seach and Nick. Passed thousands of prisoners on the way and the pens were also full of them. Sold them packets of cigarettes at 5 shillings a packet and got a few odds and ends. Got back to Kairouan about 5pm and had a strenuous ½ hr haggling with the wogs. Back to camp at 7pm.
Friday 21 May 1943
Fine. Packed up etc. and got moving about 7.30. Just one year in the desert and it’s been quite long enough. Passed through Kairouan, Mckhan, Sfax and Gabes and pulled in for the night about 5pm. Quite a lot of traffic on the road and everybody is very happy that the war here is over. Turned in about 8 and slept in the back of the truck.
Saturday 22 May 1943
Fine. Got moving at 7 and travelled along comfortably till we reached the drome about 3.30 passing through Maret, Medenine, Ben Gardan en route. Road still full of traffic mostly coming back but noticed a lot of petrol heading for Tunisia – probably for the bombers. Went to the 2Up at B.F. after tea and won about 6 pounds.
Rest Camp Zuara
Sunday 23 May 1943
Fine. Up at 7 and are stood down after the C.O. and Doc had a look at the tents. Drome is OK and looks as though we will be free from dust at least. Went for swim after lunch and beach is OK. Got back to camp and wrote a couple of letters home.
Monday 24 May 1943
Fine. Still nothing doing. Spent most of the afternoon in the water and wrote home (sent photos home). Most of the Bofor guns have gone from our drome to Cap Bon, so may be something doing up there.
Tuesday 25 May 1943
Very hot. Planes doing training flips and 'A' came back U/S with a prop motor. Went swimming after lunch and enjoyed it OK. Too hot to sleep at night.
Wednesday 26 May 1943
Fine. Fitted new governor on 'A' but it did no good. Spent all day working on it and got it OK about 4pm. Planes still doing a lot of training and as long as they keep it up we will get a bit to do.
Thursday 27 May 1943
Hot. Fixed the earthing lead on 'L' and changed over a couple of circuit breakers from 'K' to 'J'. Received a letter from Ray Widdows and wrote a couple home. Hell of a day – the dust blew till sundown.
Friday 28 May 1943
Hot. B Flight left for a week at the rest camp. Spent all the morning working on 'J'. Had to fit a new set of brushes and brush holder in the prop motor. Went swimming during afternoon. Saw “Tarzan in New York” at Wing after tea.
Saturday 29 May 1943
Fine. Planes still training. Had a look at the small bomb racks on 'L'. Had lecture by L.L. (Sqdn Liaison Leader) today on the invasion and he told us a bit of what they expect things to be like. We are going, so the bursts about going home etc. are a long way out. Will probably have to throw away or store most of our stuff because we will be travelling light. Lot of speculation among the chaps as to where it will be – the favourite is Sicily.
Sunday 30 May 1943
Hot. Planes still on training and had a couple of jobs. Clive (Piesse) making up a list of spares to take with us on the invasion. Went swimming in afternoon and also after tea. Received 13 letters from home.
Monday 31 May 1943
Hot. Worked on 'P' all morning and part of afternoon – the prop relay was burnt out. Went swimming in the afternoon. Wrote a couple of letters home. Planes still training and we get fair share of work.
Tuesday 1 June 1943
V hot. Went to the beach for respirator and rifle drill and had a swim. Played 112 Sqdn cricket during afternoon and they beat us by 10. Did a receipt inspection on HS-F [112 SQN Kittyhawk] after tea and then went swimming. Few parcels in but none for me.
Wednesday 2 June 1943
Hot. Planes still training and we had to have a look at the generators on 'F' and 'L'. 'F' was OK and the lead had come loose on 'L'. Went swimming during the afternoon. Our new trucks arrived to be used in the invasion.
Thursday 3 June 1943
Fine. Flies are getting very bad again. Planes still training. Started making a lock plate for the pistol today. Received a parcel from Joan and it was OK. Wrote home.
Friday 4 June 1943
Fine. Planes training during the day. We had no jobs again today so spent a bit of time on the lock plate for the pistol. Wrote home. Tested the waterproof truck today and I believe that it went OK.
Saturday 5 June 1943
Fine. Planes training during the day. B Flight back from leave and have their own planes again. Filed a bit more of the lock plate for the pistol. Had to change generator on 'A' after tea and worked till about 9pm.
Sunday 6 June 1943
Fine. Worked on 'A' during morning and finished it about 10. Planes still doing a bit of training. Went swimming after lunch. Wrote home.
Monday 7 June 1943
Fine. Planes on training and worked on the lock plate for the gun. Got a needle and a vaccination today and the arm is pretty stiff. On the bed most of the afternoon – wrote home.
Tuesday 8 June 1943
Fine. Most of chaps pretty crook with the arms etc. and spent all day on the bed. Went to movies at Wing after tea “A Yank at Eton” – fair show. Crook night.
Wednesday 9 June 1943
Hot. Still a bit ill – spent all day on the bed.
Thursday 10 June 1943
Hot. Did an inspection on all our kites today and topped up the batteries. Planes still training etc. Did a bit of swimming after lunch but it did the vaccinations no good. Forty hourly on 'L' after tea.
Friday 11 June 1943
Dusty. Things still much the same and will be glad to get away for the week. Got the clothes ready etc. New planes arrived and chaps are busy doing receipt inspections on them. Heard that Pantelleria [Italian island near Sicily subjected to a massive bombing campaign] had surrendered which is a good thing. Played 2Up after tea and got a couple of pounds. To bed about 11 and the dust blew all night.
Saturday 12 June 1943
Dusty. Got packed etc. and left at 9. Reached Tripoli about midday and had fair meal. Plenty of shipping in harbour but the town itself is still much the same although there are a few picture-shows and NAAFIs in action. A couple of Aussie Corvettes in the harbour. Went to movies in afternoon “Dumbo” – only fair. Played 2Up after tea.
Sunday 13 June 1943
Fine. Up the town and had a look at a few shops etc. Saw “Naughty but Nice” in the morning and “Who done it” in the afternoon. Fairly good shows. Two more islands in the Pantelleria Group captured so things may be moving any time now. Had tea back at camp. 2Up after tea.
Monday 14 June 1943. Fine. 438th day.
The showers are OK. Rested in the morning and got to the Senior club at 1pm. Had a few beers and lunch there and then walked the streets looking for something to send home but nothing here worthwhile. Back to camp for tea, 2Up after tea. Wrote home.
Tuesday 15 June 1943
Fine. Was having a bit of rest when word arrived from Zuara that A, B and C parties had to return at once to be equipped and be ready to move at 9am Wed. Left after lunch and had a fair trip back – dusty when we arrived back. Up to the store and it was an open go – take what you wanted and as much as you liked. Spent quite a few hours trying to get things a bit ship-shape but gave up and turned in about 11pm.
Wednesday 16 June 1943
Dusty. Finished putting the pack together and had a full dress parade – told we are to get some marching. Had a look at the swimming trials after lunch and had a dip. Went to concert at Wing after tea – very good turn.
Thursday 17 June 1943
Hot. Had to change a battery on 'F'. Planes did a bit of training. All packed ready to go and some of the transport have moved to a transit camp so it may not be long now. Heard that we may be getting Spits when our Kittys wear out and also that our reinforcements are in the country, but it’s hard to believe. Wrote home.
Friday 18 June 1943
Hot. Had to fit battery in 'J'. Things pretty quiet but will probably be a bit too lively once things get started. Swimming carnival this afternoon and was very good. We finished a couple of points in front of 450. Played 2Up after tea and won a few quid.
Saturday 19 June 1943
Fine. Sent 30 pounds home today. Changed battery on 'J'. Went to surf carnival in afternoon – good turn and 450 [Squadron] won it. Saw the 450 concert after tea – just a show.
Sunday 20 June 1943
Fine. Things still very quiet – went for swim after lunch. Had to remove three camera guns after tea and test the ignition leads on 'H'. Played 2Up after tea.
Monday 21 June 1943
Fine. Things pretty quiet – wrote home. Fitted new circuit breaker on 'B' and changed battery in 'E'. Planes left for Sorman [airfield] for the King’s visit (George VI). Played 2Up after tea. Crook night.
Tuesday 22 June 1943
Fine. Stayed in bed most of morning – feel pretty crook with cold. Most of Sqdn went to Sorman to see the King. All the planes got back except 'A' and Kev Harris, Kev Walsh, Joe Stanley and I had to go to Sorman to fit a new fuel pump to it. Got there about 5.30 and spent the night with Air Ambulance – plenty of beer about but was too crook to enjoy it.
Wednesday 23 June 1943
Cold. Got onto the job at 9. Removed the old pump OK but could not get a new one at M.U. [Maintenance Unit] and had to wait till one was brought down from Zuara. Finished the job at 5pm and got home at 6.30. There was a bit of a party in the tent and didn’t get to sleep till after 2 – crook night.
Thursday 24 June 1943
Fine. Went on sick parade. We are all ready to move but don’t know when we will. Spent most of the day in bed. Knox and Collier [pilots] turned the Fiat over tonight ['captured' car used for racing] and Knox seemed to be badly hurt. Had a supper of tinned fruit. Wrote home and sent 10 snaps. Crook night.
Friday 25 June 1943
Fine. No work during the day and spent most of the time playing cards and writing letters. Had a crook night.
Saturday 26 June 1943
Dull. Things very quiet again – bit of mail in but no letters. Played cards during day.
Sunday 27 June 1943
Dusty. Topped up the batteries for something to do. Played cards most of the afternoon.
Monday 28 June 1943
Fine. Washed the prop brushes on 'B' during morning. Played cards most of the afternoon. Nothing at all doing and the monotony is getting worse each day. To bed about 11.30 after seeing “Broadway”.
Tuesday 29 June 1943
Hot. Things still very quiet. Went swimming after lunch and then had a look at the cricket match between 3 [SQN] and the hospital. Sqdn concert after tea but it was pretty poor. Guards on tonight in case of paratroops (German).
Kittyhawks Prepared for Malta:
Wednesday 30 June 1943
Hot. Had a few shots at the rifle range before lunch. Boys had to fit the long range tanks to planes today so it may mean something. Swam most of the afternoon.
Thursday 1 July 1943
Fine. A and C parties had a full dress rehearsal this morning and are probably leaving tomorrow. Swam most of the afternoon. Wrote to Mr Jones and Mick.
Friday 2 July 1943
Fine. The A and C parties went today and we are here to see the kites off when necessary. Had to have a look at 'U' – the governor crook. Swam most of the afternoon and worked on 'U' after tea till about 10pm.
Saturday 3 July 1943
Very hot. 120 degrees. It’s a scorcher today. Removed the governor from 'J' at R.S.U. [Recovery and Salvage Unit] and we nearly passed out doing it. Spent all the afternoon at the beach and it's a relief to be away from the dust. Heard that the B Flight boys went on board today. Fitted the governor to 'U' after tea and finished it about 11pm.
Sunday 4 July 1943
Very hot. 130 degrees. Fitted new voltage regulator to 'S' before lunch. Spent all afternoon on the pier and in the water.
Monday 5 July 1943
Very hot. Had a look at short in 'S' and found half the wires burnt out. Got a conduit from R.S.U. and worked on 'S' most of the day and it looks like being a big job.
Tuesday 6 July 1943. 460th day.
Very hot. Worked on 'S' most of the morning – swam in the afternoon and worked on 'S' most of the night. Three pilots went on a job with small bombs but wouldn’t say where they had been. Played 500 after tea.
Wednesday 7 July 1943
Very hot. Up at 6 and spent a couple of hours on 'S' but it got too hot to work. Spent all afternoon in tent. Back on 'S' after tea and knocked off about 10. Posted 10 snaps home.
Thursday 8 July 1943
Hot. Worked on 'S' all day and finally got it finished about 3pm. Twelve planes leaving tomorrow for a destination unknown so we may be moving any time now. Cleaned regulator on R after tea.
Friday 9 July 1943
Cool. Checked a few batteries and the planes took off at 10am and they expect to be in ops tomorrow. Spent most of the afternoon in the tent. Wrote home and sent 10 snaps. Played 500 with Spittles (Laurie Whitford) after tea.
Saturday 10 July 1943
Warm. Heard that Sicily has been invaded so we may be off any time now. Changed coolant bulb from 'F' to 'S'. Listened to news and things seem to be going OK for us.
Sunday 11 July 1943
Fine. Four more of our planes left for Malta making 16 in all. Went to church after tea in Officer’s Mess and five new Kitty L’s [lightened] arrived for us from M.U. Things going very well in Sicily according to radio.
Monday 12 July 1943
Fine. Worked all the morning doing receipt inspections on the new planes. Things still going OK in Malta but we’ve had no word as to when we are to move. Played 500.
Tuesday 13 July 1943
Fine. Nothing much doing and we are all browned off with doing nothing. Went on guard at midnight and turned in at 3am.
Wednesday 14 July 1943
Fine. Nothing to do. Things going OK in Sicily and wish we could get away from here. Wrote home and sent 10 more snaps. Played 500 nearly all day.
Thursday 15 July 1943
Fine. Not much doing and we spent all day playing 500. News still very good and we should move soon.
Friday 16 July 1943
Fine. Did nothing all day except play 500. News still good. Sent 10 snaps home.
Saturday 17 July 1943
Fine. Had gen [news] talk by Hood and told we are on ½ hrs notice so things may be moving for us shortly. Bill Philpot burnt himself badly today. [Slim Moore recalls that he was refilling fuel to heat water to wash clothes.] Wrote home.
Sunday 18 July 1943
Fine. Not much doing but we handed in the kit bags to store today so should move any time now. Wrote home.
Monday 19 July 1943
Fine. Nothing much doing – Rome bombed for first time and we were told to be ready to move at 2.45. Got packed up etc. and everybody glad to get away from Zuara. Reached a staging point about 5 mile W. of Tripoli at 6. Had bit of tea.
Tuesday 20 July 1943
Fine. Up at 5, had breakfast etc. and got moving again at 7. Embarked on [Landing Ship Tank] No. 62 at 8.30. It’s a ship specially built to carry tanks or trucks. Run 2Up after tea and got a couple of pounds. We pulled out about 8pm but didn’t go more than a few hundred yards before we anchored again.
A typical 'Landing Ship Tank' disembarking a truck . [Lou Kemp collection]
Wednesday 21 July 1943. 475th day.
Calm sea. We lay in the harbour most of the day waiting for rest of the convoy to get loaded. Pulled out about 5pm and sailed around in circles outside the harbour for a few hours before anchoring again. Run 2Up after tea. Convoy got going about 9pm – 9 barges and a corvette.
Thursday 22 July 1943
Calm sea. Up at 7.30 and things OK. Our ship was out of control for ½ hr or so with rudder trouble. Played 500 and run 2Up after tea.
Landing on Sicily:
Friday 23 July 1943
Sea calm. Up at 4am and the crew are at action stations – a few flares overhead but nothing happened. Finally reached Syracuse harbour at 9am. Anchored there for about four hours and pulled into wharf to unload. Left the barge and travelled 40 kms to Pachino on the SE coast. The country looks OK and plenty of vegetation – almonds, grapes etc. Reached drome about 5.30 and got the bivvy [tent] up. Got drunk on vino [Italian: 'wine'] with Ocker and Con and then turned in about midnight.
Saturday 24 July 1943
Fine, hot. Up at 8 and nearly dead with a hangover. Had to shift the bivvy after breakfast. Got settled in again and started to enjoy life about 3pm. Twelve of our planes off about 3.30 to bomb Catania. About 100 Kittys left the two dromes. Things going pretty well and Sicily should be in Allied hands with a week or so. Run 2Up after tea.
Sunday 25 July 1943
Hot. Up at 7 and went to communion service. Changed a couple of batteries on the planes before lunch. Planes off on a couple of ops but returned with their bombs. Things going very well in the island and it should be over here before long. Mussolini resigned today. On guard from 3am-5am. A few Jerries over and one of them dropped a stick [group of bombs] on the yank drome. Plenty of AA over Syracuse.
Monday 26 July 1943
Hot. Worked most of the morning on [Kittyhawk] 'L's starter motor. The terminal nuts had fallen off. Checked the mag switches on 'F' and fitted a new gill switch to 'B'. Went for a walk after lunch and got a few almonds, mulberries and a bit of honeycomb. Fitted a new gill-motor to 'G' after tea. Run 2Up, listened to news and turned in about 11pm.
Tuesday 27 July 1943
Fine. Fitted a new battery in 'E'. Did a 40 hourly inspection on 'F'. Things fairly busy today – we did three bombing ops and there were planes on the job nearly all day. Played 2Up after tea.
Wednesday 28 July 1943
Fine. Planes did two ops during the day. Sqdn was congratulated by Army on their good bombing yesterday. Wrote a couple of letters home. Played 2Up.
Thursday 29 July 1943
Fine. Worked all the morning changing prop governor on 'E'. Did 40 hourly on 'F' after lunch. Sqdn did a couple of ops – bombing [Arando railway marshalling yards]. Played 2Up after tea. Jerry came over in force about 11pm and lit the place up with flares. He dropped one stick on the other drome but paid most of his attention to the shipping on the bay.
Friday 30 July 1943
Got the bivvy packed up etc. by 10am and hung about doing nothing all day. Listened to GG ['Good Gutz' = useful] lecture by army captain and the push is to start in 2 or 3 days and they expect to clean him out within a week. Run 2Up after tea and then had a game of dice.
Saturday 31 July 1943
Fine. Planes did a few bombing jobs during the day. [Actually practice sorties.] Jerry is still hanging onto Catania and fighting very hard. Played 2Up after tea and knocked off after dark. Had a chat and boiled the tea. Had a crook night.
Sunday 1 August 1943
Hot. Up at 6.30. Removed the starter from 'B'. Went to communion. Told to pack up about 10.30. Had a bit of bully and got moving about 12 noon. Passed through Avola, Syracusa, Catania and reached Agnone about 5pm. Most of the road up is twisting and winding through deep gorges and over big mountains and Jerry had blown a few bridges, but the engineers had made good the damage. Pitched the bivvy and had tea. The mosquitoes had us in bed before sundown and we were thankful for the nets. Restless night.
Sunday 2 August 1943
Hot. Up at 7.30. Our artillery is on both sides of us and they kept up a fair barrage during the night. A few planes over but nothing happened. This is a hell of a dump – mosquitoes are the thickest I’ve ever seen and they work 24 hours a day. [Those mosquitoes ended up saving the boys' lives! - See 11th August.] Our planes arrived about 4pm and had to check the V.Reg [Voltage Regulator] on 'F' and have a look at 'S'. The mosquitoes out in force and make life pretty miserable. Got some melons from the farm. Turned in about 7.
Monday 3 August 1943
V. hot. The push started last night and the artillery was very heavy. Jerry landed a few shells (bombs) about the place but did no damage. Fitted new V.Reg and Solenoid to 'S'. Our planes did two ops today. [Pilot] Howell-Price shot down in sea but a Duck [amphibious seaplane, actually a Supermarine Walrus] picked him up. Stevens pranged but got back OK. Doc McLeod is missing and probably has had it. Six of our planes badly shot up and are Cat.3 [Slim Moore recalls that in this Category the planes had to go back to Base to be rebuilt] but we still have 12 on the line. Received 9 letters from home. Had a few bottles of beer. Wrote home.
Sicily, 1943. Sergeant Pilot John Howell-Price, of Sydney, NSW (left) congratulated by Squadron Leader R. N. B. "Reg" Stevens DFC RAAF , also of Sydney, NSW, upon his arrival back at No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF after being picked up by the Sea Rescue Flight some miles off the coast of Sicily.
Howell-Price's Kittyhawk was hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire and forced to ditch into the sea about a mile and a half off Catania Harbour.
Upon learning of this, Squadron Leader Reg Stevens took off to locate the missing pilot.
He did sight him, radioed in and circled overhead until the Air Sea Rescue Supermarine Walrus aircraft arrived.
The Walrus had trouble landing in the harbour due to fire from an 88mm gun. Sqn Ldr Stevens then attacked the gun crew, sustaining some hits before silencing it. He subsequently was forced to crash land behind Allied lines. Both men returned to the Squadron at Agnone later that day. [AWM MEA0389]
Tuesday 4 August 1943
V. Hot. Went sick with the ear. Planes still pretty busy. Rowe shot down but the army bought him back. 'C' came back with a cannon plug U/S and we had to change the leads from the relay box to the bush holder. Fitted new battery in 'H'. Mobile Base arrived about tea time. Had a bath in the horse trough and got some melons from the farm. Under the [mosquito] net about 7.30 – some terrific explosions and flames from Catania – probably Jerry burning a few of his dumps.
Wednesday 5 August 1943
Hot. Planes kept going all day. They got 11 ships [off] foot of Italy [Messina Strait, where they attacked German supply ferries and barges] and several more trucks. The Wing has over 300 vehicles in the last 3 days (destroyed). Had a look at coolant lamp on 'F' and circuit breakers on a cleanskin [new Kittyhawk with no Squadron Letter allocated]. Catania was taken at 9am this morning and also heard that the Russians had captured Orel. B Flight arrived after tea and about 12 x 109’s came over very high and had a go at Augusta. Played Yankee Euchre during afternoon.
Thursday 6 August 1943
Hot. Planes on ½ hr [standby] all day but didn’t get a job. The artillery has moved almost out of hearing, so Jerry must be on his way once more. Spent most of the day playing Euchre. Some mail in and received a parcel from Mum. Changed a battery on old 'E' during the day. Did a 40 hourly on new 'E' [replacement Kittyhawk] after tea and changed a circuit breaker in it. Under the net by 7pm – mosquitoes very bad.
Friday 7 August 1943
Hot. Checked the voltage reg. on 'E'. Planes did a couple of ops during day and dropped their first load of bombs on Italy. Played Yankee Euchre during the day. Had to move up on the hill to dodge the mosquitoes. Packed up and left camp about 6.30. Pitched that bivvy again and got settled. Things should finish any day now. The Jerry is moving north from Catania and the Yanks are pushing east along the north coast. A few hundred bombers and Lightnings [USAAF P-39 fighters] over during the day.
The new camp on the hill, a few kilometres from Agnone airstrip and its mosquitoes. [AWM MEA0449]
Saturday 8 August 1943
Hot. Spent the morning on the hill and wrote a couple of airgraphs home. A couple of convoys heading north so we must be using Catania harbour. Down to the drome after lunch. Ken Goulder went down in flames this morning but the pilots got a 9000 ton ship with their bombs. Jerry now about 10 mile nth of Catania. Our bombers over all day long. Mail in and I received a parcel.
Sunday 9 August 1943
Hot. Down to the drome for breakfast. Our planes on standby most of the day but didn’t get a job. Played euchre nearly all day. Back up the hill for the night. Jerry came over in force about 9pm and unloaded a lot on Pt Augusta. The raid lasted about an hour and the barrage was very thick but they did no good. Wrote home.
Monday 10 August 1943. 495th day.
Hot. Left camp about 9 headed for Catania. Been some heavy fighting at different parts of the road.
Destroyed Allied tank and truck on the road to Catania. [AWM MEA0404]
The RAF made a wonderful job of the aerodrome and railway yards.
Catania, Sicily, Italy. c. July 1943. Two Australian servicemen look at the body of a dead Italian airman,
killed during the Allied shelling and bombing of the Catania airfield.
Two damaged Italian Reggiane RE2005 fighter aircraft can be seen in the background. [AWM MEA0402]
Reached town about 10am. Fairly large city and the civvy population was starting to return. Saw again the familiar food queues. The city has been looted a bit but there is still a lot of it OK. Back to camp about 5 and received 20 letters. The AA got a Jerry over Pt Augusta while we were having tea.
Tuesday 11 August 1943
Hot. Down to the drome. Planes did a couple of strafing jobs. Adjusted coolant light on 'F' and soldered the glycol clip. Baltimore [twin engined bomber] was taking off about 4.30 – one of his motors cut and he burst into flame when he hit. About five burnt to death. Mail in and I received two cakes and some newspapers. Back up the hill and we had a great feed. To bed about 9 and then Jerry came over and hit the drome up. He dropped a heavy load of bombs during the hour he was here and some new flares which were very pretty. He did Augusta and Catania over also. Saw the AA get one; he dropped in the drink and burnt.
Italy. 1943. Flares and ant-aircraft tracers light up the sky during a night raid on the airfield at Agnone in Sicily. [AWM MEA0414.]
Thursday 12 August 1943
Hot. Up about 11. Down to the drome after lunch and last night's raid was pretty thorough. There were 113 injured and 14 killed. He also got most of the aircraft on the drome, although most of them can be repaired on the drome. Also heard that he did the Spits and Yanks over with similar results. He’s probably trying to keep the air force on the ground while he evacuates the island. Wrote to Wak. Played cards during the day and up the hill to sleep.
Friday 13 August 1943
Hot. Down the drome for breakfast. Most of our planes still U/S and all C Flight could put on the line was two machines. Hundreds of bombers and Lightnings over during the day. Lecture by the Liaison Officer after dinner. Started to take gill motor off 'B'. Back up the hill. To bed at 10 – an old Savoia [Italian bomber] came over about 11 and had a shot at the railway line with a couple of bombs but missed and did no damage.
Saturday 14 August 1943
Hot. A couple of D/A [Delayed Action] bombs went off during the morning. Planes did a couple of ops during the day and got good results. Spent most of the day playing cards and wrote a couple of letters home. Plenty of bombers still going over each day so Jerry must be copping his share.
Sunday 15 August 1943
Hot. The planes did three bombing jobs during the day and had some good results on a railway yard in the sth of Italy. Received four letters from home. Fitted a new gill motor on 'B' during the morning. A few hundred bombers and Lightnings over during the day and Jerry must be copping the lot. Wrote home.
Monday 16 August 1943
Hot. Changed a prop on 'J' during the morning. Planes did three ops – set jetties and barges alight in Sth Italy. Changed a prop governor and lead on 'A' during the afternoon and had it ready for the op at 6.15. Receipt inspection on 'E'. Things expected to finish up here any time now and the bomb line is on the beaches. Went to church.
Tuesday 17 August 1943
Hot. Planes did three ops during day and got some good results with their bombs. A lot of Mitchells and Lightnings over so they are keeping the bombs up to Jerry. Messina was taken by the Yanks at 8pm. Had to remove the camera gun from 'E' after tea. Up the hill to sleep. A few Jerries over during the night but they left us alone. Received air graph.
Wednesday 18 August 1943
Hot. Fixed prop motor on 'G' during the morning. Planes did a couple of ops during day and Jerry must have just about had it in Sicily by now. Heard that organized resistance had ceased last night.
Thursday 19 August 1943
Hot. Things are pretty quiet again. Our planes on the deck all day. Few truck loads on leave and having a look around, but my ear was a bit too crook so I stayed home. Wrote a few letters home.
Friday 20 August 1943
Hot. Things very quiet – our planes did nothing all day. We spent most of the day playing 500. Back up the hill and we got a few bottles of beer from 450 [SQN].
Saturday 21 August 1943
Hot. Planes on the ground all day. Up the hill after tea and the trucks arrived back from Catania with about 75 cases of German Beer. [Slim Moore recalls that the Padre’s truck was used to pick up the beer from where it was being stored in a stable two miles from camp, and that this was the spoils of war. Some was given to 450 because there was nowhere else to store it.] Promotions out today and I got a Corporal. Helped in the canteen for a while and then got into the beer. Drank all night and turned in about 1.30.
Sunday 22 August 1943
Hot. Down the hill for breakfast and everybody has a bit of a night-before look. Our planes on the ground all day. Had a decent bout with the beer. The canteen truck bought back two hogsheads of beer – it was a funny turn trying to stop them.
Monday 23 August 1943
Hot. Spent all morning in the wireless tent having a few drinks. Our planes never left the ground all day. Heard that 40 ASP [Air Stores Park] have got an issue of overcoats and battle jackets, so we may be in it for the winter. Lost my pen today. Back up the hill for tea. Had a few drinks.
Tuesday 24 August 1943
Hot. Our planes are on 1hr standby. Six 109s came over to bomb Augusta before breakfast. [3SQN] Planes released and did not do a job. Hundreds of Lightnings [USAAF] & medium bombers over during the day so Italy must be stopping the lot.
Wednesday 25 August 1943
Hot. Planes released all day and we did nothing but play cards. Plenty of bombers and Lightnings over through the day. 450 boys blew up the Officers Mess. [Slim Moore recalls that this building was a small old railway station where the 450 beer was stored and that the beer was removed before being blown up.] Wrote home.
Thursday 26 August 1943
Hot. Planes released all day. Plenty of bombers and Lightnings over during the day. We are on about 10 days [off operations] – same as Nth Africa so things may start any time now. Played cards most of the day. Wrote home.
Friday 27 August 1943
Fine. Planes on standby all day but did not get a job. Spent an hour or so fixing a couple of cart sockets. Played cards practically all afternoon. Up to camp for tea. Quite a few Jerry over during the night and a couple of them were shot down.
Saturday 28 August 1943
Hot. Jerry over about 8am and had a go at Catania and Augusta – we got one plane and he set an ammo truck on fire on the railway line. Our planes on the deck all day. Had a couple of teeth filled. Wrote home. Ear just about OK.
Sunday 29 August 1943
Rain. Planes did not leave the deck. Jerry was over Augusta most of the day. About 17 x 109s came over about 6pm and put on a good show. A new sqdn – 5 SAAF - joined our Wing this afternoon. Our beds got damp during the storm. Jerry over in force after dark and Augusta had about 2 hrs of it. Slept in wet blankets.
Monday 30 August 1943
Cloudy. Jerry over Augusta again. Our planes did their first op for some time today but they returned because the bombers never had a strong enough escort. Played a few games of euchre. Did receipt inspections on two new kites.
Tuesday 31 August 1943
Hot. Our planes escorted bombers to Italy – 2½ hr trip - about 50 bombers and 30 fighters in the gaggle. Did a cart socket modification on 'B' and 'G' and the bomb racks on 'B'. Things still quiet but they should get started within a week.
Wednesday 1 September 1943. 517th day.
Fine. Planes on 1hr [standby] all day but did not do an operation. Played cards most of the day. Made up a parcel – wrote a note home. Things should start any time now, every night there are barges near Catania. Played a bit of 2Up.
Thursday 2 September 1943
Hot. About 12 or 15 war boats and numerous barges etc. off the headland, a few hundred medium bombers on their way, so the show may be just about to start. Our planes escorted Mitchells and Bostons (medium bombers) on a long range job. Things just about the same – spent most of the day fixing the starter cart leads. Played 2Up at 450[SQN].
Friday 3 September 1943
Fine. Heard that the army had gone into Italy so we may be pretty busy from now. Our planes escorted medium bombers to Italy. Wrote home. Spent most of the afternoon playing cards. Packed the stocking. Back up the hill and heard the news and it seems to be OK. Played 2Up at 450.
Saturday 4 September 1943
Fine. Planes on 1hr all day, but did not leave the ground. The invasion is going OK according to all reports but we will not be moving for a fortnight or so. Had a bit of a lecture by the CO. He was pleased with the work during the Sicilian campaign and told us we would be going into Italy.
Sunday 5 September 1943
Cool. Our planes did a bomber escort. Nothing much doing and we spent most of the day playing cards. Wrote home. Back up the hill after tea and put the tent up.
Monday 6 September 1943
Fine. Planes on an early morning do. Bombers over most of the day and the bomb line [i.e front line of fighting] has moved up the toe of Italy a few mile. Received 5 letters from home and 1 air graph. Fitted a light in the tent. Read most of the evening.
Tuesday 7 September 1943
Nothing doing – the planes took off at tea time for their only op. Spent the morning playing cards and the afternoon at the wireless tent. Things going pretty well in Italy and the army is making progress. A fair battle fleet off the headland again tonight so may be some fresh developments shortly.
Wednesday 8 September 1943
Fine. Spent all day playing cards etc. Planes on the ground all day. Wing did not do a job. Group Captain Darwin informed us after tea that the Italians had capitulated unconditionally and that we would be going to Italy very soon. Are to land about Naples behind the Jerry [Salerno landing]. This should shorten the European war considerably so may be home within a year.
Thursday 9 September 1943
Fine. Got cleaned up and went to Catania for the day. The town is much better now and a few more shops are open for business – bought a few presents. Had a good look around the town and left about 3.30. Back to camp about 5 and heard that the flying party is on 6hrs notice to move to Italy. Wrote home. Went to 2Up.
Friday 10 September 1943
Fine. Worked on 'K' practically all day – had to fit 3 different governors to it before we got it OK. Told we are to leave tomorrow at 6am. Spent a few hours packing up and getting ready to move.
Saturday 11 September 1943
Fine. Up at 4.30, breakfast at 5. Packed up and got moving about 6. Had fair trip to Syracuse and entered Transit Camp for a couple of days – 1 piece of cheese and 1 piece of bread for lunch and the evening meal was big enough to feed a mouse.
Sunday 12 September 1943
Fine. Nothing to do so played 2Up all day. Had a touch of GG. News pretty good and most of the Italian Fleet has reached British ports. Food very crook and hope to get out of here before much longer. Crook night.
Monday 13 September 1943
Fine. On 2hrs notice – spent all day playing 2Up. Food very crook and have a touch of GG.
Tuesday 14 September 1943
Fine. Bath and shave etc. and packed by 9. Left Transit Camp about 10 and embarked on LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) at 11am. Sailed at 2pm in convoy of about 15 ships and 3 escort vessels. Conditions on board very cramped and sanitary conditions bad. Played cards etc. during the day. Had a crook night.
Into Taranto, Italian Mainland
Wednesday 15 September 1943
Sea calm. Nothing much to do and spent most of the day playing cards. We pulled into harbour at 7pm but had to spend the night on board.
Thursday 16 September 1943
Hot. Up at 5.30, breakfast at 6 and disembarked about 7. Spent all morning on the wharf playing cards. Left for San Georgia about 4pm. Taranto fairly big city and looks to be OK. Many Iti sailors about and a few soldiers. Reached the drome after a 12 mile drive along a decent road. The Iti stationed on the drome are on the AA (guns). It is a funny bloody war. [These gunners had been "enemy" just a few days before!] Our planes have been here 3 days and been kept fairly busy. The flying party have been on the job unloading petrol from the Douglas Transports etc. Got the tent up etc. and received 7 letters from home. Up to the Iti Barracks for a most acceptable shower.
Friday 17 September 1943
Hot. B Flight have the day off so we have all the planes. They did two jobs during the day – Collier missing from 2nd job after they bombed a Jerry drome on which is reported to be 60 Ju88s. Did two acceptance checks during the afternoon and spent a couple of hours unloading 100 octane [petrol drums] and bombs from Douglas Transports. Had shower etc. and got to bed about 10.30.
Saturday 18 September 1943
V.Hot. Planes did two jobs during the day and got very good results – destroyed a few petrol dumps, numerous trucks and a few armoured cars and tanks. Had to retract the landing light on CV-Diamond [CV-◊, some aircraft were allocated this symbol instead of a letter], changed prop governor on 'F' and also on 'K'. B Flight on readiness to move so we had their planes again all day. They put their tents up again after tea. Fitted lamp in tent- felt pretty crook and turned in about 9pm. Had to get up about 1am to switch off the alternator. Crook night.
Sunday 19 September 1943
V. Hot. Finished the prop motor on 'K' before lunch. Planes did two ops during the day. Worked on 'F' most of the afternoon but did no good with it. Spent the evening playing 500. News still pretty good – the Italians have pushed the Jerry out of Sardinia.
Monday 20 September 1943
V. Hot. Planes did three ops during the day and everything is going OK. Dare say we will move before long because the bomb line is a fair way away now. Spent most of the day working on 'F'. The prop motor was crook – tried two new governors on it but it was still crook – got it OK about 4. Sqdn parade about 4.30 to catch up with the chaps who were AWL.
Tuesday 21 September 1943
V. Hot. Had the day off – spent all day washing clothes and resting playing cards etc. – wrote home. News still good and we will probably move any time now.
Wednesday 22 September 1943
V. Hot. Nothing much doing and had another very easy day although the planes are flat out. Got word that we are to move to Bari by plane tomorrow. Played 500 till about 10.30. Received 12 letters from home and a parcel from Mum.
Thursday 23 September 1943
V. hot. Packed up the tent etc. and were ready to move by 10am. Hung about until 2.15 when we boarded Douglas Transport No.51. Had a good flip to Bari – took us about 25 minutes. Nothing much doing during afternoon – had a look at the hangars etc. – went through after tea and got to Bari about dusk. Shave, shampoo etc. – spent about 2 hours with an Iti soldier trying to find lodgings for the night. Got fixed up OK and spent fair night.
Friday 24 September 1943
Fine. Had a couple of bottles of champagne and tin of sardines for breakfast. [Slim Moore recalls that champagne was 2 shillings/bottle.] Bari is a decent town – about the best we’ve seen since leaving home. Spent morning buying presents and having a look at the place. Got home about 3pm and had a most enjoyable cup of tea. We drank another 6 bottles of champagne after tea and finished off a most enjoyable day.
Saturday 25 September 1943
Hot. Nobody home so we went out to see the planes off. Spent all rest of the morning fixing the speaker for the tent. Fixed the prop motor on 'K' after lunch – the governor cannon plug was crook. Rest of the boys went to town for afternoon and came home blind drunk.
Sunday 26 September 1943
Hot. Planes did one op about midday. Went to church parade commemorating the Battle of Britain. Butch, Jake, Shep and I went through to Bari for the night. Got there about 5pm – booked a bed – had a look around and spent a funny ½ hr in a café.
Monday 27 September 1943
Rain. Up at 7.30 after a decent sleep – spent most of the day walking around the town buying etc. Had several feeds of eggs etc. during the day. Came home on a truck. Had a few bottles of beer after tea – turned in about 11pm dog tired but had a good day.
Tuesday 28 September 1943
Fine. Planes stood down again all day. Filled up all the batteries of the kites during the morning. Received an airgraph from home. Wrote couple of letters home. Things very quiet and will probably move soon.
Wednesday 29 September 1943
Warm. Planes released all day again today – played 500 during morning and washed all the clothes during the afternoon. Received 12 letters from home.
Thursday 30 September 1943
Fine. No sooner finished breakfast than we had to pack up and move to Foggia. Left about 11am and had a good trip along first class roads. Passed through numerous towns en route and at each place the people cheered us and carried on to some order. Arrived at Foggia about 2pm. Were messed around by Wing till almost dark – they don’t know where we are to go and neither does anyone else. Had a bit of tea near the farmhouse. – Dispersed in an almond patch and turned in about 8pm.
Friday 1 October 1943
Fine. Nothing much doing. Spent all day playing cards and waiting for something definite as to where we are to disperse.
Saturday 2 October 1943
Wet. Went to Foggia first thing after breakfast and the more one sees of the town the more it seems to be knocked about. [Slim Moore remembers that the rail centre in town had been bombed heavily as well as many houses.]
Italy. c. September 1943. RAAF members in Italy examining the results of Allied bombing on the railway marshalling yards near Foggia.
No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF took part in the attacks on the yards.
Not many people left and [those who] are here are just here for what they can get. Got a bed and sheets etc. for myself – everybody staggering back to the camp loaded down like pack mules. Were told we could put the tent up after lunch and had no sooner started the job when the rain started. It was very heavy and drenched everything about the place. Got to bed about 6.30pm and slept well between the sheets.
Sunday 3 October 1943
Cold. Had to pack up again and move to Foggia Main. Arrived about midday and got settled in again. A couple of Mitchells landed on the drome about 3pm. Both had stopped AA shell in one engine. Our own planes arrived about 3.30. Pretty good drome, very grassy and will take a lot of rain. To bed at 6.30.
Monday 4 October 1943
Rain. Planes did two ops after Jerry Transport and got very good results. Things still good and both armies are advancing. Kit bags arrived from Africa. Played 500 after tea.
Tuesday 5 October 1943
Cold. Planes did three ops during the day – think all the sqdns on the drome did the same. Jerry holding things up and has his 16th Panzer against the 8th Army. Packed the tea set up after a lot of trouble and Spittles and I sewed it up after tea. Sqdn congratulated on their good work.
Wednesday 6 October 1943
Rainy. Planes did one op – bombed and strafed Jerry transport. Fortress [USAAF B17 4-engined bomber] which had been bombing Venice landed on our drome with a crook motor. Took the parcels up to post them and one was overweight, so had to make 4 packages out of it altogether. Got it away just before tea. [Slim Moore recalls that this Bavarian china tea set arrived in Australia with one little piece broken and that it was on display in the Jones family home for many years.]
Thursday 7 October 1943
Rainy. Nothing much doing during morning. The rain kept us in the tent till dinner time. Kev, Butch and I went to town for a look – got a couple of radios and several other items. Home in time for tea. The Group Captain went down in flames today while flying with 450. Wrote an airgraph home.
Friday 8 October 1943
Fine. Planes did one op – bombed and strafed a railway station. Wrote a couple of letters home. Spent a couple of hours trying to fix our line to the Meadows. [Slim Moore recalls: Parts of the old Meadows generator system was connected up to a Ford V8 engine and mounted in the back of an army truck. It became a power unit to supply the whole Squadron with lights.] News still very good from all fronts.
Saturday 9 October 1943. 555th day.
Rainy. Spent morning washing clothes etc. Planes on the ground all day – news still good and both 5th and 8th armies advancing. Wrote to Mick and Es. Messed about with our line from the Meadows after tea for an hour or so.
Sunday 10 October 1943
Rainy. Planes did one operation during the day – bombed and strafed a wood. Things still going OK. Gangs of men working on the drome making macadam [tarmac] runways – evidently for the bombers to do Germany over. Cookhouse got hold of 20 turkeys and we spent an hour or so plucking them. Movie show after tea “Cisco Kid and the Lady”.
Monday 11 October 1943
Dull, rainy. Planes spent another day on the ground. The armies still getting plenty to do but can’t understand why our kites don’t go off. Rained all night.
Tuesday 12 October.
Dull. Planes on the ground all day and we are pretty sick of doing nothing. Spent all day about the tent – fitted a couple of lights in the op trailer. Wrote home. Jerry has 16th Panzer and Herman Goering Panzer Division up here now - the 11th and Kiwis (now armoured) are in Italy so it looks like a big battle shortly.
Wednesday 13 October 1943
Rainy. Planes on the ground again all day. Jerry putting up a very hard fight at the Volturno River. Have just heard that Italy has declared war on Germany – it’s a very funny war. Finished putting the lights in the ops trailer. Had a couple of games of 500 and turned in.
Thursday 14 October 1943
Rainy. Kites on the ground again all day. Wrote home. Nothing much doing at all and spent most of the day in and about the tent. Plenty of good news. The 5th Army has crossed the Volturno River with tanks etc. so we may get some work shortly. Played 500 after tea.
Friday 15 October 1943
Fine. Our planes did one op during the afternoon. Dozens of Bostons, Mitchells, Havocs and Marauders arrived at a drome about 5 miles from us so it looks as though things will get moving again. They are a good sight to see coming in. Big panic on and all the planes were dispersed for the night. A few of them went to other dromes. Received two airgraphs.
Saturday 16 October 1943
Fine. Planes on the ground again all day. Plenty more medium bombers arrived at the next door drome. Wrote 3 letters. Had good supper etc. and played few hands of 500.
Sunday 17 October 1943
Fine. Planes on the ground all day again. Spent the morning washing. Went mushrooming in afternoon with Jake, Butch, Len and Doug. Got a couple of kero-tins full and managed to get a few eggs at some farm houses. Back to camp for tea – turkey - and it was good. Couple of planes over during the night but they must have been ours. Mushroom and egg supper.
Monday 18 October 1943
Fine. Planes did an op during the afternoon. Spent the morning and part of afternoon fitting new prop motor governor to 'G'. The bombers were flat out most of the day and Jerry must be stopping a fair bit (or copping it).
Tuesday 19 October 1943
Fine. Planes did one job during the day but the medium bombers were out in full force –two formations of 36 were in the air most of the day. Our latest burst [rumour] is that we are to get Spits. This one has been in the fore 3 or 4 times but it seems pretty right this time.
Wednesday 20 October 1943
Fine. Planes on the drome so we went to the paddock and picked a decent quantity (mushrooms) before lunch. Doing a bomb modification on 'K' after lunch when I felt a bit crook. Lay down on the bed and had a bit of a doze. Got under the blankets and spent the worst night for many years with a pretty high fever.
Thursday 21 October 1943
Fine. Up at 8. Fever had passed but reported to M.O. Was ordered back to bed for a few days with a good supply of quinine, atabrine and aspirin to kill the malaria. Couldn’t sleep too well during the night and the fever got a bit high again.
Friday 22 October 1943
Fine. Spent all day in the bed – felt pretty crook and had no appetite since going to bed.
Saturday 23 October 1943
Fine. All day in bed – felt better but very weak. Max Kingham (Sergeant Cook) bought me a fish for tea but best I could manage was a poor effort.
Sunday 24 October 1943
Fine. Still in bed and feeling far from bright. Spent most of the time just lying on my back. Got out of the tent to see a formation of about 300 Liberators and Fortresses heavily escorted by Lightnings on their way to Southern Germany. Heard later that they bombed near Vienna - from crews forced down on our drome from lack of petrol etc.
Monday 25 October 1943
Fine. Spent all day in bed again - feel a bit better but still have no appetite. Received 4 airgraphs from Joan. Wrote a couple home.
Move to Mileni
Tuesday 26 October 1943
Fine. Up about 10am. Planes did an early op. Feel pretty good but very weak. Got word to pack up. B Flight left in the morning and we stayed behind to see the kites off. They left about 2.30. We travelled about 15 mile to the new drome (Mileni). The place lousy with mosquitoes. The boys pitched the tent about dusk and we all got under the net ASAP.
Wednesday 27 October 1943
Fine. Planes on the ground all day. Heard that there are four new [Army] Divisions ready to go in any day and that if the Push goes OK we will be in Po Valley in 6 weeks. [In fact they were not to arrive there for one and a half years!] Also rumour that our Wing may go to England for the big job [France Invasion] but I doubt it very much. Things pretty quiet with us but we expect some intensive ops in the near future.
Thursday 28 October 1943
Cold. The bit of rain made the drome U/S and the chaps were busy carrying gravel for soft spots etc. The flights played a football match this afternoon – B Flight won by 2 points. Received 2 airgraphs and wrote. Picture show after tea – Convoy – very good but talking equipment broke down.
Friday 29 October 1943
Rain. Planes did one op but couldn’t find their target because of cloud. Many Baltimores, Bostons etc. going all day. Sent 12 Xmas cards home. This wet weather may interfere with the Push which is supposed to start within a day or so.
Saturday 30 October 1943
Wet. Drome still U/S – don’t know why they dumped us on this swamp. We played 450 [SQN] football and it was a good match. We won by 19 points. News very good now and Jerry must be in a bit of a fix now. We made a batch of pancakes for supper and they turned out A1.
Sunday 31 October 1943
Wet. Bit of rain during the night so the drome will probably be U/S for a while. News very good and Russians are going better than ever. The Fifth and Eighth armies are advancing but the wet weather is hampering them quite a bit. Made flap-jacks for supper again and they were good-o. Sent 31 Pounds and five shillings home.
Monday 1 November 1943
Fine, Cold. Our planes did an Op after lunch and there were also plenty of medium bombers about. 450 Sqdn got 18 new Kitty IVs - we will probably get them too and that will probably finish the Spit burst. Went to Lucera after lunch to a concert – it was just a show. Back to camp about 5.30 and went to a picture show at the South Africans - Road to Singapore - good show.
Tuesday 2 November 1943
Fine, Chilly. Packed up etc. & left camp for Naples & reached there about 3.30 pm. Had to cross the Apennine ranges on the way & some of the scenery was well worth seeing. Jerry had blown several bridges en route but the engineers had made good job of them. Passed through plenty of farm country & also a lot of apple plantations near Naples. Booked in at a Hotel & had a look around the place for an hour or so - food etc. very scarce & the war has left its mark here. [Slim Moore recalls that because of the food shortages the men bought rations from the Squadron cook house and the hotels cooked up their meals.]
Wednesday 3 November 1943
Fine. Truck load of us visited Pompei and spent the morning there – about 15 mile from Naples. - Old ruins etc. very interesting and town itself reasonably clean. Visited 3rd Church of Italy there [Pontifical Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei] and the organ and choir were the best I’d ever heard. Back for lunch and spent afternoon walking Naples – It’s a tremendous city & every street was full of people – population must be very big. Had a good view of Vesuvius while at Pompei & the lava from the eruption 6 months ago is still clearly visible on the mountainside. Home about 5.30 pm – had a good feed.
Naples, Italy. 1943. An informal group portrait of No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF at the foot of Mt Vesuvius
where smoke is billowing out of the active volcano.
Left to right, standing: unidentified; unidentified; Jack Love?; Ben Dodd (Fitter IIA); Gibb Calvert (Armourer); Charlie Bardas (Parachute Packer); unidentified; unidentified;.
Front row: unidentified; Kev Harris (Fitter IIE); Bill Graham (Fitter IIA); Tom Jones (Fitter Electrical).
Thursday 4 November 1943
Fine. Left Naples at 8.00 am – Passed through Pompei & reached Sorrento at 10.30am after a decent drive through beautiful country. Road very similar to Great Ocean Road. Sorrento very nice place – evidently a tourist resort. Cooked a meal on the pier & caught the launch for Capri at 1.30pm. Landed about 2.45pm. Drove to Hotel “Villa Cortos” and procured a good room. Walked about the shopping centre – the tradesmen catered for tourists & most of the merchandise is souvenir type etc. Place very clean. Sat down to evening meal with table cloth - knife & fork – first time for long while. Three musicians entertained us for an hour or so – had a few bottles of wine etc.
Friday 5 November 1943
Fine. Down to pier & three boat loads of us visited the Blue Grotto. The cave itself about 35-40 yards in diam. & dome about 25 feet high. Colour of the water most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Decided to walk home but after a climb of 1600 feet we took a taxi. Went for walk after lunch of steak and chips and this island has the best scenery I’ve ever seen. Sheer cliffs of 2000 feet drop into the water and roads wind in and out among the valleys. Foliage very beautiful and the weather at this time of year ideal. At present we seem to be as far from the war as the poles are apart.
Saturday 6 November 1943
Fine. Up at 5am. Had a cup of tea and caught the launch at 6.30am for Naples. The sea was fairly rough and we all got pretty wet and quite a few of the passengers were sick. Reached Naples at 9.15 and was glad to get walking to warm up a bit. Left Naples about 11 and started back for camp after a most enjoyable holiday. The trip back was OK except that it was very cold crossing the ranges. Reached camp about 6.30 pm and received 15 letters & air graphs from home. Wrote a couple of air graphs home and turned in about 7.30.
Sunday 7 November 1943. 584th day.
Fine. Up at 8 and it’s a frosty morning. Adjusted a boost coil on 'J' and changed a gen on 'K'. The new one packed up and had to fit another one. Finished it about 7pm and the mosquitoes nearly ate me. Our planes sunk a 5,000 ton ship off Yugoslavia & 14 took off to have a shot at another one in harbour. – They wrecked the wharf and got a couple of hits on the ship. Plenty of medium bombers over during the day. Had a bit of supper.
Monday 8 November 1943
Fine. Had blood test taken to see if the Malaria had cleared up. We played 450 [SQN] Aus. Rules [football] after lunch and won by about 3 goals. Wrote a couple of letters home.
Tuesday 9 November 1943
Fine. Planes on the ground all day – the wind must have been off the snow – it was about the coldest day I’ve had since leaving home. Wrote a couple of letters home.
Wednesday 10 November 1943
Rain. Planes on the ground again all day today and spent most of the morning in the tent. Went to rugby match against 5 [SQN SAAF] and we were unlucky to be beaten by 1 try.
Thursday 11 November 1943
Cold. Planes on the ground all day but there were plenty of medium bombers about. According to all reports the armies are making slow but steady progress.
Friday 12 November 1943
Fine, Cold. Did a boost coil on 'J' and 'E'. Planes did a long range strafing job and got a few Savoias on the ground. It was the only job they got all day. Had a look at a Soccer match between 3 [SQN] and the Bofor crew. The Bofor won 3-1. To bed about 8 and the wind started about midnight and blew very hard.
Saturday 13 November 1943
Cold. Planes on the ground all day – run a book on the Melbourne Cup and a sweep drew Claudette. Heard cup run at 7.25. Dark Felt, Counsel, Claudette. Wrote a couple of air graphs home.
Sunday 14 November 1943
V Windy. 112 [SQN RAF] did a Strafing job but our planes were on the deck all day. Went to see a Soccer match between 239 & 244 Wings – 244 won 2-0. The wind broke our tent pole – must be blowing about 40- 50 mph.
Monday 15 November 1943
V Windy. The wind is still blowing a gale. Our planes on ½ hr [standby] all day but did not get a job. Played B Flight football after lunch & enjoyed it OK- we were beaten by 7 pts. Wrote an air graph home. News still good and both armies are making steady progress up the front. [US Fifth Army on the Italian West Coast, British Eighth Army to the East.]
Tuesday 16 November 1943
Cold, Windy. Washed the sheets etc. - Planes did a job after lunch & plenty of medium bombers about. Had a few drinks in the tent and turned in about 11.
Wednesday 17 November 1943
Wet, Cold. Left camp for 14 days leave – about 60 chaps from Wing in 6 trucks. Very wet & cold trip. [Slim Moore recalls that some of the men had NZ battledress uniforms, which were of a softer fabric and were warmer.] Most of the trees have lost their leaves and the rivers are swollen from the rains. Reached Avellino about 2pm and had fair meal. Reached Naples about 4.30 and it looks worse than ever in the rain. Reached the hotel about 8 mile from town and had a meal. Enjoyed a hot mineral bath and turned in about 8. [Slim Moore recalls that the Padres did a lot of the organising of bookings etc. when the Squadron were on Leave.]
Thursday 18 November 1943
Fine and Rain. Went to Naples at 9 and the place seems bigger each time one sees it. Fair bit of merchandise but it is very expensive.
The “menu men” (touts) are very prevalent and would sell anyone anything from a ____ to a feed. Saw Deanna Durbin in - It started with Eve – Quite a good show. Loafed about all afternoon and evening – nothing else to do. To bed about 8.30 and experienced a decent thunderstorm.
Friday 19 November 1943
Fine. Into Naples again. Spent an hour or so walking about – “Rue Roma”, the main street in Naples, is as busy every day as Swanston St is on a Friday night. Saw Above Suspicion with Fred MacMurray & Joan Crawford – good show but talkie a bit crook. Had fair meal in a café for 2/6 and then had a look at a vaudeville show in a very good opera house. The show was crook “So this is Naples”. Back to hotel for tea and they had a sing song around the piano.
Saturday 20 November 1943
Rain. Into Naples after lunch – saw an American Unit Dance band and “Thank Your Lucky Stars”. Screening was poor and spoiled a good show. Home for tea – nothing to do and turned in about 9pm.
Sunday 21 November 1943
Wet Cold. Did nothing all day except play a few games of 500. Old Leonardo brought about 30 girls to the pub for tea & they stayed a couple of hours for a dance.
Monday 22 November 1943
Very fine. Into town again to spend a few hours. Went to “Pride of the Yankees” in morning and enjoyed it OK. Saw “Crazy Street” in afternoon and it was a fair show. Back to hotel for tea nothing doing and spent an hour or so playing cards.
Tuesday 23 November 1943. 600th day.
Rain storm. Very strong wind blowing and the sea quite rough. Spent morning taking a few snaps and watching about 15 LCT’s [landing craft] form up in the harbour. Dance after tea but the crowd present was mostly Iti.
Wednesday 24 November 1943
Fine. Packed up and left the hotel about 10. We reached Amalfi about 2.30 after a picturesque drive along the coast. Hotel Luna was the name of the hotel we stopped at and it was a big improvement on the last place.
Modern view towards Hotel Luna - on the point near the small fort.
Had a look at Amalfi after lunch – it is a small place but in peace time was evidently very popular with tourist trade.
Thursday 25 November 1943
Storm. The storm was very fierce. The wind was very strong that one could lean on it with ease. Nothing to do so we spent most of the day reading and playing cards.
Friday 26 November 1943
Fine. Walked to the town and had a look about. Every inch of ground has been utilised. Saw over a paper mill and the church of St Andrew – a fine building. After lunch we took the truck up to Ravello a town about 8 mile from Amalfi. The road very steep and some of the turns the sharpest I’ve seen. Was shown all over the town and spent a couple of interesting hours. Had a dance at the hotel after tea.
Saturday 27 November 1943
Fine. Visited the Chaps at the Caterina (Nationale) Hotel – went for a stroll about town. Spent the afternoon reading at the Caterina after tea. Home about 9 and had a few games of whist.
Sunday 28 November 1943
V Fine. Bonza Day – the best for some time and we spent it lazing about – had a walk after lunch and spent an hour or so in the village. Home for tea – nothing doing and read for a few hours.
Monday 29 November 1943
Fine. Went to Salerno in the truck. The place is fairly large and in pretty good order. It must have missed all the fighting when the 5th Army landed a few miles from here. Back to the hotel for tea.
Tuesday 30 November 1943
Fine. Had a lazy day and did a bit of reading. News good and the 8th Army have crossed the Sangro [River] on a 20 mile front and evidently our planes are operating again.
Back to Work
Wednesday 1 December 1943
Cold. Packed up and left about 9.30. Had lunch at Avellino about 12. Snow on some of the Apennines. Reached camp about 4.30. Had to walk from the Sth African area – our dispersal is almost a bog and there has evidently been very heavy rain here. Had a decent tea in the tent. About a pound of tobacco, Xmas hamper and some extras from the ACF [Comforts Fund]. Received about 20 airgraphs from home. Very cold night indeed – some snow on the ranges at back of the drome. Sent 10 snaps home.
Thursday 2 December 1943
Fine, cold. Slept in and missed breakfast. Went a couple of mile up to the medium bomber drome to do standby. This drome is an eye-opener – planes of all types – metal runways – petrol line from Foggia – bowsers etc. Sure glad I’m on the side I am. Our planes did a couple of strafing jobs but were released after lunch, the bombers went all day and are still going. Received 6 letters from home – wrote 3 air graphs.
Friday 3 December 1943
Frosty, v. cold. Up at 8 and everything was frozen. Our planes did a couple of jobs and the bombers were on the go all day. The 8th are well through Jerry's Pescara Winter Line and are about 15 mile from Pescara. We lit the Primus [kerosene cooker] to keep the tent a bit warm during the afternoon and evening. Wrote 2 air graphs home.
Saturday 4 December 1943
Fine. Worked on the road across the swamp during the morning. Planes did a couple of jobs and the bombers were going all day. Both armies doing well particularly the 8th. Some rain during the day but not enough to hamper flying. We hope the rain keeps off for a while. It may mean a big difference to us.
Sunday 5 December 1943
V. fine. Today the best weather for some time. Spent the morning working on the road (repairing and filling holes with rocks) and did nothing during the afternoon. Our planes did an op and the bombers were out in full force all day. The Mitchells carrying 4 x 250 [bombs] under each wing. Sent 10 snaps home. [Slim Moore explained that photographs (microfilm) were taken of air graphs and sent to Australia in that form, via Catalina aircraft, then developed into ½ A4 size and forwarded to the relevant addressee. This was in order to save space.]
Monday 6 December 1943
Dull. Spent the morning in bed – our planes were backward and forward between the bomber drome but did no ops. Reported that Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had held conference – Tri Power – and were ready to destroy Germany. We hope it gets going soon and the sooner it's over, the better pleased we will all be.
Tuesday 7 December 1943
Fine. Planes did one op during afternoon. Both armies reported to be doing well up the front. Nothing much else during the day.
Wednesday 8 December 1943
Fine. Our planes did three ops during the day and rest of the Wing were kept going. A few hundred medium bombers over – looks like the start of a push. Jerry retook a few strong points during the morning but Kiwis shifted him again before the day ended. Fighting reported to be very heavy along the whole front and according to all reports the balance is with us.
Thursday 9 December 1943
Dull. Up at 6am. Went to bomber drome to fit battery and check V.Reg on 'A'. Back for breakfast. 72 planes left our drome before 8.30am to bomb Jerry AA. Counted 108 Mitchells and Baltimores over our drome by 9.30 so evidently the game is on properly again. The air offensive was on all day and our Wing flew 216 sorties for the day, both armies advancing and if the weather holds for a few days it may make a big difference.
Friday 10 December 1943
Fine. Own planes well on the job again and the Wing flew over 200 sorties again – strafing only on the last job and they got plenty of MT [Motor Transport]. Pete Gilbert pranged in the sea in the last job but was picked up by the Canadians. Did a receipt-inspection on 'J' before lunch. Pictures after tea ‘Road to Morocco’ but it rained most of the night.
Saturday 11 December 1943
Fine. Everything is bogged due to the heavy rain last night. Both ours and the bomber drome U/S, which is bad luck. Both armies still advancing up the front. Received 6 air graphs and wrote a couple home. 7 pounds 17 shillings Pay Book.
Sunday 12 December 1943
Fine. Very fine day and it’s a pity the planes can’t get off the ground. Nothing doing all day. Church parade in afternoon. (Feast day of Santa Lucia tomorrow.) Wrote a couple of letters home. 8th Army still advancing slowly but 5th have lost a bit of ground. Anti-typhus needle.
Monday 13 December 1943
Fine. Dromes still U/S but there were a few formations of Mitchells and a couple of flights of Thunderbolts off from neighbouring dromes. Went to bomber drome after lunch while they started our kites. Played a scratch match of rugby during afternoon. Played 500 [cards] after tea. Received one air graph.
Tuesday 14 December 1943
Dull. All up to bomber drome to give our planes the once over. A couple of hundred odd Fortresses over early and also a few Thunderbolts in the vicinity – wrote home.
Wednesday 15 December 1943
Fine. Another couple of hundred Fortresses out early in the morning – they are a good sight. [Slim Moore recalls the sight of heavy bombers taking off gradually and they would wait until they were all in formation before heading for their target. He claims that the Allies had complete air power.] Our planes on the ground all day.
B17 Flying Fortress formation.
Thursday 16 December 1943
Fine. On fire tender all morning – caught a fowl. Sqdn did one op. FFI inspection. ['Free From Infection' - usually a euphemism for a close medical check of the genitalia of the troops for signs of Venereal Disease.] Jakes 21st and we had a few drinks of goong ghi [Slim Moore remembers the taste of this cheap sweet wine] and finished the evening about 10pm.
Friday 17 December 1943
Dull. Planes on the ground all day – went to Foggia after lunch and saw ['They Got Me Covered'] Bob Hope. Received 2 air graphs from home. Played 500 after tea.
Saturday 18 December 1943. 625 days.
Dull. Our planes did two ops during the day. Few mediums about mostly Mitchells. Rugby Union match between 450 and 3 [RAAF SQNs] after lunch. Played 500 after tea.
Sunday 19 December 1943
V Fine. Plenty of Fortresses and medium bombers on the job again. Our Sqdn did one op against gun positions. 2nd Anti-typhus injection. Received 5 air graphs from home. Played 500 after tea.
Monday 20 December 1943
Dull. Planes did two jobs during the day – a couple of hundred Fortresses and many mediums over during the day. Played Rugby during the afternoon. Played 500 after tea.
Tuesday 21 December 1943
Fine. Our planes on the job most of the day, did 3 jobs against gun positions. Fighting very heavy but both Armies [5th and 8th] are making progress. Played 500 after tea. Wrote home.
Wednesday 22 December 1943
Dull. Planes did two jobs during the day. Plenty of medium bombers on the job. We played 5 SAAF Rugby after lunch – they won 9-3. Played 500 and Crib after tea.
Thursday 23 December 1943
Fine. Pretty stiff after the football – our planes did a couple of ops and the mediums and the Fortresses were out in full strength. Went to movies in Foggia after lunch ‘Reunion in Paris’ – good show. Played 500 after tea.
Friday 24 December 1943
Cold. Changed prop motor governor on 'G' before lunch – our planes up at the bomber drome and did a couple of ops. Went to canteen after lunch and got 30 bottles of Muscato and had a session in the wireless truck. Kept going till about 10pm and it was a funny day – all work stopped after lunch and everybody seemed intent on getting drunk. Got to bed about 11pm.
Saturday 25 December 1943
Wet. Rained very heavily till about 10 and then cleared up. Each got 5 bottles from the Canteen – erected an EPI (large marquee) at the Mess – good dinner, some of the chaps very drunk, a couple of them rolled in the mud for a ¼ hour or so. Back to the wireless truck and spent the afternoon drinking and yarning. Kept going till about 8.30pm and then went home. Wrote a couple of air graphs and turned in about 9pm. Slept OK.
Sunday 26 December 1943
Wet. Woke about 8 – it rained steadily nearly all day and I got out of the blankets about 3pm. Had our 3rd Typhus needle. Some of the chaps still on the grog and a few of them are bad cases. Supposed to move tomorrow but think its too wet!
Monday 27 December 1943
V.cold. Up at 10. Some of the coldest days yet – couple of flakes of snow and some of the mountains are covered with it. Crews had to fit long range tanks on the planes but we didn’t get a job. Heard over BBC that the German ship Scharnhorst had been sunk in the Nth Sea.
The sinking of the Scharnhorst (centre) by the British Battleship Duke of York and its escorts in the Arctic darkness, Boxing Day 1943. Painting by Charles Pears.
Tuesday 28 December 1943
V. cold. Didn’t get out for breakfast. Fortresses on the job again and also plenty of mediums. 8th Army took Ortona today after a very heavy battle, we may move soon. Went to Foggia for lunch and saw ‘Street of Chance’ – only fair. Home for tea. To bed about 7.
Wednesday 29 December 1943
V. cold. Planes did a couple of jobs and the Fortresses were out again – about 150 of them. They are certainly consistent. Went to the movies after lunch ‘ Somewhere I’ll find you’ Clark Gable – not a bad show. Played 500 after tea. Wrote home. Received 6 air graphs.
Thursday 30 December 1943
Fine, cold. Up to the other drome to fit a new boost coil on 'J'. Our planes did two ops during the day and the air was thick with [Allied] aircraft. Couple of hundred Fortresses in the air and they make an impressive sight. About 100 Thunderbolts landed at the bomber drome so maybe the heavies will be there any day. [Slim Moore recalls that they were getting ready to escort the heavy bombers to their target.] Played 500 after tea – have to move tomorrow so did a bit of packing.
To Cutella (3 Squadron's longest-occupied base overseas in WW2):
Friday 31 December 1943
Wet. Up at 7. Packed up, ate and moved out at 10am. Most of the trucks got bogged behind the drome but we got going again without much trouble. Plenty of our aircraft in the air. Had fair ride to Termoli but after there it was pretty crook. We got fairly wet. Reached drome (Cutella) at 3.30 and our dispersal is right on the beach. Had to lay wire netting strips for roads etc. before we could get trucks unloaded. Got the tent up long after dark and everybody cheesed off.
TOMMY JONES DIARY 1944
Saturday 1 January 1944. 639th day.
V wet, windy. Woke about 4am with the tent almost down. Wind blowing gale and rain was pouring down. Got out and managed to peg half the tent down after one of the coldest hours I’ve experienced. Laurie turned in with Kev and I hopped in with Slim for the rest of the night after a decent tot of whisky. Out about 10am and spent most of the day making the tent secure. Most of the tents were either washed away or blown down and quite a few chaps lost everything. Turned in about 5pm and slept well.
Sunday 2 January 1944.
Fine. Up at 10 and the weather was fine – quite a change. Had a bath and cleaned up the tent. News very good and the Russians are making fast progress in the South. Fighting very heavy on our Front but the 8th are still pushing slowly forward.
Monday 3 January 1944.
V fine. Up at 8 and took advantage of the fine weather to wash the wet clothes and get things dry. Received 4 air graphs from home. Heard Gen Montgomery’s farewell speech to the Eighth and he paid a great tribute to the D.A.F. (Desert Air Force).
Tuesday 4 January 1944.
Fine. Planes arrived after lunch and we had a busy hour or so pushing them to their dispersals. The metal strip [PSP] laid on sand makes a good landing strip, but it ends there. A few 450 chaps came over after tea and we had a session on Vermouth.
Wednesday 5 January 1944.
V cold, wet. Drome U/S and we spent most of the morning in bed – received 5 air graphs from home. Hooked a few tents onto the Meadows [electric generator]. To bed at 7.
Thursday 6 January 1944.
V cold, wet. Drome U/S all day – wrote 3 air graphs home. Had our first snowfall in afternoon – enough to cover the ground. Saw couple dozen Fortresses on their way home. Had another session on the Vermouth and finished about 12.30.
Friday 7 January 1944.
V cold. Drome U/S again. Spent most of the day in bed. Played 500 after tea – to bed about 9.30 but too cold to sleep.
Saturday 8 January 1944.
Fine. Engineers working on the drome which is still U/S. Fighting still v. heavy up the front but the army still moving on. Received 3 cables and a parcel from home. Played crib after tea.
Sunday 9 January 1944.
Mild, cloudy. Our planes operated today for the first time from this drome – bombing gun positions and M.T. Checked the VR [regulator] and boost coil on 'B' and fitted a new battery. Jake posted to 450 [SQN] again. Played crib after tea.
Monday 10 January 1944.
Fine. Nothing doing during morning – planes did two ops – 'K' U/S with governor. Started it and knocked off at tea time. Played crib after tea.
Tuesday 11 January 1944.
Fine. Worked on 'K' during morning – our planes did one op – bombed and strafed shipping off Yugoslav coast. Played crib after tea – received 2 air graphs and wrote one to J. Lawson.
Wednesday 12 January 1944.
Fine. No ops during the day but a couple of the other Sqdns did jobs. Left camp after lunch to go to concert in Vasto but too much traffic on road so turned back. Played crib after tea.
Thursday 13 January 1944.
Fine. Planes did two ops, one against tank repair shop, railway tunnel and one against shipping. Jake [Ken Jacobs] left for 450. Played crib after tea.
Friday 14 January 1944.
Fine. Planes took off after a 6,000 ton armed ship off Yugoslavia – they got a couple of direct hits and sank it. Received 4 letters from home. Played crib after tea.
Saturday 15 January 1944. 653rd day.
Mild. Six of our planes took off at 6am and had a good time behind Jerry lines strafing trains and roads and transport between Ancona and Bomb Line. One pilot got a schooner. Bombed Yugoslavia in the afternoon and they got two motor torpedo boats and a ship. Filled batteries after lunch. Played crib after tea. Received parcel and 4 air graphs.
Sunday 16 January 1944.
Dull. Cold. Planes did three ops against gun and mortar positions and got good results. Church after tea and also a RAF dance band which put on a good show. Played crib.
Monday 17 January 1944.
Dull cold. Heavy rain and drome U/S. Fixed fluorescent lights on 'B' and 'C'. Played crib after tea.
Tuesday 18 January 1944.
Cold. Planes on the ground all day.
Kittyhawk undergoing overhaul at Cutella, 1944. Note the 500lb bombs in foreground. [AWM MEC1370]
Wednesday 19 January 1944.
Fine. Planes did two ops. – against railway yards and gun positions. Wrote a couple of letters home. Played crib after tea. Pay book – 15 pounds and ten shillings.
Thursday 20 January 1944.
Fine. Our planes did one op – bombed railway installations with good results. Fitted new boost coil on 'B'. Eighth Army held up but 5th doing OK.
Friday 21 January 1944.
Fine. Planes did two jobs – bombing gun positions in morning and shipping off Yugoslavia in afternoon. They got a couple of ships. Plenty of air activity and the fifth army doing OK up front. Played a few games of crib after tea.
The Anzio Landing:
Saturday 22 January 1944.
Fine. Heard news that units of 5th Army had landed south of Rome. Should help quite a lot. Planes did a couple of ops during day. Played crib.
Sunday 23 January 1944.
Fine. Planes did one job strafing and bombing MT near where the invasion force landed and got very good results. John Howell-Price pranged about 10 mile behind Jerry lines on the way home. Changed battery in 'A'. To bed about 2am after a session on the Vermouth. Church parade.
Monday 24 January 1944.
Fine. Had a tooth filled. [Slim remembers: Drill was a treadle-machine brought by the travelling Dentist.] Planes did two ops during the day against MT and gun positions. 'A' stopped one in the main plane, which had to be changed. The invasion force south of Rome doing OK according to all reports. Wrote home.
Tuesday 25 January 1944.
Fine. Planes bombed and strafed Jerry positions on the Rome front where things are going pretty well. Talk by Padre McKay after tea on the Flying Doctor. [Fred McKay had worked with John Flynn before the War throughout Northern Territory. He had recently arrived and would travel to different Sqdns.] Very windy after dark.
Wednesday 26 January 1944.
Wet, cold. Very wet all day – drome U/S and we had nothing to do. Received 2 parcels, one from Kensington and Mum. Played crib. Very stormy night.
Thursday 27 January 1944.
Cold. Drome U/S all day. Spent most of day in bed. 450 [SQN] chaps over and we got on the Vermouth. To bed about 10.30 but was pretty crook.
Friday 28 January 1944.
V fine. Spent all morning in bed with a hangover. Up after lunch and felt better after a bath. Planes went off about 3 to bomb and strafe up near Rome and got very good results – adj. land [new Adjutant arrived]. Light warning on 'K' after tea. Played crib after tea.
Saturday 29 January 1944.
V fine. Planes did one job – bombing and strafing on the Rome job. Saw a couple of hundred bombers on their way out – Fortresses. Heard that RAF had bombed Berlin again and that the [US] AAF sent 800 Libs and Forts over Germany. Things still static up here but the 5th [American Army] are gaining bit of ground.
Sunday 30 January 1944.
Fine. One job during the day. Things still going OK, especially on the bridgehead south of Rome. Wrote home – played crib after tea.
Monday 31 January 1944.
Fine. Planes did a couple of jobs during the day – bombing and strafing on the Rome front. Changed a prop governor after lunch on 'K' and finished it about 6. Got on the Vermouth again and got to bed about 12.
Tuesday 1 February 1944.
Fine. Planes got an 8,000 ton ship off Yugoslavia on their first job. Fitted new cannon plug on 'J'. Heavy fog came up after lunch and drome U/S for rest of the day. Received 5 air graphs from home and wrote home. Went to the maths class after tea and then played crib. [Slim recalls that these classes were run by two of the pilots who were teachers. It was a revision of High School maths including logarithms.]
Wednesday 2 February 1944.
Fine. Planes did one job. Heard that the 5th Army had got through the Gustav Line [the German defence line at Monte Cassino, sadly this rumour was incorrect] and that the Yanks had landed on the Marshall Islands. The Russians are on the Estonia border. Shouldn’t be long now – we hope so anyhow. Maths class, played crib.
Thursday 3 February 1944.
Fine. Nothing doing – wrote a couple of letters home. Maths and crib after tea.
Friday 4 February 1944.
Cold, rain and windy. Nothing doing on the drome. 5th Army still going ahead and reported to be in the streets of Cassino and their landing is going OK. Maths class and crib after tea.
Saturday 5 February 1944.
V cold. Up for dinner. Drome U/S and spent all day doing nothing. Maths class after tea and played crib.
Sunday 6 February 1944.
V cold. Went to drome for runway guard but was relieved after ½ hr. Spent all day in the tent. It rained and snowed most of the day. Crib after tea.
Monday 7 February 1944.
V cold. Rain and snow all day and drome U/S. Things still reported to be going OK up front but the 5th Army troops meeting more resistance. News from Russian front still very good and the air offensive from England continues. Played crib after tea.
Tuesday 8 February 1944.
Fine. Topped the batteries up and changed battery in 'H'. Planes did two ops and the rest of Wing were fairly busy. Got a ship and few barges near Yugoslav. Maths class after tea – played crib. Received 3 air graphs from home and wrote home.
Wednesday 9 February 1944.
V wet. Spent most of the day in bed. Heavy rain and hail and a bit of snow. Played crib after tea.
Thursday 10 February 1944. 679th day.
V wet and cold. Drome U/S all day – posted to transport for two weeks. Maths after tea.
Friday 11 February 1944.
V wet. Very bad weather. Drome U/S and no flying. According to reports heavy fighting on other front [West Coast] – 8th front comparatively quiet. Crib after tea.
Saturday 12 February 1944.
V wet. Still bad weather. No flying and a few of the tents full of water. Crib after tea.
Sunday 13 February 1944.
V cold. Fairly heavy fall of snow – very cold all day. No flying. Played crib after tea.
Snow-covered RAAF Transport trucks in Italy, early 1944. [AWM MEC1757]
Monday 14 February 1944.
Fine. Planes did two ops during day – bombing and strafing near the bridge head [Anzio] and strafing transport Nth of Rome. Played crib after tea.
Tuesday 15 February 1944.
V cold. Planes got one op in and got a few schooners off Yugo before the drome went U/S. First [239 Wing] Mustangs arrived. Heavy sleet after lunch. Maths after tea, wrote home.
Wednesday 16 February 1944.
V cold. Planes did one job bombing monastery on 5th Army front. RAAF dropped 2,500 ton bombs on Berlin. School after tea – played crib with Jack Clements after tea.
Thursday 17 February 1944.
V cold. Up at 12. Planes did one job – bombed the monastery near Cassino and got 8 hits. To school after tea and played crib. Russia announced complete annihilation of the German Div.
Friday 18 February 1944.
V cold. Bad weather still, no flying. Heavy American raid on Germany. Maths class. Crib after tea.
Saturday 19 February 1944.
V cold. No flying by our kites again today – the pilots of different Sqdns doing a bit of practice in the Mustangs. Received 9 air graphs from home – wrote a couple. Maths class.
Sunday 20 February 1944.
V cold. No flying again - RAF dropped 2,300 tons on Leipzig and lost 79 planes. Church after tea. Played crib.
Monday 21 February 1944.
V cold. Planes on the ground all day – troops in the bridge head [Anzio beach] having pretty hard time - 6 Jerry divisions against them. Crib after tea.
Tuesday 22 February 1944.
Fine. Planes did one job bombing and strafing near Cassino. Spent the night on guard at the drome. [Slim Moore recalls that German commandoes may have dropped in from the sea to infiltrate.]
Wednesday 23 February 1944.
Dull. Up at 7.45. Back to drome for breakfast. Received a parcel from Es and Joan. Finished my spell in transport and glad to get away from there. Wrote a couple of air graphs. Crib after tea.
Thursday 24 February 1944.
Mild. Planes did two jobs during the day, got an 8,000 ton ship on the first op but most of them got lost in the weather on the 2nd job. Had a picture show in the nissen (half-cylindrical prefab-iron) hut – “We Dive at Dawn” – a good show. Things quietened down and they expect another attack on the bridgehead soon. Crib after tea.
Friday 25 February 1944.
Cold. Planes on ground all day – very poor visibility and there were 40 + American aircraft lost in our area – they were returning from a raid on Germany. One Lightning went into sea but the Duck [rescue seaplane] could not find pilot. A few landed on our drome. Maths, crib after tea.
Saturday 26 February 1944.
Cold. A couple of Sqdn got off the ground but bought their bombs back. Our planes on the ground all day. Maths after tea, crib.
Sunday 27 February 1944.
Cold. Planes did one job over the beach head – Jerry pushing a bit there and is evidently getting ready for a big effort. Things very quiet on own front but the 8th took a couple of ridges yesterday. Cards after tea.
Monday 28 February 1944.
Cold. Planes on ground all day. Had a few drinks before tea and it turned into a session which lasted till after 11.
Tuesday 29 February 1944.
Cold. Planes did a couple of jobs during the day – felt far from bright most of the day – school and cards after tea. Wrote 3 letters home.
Wednesday 1 March 1944.
Cold. Planes did nothing again all day. Jerry attacking heavily on the bridgehead but the 5th [Army] are holding their own according to all reports. Received 6 letters from home. School and crib after tea.
Thursday 2 March 1944. 700th day.
Fine. The planes did two ops supporting the 5th Army in the bridgehead. We lost one pilot, Charlie Forstrom, and a few of the planes were shot up. Heard that Nicky Barr had escaped from POW camp and would probably spend the night here – he was our CO when we first joined the unit and went off from Sidi Haneish carrying first 500lb bomb dropped by our Sqdn 18 months ago. Cards after tea.
Friday 3 March 1944.
V fine. Planes did three ops during day – all on the bridgehead and near Rome and they had a good day – finished up with about 80 vehicles destroyed or damaged. Prop motor U/S on 'C' and worked all the afternoon on it. (Forstrom reported OK.) Played crib after tea.
Saturday 4 March 1944.
Fine. Spent all day working at the drome – finished prop motor on 'C' – fitted new gunsight rheo to 'A' – checked voltage reg on 'A' and 'G'. Planes did one op. during the day – on the 8th Army front. The rainy weather has shifted to the other front. Got the work finished about 7pm had a bath and turned in. Received a couple of air graphs from home.
Sunday 5 March 1944.
Fine. Spent the morning topping up the batteries. Six planes went to Yugo and got a couple of Jerry landing barges. Church after tea – played crib.
Monday 6 March 1944.
Wet. No flying all day by our kites. Berlin raided by RAF [night] and Yanks by daylight. Played crib after tea.
Tuesday 7 March 1944.
Fine. Planes on a couple of jobs during the day – strafing the beach head – things very sticky over there and couple of planes shot up, but got back OK. BBC reports Yanks again raided Berlin in daylight. [The Americans were starting a battle of attrition that eventually resulted in the decimation of the Luftwaffe's day-fighter force.] Played crib after tea.
Wednesday 8 March 1944.
Dull. No flying all day. Spent most of it playing whist, and crib after tea. Weather holding up operations here and things in general remain static. 50 Jerry planes reported to have bombed one of our convoys in the Med so there may be something big brewing.
Thursday 9 March 1944.
V wet. Planes on ground all day – US aircraft raided Berlin again in daylight. Things very quiet on our front – weather against the troops. Wrote a couple of air graphs home. Played whist during afternoon and crib after tea. Sent 30 pounds and 5 shillings home.
Friday 10 March 1944.
V wet and cold. Drome U/S and planes on the ground all day – heavy rain. Things very quiet on both fronts and will probably be until the weather improves. Went to 2Up after tea.
Friday 10 March 1944.
V wet and cold. Drome U/S and planes on the ground all day – heavy rain. Things very quiet on both fronts and will probably be until the weather improves. Went to 2Up after tea.
Saturday 11 March 1944.
Fine. Planes went looking for crew of a Wimpy [Wellington bomber] in the drink and shot down a Ju52, but could not find the raft. One bombing and strafing [mission] during the day. Received 3 air graphs and wrote one. Played crib after tea.
Sunday 12 March 1944.
V cold. Up at 6. Fixed gen reg on 'A'. Planes were to go looking for crew of Wimpy but foul weather kept them on the ground all day. Played crib after tea.
Monday 13 March 1944.
Fine. Spent the morning fitting new generator to 'A'. Planes went on a 3hr job and shot down a Ju52. Watts, Irving and Hogg shared it. Fixed voltage regulator on 'V' and coolant plug wires on 'E' after lunch. Sqdn guard all night at the drome.
"Tally Ho" [Painting from the Frank Harding Collection]
depicting one of the missions of Ken Watts & Wally Hogg over Yugoslavia on 13 March 1943,
when they shot down a German Ju52 transport.
Tuesday 14 March 1944.
Fine. Up at 8. Couple of Sqdns off but our planes on the ground all day. Spent the afternoon playing Nap [card game 'Napoleon']. The Jocks left our tent today after about 1 week. Had a few drinks after tea and finished up about 2am.
Wednesday 15 March 1944.
Fine. Our plane did two ops during day – very heavy attack on Cassino – 2,500 tons of bombs and artillery – infantry fighting in the town so things may start moving any time. Fitted new voltage reg. to 'A' after tea. Played crib.
Thursday 16 March 1944.
Wet then fine. Heavy rain all morning but weather cleared enough for our planes to do one op after noon. Bombing and strafing near Cassino. Played crib after tea and had few drinks.
Friday 17 March 1944.
Fine. Left camp about 9.30 for Foggia. Had few drinks and managed to get 4 bottles of ale at San Severo. Reached Bari about 3 and had a look at some pranged kites at rail head. Spent the night with 104 Squadron and had very good evening. To bed about 11.
Saturday 18 March 1944.
Fine. Up at 9 – went to Foggia Main [airfield] and went on test flip in Wimpy. RSU [Repair & Salvage Unit] decided job was too big for our Sqdn to do. So, we left after lunch and reached camp about 7pm. Cooked few eggs and turned in.
Sunday 19 March 1944.
V fine. Spent morning fitting new gill motor on 'F' and afternoon fitting new prop governor on 'J'. Planes did two ops during day – supporting a British commando raid on Solta island. The raid was successful and the troops took the island. Interesting talk by S/L [Squadron Leader] Barr after tea about his experiences as a POW. Played crib and turned in about 11.
Monday 20 March 1944. 718th day.
V. Fine. Our planes on standby for shipping all day but did not get a job. Things still tough on Cassino front and Jerry giving our troops plenty to think about. Crib after tea and to bed at 11.
Tuesday 21 March 1944.
Fine. Planes did two jobs over Yugo – got a 150 ft schooner and two ferries. Saw good Rugby match between 3 and 5 Sqdns. We won 13-3. Wrote a couple of letters home.
Wednesday 22 March 1944.
Wet. Planes did one job and got three E-boats off the coast of Yugo. Fighting very heavy near Cassino and some of our troops cut off and being supplied by parachute – NZ’s have taken about half the town but Jerry is very tough. Played crib after tea.
Thursday 23 March 1944.
Wet, cold. Planes did one job during the day – bombing off the coast of Ancona and destroyed a tanker. Big RAAF raid on Frankfurt – 3,000 odd tons and the Yanks did Berlin over again. Played in a game of Aussie Rules during the afternoon and enjoyed it OK.
Friday 24 March 1944.
Fine. Planes did one op. – escorted Marauders to bomb positions up Nth., but the nearest bomb was ½ mile from the target. Things still very hard at Cassino and Kiwis losing many men.
Modern-day Cassino, the rebuilt Monastery looms over thousands of war graves in the valley below.
To crib after tea and bed about 10.30.
Saturday 25 March 1944.
Wind and rain. Terrible day and spent most of it in the tent. No flying. Heavy raids on Germany by US Air Force. Crib after tea.
Sunday 26 March 1944.
Wind and rain. Very bad weather again and none of our planes left the ground. Crib after tea.
Monday 27 March 1944.
Fine, cold. Planes did two jobs – F/O Hogg never returned from strafing airdromes 220 miles north – the ops board read 11 enemy aircraft burnt – two smokers – several trucks and huts and numerous bodies. A few of our planes holed by shrapnel and 'F' stopped one in the [cockpit instrument] panel. Spent afternoon helping make a solenoid bracket for it. Played 'Nap.' after tea.
Tuesday 28 March 1944.
Fine, windy. Spent most of day on 'F'. Planes did one job after a cruiser but did no good. Our chaps played a draw with the SAAFs in a rugger match. Things still the same at Cassino and looks as though the Jerry will hold it for some time yet. Crib after tea.
Wednesday 29 March 1944.
Windy. Spent morning on 'F' and the afternoon fitting new generator on 'K'. Our planes did one op during the day and sank a 5,000 ton cruiser near Yugo. BBC announced that our troops had abandoned the slopes of monastery hill near Cassino. Russians on Rumanian [border] and 40 miles from border of Czechoslovakia. Played crib after tea.
Thursday 30 March 1944.
V Fine. Spent morning fitting new prop circuit breaker in 'F'. Rugby match against Air Formation Signals. Were beaten 7-6 after close game. Our planes on the ground all day but the other squadrons were busy. Received 3 air graphs from home and wrote one. Played crib after tea.
Friday 31 March 1944.
Fine. Nothing doing all day – received 4 air graphs from home. Played crib after tea.
Saturday 1 April 1944. 730th day.
Fine. Planes on an early job and did another two during the day – after a bridge on each occasion but missed it. Three batteries flat so topped the rest of them up and adjusted a couple of voltage regulators in 'G' and 'A'. Played nap after tea.
Sunday 2 April 1944.
Fine. Planes did a couple of jobs after the bridge but did no good. Church service after tea – memorial in honour of chaps of this squadron who have been killed in last two years. Played nap and turned in about 12.
Monday 3 April 1944.
Fine. Spent morning helping fit new generator to 'X'. Planes did a couple of ops during day and got the bridge on their 5th attempt. Everybody giving hand to get Mess etc. ready for the party – it went off very well and was a big success. Four bottles of ale per man and 90 gallons vermouth on tap.
Tuesday 4 April 1944.
Fine. Everybody still in some state of intoxication and everybody looking for the ‘one for the morning’. Planes did two ops during afternoon and got a couple of bridges – adjusted horn switch on 'E'. Received parcel from home. Played Nap after tea.
Wednesday 5 April 1944.
Fine. Planes on did nothing all day. Played Nap afternoon and evening. Russians 10 miles from Odessa.
Thursday 6 April 1944. 735th day.
Fine. Spent morning making cricket pitch. Watched couple of soccer matches. Sqdn did two ops during afternoon and got a bridge. 260 Squadron spent the day practice bombing with their new Mustangs. Wrote a couple of air graphs.
Friday 7 April 1944.
Fine. Very good flying weather but planes on ground all the time. Mosquitoes starting to reappear – 15 cases of malaria in Wing. Cards after tea.
Saturday 8 April 1944.
Fine. Planes did one op – long range strafing. We spent all day digging in the tent and it made a big improvement. Cards after tea.
Sunday 9 April 1944.
Fine. Planes on ground all day – did 40 hourly on 'F'. Cards after tea. Received 4 air graphs from home.
Monday 10 April 1944.
Fine. Planes did two ops but results not so good. Played cards after tea. Had few drinks and turned in about 12.
Tuesday 11 April 1944.
Fine. Planes did two ops after shipping and bridges. Played in a cricket match after lunch. Cards after tea. Received 3 air graphs from home.
Wednesday 12 April 1944.
Fine. Planes did two ops during day bombing roads etc. Plenty of medium bombers about. Had a few drinks after tea.
Thursday 13 April 1944
Fine. Planes on ground all day but couple of other squadrons did a few ops. Played cricket match after lunch and cards after tea. Received 2 airgraphs from home.
Friday 14 April 1944
Fine, planes on ground all day. Cricket after lunch, cards after tea.
Saturday 15 April 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops long range strafing. F/L [Flight Lieutenant] Hayes missing from one of the jobs. NSW men played SA cricket; won by 5 wickets. Played Euchre after tea.
Sunday 16 April 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops long range strafing. Changed generator and battery on ? [There was an aircraft marked with a question mark.] Victorian members played NSW cricket and won by 16 runs. To bed at 7.
Monday 17 April 1944. 746th day.
Planes did one op – got a bridge near Ancona. Cards after tea.
Tuesday 18 April 1944
Fine. Planes did one op against railway lines etc. Pictures after tea – Desert Victory and The Noon is Down. Good shows. Wrote home. To bed about 12.
Wednesday 19 April 1944
Fine. Drome U/S all day because of cross-wind. Played Sergeants cricket and won by 1 run. Maths [training] after tea and had few drinks.
Thursday 20 April 1944
Fine. Received colonial allowance 1465 lira. Fitted new battery in 'G'. Received 10 air graphs from home. R.A.F. dropped over 4,000 ton of bombs on Europe. Cards after tea.
Friday 21 April 1944
Changed battery on 'L' and did 40 hourly on 'K'. Celebrated Kev's birthday and had good night. No flying. To bed about 2am.
Saturday 22 April 1944
Dull. No flying all day. Played Nap [card game] after lunch and Maths after tea.
Sunday 23 April 1944.
Fine. Planes on ground all day and nothing doing. Wrote a couple of letters home.
Monday 24 April 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during day and got two bridges. Fitted boost coil on 'L' and new gun sight rheo on 'F'. All Sqdns on drome busy and many med. bombers on the job. Played Nap after tea.
Tuesday 25 April 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during the day one to Yugo. B Flight left for drome about 30 mile north. Spent morning pulling down nissen hut. Fitted new gen and battery to T. Finished about 9pm.
Wednesday 26 April 1944
Dull. Planes on the deck all day. Received a parcel and papers from home. Softball after tea. Played 500 in the tent. The air war from England is bigger than ever and there are also plenty of heavies operating from Italy. Maybe 2nd front [France] will open soon – hope so.
Thursday 27 April 1944
Fine. Planes on the deck all day but the other Squadrons were operating. Spent most of the afternoon fitting cut-out on 'T'. Baseball and cards after tea.
Friday 28 April 1944
V fine. Planes on ground all day. Wrote 2 air graphs. B Flight returned. Their drome U/S.
Saturday 29 April 1944
Fine. Planes did one op against bridge. Four new Kitty IVs arrived. Our drome was strafed by four Thunderbolts [US 325th Fighter Group] at 3.15 and some of our chaps had lucky escapes. The pilot of the duck was killed and there were a few injured. 'B' was burnt and several other planes damaged. Baseball and cards after tea.
Kittyhawk CV-B with tail burnt off and covered with firefighting foam. Slim Moore and Kev Harris later received
"Mentioned in Dispatches" awards for safely removing the bomb from the blazing aircraft.
Sunday 30 April 1944
Windy. Wind blew hard all day – our planes never left the ground. Storm about 7pm and it laid the dust. Cards after tea.
Monday 1 May 1944
Fine. No flying but we received some Kitty IVs and I did a couple of receipt inspections. Baseball and cards after tea.
Tuesday 2 May 1944
Fine. Planes did two jobs and got a couple of schooners off Yugo. Rest of Wing fairly busy also. Played baseball and cards after tea. Three planes pranged after the 2nd op.
Wednesday 3 May 1944
V fine. Planes did two jobs after bridges but 'near misses' was the best they could do. Rest of the Wing very busy. Air push supposed to start tomorrow. B Flight beat HQ at cricket.
Thursday 4 May 1944
Fine. Planes did one job bombing a bridge. Spent most of the afternoon fitting big battery in 'A'. Softball after tea.
Friday 5 May 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during the day - the Wing blew up the Pescara Dam and flooded quite a bit of Jerry territory. Spent best part of day fitting a new governor to 'A'. Softball after tea and the official opening of the bar in the nissen hut and it was a good night. To bed about 1am.
Saturday 6 May 1944
Fine. Planes did two jobs during the day – bombing Jerry communications. Fight at the AA battery after tea [Slim Moore recalls that Anti Aircraft battery put on a boxing night] and pictures at the Sth Afs [5 SAAF Sqdn attached to the 239 Wing at this time]. Received 2 air graphs.
Sunday 7 May 1944
Fine. Planes did one job after communications north of Pescara and got a bridge. C Flight played MB [Mobile Base] cricket during afternoon. Softball after tea.
Monday 8 May 1944
Dusty. Drome U/S all day – received 6 air graphs and wrote home. Spent most of day playing dominos.
Tuesday 9 May 1944
Dusty. Drome U/S all day – had a whist drive in Mess after tea.
Wednesday 10 May 1944
Fine. Planes did two jobs during day, after bridges etc. Jerry moved back a bit on our front. Softball after tea and tombola (card game)
Thursday 11 May 1944. 770th day.
Fine. Sqdn did one op to Yugo bombing and strafing barges. Planes took 2,000 lbs for 1st time (1000lb under belly and a 500 in each wing rack). HQ ops busy with brass hats. Talk by Bailey after tea – big push to start at 11pm.
Friday 12 May 1944
Fine. Artillery barrage opened at 10.40pm last night – biggest one the 8th Army has ever put over - 500 more guns than El Alamein. They put over about 11,000 ton in 40 minutes. Planes did one op at dawn – bombing guns near Cassino. Poles made good progress but were heavily counter-attacked and had to give a bit of ground.
Saturday 13 May 1944
Fine. Planes operating all day in relays of six, against gun positions near Cassino – congratul. message from the Army. Fighting still very heavy but 5th have made good progress and the 8th have several bridges across Gariglaiano. Band from 112 [Sqdn] in the Mess and a good evening was had by all.
Sunday 14 May 1944
Fine. Our planes did one op in the morning. Hundreds of Libs, Forts, Lightings, Marauders and Baltimores overhead – Jerry is taking a lot but still hanging on. Train loads of tanks going up all day. [Slim recalls a rail line bordering Cutella drome.]
A train transporting army tanks passes behind a 3SQN Kittyhawk at Cutella.
Painting by Denis Adams. [AWM Copyright ART22244]
Monday 15 May 1944
Fine. Spent morning looking for radio noise in 'B' – (mag. condenser). Sports in afternoon – bookmaker etc. and the meeting was a big success. 112 Sqdn Band visited us after tea and we had a good night. Ock [Gordon Stevens, instrument maker] and I very busy behind bar.
Tuesday 16 May 1944
V. Fine. Planes did one job against gun positions. Fitted new prop governor on 'L'. Sports during afternoon and they went off well. C Flight won well. War still hard but Poles have got famous monastery while Indians and French are making excellent progress against Gustav Line.
Wednesday 17 May 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops against gun positions in Gustav Line which is beginning to crack at last. 8th Army making steady progress west of Cassino. Send off to Arthur Dawkins and Tom Bakewell in tent after tea and a good night had by all.
Breakthrough at Cassino:
Thursday 18 May 1944
Fine. Cassino fell today and the rest of the Gustav Line with it. Mail from home. Eighth and 5th both pushing on and are almost in contact with Hitler Line. 250 [SQN RAF] Plane dropped bomb on drome when landing – pilot badly hurt and a few chaps had lucky escapes. Runway torn up a bit.
Friday 19 May 1944
Fine. Planes busy all day and all hands at the drome. Fitted new earthing straps in prop relay on 'L'. Played 40ASP [No.40 Air Stores Park] cricket and entertained them in the Mess. They all got drunk.
Saturday 20 May 1944
Fine, cloudy. Off to Vasto for the day. Saw “Fancy Meeting You” and “Mrs Minerva”. Both very good shows. Ock, Pix and I on the go all day. The train was a couple of hours late and we never left Vasto until 11pm. Back to camp about 2am – very tired but I enjoyed the day out myself.
Sunday 21 May 1944. 780th day.
B Flight left for [St Angelo] at Dawn. Our planes did two ops during the day. Spent a few hours working on Y – regulator and battery crook. Very heavy counter attack by Jerry on the Hitler Line but it was broken. Went to Termoli after tea but were too late to see the show.
Monday 22 May 1944
Fine, windy. Planes did one job before breakfast against Highway 6 [the road to Rome]. The drome was U/S because of cross winds for the rest of the day. Spent morning working on 'R' – the relay earth straps were broken. Went to Termoli after tea and saw “And the Angels Sing” – a good show.
Tuesday 23 May 1944
Fine. Planes did three ops during day and everyone kept going. Fitted new prop governor on [CV-diamond]. Spent afternoon helping armourers bomb up. Push still going very well. Saw “The Iron Rod” after tea at 250 [SQN] - fair show.
Move to San Angelo on West Coast
Wednesday 24 May 1944
Fine. Up at 5. Planes did two ops before they went to their drome. We left about 11.15 – reached Campo Baso at 2.15 and spent a couple of hours there – quite a fair town. Got to San Angelo about 7.15 after one of the prettiest drives I remember. Pitched tent and turned in about 9.30.
San Angelo, Italy. c. May 1944. Group portrait of ground crew personnel of No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF,
which is operating against the enemy in the Arezzo area. The front line is barely five miles away from their landing ground
but the serviceability percentage has never been higher. Behind is Kittyhawk IV "CV-X".
Left to right, back row: N. Clift; Ken McRae - Engineering Officer; V. J. Whelan; A. C. Billet; H. R. Barrett.
Front row: R. Hill; Joe Milliken, and George Walshe.
Relief of Anzio:
Thursday 25 May 1944
Fine. Our drome camped in a valley surrounded by high mountains. There is a river Volturno a few hundred yards from our tent and we are parked in an oat field – one of the best spots we’ve had. Planes did three ops and got onto a bit of Jerry MT. Push still going OK and the bomb line has joined up with the Anzio Bridgehead.
RAAF airmen enjoy a swim in the Volturno River. [AWM MEA1734]
Friday 26 May 1944
Fine. Planes off at 5am and did 4 ops for the day – the Wing very busy – one continual stream of planes off all day. Several hundred Liberators and Fortresses heading north and they make a good sight. Saw movie show “Thank your lucky stars”. Wrote home.
Saturday 27 May 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during day – got quite a lot of Jerry MT south of Rome. The bomb line is now through the Sth of Rome and the bridgehead are pushing East to try and cut Jerry forces off. 250 [SQN RAF] lost six of twelve planes in 1 job. Ten new planes arrived for the Wing – biggest losses for a long time. Received 4 air graphs from home.
Sunday 28 May 1944. 787th day
Fine, windy. Wing busy all day – strafing M.T. etc. Fixed new V.R. to BA-E [Wing Commander Brian Eaton's personal Kittyhawk]. Hundreds of Forts and Libs on the job. Finished work about 7. Went to San Angelo [town] for a couple of hours.
Monday 29 May 1944
Fine. Busy day again today and crews were on the line all day. Went to San Angelo after tea.
Tuesday 30 May 1944
Fine. The weather still perfect. We have never seen it so consistently good. Plenty of flying and everybody getting plenty to do.
Wednesday 31 May 1944
Fine. Crews on from 4am till 9pm. Planes off ground practically all day. Jerry must be stopping the lot. Army reported to be about 10 mile from Rome.
Thursday 1 June 1944
Fine. Down to Venafro for day to fit new mag. on 'G'. Had look around village – nothing much there, a pretty dirty place.
Back to camp for tea – fitted new mag. on 'F' after tea. Finished work about 9.
Friday 2 June 1944
Fine. Down to Venafro for the day – fitted new ign. (ignition) starters on 'G' – took all day. Back to camp about 7pm. Planes did three ops – fitted new V.R. to 'K'. Worked on 'A' till about 10 – short in governor leads. Retired to the Nissen Hut and had a [drinking] session. To bed about 4.
Saturday 3 June 1944
Fine. Up at 8. Fitted new Governor and lead on 'A'. Wing busy all day and have been getting plenty of MT. Armies doing well and are very close to Rome. Went to San Salvo after tea. Had a crook night (digestion).
Sunday 4 June 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops, on 2nd one the Wing blocked a road north of Rome. Fitted new OVR on 'A', 'B' and 'E' and thermal switch on 'A'. [Pilot] Craig was lost on the first op. 5th Army patrol in the villages of Rome and all fronts here making good progress. Free night in Mess – 112 [SQN] band and the evening went off well. To bed about 1am. Received 3 air graphs.
Rome, Italy. 4 June 1944. Troops of the 5th Army entered the city limits of Rome.
Aerial view from an RAF aircraft on the same afternoon showed Allied military vehicles going into Rome along Highway Six.
They are passing the bomb damaged hangars of Ciampino airfield, which has been attacked by RAAF aircraft on many occasions. [AWM MED1880]
Monday 5 June 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during the day but Jerry is well on the way north and not many targets about. Army occupied Rome and spearheads are well across the Tiber. Nothing doing after tea.
Tuesday 6 June 1944
Fine. Up at 8 and heard that 2nd front had opened on Nth of France. Everyone excited and the wireless sets were very popular all day. 30,000 paratroops, 4,000 landing craft and 13,000 front-line aircraft – so it is a very big do. Had a bit of a night in the Mess to celebrate the occasion and finished up about 4am.
Wednesday 7 June 1944
Fine. Up at 6.30. Truck to Naples and reached there at 8. Place very much cleaner than last time I was here. Spent morning walking the town – goods very expensive. A feed of any sort worth about 10[shillings] but there are a few hostels for troops which makes things easier. Got onto 50 bottles beer at Fleet Club and spent afternoon drinking it.
Thursday 8 June 1944
Hot. Planes did one op – long range tanks so it will probably be a move for us any time. Things still going well in Italy and according to the BBC the 2nd front is going OK. Hope it is a big success. Spent evening at St Angelo.
Friday 9 June 1944
Hot. Planes did two ops during day but Jerry long way north so will probably move soon. Had look at starter on 'K'. Sticking dogs. Spent afternoon at St Angelo.
Saturday 10 June 1944. 800th day.
Hot. Up at 4. Convoy pulled out about 6am and we had a good trip for the first 90 miles. Cassino just a ghost town – the worst wreck I’ve ever seen. Hardly a building big enough to shelter a bird. The monastery also completely wrecked. Signs of heavy fighting all the way along Highway 6 and there were scores of Jerry tanks and trucks knocked out en route. Last 30 mile took us 4 hrs – very dusty and everybody cheesed off. Camped in Iti flats at Guidonia aerodrome.
Sunday 11 June 1944.
Rain, mild. Off to Rome – reached city about 10.30. Only thing which had felt the war was railway yards. Very big place and also very clean and tidy. The civilians are well dressed but are mostly hungry. Saw quite a bit of merchandise in shops but it was very expensive. Some fine buildings in the city. Got lost and took us about four hours to find Highway Five – to bed about 12.
Monday 12 June 1944
Fine. On fire tender duty all day – about 4 planes landed all day. Knocked off about 9.30.
Tuesday 13 June 1944
Fine. Into Rome for the day – spent morning seeing St Peters Cathedral – a beautiful building – dome 500ft high. 40 altars in church decorated by work of Bernini, Michelangelo etc. etc. We were addressed by Pope in small chapel for about 10 minutes – walked town in afternoon and had few drinks. Wrote home.
Rome, Italy. 1944. His Holiness Pope Pius XII grants an audience each day to visiting Allied troops,
addressing them in English, French, Polish and Italian.
Seen here is an American officer kissing the Pope's ring while other troops await His Holiness's blessing.
RAAF airmen serving with RAAF Kittyhawk squadrons in support of the Eighth Army were given the opportunity
to visit the Vatican and talk with Pope Pius when the Italian capital fell to the Allies. [AWM MEA1835]
Wednesday 14 June 1944
Fine. Planes did two jobs during day – bombing roads etc. Jerry some 80 mile Nth of Rome on W. coast and the allies are advancing on all fronts. Sick parade with tinea. Had a look at governor on 'Z' but it was OK. Movies after tea – Mr. Lucky – good show.
Thursday 15 June 1944
Fine. Spent day resting the feet – planes did couple of ops. News still good and 5th and 8th are advancing on all fronts. Wrote home.
Friday 16 June 1944
Fine. Our planes released all day – we spent day doing inspections on 'K' and 'L'. Movie show after tea – True to Life – fair show.
Saturday 17 June 1944
Planes did one job before breakfast – Jerry 100 mile Nth of Rome so we’ll probably move any day now. Received 3 air graphs from home and wrote 3.
Sunday 18 June 1944
Fine. Spent day in Rome with Rip Moody - had a few drinks and caught 450 [SQN] truck home at 8pm.
Monday 19 June 1944
Fine. Nothing doing all day – planes on standby but did not get a job. Wrote a couple of air graphs home. “Leaders RAF concert” after tea – best show I’ve seen since being away.
Tuesday 20 June 1944. 510th day.
Fine. Into Rome after lunch and had a few drinks. Managed to stumble onto the house which sold the vino. Stopped there till after tea – spent the night at the Hotel.
Wednesday 21 June 1944
Up at 6 and home at 8. Found a boozer in Guidonia. Into Rome after lunch – about 12 of us and we had a hectic day. Slept at Hotel.
Thursday 22 June 1944
Fine. Home about 7.30. Squadron released all day – back to Rome at 2. Found a Vino Bar and spent best part of day there. Box and Ock put on a dance in the street for the Itis. Finished up spending the night at the Malta Cross Hotel.
Friday 23 June 1944
Fine. Up at 7 – walked around Rome and got a lift in a 3 wheel Gilera – met B Flight moving out and Ocker caught the convoy. Had a few drinks after tea. Fitted new generator to 'J'. Sqdn did one op – got lost and two planes pranged.
Advance to Falerium
Saturday 24 June 1944
Up at 5.30. Packed and left Guidonia at 7.15am. Reached Falerium at 10.30am. The road north of Rome littered with knocked-out Jerry trucks and tanks. Sqdn did an op after we arrived. Ocker turned up with 50 litre vino and we had a big session.
Sunday 25 June 1944
Fine. Sqdn did on op during day. Spent most of the day on the vino - the men had a parade to the CO for more food. Most of the men hungry. Food is scarce as hen’s teeth.
Monday 26 June 1944
Fine. Sqdn did three ops against MT and got some good results – 'K's guns ran away [fired unexpectedly] and I spent all day looking for the cause. Kite test-flown at 6 and she was OK (a mystery). Nothing doing after tea.
Tuesday 27 June 1944
Fine. Into Rome for day – spent morning looking over the Olympic park and St Peters. The Olympic park is the last word in class - sure would like to see an Olympic Games there. Lunched Kiwi Club and spent afternoon in and about town. Truck home at 9.
Rome, Italy. c. 1944. One of the sights of Rome is the Mussolini Stadium, built with a view to holding the Olympic Games there.
Hundreds of marble figures, such as the one in the foreground, adorn the stadium, each one representing some form of athletic endeavour.
[AWM MEA 2096]
Wednesday 28 June 1944
Fine. Up at 8. Planes did 3 jobs during day. Did my washing at the stream. 'A' badly shot-up and had a few leg indicator wires severed. Went on extra messing and vino run after lunch and got home at 9pm. Cherbourg [France] captured.
Thursday 29 June 1944
Fine. Planes did three ops during day – spent morning fitting new mag. condensors on 'A'. Started drinking vino after lunch and each got 4 bottles beer from NAAFI and we had a session – finished up when we passed out.
Friday 30 June 1944. 820th day.
Fine. Up for breakfast. Fitted new mag to 'A'. Planes did three ops – army moving along OK and we expect to move any day. Wrote home.
Saturday 1 July 1944
Fine, v hot. Planes did three ops during day – fitted battery to 'A' and fixed gunsight on 'J'. Picture show after tea Andy Hardy meets Debutante – good show. Supposed to be moving tomorrow and leave cancelled. Wrote 3 letters home.
Sunday 2 July 1944
Hot. Planes did two ops during day but were recalled from both; army evidently moving forward. Spent evening looking for vino – beautiful drive around the villages of Fabrica di Roma.
Monday 3 July 1944
Hot. Planes did three ops during day – fitted new battery to 'K' and fitted couple of airscrew governors to 'A'. Knocked off about 9pm.
Tuesday 4 July 1944
Hot. Ocker's trial this morning and we went before Colonel – he got reprimanded and a day’s pay. Fitted new relay box earthing straps to 'A'. Things still going well up the front and we should be moving any day now. Wrote home. Played 2Up after tea.
Wednesday 5 July 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during day. We were supposed to move tomorrow at 6am but the move was cancelled for 24 hours. Received 3 letters and wrote home.
Thursday 6 July 1944
Fine. Planes did two long range jobs. Strafing and bombing railways Nth of Venice. Fitted new battery and battery solenoid to 'A'. Move on tomorrow so we packed a few things on the truck.
North into Tuscany
Friday 7 July 1944
Very hot. Up at 4.30. Packed and breakfast and left camp about 6.15. Had only gone about 15 mile when the fan belt broke and we were held up for an hour or so. Parts of the trip were very nice – pretty scenery and good roads but the majority of the 131 mile we covered was far too dusty for comfort. Reached Crete landing ground about 3pm but by the time we got the tent up etc. it was about 10pm. Mosquitoes bad so we all rigged nets. Slept well.
Saturday 8 July 1944
Very hot. Spent the morning carting petrol to our dispersal area. The camp site we are in is very nice. Between rows of grape vines – plenty of trees and vegetables etc. The Itis are working to get their wheat crop off before the bulldozers etc. ruin it.
Sunday 9 July 1944
Fine. Spent morning shifting ammo. Planes in about 4pm and did one op. Went to Crete village after tea. Had a few vinos at the bar. Heavy rain. Got home about 2am. Received 2 air graphs.
Monday 10 July 1944. 830th day.
Fine. Planes did two ops against the Jerry near Arezzo. Spent afternoon repairing solenoid on 'A' and morning doing 120 hourly on 'B'. Vino bar after tea and had bit of a session. B Flight arrived about 4 pm.
Tuesday 11 July 1944
Fine. Drome U/S [unservicable] all morning through heavy rain overnight. Planes did two ops after lunch. Spent afternoon and best part of evening fitting new starter to 'L'. Picture show at S.Afs [5 SAAF] after dark Miss London Ltd – poor show.
Wednesday 12 July 1944
Fine. Spent morning fitting starter to 'L'. Planes did two ops during the day near Arezzo. Spent afternoon in the tent. Artillery very consistent after dark – scare that Jerry may break through up north of the drome. [Crete landing ground was relatively close to the front and the ground crew could watch the Squadron delivering some attacks.] Had bottle of beer each and three ducks for supper. Wrote 3 air graphs home.
Thursday 13 July 1944
Very fine. Planes did two ops during day against gun positions – Ian Roediger missing from the 2nd one. Received 3 air graphs from home and wrote one. Met Jack McCarthy of NZ 26 Div and we all went back to his camp for the night. Had bit of trouble with the Itis over four ducks. Got round a [vino] barrel and turned in very late.
Friday 14 July 1944
Fine. Back to camp for dinner and then returned to 26th. Bill Logan’s birthday and we had a good supper of duck and scones. A few of the chaps had to leave for stretcher bearer’s jobs at 10pm.
Saturday 15 July 1944
Fine. Back to camp and bought a couple of Kiwis with us. Nothing much doing on the drome but the 8th [Army] are very near to Arezzo and it looks like falling very soon. Had a quiet night yarning over old times.
Sunday 16 July 1944
Fine. Planes did three ops and Arezzo was captured and the Army are hot on Jerry’s tail. Received some papers and a parcel from home.
Monday 17 July 1944
Fine. Planes did three ops and during day against guns and mortar positions. Played Kiwis cricket and they beat us by 20 runs. Big turn-out in the tent after tea.
Arezzo, Italy. c. August 1944. The Germans decided to make a strong point of this village in the Arezzo area of Italy.
No.239 Wing RAF, a Kittyhawk fighter bomber wing, in which two RAAF squadrons serve, was detailed to shift the enemy. Effective bombing and strafing drove the Germans out. After the Allied occupation of the village, two RAAF pilots
make a tour of inspection to view the destruction wrought by their Kittyhawk bombers. [AWM MEA1914]
Tuesday 18 July 1944
Fine. The 26th boys [NZ Infantry Battalion] came down and told us they had their ticket home. Heaviest air offensive of war – over 8,000 tons on Normandy. Up to 26th after tea.
Wednesday 19 July 1944
Heavy rain. Fine till 2pm and then a very heavy shower – U/S’d the drome [made it unservicable]. Attack on Hitler’s life reported over the BBC. Went to the 26th camp after tea and returned at 3am. Some of them going home tomorrow, sure wish I was going with them.
Thursday 20 July 1944. 840th day.
Planes on two jobs during day – boost coil on 'J' and thermal switch on 'C'. Sergeants donated 100 litres of vino to airmen and we had a little party.
Friday 21 July 1944
Fine. Not much doing – planes on two ops and fitted new starter to 'A'. We got a barrel of vino and had a big session – ENSA concert – fair show. [ENSA was a British concert organisation. The initials stood for 'Entertainments Service Association' but was better known to the troops as: "Every Night Something Awful".]
Saturday 22 July 1944
Fine. Planes did two jobs. According to BBC things are very unsettled in Germany. Lecture by Group Captain Graham about repatriation etc. Our turn to go home will be in about 20 months time. Received 3 air graphs from home and wrote a couple.
Sunday 23 July 1944
Fine. Planes off at 5 but all returned with their bombs. Rumour that Hitler had been arrested caused excitement in the camp but it was not true unfortunately. Planes off again at 6pm. News still very good. Received 2 letters from home.
Monday 24 July 1944
V hot. Our Sqdn released all day – spent morning at Foiano and afternoon writing 4 letters. News still good and Russians 50 miles from Warsaw.
Tuesday 25 July 1944
V hot. Planes busy all day – fitted new battery to 'B' and spent most of afternoon fitting new starter motor to 'L'. Things still about the same but the Eighth are only 15 mile from Florence, so we may be seeing that city soon.
Wednesday 26 July 1944
Planes busy all day – flew 5-6 ops against gun and mortar positions. Eighth Army 15 mile from Florence. 2nd Army in Normandy launched a new offensive and are striking very heavy opposition. Had two geese, eight bottles beer and a few vinos for supper – one of the best I’ve every had.
Thursday 27 July 1944
Hot. Planes did two jobs; one at sunrise and one at sunset. The whole Wing on parade to be inspected by the King. His party consisted of about 25 car loads.
Friday 28 July 1944
Fine. Planes busy all day bombing gun and mortar sites. Knocked off about 9.30.
Saturday 29 July 1944
Fine. Planes did two jobs during the day. Received 5 air graphs from home and wrote one. Yanks still doing well in Normandy and Russians 20 odd mile from Warsaw. Hope it all ends soon.
Sunday 30 July 1944. 850th day.
Fine. Planes released all day but rest of the Wing kept going. Spent morning fitting new coolant wire to 'K'. Kiwis about 5 mile from Florence and news from all other fronts pretty good.
Monday 31 July 1944
Fine. Up at 6 and wrote a letter home. Not much doing and went for a drive to a few different villages. Had a few vinos.
Tuesday 1 August 1944
Fine. Kept going all day and planes got some good results on targets Nth of Florence. To bed about 12 after a supper of poultry.
Wednesday 2 August 1944
Fine. Planes did three ops. Group Captain Eaton has taken command of the Wing. 8th Army in Sthn suburbs of Florence.
Thursday 3 August 1944
Fine. Planes pretty busy all day. We had to drain and flush all the petrol tanks on our planes. A Mustang pranged while taking off and landed about 50 yards from the tent. The pilot was killed.
Friday 4 August 1944
Fine. Planes flew 30 sorties. Very heavy shower after tea and we had a wet half hour on the way home from the showers. Had a chicken supper in Ocker's tent. A Jerry over - the first for a long time. He strafed and dropped one bomb, the Beaufighters got him.
Saturday 5 August 1944
Fine. Pretty quiet day. Received 3 airgraphs from home and wrote a couple. Movies after tea: In Old Oklahoma.
Sunday 6 August 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops near Florence. The peace should fall before long. Movie show after tea: In the wake of the Bounty.
Monday 7 August 1944
Fine. [3SQN] Planes released all day but rest of Wing kept busy. Spent a few hours at transport. Slim’s birthday and there was a big party in the tent – was too crook to partake myself.
Tuesday 8 August 1944
Fine. Pretty busy all day. Had look at VR [voltage regulator] on 'G'. News very good especially from France where the 2nd Army and the Yanks are doing very well. The Typhoons in this front destroyed 135 tanks. Sth Africans reported to be in best part of Florence but there are still plenty of snipers there.
Wednesday 9 August 1944. 860th day.
Fine. Planes very busy all day and they got some good hits on gun positions. Heavy rain after tea – kept going most of the night.
Thursday 10 August 1944
Fine. Drome U/S and planes on ground all day. Wrote a couple of letters home. General news still very good.
Friday 11 August 1944
Fine. Planes on the ground all day – drome still U/S. Spent most of day getting ready for leave. Had a few drinks and turned in about 10.30.
Saturday 12 August 1944
Fine. Left camp at 8.30 for 7 days leave. Reached Rome after a good trip at 2.30. Booked in at Pensione Primerose. Nice clean place. Walk after tea – had few drinks with the staff of the pub.
Sunday 13 August 1944
Fine. Up at 7. Visited ACF Hostel [Australian Comforts Fund - this building was a former Fascist Club] and looked around the city. Left town about 2 for the races. Managed to get a lift with a navy doctor who took us to the course and home again. Six events on programme – four for mules and two for ponies – one of the funniest afternoon's sport I’ve ever seen. The meeting was organised by an army veterinary company. They had put a lot of work into the course. Home about 7 and got to bed about 2 after entertaining the staff again.
Monday 14 August 1944
Fine. Spent the morning looking around the shops. Saw “Buffalo Bill” at NAAFI Super Cinema after lunch. Bought camera and took the shop keeper to the pub for a few vinos. He invited us to his house tomorrow evening.
Tuesday 15 August 1944
V hot. Spent day walking the town and seeing a few of the sights. Went to the photographer after tea and had a pleasant evening.
Wednesday 16 August 1944
V hot. We went to the flats in the morning and took the food down. Did nothing much during the day. Got to the flats about 6.30 and had a good evening. Had a few dances but concentrated more on the vino.
Thursday 17 August 1944
V hot. Spent a very quiet day – finished the shopping etc. Saw the chaps from 450 and 3 [RAAF Squadrons] who had been posted home. They were very excited. Home about 8 and had a few drinks.
Rome, Italy. 1944. Group portrait of ground crew members of No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF, now operating north of Rome,
taken during a visit the capital. They are seen here in St Peter's Square.
Left to right, standing: unidentified; Fred Dore; unidentified; Doug Clarkson; Short; unidentified; Bill Tait.
Front row: Henry Watson; Jim ?; Bill Chipperfield; (Rip) Moody.
Friday 18 August 1944
Hot, rain. Packed the kit etc. and left Rome about ten. Quite a bit of rain on the way home. Reached camp about 5. Planes all away at other dromes – ours U/S through rain. Gave Dan Hughes a send off – big night.
Saturday 19 August 1944. 870th day.
Hot. Planes still away and few crews had to go to 7SAAF to operate. News still very good – maybe it will all blow over soon. Went to concert after tea at 250 [SQN] and put on a great bar. Home about 4am. George Seach posted home – 2 hrs notice. We were all down to see him off – he was like a stunned plover – did not realise what it was all about.
Sunday 20 August 1944
Hot. Up at 5 and was still quite drunk. A party of us had to go to Perugia, about 70 mile away to see 6 of our kites off. The trip was very pretty, especially near Lake Trasimeno. Got the planes away about 1pm and returned to camp about 4.30. We were very tired and pleased to get there. Had few drinks after tea.
Monday 21 August 1944
Hot. Planes did two jobs during the day – CO told us that A party moves at 11am tomorrow for a drome on the other side near Ancona. Fitted new battery and vol. reg to 'G'. Blocky returned with 6 Kiwis and we had a big session [drinks].
Tuesday 22 August 1944
V hot. Planes pretty busy all day. B Flight left about 11am. Spent morning fitting big battery to 'J' and most of afternoon mixing battery acid. Received 3 airgraphs and 3 cables from home.
Wednesday 23 August 1944
V hot. Planes did two jobs – many mediums [Allied bombers] about. Heard that Paris and Marseilles had been recaptured and that the Rumanians had thrown in the towel. Things may finish soon. Wrote three letters home.
Thursday 24 August 1944
V hot. Planes off at 7 after a bridge. Adjusted leg landing light on 'V'. Another job about tea time.
Arezzo, Italy. c. 1944-08. A smashed bridge. Enemy rail waggon and oil tanks piled on top of each other near Arezzo.
Fighter bombers (dive bombing) were much more accurate against this sort of target than heavier level-bombers. [AWM SUK12625]
Friday 25 August 1944
V hot. Packed tent etc. during day. Planes did two ops and left for another drome at 6. 'W' stood on its nose and had to change a couple of props after tea. Finished at 9.30.
Saturday 26 August 1944
Fine. Up at 4. Packed and left Foiano at 5.30. Very dusty trip from W to E coast of Italy. Reached LG near Jesi [also called "Iesi"] about 5.30. All pretty tired. Pitched tent and turned in about 9.30.
[News:] Bulgaria after peace.
Sunday 27 August 1944
Hot. We have a day off. Had a look at Jesi in morning – fair-sized village and large population. Spent afternoon resting. Planes did two ops during day. The army in front of us are advancing steadily against light opposition. Maybe we will get more to do when we reach the Gothic Line.
Monday 28 August 1944
Hot. Planes very busy all day and the news is very good. Received 4 letters from home. The chaps from the 33 [NZ Anti-Tank] came down and we had a big party. P.O. [passed out?]
Tuesday 29 August 1944. 880th day.
Hot. Went away with 33rd chaps. Ocker, Max, Chris and Bill – got into a lot of trouble in the Champagne Hills. Stayed in the Village all day and got home about 10. Big party in progress and we joined in. Ocker turned tree man. P.O.
Wednesday 30 August 1944
Hot. Went to the monastery with Merv and Ack for Vino – back to camp for tea and we got into it again with the Kiwis. The Red Ant put on a very funny turn. P.O.
Thursday 31 August 1944
Fine. On it again all day – the 26th boys are in fine form. Had great big sessions after tea and we all graduated as tree men – 16 up the tree at once with a 50 litre keg. All went to the canal – and graduated as frog men. Bit of a turn with our friends and a couple of them went into the canal. Paddy Hastie reckons the convoy took ½ hr to pass his tent. To bed as the sun came up.
Friday 1 September 1944
Fine, hot. Up at 8. Planes busy – we went to the 33rd and played them cricket and we won 92-79. They entertained us with the Big Band and the orchestra. Put on a good feed and supper. We all got pretty umbriaco [Italian for "drunk"]. Returned home with a big team and continued the session. Had about 50 at the tent. P.O.
Wrote couple of letters home.
Saturday 2 September 1944
Heavy rain storm. Up at 8 and had to clean up a lot of the mess – the fowls etc. Bit of a scare on but nothing came of it. Fitted a new governor to 'J' and had a look at a couple of B Flight planes. Very sober night.
Sunday 3 September 1944
Fine. Up at 8. Planes very busy all day. News very good. Eighth [Army] has got a 20 mile wedge 12 mile deep into the Gothic Line. Had a look at the flare path [airstrip lighting] after tea. Two Kiwis, Pip and Neal, came and we had a few vinos in the tent.
Monday 4 September 1944
Fine. News still very good – British troops in Holland and Antwerp recaptured. Eighth Army about 3 mile from Rimini.
Tuesday 5 September 1944
Fine. Planes busy but I had a fairly quiet day. Went to 26th after tea and got pretty merry. Got a fur and bed spread from Darkie and also a few pair of stockings. Home about midnight.
Wednesday 6 September 1944
Fine. Planes did three ops. 'Y' hit the deck and blew up. The pilot, Hedger was killed. Adjusted governor linkage on 'J' and fitted new starter to 'L' after lunch. Kiwi concert at 450 SQN after tea and it was an excellent show.
Thursday 7 September 1944
Fine. Planes fairly busy most of the day. Went to Jesi after lunch and saw “Mr Lucky” – a good show. News still good but the Eighth having a hard job to take Rimini.
Friday 8 September 1944. 890th day.
Heavy storm. Planes did a couple of ops during morning but a very heavy storm put an end to flying after midday. We managed to keep our beds and clothes pretty dry. Posted a bedspread home.
Move to Foiano:
Saturday 9 September 1944
Fine. Packed up and pulled out about 11am. Very slow move as far as Fabriano. 3 hrs to do 40 kilometres but after lunch we made good time and reached Foiano drome at 7.30 after a trip of 133 miles. Took us about 3 hrs to find the dispersal so we cooked our tea and turned in under the truck. Was up through the night with G.G. [stomach trouble].
Sunday 10 September 1944
V fine. Up about 9 and pitched the tent in a fair dispersal but a long way from the drome. The planes did not arrive so we had a very lazy day. Wrote 3 letters home. The 5th Army making a little progress on our coast but the Eighth are finding Rimini a hard place to take.
Monday 11 September 1944
V fine. Spent lazy morning. Planes arrived at 3pm and we went down to see them in. They had been very busy in Jesi since we left. Played 2 Up after tea. B Flight flying party arrived during afternoon.
Tuesday 12 September 1944
V fine. Heard news today and American forces are 5 mile inside Germany. Planes very busy – 36 ops. We all went to the Casa ['house'] and had a party – Blacky had a fictitious birthday and a jolly good time was had by all.
Wednesday 13 September 1944
Dull. Planes on the ground all day because of cloud. Wrote a letter home. Another party at the Casa but was too ill to carry on. Home about 9 – crook night.
Thursday 14 September 1944
V fine. Planes very busy – 36 ops. Changed starter motor on 'C'. Very big party in attendance at the Casa. Put on a big session – kept all the Ities awake. Home about 2am.
Friday 15 September 1944
V fine. Planes did 36 ops. Changed a couple of voltage regs. News very good and the Eighth are very near to Rimini. Heavy weight title fight between [Jack] London and [Freddie] Mills. We had a tent full to hear the broadcast. An excellent fight but the radio broadcasted the News instead of the last 3 rounds, so we had to write a strong letter to the BBC. All got very drunk and three of the chaps did a successful ocker recce and brought back 9 geese.
Rimini, Italy. 21 September 1944. Aerial view of Rimini shows the River Marecchia and the bomb-damaged railway line and railway-side buildings.
In the distance the smoke of battle can still be seen.
Aircraft of the Desert Air Force (DAF) contributed largely to the capture by the Eighth Army of Rimini, key town controlling the approach to the Po Valley on the Adriatic coast.
Saturday 16 September 1944
V fine. Very busy morning cleaning and plucking 3 ducks. Planes did 36 ops. The English St Ledger – Tehran won it. All went to the Casa after tea – played cards and had good evening. All got pretty drunk. To bed at 2am.
Sunday 17 September 1944
V fine. Planes did 36 ops. Changed generator on 'J'. Went to the Casa after lunch and played cards all afternoon. Home for tea then returned to the Casa. Home about 12 and continued the session in the EPI [Mess tent]. To bed about 3am. Put clocks back 1 hr.
Monday 18 September 1944. 900th day.
Planes did 36 ops again. Walked to the drome and did a few jobs. Spent afternoon playing Put & Take [a game using a small brass spinning-top]. To the Casa after tea. All got away again and had a lot of fun with the Put and Take. Home about 12 and Ocker and I carried on playing cards and sippery till 3am.
Tuesday 19 September 1944
Fine. Planes flew another 36 ops but did not have much to do myself. Down to the Casa after tea and all got away again. To bed about 12.30.
Wednesday 20 September 1944
Fine. Planes very busy – flew 36 ops. Worked on 'F' after lunch – fitting new prop motor. Heard that 1st Parachute Army had landed in Holland [Arnhem]. Down to the Casa after tea. Send off to Pixi and it went OK.
Thursday 21 September 1944
Fine – wet. Finished fitting new prop motor to 'F' and our planes all left for Jesi. Went to Arezzo after lunch with load of salvage. Very heavy rain, so does not look too good for the move tomorrow. Received 3 letters – to bed at 10.30.
Back to Jesi again:
Friday 22 September 1944
Wet. Up at 5.30. Packed etc. and left camp at 8.20. Had a good trip over the Apennines again and reached Jesi about 4.30pm. Pitched tent and turned in at 9pm.
Saturday 23 September 1944
Fine. Planes flew 24 sorties. Rimini taken by Greek troops. Fitted new prop brushes to 'G' and got couple of governor leads from RSU for 'B'. Picture show at Wing after tea – “True to Life” – good show.
Sunday 24 September 1944
Fine. Planes did three lots of 6. Fitted new prop governor and cleaned brushes on 'A'. The army well through the Gothic Line, so we may move any time now.
Monday 25 September 1944
Fine. Planes did three ops during the day – went to Jesi after lunch with Nick and Bill Leeds – saw “Stars in Battle Dress” – crook show.
Tuesday 26 September 1944
Fine. Planes busy all day – using both runways – we lost F/O Saunders. Fitted new voltage reg to 'J'.
Wednesday 27 September 1944
V cloudy. Planes on the ground and very heavy rain at front and it halted the army’s advance. Played 500 at Ocker’s tent till 3am – won 11 games each.
Thursday 28 September 1944. 910th day.
V wet. Planes on the ground all day. Sewed up a parcel and wrote a letter. Ocker, Pix and Bob played Solo in our tent after tea.
Friday 29 September 1944
V wet. Heavy rain kept the planes on the ground all day. Went to Jesi and spent the day walking about. Went to Ocker’s tent after tea and played Nap.
Saturday 30 September 1944
Wet. Planes on the ground all day again. We spent the afternoon paving the floor of the Mess. Wrote home. Went to Yank picture show after tea – “Action in the North Atlantic” – fair show.
Sunday 1 October 1944
Dull. Planes did 24 sorties. Spent day in Ancona with Ocker – saw “Song of Russia” – good show. Wrote home. Back to camp at 7.30.
Monday 2 October 1944
V wet. Planes on the deck all day. Heavy rain all the afternoon. Wrote a letter home – received 3. 2Up after tea.
Tuesday 3 October 1944
Cloudy. Planes did two jobs during day. Movie show after tea.
Wednesday 4 October 1944
Wet. Planes on the deck all day. Wrote a letter home. Went to movies at SAAF after tea and saw “Honeymoon in Bali” – a good show. Were just getting into bed when Max and Brad turned up. We got onto the drink and I got pretty drunk.
Thursday 5 October 1944
Wet. Left camp about 9.30 and had a fair trip to Senigallia, although the head was not the best. Had lunch and got going again. Has been some heavy fighting all along the road. Reached the Kiwi camp a few mile past Rimini about 5 pm. The boys got onto a session but was too crook with a cold myself and turned in about 8pm. Crook night.
Friday 6 October 1944
Wet. Up for breakfast but felt far from good. Went to the 26th [NZ Battalion] after lunch and saw Darky and Tom and got into a session. Carried on till we passed out.
Saturday 7 October 1944
Mild. Saw our planes go over and so we set out for camp about 9.30. Had 3 or 4 different lifts and got to the camp about 4.30. Had tea and turned in at 7.
Sunday 8 October 1944. 920th day.
Wet. Sick parade with cold – felt bit off all day. Played Nap etc. after lunch and had a few vinos. It turned into a session and I passed out in Ocker’s tent.
Monday 9 October 1944
Very wet all morning but cleared up after lunch and our drome was as busy as I’ve seen it. Planes off every minute. Received 3 airgraphs from home. Had a game of nap in our tent after tea. Needle. TAB.
Tuesday 10 October 1944
Showery. Planes did one op only – weather still pretty crook. Wrote a letter home. Had a game of football after lunch. Played 500 after tea.
Jesi Airfield near Ancona, Italy. October 1944. Group portrait of the Australian Rules football team of No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF, which defeated No. 454 (Baltimore) Squadron RAAF on Jesi airfield.
Left to right, back row: Grizz Bear; Glen O'Born; Slim Moore; unidentified; ? Fleming; unidentified.
Middle row kneeling: unidentified; Ben Dodd; Flight Lieutenant Ian Roediger; Bill Leeds; Ambrose Ryan; Bill Hollingsworth; Frank Ackland.
Front row sitting: Arthur Lance; Charlie Bardas; D. K. Nichols; Shorty Edwards; Tom Jones.
Wednesday 11 October 1944
Fine. Dull all morning. Fine afternoon. Planes did two ops. Bad governor contact on 'A'. Received 6 pounds four shillings and eight pence Colonial Allowance. Rugby match against English officers. We won 33-0. Movies after tea – “Behind the Rising Sun” – a good show.
Thursday 12 October 1944
Fine. Planes did 36 ops and drome busy all day. A few heavies landed on their way home – some of them pretty well shot up. Fitted new landing light to 'G' and looked for radio noise in 'K' after lunch. Pictures after tea – “Flight for Freedom”.
Friday 13 October 1944
Fine. Drome very busy all day – our planes did 36 ops. Quite a few Libs and Forts and a few of the crews wounded. Spent morning in Jesi, afternoon on drome. Received 2 airgraphs. Played cards at Pixie’s tent after tea.
Saturday 14 October 1944
Fine. Planes did one op in morning. We played 458 [RAAF Wellington bomber Squadron] Rugby after lunch – were beaten 6-5. Pictures after tea – Bob Hope in “Lets Face It” – good show.
Sunday 15 October 1944
Fine. Planes busy all day. Cards after tea.
Monday 16 October 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during the day. Spent morning getting ground ready etc. and played 454 Squadron [RAAF Baltimore bombers] Aussie Rules after lunch. We won by about 6 goals. Received an airgraph. Had party in tent after tea but was pretty tired and turned in about 8pm.
Tuesday 17 October 1944.
Fine. Planes did three ops during day. Jack O’Reilly’s [23rd] birthday and we had a decent night in the tent.
Wednesday 18 October 1944. 930th day.
Wet. Planes on the ground all day. We carried on birthday party. Pictures after tea – “Government Girl” – poor show. Home at 10 and Pixie put on his broken leg act.
Thursday 19 October 1944
Wet and fine. Planes did two ops during the day. Received 4 letters from home, wrote a couple. Had a few drinks in the tent.
Friday 20 October 1944
Fine. Planes did two ops during the day. Spent morning on the drome. Played Nap in Ocker’s tent after tea.
Saturday 21 October 1944
Frost and fine. Planes did two ops. Spent morning on drome. Played 450 [RAAF SQN] Aussie Rules after lunch and were beaten by 10 pts. Sprained my knee and was sent to bed. Bo, Spittles, Kev and Slim had a few whiskies and Bo told us some good stories.
Sunday 22 October 1944
Dull. Planes on ground all day. Spent day in bed. Played Ock and Lloyd 500 [cards] after tea.
Monday 23 October 1944
Dull. Planes did one job. We played 454 [SQN] football in afternoon and won by 4 goals. Big turn in Mess after tea but missed the lot – spent day in bed. Wrote home.
Tuesday 24 October 1944
Wet. All day in bed. Planes never left the ground. The Kiwis arrived after tea and there was a mild session in the tent.
Wednesday 25 October 1944
V wet. Planes on the ground all day. Wrote home.
Thursday 26 October 1944
V wet. Heavy rain most of the day – planes never left the ground. Received a letter from home and sent the Xmas cards. Read most of the day.
Friday 27 October 1944
Wet. Some of the camp moved to the billets in Jesi.
Saturday 28 October 1944. 940th day.
Wet. Up at 8. Moved to Jesi – Sqdn billets in school. Planes did no jobs. Send off to Pixie again – we all got fairly drunk.
Sunday 29 October 1944
Fine, wet. Planes did two jobs during the day. Still no duty myself.
Monday 30 October 1944
Fine. Planes on the ground all day. Movie after tea – “Saint meets Tiger” – fair show.
Tuesday 31 October 1944
Fine. Planes did 24 ops. Went to drome after lunch and pulled down the tent. Received 2 letters. Movie after tea “This Happy Breed” – good show.
Wednesday 1 November 1944
Dull, wet. Planes on the ground all day – pilots doing few practice flights in the Mustang. Had tea at Fernando’s casa [house].
Thursday 2 November 1944
Dull. Planes did no jobs. Received 4 air graphs from home. Wrote a couple.
Friday 3 November 1944
Dull. Did nothing much during the day. Saw ENSA Show after tea – “It's all Yours” – fair show and the Australian soprano was excellent.
Saturday 4 November 1944
Fine. Very quiet day – we spent most of it playing euchre. Yank show at 6pm “Colt Partners” – very poor.
Sunday 5 November 1944
Fine. Planes did one job against a village in Yugo. Went to drome – no work. Saw “The Hypnotist” after tea – a good show. Back at work after a fortnight’s rest.
Monday 6 November 1944
Fine. Planes did one op and got good results on a power station in Nth Italy. Went to drome – no work. Saw “His Butler's Sister” – Deanna Durbin – a good show. Played euchre after tea.
Tuesday 7 November 1944
Fine. Planes did one op against the Jerry up nth. Received 2 air graphs from home. Filled the 15 litre [wine] and had few drinks in the room.
Move to the Adriatic Coast at Fano, Waiting for the new Mustangs to Arrive:
Wednesday 8 November 1944. 950th day.
Dull, cool. Packed up and left Jesi at 10am. Arrived Fano midday. About 12 of us here minding houses for the Sqdn to billet in. Movie “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek”.
Thursday 9 November 1944
Fine. Nothing much to do. Walked around the town etc. Aussie Club – pretty cosy place. Spent fair part of day there.
"Koala Casa", Italy. c. 1944. Members of the RAAF gather around the fire in "Koala Casa", and talk of home and when they will see it again.
"Koala Casa" is the Australian recreation centre of 239 Wing RAF in northern Italy. [AWM MEA2217]
Friday 10 November 1944
Cold, wet. Nothing doing. Wrote 3 letters home – had a very small fall of snow. Cards after tea.
Saturday 11 November 1944
Fine, cold. Nothing doing – spent most of day playing cards. Had tea at the Iti Casa. Dance at the Club and it went OK.
Sunday 12 November 1944
Fine. Played cards most of day. Tea with the Ities and we got pretty well away again.
Monday 13 November 1944
Fine. Spent most of the day playing cards. Wrote home.
Tuesday 14 November 1944
Wet. Nothing doing all day – expect the Sqdn up in a few days time.
Wednesday 15 November 1944
Wet. Nothing doing – played cards most of the day.
Thursday 16 November 1944
Fine. Another lazy day. Wrote 2 letters home, received 4.
Friday 17 November 1944
Fine. B Flight arrived about dinner time. Played euchre after tea.
The Mustangs fly in:
Saturday 18 November 1944. 960th day.
Fine. Kites arrived about 2.30 and the Flight got here about 5pm. They got settled in.
Sunday 19 November 1944
Fine. Went on a vino run after breakfast – got drunk and stayed that way all day. Big session in our room. Paddy Hastie fell into the creek on the way home.
Monday 20 November 1944
Fine. Planes busy training all day – spent morning on the drome. Was very crook. Vino run after lunch.
Tuesday 21 November 1944
Fine. Spent all day on drome. Received 4 letters from home.
Wednesday 22 November 1944
Dull. Nothing doing. Spent all day playing cards at the Club.
Thursday 23 November 1944
Fine. Planes still training. Had few drinks after lunch and got well away again. Party continued into the small hours on both sides of the creek.
Friday 24 November 1944
Cloudy. Felt a bit seedy during the day – nothing much doing, Bob Gillett’s birthday and we had a big session. Slept in Ocker’s bed.
Saturday 25 November 1944
Wet. Planes released [from duty]. We all visited Mumma’s place after tea and had a few drinks.
3 Squadron's new Mustang III fighters in wet and muddy conditions at Fano. Their concrete hard-standing is the former floor of an
Italian Air Force hangar that had been demolished by bombing. November 1944. [IWM CNA 4901]
Sunday 26 November 1944
Wet. Two planes did an armed recco – 5 hr trip. Sqdn released at 12 O’c. Spent afternoon in the old woman’s place and we all got pretty drunk. 2Up after tea.
Monday 27 November 1944
Cold. Very quiet day, nothing doing. 2Up after tea.
Tuesday 28 November 1944. 970th day.
Dull. Planes did one op against rail line up north. Got into the vino after tea and blacked out. Old Poppa put us all to bed.
Wednesday 29 November 1944
Cold, wet. Nothing doing. Was pretty well under when I woke up. Bomb dropped off a 5 Sth Af. Kite after lunch and killed 15 soldiers and civvies.
Thursday 30 November 1944
Cold, wet. No flying all day. Got into a Vermouth session after lunch at Galvin’s room. Carried on down the old woman's till about 11.
Friday 1 December 1944
Dull, cold. Planes did 12 sorties. Concert after tea – The Gang Show. Fair turn.
Saturday 2 December 1944
Dull. No work again. Got onto the Vermouth at Galvin’s tent and it was a big session – we finished up at Mumma’s on the vino.
Sunday 3 December 1944
Dull. Planes did one op during the day. Lucciana’s birthday and we had a big session at the old dear’s. Finished about 3am.
Monday 4 December 1944
Wet. Planes did 12 jobs during the day. Removed coolant motor from 'L'. To concert after tea – poor show.
Tuesday 5 December 1944
Dull. Planes did nothing. Wrote a letter home.
Wednesday 6 December 1944
Dull. Our planes did one op – were away 4 hours and two of the planes did not return. One of them at Falconara, the other lost. Five S.A.A.F. [South African] planes missing after the op.
Studio portrait of 421195 Pilot Officer (PO) Ronald Edward Robert Fountain, 3 Squadron, RAAF.
The son of Albert Edward and Ivy Jane Fountain, of Bondi Beach, NSW, PO Fountain enlisted on 31 January 1942.
He was killed in action whilst flying his Mustang back from Yugoslavia over the Adriatic Sea in bad weather,
on 6 December 1944, aged 22.
He has no known grave and is commemorated at the Malta Memorial to the Missing, Valetta. [AWM P06994.001]
Leave to Florence:
Thursday 7 December 1944
Cold. Left camp about 6.30. Had fair trip and reached Florence about 4.30pm. The road across the Apennines very steep and winding. Everyone glad to get out of the truck and have a meal. Movies after tea – “Ghost of Canterville” – fair show.
Friday 8 December 1944. 980th day.
Cold, wet. Up at 7 – spent morning shopping and seeing the city. Got on the vino in the room after lunch and got well away. Went to Mary’s after lunch and we stayed for half an hour or so. Home for tea. Movies after tea – “This is the Army” – good show.
Saturday 9 December 1944
Fine. Walked round the town most of the morning. Got everything tee’d up at the Florist shop – a busy day. Got onto a [drinking] session after lunch and passed out before tea.
Sunday 10 December 1944
Fine. Did not remember much about yesterday evening. Saw the Ponte Vecchio [this is the "old bridge" in the centre of Florence - the only one that the Germans didn't blow up; instead they demolished the equally historic buildings near the bridge entrance] and wandered around most of the morning. We met Maurice Tavanah of the NZ 26th and a big session started. Ran out of grog about 6. Gave Maurice a cold bath to pull him together. Went to Kiwi Club and had a couple of drinks. Home about 10.30.
Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno, Florence, in 1944. [Imperial War Museum]
Monday 11 December 1944
Rain. Had tooth filled at M.I. and met the Kiwis at the [NZ] Club. Retired to our room and got stuck into it. We did everything but burn the place down and there were some funny acts put on. Passed out.
Tuesday 12 December 1944
Rain. Very quiet day. Received a lecture from the F/L in charge [Flight Lieutenant] for being naughty boys. Saw two shows – “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Seven Sweethearts”.
Return to Fano:
Wednesday 13 December 1944
V cold. Packed and left Florence about 9am. Very cold drive across the Apennines. Reached Fano about 6pm and we were all glad to get out of the truck. Received 3 air graphs.
Thursday 14 December 1944
Rain, cold. Planes on the deck all day. Big night – the opening of the bar and everyone got pretty drunk.
Friday 15 December 1944
Fine, cold. Planes did two jobs during the day. Wrote a letter home. Round the bar after tea. Played euchre and Put & Take. Finished up about 1am.
Saturday 16 December 1944
Dull. Very quiet day. Planes on the ground. Wrote letter home.
Sunday 17 December 1944
Wet, dull. Planes did two jobs during the day. Big do in the bar after tea entertaining some Kiwis – everyone got pretty drunk.
Monday 18 December 1944. 990th day.
Cold. No flying. Spent day playing euchre at the club. Received 9 letters from home.
Tuesday 19 December 1944
Cold. Planes on the ground all day. 3 Kiwis here in the afternoon and we got into a session. Finished up quite drunk at the bar.
Wednesday 20 December 1944
Cold. Planes on the ground all day. Big night at the bar and a few Jocks got a bit rowdy.
Thursday 21 December 1944
Dull. Planes did one job – trying to get provisions to the partisans up Nth Italy. They could not find them. Very quiet night.
Friday 22 December 1944
Cold. Planes did one job - dropped provisions to the partisans. Received a letter from home and wrote one.
Saturday 23 December 1944
Cold. Planes on the ground all day. Played cards all day. Had few drinks at the bar – finished up around 3.30am in front of the fire with Nicky.
Sunday 24 December 1944
Cold. Went on a grog run after lunch. Run into a heavy snow fall and it was quite a sight. It was about 3ft deep on the ground. Home about 6. Big night in the bar.
Monday 25 December 1944
Dull, cold. Up at 9.30. Planes did one job. We each got 8 bottles of beer and started a big drinking bout. An excellent Xmas dinner. Everybody had pretty good day.
Tuesday 26 December 1944
Fine, cold. Up at 8. Very heavy frost. Planes did two jobs and got mixed up with 109’s on the second job. S/L Nash and F/O Andrews got one between them and we lost [pilot] Sgt. Quinn. Most of the chaps in poor shape after yesterday. Had quiet night at the bar.
Wednesday 27 December 1944
Frost, cold. Down the drome most of the day. Planes did a couple of jobs. Round the bar after tea and most of the tent mates were pretty drunk. Wrote home.
Thursday 28 December 1944. 1000th day [since leaving Australia].
Frost, cold. Received 3 letters and wrote 3 home. Planes did two ops. Spent fair part of day on drome. Had quiet night at home.
Friday 29 December 1944
Frosty. Very cold day. Planes did two ops. Got a bridge on the first – missed some barges near Venice on the second. Went up the mountains after lunch with Peter the NZ’er and got a couple of hundred litres vino.
Saturday 30 December 1944
Wet and cold. Planes were released shortly after 9 o’c. Spent day doing nothing. Played euchre at the bar after tea.
Sunday 31 December 1944
V cold. Planes did couple of jobs during day. Bitterly cold at the drome. Stan and three other Kiwis came up for the evening and we had a good session at the bar. Everyone went a bit haywire at midnight [a reference to men firing signal flares to celebrate New Year] and the bridge was lucky not to be burnt down. Itie haystack went up. Finally got to bed but don’t remember much about it.
Fano, Italy. c. 1944. Recent heavy falls of snow in northern Italy have curtailed the activities of No. 3 (Mustang) Squadron RAAF
to some extent, in their operations against the enemy on the Eighth Army front and in Yugoslavia.
Here pilots and ground crew members of the Squadron are clearing a taxi strip on the landing ground of their location.
TOMMY JONES DIARY 1945
Monday 1 January 1945
Very cold. (Snow.) Planes did one job. We nearly froze at the drome. Got into a big session in Galvin’s Room after lunch – drank 3 litres vino and ate about 20 lb steak. To bed at 1. 35 chaps from 450 [Squadron RAAF] and 4 of our chaps went home [to Australia after lengthy service in the Middle East and Southern Europe].
Tuesday 2 January 1945
Wet, cold. Planes on the ground all day – heavy wind. Fitted new cutout to ‘B’ [Mustang CV-B]. Quiet night at the bar – played euchre.
Wednesday 3 January 1945
Fine, cold. Planes did 2 jobs and got 3 train loads of troops in Jugo. Saw “Girl Crazy” – poor show. Wrote a couple of letters home.
Thursday 4 January 1945
Planes did 1 job to Jugo and 12 sorties in N.I. [Northern Italy]. Got a train, bridge and several trucks – most successful day for some time. P/T [physical training] in mess after tea, most of the chaps got away.
Friday 5 January 1945
V cold. Planes did one job. Very cold at the drome. Ice an inch thick on the creek. Played euchre in the room after tea.
Saturday 6 January 1945
V cold. Planes released all day. Fitted new battery and boost coil to ‘B’ during day. Welcome to the reinforcements [new Squadron members] in the bar – a good night. Got pretty merry and to bed about 2am.
Sunday 7 January 1945
Very cold. Planes released. Very wet and cold for the rugby. The Kiwis beat us 4-0. Quite a decent night at the bar after tea. Bit of a session [drinking] in the room.
Monday 8 January 1945
Planes did 2 ops during the day. Received a couple of letters from home. Good night at the bar and the stove blew up.
Tuesday 9 January 1945
Very cold. Planes did 2 jobs. Developed a cough and spent most of day in bed. Crook night. Max Thomas went in with [Mustang] ‘B’. [Killed in action.]
Wednesday 10 January 1945
Very cold. Planes did one op. V. cold day – ground frozen over most of the day. Spent most of day in room and wrote a couple of letters home.
A bombed-up 3 Squadron Mustang III moving along a frozen taxiway. Note the groundcrew member sitting on the wing, guiding the pilot.
Thursday 11 January 1945
V cold. Nothing doing and everything frozen up including me. Spent most of day in room.
Friday 12 January 1945
V cold. Still nothing doing. Played euchre in room after tea.
Saturday 13 January 1945
V cold, fine. Planes released – no flying. We played Kiwi Com Depot football [‘Command Depot’, which housed soldiers invalided out of regular duty] and won 9-3. Big night at the bar and everyone got pretty well away.
Sunday 14 January 1945
V wet. Planes released. No flying. Very dull day. Wrote home.
Monday 15 January 1945
V frosty. Planes did one job. Fitted new boost coil to 'G'. Ocker birthday party – we had quite a night – finished about midnight. Slept in Bill’s bed.
Tuesday 16 January 1945
Foggy cold. Up at 10. Drank Geddes’ bottle of whisky – spent most of the day at Domenica’s sipping wine. Back to Ocker’s Casa [house] about 12.
Wednesday 17 January 1945
V cold. Planes did one job. Very quiet day
Thursday 18 January 1945
Fine, V cold. Planes did one job. Football match against Wing. We won very easily 20 – 0. Drank a 15 litre [wine flagon] in Walsh’s room and got pretty well away.
Friday 19 January 1945
Dull, wet. No flying – Russians 50 miles west of Warsaw. Wrote 3 letters home. Had meal at the Iti casa and also few drinks. Finished up at Nicoli’s casa and had a session. Home 3am.
Saturday 20 January 1945
Fine, cold. Planes did one job. News from Russia still very good. Received 2 letters from home. RAF command band at the snake pit – a very big session.
Sunday 21 January 1945
Fine. Planes did one job. We played a Kiwi team football – won 8-6. Had a quiet session at the snake pit and finished up in the room.
Monday 22 January 1945
Cold. Spent most of day trying to get leave. Finished up getting it at 5 o’c. Packed a few things etc. and turned in about 1am.
Tuesday 23 January 1945
Fine. Up at 6. Left camp at 7. Good trip across the Alps – snow everywhere and the road frozen. Reached Rome at 5, booked into Primrose. Had few vinos in the room. Got to bed about 1.30am.
Wednesday 24 January 1945
Cold, snow. Up at 8. Had bath, and saw “Going my Way” with Bing Crosby. Fair show. Got away in the room and made for Buffalo Bills. Reached there just as it closed up. Home about 1.
Thursday 25 January 1945
Fine, up at 8. Went to ACF [Australian Comforts Fund] Club. Had to go to jail and bail Jim Neaves out. Got to the trots [horse races] and had a very good afternoon. Had a [drinking] session in the room, picked up a Kiwi and went to Buffalo Bills. Got back and blacked out.
Friday 26 January 1945
Fine. Up at 10. Ocker turned up at lunch time from Naples. Moved to a new pub. Met 3 Kiwis, Hank, Pat, Jim – had a few drinks in their room. It turned into a big session at the Primrose.
Saturday 27 January 1945
Up at 8. Walked around the town during morning. News very good. Russians 90 miles from Berlin. Hope this is the end of the war.
Sunday 28 January 1945
Had bath etc. in morning and all out to the trots in afternoon. Had good afternoon’s fun. Few drinks and finished up at Broadway ….a funny night. Continued in the room till 2am.
Monday 29 January 1945
The rest of the boys turned up from camp. We kicked off about 11am and kept going all day. Put on a big turn in the ….Finished up about midnight.
Tuesday 30 January 1945
Played billiards in morning. Saw “Double Indemnity” after lunch – good show, and also an Iti stage show which stank. Home about 9.
Wednesday 31 January 1945
Spent morning playing billiards – got into a few drinks in the room and a put and take game. The session continued well after tea. Lucky to make the base.
Thursday 1 February 1945
Fine. Up at 8. Had bath in morning. To trots in afternoon and had good day's outing. Movies after tea “Kiss the Bride Goodbye”- good show.
Back to Fano:
Friday 2 February 1945
Fine. Packed etc. – left Rome 9.30 – had good trip, reached home about 7pm. Most of snow on east side of Alps now.
Saturday 3 February 1945
Foggy, dull. Planes on the deck all day. Received 3 letters and wrote a couple home. Bill Watson of 26th [NZ Battalion] called in on his way to N.Z. and we had a few drinks.
Sunday 4 February 1945
Mild, fine. Planes did one job. Wrote a couple of letters home. News very good – Russians only 45 miles from Berlin. All down to Senagallia [NZ army base] after tea and we had a few drinks. Home about 1.
Monday 5 February 1945
Dull. No flying today. Spent afternoon playing cards.
Tuesday 6 February 1945
Fine. No flying today. Received a letter from home. Kiwis up from Senagallia and we had a big session in the room.
Wednesday 7 February 1945
V. fine. Up at 8. Worked on [Mustang] ‘J’ all day. Wrote a couple of letters home.
Thursday 8 February 1945
V. fine. Spent all day working on ‘J’. Played cards after tea.
Friday 9 February 1945
Fine. Finished ‘J’ after lunch. Quiet night after tea.
Saturday 10 February 1945
Dull, mild. No flying today. Wrote a couple of letters home. Received photo and card from home. Spent most of day playing euchre.
Sunday 11 February 1945
Dull, fine. Planes on ground all day. Les, Ding Dong and Bill came up from Senagallia to say good-bye – a big session in the room but did not partake myself.
Monday 12 February 1945
Fine, foggy. Boys kept the session going – off it myself. Wrote a couple of letters home.
Tuesday 13 February 1945
Fine, foggy. Weather pretty good. Planes did one op. Changed battery on ‘J’ and ‘E’.
Wednesday 14 February 1945
Dull. Communion in morning. Played Kiwi Transport rugby – lost 9-0. 3 year party after tea [three years since being posted from Australia] – 4 bottles beer, chops and eggs and plenty of vino. All pretty drunk.
Thursday 15 February 1945
Up at 7 and we knocked off a carton of beer in the room. Chaps kept on the vino. Wing football after lunch. Took a couple of Kiwis to Senagalia after tea and had a few bottles of beer and stout.
Friday 16 February 1945
Foggy. Planes on ground all day. Received 4 letters from home.
Saturday 17 February 1945
Fine. Planes did one job. Changed battery on ‘K’. 2Up at 450 [Squadron] after tea. Wrote a letter home.
Sunday 18 February 1945
Fine, foggy. Changed battery in ‘C’. Planes on the ground all day. Wrote a couple of letters home. Sent parcel home.
Monday 19 February 1945
Fine. Planes did one job. No work. Saw movie with Dick Powell – good show.
Tuesday 20 February 1945
Fine, Planes did one job. 'B' came back with a wiring loom shot in half. 2 of our chaps posted home and about 50 from 450.
Wednesday 21 February 1945
Fine, fitted new cutout to 'K'. Spent best part of day working on 'B'. Wrote home.
Thursday 22 February 1945
V. fine. Planes did a couple of jobs. C-Flight packed up ready for the move tomorrow.
Relocate to Cervia:
Friday 23 February 1945
V fine. Up at 7. Cooked breakfast and packed up – left at 8 and had good trip to Cervia, 12 o’c. Very nice camp. Moved into a house.
Saturday 24 February 1945
V fine. Up at 8. Beautiful weather. Spent most of day playing cards. Four planes came up after lunch.
Sunday 25 February 1945
V fine. Up at 8. Did 120-hourly on 'Z'. Planes arrived about midday. Went to pictures after tea – ‘Heavenly Body’. Fair show.
Monday 26 February 1945
Spent most of day working on 'K'. Fitting new inlet harness. Planes did one job. Played cards after tea.
Tuesday 27 February 1945
Foggy - spent morning & afternoon working on 'K'. Few drinks after tea –big session in Sam’s room.
Wednesday 28 February 1945
Foggy. Planes on ground all day. Spent day putting up Nissen Hut [prefabricated arched-iron hut]. 2Up after tea.
Thursday 1 March 1945
Foggy. No flying. Received 3 letters from home. Movies after tea – James Cagney. Fair show.
Friday 2 March 1945
Fine, planes did 2 jobs during the day. Lost a kite – pilot parachuted – POW. 2Up after tea. Session Ockers room – blacked out.
Saturday 3 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 jobs. Fitted new generator to 'J'. F/L Hodgkinson shot down – parachuted, POW. 2Up after tea.
411495 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) J. A. Hodgkinson DFC of Orange, NSW, a flight commander with No. 3 (Mustang)
Squadron RAAF in Italy, preparing for an operation in his North American P51 Mustang fighter bomber aircraft.
With him is Joe Milliken, fitter 2E. Flt Lt Hodgkinson, prior to arriving in the Middle East and Italy some time ago,
had experienced much flying against Japan in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
Sunday 4 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 jobs. Marvellous weather and the air force taking full advantage of it.
Monday 5 March 1945
V fine. Planes did a couple of jobs. 239 Wing played 324 [Spitfire Wing] Rugby. Lost 14-9.
Tuesday 6 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 jobs. Nothing doing, quiet day. 2Up.
Wednesday 7 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 Ops. News very good. Cologne captured. Big session in our room. Blacked out.
Thursday 8 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 Ops during day. Played 454 darts, billiards etc after tea.
Friday 9 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops during day. Football – we lost to SAAF 9-0. Received 4 letters and wrote a couple.
Saturday 10 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops during day. 2Up after tea – session in Ocker’s room and got pretty well away.
Sunday 11 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops during day. News still good. 2Up after tea.
Monday 12 March 1945
V fine. Planes did one op. We played 454 [RAAF Baltimore twin-engined bomber squadron] Aussie Rules and won by 3 goals. 2Up. All pretty drunk after tea.
Tuesday 13 March 1945
Fine. Planes on the ground all day. Everybody in the Squadron in some state of intoxication. 2Up.
Wednesday 14 March 1945
Foggy, fine. Planes did one job during day. 2Up after tea.
Thursday 15 March 1945
Foggy. Planes on the ground all day. Played a few games of billiards at the Club. News very good especially in Germany. 2Up after tea.
Friday 16 March 1945
Foggy. No flying. Things very quiet. Received 2 letters and wrote a couple. 2Up after tea.
Cervia, Italy. c. March 1945. Between operations, ground crew of No. 3 (Mustang) Squadron RAAF
in support of the Eighth Army's Spring offensive in Italy, take time off to read the latest news from home.
Left to right: 41019 Leading Aircraftman (LAC) R. G. Timmons of Horsham, Vic, and 69248 LAC J. W. Ronson of Roseville, NSW.
Saturday 17 March 1945
Fine. Planes did one job. Played football for 450 [RAAF Squadron] against 454 – were beaten by 2 goals – poor game. All got pretty drunk in Ocker’s tent. To bed at 3am.
Sunday 18 March 1945
V fine. Communion after breakfast. No flying – the weather is beautiful here but crook up north. Got 2 needles. 2Up after tea.
Monday 19 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops. Things very quiet here although the news from Europe is good. 2Up.
Tuesday 20 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops during the day. 2Up.
Wednesday 21 March 1945
V fine. Vino run to Faenza after breakfast. Got 1000 litres, a few chairs etc for the mess. Home about 5. 2Up.
Thursday 22 March 1945
Fine. One op during the day. Changed coolant actuator on 'K' [Mustang CV-K, see photo below]. 2Up.
Cervia, Italy. c. March 1945. With the Spring offensive in full swing in northern Italy, the two RAAF fighter-bomber
squadrons in the Desert Air Force have been kept very busy from early morning to late at night.
The ground crew members are refuelling and bombing-up one of their North American P51 Mustang aircraft.
Friday 23 March 1945
Fine. Planes did 2 ops. News from Germany v good. Montgomery across Rhine in strength and also 3 or 4 Yank armies. 2Up.
Saturday 24 March 1945
Fine. 2 Ops. News from Germany excellent. G.C. Graham here and 15 of our boys posted to England.
[Earlier in the Italian campaign.] Standing on the back of a truck, Group Captain J. E. Graham,
RAAF Liaison Officer Middle East, addresses personnel of No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF at their airfield.
Sunday 25 March 1945
Fine. 2 Ops during day. A dance at transport after tea – all got drunk.
Monday 26 March 1945
Fine, 2 Ops during day. News from Germany very good. Saw ‘A Guy Named Joe’ – fair show. 2 Up.
Tuesday 27 March 1945
Windy, 80-hourly [maintenance check] on 'A'. No flying. Received 3 airgraphs. Vino run to Faenza after lunch; did no good. Had a few drinks in garage.
Wednesday 28 March 1945
Fine, planes on ground all day. News very good from Germany. Rec'd letter from home and wrote a couple. 2Up.
Thursday 29 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops. Got on to trains etc. near Vienna. News very good. 2UP.
Friday 30 March 1945
V fine. Planes did 2ops. Montgomery 60 miles E of Rhine.
Saturday 31 March 1945
V fine. Things going very well in Germany.
Sunday 1 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops. Communion at Koala Casa. 2Up after tea. Wrote home.
Monday 2 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops – we had a good day – 15 locos, couple of trains and numerous MT and horses. Got a Fieseler Storch. Lost a pilot. [Al Clark - shot down by flak in Yugoslavia, but evaded capture.] Quiet night on guard.
Tuesday 3 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops and we lost 2 pilots. Sports meeting in afternoon – very good turn. Big turn [party] in mess and everyone pretty merry.
Cervia, Italy. 1945. Sports day for No. 3 (Mustang) Squadron RAAF in northern Italy was a big event.
The weather was fine, the competitors were keen, and the spectators
cheered lustily as their particular champions proved themselves.
Shown, 422721 Warrant Officer J. B. Taylor of Youie Station, Coonamble, NSW, clearing the bar in the high jump field event.
Wednesday 4 April 1945
V fine. Some of the chaps carried session on. Did receipt inspection on 'L'. Planes did one job. 2Up.
Thursday 5 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops. Saw “The Desert Song” in afternoon – fair show. 2Up
Friday 6 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops. News still very good.
Saturday 7 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 jobs. News very good from Germany – Hanover captured. Played 500 after tea. Wrote a couple of letters.
Sunday 8 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 ops. Talk of a big push here – may see Venice before long. 2Up.
Eighth Army Offensive:
Monday 9 April 1945
V fine. Nothing doing in morning. Balloon went up at 2pm and we were busy till dark. Hundreds of heavies over. Push went well and the Poles, Indians and Kiwis crossed Sernio [River]. To 450 [Squadron] party and had a good night. To bed at 2am.
Tuesday 10 April 1945
Up early to work on 'G' – have big head. Push going well. Waves of heavies [4-engined bombers] all day and our kites busy. To bed at 10. Received 3 letters.
Wednesday 11 April 1945
V fine. Planes pretty busy all day. Four pilots finished their tours. News still very good. 2Up. Had quiet drink in Ock’s room. Received 5 letters.
Thursday 12 April 1945
V fine. Wrote home. Planes did a couple of jobs. News very good. 12 chaps from 451 [Spitfire Squadron] posted to us today.
Friday 13 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 jobs – lost 1 pilot. Sam lost his foot on a mine. Band in the mess after tea. Had touch of fever. To bed at 8.30. Crook night.
Cervia, Italy. 1945. Transport drivers of No. 3 (Mustang) Squadron RAAF in northern Italy are proud of their dance band, which provides many a bright spot in the squadron's entertainment roster.
On stage, left to right: 36928 Corporal (Cpl) R. Bell, driver, of Marrickville, NSW; 30379 Cpl R. Edwards, fitter IIE, of Hobart, Tas; 67327 Leading Aircraftman N. French, fitter IIE, of Sydney, NSW;
20633 Sergeant L. Henry, fitter IIA, of Sydney, NSW; 62036 LAC W. J. Chipperfield, fitter IIE, of Artarmon, NSW.
Saturday 14 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 2 jobs. Chaps posted to England busy getting their clearances. All got pretty drunk in the room. To bed about 3am.
Sunday 15 April 1945
V fine. Planes did 3 jobs during the day. Starter on 'G'. 15 of the boys left for England this morning. The postings broke the old gang up. 2Up after tea.
Monday 16 April 1945
Fine. Planes did a couple of ops. Saw “Thousands Cheer” in afternoon – good show. Had few drinks in Vermouth Bar. 2Up after tea.
Tuesday 17 April 1945
Fine. Planes did 3 jobs. News very good. Wrote home.
Wednesday 18 April 1945
Fine. Planes did 2 jobs. On the beer – gave Ock and Kev a send off. Finished at transport.
Thursday 19 April 1945
Fine. Planes did 2 jobs – news very good. 2Up.
Friday 20 April 1945
Fine. Planes did 2 jobs. 2Up.
Saturday 21 April 1945
Dull. Left at 9. Good trip but weather was cold over Appenines. Reached Florence about 1.30. Got on the Vermouth. Saw Polish Parade after tea – good show.
Sunday 22 April 1945
News very good. Bologna captured. On the grog most of the day. Out to No.54 Rest Camp and finished up at an Italian dance – blacked out. Paddy put on his act and chased cleaner to bed.
Monday 23 April 1945
V fine. Spent most of day shopping. Had few drinks at Kiwi Club after tea.
Tuesday 24 April 1945
V fine. Picture show 'Road to Frisco', good show. News good – Russians in Berlin. Rob. Club [Robertson Club] – had few pints. 54 Rest Camp and had a good night. Home about 12.
Wednesday 25 April 1945
V fine. Picture show in morning Arms and the Woman – poor show. Few pints at Rob. Club and out to 54 Rest Camp. Got 40 bottles of beer – had partial blackout.
Thursday 26 April 1945
Fine. Picture show Sweet and Low Down. Had few pints at Rob. Club, broke a gharry [horse cart]. Had few drinks at Kiwi Club.
Friday 27 April 1945
Dull and rain. News very good. Spent morning walking around town. Robertson Club and 54 Rest camp and all got pretty well away. Home about 11.
Return to Cervia
Saturday 28 April 1945
Fine. Picture show in morning Leave it to the Irish. Left Florence at 1. Good trip home at 6. Heard of peace offers to Britain and USA. Everyone excited. Received 5 letters. Big celebration in room.
Sunday 29 April 1945
Fine. Everyone waiting for news of end of War. Hard to believe that end is so close. Mussolini reported executed. Planes did 3 ops – finished at 9.30. Wrote home.
Monday 30 April 1945
Fine. Planes on ground all day. Gen. Mark Clark announced that German military power in Italy practically finished. News good everywhere. Everyone waiting for the end.
Tuesday 1 May 1945
Wet. Everyone waiting for the news that the War is over. Planes did one job. Received 3 letters, wrote a couple. Had session on Vermouth at 450 [Squadron] after tea.
End of the War in Italy
Wednesday 2 May 1945
Fine. She came through today – all [Germans] in Italy capitulated. Had few drinks at 450.
Thursday 3 May 1945
Fine. War over but our planes still doing patrols over Trieste. The boys came home pretty drunk but got them to bed OK.
Friday 4 May 1945
Mild. Released all day. Picture show Hail Conquering Hero – poor show. Celebrated Wak's wedding in 450 [Sqn.] canteen. All Germans in Holland, Denmark and NW Germany surrendered.
Saturday 5 May 1945
Mild. Planes did one job. Things pretty quiet. Another Jerry army in South surrendered. Sent 3 cables. 2 Up.
Sunday 6 May 1945
Fine. Planes on ground all day. Wrote a couple of letters home. Had few drinks at 450 canteen.
Monday 7 May 1945
V fine, hot. Up at 8. Heard that it was going to finish today. Reached Bologna at 1. Had trouble getting lifts. Marvellous drive through Po Valley. Milan at 7.30. Big place – slept in Iti barracks.
Tuesday 8 May 1945
Walked city in morning and did bit of shopping – very tired and food hard to get although the civvies have plenty. Managed to get plane to Pisa and reached there at 3.30. Hiked to Florence and reached there 7.30. Good feed and bed and slept like a log.
Wednesday 9 May 1945
Hot. Picture show in morning 'White Cliffs of Dover' – good show. Ride home in Squadron truck – reached camp at 5.30. B-Flight packed ready to move to Udine. Had 4 bottles of beer each.
Thursday 10 May 1945
Hot. B Flight left at 8. Planes doing practice flying and dropping fire bombs in sea. Few drinks with Stan O’Sullivan in afternoon and finished at 450 canteen.
Friday 11 May 1945
Hot. 2 practice flips. Fixed tacho on 'T'. Spent morning in the sea. Wrote couple of letters home.
Saturday 12 May 1945
V hot. Planes training. Spent few hours on beach – good swimming weather.
Sunday 13 May 1945
V hot. Training flips. Few hours on the beach.
Monday 14 May 1945
V hot. Planes on training. Received 4 letters from home. Picture show Shanty Town – good show. Swimming.
Tuesday 15 May 1945
V hot. Planes still on training. Received 3 airgraphs and wrote one. Spent few hours on the beach.
Wednesday 16 May 1945
Hot. Planes did a few practice flips. Orders to move tomorrow. Did bit of packing etc.
Move to Udine (Lavariano airfield)
Thursday 17 May 1945
V fine. Packed up and left camp at 1. Very good trip – parked for the night a few mile north of Venice.
Friday 18 May 1945
V fine. Got moving about 7. Good drive through nice country and reached Udine about 11. Pitched tent. Few vinos after dark.
Saturday 19 May 1945
V fine. C-Flight off all day. Spent most of day doing nothing.
Sunday 20 May 1945
V fine. Up to Udine after lunch. Spittles' birthday. Had few beers and finished up on vino – good night.
Monday 21 May 1945
Fine. Planes did a couple of practice flips.
Tuesday 22 May 1945
Rain. C-Flight on leave to Venice. Did not go myself. Went to Udine. Picture show 'Follow the Boys' – good show.
Wednesday 23 May 1945
Wet. Nothing doing
Thursday 24 May 1945
Wet. Nothing doing.
Friday 25 May 1945
Wet. No flying. Boys spent most of day cleaning the planes. Wrote a couple letters and received 6. Picture show – 'Prisoner of Zenda'.
Saturday 26 May 1945
V wet. Heavy rain all day. Pageant postponed. Wrote home.
Sunday 27 May 1945
V wet. No flying. Wrote a couple of letters.
Monday 28 May 1945
Fine. D.A.F. flypast. No work.
Udine, Italy. 1945-05. Fly-past of Desert Air Force squadrons, including three Australian RAAF squadrons, at Campoformido airfield,
before Air Marshal Sir Guy Garrod, Commander-in-Chief of the RAF in the Mediterranean, and other high-ranking Allied officers.
Flags of the United Nations provided a colourful sight as the Desert Air Force squadrons flew overhead.
Tuesday 29 May 1945
Wet. No flying. Pictures in afternoon Double Indemnity – good show.
Wednesday 30 May 1945
Rain. No flying – things very monotonous. Played euchre after tea.
Thursday 31 May 1945
Rain. No flying. Spent most of day in Udine. Played cards after tea.
Friday 1 June 1945
V hot. Spent morning doing 80-hrly on 'J'. Picture show after tea: Susana Foster in This is the Life – good show. Lot of trouble getting the truck going. Home after midnight.
Saturday 2 June 1945
V hot. Nothing doing – beat 260 [RAF Squadron] at cricket by about 30 runs.
Sunday 3 June 1945
V hot. Fitted new oil jack to 'J'. Wrote a couple of letters.
Monday 4 June 1945
V hot. Planes did one job. Very quiet day.
Tuesday 5 June 1945
V hot. Kites did one job. Played 454 [Sqn.] cricket and won by about 11 runs. All got pretty drunk in their Sgts mess. Home about 12.
Wednesday 6 June 1945
Fine. Up at 8. 1 Flip [flight]. Bit of a hangover. Packed the box and got to bed about 12.
Thursday 7 June 1945
V fine. Left camp at 7. Good trip thru beautiful pine country – Nth and along Austrian border. Reached Bolzano about 5. Found small inn – few glasses beer. Slept in worker’s hut near Merano.
Friday 8 June 1945
V fine. Got moving about 8. Good trip through Bolzano. Spent an hour in Trento and Riva – beautiful drive down west coast of Lake Garda - road in 25 miles of tunnels. Reached Brescia and slept in garage.
A modern view of Lago di Garda. The cliffs on the opposite side are pierced just above the water level with a long series of tunnels built during the Mussolini era.
Saturday 9 June 1945
V fine. Spent day looking at and shopping in Brescia – big place. Left about 5 – reached Sirmione at 6 and managed to get accommodation.
Sunday 10 June 1945.
V fine. Spent day lazily. Hired sailing boat after lunch and had bit of fun, swimming.
Monday 11 June 1945
V fine. Up at 7. Left Sirmione about 9. Had look at Verona and Vicenza and Treviso on way. Reached camp about 5 after nice drive through good country. Received 4 letters.
Tuesday 12 June 1945
Warm. Up at 8. Kites did one flip. Wrote home. Picture show 'Goodbye Mr Chips'.
Wednesday 13 June 1945
Rain. Nothing written for 4 days.
Leave to Venice
Sunday 17 June 1945
V hot. Left camp at 9. Good trip to Venice – caught Duck, reached Lido at 1. Tennis and swim – Kiwi rest camp and had a few beers.
An Army "Duck" (DUKW) amphibious vehicle.
Monday 18 June 1945
V hot. Tennis and swim. Picture show This Man’s Navy. Kiwi rest camp – few beers.
Tuesday 19 June 1945
V hot. Spent day in Venice. Shine on Harvest Moon. Home at 6 and out to the rest camp.
Wednesday 20 June 1945
V hot. Swim and tennis. Few beers after tea. Kiwi Concert Party – excellent show.
Thursday 21 June 1945
V hot. Spent day in Venice. Bob Hope Thanks for the Memory. Few beers in Kiwi Club.
Friday 22 June 1945
Swim and tennis – out to Kiwi rest camp – few beers.
Saturday 23 June 1945
V hot. Up at 8. Swim and tennis. Billiards after lunch. Kiwi rest camp after tea. Everyone pretty well away and they put on some bright acts.
Venice, Italy. c. 1945. The tennis courts adjoining the Australian Comforts Fund hostel on the Lido in Venice, where RAAF airmen played tennis while on leave.
Sunday 24 June 1945
V hot. Up at 8. Swim. Picture show Tomorrow’s World – fair. Left Lido at 6. Home after fair trip.
Monday 25 June 1945
V hot. Played cricket match against Kiwi Armoured Brigade – lost by 13. Wrote home.
Tuesday 26 June 1945
V hot. One flip [flight by Squadron]. Had 75 litres beer at tent and had good night.
Wednesday 27 June 1945
V hot, rain. Pretty thick head today. Played 450 [Sqn.] cricket – beaten by 30.
Thursday 28 June 1945
Hot. One flip. Picture show in Udine – You Can’t Do That to Me – fair. Tea at Sgts Mess and helped them drink a barrel.
Friday 29 June 1945
V hot. Planes did one flip. Received 5 letters from home. Wrote one. Played crib.
Saturday 30 June 1945
Wet. Planes did one flip. Wrote home.
Sunday 1 July 1945
Dull. Played 27 bty [Artillery Battery] cricket – won by 22 runs. Home at 6.
Monday 2 July 1945
Wet. No flying. Wrote 2 letters home.
Tuesday 3 July 1945
Dull. Played 2 Ammunition [Depot] cricket – good game – beaten by 13. Good turn after the game.
Wednesday 4 July 1945
Dull. Played 4th RMT cricket – won easily – keg of beer at tent. Good night.
Thursday 5 July 1945
Fine. Planes did 1 job. Received 3 letters. Went to “Goodwood Races” after tea.
Friday 6 July 1945
Fine. Planes did practice bombing. Goodwood races.
Saturday 7 July 1945
Hot. Played 454 [RAAF Sqn.] cricket – won easily. Home at 6 and packed the bag. To movies – Half Way Home – poor show.
Sunday 8 July 1945
V hot. Left camp at 9 – hot trip to Milan, reached there 7.30 after 2 blow-outs. Reached Lecco at 10.
Monday 9 July 1945
Hot. Up at 6 – swimming, spent morning on the lake and in Lecco – shopping. Filthy hotel.
Tuesday 10 – 15 July 1945
Hot. Enjoyed R&R – drove to Swiss border (beautiful drive) and spent day in Como – swimming and boating, drinking. Returned to camp at Venice by 8pm on 15th.
Lake Como, Italy. c. 1945. A group of airmen of No. 3 (Mustang) Squadron RAAF, looking at Lake Como.
Monday 16 July 1945
V hot. Planes did one job. Wrote home. Cricket match between Aussies and Sth Africa. We won.
Tuesday 17 July 1945
V hot. One job [Squadron flying exercise]. Played RAF MV cricket. Won easily. Big drink at the tent – 100 litre keg – bed at 3.30.
Wednesday 18 July 1945
V hot. Went to Trieste to play Kiwis cricket – v sick. Spent night at their camp. To bed at 1am.
Thursday 19 July 1945
V hot. Planes did one job. Spent afternoon in Udine swimming pool.
Friday 20 July 1945
V hot. Spent afternoon making cricket pitch.
Saturday 21 July 1945
V hot. One job. Played cricket at 454, between 3, 450, 454 [Squadrons]. Home at 9. Sent parcel home.
Sunday 22 July 1945
V hot. Spent afternoon and evening at Grado. Home about 10.30. Wrote 2 letters.
Monday 23 July 1945
V hot. Planes flew before breakfast and after tea. Wrote home.
Tuesday 24 July 1945
V hot. One flip. Played 53 Kiwi artillery. Cricket – won by 32. Big session on Vermouth. To bed at 2.
Wednesday 25 July 1945
V hot. Pretty crook – had few bottles beer and kept half under most of the day.
Thursday 26 July 1945
V hot. One flip. Spent afternoon on drome. Lecture tomorrow by GC Eaton at 450 [Squadron]. We hope it is good news.
Friday 27 July 1945
V hot. Lecture by G.C. Eaton – told we are leaving DAF and going home at last. We are to leave on or about 14th Aug. Wrote home.
Italy. Informal portrait of 133 Group Captain Brian A. Eaton, DSO DFC,
Commanding Officer of No. 239 Wing RAF, of Canterbury, Melbourne, Vic.
Saturday 28 July 1945
V hot. One flip. Left camp at 2 – good drive to Klagenfurt [Austria] – beautiful pine country. Good night in 111 Sqn pub.
Sunday 29 July 1945
Fine. Played 111 cricket – won easily. Walked Klagenfurt in afternoon –no shops open. Home about 10.
Monday 30 July 1945
V hot. One flip. Movies after tea Ali Baba and 40 Thieves – fair.
Tuesday 31 July 1945
Hot. One flip. 7 bottles of Spluga [a Italian brand of beer] per man and we had a few drinks at our tent. Good night.
Wednesday 1 Aug
Hot. One flip. Quiet day, nothing doing.
Thursday 2 Aug
Hot. One flip. To 454 [Sqn.] after lunch. Cricket match Aust v D.A.F. We won by 25. Had good night at the Partisan Arms.
Friday 3 Aug
Back to camp about 11am. Movies in afternoon Cover Girl – good show. Received 7 letters.
Saturday 4 Aug
Fine. 28 postings to UK and the burst [rumour] is that there are more to follow. Missed out myself and hope I can continue to do same. To bed at 11. Was up to tighten the tent when the storm broke.
Sunday 5 Aug
Fine, cool. Wrote home. Few drinks after tea with [Ken] Block.
Monday 6 Aug
Cool. Parade by [Group Captain] Graham – the squadron going home but about 100 of us posted to UK. Poor news.
Tuesday 7 Aug
Wet. Wrote home. No flying. Atom bomb dropped on Japan.
Wednesday 8 August 1945
Fine. Received 3 letters from home. No work. Hurricane hit camp after tea.
Thursday 9 August 1945
Heavy rain. All kites flown out. Handing in tools etc. "Going home" list out. Wish I was on it. Pictures after tea – Beautiful Cheat – fair.
Friday 10 August 1945
Fine. No work. Japan after peace – good show, after all this time. Had few bottles Spumante. Rip put on an act.
Saturday 11 August 1945
Fine. No work. Spent day sorting the kit.
Sunday 12 August 1945
Fine. Quiet morning. 2 barrels of beer after lunch and had good afternoon. Farewell church service.
Monday 13 August 1945
Fine. Nothing doing. Wrote home.
Tuesday 14 August 1945
Fine. Japan surrendered. Packed up gear. Wrote home.
Wednesday 15 August 1945
Fine. Nothing doing all day. Went to villa with Merv, Pat, Laurie, Mick, Arthur, Tex, Tubby and got very drunk. Home at 5am.
Travel to Britain
Thursday 16 August 1945
Fine. Up at 8. Finished packing. Left camp at midday – said goodbye to boys. Truck to Verona. Waited from 7.30 till 2am for train.
Friday 17 August 1945
Left about 3am. Crook night. Jacked up in officers wagon – reached Naples about 3pm.
Saturday 18 August 1945
Very tired. Out to 56 P.T.C. [Personnel Transit Centre, Naples.] Cleaned up etc. Picture show “Little Annie Rooney”.
Sunday 19 August 1945
V muggy. Transit camp. Received 5 letters, wrote one. Weighed gear etc. Movies “Kay Kyser”.
Monday 20 August 1945
Hot. Transit. Movie after tea.
Tuesday 21 August 1945
Hot. Transit [Camp]. Wrote home. Some of the lads left today, hope we go tomorrow. Movie show.
Wednesday 22 August 1945
Hot. Transit – RAF Gang show – fair turn. Poor night.
Thursday 23 August 1945
Hot. Transit – leaving tomorrow. F.F.I. ["Free from Infection" - a rather intrusive medical check for venereal disease] and packed etc. Picture show “Old Chicago”. Bad night – mossies bad.
Medical inspection. [Painting by Carel Weight. IWM Art LD2909]
Friday 24 August 1945
Fine. Up at 4. Reached aerodrome about 7. Took off in Lancs [Lancaster bombers] at 11 – clock back 1 hr. Good trip to England 6¾ hours. Through Customs and money changers etc. Went to Huntingdon and had few hours in Pub. Good night. Slept at YMCA.
Saturday 25 August 1945
Dull. Up at 6. Hitched back to camp. Left Gratton and caught train at Peterborough for West Kirby. Arrived 6.30. Walked to Moreton – VJ celebrations. ["Victory over Japan"].
Sunday 26 August 1945
Fine. Up at 8. Into Liverpool in morning. Caught ferry to New Brighton – back to Moreton and spent the evening with the Pitmans. Back to camp at midnight.
Monday 27 August 1945
Fine. About 100 of our chaps posted – said cherrio. Had few drinks at Moreton and spent the evening in Liverpool.
Tuesday 28 August 1945
Rain. Home at 10am and put on charge for being late. Wrote home. Movie show “A Night at the Opera” – good show.
Wednesday 29 August 1945
V cold. Up at 5. Left Liverpool at 9 and arrived London at 12. Went to 9PDC and buzzed off into London. Had few drinks with Walshie. Home at 10.
Thursday 30 August 1945
Fine. Nothing doing – they are still trying to find out where to send us.
Friday 31 August 1945
Fine. Into London and had a big session – met Mrs. Margetson. She invited a couple of us to spend a few days at her country house.
Country House Stay
Saturday 1 September 1945
Wet. Up at 8. Got 10 days leave. Left London for Turners Hill at 12.30, arrived 2pm. Very pretty countryside. Few at the local.
Sunday 2 September 1945
Fine. Up at 10. Spent afternoon motoring and seeing the country – it’s very pretty.
Monday 3 September 1945
Up at 11. Saw “Three Sisters” and also the atom bomb newsreel – very good. Few drinks after tea.
Tuesday 4 September 1945
Wet. Stan and I lost the dog. The old dear [Mrs Margetson] was in a flat panic – it turned up about 6 hrs later, at the front door. To the local and bed about 11.
Wednesday 5 September 1945
Fine. Spent most of day reading – run in the car after lunch.
Thursday 6 September 1945
Fine. Up at 9. Left Turners Hill at midday – arrived London 1pm. Met Ocker and had a good session.
Friday 7 September 1945
Dull. Had a look around London – Westminster Abbey, Tower and London Bridges etc etc. Few drinks after tea and went to the Scotch dance. Good night.
Saturday 8 September 1945
Fine. On a [drinking] session practically all day. Cracked up about 10 and went to bed.
Sunday 9 September 1945
Wet. Walked and rode the tubes all over the city having a look around. London is a big place. Couple of drinks at the Head.
Monday 10 September 1945
Up at 9. Met Noel S. in town and we had a session.
Tuesday 11 September 1945
Dull. Up at 6. Reported back to 9P.D.C. F.F.I. in the morning. We are going to Belgium. 16 chaps left for Germany but the squdn had left. Stan and I had a few at the local.
Wednesday 12 September 1945
Dull. Wrote a couple of letters home. Stan and I had a few drinks at the local.
Thursday 13 September 1945
Rain. Issued with webbing etc [battledress belts and utility pouches] – into London – saw the “V” weapons at Trafalgar Square. Few drinks with the Cordings.
LONDON, ENGLAND, 1945-09.
V2 ROCKET WITH ST MARTIN- IN- THE- FIELDS IN BACKGROUND. [AWM P00687.929]
Move to Transit Camp
Friday 14 September 1945
Dull, cold. Up at 7. Packed up etc. Left 9P.D.C. at 11, arrived Hornchurch P.D.C. (RAF Airfield) 2pm. Went to movies.
Saturday 15 September 1945
Dull, cold. In transit. Couple of games of snooker. Wrote home. Few drinks after tea.
Sunday 16 September 1945
Dull, cold. In transit. Up at 10. Wrote home – nothing doing all day. Few drinks after tea.
Monday 17 September 1945
Dull. In transit. To Upminster after tea. Got well away and ran out of money – had to cadge [borrow] off the old boy. NAAFI dance – won spot dance [a novelty dance held in a darkened hall where the lucky winner was picked out by a spotlight].
Tuesday 18 September 1945
Fine. Up at 7. Left Hornchurch at 10. Arrived Vic. R.S. [London Victoria Station] at 12, left at 1, train to Dover. Hot meal at Transit and left at 9. Embarked on S.S. Princess Astrid at 10.30.
Wednesday 19 September 1945
Fine. Sailed at 6. Smooth trip and reached Ostend at 10.30. Truck to Blankenbergh. Met Bofill and Newton [ex-3SQN] – good news, going home. NAAFI dance. Home about 10.30.
Thursday 20 September 1945
Up at 5. All ready to go but the truck did not leave till 8. 60 mile trip to Brussels – arrived 6464 SE at 2pm and learnt that the posting home was true. Left at 3.30 – 4.40 train to Blankenberg arrived at 8. NAAFI dance. To bed at 1. Crook night. Wrote home.
Friday, Saturday 21/22 September 1945
Cold, wet. Couple of parades etc. Too wet to go out.
Back to England
Sunday 23 September 1945
Dull, mild. Up at 7. Changed our francs for sterling. Left PDC at 11. Embarked on Lady of Mann at 1.15 and sailed at 1.45. Good trip, docked at Dover at 5.45. Spent night at Old Park Barracks, Dover.
Monday 24 September 1945
Wet, cold. Up at 6. Train at Dover at 8.45, arrived London 11.30. Brighton train at 12, arrived at 1. Booked in etc. Met Slim and spent night at a darts match.
Tuesday 25 September 1945
Cold. Up at 7. Caught the 10 train and spent the day in London. Movies I Married a Witch. Fair show. To bed at 11. Sent 20 pounds home.
Wednesday 26 September 1945
Cold. Spent morning getting leave. To London about 2 – afternoon in the Golf Club and evening in the Cheshire Cheese with Block.
Thursday 27 September 1945
Mild. Up at 7. Spent morning at Piccadilly Circus. Big session in Essex Head and later the Golf Club. Absolutely passed right out.
Friday 28 September 1945
Fine. Up at 7 and almost in the DT’s [Delirium Tremens]. Didn’t know where I was and had lost everything, but the boys had looked after my belongings and shot me into bed. Waxworks in afternoon and back to Brighton at 9.
Saturday 29 September 1945
Beautiful. 2 Parades – received 6 letters. Kev and I went to Kit’s place – washing in afternoon, pub crawl in evening. To bed at 1.
Sunday 30 September 1945
Beautiful. Marvellous day. Played darts at the Snipe – [drink] session after tea and got to bed at midnight.
Back to Camp, Dover.
Monday 1 October 1945
Dull, mild. Up at 8. Back to camp and found I’d missed the draft. Wrote home – received 16 letters. Spent most of day doing nothing. Send off in pub to boys going home. Good night.
Tuesday 2 October 1945
Fine. Got in the draft at 11am. Pretty busy all day and got the clearances at 5pm. Kev, Spittles, Slim and myself had a big night with Kit and George.
Wednesday 3 October 1945
Dull, cold. Up at 7. Left Brighton at 11 – long train trip to London – Petersborough – Sheffield. Arrived Liverpool 10.30pm and embarked on Sterling Castle about midnight. Poor night.
Thursday 4 October 1945
1st day (at sea). V calm. Dull, cold. Up at 7. We cleared the lock at 11am and sailed for Aussie. Pretty cold day and everyone a bit strange. To bed at 11. Poor night.
Friday 5 October 1945
2nd day. Calm. Dull, cold. Up at 6.30. C & A [Crown & Anchor game] – the ship is a gambling hell. To bed at 10. Pretty rough during the night.
Saturday 6 October 1945
3rd day. V calm. V fine. Beautiful day – shorts and shirts. Plenty of shipping on our route. C & A most of the day.
Sunday 7 October 1945
4th day. V calm, fine. Up at 6.30. Passed Gibraltar about 2pm. C&A most of the day.
Monday 8 October 1945
5th day. V calm, v fine. Lazy life. Wrote home. Ship put into Algiers for a few hours. Passed Bizerta, Cape Bon, Pantelleria and Malta.
Tuesday 9 October 1945
6th day. Calm, fine. Up at 6. Wrote home. Spent most of the day playing 2Up.
Wednesday 10 October 1945
7th day. Calm, fine. Up at 7. No land sighted. Wrote home.
Thursday 11 October 1945
8th day. Calm, fine. No land sighted.
Friday 12 October 1945
9th day. Calm, v hot. Arrived at Port Said about 7am. Did not go ashore. C&A and played cards.
Saturday 13 October 1945
10th day. Calm, v hot. Sailed at 6. Travelled thru the Suez. Spent the night in Bitter Lake.
Sunday 14 October 1945
11th day. Calm, v hot. Sailed at 6. Anchored at [Port] Tewfik, where we picked up 700 Aussies from the M.East. Sailed at 7.
Monday 15 October 1945
12th day. Fine, v hot. In the Red Sea. Not a breath of air. Most of the day playing C&A. Slept on deck.
Tuesday 16 October 1945
13th day. Calm, v hot. Still very hot and the mess holds stink. C&A most of the day.
Wednesday 17 October 1945
14th day. Calm, v hot. Passed the last of the land till we reach Aust. C&A.
Thursday 18 October 1945
15th day. Calm, hot. In the Indian Ocean – still hot but not so bad as the Red Sea. C&A.
Friday 19 October 1945
16th day. Calm, v hot. C&A most of the day.
Saturday 20 October 1945
17th day. Calm, v hot. In fatigues. C&A most of the day. Midnight supper with the crew.
Sunday 21 October 1945
18th day. Swell, showers, v muggy all day.
Monday 22 October 1945
19th day. Swell, showers. Our syndicate did no good today. No punters.
Tuesday 23 October 1945
20th day. Swell, showers. Nothing doing, and I’m getting a bit bored with the trip. Will be glad to get off.
Wednesday 24 October 1945
21st day. Swell, showers. Very quiet day.
Thursday 25 October 1945
22nd day. Showers. Nothing doing most of the day. Boxing tournament after tea.
Friday 26 October 1945
23rd day. Cold. Very cold day. Nothing doing. Wrote 3 letters.
Saturday 27 October 1945
24th day. Rough, cold. Gymkhana on board. Good show. We may reach Fremantle tomorrow.
Sunday 28 October 1945
25th day. Rough, cold. Nothing doing. Will reach Fremantle at 9am tomorrow.
Monday 29 October 1945
26th day. Swell, mild. Land in sight at 7am. Crowd gave us a good welcome. Tied up at 9. Spent day in Perth and had quite a good time. Home at 11.30 – very tired.
Tuesday 30 October 1945
27th day. Left Fremantle at 7am. Run Banker [card game].
Wednesday 31 October 1945
28th day. Calm, fine. Quiet day, nothing doing. Banker.
Thursday 1 November 1945
29th day. Swell, fine. Very quiet – everybody paid etc. Collected ration tickets and leave passes etc.
Friday 2 November 1945
30th day. Choppy, dull. Very quiet. Went to movies on deck – all short – very good.
Saturday 3 November 1945
31st day. Cold, dull. Up at 7. Passed through Bass Strait about 9-10am. Double on the Cantala at Flemington. [Cantala Stakes - horse race - presumably the race was heard over the radio as they passed Melbourne and Tommy won a bet!] . Played Crapp and Banker.
Sunday 4 November 1945
32nd day. Calm, fine.
END OF DIARY. CORPORAL THOMAS JONES, ELECTRICAL FITTER, 41652, No.3 SQUADRON R.A.A.F.
[Tommy disembarked Sydney 4 November 1945. Discharged from RAAF 30 January 1946.]
Troopship Stirling Castle
[Many thanks to Margaret Deacon for the monster job of typing this transcription.]
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