3 Squadron STORIES
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Benghazi, Alexandria, El Alamein, Tobruk, were just names to me of far-away places somewhere in North Africa. Although I knew Tobruk was of significance during the Second World War, the other places did not hold a lot of interest to me... That is, until I discovered a diary written by my father during his service as a fighter pilot in World War Two.
My name is Murray Thompson, and my father was Brian Melnotte Thompson.
We lived most of our lives, since I was born, in South Perth, in the State of Western Australia, which is my mother’s home State, but, prior to the war, dad lived in St. Helens, Tasmania. My father died on 10th Feb 1982, and, subsequently, on 10th March 1998, my mother, Betty Thompson passed away, which, I suppose, leads me to the start of this story, as it was only after her death that the family discovered, at the back of a drawer in a bedside cupboard, a plastic bag containing a diary written by my father during his tour of duty as a fighter pilot in the Middle East during WW2.
Also wrapped up with the diary was a small box containing one hundred or so black & white photographs taken during this time. I became totally engrossed whilst reading his diary, and it transported me into the daily routine of his life as a fighter pilot in the Middle East. Other family members who have read the diary were similarly affected and, at their prompting, I have transcribed his diary into a more easily read document, because, at some stages, his handwriting is hard to read.
I would like to begin with a bit of background: My father was born 19th April 1919 in St Helens, Tasmania to Vern Thompson, a local businessman, and his wife Dorothy. Five years later they were to have a second child Audrey, a sister for Brian, and, obviously, my aunt. He attended St Helens Primary School and subsequently completed Secondary schooling at Launceston. His younger sister Audrey, who presently still resides in Launceston, has helped in providing some of the information on dad’s younger days in St Helens.
He had a love for cars and mechanical things and Audrey has commented about an old truck he fixed up and drove around a paddock long before he was eligible to drive on the street. He later completed a Trade Certificate as an electrician whilst at Launceston Technical School. Records show that he was a keen sportsman, being a good cricketer and an exceptional footballer, in fact, he was the captain of both the football team & the cricket team for two years, whilst also the Head Prefect during the same period of time. At one stage, whilst playing football for his school during the week, he also played for the local league team on Saturdays, that is, until the school put pressure on him drop the local league team, as they considered he was trying to do too much.
He was also a good marksman with rifle shooting and for many years later, engraved teaspoons evidencing his first prize in a shooting contest, were in daily use at our house.
He loved flying and on 20th August 1940, enlisted in R.A.A.F. as part of the Citizen Air Force. He commenced training and on 8th April 1941, was awarded his Flying Badge, after having flown various service aircraft such as:- DH82, Hawker Demon, Hawker Audax, Hawker Wapiti, Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Mohawk, Hawker Tomahawk and Hawker Kittyhawk.
He was later to have several other aircraft added to this list such as: Wirraway, Harvard, Anson, Boomerang, Spitfire and Douglas Dakota C47A. At one stage in early 1941 he was attached to 25 Squadron in Perth. Dad’s sister Audrey recalls that he returned home to St Helens prior to being posted overseas and brought with him a fellow pilot, Gordon White. The family turned on a farewell party for them before they left .
He embarked for service overseas on 1st Sept 1941 and arrived Egypt 25th Sept, and was then attached to 3 Squadron. During his training in Australia, he had risen through the junior ranks and, after arriving in Egypt, was appointed Flight Sergeant on 7th Oct 1941.
This is the point where his diary starts and continues until his return to Australia.
I have tried to transcribe his diary exactly as it was written, but on a couple of occasions, I was unable to decipher his handwriting, and have left that area either blank or with my interpretation of what I think it says. There are also a couple of pages that were half ripped out of the diary, so I have included the words shown, as there are some names mentioned, but have shown the missing parts of the page as "………page ripped". I extend my apologies now to anyone mentioned in this diary that may have their name miss-spelt or where my interpretation of dad’s handwriting proves to be incorrect. It is certainly not intended that anyone might be offended.
WAR SERVICE DIARY
Jan 5th 1942
Joined Squadron at Msus.
Jan 6th 1942
Did 1 hour general flying on the Kittyhawk.
Jan 7th 1942
"C" flight ran into enemy Balboa. Ron Symes got 3, Pfeiffer 2, Hart 1, Schaeffer 1.
Al Baster missing on his first operation. (Killed Agedabia)
Jan 9th 1942
This morning Joe Lyons landed at Agedabia. This afternoon we escorted Marylands west of Agheila. On way home we were attacked by two 109s. Geoff Chinchen was wounded and Ron Symes is missing. I saw him spinning as if he was hit.
Jan 11th 1942
"Tiny" Cameron went in flames Agheila, Bobby Jones crash landed near the beach. [Both Cameron and Jones became POWs.] Pace returned to Antelat.
Curtis lost and force landed near Benghazi.
Nicky Barr shot down three and one probable, then tried to pick up Jones, but was jumped and managed to crash-land east of Brega. Returned to squadron later after Arabs helped him.
Jan 13th 1942
Harry Schaeffer and Ron Briggs fought their way home. Saw a Hurry [Hurricane] shot down over the drome by two 109s. Reg Pfeiffer landed on one wheel.
Jan 17th 1942
Threlkeld, Giddy, Pace, Curtis, White & I caught Bombay at Antelat 1 and went to El Adem to pick up 6 Kittyhawks. Only one there, so we came back to Gazala2 in R.A.A.F. Air Ambulance and staff car. Stayed there that night.
Jan 18th 1942
Left Gazala at 2.30pm with 6 Kittys for Antelat. White turned back near Bomba. Very low cloud and some rain. I flew No.2 to Giddy. Arrived at Antelat at 4.00pm. Did good landing.
Rained again. Everything bogged about the camp. White arrived back today. Lost his way & stayed at Berca last night. Went over to Wing to attend a lecture but we arrived too late. Lew Spence, Frank Reid & Harry Schaeffer went on two days leave in Alex. this morning.
At lunch-time a Ju88 dropped two sticks of bombs on the main drome at Antelat. Don’t think he did any damage. He came back again but missed the dromes.
This afternoon we had to see that all planes were able to taxi out to runway without getting bogged. Robin Gray came back with [Kittyhawk] 623 from near Msus.
Received letter from Betty today, which she wrote 21st December. Heard tonight that a lot of Eastern States mail was in the plane burnt at Basra.
Jan 20th 1942
Rained again last night. Still lots of cloud about this morning. Our flight is on "available" though runways are very wet and heavy. Wrote to Betty and also to boys of 25 Squadron. Rained all afternoon, played cards with Reg Pfeiffer. A padre arrived this afternoon. His car got bogged and he is staying here tonight. Had supper in the tent tonight consisting of chicken broth cubes and heated tomato soup. Just at present am listening to ‘Solitude’ and how fitting it is. Wonder if I shall see Aussy again, will just have to hope & trust in God. May be moving back to Msus tomorrow.
Jan 21st 1942
No rain today. We were supposed to move to Gazala at one stage and now it is back to Msus.2, where we originally were. This afternoon have been waiting for word to move, but are not going until tomorrow morning now, when "C" flight are doing a patrol over our forward troops and returning to Msus.2. We will probably run into Jerry tomorrow as there has been very little activity on our part during this last week. Jerry dropped two sticks of bombs near us tonight but didn’t hit anything. We were playing poker and finished under the table when he made his second run but he didn’t drop any. We are the only squadron left here at Antelat as the others have returned to Msus. "C" flight to do a sweep over our troops tomorrow. Have to be up at six.
Jan 22nd 1942
Up early this morning to go on patrol, but this was scrubbed as nearly all kites were hopelessly bogged. I had bad luck and I tipped "Q"624 on her nose bending the prop. Spent the rest of the day getting the kites out in position to take off. Gibby tipped his prop taking off. After all the serviceable kites had taken off, I went back to come up in the glass house with Col Greaves. Had to get several trucks out of bogs and as we were preparing to leave a Major General came along looking for G/Capt Cross. He told us that all fuel & kites that could be moved were to be moved immediately. As "Y" had only a flat tyre, I volunteered to fly it back and made a seat out of covers. I had no chute or helmet and was very deaf when I eventually reached Msus. Could not keep the plane straight on take-off and although she swung badly, I managed to get her in the air and proceeded to Msus. Landed here about quarter to three and got down quite OK. Landed on one wheel. Heard tonight that Jerry was eight miles south of Antelat at four thirty, so things may be doing tomorrow. I am flying with "B" flight tomorrow morning. The C.O. is leading. The Group Captain commended me on saving the Kittyhawk. McIntosh was killed today and Bradbury (Eric) is missing, believed killed, though no one saw him crash.
Jan 23rd 1942
We were on "standby" this morning, and at twelve thirty, eight of us went out on a fighter sweep over Agedabia & Brega.
We didn’t see anything and landed at Msus at half past two. Had to pack so as to be ready to retreat and waited all afternoon. Had to sleep in the open tonight. Heard that Eric Bradbury was safe with the army.
Jan 24th 1942
Up at 5.30 am this morning and left at 7 am and left by convoy for Mekili. The squadron was to do a patrol and return and land at Mekili. We arrived at Mekili at five o’clock in the afternoon. On the way we saw lots of burnt out tanks and cars - evidence of a tank battle. I came up to Mekili with Bill Turner & Les Bradbury in the Zephyr. The road was very bad. Some of the boys picked up Eric Bradbury and brought him back. He is very badly shell-shocked and his nerves are in very bad shape. Looks like he may get a trip home. There are eight of us in one tent until tomorrow when our other tents arrive.
Saw some army chaps who managed to escape from Agedabia. One was wounded with shrapnel. Doc treated him.
Jerry looks a bit dangerous at present. A lot of Transport were retreating.
Jan 25th 1942
Up at 7.30am, and at 9.30 six of us got off on a sweep over Msus/Antelat-Saunnu area. Did not encounter any E/A but saw evidence of a large tank battle in the Antelat area, also that Jerry was very near Msus, if not actually occupying that centre. Landed back at Mekili at twelve o’clock and at one-thirty some of the chaps went out to do ground strafing. They all arrived back at four o’clock and six of us had to go on ‘standby’. Didn’t get off though.
At lunchtime two Ju88s came over and a Hurricane, which took off, got one of them. A while later, another appeared and another Hurry went off after him but did not get him. We are not wanted until ten o’clock tomorrow but have to do ground strafing, which isn’t going to be so pleasant. Must write to Mum now.
Jan 26th 1942
Didn’t do anything this morning. Some of the boys went out ground strafing. Lew Spence and Wally Mailey were missing, but arrived back this afternoon. Wally force-landed and Lew picked him up. We were on ‘standby’ from two o’clock until four when we took of to strafe the Msus-Antelat road. Only five of us went out as Reg Pfeiffer turned back. Frank Reid led us, and north of Antelat we attacked two staff cars. Frank didn’t fire and Peter Giddy attacked the second one and I attacked the first. I saw the burst get the five chaps who got out of the car and the car was on its side. Further on we attacked a convoy of trucks. Frank and Peter attacked the rear one and I took the second one. A machine gun fired tracer which passed over my left wing but I am sure my burst got the occupants and the truck was smoking.
Jan 27th 1942
Beautiful and clear this morning, but at about ten o’clock, a bad dust storm started. It is the worst we have had. Six of us were on ‘standby’ from 9.30 to 11.30. Graham Pace took off after a Ju88 but could not locate it. Four took off to do a strafing job. Les Brad & Bobby Gibbes landed three miles from the drome and Lew Spence and Threlkeld landed south east of Mekili. This afternoon it rained and all the dust we collected during the storm turned to mud. This evening four chaps from No.14 Squadron Blenheims came over. There was one Aussie amongst them. I slept in Col Greaves tent with Les Brad & Butch Furness.
Received a cake from Mrs. Clarke this afternoon, also a letter from Betty.
Jan 28th 1942
We were called at five thirty this morning and most of the chaps moved out. We had an early lunch at eleven o’clock and went out at 12 o’clock on a sweep and strafe in the Tengeder area. Didn’t see anything and landed back at Mekili at two o’clock. We re-fuelled there and four of us went out to sweep and strafe the area south-east of Msus. Nothing sighted worth strafing and we returned and landed back at Gazala. Benghazi fell this afternoon. Had a beer-up tonight on Kruger tinned beer. We are on a job tomorrow at eight thirty. We are to take off from here at Gazala and do a sweep and return to Martuba, refuel and go out again.
Jan 29th 1942
Called at 7.30 and told we were to be in the air at 8.30. I was flying No.2 to Wally Mailey in Red section. We were airborne at 8.30 and patrolled the North and South roads from Derna to Barce and Tocra. Didn’t see any activity on Jerry’s part. Landed back at Martuba and found that 2 and 4 S.A.A.Fs were there. We had lunch there which was very decent, consisting of real boiled potatoes, bully, rice and pickles. Had quite an interesting talk with several of the chaps there. Very good crowd, these chaps.
We took off at 2.30 and patrolled the same area. Saw a Hurry, which we chased and scared the wits out of him. Taught him a lesson anyhow and noticed he was weaving a lot as we left him. Petrol was getting pretty low but managed to get back to Gazala and landed at five o’clock. Tom Briggs pranged his kite here – hit the burnt-out Sauria. Played poker and won 35 P.T. tonight.
Jan 30th 1942
Nothing doing today. We are released on 36 minutes. Had a shave this morning and am flying on training doing shadow firing at 12.45. Did not get off today. Group Capt. Cross and several officers from Wing were over for tea. Boys got very shickered tonight. Lew Spence, Graham Pace and Peter Giddy were very drunk. I had to put Lew to bed. Ron Munro is leaving tomorrow morning. Had a bath and clean-up and shave and boy, was it good. All I want now is a good haircut.
Jan 31st 1942
Went up again this morning at ten o’clock with Bobby Gibbes to do shadow firing. After we each had a go, we went out south west of Gazala to try and find some planes of the chaps who were missing some time back. We found one Tommy marked "Z" which might have been Robbie’s [Robbie Roberts] plane. Also wrecks of four others. Also some 109s and G50s.
Went up again this afternoon to do formation and evading attacks. Had three hours flying today. Les Bradbury & Tom Briggs are going on leave tomorrow in the Ju52 which the S.A.A.F. got at Derna. Bobby & I are going out in a truck tomorrow to check up on the planes we found today.
This evening we have just been bombed. It is a beautiful moonlight night and Jerry evidently is taking advantage of it. One plane came over and dropped eight bombs about a mile away. Had hardly been in bed any time when over came another Ju88 and dropped some more bombs.
He visited us again early in the morning at twenty minutes past four. We all poured into our slit trench but he dropped them north of our drome.
Feb 1st 1942
Got up at nine o’clock and found we were off ops again. Gibby & I, the C.O. and Jim Roberts and Lieutenant Atkinson, the Yank, left at ten o’clock to go down and try and check up on the wrecked planes which Gibby and I found yesterday. We went up over the escarpment and had to push the glass-house to get over. We had lunch at Bir Hacheim aerodrome where there were two CR42s. The first Tommy we found was AN373 which we checked up on and it turned out to be Robbie’s. Evidently he is a prisoner-of-war as he had landed OK. The next one was Sammy Lee’s and the Italians had buried him and made quite a nice grave. He had gone straight in. Near him was Lin Knowles wreckage with parts of body in the wreckage which was very widely scattered. Then found Ron Simes plane, which had belly-landed. Also found two Marylands with burnt bodies in them and graves beside them. Found a Macchi 200, a Hurry II, a Me110, two Ju87s. The Hurry II pilot was buried beside his plane. His plane had a heart on the port tailplane.
We left on our way home and came out north of Acroma on to the bitumen and arrived back at Gazala.2 at seven o’clock. We checked up on the kite numbers after we had tea. Joe Lyons arrived back here tonight and is to go home as his right eardrum is injured. He paid me back one-fifty akkers I lent him.
I wrote out reports on what we found this evening. On our way back, we were chasing some wild geese when about twenty gazelle jumped up, and we had a great time chasing them and ended up getting one of them. I just about used up all my ammo. Have only got three rounds left.
Feb 2nd 1942
The Squadron is to provide a standing patrol on the Gazala-Derna road today. I was to have gone off with Frank Reid at 1315 hrs, but it was scrubbed as it is very dusty. No.1 Party left for El Adem this morning and No.2 is to move to Gambut tomorrow. I think we will be taking the planes to El Adem. Had a sleep this afternoon and was awakened to go on standing patrol at four o’clock until six. Was very dusty and a strong wind blowing.
Feb 3rd 1942
Supposed to do bomber escort this morning. Took off and returned as pitch control was faulty. Pfeiffer took off in my place. Ran up on the ground and seemed OK, so later took off for El Adem. Landed there and had lunch. At two thirty, four of us went on ‘standby’ and at five fifteen all of the others took off for Gambut. We left at a quarter to six and landed after dark.
Feb 4th 1942
Some chaps were ‘standby ‘ from first thing this morning until twelve o’clock. Terrific dust storm all day and no flying. Five went to El Adem at two o’clock this afternoon by car to fly kites from there. They had not returned this evening and evidently were staying the night. Went over to Frank Reid’s tent tonight and had a few drinks. Have got a pretty rotten cold at present. Sgt Cundy from 260 Squadron here tonight.
Feb 5th 1942
Had a rotten night last night, coughed all night. Six of us went out on a job ground strafing this morning south of Derna. Didn’t fire our guns as we could not find a suitable target. Twenty miles south of Derna, I got a burst of ‘Ack-ack’ very close, but no hits on the plane. Landed at El Adem and then came back to Gambut. Landed here at one o’clock. Six others took off to do strafing at one o’clock. Les Bradbury & Tom Briggs returned from leave today. They were supposed to have come back yesterday but weather was unsuitable. Les brought me two films back to fit Tiny Cameron’s camera, which cost about 68 P.T. I also bought a fountain pen for 50 P.T. The bomb disposal chaps have been exploding bombs around here this afternoon. El Adem was bombed and strafed this morning. Have a cow of a cold.
Feb 6th 1942
Jerry bombed and ground-strafed us here at Gambut this morning but don’t think he did any damage. Joe Lyons left this morning for 110 L.G. (Base). Weather was beautiful up to eleven o’clock, but a slight breeze has arisen and it looks as though it might be dusty. Seven chaps are to go to Gazala and do a ‘standby’ there to cover our troops who are thickly concentrated around Gulf of Bomba. This was cancelled and nothing done today.
Feb 7th 1942
We were bombed and strafed again this morning but no damage done. Jerry is making it a bit hot. Four of us were on early ‘standby’ and were up at six. Had a cup of tea and were on the ‘line’ at seven. Lew Spence and I took off on scramble but didn’t see anything. We came off at nine forty-five and had breakfast. Went on to ‘standby’ at one-thirty and took off on scramble at two-thirty. Didn’t see anything though and were recalled at three-thirty. Landed and handed over to the reliefs. Six took off on bomber escort at three-thirty to bomb ship in Gulf of Bomba. They returned without having dropped their bombs, as they went about sixty miles out to sea but didn’t see anything. Wrote to Mum, Betty and Vince tonight. Ron Stephenson told me tonight that my plane (AK737) was definitely a M/U [maintenance unit] job.
Feb 8th 1942
Supposed to be released today. Went over to post office and posted letters to Mum, Bet, and Vince. Came back and heard that there was a job on. I wasn’t on it in the first place, but eventually had to go. Took [Kittyhawk serial] 800 and took off at one o’clock. I was flying No.2 to Gibby. When we got to El Adem, we were circling waiting for 73 Squadron to form up. Just south of Acroma we were attacked by 109Fs and I was cut off from the formation. Eventually saw Butch Furness on his own and joined with him. I saw a 109 coming down on Butch’s tail and as I tried to warn him saw a stream of tracer passing each side of my own cockpit. Did a flick roll on to my back and spun and managed to get out. Looked for Butch but couldn’t find him and decided to return to Gambut. Butch told me that the 109 was right on my tail within 50 yards. Lance Threlkeld bailed out and returned this evening. 112 Squadron got two and one probable today, and lost three. I wrote to George tonight. Vic Curtis got badly shot up today but was unhurt.
Feb 9th 1942
Jerry visited us again this morning at about five o’clock. Put on a hell of a show too. Dropped incendiary flares right across our dispersal area and then went to work and bombed hell out of us. He hit a Tomahawk and it burnt and he also strafed five Kittyhawks, damaging them badly. The Bofors staged a good display and did a good job on the last one. Had to go out on a job, fighter sweep over Gazala. Seven of us took off and I was No.2 to Tommy Briggs. He turned back and I went No.2 to Harry Schaeffer leaving four of us. Then he turned back, and, as Les Bradbury at that time was covering Frank Reid, I weaved behind him and covered him. Eventually we all returned.
Was on ‘standby’ this afternoon and at about four o’clock Gibby sent Lance Thelkeld and myself to Masten Baguish by a Blenheim of 14 Squadron. We arrived at L.G.116 at about ten past six and stayed there the night. I met Joe Elliott and his crew there.
Feb 10th 1942
Had breakfast at 116 and went to Baguish by truck and when we arrived, found that there were no Kittyhawks there for us. Had lunch there and took a few photos, then got a truck and went looking for 3 Squadron base. Eventually found it and 450 Squadron were on the same drome 012. That evening Lance and I went over to 450 and saw Dyson, Hally, Quirk, Law, Gray, Beste, Young, McBride, Shillabeer, and a few others. Inky Way was also there, but had turned a Kitty over that afternoon and was taken to hospital. Wasn’t badly hurt though.
Feb 11th 1942
Left 012 in 689(F) at about 10.30am for Gambut. There was a bad dust storm blowing and visibility was very poor. Passed over Hellfire Pass and Sollum and saw all the wreckage there. Landed Gambut at about 1230. Had lunch and at one thirty went on ‘standby’. Had to escort the "Libyan Clipper", our Ju52 Leave plane, in, as four 109s were reported to be in the area. Came off ‘standby’ at six-fifteen. When I got to the Mess I found a parcel for me from Betty, also a letter. The parcel was very nice too. I am on early ‘standby’ tomorrow and I am to be called at five-thirty. Six are going to El Adem at seven o’clock.
Feb 12th 1942
A plane passed over about five o’clock and we were called at five-thirty. Had some breakfast and went on ‘Standby’ at six-thirty. Didn’t get scrambled. Came off at eight-thirty and had a bit of ‘scran’ in the tent. Went on ‘standby’ again at ten-thirty and was on until six-thirty this evening. Had a false scramble and later on had a scramble over the aerodrome here. Didn’t see anything though. This evening at about seven o’clock Jerry came over with about six planes and started to drop flares around the aerodrome which made night like day. He dropped incendiary flares and proceeded to bomb around them, right through our camp. I was in Frank Reid’s slit trench for a while and one stick went right across us. He didn’t hit anything and left us at about eight o’clock, after which I managed to get some tea.
We are on standby again tomorrow and all the serviceable planes are going to El Adem at eleven o’clock. Went to bed fairly early as I am on fairly early tomorrow. One of 112 [Squadron] went in here today and burnt.
Feb 13th 1942
Managed to get out of the early job and went on ‘standby’ at quarter-to-ten and was on until quarter-to-five and had two scrambles but did not see anything. Four 109s flew over the drome here at about four o’clock and the boys scrambled after them, but didn’t see them. Feeling very tired tonight and have to be on at five-thirty to go to El Adem.
Feb 14th 1942
Was up at five-thirty and had breakfast at six. Left here at seven and went to El Adam where we were on standby. At nine-thirty, Pace and Reid took off to try and get Goring who was supposed to land at Martuba at 10 o’clock this morning. They returned and didn’t see anything. At twelve o‘clock we were scrambled with 112 Squadron and shortly after ran into a Balboa of approx 40 enemy aircraft, mainly consisting of 109s, Macchi 200s, Macchi 202s and Ju87s. We didn’t get at the 87s and Graham Pace and I shot down a Macchi 202. I thought it was a 109F. It crashed and burnt between Gazala and Acroma. Between the two squadrons we shot down 19 kites. In our Squadron Gibby got two Macchi 200s, White one-109, and damaged two 87s, Mailey two 109s and one probable. Lew Spence one 109, Reid one & half -200s and one Dornier. [This successful action was later dubbed the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre".]
This afternoon we went up to El Adem again and did a patrol over Tobruk but didn’t see any enemy aircraft. Returned and landed at Gambut at ten-to-five. Had good low cloud all day and it rained slightly this afternoon. This evening Davies from 14 Squadron Blenheims came over to the mess and some of us played poker dice. I am on again in the morning early. 94 Squadron arrived with Kittyhawks today.
Feb 15th 1942
Up at 5.45 this morning and had to taxi the planes out on the runway as we were on ‘available’. Came back and had some breakfast at eight. Some went on ‘standby’ at ten o’clock and we took over at twelve. Some 109s and two Ju88s came over at about one o’clock and Frank Reid and Graham Pace took off. Pace didn’t make it and Tom Briggs took off. They were jumped about three miles south of here near the escarpment by two 109s which came out of the sun. Tommy bailed but at a low altitude but Frank went in and burnt. We were ordered to stay on the ground by Wing. At two o’clock six took off to do bomber escort and my kite was U/S R/T [unserviceable radio-telephone]. At about half-past two, Schaeffer and Pfeiffer took ‘800’ and ‘602’ back to Base. Had a good shave this morning. Joe Elliott, Charlie Davies and another chap from 14 Squadron came over last night and stayed for a while.
Feb 16th 1942
Was called at five-fifteen and went on standby. Came off at nine-thirty. Ed Jackson and Gordon White were scrambled but didn’t see anything. Was on and off ‘standby’ all day and was scrambled over El Adem. Later, six were scrambled and ran into 109s south of El Adem. White got a good burst into a 109 and Lance Threlkeld is missing. Ed Jackson said he saw an oil fire burning and it looks as though he may have been shot down. Nicky Barr returned today bringing a new plane up. One of 450 chaps brought another up for us. Frank Reid was buried this afternoon. Heard tonight that Singapore had fallen. I am on ’standby’ again tomorrow. Did six and a half hours ‘on’ today. Played poker dice with Graham, Lew & Peter tonight and lost two bottles of beer. Gosh , I am tired, must get to bed now.
Feb 17th 1942
Got up at six-thirty and went on standby at seven-thirty. We were scrambled at about nine o’clock and patrolled the El Adem/Tobruk area for an hour. Saw three 109s at twenty one thousand but they escaped into cloud. Was on full boost and revs for most of the time and it is a wonder that the old crate took it. Landed with practically all petrol gone.
Went on standby again at twelve-thirty and came off at two o’clock when 94 Squadron arrived from El Adem to relieve us. One blew a tyre landing and shortly after one of 450 collided with another one on the ground as he was taking off. Had the afternoon off, tried to sleep but couldn’t.
Went over to 450 Squadron tonight after tea and got lost on the way back and it took us 2½ hours to find our place. Am on early again tomorrow.
Feb 18th 1942
Was up at six-thirty and left for El Adem at seven-thirty. We were on "readiness" there but did not get called off. At about quarter to one, we took off and patrolled over El Adem just beneath clouds, but didn’t see anything and came back and landed at Gambut at two-fifteen. Bobby Gibbes tried to find Martuba but cloud was too thick and he returned. Heard today that the army found Lance Threlkeld and his plane. Evidently, he had been killed and burnt in crash. Ed Jackson is to go back to Australia and Nicky Barr is "OC" "C" Flight. The Boston squadron arrived here today and are operating from here. Some of the crowd went across to 450 tonight. Six of us played poker dice for a while and I lost 10 PT. At tea-time it rained quite heavily for a while but cleared up later. Bobby had another shot at finding Martuba and left at four, but couldn’t see it for thick cloud. We are not on early and have the morning off. Going to El Adem at one o’clock with 450 Squadron.
Feb 19th 1942
Laid in this morning and got up at about 9.30. We had some "yaffle" [personal food cache] in the tent and we have to be at "ops" at 12.15pm and are going to El Adem with 450 Sqd. I had my new plane allotted me this morning (E) 622. Hope it is a good one. It is very windy and a lot of dust blowing up.
The job was cancelled because of bad dust storm. Wrote some letters this afternoon one to Mum, Betty and one to Boag. Some mail came in this evening, I got three letters, one from Gran and two from Mum.
This evening I composed a song to the tune of "South of the Border" relating to the squadrons movements since Antelat.
[Brian's very popular song is recorded in "3 Squadron at War" p79:
South of Benghazi, down Antelat way...
That's where we met the Hun one day, when he came out to play.
We've been to Agheila, but we did not stay...
South of Benghazi, down Antelat way... ]
I am seventh man in the morning to go to El Adem.
Feb 20th 1942
Up at six o’clock and had a small snack for breakfast. I went to El Adem as Peter Giddy didn’t get off. Nicky Barr’s plane was U/S for hydraulic system so I had to bring it back here to Gambut. Tried to start two others but meanwhile they repaired (M) so I took it back. It rained quite a bit and cloud was very low. At about eleven thirty we scrambled and patrolled Gazala and Tmimi areas but didn’t see anything so we came back and landed at one o’clock.
At three o’clock, we all went over to Wing for a lecture on "Pluto" the D.F. apparatus they have at Gazala.
["Direction Finding" - probably refers to radar control for interceptions.]
The C.O. went to Cairo this morning and Ed Jackson left on his way home to Australia. They flew "A" & "K" back to our base at Sidi Haneish. Ed took a copy of the song home with him. Received a parcel from home today which contained cigarettes, razor blades, shaving cream & soup.
Played dice for a while this evening and went to bed after hearing the news.
Feb 21st 1942
Had a lie-in this morning and didn’t get up for breakfast. A 109E flew over at about ten, I think he was lost and trying to land here, very likely came from Crete and was looking for Martuba. Shortly afterwards, an 88 came over very high and had a "shufti"[a look]. Six are to go to El Adem at twelve o’clock today but I am having a break today. I think that they had eggs for breakfast this morning. Stomach seems very touchy these last 4 or 5 days and have not been eating much.
Six went on standby here at twelve o’clock. I went over to 112 to collect a Kitty but it wasn’t ready. Went back later but was still unfinished so didn’t bring it. Wally Mailey, Reg Pfeiffer and Roger Jennings came back today and brought three planes up. Had a few beers tonight and got a bit shickered I am afraid, still we are released until twelve o’clock tomorrow.
Feb 22nd 1942
Was up fairly early as the chaps had to pull the tents down as we were moving about five miles SE to another drome.
Went over to wing for a lecture on R/T at nine o’clock and when we came back we started to leave for the new drome. I flew my own plane (E) and at 1 o’clock six of us went on standby. 450 Sqdn arrived shortly after and after a few of them had landed, a Hurricane collided with Jack James but luckily no-one was hurt. It was very dusty and a "poor show" on the Hurricane pilot’s part.
Four of us were scrambled at about two but were recalled and Butch and I were scrambled at about half past three to fifteen thousand but didn’t see anything and "Turtle" [probably the radar controller] told us that the bandits were two Blenheims. Relieved when we landed at four thirty, had tea and then played poker dice for a while. Bobby and Nicky went over to 450 Sqdn tonight.
Feb 23rd 1942
Was called at seven to go to Gambut Main and do a Wing job from there with 450 Sqd. Saw three "Wimpies" [Vickers Wellingtons] over there and watched them take off. Had a chat to one of the crews at about twelve o’clock the Grouper came and told us that we had to escort six Bostons which were to bomb near Martuba, the home of the 109s. We took off at twelve thirty and Graham Pace returned shortly afterwards. Two 109s were sighted West of El Adem but just followed us out. We were close escort and 450 were top cover. The Bostons stayed too long in the area and then didn’t bomb. 450 lost one (F/O Thompson) and McBride spun near the drome here and was badly hurt. This afternoon we went to Wing and had a talk. Came back, had tea and played poker dice. Harry Schaeffer and Lloyd Boardman, one of the new chaps came up today. I won 5 Ackers from Nicky tonight.
Feb 24th 1942
Got up at about nine thirty this morning, there was a terrible wind blowing and very shortly it was blowing a terrible dust storm. Nothing doing today and after lunch Lew Spence, Eddy and myself played poker dice for bottles of beer. By tea time we were all pretty mellow and after tea Wally Mailey, Harry Schaeffer, Lloyd Boardman and myself went over to 450 where I heard that McBride died yesterday through injuries received when he crashed near the runway. Some 450 came over here as well.
Feb 25th 1942
No early job, up at about eight thirty and had breakfast. I am on a job at eleven thirty, but just after we took off "Renac" [radar controller] recalled us. In the afternoon at about three o’clock ten of us did a sweep to Tmimi and Gazala; were supposed to go to Derna, but visibility was too poor. Got back without striking although but the "Turtle" told us that there were hostile fighters near us.
Some went to 450 tonight and about eight, we heard that Bobby Gibbes was new C.O. and promoted to Sqdn Leader. We went to 450 to help celebrate. I am on standby at seven-thirty in the morning.
Feb 26th 1942
Went on standby at seven-thirty and at eight o’clock two 109s came over at 15,000 and went into the sun, then dived back towards Gambut Main and strafed some of 450’s planes which were on "readiness" there at about quarter past eight. Four of us were scrambled and did a patrol over El Adem area. Didn’t see anything and landed at nine o’clock. Visibility was very poor and a dust storm blew up at about nine-thirty. The other four were scrambled and I went on standby.
I led a section in the scramble. We did an R/T test at three this afternoon. Lew Spence wants to go to base this afternoon but couldn’t get off.
Dick Heart is new O.C. of "C" Flight and Nicky Barr has gone back to "B" as O.C. Graham Pace is in "C" Flight now.
We are not on in the morning, but at twelve we have to be at Gambut Main doing a squadron job.
Feb 27th 1942
We were called to do a standby at about ten o’clock and at about twenty minutes past eleven we were scrambled with 450 over El Adem and then sent to intercept an enemy formation which we could see bombing Tobruk. There were six of us and I was leading black section. When the "Tally Ho" [call to attack] was given, I looked up and saw five 109s above us and when the others started to dive, I climbed away to the left into the sun and tried to get above and in the sun, but the five 109s saw me and turned and climbed with me toward the sun and then started attacking me. I think I got the third, and later I probably got another. I must have been fighting the five of them for about half an hour and eventually managed to pair up with Reg Pfeiffer and we came home. Three of them followed us to between Gambut and El Adem but didn’t attack. Dick Hart bailed out and Roger Jenning was shot down and crash-landed being believed killed.
450 Sqd also lost one, Sgt Gray, and another crash-landed and returned. Hart got back about nine o’clock tonight. I "cracked" when I got back, and was taken to the doc at 450, but came good again after a while. Never thought I would get out of it.
Bobby Gibbes went to base this morning and came back this evening with Wing Commander Chapman. Lew Spence went to base for a week.
Doctor from 450 came over tonight and put me off flying for tomorrow. There were fifty plus enemy fighters in the area where we scrapped.
Feb 28th 1942
Off flying this morning. Boys did standby here in morning and went to Gambut Main. Nothing happened.
March 1st 1942
On "readiness" at Gambut Main from six o’clock. Keith Kildey got lost in the dust and landed at 73 Sqdn on the escarpment. Had one scramble of one hour over El Adem.
White came over in afternoon and Dick Hart took over from Nicky Barr. They also brought some lunch over for us. Graham Pace caught fire and bailed out near Sidi Rezegh but was collected and returned tonight. Landed back here at about six and had tea. Went to bed early.
March 2nd 1942
Giddy and Pfeiffer went on leave. We were on standby from eight o’clock at twelve-twenty, six of us went to Gambut Main to be at "readiness" from one o’clock. We were scrambled this morning from here & scrambled twice from Gambut Main, nothing seen. It came over the BBC tonight about my exploit with five 109s. They added quite a bit to it though. Graham Pace caught fire and bailed out OK.
March 3rd 1942
Was on standby at Gambut at six fifteen this morning. Took off in the dark. We had one scramble at about eleven o’clock but although in a beautiful position, didn’t see the enemy aircraft. Saw Tobruk A/A open up but could not contact. Returned here at about one-thirty and had the afternoon off. Les Bradbury, Harry Schaeffer, Dick Harvey are going back to Aussie. Vic Curtis and Ron Biden arrived back today. Whitey and I are to go on leave next.
Low ceiling & overcast 16,000 ft today - ideal for us.
March 4th 1942
Was on standby here at eight but didn’t get a scramble. Had some rain and cloud was very low. Came off at one o’clock when six others went to Gambut Main to do standby there. Gordon and I are to go down on leave tomorrow.
March 5th 1942
Rained all day and woke up this morning to find tent just about flooded out. The 52 didn’t get back today and it looks like it may be one or two days before it arrives. Spent most of today in bed as it is still raining heavily.
Still raining off & on and nothing doing. Wrote a letter to Mum this morning. Brad, Harry & Dick Harvey left this morning.
March 7th 1942
Went to Gambut at six this morning to bring the planes back. I managed to get (1) off but was told to return and land back at Gambut Main as their drome was U/S. Managed to get down OK. Giddy and Pfeiffer are back today and brought a gramophone and records with them. Whitey and I are going down tomorrow.
March 8th 1942
Caught the "clipper" at about nine, but didn’t leave till nearly ten as there were 109s in area. Landed at Baguish on the way and arrived in Heliopolis at about three o’clock. Went to Cairo in taxi and booked in at the Grand Hotel. That evening had few grogs with Mailey and some yanks. Didn’t go out anywhere. Went to bed about twelve-thirty. Mailey got the D.F.M. [Distinguished Flying Medal]
March 9th 1942
Had breakfast in bed and went shopping this morning. Met Butch Donaldson this afternoon and went ‘round to the New Zealand Club and saw Joe Lyons. Had tea at the Grand and went to bed early, as I was feeling a bit sick.
March 10th 1942
Did a bit more shopping this morning and this afternoon met Merv Bailey in the Grand. Whitey and I went and saw "That Night in Rio" this morning. This evening met Dixie Chapman and the wild Irishmen at the Grand. Had a few drinks and Whitey and I went to Tommy’s Bar with them and then came back and had a few at the Grand. Went to bed at about eleven. Collected my snaps this evening.
March 11th 1942
Up at seven and had breakfast in bed. Went out to Heliopolis by taxi and caught a "Bombay" at about nine o’clock. Landed at Baguish and refuelled, the chap nearly "pranged" it there as he floated half way across the short run. Gordon was sick a lot of the way. Landed at Gambut about two o’clock.
The boys have told me that my two 109s were confirmed by the South Africans near Tobruk and they all congratulated me on it.
On the day we left the Squadron got nine E/A confirmed without loss. Had a party in the mess this evening.
While I was away, Kel Stanley crashed my plane and wrote it off.
Sam Wickham and another Yank are here and Barney Perry arrived up tonight. Buck Abacair & Shorty Edmundson are also here.
March 12th 1942
Not on early this morning- didn’t get up for breakfast. Went out on a sweep at about twelve thirty. Patrolled over our forward troops but didn’t see anything. Did a forced landing on a satellite North West of here with engine trouble. Later flew back here and saw big convoy moving into Tobruk, so there should be something doing tomorrow. Released this afternoon.
March 13th 1942
Black Friday today. I am not on today, Squadron released until midday, when nine went on to "readiness" but didn’t get off. I took the C/O’s place at five thirty. Wrote to Mum and Betty. Heard at lunch time that poor old Peter Giddy was killed at base either yesterday or this morning. He was doing a roll low down and the fuselage door came open & he spun in. Nicky Barr and Gordon went to base at lunch-time and Gordon and Eric Leede arrived back at six o’clock with two new planes. Believe that Stanley is unfit for operational flying.
March 14th 1942
Am not on today. At twelve thirty, twelve of our chaps took off to do top cover to twelve Bostons to bomb Martuba. Three returned - Curtis, Boardman and Beard at about twelve forty-five. The other seven landed back about two-fifteen. Graham Pace and Keith Kildey landed at El Adem and returned later. Packer and Chinchen got a 109F west of Tobruk.
Hart got a [Macchi] 202 probable and Kildey got a 200 probable. Bostons did very good bombing and started large fires. Those that were on the job went to Wing at three-thirty.
I went to 274 Sqdn with a few chaps tonight but it was too crowded and we came back early.
March 15th 1942
Took Bostons out this morning at ten-thirty and we did close cover. They bombed Martuba Satellite west and bombing was perfect. Struck pretty accurate A/A from the coast in and, coming back past Tmimi, 109s and 202s started pecking. Curtis got a probable & Lew Spence got two probables.
This afternoon we went down to the beach had a swim in a very pretty little cove and it was very pleasant. I and Ross Biden had tea with 450 Sqdn and Ricky Leede & Beard came over and picked us up after.
March 16th 1942
Released this morning and are on twelve-thirty. Whitey is ferrying between here and Base at present and has had three trips. He is to go down this morning, but it is pretty windy and inclined to be a dust storm blowing up. Nothing happened this afternoon, as it was too dusty.
March 17th 1942
Audrey’s birthday today, her eighteenth, wonder how they are at home. Took off at about nine o’clock and escorted a Tac/R [Tactical Reconnaissance] Hurricane from El Adem to Mekili & back, didn’t see any E/A. I was close escort on the left with Dick Hart and Lloyd Boardman. This afternoon we were to meet the Bostons coming out from Martuba but they didn’t go as it was too dusty. The A.O.C. Air Vice Marshal Clark was here this afternoon. There was a party in the mess this evening as five cases of beer arrived and some of 450, 274 and 73 Squadron came over.
March 18th 1942
C/O and Nicky Barr went to Base early and four others - Lew Spence, Geoff Chinchen, Biden & Riley left at nine o’clock to have long range tanks fitted, the rest of us are going down tomorrow.
This morning a few of us went down to the beach and had lunch there and came back at five o’clock. Butch found a car, which we towed back. I took quite a few snaps of old Jerry tanks and vehicles down there.
Graham Pace had a swim and had a fish for a while but had no luck. Came back about six.
March 19th 1942
Nothing on today. I didn’t go to base. Went over to Wing with the CO this morning. Jerry sent a few 109s over as a nuisance patrol. This afternoon there was a church service in the mess. Col Greaves and I went up on the escarpment for a drive this afternoon. Found a Blenheim which had gone in some time ago and was scattered in all directions. Received parcel from Mum tonight, sent on Oct 14th.
March 20th 1942
Setting compass on (R) for the C.O. this morning. Fitted our dinghy seats to our chutes this afternoon and got everything ready for the job tomorrow. This evening we were briefed by G/C Beamish on the job, which is to escort an important convoy going to Malta. Beaufighters arrived today to go out with us. I am on first job at ten-thirty with the C.O., Pace and Leede. We were told that we would strike a lot of enemy bombers, but don’t think there will be any fighters, mostly 111s, 88s and 79s which carry torpedoes. There are 25 ships in the convoy, 17 destroyers, four cruisers and four merchant vessels.
March 21st 1942
Heard the Beau’s and Tommy’s taking off very early to do the early shows. We are on till six. I am to do another show at two o’clock. I took off at ten-thirty with CO and blew a valve just after getting airborne managed to get around at about five feet and land back on the drome. Packer took off in my place. I went off on second detail with Nicky and we followed the Beau’s out to the convoy which consisted of 24 ships, 17 destroyers, 3 cruisers and 4 merchantmen. Didn’t see anything of importance and on the way home we sighted a destroyer about eighty miles north of Tobruk heading out towards the convoy. We were approximately 150 miles out over the convoy. We landed back at two-thirty having been out for three and a quarter hours. The CO and Graham Pace strafed a submarine north of Derna and caused it to crash dive. Vic Curtis went to hospital today. Ten of the Beaufighter chaps came over to sleep here tonight and there are four in our tent, a Belgian, a Canadian and two English chaps.
109s strafed and bombed the drome this morning. Killed a chap at 450 Sqdn.
March 22nd 1942
We are off this morning and have to do patrols again tomorrow. Gordon and I were going to take (G) and (K) back to base, two with blown valves. My engine cut shortly after take off, and I just managed to get my wheels down before I hit. I got down OK and taxied some of the way back.
March 23rd 1942
We are doing patrols again today and I went off at eleven and landed back at two-thirty - didn’t find the fleet. Went over to the operations room, which was landing the Beau’s, for a while. Took off at five o’clock for base and landed there at six-fifteen.
March 24th 1942
Dust storm today, nothing doing. Going on leave tomorrow.
March 25th 1942
Terrible dust storm. We left base at about eleven o’clock and arrived in Alex about four-thirty. Went to pictures tonight.
March 26th, 27th, 28th
Spent in Alex. Went to pictures and just pottered around in general. Received two letters today, one from Mum and Bet.
March 29th, 30th, 31st
Spent in Cairo. Went to all picture shows and in evening went to Waterloo club.
April 1st 1942
Went around the sights with Butch, Grahame and Jim Roberts this morning. Was very interesting.
April 2nd 1942
Just pottered around today. Went to stay at Minerva House as Grand Hotel was too expensive. Whitey and Rildey were there. This evening there was a dinner at the Grand to which a number of South African WAAF’s came.
I managed to pal up with a Sergeant by name of Warhaff. She was very good company and we had quite an enjoyable evening just yarning away, nothing else. She reminded me very much of Bet, and I had quite a few ideas, but didn’t attempt to exploit them.
April 3rd 1942
Left for Palestine with Col Greeves and Doc Stone this morning. Spent the night at the Palace Hotel, Ismailia.
April 4th 1942
Left Ismailia for Palestine and travelled across the Sinai Desert. Arrived in Jerusalem at about five o’clock. Was a very interesting trip. Saw Beersheba, Hebron and Bethlehem and the country was such a change after the desert. Stayed at the Eden Hotel.
April 5th 1942
Went round the historic parts and in the afternoon went out to Bethlehem and saw the "manger" and church where Christ was born.
April 6th 1942
Went to Jericho and the Dead Sea today. The trip down was very interesting. Met Brad E and John Harvey today and they came with us. The Dead Sea is 800 feet below sea level and was very salty and hot. Found out that Uncle Tom and Eric had gone back to Australia.
Went to pictures with some V.A.D.’s [Female Voluntary Aid Detachment] tonight. I went with a girl called Kath Rudkin from Temora NSW. They are coming around tomorrow.
April 7th 1942
Just pottered around this morning, met two of the V.A.D’s ["Voluntary Aid Detachment" - female nurses' aides] in the street and they are coming to the hotel this afternoon. Nan, Kath and Gwen arrived about five o’clock. John, Brad and myself were there and we had afternoon tea in their room. We had dinner and just talked during the evening.
April 8th 1942
Up about seven thirty and had breakfast. Collected our bill which rather staggered us as it was 31 Pounds. We left at about ten o’clock. Brad and John Harvey came as far as Beersheba with us. We arrived at Ismalia at about five thirty. Had a few beers, had tea and decided to go to bed, as we are going to Cairo then on to Alex tomorrow.
April 9th 1942
Up fairly early and left for Cairo about nine and arrived there about 12 o’clock. Col and Doc picked up their photos and we set off for Alex. Had a sandwich at the road house about halfway, and arrived in Alex about half past four. I stayed at Bonnard’s Hotel as we couldn’t get in to Tomahawk. Gordon and Kildey are here too.
April 10th 1942
Just pottered around this morning and this afternoon we went to see Tommy Briggs and stayed there for about two hours. Came back and had tea and then went to the pictures.
April 11th 1942
Went out to Aboukir this morning with Col, Doc and Whitey to get some money. Had a few beers this afternoon and tonight, I went to the Jewish club and then to the Phabron which was crowded.
April 12th, 13th, 14th
Spent in Alex. Gordon, Kildey and self moved out to Tomahawk today, and spent night there.
April 15th 1942
Left for base about eleven with Col and Doc. We broke a fan belt about ten minutes out and had to chase around to get another. Reached base and found a lot of new chaps there. There were parcels, papers and letters there for me.
April 16th 1942
Started flying today. Went up after lunch for about one & a half hours. Alan Beard spun in and was killed just over the escarpment here at B12 today.
He, Kildey and Boardman were taking three Kittys back to Geneifa for engine change. Went down to the crash and saw them pull him out. Late this afternoon we took some new chaps over and put them off on 102LG.
Received some more papers today. Donald, a new chap ground-looped a new Kitty and we left it at 102LG.
April 17th 1942
I went over to fly (S) back with busted wing tip and aileron. McDermiad pranged "D" this morning when his port leg collapsed. I got another parcel from Mum today and a birthday cable.
April 18th 1942
Took some new chaps up for formation this morning. Alderson landed with his wheels up, he forgot them.
We went swimming today as the temperature was 108 degrees in the shade. Was very nice down in the little cove at Sidi Haneish.
April 19th 1942
23RD BIRTHDAY TODAY
Went up doing formation this afternoon. The C.O. told me tonight that he had recommended Whitey and myself for commission. C.O. and Nicky left for Cairo this evening.
I went to Baguish with Graham Pace and visited Al Beard and Peter Giddy’s graves in the cemetery. I took some photos.
April 20th 1942
Up at quarter past six this morning. Took off at seven o’clock to do formation. My No.2, Bray, force-landed and I came back to direct the truck to him. Saw the C.O.’s report on Whitey and self this afternoon. Wrote to Betty and Mum this evening.
April 21st 1942
Did formation with new chaps and this afternoon , Packer, Biden and myself went to BRSU [Servicing Unit] Garawla to pick up three new planes. I got a beauty.
April 22nd and 23rd
Did formation flying and strafing.
April 24th 1942
This morning Ross Biden and I took two Kittyhawks to Heliopolis for engine change. We left at ten-thirty and landed at Helio at twelve. Lew and Kildey went to Gambut this morning to bring two planes back. Kildey made a belly landing as his motor cut on take-off. We went to pictures in the afternoon and met Clem Hardy and had dinner with him that evening. Went to bed early as the old inoculation was playing up.
April 25th 1942
Went out to Helio at about nine thirty and got a lift back to Baguish in a Hudson at twelve o’clock. Arrived back at the squadron at about five o’clock. Found all my kit had gone forward to Gambut this morning, so I slept in the mess.
April 26th 1942
Left for Gambut at ten-thirty and arrived about quarter-to-twelve. It is very dusty drome here, but quite large. Went out to 112 Squadron with the CO this evening but came back early. I am on at seven in the morning.
April 27th 1942
Did squadron formation today and were on "readiness" from seven o’clock. Nothing of interest.
April 28th 1942
Did more training today; practiced "turnabouts" and were told to try and intercept "bandits". No luck though!
The Duke of Gloucester visited the Squadron this afternoon and shook hands with all the pilots.
April 29th 1942
On "readiness" at five-thirty and at about eight o'clock four, of us scrambled after bandits near El Adem. Bayley didn’t get off and I weaved behind Grahame and Nicky. Near El Adem I sighted two 109s below at about four o’clock and as I tally-ho’d, the nearest one dived vertically away so I got in a rear quarter attack on the second and must have just pumped him full of lead as I fired over 1000 rounds and had my sights on. He dived vertically and I don’t know what happened to him.
Went on readiness again at one o’clock, but didn’t get off.
April 30th 1942
Had a terrible dust storm all day, the tent just about blew down and everything was covered in dust. Wrote to Gran, George and Uncle Bill today as had written to Mum and Betty two days ago.
May 1st 1942
Up at five and went out on a sweep to Mekili at six-thirty. I led black section and was in top cover with Nicky leading. Ran into a lot of A/A but except for seeing a large concentration of German tanks, etc, nothing else of importance. On again at one o’clock on "readiness".
This afternoon twelve did a sweep of Tmimi and Gazala area, but nothing seen.
May 2nd 1942
I left for Base this morning with "E" for 40 hourly. Arrived there at one o’clock. Shot up the mess [low-flying pass] when I arrived there.
May 3rd 1942
Went to 013 with Lew this morning and put Ted Alderson off on circuits and bumps. He improved immensely as he went on. Would like to see him ‘click’ as he is a good scout and keen.
This afternoon I played cricket against 450, whom we beat, and so the chaps won a case of beer from them. I got top score for 3 Squadron too, and got run out.
Nicky arrived down about five o’clock and Vic Curtis, Lew, Nicky and myself came back about six and arrived here about eight o’clock. Nicky and Lew flew back in our Harvard and I flew Lew’s Kittyhawk.
May 4th 1942
"Readiness" from 9 o’clock, but dust was too bad. Went to beach this afternoon and came back about six thirty. Some Aussie beer arrived here tonight.
May 5th 1942
I test flew "L" this morning and, after fifteen minutes flying, my oil pressure fell to about ten lbs, so I shut off and made a no-engine landing. Plane has been made Cat. II. This evening had a beer up in the mess and everyone got full. Roy, Drew and another chap from 112 Sqdn were over.
May 6th 1942
We were on standby from nine o’clock, but it got so bad that we were released. This evening the CO and five others were scrambled, but then did a patrol over the forward areas, but didn’t see anything. Biden landed at El Adem on the way back.
May 7th 1942
Up at five o’clock and went on readiness at six thirty. Took off at about eleven and I did a patrol over forward areas to Mekili, Antelat and Tmimi. On the way out we were vectored to intercept something near El Adem but visibility was bad and we missed. Nothing seen and landed back at about twelve-fifteen. "B" flight are doing the job this afternoon but didn’t get off.
[The next few pages of the diary are torn so there are only snippets for the next few weeks .]
May 8th 1942
Geoff, Macdiarmid and …… did two dummy strafing attacks on a large ……. of Indian troops……[ripped]
May 9th 1942
Up at five this morning and on readiness till nine and at eleven o’clock we were over the Lengeder Area to cover the withdrawal of nine Bostons bombing Benghazi, escorted by 200 Squadron. Didn’t see the Bostons but...[ripped]
May 10th (ripped)
May 11th 1942
Had a day off today and spent it at the beach, went down about ten and came back about six. Heard today that Vic Luicedie who was with 250 and was at Khartoum with us, was killed yesterday when ground strafing.
May 12th (ripped)
Nothing doing today…..[ripped]
Geoff Chinchen got a 109F. "B" flight are on this afternoon. Ferguson, Rose, and W/C Meyers here this afternoon.
May 14th 1942
We were on ‘readiness’ from one o'clock, and at four o’clock went on ‘available’. [ripped]….
May 16th 1942
Readiness this morning. At about ten past six, twelve scrambled to Gazala. I returned from other side of Gambut as suction pump was not working. Eventually four of us returned, and near Gazala the formation was attacked by three 109s. Two of 450 Sqdn collided and… [continued but ripped]
Nothing of importance during last few days. This morning we took off to do delousing for Bostons. I landed with dead motor on Gambut Main but returned later. CO and Nicky each got a 109F confirmed ….. [continued but ripped]
May 23rd 1942
[Ripped]…..Harvard to base with Ken Sands in the back. I picked up the CO’s kite and flew it to Geneifa to have a bomb rack fitted. Stayed there the night and went to the pictures.
May 24th 1942
Left Geneifa at quarter-to-nine and flew to Base then to Gambut. Danny Boardman landed with me. We got here at about one o’clock.
May 25th 1942
I left for Geneifa with "I" at 1130 and landed at Base and had lunch there. Charles Coward and two others arrived while I was there. I left at ten-to-two for Geneifa where I arrived at three-fifteen. I left at five for Base and had tea there and left at seven-thirty for Gambut. Col Greaves told me that Gordon and I were promoted to Flight Sergeants. Mine dated back to Oct 7th and Gordon’s to Sept 11th.
May 26th 1942
We were bombed all night and at quarter-to-seven this morning, about ten Macchi 202s strafed up here and shortly after, four 88s escorted by six 109s, bombed Gambut Main. Twelve of our chaps were up and damaged all the 88s and the CO is missing still, though there is a possibility that he might have parachuted. Bombed Tmimi tonight - near miss on three 109s.
May 27th 1942
Push started today. Jerry made a move at twelve-thirty last night, and this morning he had a Panzer Division south west of El Adem. I went out at quarter-to-twelve with Geoff, Donald, Bray, and we bombed & strafed a supply column near Hachiem. My bomb landed near three trucks & trailers, and I strafed these after. This afternoon I led four more out - Kildey, Norman, Donald. We bombed some tanks & M/T and strafed isolated vehicles all the way back. Norman strafed some tanks & I am pretty sure he went in. Thomas force-landed & is believed prisoner & Clabburn is missing from one of these shows. Lew Spence tried to pick up Thomas & burst a tyre & crash-landed my plane on the drome here. Then W/C Meyers congratulated me on my report on movements & said it was a magnificent show. Very weary tonight and although we were bombed, didn’t worry much.
May 28th 1942
Some of the chaps were on at dawn, but I didn’t go. Went on standby at about nine o’clock and at twelve o’clock, I went off with Geoff, Vic & Mac. Geoff turned back & I took over. We found the Italian Panzer Div. after fifty minutes & bombed it. I got direct hit on truck & trailer.
This evening I went out with five others & we bombed & strafed a large concentration west of El Adem - got a direct hit on truck & damaged others.
Bombed again tonight, but no damage- getting almost used to it tonight.
May 29th 1942
Up early at four forty-five am but didn’t go out. At about twelve thirty, I led a four out to bomb the large concentration and we had 450 as close escort & 250 as top cover. We bombed first & then we all strafed. Saw three fires burning when we left. Hell of a lot of A/A. Thomas returned to squadron this morning & Clabburn walked in this evening. I went to the beach to sleep tonight with seven others, five of 450 were also down there.
May 30th 1942
Arrived back from beach at about nine o’clock and I took over from Lew Spence. We got a job about eleven with 42 and 450 & 250 as cover. I got a direct hit on six tanks and two trailers & started a fire. Nearly went in as I dropped my bomb at 200ft. The two of 250 as top cover were shot up by 109s and earlier Burkland was killed and Chas. McWilliams walked back. 450 lost four, but believe that two are safe. Tom Birney of 112 went in today. Also McBirney & Mursey of 450. Nicky Barr & McDiarmid are missing and two Kittyhawks were seen to go in. They were jumped by 109s as they went down to bomb & strafe.
May 31st 1942
I took over from Lew at about nine o’clock, and at about ten we were given a job to bomb & strafe SE of Lumimi with 112 Sqdn. I had to return as my prop came back into full course, & Reg Pfeiffer took over. They returned O.K. & at lunch-time we received news that Nicky Barr was over at Group - safe, so poor old MacDiamid must have gone in. This afternoon Geoff took a four out with eight of 112. Kildey got hit pretty badly with A/A & one of 112 Sqdn got a direct hit and went in. Nicky arrived back about two o’clock with Clive O’Day. 450 Sqdn lost Mick Thompson, & Dave Law & Lindsay are missing.
Nicky is new C.O. Geoff Chinchen is a F/Lt and Lew Spence has "B" flight. This afternoon Nicky told me that I was to go to Base for a while. I left at six with " H", the plane that Lew crash-landed in, and didn’t have any Altitude, Rate of Climb, or Airspeed Indicators. Had to force-land near WAHAS east of Musheifa as my coolant went right off the clock. Took the cowls off and didn’t find anything, so stayed the night with the South African engineers and left at seven the next morning. Landed here at Base at about seven forty-five.
The training flight pranged two planes here today. Did some censoring tonight, but couldn’t sleep very well as it was so hot. Tom Packer killed today with 450 Sqdn.
June 3rd 1942
Spent this morning at Base here, and at about two-thirty I flew to Baguish in a Kitty to catch the Lodestar but missed it and caught a Bombay at about quarter past four for Helio. Arrived there about six-thirty, and got a lift to Cairo with a Brigadier. Went and saw "Captain of the Clouds" tonight. Stayed at Minerva House.
June 4th 1942
Went to RAAF pay office and drew ten pounds. Met John Manford and we went to Alex. together by train. I stayed at Bonnard’s Hotel as Tomahawk House was full. Went to the pictures tonight.
June 5th 1942
Rang Dick Hart but he was out, and after lunch I went out to see Tommy Briggs, and on the way saw Dick Hart and he came out with me. We had a beer or two later and he went back to Blenheim. I went to pictures after.
June 6th 1942
Pottered around Alex and got a lift out to cross-roads and then got a lift to Baguish in an army truck. Arrived there about eight and Whitey came down and picked me up. Had a few beers and went to bed.
June 7th 1942
Went to Garawla to pick up new kite for 450 Sqdn. this afternoon. Five kites went up front this evening.
June 8th 1942
Took "H" up for test this morning, did a dive from 7000 to 1500 and when I pulled out felt something give in my back and must have torn a muscle I think, as it’s pretty sore. At lunch time went over to LG113 to fly a Kitty back from SAAF to here. Another prang in the training flight this morning - Sgt Ibbotson.
Heard tonight that Jack James has had it with 450 this afternoon. Wrote to Mum this evening and will write a note to Aud and Gran.
June 9th 1942
Just pottered around this morning. Charles Coward came down this morning. He is finished with ops with 175 Sorties and 230 op hours. Vic Watson came down from front and he told Gordon that I had been recommended for an immediate award of D.F.M. Dick Hickson came back to the Sqdn today.
June 10th 1942
Tested AK756 this morning and sent Sgt Asbo off on Kittyhawk O.R. This evening I left at about quarter to eight for Gambut, and arrived after dark.
June 11th 1942
Boys were bombing all day and Lew Spence was hit by A/A. I was helping Col draft a letter this afternoon regarding Wing Base. Was supposed to fly to near Martuba & back, but it was cancelled till tomorrow. Went to Wing and saw W/C Mayers.
June 12th 1942
Took off at 0600 hours and flew to 07 and back which took 1hr and 45 mins. When I arrived back found that Donk Bray was missing from first job and Lew had been shot up.
Also Stevens, a new chap, belly-landed with his bomb, but got away with it.
Went to Wing and reported on the test which was OK. Donk arrived back about twelve o’clock, having been shot down on fire by A/A and force-landed in a mine field, and blew half of his plane away. Jerry is getting pretty close as he is at Razegh. Reported that 100 plus were building up near Martuba and they think it might be for here. Spit got onto a Recce [German Reconnaissance aircraft] over the drome, but don’t know whether he got him or not.
June 13th 1942
Boys did a job early, but later a dust storm came up and nothing doing. 450 lost three more last night. Bill Halliday was one. Besti walked back last night. Charles Coward and I went to 250 for tea and stayed for the night.
June 14th 1942
Chas and I went back to squadron about eight thirty, boys were on recces and sweep, and later did some bombing. This evening Geoff Chinchen was shot down by Ack Ack and bailed out South of El Adem. A truck of what appeared to be Italians picked him up and he is presumably a P.O.W. B flight moved back to 75LG today. We all slept around the mess.
June 15th 1942
This afternoon I brought "N" back for prop-change; landed at 75 LG on the way. Arrived at Base at about seven thirty. Biden and the four sets arrived from Khartoum today.
June 16th 1942
Expected the CO down today but he did not arrive so far. Just pottered around today. There is to be a concert here on Thursday night. Ross Biden crash-landed NW of Gambut and his bomb exploded and he was killed. Ryan was also missing from the afternoon’s operation. Kildey got jumped by 109s twice.
June 17th 1942
I tested a Kittyhawk this morning and after lunch I tested another. Flew to 116 and landed, saw Phillips, Dee, but Joe Elliot was swimming. Rex Bailey came down this afternoon and said Hooke went this morning with Ack Ack. Lew Spence was shot up again and Donald was hit in the neck by a bullet and is off ops.
June 18th 1942
I tested a Kitty this morning and at lunchtime went to LG101 in the Harvard to pick up a pilot. Seven Wazis arrived to give a concert tonight. I went to Garrawla with Gordon in the Harvard. Dick Hart came back with him and I waited to pick up a Kittyhawk to fly back. This evening the CO came down and told me that I was to go back in the morning with him. I tested the new one in readiness for the morning. Got full tonight and went to the concert.
June 19th 1942
Left base at six- fifteen and when we reached 75LG couldn’t find the drome as there was a heavy fog. Eventually it cleared enough for us to land. I went on ‘readiness’ this afternoon, but no job, and at six o’clock, six of us took off to search for 15 officers and 100 men missing west of Magdalena but couldn’t find them and landed back at quarter to eight.
A Jerry came over about ten and dropped four bombs near the signal beacon.
June 20th 1942
Up at five thirty and went on ‘readiness’ with bombs. Came off at eight and had breakfast. Six were sent off at nine thirty to dive-bomb tanks. Yesterday Butch went "out" for a while. They could not find a target and brought their bombs back. At lunchtime, six of us went out to intercept Bostons returning from bombing Tobruk perimeter. We met two 109Fs and I had a squirt at one, no result though. Everyone back OK. Released for the afternoon. W/C Duncan and S/L Ferguson came over tonight.
June 21st 1942
Six were on ‘readiness’ at seven and were to bomb near Tobruk, but heard this morning that Germans had broken into Tobruk. 112 Squadron lost one this morning bombing Sidi Aziez. At eleven thirty Chas Coward took five out to bomb Aziez. Richie was hit slightly by A/A. This evening I led six of ours out to do top cover to Bostons bombing Sidi Aziez. Bombing was good - two fires resulted - no A/A seen, and eventually three of us returned together. Had sing-song tonight outside the mess.
June 22nd 1942
Heard today that 25,000 [Allied] prisoners had been taken in Tobruk – bad show - things are not too good. Wonder what in hell is our army trying to do - lose the war? I went on at about twelve with Lew Spence, but we were released until five. Bombed tonight but no damage.
June 23rd 1942
Up at eight o’clock and didn’t do a job until this afternoon, when six of us did medium cover to Bostons bombing near Galer Salek. We carried bombs and bombed after the Bostons. No E/A sighted but bombing was just fair. This afternoon we packed up and got ready to leave, and about five o’clock, fifteen Ju88s and nine 109s came over and dive bombed the railway near 075. We left a quarter to eight and went about half way to Matrah. Broke back axle of glass-house. Got on a truck of ours and reached LG 102 at half past one in the morning. As we came through Matrah there was an air raid in progress. Slept in open tonight.
June 24th 1942
This morning I flew to 07 to Group Headquarters to find out the latest information for Wing. Got back at quarter to eleven and shortly after a "shuftee" went over very high.
Nicky , Kildey, Boardman and Fox were out on a recce, when they were jumped by six 109s and four G50’s. Fox was shot down and killed and Kil. was shot up. Nicky got a G50 and Danny a 109 while Kil. got a probable 109.
June 25th 1942
On early job this morning and did a recce with bombs to west of Mushiefa and G75. Saw hell of a lot of Jerry stuff in large concentration with signs of a tank scrap near one. Bombed large M/T concentration and got direct hit on three trucks and started a large oil fire. Later on went out again and bombed a Jerry column near the railway S/W of 07 LG. Then did a recce of the Barrani road and got caught in a nasty bunch of A/A. Saw a 112 Sqdn Kitty down on its wheels near the railway but no pilot about. This evening Nicky, myself and Hooke were medium cover to nine Bostons with bombs. The Boston bombing wasn’t so hot and I didn’t see how my bomb went although it was in the target area and I must have frightened a few gents if nothing else. Gibby came back today.
June 26th 1942
Did top cover with bombs to the Bostons and again couldn’t see much result for the bombing. Nicky was shot down by a 109F this morning and bailed out, landing near a Jerry column and must be a Prisoner of War if they didn’t harm him - sincerely hope so as they had been bombed and strafed continuously for two days.
Came back from second op. as couldn’t stick any longer. Am nervous as hell and went and saw Doc as I felt pretty crook. He gave me some dope and I had a lie-down for a while but couldn’t sleep. Gibby took over command temporarily.
Some Ju88s came over tonight and bombed and strafed. One bloke got right into our dispersal area and had flares right over our tents. No damage though a Hurry IIC [Cannon-armed Hurricane] got a burst into one and he went in, in flames, about two miles away.
June 27th 1942
Moved out this morning to Daba. The boys did a recce and landed back at 106LG. I came down in the Zephyr with Gibby and Bullwinkel also a S.A.A.F. Lieut who was shot down by four 109s near 102 and we picked him up. Got to 106 about twelve and flew ET911 to base for repairs. Undercart wouldn’t retract. Vic Curtis is also off ops with me and we arrived at base at about four and then Whitey took us to Alex. Got back about one o’clock.
June 28th 1942
Whitey flew myself and Forsyth to 53 R.S.V. to pick up two Kittyhawks. I flew an ET job [aircraft serial 'ET..."] back and it was a beauty. They are Kittyhawk Mark IIs with teardrop tanks and carry a 500 lb American bomb.
This afternoon Gordon and I flew over the Delta area looking for a track to the Delta road. We landed at 247 Wing near the Suidwak Canal to find out the route for convoys.
June 29th 1942
Flew to Geneifa (107) to pick up some oxygen charging tubes and got mucked around no end. These pommies are the most inefficient, ignorant mugs I’ve ever come across. Had lunch there and had to have a complete plug change as the engine just about fell out when I ran up. Went to Alex with Danny Boardman and some of the boys when I got back. The planes all came back tonight from 106LG near Daba as Jerry is near Sidi Haneish.
June 30th 1942
Flew to Rear Air H.Q. for information re transport for squadrons. This afternoon Whitey and I flew to Aboukir to get Vic’s and my kit as the C.O. told us we were being posted home. Couldn’t get our kits as we were too late, so went to Alex and spent night there. Curfew eight o’clock is in force there now. A.I.F 9th Div came today with the N.Zs.
July 1st 1942
Up early and went to Aboukir by taxi which broke down half way, but we eventually arrived there and got our kit and left for base. I collected all my kit and said goodbye to the chaps there and left about eleven for LG222 not far from the pyramids which I flew over on the way. This afternoon Lew, Butch and self went into Cairo.
July 6th 1942
Went to HQ ME this morning and found that our commissions haven’t even reached there yet. Also that there is a likelihood of a boat about Wednesday or Thursday. I wrote a note to Whitey and sent it out by F/LT Woodward. This afternoon I went to the pictures. This evening went to a show with Lee and Kingston and a couple of their friends.
July 7th 1942
Went shopping with Lew, Butch and Vic this morning. Had haircut this afternoon and read for a while. May be moving out to Pool [Camp for Unallocated Aircrew] tomorrow morning. Lee and Kingston are going out to Helwan this afternoon. Ted Tunbridge and Doc came down this afternoon and Lew, Butch and myself went out to Middle East with them in a Lincoln Zephyr, which Ted borrowed from Bruce Shipiro the Land Agent in Cairo. Afterwards we went out to his place for dinner. He has a beautiful flat and gave us a very nice evening. We left about eleven and went back to the N.Z. Club. Lew, Butch and I went round to the Junior Officers’ Club to tell Dick Hart that we were going to the Pool tomorrow by train.
July 8th 1942
Up at six thirty and packed our kit into a taxi and went down to the station and caught the train at seven fifteen for Ismalia where we arrived at quarter to eleven. Left there after changing trains for Kasfaret at eleven twenty and arrived at Kasfaret about 1330 hours. Eventually a truck arrived from the Pool and we went up on it. I am in a tent with Butch, Lew & Dick and there is a chance that there may be something in the wind tomorrow as the Aquitania was in today and we may catch her to Durban. Went to an open-air picture show tonight and saw "The Private Life of Henry the Eighth".
July 9th 1942
Lazy this morning. Went down to 107 M.U. with Lew, ’ Butch’, Dick and John Dupont. Had a beer or two and then had lunch in the officers’ mess. It was a fair dish too. Came back after lunch and went down again this evening. I had tea in Sgts’ mess and then went to the pictures. Came back to the tent and the others arrived about half an hour later. Dick Hart went to Cairo by Boston this afternoon to get our papers hurried up.
July 10th 1942
Had another laze in this morning and then had a shave. John Dupont is going tomorrow, but I don’t know whether we will be going or not. It sure is hot here. Dick came back about four thirty and said my commission is OK. No news of a boat though as they are evacuating some women and children.
July 11th 1942
John Dupont left this morning and after lunch I went down to 107MU to try and get a lift to Cairo. Was lucky as one of the U.S. Army Douglases was going to Helio and I got a lift on that. Arrived at Helio about four and got a taxi in to the Middle East, but Bayles wasn’t there, and I had to come back. Later, after I had seen him, I went round to the Grand and found Danny Boardman and McLelland walking out so I went round to Tommie’s Bar with them and we stayed there about an hour. Then went back to the Grand and had a few drinks and then went to bed.
July 12th 1942
Up at about eight and had breakfast. Then went round to the Junior Officers’ Club to see Vic and collected my laundry. Then Danny and I started on our way out to base where we eventually arrived at about twelve. I had lunch and then left in a Kitty for 107MU for engine change. It was very sick and it took all the aerodrome to get off, but eventually made it. Arrived at 107 about three o’clock and shot up our tent in Camp 55. John Manford came in shortly after I arrived back at camp and Lew and Butch went to Ismalia with him for the night. Dick and I went to pictures tonight.
July 13th 1942
Just lazed about and Butch and Lew came back this afternoon. Went to pictures tonight.
July 14th 1942
Sgt. Kobrey came out to pick me up and take me into Cairo, as we had to go back up front about our commissions. We went to Ismalia and Kahtara on the way in and arrived in Cairo about eight thirty.
July 15th 1942
Went out to base this morning and this afternoon. Whitey and I flew two Kittyhawks up front. I had a forced landing about six miles south of the aerodrome. Sheered the rotor on the port distributor but managed to get down OK. McRae [Engineering Officer] and some Fitters came down and fixed it up and I got to the drome about six. Whitey had gone to Alex. with Gibby, so I stayed and had a few drinks with the boys. Slept in my CO’s tent with Chas Coward and Ken Springhett.
July 16th 1942
Bayles arrived up today about one o’clock and in the afternoon we went over to see W/C Mayers about our commissions. This evening I went to Alex. with Gordon and Vic Watson and went and saw "Million Dollar Baby". Gibby got the D.F.C today.
July 17th 1942
Whitey and I left about three o’clock for base. I flew ET1017 which got shot up this morning and Gordon flew the Hart. I went to town to try and see Boyles but was too late. Stayed at the Grand and went to bed early.
July 18th 1942
Went back to base this morning and Vic Curtis came out too. I flew a Kittyhawk to 107M.U. late this afternoon and got to camp about eight and went to pictures with Lew, Butch and Dick.
July 19th 1942
Went to Port Tewfik - Suez this morning and had lunch there at the Internationale Club and got back about four.
July 20th 1942
Just lazed around the camp today and went to pictures tonight.
July 21st 1942
Same as yesterday except that I was Orderly Officer today.
July 22nd 1942
Lazy day again - went to pictures per usual but had an air raid alarm at interval so came back to camp.
July 23rd 1942
Dick Hart and I went to the Pool to sign a few vouchers as witnessing officers and saw Bayles driving past as we went down, and saw him again as we were returning, but he didn’t stop. Went to pictures again tonight. It was announced in yesterday’s newspapers about Gibby’s award of the D.F.C. About time too. I wonder if my recommendations went through.
July 24th 1942
Another lazy day, wish the boat would hurry up. It is getting a bit monotonous here. Wonder how much longer to wait. Went to pictures again as per usual - had an alarm half way through.
July 25th 1942
Went down to the Pool this morning and met a couple of Australian Sgts waiting to go home. I drew out my remaining FE7 so hope to God that it is not too much longer to wait. Went to pictures tonight and were turned away because we were not wearing slacks. I came back and changed and went on my own.
July 26th 1942
Another day of just waiting.
July 27th 1942
Butch, Vic and Dick went to Cairo this morning. I walked down to the Pool with them and then went over to 107 M.U. and had a look at a "Marauder" which they have there. Went to pictures tonight.
July 28th 1942
Slept and read all day. Had a sun bath this afternoon and went to pictures tonight.
July 29th 1942
Same as yesterday.
July 31st 1942
Lew, Butch, Vic and Dick came back from Cairo this afternoon and Vic had two letters for me from Mum. We went to the pictures tonight and saw "Merrily We Live". There doesn’t seem to be any move in sight yet. Believe that the Australian term of service over here has been extended to eighteen months to two years. We were lucky in getting posted before it came into force.
August 1st 1942
Dick and Vic went to the Pool this morning and came back with a story that there may be a boat in about three days. Went to pictures again tonight and saw "She’s Got Everything".
August 2nd 1942
Just loafed around again. No news - went to pictures again and saw "Oklahoma Kid".
August 3rd 1942
Jock and I went down to 107 M.U. and got some magazines to read. Went to pictures again tonight.
August 4th 1942
Read nearly all day, went to pictures again.
August 5th 1942
Same as yesterday. Lew, Vic and John went down to the Lido this afternoon.
August 6th 1942
Went down to the Pool this morning to do Witnessing Officer at Pay Parade. Lew, John and myself paid out about nine hundred pounds. We heard today that we will be going Sunday or Monday. No pictures tonight as it was for coloured troops only.
August 7th 1942
Vic went to Port Said this morning. I put a few buttons on my trousers and did a bit of sewing as well.
August 8th 1942
Heard today that we are leaving on Tuesday. Vic came back from Port Said this afternoon. We went to pictures tonight.
August 9th 1942
Another day of rest. Went to pictures again. Heard that W/C Mayers is missing some time back.
August 10th 1942
Received notice today that we are all to go to Pool tomorrow for pay, so looks like something may be happening.
August 11th 1942
Went down to Pool , I drew 15 Pounds (English) for voyage money, but something cropped up and things are still in the air. Received seven letters from Betty and a parcel of Bulletins from Gran. Col Gabbet brought them down.
August 12th 1942
Didn’t get away after all as they split the draft and we were taken off it. The English draft are still going by the Stratheden.
August 13th 1942
The U.K. draft left this morning and once again we are left behind. God only knows how long this is going to happen.
August 14th 1942
Went to Ismalia this morning and walked around the shops and then went to United Services Club for lunch and Vic, Lew and Butch went swimming. We left about five and got back to camp about six fifteen. Went to pictures tonight.
August 15th 1942
Still waiting, went to pictures again.
August 16th 1942
Dick Hart came back from Cairo this afternoon. M.E. think that we went on the last boat. He saw Gibby, Dixie, Chapman and Gordon White in Cairo and Whitey said our commissions haven’t reached M.E. yet. Believe the 28th Battalion AIF was completely wiped out at Tel el Eissa. They have suffered very heavy casualties. Col Gabbet, Ernie Kott and Ron Stevenson came up this morning. There is a rumour floating around that there may be something tomorrow. Here’s hoping anyhow.
August 17th 1942
Still nothing doing. Lew, Butch and Vic went to Cairo.
August 18th 1942
Went down to Pool and drew another fiver and Max told us that it might be the twentieth.
August 19th 1942
Once again it is all a myth. Pictures again tonight. Lew and Butch arrived about 12 o’clock tonight.
August 20th 1942
Vic arrived back this morning. Got three letters from Bet and one from Nada Johnston, a cousin who is with V.A.D.s at 7th A.G.H. [Australian General Hospital]. Heard that Norman has been confirmed as prisoner of war. He must have been thrown clear when he crashed. Heard also that Al Rawlinson had been killed in Australia. Spun in in a Wirraway.
[Editor's Note: In fact, Rawlinson was not killed.]
August 21st 1942
Well tomorrow is the day and Salter came down from Cairo today. Went up to the officers’ shop to get some cigarettes and brought 1000 DuMaurier. Had a few drinks tonight and went to bed early, as we are being called at four.
August 22nd 1942
Up at four o’clock and got all our kit ready and had breakfast at five. Left at five thirty and arrived at Suez about six forty five. We went down to the docks and found that we were going on the New Zealand Star, a boat of about 12,500 tons. They told us we would not be going until the following day so we went back into Suez and had morning tea at the Grand Hotel. Pip Hiller was there also, having just arrived from Cairo. We went to the Club Internationale for lunch at Tewfik and went back to Suez at about four o’clock. John Manford came down to see Lew as he is going to England with Rose. We brought home some beer and went back to the boat at six o’clock. Went to bed about nine as was pretty tired.
August 23rd 1942
The A.I.F. came aboard at five thirty and at eight o’clock we moved away from the dock with two tugs pulling us. And so we said goodbye to Egypt where the first word the young learn is "Buksheel" or "piastre"
August 24th, 25th
In the Red Sea.
August 26th 1942
In the Red Sea, passed Perim at about midday and at about six thirty sighted Aden but did not go in as it was dark. Cruised around all night.
August 27th 1942
Entered Aden just after dawn and travelled in through the boom and moored alongside an oil refuelling point. There was a convoy of approx. thirty ships waiting in the harbour and all told must have been over 100 vessels. At ten minutes to six we started to move out and by dark we were well on our way.
August 28th 1942
At sea. This evening we ran into the monsoons and sea began to get pretty rough. Blackout officer tonight.
August 29th 1942
Most of our cabin are cot cases. It is extremely rough and has turned quite cool. Butch is pretty bad.
August 30th 1942
Sea calmed down somewhat this morning. Very cloudy and cool. Must be nearing equator about now and it is nothing like one would expect in this region.
August 31st 1942
Still a heavy swell. The old ship certainly rolls being so lightly loaded, still cool with some rain. Crossed the equator this evening tho’ you wouldn’t believe it.
September 1st 1942
Well, this time last year we were on board the Queen Elizabeth in Sydney Harbour and moved out to Jervis Bay that evening. Now we are on our way home and are somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Little did one think a year ago what the following year would bring forth and the many experiences that would eventuate.
September 2nd 1942
Marjorie’s birthday today. Still rolling along in the Indian ocean and it has been clouded over all day. I am orderly officer today.
September 3rd 1942
Played bridge all day.
September 4th 1942
I took over as blackout officer tonight. There was a slight scare this evening as a light was seen flashing on our bow. Heard this evening that a boat which came out of Aden twelve hours after us was torpedoed off Cape Guadalaupe by an enemy submarine.
September 5th 1942
Up at five o’clock this morning to put the look-out picquets on. Was very cold and was raining heavily. Later it cleared up and was very clear and sunny.
September 11th 1942
Awakened at six o’clock and found we were within sight of West Australia. Anchored off the mouth of the Swan at about nine thirty. Then came the bad news - we were not getting off. Lew Spence and L.A.C. Heaton managed to get put off with six A.I.F. chaps. I got ashore with the captain and O.C. ship and rang Betty from the Embarkation Office. She came from Maylands by taxi and I met her outside the dock gates at twelve-fifteen and we strolled down to the beach and stayed there until half past one when I had to leave to catch the boat back at quarter to two. Finally got back on board about four thirty-five and we started to move out .
We talked over the question of getting married and all are waiting to see if I can get posted back to Western Australia.
September 12th 1942
Raining and very rough heading south. Cold.
September 13th 1942
Still very rough and windy heading due east. Cold.
September 14th 1942
Still heading east, must be near off South Australia. Cold.
September 15th 1942
Calmer today and still heading east
September 16th 1942
Passed through Bass Strait.
September 17th 1942
Had cross-sea and ship rolled badly.
September 18th 1942
Arrived in Sydney. We were off the heads at eight o’clock and finally berthed at about nine thirty. Got off ship at about eleven and went to Woolloomooloo Recruit Depot and then to Area Finance where we got paid. Went to station and got rid of our kit and caught train at ten to nine.
September 19th 1942
Arrived in Melbourne at two fifteen and went out to Kingfold.
September 20th 1942
Saw Cis and family and also Aunt Edie.
September 21st 1942
Caught boat at two for Burnie Tas. and George came down with me.
September 22nd 1942
Arrived at Burnie at five this morning. Raining heavily. Caught train and Mum and Dad met me at Westbury. Went to Launceston and that evening gave a talk to ATC [Air Training Corps] at High School.
September 23rd 1942
Went to Hobart, saw Audrey.
September 24th 1942
Returned home to St Helens at about five o’clock.
September 26th 1942
Dad received cable from Air Board to say I had been awarded the D.F.M.
Monday 21st December 1942
Married to Betty May Hunt at Christchurch, South Yarra, Melbourne at 1115hrs.
Reception given by George Barnes at Oriental Hotel.
Jan 6th 1943
Vic Curtis killed in Wirraway with Sgt Simpkin.
Subsequent to Dad's Diary Entries:
Following his arrival back in Australia, my father was posted to No.2 OTU as a flying instructor at Mildura for approximately two years, during which time he also did some testing for the Air Force.
One of the items tested was an asbestos Anti-G Suit, which proved ineffective; the test of which resulted in a back injury, which was to cause him problems in later life.
On 5th Jan 1944 he was attached to 35 Squadron and subsequently was involved in transport and flying C47As around Australia, leaving from and returning to Pearce in WA (except that from August 1944, his flight log records the flights leaving from and returning to Guildford instead of Pearce).
At that point my mother was living in Mt Lawley, WA , where I was born 1st March 1944 at nearby St Anne’s Hospital.
In March 1945, my father was discharged from the Air Force to resume civilian life and the family returned to St Helens, Tasmania, where he participated in the Thompson family businesses, driving the tourist & mail bus run out of St Helens. My sister Dianne was born during this period on 21st April 1947.
Subsequently the family businesses were sold and the whole family moved to Mowbray, Launceston, where my parents bought a milk bar and confectionery business, similar to a general store. A few years later they sold the business and returned to WA to live at 10 Banksia Tce in South Perth. My brother Craig was born on 7th October 1950, and at this time my father was working as a tester motor mechanic with Winterbottom Motor Co in Perth, a car dealership for English cars such as Austin, Morris, etc. He worked with them for over 25 years, whilst also working as a bar steward at Chesterton Lodge Reception Centre in South Perth. My mother was also the catering supervisor for them during this period of time.
My parents subsequently built a new home at 91 Dyson St, South Perth in the early 50s, which remained the family home until my mother passed away in 1998.
The discovery of the diary, photographs and documents has left us with a regret that we did not get to talk about those times and the family history more whilst they were alive. I know my father was very reluctant to talk about his war service as he considered it something that just had to be done and always said that there was no glory in war, only ordinary people doing their best, and trying to stay alive to come out of it at the other end.
There was a comment of his, a notation in his diary that reads:
"Wonder if I will see Aussie again. Will just have to hope and trust in God."
Which is probably indicative of every Serviceman’s thoughts at some time during active service.
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