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"At Work." - Colin Faehse with a Kittyhawk and pilot (possibly Frank Schaff).
Western Desert c.1942.
Colin Faehse, my dad, was born at the Gawler Hospital, in rural South Australia, on August 10th 1916. He and his four sisters were the fourth generation of a successful German immigrant farming family, his father's farm being near Roseworthy. In 1924 his father sold his farm to invest in "Cliveden", a grand guest house at the Adelaide seaside resort suburb of Glenelg. Unfortunately the venture failed, as did the 30-foot yacht that followed - ending its life on a sandbar off Robe.
The family fell on hard times and some of the children were split up, going to various relatives around rural South Australia. In 1926 his reduced family moved to Cummins on the West Coast (Eyre Peninsula) where Colin's father share-farmed part of his brother’s farm. Colin and his sister Clair attended the school at Yallanda Flat. With the depression in 1927, wheat fell from one pound a bag to just two shillings and seven pence halfpenny, making farming no longer viable. Unfortunately his parents' marriage didn't survive these turmoils. His father headed for Victoria and Colin moved again, this time with his mother, firstly to Mitcham in Adelaide and then on to Berri in rural South Australia.
In 1929 Colin left school to work for an orchardist / mixed-block farmer. As Colin described it many years later...
"Citrus, pears, vines, pigs, hot house tomatoes, 100 bee hives... A busy time all year and a good education in practical ways..."
Getting restless in 1932 and aged only 16 he took off on his bike, working his way via Mildura to the Mallee country and into Victoria, as far as Ballarat earning 10 shillings a week sewing wheat bags, shearing and digging potatoes. He later recalled this time very fondly, not as a privation but as a carefree lifestyle. After some time with his father in Melbourne in a men's boarding house he returned to Adelaide in 1933.
Now things finally looked up, as Colin was taken in by his well-off maiden grand-aunt Anne, who lived in the family home built by his great-grandfather Johanis Faehse. Located in the suburb of Glen Osmond in Adelaide, this charming Victorian villa, complete with billiard room, tennis court and orchards, must have been a step up from digging spuds! (I have fond memories of this house, unfortunately now demolished, where I spent my early years. It’s now the site of The Sands Motor-Inn on Glen Osmond road.)
He got on well with his grand-aunt, and in exchange for maintaining the tennis court and garden plus providing an extra bridge and tennis partner, he was allowed the use of the garage, plus meals. The job that he got a at Holden's car factory in Woodville involved metal work, riding his bike there 5½ days a week. This can't have been to his liking, as in 1934 Anne bought a D.X. Vauxhall motor car from United Motors, on the provision that they give Colin a job!
Anne took a trip to Germany in 1936, while Colin stayed at Glen Osmond enjoying his late teens, driving around Adelaide and, by then, working for Freeman Motors as a driver and truck salesman.
But in 1939... WAR!
Colin enlisted as Trainee Rigger and in January 1940 was at Melbourne Showgrounds. Training postings included Laverton and Point Cook in Victoria, Naromine in New South Wales and Port Pirie and Mallala in South Australia. He qualified as Fitter AC1 in January 1942. It was in Melbourne that he met my mother Zita, and the diary begins with them together in Port Augusta (S.A.).
A FEW NOTES ABOUT THIS TRANSCRIPT
Written in a tiny notebook, 15cm x 9cm, in tiny script and often under difficult conditions, it was not easy to transcribe. Some words have defied our best efforts to interpret them. The largest portion of the diary was written in 1942, the momentous first year of Colin’s overseas service, with almost as much in 1943, and entries falling away for ’44 and ’45, as his tour of duty dragged on.
To help make sense of it all, I’ve been very thankful for the great body of literature that exists about 3 Squadron’s WW2 experience. Two excellent books: “3 Squadron at War” (published 1959 by Wing Commander John Watson and Louis Jones); and “Desert Warriors” (published in 2000 by Russell Brown); were invaluable, as were the transcripts of diaries similar to Colin's, particularly Tommy Jones's diary, as transcribed by Margaret Deacon, as well as transcriptions of interviews and other first-hand accounts, all published on the 3 Squadron website. From these I’ve been able to get clues to the meaning of partially-illegible words, as well as place names and the names of pilots and other personnel. I’ve corrected the spelling of names and places where accurate ones were available, and added some extra detail about the incidents and characters involved. I've also quoted Tommy Jones' diary and dad's tent-mate Allen Wand's interview (on 3SQN website) to help explain certain incidents. Hopefully this helps in understanding the narrative.
Colin also carried a small photo album, which he filled with his (and his mates') snaps. Some shots he mailed home to Zita with arch comments on the back. These prints are tiny and didn't look like much. However, when scanned at high resolution, a trove of evocative images were revealed.
It’s obvious that Colin did not have publication in mind when he wrote this. I think it was partially to keep a record of his personal experience in this extraordinary period of his life, but more importantly, as another link with the bride he had to leave behind. It is she he is "talking" to, perhaps in case he “bought it” and the diary was returned to her. Therefore the account is a rather personal and introspective one. Rather than a detailed description of everyday work, it's more about his feelings - a reflection of his loneliness and frustration at being separated for so long from his new family. (Of course, many others were in the same position, on both sides of the conflict.)
Writing these inner feelings down appears to have been cathartic and brought him some comfort.
(Content Warning: The diary does include some criticism of other 3SQN personalities and a few curses and ethnic epithets which would not be used today. These have been left in. - We hope that readers can view them in their historical context.)
After the war, Colin was rightly very proud of his service, and of 3 Squadron. He was secretary of the South Australian 3 Squadron Association for many years. In notes he left, he wrote that he, “had a good war,” and kept in touch with various tent-mates for years. I remember we always got a Christmas card from "Stork”!
As a first-hand account, this deserves to be on the public record, both to add to the historical archive and as a tribute to my dad, Colin Faehse.
Everything in (brackets) is added by the transcriber.
Some explanations of abbreviations and nicknames will be obvious, to those who know the history and the era. But for those who don’t, I hope it helps.
The first page of Colin's Diary...
A challenge for code-breakers!
1942 - FEBRUARY
13th February 1942
Woe is me.
Happy at Port Augusta with Zita when fatal message arrives.
Back to Melbourne then away.
16th February 1942
Arrived 1.E.D. (No. 1 Embarkation Depot at Ascot Vale.)
17th February 1942
Happiest day of my life at Christ Church South Yarra. (Colin and Zita are married, just six weeks before he leaves for overseas.)
Followed by 18th-26th leave.
26th February 1942
Back to 1.E.D.
A.W.L. (Absent Without Leave) every day. Good time Gall.
27th February 1942
Big route march. The usual Inshu. (Meaning unknown.)
1st-12th March 1942
Happy days with Zita. Sublimely happy in a constant fear of the worst.
13th March 1942
It has come. Off to Laverton.
Much excitement of P40 ’39’ etc. (P-40 is the Curtiss American made Kittyhawk fighter plane.) Off in Jeeps every day and more happy times with Zita.
18th March 1942
The worst has happened. Back to Laverton today and lo! ...All had flown! Back to Adelaide.
Hard farewell to my darling Zita and off back to 4 E.D (Embarkation Depot Adelaide)
What a farce!! Awful week of indecision. Hell on earth - everything but the one thing that mattered, my darling Zita.
26th March 1942
Happy day. Word from my darling Zita she is coming tomorrow (over from Melbourne to Adelaide). Thank God. Hope we won’t go till then. I won’t anyway come what may.
27th March 1942
I rushed to meet train. My darling Zita arrived 9.30 sight for my weary eyes... Beautiful.
I hunted room, finished up at Sunshine. Delightful spot down bay. (Guest House "Sunshine" on South Esplanade at Glenelg.)
Had glorious reunion!!! and lunch and strolled sands perfectly happy again. A few spots and tea and back to heaven in my darling Zita's arms. The happiest and saddest day of all. (Their first child was conceived this night, just a week before he sails!)
28th March 1942
It has come at last. Had to kiss my darling Zita and run away madly before I saw tears coming, and if I had waited another second I would have weakened and not gone at all. Wish I had not a 1000 times already. Back to 4 E.D... Much hustle and ado, rang my darling Zita up but she had gone... No time to ring Aileen. Down to port and aboard E.P. (Eastern Princess)
What a hell hole, renamed "Altmark" (after the notorious ship). Apt too.
Out to oil wharf and first excitement has worn off. Bit sorry for ourselves... and how!!!
29th March 1942
Still aboard and shore leave from 2-7. Rushed madly to town and phone but alas my darling had this morning departed for big smoke D.D.D. (Damn damn damn?) SM and self so disgruntled we returned to old "Altmark". Wrote frantic letter, hoping for a reply by 2nd April.
APRIL - 2nd April 1942
Moved off "A" (Altmark) at last to "D" (the Dilwarra, a purpose built troopship). Dark shift and all madly rushing hither and thither. Alas! no word from darling Zita. Hope to God she is OK.
3rd April 1942
Up and away at long last. Out past bay and last glimpse of Sunshine (Guesthouse) though specs. Oh! happy day seems so near so far. All my thoughts are with darling Zita. God watch over her and keep her safe and loving me always.
Very rough out past K.I. (Kangaroo Island) and started a Perk Pool (betting on who would be the last to get seasick) at our mess. Westerly howling and a few weighed in already. Am OK so far (many men seasick as the sea was particularly rough).
Settled down to routine. Good clean ship spoiled by "Py" B'... see trouble ahead. Much Pontoon. Getting out of the red. All my thoughts always with my darling Zita. How I love her!
4th-23rd April 1942
At sea very boring except duty hours and best spent dreaming of my love. Highlights... Concert, good and only 6 left in Perk Club. Very rough first 4 days but sun and warmer ever since. Have real tan up and mou (moustache) grown wild. Have written and thought of my darling Zita.
Hope she is doing same. Oh how I hope!
Colin at sea. Spotting for submarines.
"Yours truly reposing. Billy Butters 'On Alert'?"
23rd April 1942
Wonderful sight of the Battle Fleet coming out of the mist at 6.30. (The Dilwarra has sailed unescorted from Adelaide to Colombo.) 2 a.c. (aircraft carriers) and 18 sundries (convoy escort ships) with us to C. anchorage (Columbo, Ceylon; now Sri Lanka). Anchored 1 mile out. Town and wavy palms look very inviting and fresh fruit P. and B. (pineapples and bananas?) etc. very good and the bum boats (small native boats bringing out the fruit) a novelty. Much dickering (bartering).
24th-28th April 1942
It's on again. Five days damn monotony... (No leave granted.) God knows why. Anchored all time wanting to get ashore to cable my beloved all safe but no go. I see trouble ahead.
Tried to get boys to swim ashore but no go. I'll do something desperate soon. Darling how I miss you!!
28th April 1942
Moved into harbour at last and the fatal word has gone round. NO leave!! Oh Yeah!
Led and demanded but still no!! (Colin seems to have been willing to step forward to argue for the rights of the men!) Oh Yeah!!
Had swim against orders and that was stopped so L and self grabbed boat followed by 23 others and so ashore damn the "P" Bs (Pongo [Army Officers] Bastards) anyway.
Got cable away to my darling and rickshaw ride and some sights and back to boat about 11. Changed money at G.O.H. (Grand Oriental Hotel - iconic building still in the heart of Colombo.)
Big stink but the boys are with us and only a few fatigues (punishment cleaning duties) the result. Worth a thousand to cable my darling Zita. How I miss her and how!! I'll never leave her again!
29th April 1942
Up anchor and away again to high seas and still hot and calm. In convoy with six ships.
All very quiet. Few Huns about (German commerce-raiding ships) but no Japs.
Think God must be watching over us. God bless and keep her safe for me. Darling I love you so!!
Boring hot trip. Very brown now and very homesick for my darling. Still writing and praying for some word of her. God please soon.
3rd May 1942
Arrived "B" (Bombay, India) and anchored outside again. No funny business this time.
4th May 1942
Per ferry and hoof to Colabar camp. Don't like smells of India much, but many fascinating and novel sights to see. Paid in Rupees and off to Bombay to see the sights with the gang. Posted letters and cable to Zita and sight-seeing snatched... back 9.30.
5th May 1942
Last day at Colabar. Bought presents and posted to Zita. Still no word from her. Looks like I'll have to wait till get (to) 3 Squadron. Damn the luck. If only she was here to help me enjoy all this how happy I would be. God, I love her more than life itself. Hope she's still true to me!!!
Much snapping (photos). Mongoose v. Snake (street performance of a mongoose killing a cobra, seen also by Tommy Jones), cages (prostitutes in booths?), Mosques etc. Good day in all with boys. Much loot left in markets and bazaars.
6th May 1942
Away from Colabar and straight in to Varela (transport ship) with Celonese, Ghurkas and Sikhs. A real hell-ship this and what stinks!
Lo' a bit of a riot resulting in Celonese being booted off.
Could have got off ourselves, only wet "B's" (bastards) would not stick, so now are for it.
(According to Tommy Jones diary:
"Thursday 7 May 1942 …woken about 5.30am.
Boys found cookhouse so filthy they refused to draw breakfast.
Parade in lifejackets but they were so lousy men refused to don them.
Officer Commanding Troops ordered them on, but troops told him to get ____.
- Big stink followed, signals sent ashore and an AIF (Australian Imperial Force) Captain was sent aboard. He agreed conditions unsuitable and we were asked whether we would go ashore, or stay on ship and send Ceylon boys off. We decided on latter and ship immediately sailed. The convoy had been held up 3 hours. Our own cooks are now in cook house.")
7th May 1942
Out to sea again convoy of seven. Sing song jam evening and best hours when spotting alone and left to dream of my beloved darling getting further away. I love her more every day by God!! Food short I'll say. Biscuits... 3 for tea. They'll be sorry!! Life belt mutiny (see above). Two-up for Rupees. Lectures by Indians daily and concert party unique and interesting.
Ivan down with Tinea, "S" with flu and everybody hot and mad. I said they'd be sorry!! God darling miss her I love you. Wrote 70th page (of letters home) today!
14th May 1942
Aden hove into sight today, a horrid place. All frowning cliffs and crags and barren of all vegetation. Coaling today.
The worst has happened. Small Pox aboard. In quarantine. Big stink about coal. The slave trade is certainly still going here. Filthy Arabs wretched creatures. Hot as hell and once more led the boys into the drink. Firmly established as the "fearless one" now. (Colin's reputation as someone who will speak up and take action.) If they only knew how homesick I am for my darling beloved Zita. No hope of getting cable away now damn.
Air Power busy overhead "Cats" (Catalinas) Hurrys (Hurricanes) etc. Also Navy and coppers (Military Police?) busy. Food getting low but who cares!
Should see some action soon thank God! Hope my fortune man from Bombay was O.K. and I am home soon and safe. My darling my need for you grows daily. How I love you darling Zita.
15th May 1942
Watered till noon and away while lunching. Watched camel trains and red headed nigs in dhows till we sail round into the Red Sea. Through the narrows all horrid frowning barren hills and howling nigs. If I never see another howling haggling rumming (?) nig it'll be too soon. Oh d. Z. I'd give anything to be decently cold again sitting before a fire with you. Oh happy memories!! Stifling heat. Bored to tears.
16th May 1942
Well up R.S. (Red Sea) occasional tramp (steamer) and island peaks but still simmering. Sharks, dolphins etc. Bit of ack ack (anti-aircraft fire) rather boring. Ice cream and pudding to chagrin of "George"(?). Sleeping disturbed by dreams of my darling Zita for I love her more each day. Small Pox inspection daily so far O.K.
Luck out. Given gambling away.
Beautiful sunsets behind the mountainous crags of the shores of Red Sea. Closing in on either side won't be long now I think. Darling Zita if you were only here now I would be quite happy I am sure. I love you.
Armed freighter and Arab dhow.
ARRIVE CAIRO - on to Sidi Haneish
19th May 1942
Pulled into Tewfik (Port) this morning and away to transit camp Cairo before dinner. Good feed and mucked about and to pictures "I was an Adventuress". Wog beer and “Biscuits”! Bed 10.30.
Up at 5 and away to Cairo 10.30. Big city and many interesting sites. Primitive farming donkeys and oxen. Must see more of Cairo. Silks etc. Watches.
Away on train for Western Desert. Along Nile many Wog farms and Dhows on canals. Stopped 10.30 for feed and Alex (Alexandria) was getting it (being bombed). Stayed hiding till daylight.
20th May 1942
Another feed and off again through the Blue (desert). Hot and dirty. Arrived Sidi Haneish 2.30. On to 3 Squadron truck out to base.
Madly welcomed by Andy Archman and C.O. (Commanding Officer). Fosters etc for all. Not a bad feed and to bed... very weary.
21st May 1942
Rise 8 o'clock. Food news!! Good tucker.
I'm not so good!!
Dinner 12.30 good tucker.
Wog sells dainties (?) Tomatoes, Grapefruit etc. Poked around base.
Some of the boys off to F.L.G. (forward landing ground) I and most of the gang to stay here at base. (Base was at Sidi Haneish with "the front" forward landing ground at Gambut, some miles west. Rommel is about to launch his offensive.) Down to the "drink" for a swim. Lovely clean water and sand. This is not such a bad war after all.
All the boys have a Clifty truck or bike, so guess I won't be long without. ("Clifty" - borrowed or "requisitioned without paperwork"... in other words pinched! 3SQN were the "Clifty Kings" of the Western Desert!)
Few beers in tent with Bill who goes up to the front tomorrow and so to bed. Good night.
22nd and 23rd May 1942
Getting good guts (reliable info) round camp. Writing g.g. (uncensored) letters to my darling for the mob to take home. Swim every day it seems, good news indeed. Looking over Kittys (Kittyhawks). Good kites. Much schooling-up done all round. Mad lot of pilots. Poor cows. Hurricane hit the deck over at 450 (Squadron RAAF). Fearless bagged two 52's (Junkers Ju52 transport planes). Hurray for our side.
Darling I am still lonely for you.
24th May 1942
Settling down. Old gang got away today (original 3 Squadron members being relieved), lucky cows.
Andy taking letters to my darling Zita.
Took away the Chev. Not going so well.
Dip after dinner. Good oh.
25th May 1942
Good weather. Did our first check today. Bit of a shitty (dust storm) blowing. Dip every day seems to be.
Early to bed late to rise.
26th May 1942
27th May 1942
Lennie S came down from the front with the rest of the gang. Looks well. Tough. The boys up front got theirs last night (heavy German bombing attack on the night of the 25th, the start of Rommell's offensive). Brrr. Wonder when our turn will come?
Pulled Chev down. Demanded new motor. Wrote G.G. No.3 for Lennie to take. ("Good guts" information in a letter to bypass censors?)
6 letters from my darling Zita 1 from sister Clare old number. A shitty up again. I'm bit blue over Joyce's (Colin’s sister) affair. Blast that Arthur. I'll pin his ears back if I ever see him.
Lennie came over with 3 Abbotts (beers), talked of old times. Cards and so to bed 12. Tut! Tut!
28th May 1942
No work. Over to 450. Pick up a Guzzi odds and ends. (Moto Guzzi, Italian motorbike, a fine "clifty" indeed!)
All the gang on a motorbike... Is this the Moto Guzzi?
Gave Lennie letters for darling Zita. Bit of spine bashing (resting). Shoofty (looked) around place. Trying to get a new engine for Chev. Beaut day.
29th May 1942
Next batch of boys left today for home. Lennie left with L.S. No. 3 (uncensored letters).
Sam aboard for trip. Dip good!
Gerry over afternoon hotly pursued by Hurry (Hurricane). Started to shift camp to Wing. Another letter from darling Zita. Good! Darling Zita, how I long for the day when I am in those thrilling arms again!!!
30th May 1942
Up and early to work. On Harvard for 3 next days. Hurrah. (Harvard Trainer aircraft.)
Bludge which tent shifty goes in (?).
Lucky day again. Shifted to wing this arvo. Rigged our own tent O.K. Every mod. con.
Cliftied home comforts good feed pines (tinned pineapple) pudding etc. Very good.
Dreamt o' my darling love of thee.
31st May 1942
Up at 4.30 to go to R.S.U. (Repair and Salvage Unit) to get two Cats away to front. (Catalina floatplanes. Although not 3SQN, Colin has a photo of one under repair, perhaps helping 230 Sqn RAF at Abokir?) We have been getting a bit of a bashing up front only three Cats O.K.
Jerry over shoofty (Arabic word: "reconnaissance"). Big convoy of 25s (25 pound artillery) tanks etc on way up to front.
Wrote number 134 to my darling Zita. I love you
"Jinx, Stork, The Fearless One (Colin's nickname), Norm, Livinsky & The Chev Clifty." ...Western Desert 1942.
JUNE - 1st June 1942
No work today.
Tom C. back from front. All the G.G. (Good info.) They can stick the front.
Big feast and bumper supper. Yarned till midnight.
Got into argument about true love!! Marvellous...
Darling Zita fancy me being a strong advocate for marital ties. I.L.Y. (I Love You.)
2nd June 1942
Inspection early. Jinxy should be back today. Frank C. is in Alex. Must be my turn soon.
Hot as hell today, must go for a dip.
Good supper so to bed after game of chance.
3rd June 1942
Spine bashing the order of the day.
Letter to my darling Zita. How I wish I could be with you darling. Hope to God I get a cable soon.
Jinx back today. In the shit.
Swim. Cards and bus up. Stork's Strum Box O.K. (Home-made guitar?)
4th June 1942
Jinxy cops 10 days pay 3 days Cells.
Not much work. Spine bashing. No interest.
Wish I were home.
5th June 1942
Damn blast. Transferred to Pongo's training flight am not amused. Boston here (Douglas A-20 bomber).
Promoted self to Vice Air Marshal.
Issued with rifles. Silly.
No good news.
So to bed and dreaming of my darl of this.
6th June 1942
Same old grind.
7th June 1942
Pining for my darling Zita.
8th June 1942
Sick of all. No interest.
88 (Junkers Ju 88) gave us a close shave tonight. Much trench digging.
9th June 1942
Bored to death. Shitty (dust storm) up all day. Desperately in need of news from my darling Zita. How I love and miss you darling. And how. Anything for word from you darling.
10th June 1942
Reported sick with the r.r. hog. (?) May get Hospital
Same old grind
Lavinsky and self put in for trip up front. I wonder.
Wrote 140th page to my darling Zita
I love you!!
11th June 1942
Dull morn... swim in arvo. Still no news. Bah!!
12th & 13th June 1942
No novelties. Con back from front. Sick unto death.
14th June 1942
Pictures last night. Bob Hope, Martha Raye, "Give Me a Sailor". Very good, but made me shitty afterwards thinking of home. No news blast.
Up early. Nice day, nothing else of interest.
15th to 18th June 1942
Same old grind.
Jinx got his hat whizzed off with Harvard.
Things bit thick up front. (Retreat from Gambut started 16th.) Hitting him with everything but kitchen sink. Five sorties (3SQN strike missions) without refuelling.
Sent cable to my darling Zita very anxious... no word or reply from mine of month ago. Little things are annoying me now. Too much clifty (stealing) etc. See trouble ahead. My darling Zita I love you so and miss you so much.
19th June 1942
Slashing concert last night. Spring locks. Oh! A joy so sweet "Blue Orchids" Whoue!! It sure makes me two two thoughts! (Two Blue Orchids, see lyric below.)
My darling Zita love! How I long for the day. God please soon when I can hold you when I hear our theme song.
I dreamed of two blue orchids
Two beautiful blue orchids
One night while in my lonely room
I dreamed of two blue orchids
So full of love and light
That I wanted to possess each tender bloom
Then my dream took wings
And through a thousand springs
Blue orchids seemed in a world apart
But when I met you
Something pale and blue
Came stealing from the meadows of my heart
I saw my two blue orchids
My beautiful blue orchids
Last night and what a sweet surprise
When you looked at me
It was plain to see
Blue orchids only bloom in your eyes
[Written by Hoagy Carmichael. - Click to play Recording]
A very touching portrait-postcard of Zita and himself. Colin had it made in Egypt, and sent it back home.
Nick Barr (Sqn Leader Nicky Barr) & Drake (Billy Drake, 260 Sqn ace) down from 075 (Landing Ground 75 in the Sidi Barrani area). Gave up Gambut and we are back behind the wire (Egyptian border). 25 minutes away. Bit too close. Then old med (Mediterranean Sea battles?) which is busy again.
"With Pilots." (Nick Barr at left.)
20th June 1942
Things are not so good up front. The rumours say get ready to fly. We'll see.
Wrote 146th to my darling Zita love you and long for you.
(COLIN'S RETREAT BEGINS!)
21st June 1942
We're off!! On the big retreat, or should say evacuation according to plan!!
Rah types. BRRR.
Took off by morn light, gave convoy away. (i.e. Proceeded before the Squadron convoy - with dire consequences! See note below.)
Camped when moon set about 12.
Up at 5.30 we hope. Lovely night.
22nd June 1942
Up per schedule draw into Alex. about 10. Dirty unshaven crew. Excite much pity etc.
Beautiful shower at Tomahawk House and then look around city. Very nice along seafront but the usual howling, haggling, stinking wogs to spoil it all. Dined at the Springbok Club and then to the Grand Trianon for floor show. Few beers. Then round to United Forces Club not bad. So to bed on lounge of Tommy House. Up late for us about 11.30. Very tired - and so to sleep under roof first time for a month.
Colin & Jinx. Alex 22nd June 1942.
23rd June 1942
Up at 9 had breaker and another glorious shower, inspected truck etc. and then for tour of Marine Drive, Farouk's Castle etc. So off on Cairo Road again. Feed of melons for lunch and so off out into the "blue" again.
"Norm, Jinx, Self, Wandy in Alex. 23 June 1942 - Old Farouk's Statue."
Arrived at our destination about 3.00 and oh boy it has to be seen to be believed!! We got bogged in the sand 100 yards off the road, same as everybody else. God knows where they are going to put the Cats (Kittyhawks) down here!! Rigged up a "Jury" tent on side of truck and wander round sand dunes.
Under "open arrest" ...what again!! ...for deserting convoy. Tch! Tch! bad boys naughty naughty. What us??! We only got lost, we hope Ha! Ha!
Well darling I still have no word from you and are now really worried, so please God I have good news soon.
Mess up the front... Tobruk etc. thrown away. Blast the Pongo B's. How we all hate them!
24th June 1942
Up 9 or so, staggered over to bully beef, what again!!
No (letters) still. Sand, sand everywhere. We have kicked up bit of a stink about this for a camp, much to Pongo's horror. We hope to get a better camp I'll say. Nothing to do, everyone bogged down, so just lazing in what little shade we can make. What a hole, my God. Zita you certainly were 100% right about this overseas rot!!
25th June 1942
Shifted back to 54 R.S.U. (Repair and Salvage Unit)
What a performance. Trucks and tractors chewing up sand and messing up Civi (civilian?) convoy beautifully... oh yeah! Ivan and Co here already. Things a little strained in the gang... who cares??
Renaust (meaning unknown) & us back to strength. Much rumour and panic flying around. Dirty hole of a place, alive with flies etc.
My God!! What a country. Jerry is welcome to the damn place as far as I am concerned.
Much ado about the “furetis” (meaning unknown?). Marvellous. Seems I am doomed be conspicuous wherever I go. Don't know why or how. I am getting a bit of a philosopher and get quite a kick out of watching the byplay and different personalities clashing. Strange how much the gang splits... always.
"Fearless" (Colin's nickname) ...bloody not... is always included in both sides.
Darling I love you.
Seems as though your little airman is destined to be in every darned thing or another.
Oh for a quiet life.
Well my darling Zita at this junction I reaffirm my determination that if I’m ever lucky enough to get home, God grant it soon and all will with you, I'll never leave good old home again. Of course my conception of home will always include my darling Zita I love you and how. Lucky how I could love you now and forever. I'll say!! Hope this blast (rumour) that Canberra is bringing all Aussies home is O.K. The only plan for me anyway. They can have all their C-in-Cs (Commanders in Chief) and all for mine. Give me my darling Zita and I'll be happy.
26th June 1942
Plenty of work today, changed digs O.K.
Sent Squadron Leader Gibb off in new kitty broken leg and all. Sure got guts that guy. Good luck to him. (SQNLDR Bobby Gibbes. Nicky Barr just been shot down, so Bobby Gibbes takes back the Squadron despite still having his leg in plaster from bailing out!)
News from the front not so good. Jerry is coming fast. I don't give a damn as long as we finish up home and soon. Bugger England anyway. Good old Aussie under the Yanks will do me.
A bottle of grog and so to bed.
27th June 1942
Slack day. Wimpies (Wellington bombers), Blenheims etc arriving all day, getting out from up front with Jerry right on their hammer. Bad news, Nicky Barr, D.F.C. shot down. Bad show. Good luck to Gibby now eh?
The boys have to get out of (Landing Ground) 102 down to El Daba. Where next?
We the Alex gang still in the shit. Talk of us going up the front for trial. (See note below from Allen Wand's interview.) I don't think!!
If so court martial for me. May kick up enough fuss to be sent home who knows? Rests with Allah. Darling I love you still no news. God please send some.
28th June 1942
Still no news from my darling, got shickered (drunk) on Shanghai Lill (gin with rosewater?) last night. I'm all for being downhearted, yes ma'am, I'd better hear soon or I don't know what... My darling Zita I love you.
Heard today the old boys are still being buggered about in Cairo waiting for a boat? Oh yeah more likely for these Pongo B's pleasure. Damn and blast. Was banking on my darling Zita having my L.G. (uncensored?) letters by now and here they are still in Egypt. Damn Blast B.B.!!
29th & 30th June 1942
News from the front getting worse all the time. Rumours of further retreat. A.L.G. boys down with us. What next? (The operational Squadron moved to six different bases in 12 days before Rommel's advance was finally checked at El Alamein.)
"A dusty pilgrim!!! Compare Wandy, who has washed.
'Tis mighty dusty travelling through the 'blue', 'y'see. Shoofty the moustache!"
Colin and mate with "booty..." [coconuts?]
Stork, unknown mate and Colin.
JULY - 1st July 1942
It's on again! Another retreat this time to Mena 108 M.U. (Maintenance Unit) Passed by pyramids. Morbid b. things wouldn't worry if I never saw them. Our new camp worst of all, sand, sand and still more sand. Hot as hell. I am crook. Up all night "scratching holes" (improvised latrine?)
Darling I need you tonight. I love you so.
"Tommy & Norm. Mena July 42." [Tomahawk Aircraft.]
2nd July 1942
Really crook today. I'm to Heliopolis and Hospital. Great to be in decent bed again. Too crook to care about anything.
3rd July 1942
Bit better today, still not eating. Enjoying radio and wishing I had brought writing gear to write to my darling Zita I love you.
News from the front seems a little more cheerful. 9th divvy (9th Australian Division) have gone up.
4th July 1942
On the mend now. Taking a nibble every now and then. Should be out tomorrow.
5th July 1942
Discharged from Helio. Made my own way into Cairo and after many heartaches found H.Q.M.E. (Headquarters Middle East.) 'Tis hell in these foreign cities and broke. Got two pounds advance and put up at Nelson House a good dump, wizard food, had good shower shave haircut and look round town. Rather bored and disgusted with it all. Wish I was home with my darling Zita.
6th July 1942
Back to camp again today. Same old dump. Coon gone to front. Ivan in Hospital. Still no mail. B! B! B! I'd better get cable soon or I will not sleep tonight. I'm worried!
7th July 1942
Hurray!! Two letters from M.d.Z.I.L.Y. (abbreviation for "My darling Zita I Love You"; similar abbreviations pop up throughout text... e.g. M.d.Z.I.L.H.S. - “My darling Zita I Love Her So") two and a half months old but no matter makes me feel 100% brighter to feel at least some touch from my own true loves hand. No more news re Joyce (Colin’s sister). I should get cable soon. I sent another cable to darling Zita and one to Joyce too.
Terrible shitty (sand storm) blew up last night see it coming for miles.
Things are slack back here. "B" flight have moved up a bit in front. Hurray!! Fancy us moving up. Dear! dear! Someone has blundered surely!
Few beers and so to lonely bed. D.Z.I.L.Y.so.
8th July 1942
Off to front today. Four brimos. (Transports?) Hot trip up. Saw all the boys camped at Canteen.
9th July 1942
Brassed off completely. Gibbes Grrr!!! Heard our case. Ha! Ha!
And 3 of us got docked 16 days pay and Jinxy copped 14 days hoosegow! (Slang for jail.) Lovely, and they say we are fighting for democracy Ha! Ha!
Our trial? Ha! Ha! [Long mocking laughter!]
(Further to this incident, here is Allen Wand's recollection of it, from a 1990 interview by Edward Stokes for the Australian War Memorial:
Q: I think you, yourself, did have one particular run-in with Bobby Gibbes. The story began when you were on leave, I think?
A: Oh, yes. We were charged with AWL and he fined us – my mate and I who were both caught – with fourteen days’ pay plus two days’ AWL but a couple of months [later] we were told that we had fourteen days’ pay refunded because, unless court-martialled, we could not lose more than the two days we were AWL.
Q: Why were you actually being charged AWOL?
The retreat was on from, I think, Gambut and there were
four of us in a truck, packed up ready to go and the W.O.
told us that we could go if we were ready, and spend a day
in Alexandria and we got to a place called Wadi Natrun the
day after, so we took off, drove all night and had a day
in Alexandria and got to Wadi Natrun.
Third vehicle there and that afternoon we were placed under camp arrest for being AWL. Apparently as soon as we left the squadron, the WOD (Warrant Officer Disciplinary) got the SPs (Service Police) to see if they could find us, which they couldn’t do, and that’s why we were charged with AWL.
Q: So in fact, basically, you were doing roughly what you were supposed to be doing anyway.
A: That’s true; we did as we were told. We took off and had a day in Alexandria and had to pay the consequences.")
All else into Alex on leave, much Jiggy Jig etc. not for me. Darling oh to be home where you get a fair go and you to sympathise with me I.L.Y.
Squadron Leader Bobby Gibbes [right].
"Pilots in silk scarves."
(The scarves helped to avoid chafing as the pilots had to swivel their heads continuously, to keep a lookout. Tommy Russell is 2nd left.)
"Captured German Me 109 now with Allied markings."
"I've done it again...."
Kittyhawk CV-F, belly landing, Mena July 1942.
(This aircraft has Bobby Gibbes' nose-art of a kangaroo kicking a German dachshund.)
10th July 1942
Another hot trip back to base for Norm and I.
Wandy (Allen Wand) staying up front and Jinxy off to hoosegow (jail). All boys from here in Cairo. Bloody marvellous. Yes aren't I having a lucky patch. Ha! Ha!
Cairo bombed today. A.I.F. in action up front.
No word from M.d.Z.I.L.Y. yet. Something wrong somewhere pray to God she is O.K. Wrote 155th page to M.d.Z.I.L.Y.dearly!
11th & 12th July 1942
Trip to Cairo... official. Saw good show at Miamai "Swing it Soldier" and "Men of the Timberland".
Only one class town. Returned home after being chased out of every decent place. What a country. "Other ranks" only for brothels and shicker ups. God, I'll be pleased to be home and act like a man again.
13th July 1942
Ivan up to see us, off to 9th Batts Hosp. with his Tinia. May get home with it, lucky cow.
Hurray!! Received letter from M.d.Z.I.L.Y. dated 23rd April. So far Suzy is still with us. (Zita is pregnant and Colin calls the unborn child Suzy. It turns out a boy, Michael. Suzy has to wait for his return home!) Mixed feelings. Still no cable from Joyce. D.Z.I.L.Y.so!
14th to 16th July 1942
Hot as hell, Ivan's camera in operation, food on the nose. Got some green envelopes. Good show.
Started "Worke”...Ha! Ha!... again. Dull as dishwater.
Aussies hanging on at the front. (Australian counter-attack in the "1st Battle of Alamein".)
Wrote 160th page to M.d.Z.I.L.Y. Oh what a relief to know all is well and news only 3 weeks old.
Cables from 14th May to 31st June. Bloody Pommy B's!! Should have had them all along but all's well that ends well. Cabled d.Z. back again.
Busy getting up at 6 and going to 8. Very hot 100.
18th to 22nd July 1942
Same old grind long hours and still very hot. Tucker on the nose.
9th divvy (Australian Army Division) doing all the work up front as usual. Our chaps busy. Gibbes got D.F.C.???
Days leave... official too!!... in Cairo. Bought scent and stockings for my darling Zita down bazaar. Whizzo perfume market... what one expected to find in the mysterious East Ha! Ha! Hope she gets same O.K. Set me back a spin. Well worth if it gets back home O.K.
Still hot and how!!
"The Bubble Pipe (hashish). Cairo July 1942"
23rd July 1942
Wrote 170th page to M.d.Z.I.L.Y.
Hot still. Concert South Africans again. Blue Orchids and Stardust! (Special tunes for Colin and Zita.) Good!
Woe is me. Darling mine I need you so!!
24th July 1942
30 more poor silly cows arrived from home (new replacement pilots). Lambs to the slaughter. They're happy now. Poor devils. They'll be sorry!!
25th July 1942
Great day. 9 lovely letters from my darling Zita and a cable. Thrilling news. Suzy and my darling Zita still going strong! Looks like I may be a Poppa for Xmas. Dear! dear! Its not such a bad world after all.
26th July 1942
Busy as hell. Up at 6. Bugger training flight!!!
(Seems Colin doesn't want to be working with the Training Flight - set up for the inexperienced pilots.) Give me the squadron??? I'm still in a good mood and read my letters over again. Very pleasant!
27th to 30th July 1942
Same old grind. Still hot and how. Wrote 178th to M.d.Z.I.L.Y.and how!! Helio bombed. (Heliopolis - Egyptian city.) Scare here, can't be worried. Things stalemate up front. Wonder when we will get out of this B blue? I'm so longing for you M.d.Z.I.L.Y.madly and how!!!
AUGUST - 1st to 3rd August 1942
Same old grind. Little work.
(Germans) Bombed Helio and Canal. Bags of panic slit trenches etc. Silly buggars!!
Rumours of 7 days leave. Don't care much either way. My foot a bit strained.
Cable from M.d.Z.I.L.Y. and Joyce Happy Birthday. Very nice too. Wrote 184th to M.D.Z.
4th August 1942
Ivan back from Jerusalem. OK. Pleased to see the old B. again. Lost his kit.
Bridge again. Same as usual.
5th August 1942
Parcel from M.d.Z.I.L.Y. Cake and good things to eat mmm... Lovely good blow out. Thanks darling I.L.Y. Good reading as well. Not such a bad world now. Marvellous how one's outlook brightens with some word from the one person in the world I.L.H.So!!
6th & 7th August 1942
Still hot. 2 had prangs. 2 more poor cows gone west. Makes 30 in this show. Bad horse. These B. kitties (bloody Kittyhawks) seem death traps, you can have the air war for mine. Don't mind now I am only your little Frigger darling mine I.L.Y.so and how!!
8th August 1942
Up early. Dull morning.
Off to Cairo for afternoon. Down to Bazaar for some silk and headgear for my d.Z.I.L.Y.
Home again and packed and sent parcel. Hope my d.Z. gets same O.K. Norm got parcel from his wife another feed.
More Aussie beer in. Must have light session handy for old 27th birthday. (i.e. Not drink too much for the next two days to save himself for his birthday celebrations... actually his 26th not 27th birthday!)
Just aren’t I catching M.d.Z.I.L.H. up. (Zita was a few years older than Colin.) Wonder how our Suzy is going. Goodness knows I wish I were there to love her & see she is O.K.
Blast this war anyway. I.L.Y.D.
9th August 1942
Sent cable to M.d.Z.I.L.Y. and Ruby (Colin’s mum).
10th August 1942
(Drinking) Session last night. 2 day wait and Flop. Certainly lost my sting as a beer consumer. Must be love!! Yeah! Hotter than ever.
All quiet on front.
11th to 15th August 1942
Wrote 190th to M.d.Z.I.L.Y.
Same old grind. Scrounge wood for cooks, secret good jaffle now ("jaffle"... slang for extra food). Down to Minu (Mena?) for shower. Big event!!
'Bout time I heard from mdZ again ILH and anxious about Suzy. I.L.Y.
15th to 20th August 1942
Same old grind. Letters from Auntie Anne and Ruby, but alack none from mdz yet. Brrr!!! Not amused.
Lots of bursts (rumours) about going home etc. etc. but am afraid it is wishful thinking. Old Churchill (British Prime Minister) visited us but not impressed.
Hot and flies Brr.
Wonder how Suzy is coming? Darling we need each other so... this blasted war will have to soon have to cease I.L.Y.
to 22nd August 1942
Still no Vic (Victorian) mail Curses!!
Bubbles now for front. Still many good bursts around. I wonder?!!
Wrote 195th to M.d.Z.I.L.Y.so more than ever!
to 25th August 1942
Still very quiet, off to Cairo. Photos of the gang. Should be a scream Mow (moustache) etc.
Foiloosh (colloquial Arabic term for money) light on again.
Scrounge wood for cooks. Wrote to Mum and Anne. Hot as hell. No word from M.D.Z.
"D" bad show (unsuccessful Allied Dieppe raid on French coast). Send cable. Worrying my guts out again. Silly but can't help it. D.I.L.Y.so.
"The local Barber. Alex Sept 42"
to 27th August 1942
Shitty blowing. Wrote 199 to M.d.z. and to Ruby. Still no word. Brr.
Ivan and Norm off to Alex. on leave for week. Maxy got his (3SQN pilot John MacTaggart killed in training accident 18th August) poor devil!!
SEPTEMBER - to 1st September 1942
No work. Stork and I yap long into the night. Bridge fair. Lots of bursts...
Still no word from m.d.z. I don't know?!
Boys back from Alex. Had good time.
Wednesday 2nd September 1942
BLACK WED. Just about buggered completely now. The 3 lads are off to front and poor silly me stays behind to do God knows what.
Goodby 3 Squ. and fuck you.
I am most morose. Unseemly display of emotion as the boys took off. Ran back to tent in my lonely solitude and cried like a kid.
What a man. If only I could get some word from M.d.z. and Suzy things would not be too bad.
As it is I don't give a damn what happens.
B.R.B... F. them all to hell!!!
Returned my rifle to stores before I shot some rotten B of a B.P.Q!!! Br.
LITTLE MAN! WHAT NOW!
to 7th September 1942
Jinxy and Lange down from front. The three musketeers back together again??
Lots of bursts about what it all means. Bought my kit bags down I wonder. I don't dare to hope for the best. Oh Darling if only it was so!!
Cable from my darling she is OK thank God. D.I.L.Y.
to 9th September 1942
Things are looking up. 3 letters from m.d.z. two and a half months old but still news from M.d.Z.I.L.H.
Still spine bashing. All waiting for the axe to fall. I wonder!! You're telling me!!!
Well now we know!! Off to 136 M.A.D. (Mobile Air Depot) tomorrow. Some to transit camp. Lucky devils. Well we'll soon know yeah!!
Goodbye to hope of home for Xmas and Suzy's arrival.
Oh! darling, be brave and get through it O.K. for me. I couldn't take it if anything goes wrong.
Its going to be a merry little hell for me the next 4 months.
to 12th September 1942
Wrote 207th to M.d.Z.I.L.H.S.
Broke camp and made ready to take off for MAD.
Oh yeah? Might have known. After hanging around for hours in sun and flies, it was decided to send us up to A.L.P. (Advanced Landing Ground party) after all.
Wouldn't it!! Hasn't it!! Back to A.L.P. Hot trip up uneventful.
Back to the dust and muck of Mitrual. (Location?) Well! Well! Saw the boys. All split up.
Norm in "B" flight and Ivan and Stork in C, and me in C.
How long I wonder? Pinched tent and pitched in prairie - Jinxy and self.
Can't stomach the B.B. nincompoops. NO!!
Asked Ray Polla to move in, which he has done.
Got caught with my pants down by V.A.D. (female Voluntary Aid Detachment) carted round by our lairying officers. Was my face red?!! Well they will snoop around.
Food fair still many bursts about going home. I can't see it. Prayers were in order!!!!!
to 15th September 1942
Sam and I crew on "A". (A particular Kittyhawk, this is a rare mention by Colin of a front-line aircraft!)
Neile (Garth Neill, DFM) flying same got two 109s (German fighter Me 109) and probable Stuka (German dive bomber). Good show!!
No com. from my D.Z. yet. I.L.H.So!! Cold o'nights now. I need my bed-mate and how!!
Bit of bridge evenings. Otherwise quiet.
"Jinx & Kitty"
"His lucky day crash-landed with 250 on. Got out... what!
Colin inspecting tail damage from an explosive shell. Jinx visible through the hole.
"Bombed-up Kitty ready for a sortie"
to 20th September 1942
Same old grind. Cable from M.d.Z.I.L.H. All's well. Goody! Goody!
No mail. Brrr. Wrote 214th to m.d.z. also to Anna, Ruby and Marion (aunt, mother and sister). What an effort!!
The boys got hell. Donald and Scribner?? (Pilots Jack Donald and Gordon Scribner were both shot down, Donald a prisoner of war and Scribner killed in action.)
Bee lucky as hell (pilot 'Stuka' Bee was shot down in the same action and wounded but managed to return to base).
Still many bursts?? I wonder. I don't think. Here's hoping.
to 27th September 1942
No change. Bursts just bursts I'm afraid.
No mail!! Brr!! Things are getting most masquies (frustrating?).
Ray off to El Masa for course. Things very quiet in the flight. Calm before the storm??? I wonder.
Thoughts still all on M.d.Z.I.L.H.So. More than ever. I'm getting worse instead of better dreams!!! Wrote 220 to M.D.Z. Wonder how Suzy goes? Worried!!
OCTOBER - to 4th October 1942
Still very quiet. Neill got 109 and Pinky also. (FLTLT G H F Plinson RAF)
Pics (movies) every Friday now in blue!! (Desert.)
Great day yesterday 7 letters from M.d.Z.I.L.H.So. About time too. All's well so far with Suzy, thank God. Wrote 227th and cable to M.D.Z.
to 10th October 1942
Our mob in big 200 kite raids. Good night.
Ritchie (pilot D. V. Ritchie) got (3SQN's) 199th. Lost none. 450/2. (450 Sqn. shot down two.)
Wrote 235 to M.d.Z. Received cable. Parcel O.K. Scent or tin? or both?? Sent G.G. No. 3 home with Billy Milhous. He's away at last, lucky devil.
Days leave in Alex. Choc. Sodas!! Wind fall.
Tennis and pictures and good sleep at (Hotel) Syracuse.
Ivan in trouble? I wonder!!
to 17th October 1942
Wrote 242 to M.d.Z. Received 2 more letters Aug 10 and 17. Good work! You bet we'll have to pay for this!! All news still good. Thank the Lord. Write 249th to M.d.Z.
Stork and I got leave passes for 7 days. Decided to go to Palestine... for want of something better to do. Oh darling oh for the good old days. I'd know what to do!! And how!! Darl I miss you and need you more and more.
to 22nd October 1942
Hitch hiked to Cairo. Night in N.Z. Club. Up early out to Helio. No luck so back to Cairo and so to Lydda (Palestine) per train. Hitch hiked to Tel Aviv. Nice spot. Swim and booked into King Solomon Pub for night. Oh for my D.Z.I.L.Y.
Bus to Jerusalem. Booked in at Fort (?) Hotel. Much sightseeing. To old city, Bethlehem, Dead Sea, Jerico etc etc. Endless churches, hills, valley and etc. Rather sick of screaming Arabs and grasping Jews. Worth seeing, but no fun. Oh for M.d.Z.I.L.Her so. Yeah!!
Per bus back to Tel Aviv. No dira. Bus to Rehovat to Colony. Bedded down for night. Queer food. Good sleep. Up late. Shoofty round settlement. Real cows, fowls etc. Much (indecif) in oranges etc. More queer food.
Train back to Cairo. Meet Con B. Hitch hiked back to camp. Birds had flown over to 175. (Landing Ground 175.)
Wrote 256 to M.D.Z. Sent small parcel of doo-dahs (bits and pieces) to her. So back to the old grind. Am not sorry.
Much talk of Big Pushes etc. I wonder. Tripoli by Xmas. I wonder??
Waiting for cable!!
Much air activity 200 more raids. We want 1 for our 200. (3 Squadron about to be credited with 200 enemy planes shot down.)
Garth Neille (Pilot Officer G A Neille, Distinguished Flying Medal) got his yesterday poor devil. Who'd be a fighter pilot???
P.S. Three more got theirs just now. Woods (T.G. Wood, POW) Alderson (Pilot Officer Edward Alderson, KIA) and Plyton (Plinston survived to flay again). What a war!!!
24th October 1942
The big push (2nd Battle of Alamein) has started. 10 last night. Going flat out now I got here.
Have B now (particular Kittyhawk).
Jim (Cashmore?) got probable first flip (probable victory on first combat flight). Hope its confirmed for our 200th.
Balties (Baltimore bombers), Bostons and Mitchells over in 18's (flights of 18 planes) all day with clouds of fighter cover. I'm glad I'm not where they are going... Yes Siree!!!
"Allied bombers overhead"
I.L.M.D.Z. Dying to hear from her. Sent cable.
G.G. talk (an informative briefing to the Squadron) they hope to get to Tripoli by Xmas. Daba first stop. We to go right through. I wonder??
Darling I need you now to wish me good luck!
26rd October 1942
Wrote 260 to M.d.Z. also another Xmas card. All for making sure.
to 29th October 1942
Bombers over every day 100 odd. More combat planes. Jerry leaving us alone. Wonder why?
Wrote 265 to M.d.Z.I.L.Y.so!! No wire yet.
Its on again. I'm not happy.
Gibbes got 200th. (3 Squadron's 200th air combat victory claim.) Celebrations. I'm not amused.
Darling mine, I can't take joy in anything without you. God help us!!
"Captured German half-track"
"Jinx, self & Wandy. Egypt. Oct 42"
"Loading bombs, 250 & 500lbs. Amiriya, Sept. 1942."
NOVEMBER - to 2nd November 1942
Happy day 2 letters from M.d.Z.I.L.Y. (from) Sept 24th such speed!! She's still OK, thank the Lord! Also cable. Cheers.
Very busy. Pounding Jerry constantly. Very busy. We're on the go this time alright.
to 5th November 1942
Big doings!! 5 more letters form M.d.Z.I.L.Y.S. and how!! Also one from Joyce and snaps of Snooks (sister and new baby). Funny looking with coat but Joyce seems thrilled. Good letter, a little doleful.
Oh darling, lets hope I'll be home soon so we can cheer one another up!!
(THE BIG ADVANCE! Colin highlighted this date.)
5th November 1942
The big day at last. We are on the move. Left (LG) 175 at 05.30 and terribly busy road, but not many blocks, for a wonder.
Camped at Al Amien (El Alamein?) with A.I.F. for the night.
Slept down gun pit, just as well as Stukas came over and bombed and strafed. Not pleasant!!!!!!!!
"After the big strafe 9.L.G. (El Daba) May"
6th November 1942
Off again 05.30 through scenes of yesterday's carnage. Stiffs (bodies) everywhere.
Booby traps. Not pleasant!!! Many knocked out tanks etc and huge mine fields, some "de-loused". (cleared of mines)
No souveniring for this child thanks! They can keep them. I am heart set keeping myself safe for you darling I.L.Y.so!
Arrived El Daba in time for tea and got tents up.
7th and 8th November 1942
Jerry seems to have "taken off" our blokes can't reach him, so up again tomorrow. Much looting, cameras, Lugers (German pistols) etc. but not for this child.
Couple of broken legs and four stiffs from mines. I don't like them!!!
9th-10th November 1942
Off again, to Sidi Haneish. Old grounds. Terrific jams on coast road.
Much scenes of carnage en-route. Stiffs, tanks, trucks etc. blown to blazes especially around Fuka.
Arrived (Landing Ground) 102. "B" flight had cleared out leaving us to service kites. Till 12.
Up sparrow fart on 10th and operated all day. 109 to Kildy. (3SQN ace pilot Keith Kildey.)
11th November 1942
Off again to (Landing Ground) 076 through Mersa Matru, (turnoff to) Siwa Oasis 120 miles. Fast trip, through more scenes of carnage.
Arrived 4.30 ate and so to bed to be ready for the morrow.
12th November 1942
Off at 5 in starlight bound for Gambut. Cutting in behind Jerry.
Left road before, so as to go behind him. Hope to have him routed or else???
News good. Much success yesterday 52 Stukas and 109s to Wing.
Yanks coming our way from French Africa. Race to Tripoli. I wonder??
Real "blue" now. 100 miles of only rocks, sand and sun.
Colin in "The Blue". (Wilderness.)
Eating on back of truck out of the can! Water putrid!
Much racing of convoy 250 trucks racing across the blue. Great sight.
Spits and Cats (Spitfires and Kittyhawks) over all day in swarms. Jerry I think you have had it. I hope!!
No time to write to M.d.Z.I.L.Y. Glad she doesn't know where I am now. Lord knows when we will get our next mail or be able to post any. Hope won't be too long. All my prayers are with you M.D. God bless and keep you!!
13th November 1942
Over the "wire" into Libya... across the blue (i.e. driving across the open desert, not using roads) to Gambut.
Camped there the night. Still chasing Jerry hell for leather. Passing tanks and armoured cars at times but can't get within a day of him. He sure is going.
15th November 1942
Off to Gazala via Tobruk. More scenes of carnage on road. Numerous stiffs and road mines very fresh. Within few miles of Jerry now.
Camped at Gazala the night. Looking round. Not much.
16th November 1942
Off to Martuba on 16th. Miserable through the rain. Very dreary.
Poor old Terry and the Wingco and driver got theirs. Hit a mine 6 feet off the road. What a bang!!
- 2nd truck after us. WOW!!
(Shocking death of former 3SQN Adjutant Barney Terry, plus two others, when their jeep hit an anti-tank mine.)
Oh! darling, think I'm coming through this safely to you. I.L.Y.So!!
Arrived at Martuba 3 hours behind Jerry. Waterlogged. Pitched tents in mud. Mad scrounging to keep up out of the wet.
4 Commandos came in. Were going to do us over. They can have their job. Yes Siree!!
Wet night. 1 inch of water in tent.
Rained all morning of 17th. Found 120 gallons of Itie (Italian) petrol and have roaring fire. If only they could see us at home!! Petrol more plentiful than decent water.
Dried out most of our gear. Found pairs of Commando boots - very quiet. (Possibly a reference to to the boots being constructed to avoid noise while sneaking around.)
Hope we will finish this soon. Jerry at Derna. 15 miles away.
Can’t write or send or receive a letter or cable. Brr!!
to 20th November 1942
Wrote 278 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Kites here doing long range strafing round Mahaly (Magrun?) ”B” gone on!!
Cold o’morns. Rain slowed things up a bit but should soon get cracking again. The worst part up here is so far from any communications mail etc. I wonder.
Got myself noble bed.
Roy got picked up for P.O.W. Ha! Ha! No wonder.
283 to M.D. Wonder if she’ll ever get same?
to 23rd November 1942
Cold and wet and poor flying weather our chaps slack. Jerry over. Dropped 6,500 kilos of B’ty (Bastadry) near transport. Were they lucky. Hit the deck right smartly myself. Don’t enjoy this much!!
My thoughts are all of M.D.Z.I.L.H.So at times like these!! Got letter dated Oct 11th from M.D. Good but where are the others? Wonder if she got parcel OK? 2 from Ruby, same as ever. News is all good despite pin pricks. I should be there with D.Z. through all this. How long now?? I wonder.
To 26th November 1942
Squadron out for a spell. Round tent catching up correspondence etc. Wrote couple more to M.D.Z. up to 295. Also to Rupert, Ruby, Anna, Joyce, Marion, Marge and Roys old man. What a prodigious effort. Excelled myself. News still good and all goes well everywhere.
Expected mail and cable not put in an appearance yet. BRRR. Just month to go m.d.z. to our Xmas present (the birth of their first child). Gee, worried times ahead I’d say. I’ve got my fingers crossed. Bit of ball daily for exercises with Samuel. My thoughts are ever with M.D.Z.I.L.H.So. And how!! Fit and well!!
To 30th November 1942
Still resting. Wrote 310 to M.D.Z. Also sent cable and 10 pounds per pay book. Happy Xmas M.D.Z.I.L.Y.So. Oh what a difference was looking forward to last Xmas!!
“B” flight moved out off to Antelat, up where the war is once more. Expect we’ll be off again on the truck again soon. Can’t say I’m sorry . Lets get this damn war over and lets go home to my darling Zita. Suzy or perhaps Michael?!
Colin and 3 mates with the famous 'Gibby's Ghibli' Caproni Ca309. (Captured Italian aircraft used as "beer carrier" by 3SQN.)
DECEMBER - 1st and 2nd December 1942
Same old bludge.
Wrote 320th to M.D.Z. Two more letters Sept 30 and Oct 5th and Cable. All's well. Good work. Cheers!!
J.U.88 up to bastardry and off stooged old Hurry (Hurricane) and ten minutes later came back to bed. That 88 won’t worry us again. Cool. I’ll say!!
Took few snaps, basked in sun, and good old bludge in general. Roy unhappy about Marge and letters. Poor lad!! And his Mow (moustache)!!?
to 5th December 1942
Still training sprogs (new chums?).
Sent Airgraph to M.D.Z. 327th to M.D.Z.I.L.Y.So!
Heinkel 111 (captured German bomber) in, charging to A.S. (Abu Suweir, airbase on the Suez Canal) beer run. Checked V. (Kittyhawk "V"? This was the C.O. Bobby Gibbes' personal kite.)
Poor young Curly Riley copped his! (Young Armourer killed in machine gun cleaning accident.) Bad luck!!
Wrote to Anna and Ruby. Played pontoon 1 pound up. Looks like off again tomorrow!
to 7th December 1942
Cards, won pocket money. 333 to M.D.Z.I.L.Y.So!!
Off tomorrow for the front again. 400 mile trip.
Wonder what this move will bring M.D.Z.I.L.Y? Try to keep myself safe for you my darling!
8th December 1942
Up and of again, set course for Agedabia. Good weather.
Road chock a block. Numerous narrow squeaks tank bumpers etc. Camped in trees! ...Nice green country.
9th December 1942
Still on the job through Barra Pass and on through rolling plains. Duce settlements everywhere. ("El Duce", Mussolini.) Many dogs. Through Locra Pass and Locra and so on to the Med again. Along coast road to wog village. Camped under trees! Real green live ones too! Up at sparrow fart and away again, through Benghazi. Much carnage, wrecked ships etc. Nice harbour. So on through Agedabia and out through the blue again.
What? More blue? Your telling me!!!
So on through the sand and shit to No.1 L.G. Belandah, our new home. Rocks and sand and fuck all else. Hot and cold and a real shitty. Strung tent up once more.
They say this place is plenty hot! I wonder, as miles from front lines. We’ll see!!
to 14th December 1942
Quiet time at Belandah. Raining steadily. Caught lousy cold.
Sent cable to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So and Ruby and Anne.
JU88 came over very low and was shot out of the sky by Bofors. Saw wreckage and mangled remains burning. Not pleasant.
"Watching burning German plane wreck."
Rumours of L.A.C. (promotion) approaching... bloody marvellous. Ha bloody ha!
Rumours we are flying to Marble Arch! I don’t think so!!
(Colin did indeed have to drive through the desert, but the 3SQN advance party did actually fly, in DC3s.
"Marble Arch" was a desert airfield named for its proximity to a soaring Italian marble monument, which marked the boundary between the archaeic states of Carthage and Cyrenica. The legend goes that the boundary was set c.350BC by a footrace into the desert from the populated areas on either side - but the Carthaginian winners actually made too much progress and were then buried alive by the peeved other side! Mussolini's monument incorporated sculptures of the entombed athletes. Unfortunately, this monument has since been demolished by the Libyan state, as its exquisite fascist sculptures glorified a bitter colonial history for the local people.)
14th December 1942
Up and off at moments notice. In pursuit of the fleeing Huns once more. Back to Agedabia and so off along the coast road to Tripoli and all places north. I wonder!!
Camped for the night out in the blue. Cold as hell and raining. I’m not happy!! No word from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! I’m a crotchety old devil these days!! And how!
15th and 16th December 1942
What a turn! Still out in the bondoo (desert) waiting for mines to be cleared off the road. Some casualties already. The Hun is up to all sorts of bastardly this time, the pig dog!
Bombers and Spits over all day. I’m sure glad they are not coming this way. I’ll say.
Passing the time with various types of games of chance... fair fortunes and weather improving!
17th December 1942
Off again bound for Mersa Brega (in coastal Libya).
Much bastardry along track, many mines etc. Our coming luckier than most.
Reached Mersa Brega 7.15, camped down in brilliant moon. Dull thuds!!
18th December 1942
Off again for Marble Arch. More and more bastardry.
Pulled up 8 miles short of Marble Arch. Camped by Med. Games of chance. Mixed fortunes.
Bad news tonight. Eight "B" Flight lads wiped out by S mine, a particularly foul piece of Gerry bastardry. The dirty bastard!!
(This incident is infamous in 3 Squadron history, with 5 ground crew dead and 3 wounded, 2 badly... by a dreaded German 'S' Mine, which flew into the air before exploding.)
19th December 1942
Roy and self to replace the unfortunates at Marble Arch. Brrr. In dead men’s shoes!!!
M.D.Z.I.L.H.So. Let our love keep me safe for you and Suzy through this putrid luck!! IL.Y.D.
Up at sparrow fart and off to Marble Arch. Arrived there at 8 and straight to work on “death truck”. (The truck that the men had jumped off previously, when they set off the anti-personnel mine.)
Much gore and scenes of carnage. I like it not - 'drome full of mines. All supplies flown up Douglas D.C.3s and Bombays (transport planes) coming and going all day.
Worked hard all day 45 sorties. The Hun still flees Westward!
Off to look for a new 'drome. Mines going off all round. Dull thuds!!
One tin per man buckshee. (Arabic for "free" - but Colin is being deeply sarcastic about the number of mines around.) B marvellous!!
So to bed in the moonlight. Marvellous night M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
Oh darling mine to be with you again. Mail all disrupted. God knows when I will hear the news I wait so impatiently for.
I'm not happy!! Blast the war!!
20th December 1942
Long range tanks in (belly-mounted fuel tanks for the Kittyhawks). The Hun still flees. Looks like we'll soon be flying onto fields and pastures new.
342nd (letter written) T.M.D.Z.
21st December 1942
Jerry over last night. Terrific barrage. Jerry pissed off, few eggs (bombs) down road.
Huck missing today. C flight moved on for some point west. Canteen calls in. Big blow-out (feast).
No mail or cable B.R.R.R!! I'm so anxious M.d.Z.I.L.Y.So!!
Explored Marble Arch. Beautiful monument built by Musso (Mussolini) and Co! The B! B! B!
C.O. returns from strafing Jerry 'drome, nursed by Rex Bayley... picked him up when he was shot down.
(P/O Rex Bailey crash landed, rescued by S/Ldr Gibbes landing, picking him up and sitting on his lap to fly back! And landing on one wheel!)
They got up to much bastardry! Poor old "Stuka" Bee (pilot F/Sgt. K.C. Bee, hit by ack-ack) got his!
346 to M.d.Z.I.L.H so!! Still no news. GRRRRRR!!
Close shave today. Shrapnel at my feet. Not nice!! Still many dull thuds around horizon.
Bridge. Livi (?) grog. I'm not amused. Comforts fund issue. No Xmas stuff we've had it!
23rd December 1942
Up early, bags of panic. Jerry round and many mad scrambles in pairs.
Shitty blowing. What? Again!!
Jerry over again. Few D.A.’s (delayed action bombs) no damage. Same old sameness.
24th December 1942
Wrote 351st to M.d.Z.I.L.H So!! If I don't hear from her soon I don't know what!!
Couple of gorges. What a Xmas eve. Ha Bloody Ha.
25th December 1942
Slept in. Cow of a day. Over the road to a big spread, turkey, ham etc. Good feed 2 bottles of tiger's piss and canadian and 2 tins.
Don't feel much like it, very home sick. Wrote to M.D.Z.
Hurragh!! Cheers, loud and sustained. Received a cable from M.D.Z. dated December 3rd. Better late than never...
All's well thank God. Also one from each of Marion and Mark. A perfectly bloody Xmas with one bright spot, the cable.
I’m very lonely!!
"Xmas in the 'Blue'! Our little home? at the time. P'raps you recognise the villain in the foreground?"
26th December 1942
Few beers and listened to wireless in ops garry (truck) last night.
Wrote 355 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So. Rained all night. Pretty wet in “Bedouin Land”.
Windy day. Dusty afternoon. B’y marvellous!! You’d never know it’d rained.
Cable from Ruby. Quiet day. Look like moving soon. I’m counting every moment till THE cable.
To 29th December 1942
Quiet time. Practice flying. Jerry seems to have burned right out. Rumours we are off again soon!
Terrific Ack Ack! Scared Jerry clean out of the skies.
Commando friends call on us again. Have those blokes got guts. I’ll say!!
Still no mail. Brrr! Numerous games of chance. Luck still holds.
Wrote 360 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! I’m waiting impatiently for THE cable.
30th December 1942
Jerry over again last night. Much fire works.
Big day for squadron. Watty (F/Lt Watt) two 109s (Me109 German fighter planes), Daryl, (actually Danny Boardman) (Sgt) Righetti 1.
Gibbes Thursday near went in. B!B! (Cursing at the Germans.)
Much panic, long range tank etc.
31st December 1942
Off again bound for Je-Zina at 9.30. (Kittyhawk) F prangs taking off.
Along coast road to Nufilia, then across to Ge-Zina 4.10.
Hurrah. One letter Nov 11th from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So. Very good, but where are the others.???? Good news, but my big parcel not home! Expect cable any day.
No P.O. (Post Office) for miles BRRR.
Few grogs. What a New Year's Eve
Ha! B! Ha!
1943 - JANUARY
With life in the desert (or “blue”) Colin’s writing was not getting better!
1st January 1943
Just settled back in old tent when off again with “B” flight in one hour. BRRR!
Off at 12 across Boondoo (desert). 60 miles west camped for night. We are there!
Nothing but Boondoo, graders at work and lo!... there is a 'drone. Camped in with the shit.
Jerry 20 miles west with 7th Arm-divvy (7th Armoured Division) between us. More power to them!
(F/Lt. Dave) Ritchie in “E” and Roediger missing! More bastardry!! Must try and get myself a camera!
2nd and 3rd January 1943
Terrific wind and shitty (sandstorm) blowing. Yarns with Kiwis. Clearing stones. Monotonous.
4th January 1943
It’s on again! We’re at the wrong spot in the Boondoo!
Up tents and away in hell of a wind. Naice?? Off 6 miles to our new spot in the Boondoo. My God. Stones, camel bush and sweet Fanny Adams!!
Hell of a job getting tent up. So to bed tired, dirty and entirely disillusioned. Of course no contacts with outside world so where’s my cable?? And Xmas mail? No water! What a country. NRRR.
5th January 1943
Spent most of day in bed! Read. Wrote 272 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
Stuka party over the road 40 casualties!!!!!!
6th January 1943
No 'drome here yet. Another Stuka party over the road. Terrific Ack Ack 6 numerous Spits (Spitfires). Got 4 of the B’s. Hurragh.
Wrote 377 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
Canteen have a few beers. Still no cable Brrrrrr!!!
Guests again for tea. Twenty 109s dive bombing. Ack Ack and Spits got 2 and unsettled the B’s a bit, bombs mostly astray. Couple unlucky.
Drowned my worries and celebrated Jimmy’s birthday in Flight tent and listened to wireless till 12.
7th January 1943
109s for breakfast. No damage done.
Sent cable to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
Rex Bayley flew up from base... Jimmy Wilkes on Court Martial. Manslaughter. Bad show!! (This over the accidental shooting of Armourer Corporal Riley during machine-gun cleaning on the 4th December. Wilkes was eventually exonerated.)
Three raids today. Jerry losing heavily. Spits 10, Ack Ack 8.
8th January 1943
Quiet day for us. Kites round thick as bees round honeypot. Kept the bandit away and got 7 more.
9th January 1943
They started on our ‘drome today. I wonder??
Letter from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Per Wireless irke. (Erk: slang, "Aircraftsman").
Beaut love letter. From Sept 14th. No Xmas mail!! No cable!! B.B.B.
10th January 1943
Still cold o’morns. Off with the beard (the men had all been growing beards when water was scarce in the desert) and “bath” at last. Dear! Dear! Ain’t I noice!??
The big ‘drome engineers? now. Shove few rocks about.
381st to M.D.Z.I.L.H. and need her so!!
10th to 13th January 1943
Same old grind. Cards. Reading. Wrote 286 to M.D.Z. Still no cable BRR. I’m a nervous wreck!!
13th January 1943
“C” flight up again. Jerry comes. No damage.
Still no mail few parcels for odds and sods. None for me!!!!
Off again with the army this time. N.Z.
Wonder what this portends?? S'posed to be in Tripoli by 24th! I wonder?? Keep me safe for you darling, now I have so much to live for.
To 17th January 1943
Out across blue in easy stages, awful country, 7, 10, 20 miles a day following army as they push the fleeing Jerry. Few odd bandits over all night, 100s of ours over during day. Jerry must be copping it. No water. Getting VERY dirty!! Moustache!! Just as well M.D.Z.I.L.H.S. can’t see me now!!!
To 19th January 1943
Arrived at our new “drome” through terrible country and some carnage. Kites up late. Much panic. Gibbes shot down but walked back. Lucky??
20th January 1943
Busy day. Bombs, straffs etc.
BIG DAY. THE CABLE at last.
I am a poppa after all
MICHAEL Born 3rd Jan. Thank God all is safe.
Darling I love you so and only live for my return to you both. 7 letters and 5 strays Rupert, Ruby, Marian and Micky. Good show. No parcel but who cares?
I’m happy at last.
“B” flight arrives. Tripoli this week they say. I wonder???
21st January 1943
Busy. 40 lb-ers (antipersonnel bombs) and strafing. Lost Righetti (baled out and captured) and (F/Sgt. A. J.) Willis (killed in mid-air collision). Bad Horse (blaming the Kittyhawk).
Parcel from my darling Z. Full of good things. Cable from Joyce. Much rejoicing. Good!
Inside Colin's tent, with bedside display of his photo album, opened to a picture of Zita.
22nd January 1943
Still going like hell.
Wrote 394 to M.D.Z.
Push is going well. Tripoli should fall soon. (See next entry.)
23rd January 1943
It has!! Cheers and all that. Much panic. We are off again, bound for Castel Benito, Tripoli’s airdrome. 140 miles away.
Drive till dark through terrible country. Waited till 9, till moon came up and off again 20 miles more of sand dunes and so to Lahuma and main road again thank God. Beautiful Gum-lined (Australian eucalypt trees) drive, orchards etc. Hard to believe our eyes. So on through the night, few holdups due to road blowing and at last at Benito at 4.25 in morning. Cold as hell. Few hours sleep and the day revealed to us beautiful country, gums, vineyards etc. B’y marvellous!! Triumphal entry.
24th January 1943
Into 'dorm, drives, gardens, hangers, living quarters... a really wonderful 'drome about 1 mile by 1/2 and only slightly wrecked. Much rubbernecking at hundreds Nazi abandoned kites in various stages of repair. Abandoned houses, cellars etc till 11 o’clock then kites arrive and at it again. Giving the fleeing hun remnants no peace at all.
25th January 1943
Goody, goody, another precious letter from M.D.Z. dated Dec 3rd. All's well and my Palestine parcel got home O.K. Wonder how our boy is today? Glad when I get mail telling me all about THAT. Xmas hamper and comforts and pay today. Seems to be my lucky month. Purple patch indeed. Hope it lasts!!
26th January 1943
Bags of bullshit. No looting, wash a.c. (aircraft) etc. Ha! Ha!
Wrote 400 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Also to Ruby, Rupert and Anna.
Lovely weather with plenty of water. Green fields and flowers. Gordon B. takes place of Mad Stockman in tent.
Much strife among N.C.O.s (Non-Commissioned Officers) aren't I laughing. I’ll say!!
To 29th January 1943
Settling in. Rain and fresh winds. Good.
Mess up (mess tent erected - a change from al fresco dining in the desert!) and better food. Ops quiet.
Cable from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Wrote 400th to M.D.Z. Also to Joyce, Marian.
Boys off to leave in Tripoli. Couldn’t be bothered.
FEBRUARY - To 3rd February 1943
Settled down to quiet, comfortable time. Had shoofty (look) at Benito Village, Tripoli and harbour. Much carnage. Dagoes seem pleased to see us.
Sent small parcel of smokes and sundries to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Feel good. Clifty (pinched) oven and other luxuries. Good show!!
Wrote 411th to M.D.Z. Wonder how our son is now?!!
To 7th February 1943
Good old bludge. Wrote 421st to M.D.Z.I.L.Y.
Received cable health fully restored. Thank the Lord!
Beautiful weather. Churchill. (Churchill made another visit.)
To 7th February 1943
Up and off again. Rainy day. All wet and through mud to Sorman palm forest for camp area. Should be a good camp area.
Colin with the gang... Wrecked Italian plane in the windy palms.
‘Drome water logged. Wrote 425th to M.D. Settled in.
To 10th February 1943
Rain and wind. No flying! Games of chance??
Reading, wrote 430th to M.D.Z. Oh to be with my darling wife and son now!!! Push is s'posed to start on the morn!
To 14th February 1943
Rough rainy weather. Spine bashing and games of chance. My run of outs!!!! (Losing at cards?)
Ruins. (Sabratha ruins 200BC) Off to El-Assa 75 miles away via Sabruto and Zaura. Inland 40 mile from Zamara. Out in the blue again. Sand and fleas!! Kites here on the 15th. Ops quiet.
16th February 1943
Fleas eating us alive. Jerry seems to have taken off!
Wrote 435th to M.D.Z. Most uneventful.
To 22nd February 1943
Same old grind. Much dust not much work. Cable from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Wrote 440th to M.D.
Games of chance disastrous!!
To 25th February 1943
Quiet time. Looks like push starting soon. Wrote 440th to M.D.Z.
Few opps (operations). O and D prang!!! (Two Kittyhawks crash land.)
Cheers. 3 letters Dec 12, 16 and 26 from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So.
Next mail is THE one! I’ll say!!! Also from Ruby and Rupert. All's well on the old home front.
Bursts about replacements. I wonder?? No such luck I’m afraid! (Colin was more right than he could have imagined, he was not to be replaced for more than another two years!)
To 28th February 1943
Shittys (duststorms), many of!
Games of chance. Fairish.
Sent cable and 445 and 450 to M.D.Z. Sent parcel cigs Balbo.
Squadron got 5 for 0 (5 shot down for no loss).
D. and D.K. again. (Meaning unknown - possibly an argument amongst colleagues?)
MARCH - To 4th March 1943
Quiet! “B” flight off to Ben Gardane. Push should be on soon.
Wrote 454 and 460 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Michael 3 months today. Wish I were there!!!!!!!
To 7th March 1943
Wrote 465 to M.D.Z. Received cable sent Feb 25th. All's well.
Games of chance stopped. Much muttering. Squad gets 5/0 (aerial victories). Quiet otherwise.
8th March 1943
Off again bound for El Fada. Off at 10 through blue to Ben Gardane (in Tunisia).
Terribly primitive place. French colonising not so hot. Slave Ring Bar!! (Slave trade artefact?) Along main road to El Fada and 12 mile south through blue to piss poor ‘drome.
Jerry and boys gone gambling mad.
Pretty hot spot. Jerry shelling from the hills. J.U.s (Ju88 bombers) over 8 times. Getting bit close now!!
To 12th March 1943
Our turn. Bostons (Allied Boston bombers) over in strength. Much bastardry straffing etc. B. Cover!!
Wrote 470 and 475 M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! No mail BRR.
No Re’os. (Reinforcements.)
To 20th March 1943
Things livening up. Push spotted to be on.
Big mail. Cheers!! 1 only followed by 12 from M.D.Z. Joyce, Anna, Ruby and Marion. Good news. I.L.M.D.So!! And Michael!
Moved to Medinin. Shelled and bombed. Bit hot 10 miles from front. Artillery barrage heavy.
21st March 1943
“B” flight arrives. 40 go home. Lucky dogs.
Wrote 490 to M.D.Z. Restless nights!!
In shadow of Edinburgh Castle? (Possibly a reference to Borj el Kebir, on the island that 3SQN was using for beach recreation.)
Much bursts. Should all be over soon. Jerry and Co. disappointed.
New beds. Good show!
To 28th March 1943
Re’os arrive. Jerry over every night in strength. Much panic but no damage. Big blitz. 2 down but safe.
500 (500th letter written!) to M.D.Z.I.L.H.
Hot again. Should be over this month. Hope so!!!
29th March 1943
Jerry and Co gone home. Lucky dogs. Blitz on in earnest. We move up, Mareth falls.
We move on to Gabes. Much carnage and the smells!! PHEW!! Camp on beach of Gabes.
Colin & the gang with a "tank buster" Hurricane.
APRIL - To 3rd April 1943
Still on beach. Good bludge. Many games of chance. Good to date.
Visit Gabes... beautiful French women, much desolation. Much bullsh.
Good weather. Shuttle service working again. Shouldn’t be long now!!
Wrote 520 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! I’m blue!!
3rd April 1943
Beaut dog fight. Spits and 109. Off to El Hamma 15 miles inland. 10 mile from Jerry. Look after me now sweet!!!
4th April 1943
B.B. of camp in wheat fields. Bombed all night. Snakes all day. Not amused!
5th and 6th April 1943
Getting bomb happy. Still at it all night and SHELLED!!! By day. Not nice. Much panic! Shrappo (shrapnel) in tent. We are not amused.
Push is on again. Many prisoners and going well. Busy again.
Sent 15 pounds to M.D.Z. Received cable. All's well. Wrote 525 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
Camped in hills. No fun!!!!
To 14th April 1943
Still no mail BRR!!! Cable from M.D.Z. Dated 8th inst. Both well. Good show!!! Wrote 530 to M.D.Z.
Things quietened down. “B” flight off. Bags Bullsh. Talk of going home.
15th April 1943
Off again, bound for El Djem via Sfax. Good trip.
More carnage, corpses etc.
Good track. Overnight in railway cottage. Through Sfax. Another wog city. On to El Djem and Colosseum ruins (Amphitheatre of El Jem). Eggs.
Green fields and beaut wild flowers. Lucky country. Great change.
"Buying eggs from a desert Arab."
16th April 1943
Off again for Kairouan, Holy? City. (Important Muslim pilgrimage site.) Via Masakin and Sousse. Arrive early 17th. Immense plains at foot of towering mountains. “There’s Jerry in them thar hills”. This should be our last ’drome, and very comfortable too!! Please God we get mail soon. I’m so lonesome!! Settled in, very flat ‘drome on flat swamp. Good dry ‘drome in shadows of mountains. Last ‘drome 80 miles from Tunis. Clouds of kites about. Should not be long now. Gibbes gone. (New Squadron Leader) Eaton taken over.
To 20th April 1943
4 letters from M.D.Z. Old but very welcome.
Wrote 544 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Sending cables every fortnight or so.
MAY - To 16th May 1943
Busy as hell shipping etc patrols every day. Early do’s. Clouds of bombers all day. Much carnage up front.
Big do started 7th working like mad. Tunis and Bizerte fell 8th.
Wrote 562 to M.D.Z. no mail BRRR!
13th May 1943
Trip to Tunis, via Point Du Fahs and Enfidaville. Big city, looted and all French. Glad to get back to camp. Mob gone looting... can’t be bothered. Much plonk about but not for this chicken. Numerous garies (transport with goods to sell) floating round Canteen back from Algiers. Smokes and some grog. Wonder where away now?! Much talk of over the seas and far away. I wonder? Have given up all hope of mail and going home. I’m not happy!
20th May 1943
Up and away, driving a little Fiat. Called at Souse P.O.W. Masakim, El Jem, Sfax and camped in olive grove. Yanks. Gin. Cigs!!!
21st May 1943
Up and away and so to Gabes, swim, Mareth, Medinin, Zenara, Zavic, Subrata! Pictures Tarzan. M.P. Camp.
22nd May 1943
Down to 39 P.T.C. and dumped Steve (colleague?).
Tripoli. Picked up Paul James and his mate. Back to Zenara (Zuwarah?) leisurely via ruins. So to camp once more. Desolate looking, but near beach. What now?
To 30th May 1943
Idle life. Swimming by day and various games of chance by night. Holding my own. Acquired camera and Gat!! (?) on proceeds, numerous graft.
Up to 593 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Still no mail!!! BRRR. Oh! Lord how long.
Mild training period. Good food. Grog. Made up parcel 440 smokes and a nice piece of silk for M.D.Z. Hope it arrives OK.
!!Well the shit house has fallen!!!!!! (VICTORY AGAINST THE AXIS IN NORTH AFRICA.)
We know at last. Over the seas to second front as air force commandos!!! Thats us!!! So goodbye to hopes of home for birthday and all that rot. Pretty spartan ’twill be too. Look after me for DZ NOW!!
JUNE - To 11th June 1943
Quiet time, swimming, fishing, swimming, sun work?? Getting kites ready for big do?!!?
Wrote to 620 for M.D.Z. Receive few more precious news sheets from M.D. wife. All's well, also few cables. Sent 2 parcels.
Going on leave? In Tripoli on 12th.
To 22nd June 1943
Spent 4 days in Tripoli and saw all shows and bought few scarves etc. recalled to camp. Bags of panic. Reequipped! Ready to move. Bulsh. Bulsh.
Sent parcel silks. Wrote to 643rd to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! No word!!!
Saw George Rex!!! (King George VI visits.)
Route march. Phew!! Jimmy Spittles back Cooney away. Photos. Swims. Lazy life. Wonder if this push will ever start? Doubt it!!
JULY - To 19th July 1943
Terribly boring month. No word at all from my darling. BRRRR.
(Squadron embarks on landing barges for SICILY.)
20th July 1943
Off to? Transit camp night. To Tripoli on to barge. 2,000 tons marvellous. Bunks etc. Showers!
21st July 1943
Up and away. Cards. Showers numerous. Wrote 774 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
2 alarms. Sea quiet.
22nd July 1943
Sighted Sicily. Little man what now?
Unloaded at Syracusa. Much shipping. Focke Wolfes (German fighter-bombers) had a near miss on us!! Bags of panic.
Left Syracusa highway. Drove to Pachino (landing ground) via winding country lanes. Beautiful country like Western district.
Arrived at ‘drome 5.30. Very good food. Camped in winery. Nice and cool. Bags of tomatoes etc. Peasants very primitive and friendly. Goat milkman arrives.
Guard. Jerry visits us nightly.
Few ops. Jerry running.
Few ops. Spits getting all the fun.
Shouldn’t be long now???
26th July 1943
Cheers. 3 May letters and cable July 1st from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Thanks God for that! All's well!!!
Wrote 680 to M.D.Z. hope won’t be long now!
Church on 2-up pitch. Melons! Honey! Vino.
28th July 1943
688 T.M.D. (To My Darling.)
Peter E (Peter Enright) and Bill F. (Bill Fleming) get theirs!! Bad show!! (Two young ground-crewmen killed in a petrol explosion while delousing a building at Pachino airfield.)
Good food. Vino! Fruit etc.
Musso (Mussolini) resigns?? I wonder? What now?
To 31st July 1943
Wrote 694 to M.D.Z. Air Mail???
Done over, no damage.
Shifting again off to (Agnone airstrip). What now?? Arrived in one piece after four hours numerous turns and twists, mountain defiles, blown bridges etc etc. via Syracusa and Augusta.
’Drome is a swampy flat in shadows of Mt. Etna. Front line just over the rise!!! Mortar fire, 25 pounders etc. Bags of fun and games? Second El Hamma. I wonder??
Settled in chaff shed. Night falls and out zooms millions of mossies!!! Attack in force, retreat to sealed lorry and stay there!! Malaria? I wonder!!!
AUGUST - To 3rd August 1943
Kites arrive. “B” flight stay behind in case we get shelled off the ‘drome. Bloody lovely!!!
Food poor, water plentiful. Tomatoes, corn, melons to hand.
Beach mile away. Netted for fish. Swimming. Bods!! (dead bodies) Grim!! Burial.
Kites straffing. Flamers! Bags of bods.
(Kittyhawk) L fails to return. (P/O Doc McLeod - a bizarre POW episode.)
Price (Sgt. Howell-Price) down in sea. (Rescued by amphibious Supermarine Walrus.)
This Mark III Kitty "CV-J" (FS413) was regularly flown by John Howell-Price.
This plane was wrecked when it swung on landing and the undercarriage collapsed, Ben Gardane, Tunisia, July 16, 1943.
To 9th August 1943
Pretty hot time! Poor old K. Golder (F/Sgt. Ken Goulder) got his. Army pushes Jerry out of shelling range. Take Catania.
Wrote 706 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
CHEERS! Two May letters and July Airgraph from M.D.Z. All's well!!! Two from Ruby and one Marian May vintage.
Poker. My run of ins. 12 pounds in front. Padre!
To 14th August 1943
Happy birthday. - Ha! Bloody Ha! Champ?
Hope to God next one with my darling. And how!!! Brrr.
11th Jerry gave us the smart once over!!! 30 plus some eggs (high explosive bombs), incens (incendiaries), flares, start fires, bags of panic, bods (bodies) and what have you!
I was plenty scared!! D.A.’s (delayed action bombs) going off still. Beaus (Beaufighters) followed him home and settled their hash!!!
Big gaggles every day.
Into Catania. Get squeeze box, champagne, have look-see.
Much panic. Mine!! Brrr! What a war!!!
Much havoc and bods etc.
More cards. Mixed pickings! (Last word written as if just BUMPED from delayed-action explosion!) More D.A.’s. Bugger the bloody Jerry. My nerves are gone to hell and some. Time I was home!
More cheers. Eight April letters and snaps from M.D.Z., Rupert, Ruby, Joyce, Marion and Anne. Good show!!! Many snaps of infants and my sweetheart. All look lovely. Not such a bad war at times! Hope to heavens I can see and hold all my loved ones in my arms before I’m too old and baldy! (Colin's hair starting to recede, something he later claimed was accelerated by having to wash it in petrol when water was scarce in the desert.) Wrote 724 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
To 16th August 1943
Wrote 730 to M.D.Z. also to all the tribe.
D.A.’s still going off. Jumps! Many prangs! Much toil for certain members.
Bored to death and want to go home just the same. I’m very heartsick and lonely!!! Men! Men! How I’m sick of them!!!
To 20th August 1943
Into Catania again. Sight seeing!?
Sent parcel to M.D.Z. Received Airgraph (microfilmed airmail letters) from Ruby and M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! July 19th. All's well.
NO birthday cables? The world’s forgotten me?!!
Few eggs (bombs) dropped. Italy next stop?????
To 23rd August 1943
Birthday cable...12th August... from my son and darling. All's well.
Touring island. Very pretty and interesting. Why haven’t I right company and then enjoy myself?
Much German pilsener in. Many screams and howls. 3/- bottle but worth it. Mildly merry!
I need M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!! Sent card and wrote 742 to M.D.Z. and air graphs to mob. Much complaining and wailing! Promotions? Ha Bloody Ha!!
To 30th August 1943
Jinxy and Oliver off to “Poor House” 14 days.
Cineti (action) time. It’s on!! Augusta cops it morning noon and night! Good view... but close!!!
5. Sth Afs join us. (New South African squadron 5 SAAF joined 239 Wing.)
Wrote air graph to M.D.Z. Should not be long now!!!?
SEPTEMBER - To 6th September 1943
Received 4 June letters and 1 Feb from M.D.Z. 4 from Ruby. No cables or A-G (airgraphs)!! Sent A-G 2-3 week.
Into Catania. Spot 10 pounds on Xmas presents for M.D. (My Darling.) Sending four parcels. Some should get home.
(INVASION OF ITALY FROM SICILY.)
It’s on!! The old 8th (8th Army landed) in Italy. S’pose we’ll follow soon. Bags of bull from Skeeta!! (3 Sqn Commanding Oficer "Skeeter" Eaton.)
I don’t like the look of things!! Wrigley (Air Vice Marshal Wrigley) coming!! I wonder???????
Much screaming and howling!!! Some rot in home papers about us being given option of going home or staying out here, and that we elected to stay over here!! Ha bloody Ha!!
Are we mad!! Should get somebody’s blood for this!!!
A.V.M. (Air Vice Marshal Wrigley) coming? I wonder???
A.V.M. duly arrives - BLACK FRIDAY!!
See him on behalf of mob! We’ve had it!!!
(Colin sounds bitterly disappointed that there were no plans for the boys to be relieved and sent home, as had happened with two previous iterations of 3SQN ground personnel.)
On same basis as E.A.T.S.!! (Empire Air Training Scheme, as opposed to permanent RAAF staff.) We’ve sure been double-crossed and how!!! Duration I fear! No possible promotions!!! Bloody lovely.
Oh! My darling, I wonder when I’ll see you again!!??!!?? Some July mail in. Strays!
Wrote and cabled M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!!
10th September 1943
Left Agnone for Syracusa on route to Italy! Its on again.
Up at four & so to transit camp eight. Two days of starved hell here! Bloody lousy!
Off to barge on 13th? Sardine cans! Convoy of 19 ships & 32 hours uneventful steaming to Taranto.
Hang around wharf all day & out to ‘drome for feed at tea time. First feed for week.
Taranto in good nick. Dagoes seem happy enough. Much navy.
Dusty ‘drome alive with Doug's, Kitty's & Spits. Camp in trees. Many Gerry bombs & general bursting about!!!! War appears to go to plan we hope!!
This Italy seems a fair dump. Very hot. Fruit etc. Towns out of bounds!?!!!
Further than ever away from M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!
to 23rd September 1943
Busy as hell!! War goes well. Dirty bloody drome. Numerous dagoes!! Musica!!! Still no word of M.D.Z. Cabled & Airgraph to her. No writing time. Living under trees!!
23rd September 1943
Off again to Bari Royal Airport per Douglas (i.e. flying in a Douglas transport plane DC3). Nice flip (plane trip). Nice town from air. Arrived here & off to town 5 miles!
Our eyes popped out!! A real white man's town! Ice cream, delicious champagne 2/- bottle (2 shillings). 400 Lira to pound! We are millionaires!!? War's looking up!!!
to 29th September 1943
Into town every-day!!? Leave?? Much drinking, eating & what have you.
Do not tempt me gentle maiden!!!!!!! Still true!!! Very few overseas maidens now!!!!! Beautiful Opera House. Dinner after shave, shower etc & so to the theatre! Are we carrying on!!!!! Its nice to be civilized again, if only my darling were here!! What a time we could have!!! Two letters from M.D.Z. Aug 2nd & 10th. She is not getting my mail or parcels!! Grrr!! I'm not happy!!! Nice photos of Micky. I.L.Y/them so!!!
OCTOBER - 1st October 1943
Off again to Foggia. Ruins. Carnage. Bogged down till 3rd and move to Foggia Main. Kites arrive. Up tents etc. Settle in.
I'm feeling crook.
4th October 1943
Off to 15 C.C.S. & so on to 132 M.F.A. (Hospitals.)
5th on to Barletta. Tents rain & cold for two days doing me no good!
7th October 1943
Off back to Bari per train. Luxurious!?
I've touch of the fever & sore doings. May have to be stripped (medical procedure?) Oh! darling I should never have left your side!
Many hundreds (of) poor devils being dragged in. They sure fight this war the hard way! & how. Could be worse, I guess!!
8th October 1943
2 Airgraphs, one from Anne and M.D.Z.I.L.H.So!
to 21st October 1943
Wrote 776 (meaning 776th letter to Zita) to M.D.Z. Airgraph & letters to Mick & Rupert.
Sores healing up. Hope to be O.K. in a week. Oh! darling I'm so damn lonely & need you!
Back to Foggia. Same old war. Cold & wet. Many big bombers about. Two-way bashing of the Hun.
Excitement on drome. Not room for all of us!!! (239 Wing had to move to the muddy airstrip at Mileni, to let the Americans have the developed Foggia Main base.)
NOVEMBER - 3rd November 1943
Goody goody!! 3 Graphs (airgraph letters) from my darling. All's well!! Also Ruby & 2 letters from beloved. So happy she is settled again. Wrote Airgraph & 792nd. Leave on to Naples. Don't know if I will go or not. Bit of bird to eat, quiet.
5th November 1943
You can be stiff!! Silly so and so!! Kicked me in the ruddy what-not and I'm in dock (hospital?) again!! It never rains but it pours!!!
DECEMBER - to 2nd December 1943
Same old drag in mud in Mileni (current drome site). Mud!! Recovered again and ready for 14 days touring.
(LEAVE ON THE AMALFI COAST!)
3rd December 1943
Off "on tour" to Amalfi. Stayed at “Luna" (the hotel is still there!). Beautiful weather and scenery. Off to Sorento, Capri and so on to Naples.
Some grog. Getting tired of it and glad to go back to see if mail from M.D. I miss her so! If only she were here now.
Colin on leave in Amalfi.
"On steps of Amalfi Hotel "Al Berga-Luna" 1944. Note the way
village built into sides of cliffs - typical of Southern Italian coast."
15th December 1943
Back to toil and joy!! 4 'graphs and 2 letters from M.D. also Ruby. Zita on holiday at Mornington. Good show.
Hope she is worthier than I!!!!!! (Is this a revealing remark?)
Cable parcels home! Good show!!
to 24th December 1943
Same old grind. No more word from M.D. Graph from Peg. Jimmy off to college. I told him so!!!
30th December 1943
Graph from M.D. Wife and son. 10th inst!! All's well. Good show. So happy they still love me and thinking of my Xmas. I'm always thinking of them, including noon Xmas day!
31st December 1943
Up and away, off to Vasto! Cold and wet! Very miserable. Grrr!! Have to build road to get to dispersal. Good show??? B.B.B!
1944 - JANUARY
1st January 1944
What a night! What a day!!! Tents everywhere, water everywhere!!! JUST lived out the storm. Adriatic everywhere! Many worse than us. 450 Sqn spent all New Years Day digging in!! We'll never shift the old tent again!!
3.7 next door! (A large anti-aircraft gun.) Here's hoping!!
to 8th January 1944
Strong mail in Graphs and Cables.
Cold as ice. Snow and sleet. Drome U/S (un-servicable).
Much writing and general bashing (resting). Wrote 888 to M.D.
New tent up and dug in. Snow-bound!!!
to 20th January 1944
Xmas mail in. Many from my darling also two parcels. Cheers! Photos and problem letter!! Wrote to 902 and many Graphs.
Quiet ops. Reo (reinforcement) bursts. Too good to be true, I'm afraid.
Weather better. Bored to death!!!
FEBRUARY - to 20th February 1944
Same old grind, games of chance, fair! Just missed the gold watch and chain!
Graphs from M.D.Z.I.L.H. Goody! All's well.
Cold as ice. Snow etc. Few ops. War's snowed in up here. Flying over to Rome.
Lost Sergeant (3sqn Flight Lieutenant Jack Sergeant, shot down by ground fire, POW), otherwise lucky.
MARCH - To 10th March 1944
Same dreary monotony. Trips to Sierra Cap. Games of chance goodly.
Graphs and mail good from M.D.Z.I.L.H. Sent £12-10/- home via Simmons.
Nicky Barr back. Good show. (Former 3SQN C.O. Nicky Barr, escaped from German captivity in Italy and had amazing adventures before crossing the front line near 3SQN's Cutella base.)
"Natter"(Flying Officer Forstrom) bails out over Anzio gets back O.K. (After being hit by flak, Natter baled out into the ocean off the beseiged Anzio beach-head. He paddled his life-raft ashore under sporadic fire from the trigger-happy Americans. - Fortunately inaccurate in this case!)
Weather foul. Very bored & sick of it all, oh M.D.Z. I need you so!!!
to 16th March 1944
Same old grind. Lousy weather. Get couple more kites at last. Mustangs soon, so they say.
Wrote 965 to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So! Photo of our son turns out 1000% & then some. Happy little tyke with a button nose!!!!!!!!
"Kitty with new nose-art and empty bomb racks parked on steel mesh."
(The 'PSP' steel runway planking and coastal sand-hill mark this as Cutella airfield.
This plane was the personal Kittyhawk of SQNLDR Brian Eaton, who was soon
afterwards promoted to 239 Wing Commander - including oversight of 3 Squadron.)
MAY - to 1st May 1944
Quiet time with the odd thrill! Strafed by Thunderbolts... nearly got mine... one dead, 2 hurt, 3 kites Cat. 3 (wrecked). The dirty yank B'ss!!
(Infamous friendly fire episode when 3 Sqn were attacked on the ground by American Airforce P-47 Thunderbolts)
Gasher Nash, Doyle & Bayley C-O's. Many bursts which Fatty Duncan (Group Captain RAAF Liaison Officer for Middle East) fails to confirm! Grrr!
Wrote 985 to M.D.Z. Received beaut cake & fairly constant Graphs. All's well, I'm happy as can be expected!?
Frank P. missing. Poor Claire!! Pity of it all! (The husband of Colin's sister Claire, Frank Penaluna, was lost in a 6 Sqn. RAAF Beaufort, fighting the Japanese, 28th March.)
Doing much trading for Wu-oovre's (Italian for egg is uova) up village. Nice change of diet.
Sam posted to R.S.U. He's mad! & not happy about change.
Many lads unhappy about home (not all girlfriends could wait this long). At least I’m lucky in THAT respect, thank the Lord!
Still visiting! (German bombers?) Should finish soon I hope!
The odd game of Base-ball, Cricket & Darts!
Just imagine. Wa-al--! Lost Wall Hogg & many Prangs! (Wal Hogg survived, although he was captured.)
Sent £25 home via Frank C. Book (Colin's accounting). Ain’t I good!?
Many burst about 2nd front-Yugo-etc! etc!
to 23rd May 1944
Still hard at it at Cutella. Big push on. Many prangs. Bomb! (RAF plane dropped a bomb while landing.)
Graphs O.K. My darling not well!!! I'm blue!!!
Country beautiful. Peasants harvesting. I have hay fever!! Many oover (egg) trips. Odd picture show! Many bursts as to when will all be over! I wonder. We will move on again soon they say.
Nissen Hut nights! Many plonk (cheap wine) fiends.
Frank missing! Poor Claire. Oh M.D.Z.I.L.Y. & need you so!! How long Lord! How Long.!!?
25th May 1944
Up and away again over to Casino Front to San Angelo (San Angelo d'Alife aerodrome). Beautious drive through mountains, over Apennines, via Campobasso to San Angelo, lovely site on banks of Volturo River.
to 30th May 1944
Intensive ops. Dawn till dark ops, harrying the fleeing Hun, hope he breaks this time, he sure should!!! Terrific air pounding, sky is black with our kites, we alone toting about 30 tons per day!!! Work!!!
260 (RAF Squadron in 239 Group) cop it heavy 8 kites.
Spike Jennings missing! (Shot down outside Anzio, but evaded capture with the help of a beautiful blonde partisan!)
Ken, Frank charged for nicking into Naples, goes to show you!!! These women!! Get behind ME Satan!
Poor mail now, curses. No news of Frank P. yet. Sad! (Brother-in-law Frank lost in action - RAAF off New Britain, Papua New Guinea.)
They say leave in Rome next month --- so what. Bugger Rome - Melbourne or the Bush for this laddie!!!
JUNE - to 10th June 1944
Swimming and working and not much else! Up and away again to Guidonia Air Port, 21 Kilos from Roma... Via Cassino, an incredible heap of ruins! Good country, onto plains...
Dog! D (Damn?)
BLAST THE POOCH!! (Written over paw mark!)
12th June 1944
Up to Tivoli, 5 miles, some looting, terrific wreck and on the nose. 3,000 bods (bodies) under the mess!
14th to 20th June 1944
In and out of Roma. Magnificent City clean and beautiful historical sights St Peters, Vatican, Pope, Colosseum etc etc.
People nigh starving and smokes!! nienti! (Italian: nothing.)
Inflation, can't buy much, odd scarf to take home, I hope.
CROWS!!! Cheers!!! Graphs letters and cable from my darling seems to be better now, thank the Lord! Been terribly worried about her!!!
S.L. Repat. (Repatriation Officer?) here and MAYBE? will get home yet. Much interesting gen. on housing etc.
Written quite a lot. Air mail letters now too. I.L.M.D.Z.So!!!!
"Occupied Roma... King Victor Immanuel Monument"
23rd June 1944
To Falerium (airfield) via Roma, 30 mile N.
Good Road Route 2. Many 100's Jerry trucks tanks etc. (Wrecked by air attack.) Work of our lads. Would not like to be a Jerry D.M.T. (Truck Driver) these days!!
JULY - to 6th July 1944
Same old grind. Into Roma couple of times.
Sent parcels to M.D.Z.I.L.H.So! Good graphs! Speedy. All's well.
Uncle Joe (Russia) may end war for us yet!!! Our lads doing much damage.
Lost Alan Field. (Pilot hit by a German anti-aircraft rocket while dive bombing.) Flamer's!!!? Moved to Creti (airfield in central Tuscany) long trip.
Soon be in Berlin?? Same fun????
To 20th July 1944
Pretty country. Very rich land crudely worked, oxen etc.
Boom! Boom! Too close!!! War goes on apace. Arezzo! Shells!!!!
Leghorn and Genoa fall. Soon be end in Italy I think!!!?
Odd letter from MDZILHSo!!! All's well. Gone to Tassie with Peg. Goody!!
Many Kiwis going home. Lucky dogs. Wonder is when our turn will come!!! I'm so lonely!!
AUGUST - to 10th August
Same old grind! Fairly well treated with mail. MDZ happy in Ta_________ (Pen jerks off page - leaving a thick ink line.) WOW-ZOOKS! & likewise yawks!!
(According to Tommy Jones's diary, on August 4 the Luftwaffe made a rare appearance, with one plane straffing and dropping a bomb. It was then shot down by Beaufighters.)
Much panic!!! Little strafing do!! The old ticker ain't what she was. High time I was home and out of these alarms and excursions to holes!!
Where was I? MDZILHS0 happy in Tas, the son and heir doing well. Goody.
Games of chance... fortune fair. Should have good leave without socking the old book!!?
War going so well we are all hoping again!!! Should be in Florence soon.
Quiet old birthday. Lonely as hell!!
Mustangs having nasty spills. (3SQN had not yet converted to Mustangs, so this must be a reference to crashes of another squadron's aircraft, on the same base.)
Sabotage in our petrol. Much toil!! I'm bored!
Very good programmes on wireless. O these tunes!! "Don't get round much” “I’m getting tired” ”Lovely way to spend an evening" etc etc. They're killing me!
Heard Blue Orchids today. Sweet cruelty indeed. Nearly cried like a baby!! 'Fraid I've just about had it!! Oh darl, ILY and miss you SO!!!
to 26th August
Uneventful - games of chance - good - odd cinema - food fresh!? Mail fair - MDZ still resting in Tas... Goody!!!
Much talk of big push here. They say they will push Jerry right out of Italy? On to Vienna? I wonder!!
"They say" tis 8th Army's last big job!! I wonder???
Ha! bloody Ha!! Off again over Adriatic Coast. Very pretty but dusty trip cross Italy to Jesi near Ancona. Peace time drome. Camp area amongst casas! (Italian for houses.) Much fruit etc still, good show. Knocked about somewhat.
Wonder when will stop rushing all over Italy. So far...
Colin's map of 3 Sqn in Italy.
SEPTEMBER - to 10th September 1944
Same old routine. Mail reasonable. Sent parcel to MDZILH.
Few flips (flights) over front. Quiet with one fright from Jerry. Blast him!
Off again back to central sector near Florence!!?? With Velt-Trackers (South Africans) in Spits. What now??? Old F (Kittyhawk) just staggered home terribly beaten up - lucky "Woodsy"!
Bought me watch. Trying to get leave.
Getting pretty sick of it all and very lonely!!! War looking good on the whole - but I wonder!! S'pose I will have to send Xmas to M.D. once more - blast! How long Lord???
17th September 1944
Off to Florence on 7 days leave with Walshy.
to 22nd September 1944
Put up at Kiwi Club, Palace of a place. Good food and service. Lived life of gent for a few days. Very nice! Bought £30 of stuff for my family, very good shopping.
Many good shows, good orchestra in lounge. Friendly with Norma, the singer. Purely platonic my dear!!!
Fine old buildings etc. etc. finally recalled.
Blast!!! Back to Jesi. Mad.
Letters from MDZILH So!! Happy to hear she is well and in Tas. still.
to 26th September 1944
Packed 7 parcels for MDZ. Sam very unhappy about his Marge! Sandy missing!!! (Flying Officer F C Sanders, KIA.) Many prangs. When will this damn war be over?
458 (RAAF Squadron) nearby, also 454. Many bursts!!
OCTOBER - to 12th October 1944
Terrible weather - Mud - Mire. Very little work - Blast!! War slowed down again.
- Worried, no word from MDZ but graphs at last and all is well. Sent Mike (son Michael) £5 for his birthday. £20 to Anne (Great Aunt) to start house account for me. Surprise for MDZILHS!!!
Games of chance still fair.
Getting pretty morose and not happy laughing little airman as in days on yore!
NOVEMBER - to 17th November 1944
Uneventful month at Jesi, same old grind, wet and cold! Into billets - fair!!? Got odd word from MD She may be moving to 198. (198 Glen Osmond Rd Adelaide, Great-Aunt Anne’s house.) Cabled Anne. Sending for rent. Hope all goes well and MDZ gets us a nice home together!!! And not too damn long before I can enjoy it!!!! Ah me!!!
(3SQN BECOMES THE FIRST AND ONLY RAAF SQUADRON TO FLY THE SUPERLATIVE MUSTANG FIGHTER-BOMBER IN COMBAT OPERATIONS IN WW2.)
19th November 1944
Off to Fano, fair drome, P.S.P. (Pierced Steel Planking - metal landing strip) and good billet. Aussie Club excellent.
What a war!!! What's wrong - waiting for the W.C. to fall (waiting for the German "shithouse" to collapse?).
Good mail from MDZ. She may be moving to 198! Goody!!! Sent £20 via Stork and £20 via Walshe for rent - Cabled Anne.
Sent all Xmas mail. What again!!! Surely this will be my last Xmas away from my little family IL&Miss them so!!!!!!!!!!!!
DECEMBER - to 24th December
Moved to Fano. Good billets. Sent Anne £80. Book (Colin kept “the book” with a record of the card game winnings) Stork £50. Walshe £20. Postal notes & £20 Stork home O.K.
Telegram... Trouble with move to 198. Blast! Many more lucky ones off home! Should be about 6 months to me! I wonder!!!!??? Zita got Xmas stuff O.K. Bloody good show.
Mail very good. Many air letters 2-3 weeks! Son & heir coming along well! How I long to see him!
Week in Rome with Walshe. Good time was had by all!? Visiting again O.K. I wonder???
JANUARY 1945 - to 5th January 1945
Quiet Xmas. Grog etc. but not impressed. Stork & self in serious trouble, curse Quill!!! (Sgt Quill.) Allagufic myself ("alakefic" - Egyptian for couldn't care less) but poor old Stork!
Much promotion rumours. I wonder? All I want is to get home to MDZILHSo!
FEBRUARY - to 23rd February 1945
Same old grind. 8 days in Rome. Very pleasant... Opera etc.
On again to Cervia. Nice Villa by the sea... very posh. Pines! (Their new coastal airstrip at Cervia had previously been an Italian Fascist holiday camp! The coastal umbrella-pine trees of the region are a distinctive feature of most Cervia photographs.)
Cow of a boil - in hospital for 3 weeks.
My darl settled in 198 at last. Goody!! All my dough home O.K.
Weather good again.
MARCH - to 15th March 1945
Mixed pickle! G.C. (Group Captain Liason Officer) tells us lot of bulsh, may be soon, later, never!!!
Zita settling in O.K. very pleased! Got £200 away to Anne O.K. Nice nest egg for my little family... mail fair.
Stork, Kev, Cooney & Co away to blighty (England), lucky???
Losing pilot a day, bad show!!! L Gutzed! (Mustang "L" shot down and smashed into the ground, attacking a highly-defended German rail target. Warrant Officer Ian Rennison killed.)
Sam???!!! Sammy Cook lost leg scrounging, they can have my share of that!!!
Looks like war in Europe finishing in 2 months? What then??? I wonder!!!
Leg O.K. after anxious moments! I need much love & how!!!
APRIL - to 28th April 1945
Stork and Co off to Blighty. (Several 3SQN men were transferred to Bomber Command in England, but were still in transit when the war in Europe finished. They then trained for "Tiger Force" for the Pacific War, but this also finished before they came to any harm.)
Got off £50 to Anne.
Week in Rome. High brow? War going extra well.
Lost 5 pilots in so many days bad luck. (Most were able to evade capture and eventually returned to the Squadron.)
Fair news from MDZILHSo!!! How Long?
(VICTORY IN ITALY!)
MAY - to 2nd May 1945
Finito La Guerra in Italia! (Italian for, “The war ended in Italy!”)
Thank God for that & please, please let us go home to our loved ones pronto this time.
Guns taken away... trucks U/S (immobilised, possibly to prevent unauthorised trips!).
Bags of bulsh! They must be frightened of the boys celebrating. The new Aj. (Adjutant) just hasn't a clue... or has he???
Oh darl ILYSo & need you, surely this will be it, if they send us to East I think I will die!!!
Hope they keep us doing something! Idleness does not suit me! Too much time to brood!
Finances fair £200 to Anne O.K. & £50 for rent. Well done & Bravo Colin. Won't my DZ be surprised when I tell her!!!
7th May 1945
V.E. day at last, bit of an anti-climax here! Three bottles beer our reward!!?
B flight off up past Venice. Per. Kay.
Training flying for big "do" (Campoformido victory celebration flypast) on 25th. Bl'y bulsh'! Won't we ever be done???
Bags of Bursts. Main hope seems to be "on our way" via circuitous route 6-8 weeks!!? We'll see. I wonder?
Colin's 'story' as reported in WINGS magazine May 29th 1945.
Basically an accurate synopsis, although rather more 'gung ho' than Colin's inner thoughts.
- No mention in his diary of being interviewed!
JUNE - to 14th June 1945
Bulsh. Parade went off O.K. 26th. (26th May Campoformido "Victory" flypast) Leave trips arranged -Venice. Plenty of work for those left behind!!? Black...
8th to 13th June 1945
Drove leave party to Milano, Como etc. beautiful country bought many gifts for MDZILHSo!! If only she were here to help me enjoy that trip would have been perfect.
The "homer" shares have dropped again, lucky if we make it by Xmas the way things are going!! Grrrrr!!!
JULY - to 4th July 1945
Returned from another 10 days tour de France. Very nice as far as it went with Como a high spot & Lucerne!!! Returned to mail & rest & no news as yet thou promising burst!??
How long now Oh Lord?? Have now France, Austria & Switzerland on my map!!
AUGUST - to 6th August 1945
Quiet interval another trip to Como etc & many anxious waits mail not bad. Several parcels sent. MDZ getting impatient and can't blame her. Blast the wait.
7th August 1945
Waal, its come at last, me & few others for home and Mob for England. What a blow for them but I am happy at last, and of course my fingers crossed and how, they say we start the long journey on 16th via Naples and Cairo to be home in October. We'll see!! Darling I love you so!!!
10th August 1945
Much comings and goings, half the lads off to Blighty, we get rid of the Mustangs at last, they say the Jap war is over __ Good __ BUT how will it effect MY journey home? I'm waiting!!!???
What a birthday!!!
M.D.Z.I.L. and miss you!!!!!
17th August 1945
(Highlighted by Colin "XXX".) We start on long journey at last. Truck to Verona and then via Bari, Ancona, Cutella and old haunts to Taranto. Not bad trip considering... quite fair Transit Camp 54.
SEPTEMBER - 3rd September 1945
Am I bored and fed up!!
Still sweating the boat, always tomorrow - tomorrow!!! Bahh!!! We seem to be stranded here now!!! Wouldn't it!!!
Wrote couple of A.G. to M.d.Z.I.L.Y. So!!! Oh darl! much more of this messing round when hopes so high and I'll die of frustration!!?
(SHIPPED HOME AT LAST!)
11th September 1945
Boarded Winchester Castle and sailed late, quiet trip via Greece, Crete to Haifa, unloaded Yids (troops from British Palestine returning home) and up and away to Port Said.
13th to Cairo by Wog train and by truck to Al Maza, the Arse of the World in desert. Bursts as to us leaving this month.
14th September 1945
Much darting about, clothing etc. Graham clanged our arse in again (possibly confined to base).
Our boat, Orontes, burned in Tilbury. Wouldn't it!!! What next!!!???
Oh Lord, how long now????
So ends Colin's Diary...
3SQN sailed home from Egypt on 27th September...
Finally Colin could return to Adelaide and reunite with his beloved Zita, as well as meet his young son for the first time. Colin resumed working in the motor trade, specialising in truck sales with a long and successful career at Freeman Motors Pty. Ltd., rising to the position of Director.
By 1950 he and Zita had three more children, Suzanne, Kym and lastly me, Tony. We lived at the Glen Osmond house of his Great-Aunt Anne, which Colin eventually inherited. We then moved to the seaside suburb of Glenelg, a significant location for both of them. - Not only the place where they last spent time together before being separated by the war for so long, but also as during Zita's teenage years her parents were publicans of the rather grand Grand Hotel, on the corner of Jetty Road and Colley Terrace (now sadly demolished). And, as mentioned in the Introduction, Colin's father briefly owned a guesthouse there.
They lived in Glenelg for the rest of their lives, although at many different addresses. Perhaps because of her "Hotel" upbringing, Zita was a "serial mover", but always in Glenelg!
In 1973 Colin and Zita visited Italy on the Italian ship Galileo Galilei. Colin found Italy very different from his previous visit, 30 years before!
I don't doubt that my dad was deeply affected by his WW2 experience. Particularly in the immediate post-war years. However he survived physically and mentally and was a great husband to mum and a great dad to us kids. He eventually got some benefit as well, especially as the knowledge of Italian culture and language he acquired was very useful in his work, when engaging with the large post-war Adelaide Italian community.
Passing away in 1996, just after his 80th birthday, he was joined by his beloved Zita just one month later. They had been married for 54 years.
I would welcome any comments or clarifications from other descendants or interested readers. [Tony, e-mail: retroactive1 optusnet.com.au ]
- Special thanks to James Oglethorpe, firstly for his encouragement... Secondly for solving puzzles of the meanings of mystery words, jargon, names and abbreviations.T.F.
Colin back at last!
Above and below: The diary and photo album... with Egyptian baby sandals, paybook & Italy leave vehicle permit.
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