J.E.R. Clarke Capt.
Q.X.6245
Tel Aviv Dec. 1940

Wednesday 13 November 1940

Left Brisbane together with 2/7 th Engineers. Quick trip to Sydney. Straight through to the wharf and boarded H.M.T. ORION 24000 tons (approx.) on 14 th November. Left the wharf almost immediately and anchored out in harbour. Slipped quietly out into the open sea about 10 P.M.

Thursday 14 November to Thursday 21 November 1940

Sailed south – out of sight of land escorted by the cruiser Adelaide and Lockheed Hudsons of the air force. Accompanied by the Polish boat “Batory” packed with New Zealanders. Sailed right down south of Tasmania – it became bitterly cold and fairly rough. 2 boats – one American and one English had been mined in Bass Straight. Had no work for the first few days and then had a few cases of toothache. Became very annoyed with lack of equipment. It was very difficult to do anything other than extract.

Wednesday 1 January 1941

Up early. Mass in Father Daly’s tent. Received message that car from Gaza available. And so off to Jerusalem. Much of road under construction and once again passed Qastina, Quatra (of the Synagogue) and other now familiar places. Saw a large British convoy on way south – ten ton trucks – six wheeled diesel trucks with all four rear wheels double. They were pulled up on side of road getting a few oranges.

Jerusalem was a marvellous experience. Just this side of the city at the foot of the hills saw a large Italian prison camp. Very high barbed wire fence with high machine gun posts dotted all over it. Went straight through to Bethlehem and then back to city. Saw some lovely filigreed silver work but too broke to buy. Arrived in Bethlehem 11 A.M. Left Dimra about 9 A.M. Left Jerusalem 5.30 P.M. Accompanied by Maj. Row, Maj. Murphy, Padre Daly. Brought Maj. Cameron back. Must write to Bon tomorrow or send the photographs. Saw large Polish and British camps.

Thursday 2 January 1941

Up late – another glorious day. Wrote long letter to Bon & enclosed photographs and olive leaves. Issued with underpants. Said to be moving out on Sunday. All war equipment and officers trunks to go tomorrow. Busy packing warm gear. We expect it to be very cold. Mr. Spender (Minister for Army) inspected large parade nearby. C.O. went to Jerusalem with W.O. Topping for Stationary [sic]. Casey still chasing generator – arrived this afternoon. Little twin cylinder petrol engine and alternator – good for about 15 amps. Morey in his element at last.

Apparently going to neighbourhood of Sollum near Bardia. Said to be within artillery range – hope not. Sorry to leave Palestine without camera but no money. Would not decrease allotment yet. A few months in desert should build up pay-book. Got our puggarees today and put them on with colour patchs [sic]. Looks quite smart. Decided to leave all shoes behind – issue boots very comfortable. Had a bath – very welcome after 3 days – will probably go much longer soon.

Friday 3 January 1941

Very busy all morning packing and loading war equipment. Took the blow lamps, spare forceps etc. out of trunk and into panniers. Everything away by 11.30 A.M. Capt. Yeates on loading party in Gaza. All preparations made for move tomorrow night. We are hoping to wear battle-dress – it will be cold. Our trunks went this morning. I wonder when we shall see them again. We are travelling fairly light with just bare necessities – we may have to carry our own gear. The three padres are off to the ordinance depot at Barbara to get battle suits after six month’s argument. Padre McCleod very pleased. The men have just been paraded and Maj. Cameron is reading the movement order to them. I don’t think it will be postponed this time. Got the snaps of Jerusalem away to Bon and shall post the rosary beads. We are trying hard to finish up the mess stocks and are packing up the wireless set and batteries.

Our last night in Dimra and damned cold. Met 2 dentists this afternoon. Adelaide Dentisr Major Joyner & Capt. Fraser 7 th A.G.H. Joyner came over on Stratheden with Maj. Row. Both now at Deir Suneid. Joyner was at Qastina. Had an auction sale & cleaned up the remnants of the mess. Yeates provided usual side-bets and light patter.

Saturday 4 January 1941

Our last day in Palestine. Had all the tents and baggage packed up by 11 A.M. spent the rest of the day sitting round & waiting. Colonel Ken Frazer arrived – just out from England. His version of bombing same as that published. He told us that the outer defences of Bardia had been taken. Had a bath in the afternoon and were entertained at dinner by 24 th Infantry Brigade. Treated us very well. Casey went to Jerusalem on duty and returned late with bad cold. G.S.C. turned up very punctually at 11 P.M. and we rode of on [sic] in the back of a 3 ton truck. Boarded the train in Gaza and moved out about 1 A.M. Bitterly cold in desert of Sinai but slept fairly well – Major Rowe’s backside a nuisance.

The nurses joined us at Gaza.

We had been comfortable at Dimra and were sorry to leave although keen for some work. Had a very hazy idea of our destination. We left Capt. Yeates & 6 O.R.’s as rear party.

Sunday 5 January 1941

Saw dawn in the desert of Sinai – passed relics of last war – stacks of barbed wire etc. also a number of palisaded enclosures with camels within. Arrived at El Kantara about 7.30 A.M. Had breakfast in stone hut of N.A.A.F.I. Sausages – beans & potatoes. Sausages fried in cottonseed oil – tasted very queer. Waited for about two hours and then ferried across the canal. On the other side stood fully equipped in dirty street leading to station with Gyppo. market all round us – decided Gyppos filthy crowd. Plenty of hawkers and demands for Backsheesh. Saw two really excellent conjurers (Gully-gully). Waited here about an hour, boarded train & then another wait. Eventually off to Ishmailea alongside canal most of way – Part of Ishmailea very clean & attractive – other parts same as usual. Delightful trip through Nile delta – stopped at Zag a Zig – country all irrigated – old water wheels – amazingly fertile – looked beautiful – no fences – beggars at every stop – passed through dozens of towns & villages – all stunk but some had quite lovely mosques with delicate minarets. Ran very late through outskirts of Alexandria – another long wait and then on across causeway to Amyrea. Met by Whitehead with 2 trucks – disgusting display of hysteria by Q.M. Another long wait on platform. Waited while men ferried up to camp about 4 miles away in trucks. Helped surgical team for 1 st C.C.S. unload their gear into another truck. Dirty Gyppos had defaecated all over station. Eventually reached camp – everything very rough – Q.M. acting part of tough old soldier – boasted he had stolen everything in camp – very embarrassing – complained bitterly and profanely of advance parties orders – do not think he will last the distance. Slept on pine boards laid on cement floor – never slept better.

Friday 3 January 1941

Very busy all morning packing and loading war equipment. Took the blow lamps, spare forceps etc. out of trunk and into panniers. Everything away by 11.30 A.M. Capt. Yeates on loading party in Gaza. All preparations made for move tomorrow night. We are hoping to wear battle-dress – it will be cold. Our trunks went this morning. I wonder when we shall see them again. We are travelling fairly light with just bare necessities – we may have to carry our own gear. The three padres are off to the ordinance depot at Barbara to get battle suits after six month’s argument. Padre McCleod very pleased. The men have just been paraded and Maj. Cameron is reading the movement order to them. I don’t think it will be postponed this time. Got the snaps of Jerusalem away to Bon and shall post the rosary beads. We are trying hard to finish up the mess stocks and are packing up the wireless set and batteries.

Our last night in Dimra and damned cold. Met 2 dentists this afternoon. Adelaide Dentisr Major Joyner & Capt. Fraser 7 th A.G.H. Joyner came over on Stratheden with Maj. Row. Both now at Deir Suneid. Joyner was at Qastina. Had an auction sale & cleaned up the remnants of the mess. Yeates provided usual side-bets and light patter.

Saturday 4 January 1941

Our last day in Palestine. Had all the tents and baggage packed up by 11 A.M. spent the rest of the day sitting round & waiting. Colonel Ken Frazer arrived – just out from England. His version of bombing same as that published. He told us that the outer defences of Bardia had been taken. Had a bath in the afternoon and were entertained at dinner by 24 th Infantry Brigade. Treated us very well. Casey went to Jerusalem on duty and returned late with bad cold. G.S.C. turned up very punctually at 11 P.M. and we rode of on [sic] in the back of a 3 ton truck. Boarded the train in Gaza and moved out about 1 A.M. Bitterly cold in desert of Sinai but slept fairly well – Major Rowe’s backside a nuisance.

The nurses joined us at Gaza.

We had been comfortable at Dimra and were sorry to leave although keen for some work. Had a very hazy idea of our destination. We left Capt. Yeates & 6 O.R.’s as rear party.

Sunday 5 January 1941

Saw dawn in the desert of Sinai – passed relics of last war – stacks of barbed wire etc. also a number of palisaded enclosures with camels within. Arrived at El Kantara about 7.30 A.M. Had breakfast in stone hut of N.A.A.F.I. Sausages – beans & potatoes. Sausages fried in cottonseed oil – tasted very queer. Waited for about two hours and then ferried across the canal. On the other side stood fully equipped in dirty street leading to station with Gyppo. market all round us – decided Gyppos filthy crowd. Plenty of hawkers and demands for Backsheesh. Saw two really excellent conjurers (Gully-gully). Waited here about an hour, boarded train & then another wait. Eventually off to Ishmailea alongside canal most of way – Part of Ishmailea very clean & attractive – other parts same as usual. Delightful trip through Nile delta – stopped at Zag a Zig – country all irrigated – old water wheels – amazingly fertile – looked beautiful – no fences – beggars at every stop – passed through dozens of towns & villages – all stunk but some had quite lovely mosques with delicate minarets. Ran very late through outskirts of Alexandria – another long wait and then on across causeway to Amyrea. Met by Whitehead with 2 trucks – disgusting display of hysteria by Q.M. Another long wait on platform. Waited while men ferried up to camp about 4 miles away in trucks. Helped surgical team for 1 st C.C.S. unload their gear into another truck. Dirty Gyppos had defaecated all over station. Eventually reached camp – everything very rough – Q.M. acting part of tough old soldier – boasted he had stolen everything in camp – very embarrassing – complained bitterly and profanely of advance parties orders – do not think he will last the distance. Slept on pine boards laid on cement floor – never slept better.

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