Diary Part 3. May 1941 to December 1941when Jock left for Cairo.
Thursday 1 May 1941
A few shots during the night from the A.A. battery and artillery putting over a terrific barrage. Been going all day with short periods of quiet. Spent an uncomfortable morning in Tobruk. No warnings now – just a sudden burst of A.A. Have given up using a primus under my steriliser as we have to rely on our ears to hear the planes before they start bombing. Got several starts but no real raid on the town or the harbour all day. Back on the beach for lunch and have spent all the afternoon reading. Dive bombers at work on the perimeter just before lunch and again about 7 P.M. Could see them circling and diving on their targets. Heard that 30 tanks broke through and we got 18 of them and chased the others back. Our defences must be holding otherwise the huns would have been here by this. Slept very well last night in spite of the artillery. Guns still pounding when I turned in.
Friday 2 May 1941
Woke up to a dust storm and the usual early morning raid. Very quiet in Tobruk. A few pessimistic stories but most people quite confident. D.A.P.M. very pessimistic. Definitely no raid alarms now – supposed to go on with one’s job and take shelter at the last moment. Had lunch down at the Dock hospital with Casey & company. Seem very comfortable and safe there. Got back to camp fairly early. B.B.C. news still mainly of Greece. Very little to say about Tobruk. Some mail arrived but so far have only 4 Bulletins and no letters. May get some tomorrow. A few raids this afternoon but nothing much over our way. Still sporadic firing from artillery. Very little authentic news of the actual situation. Heavy clouds coming up and the dusty hot wind has been replaced by a cool sea breeze. The clouds should obscure the moon and make the night fairly peaceful. Strange that no matter how hot the days the nights are always cold.
Saturday 3 May 1941
Cool and damp. Early morning disturbance again. Morning quiet but for artillery fire. Raid at lunch time. Another bomb on my road to work near the A.O.W. Went down to docks for lunch. Father Daly produced some rum that nearly choked me. Navy people reckon we shall be relieved soon also that 200 J tanks have arrived at Suez. Hope they are right. Spent a quiet afternoon reading. Heavy dive bombing on the perimeter again in the late afternoon. German attack seems to be dying down. Has lasted for almost 5 days and cost them about 50 tanks. We have succeeded in straightening the bulge they forced in our line. Removed the wires from the chap with the extensive face wound I have been watching. Made him much more comfortable. Now ready for evacuation. Another one at Dock hospital shot through ramus, root of tongue, & foreign body removed from neck. Comfortable & good position so shall not wire him.
Sunday 4 May 1941
Wakened early by A.A. fire again. Busy morning in town. Went down to the docks again for lunch. Hospital ship expected in tonight at 7. Quiet afternoon until about 7.30 P.M. Hospital ship arrived on time and came straight in. Terrific dive bombing attack on the town, harbour and other spots. About 45 planes came over. Direct hit on Hospital ship but did not disable it. Nothing else of any importance damaged. Watched the raid for quite a while. They come over in V formation – change to line and dive one by one on the objective almost vertically. 24 th Btn. had a bad time in our counter attack the other night. Artillery fire still heavy in the early part of the night. Hospital ship had to clear out only partly loaded. Evacuation of wounded becoming a problem. No doubt about the Huns liking for the Red cross as a target. Do not think any casualties caused aboard. Father Daly did not go.
Monday 5 May 1941
More early raids. Seem to be very regular about coming over at dawn. Breakfast in peace. Jack Ross did not come in with me so took Curly and Dan. Guns went up just as we started but got to town without event. Extremely busy morning. Finished about 1 P.M. & then straight back to camp. Smoked and read all the afternoon until about 5 when a full scale raid began. Heard a few big ones whistle. I hate that sound. Nothing dropped in our lines luckily. After mess Casey and Tyner turned up. Told me that 4 bombs had been dropped on A.G.H. in town. Not one of them exploded. Remarkable that all 4 should be duds. One, they said dropped right between my two buildings and one behind the surgery. Two more over towards the cook-house. Shall not be able to near the place until the engineers have dealt with them. Very little in B.B.C. news tonight. R.A.F. bombed the local enemy H.Q. to some effect. Hop[e it keeps them quiet for a few days. Getting a little tired of working under these conditions. Nervous strain is considerable although I only occasionally feel it. felt a bit tired to-day.
Tuesday 6 May 1941
Very quiet night and no disturbances in the early morning. Awoke to a terrific dust storm – the worst for many weeks. Struggled into Tobruk after being lost several times. Engineers investigating a 100 lb bomb beside my surgery. Watched them digging it out but cleared out when they started to take it to pieces. Went down to the docks and stayed there for lunch. Dust eased off this afternoon about 3.30. It is now about 8 P.M. and the sea is still muddy for hundreds of yards out. Rumours that we are pushing on from Sollum. Destroyers been sneaking in at night and landing troops and ammunition. Have brought up a brigade like this in the past week. R.A.F. have been bombing the Huns & Italians consistently. Benina, Durna, Gazala & other spots. No raid on this area since yesterday afternoon. Probably grounded by the dust storm. Platoon of 9 th Btn. got into difficulties last night. Only 2 men not casualties. 4 A.G.H. in some difficulty about its x ray plant.
Wednesday 7 May 1941
Woke up with difficulty after a disturbed night. Came over about ten and also several times during the early morning. Would have liked to sleep in. Arrived at Tobruk to find the engineers had moved the bomb without incident. Beautiful day after the dust yesterday. Enormous sick parade. About 11 A.M. fierce air-raid. No warning just had to run for cover and hope for the best. Dropped some fairly heavy stuff. Unsuccessful attempt on the artillery and water point. Stayed for lunch and finished up about 2 P.M. Dan & Curly came in with me instead of Jack. Staff Ward looking very tired. Must find some means of giving him a break. Difficult under these conditions. Another heavy raid about 4 P.M. Twin engined bombers – probably Heinkels over the harbour. Heard nothing of damage or casualties yet. Everything fairly quiet on the perimeter.
Naval gun just up the hill opened up about an hour ago. About 6 inch. Shells screamed over our heads. Could see them bursting on the escarpment on other side of harbour. Hope there is no counter fire or attempts to bomb them. They are a bit too close to us.
Thursday 8 May 1941
Early morning row again after a disturbed night. Quiet morning with tons of work. Things seem to be fairly quiet out on the front line. Casey and Ambrose came up to relieve Maj. Tyner and his technician. Had a couple of beers and lunch with Case at the A.G.H. mess. Rumours of intended evacuation of patients by destroyer to-night. Got away fairly soon after lunch and so back to camp. Spent the afternoon reading and talking to the C.O. and company. Late in the afternoon a fairly heavy raid – mainly on the harbour. In yesterday’s raid they sunk our minesweeper – about 8 men lost. Harbour certainly littered with wrecks now but fairway still clear. Still no definite news of our relief. Shall probably be here for quite a few weeks yet. Went to bed early and soon asleep. A few shells still landing in the harbour but do not worry anyone. About 11 P.M. came over and dropped a stick of bombs – got up to have a look and saw a great pall of smoke & dust just over the hill. Landed on waste ground.
Friday 9 May 1941
No early morning activity – would have liked to sleep in for a while. Off to work early and annoyed by number of people getting lifts on our truck. B.B.C. news uninteresting lately except that we seem to be quelling the Iraq business. Big crowd of patients and a disturbing morning. Sent to shelter a couple of times by false alarms. Some ships in the harbour were using their sirens. About 11.30 heard burst of ack ack. Rushed out & saw 5 planes very high almost directly overhead. Round the corner & into the shelter like lightning. About 5 seconds later a terrific crack & shelter filled with smoke & dust. Concussion horrible. A 250 lb bomb landed about 12 feet away. Shrapnell [sic] riddled my surgery. Would have collected me had I been there. Did another couple of patients and then off back to the beach. Feeling a bit shaky.
Spent the rest of the afternoon writing to Bon and finding it hard not to mention my narrow squeak. Same raid hit the ship at the wharf damaged by a previous near-miss. One man killed & several injured. Luckily no one injured at the hospital.
Saturday 10 May 1941
About 500 patients evacuated in a cruiser and 2 destroyers in early hours. Father Daly got away.
Quiet in the early hours. Had slept well but some wild dreams. Not too keen in going back to work in same spot but must not miss my routine or it would be too difficult to pick it up again. Chased into the shelter a couple of times but nothing close. Heard story from a patient (Capt. Kidd) about Jerries putting up dummies out on the perimeter. Been dropping a lot of thermos bombs lately. H.Q. sent round a circular saying that they expect Jerry to start using oil bombs. Not a very pleasant thought. Red hot shrapnel bad enough but burning oil! Am becoming fairly confident of my luck but will never neglect cover. The shelter certainly saved my life yesterday.
Major Quayle came down in the afternoon to inspect my dugout with an eye to building one for himself. Plenty of “furphies” about but still very little news. Posted the letter to Bon enclosing the negative. Played with a cricket ball for a while after mess. Saw Amies this morning – looking well & cheerful. Brought his team back with me to have a swim & relax a bit.
Sunday 11 May 1941
Plane over about 4 A.M. Heard a stick of bombs drop. Was a raid late yesterday afternoon. Dropped one amongst a crowd in swimming at the sandy beach about ¼ mile away. Got 8 of them. Also dropped another 3 on my road to work. That makes 8 dropped on that road within the last 10 days.
Today very quiet so far. A few burst of A.A. fire but saw & heard nothing further. Navy took more patients out last night and Sgt. Brampton got away. Had a fairly easy morning. Colonel of 3 rd Hussars was in – very nice chap. Perimeter quiet except for our patrols at night which are very aggressive. Got back to camp early and spent most of the afternoon reading. News good – Air force cracked Durna, Bengazi & transport lines. Navy bombarded Bengazi and sunk two supply ships. Large fires at Durna. Night fighters must be playing hell with the German bombers over Britain. Naval Gun on the hill had another go this afternoon. Very hot out in the desert. We are lucky to be camped by the sea.
Monday 12 May 1941
Woke up with difficulty – Raids started at 2 A.M. & lasted till 6 A.M. Off to Tobruk – fairly large sick parade. Noticed 3 more bombs on my road. Have a horror of being caught on it during a raid. About 12 got a start. 3 planes dived out of the sun and first thing I heard was a bomb whistling. Went flat on the floor beside my chair and hoped for the best – landed about 100 yards away. Finished up early and back to camp for lunch. Lot of mail came in last night. Two more very severe dive-bombing raids this afternoon. Dropped 1000 pounders. Make a horrible noise on the way down. Got the old Ladybird. After mess got 7 letters – 5 from Bon, one from Mother & one from Cherry Finlay. Did not get the photograph which should have arrived by the same mail. May get it to-morrow. Maj. Murphy told me Husk Finlay in R.A.F. for special duties as Pilot Officer – also Capt. Davis. Artillery on perimeter active this afternoon & still going. Hope they leave us in peace to-night. Rather difficult to concentrate on minor dental work under these conditions.
Tuesday 13 May 1941
Early morning very disturbed again. Planes buzzing about and a number of M.T. boats came in to refuel on their way to Crete. Sounded like 100 planes coming over. Very quiet all day. Couple of planes over in the morning but nothing dropped. Got to work on a decent shelter near my surgery. Busy morning but finished in time to get back to beach for lunch. Came back through wadi on other side of A.G.H. Passed through Libyan village – a Senussi sentry held up a notice as we went by “This village is full of unexploded bombs – keep to the track..” A few trees and a little other vegetation in the wadi.
No raids in the afternoon so wrote a long letter to Bon. Have not got the photograph yet. Getting very short of writing paper – down to one page. Hope the parcel of paper Bon sent gets here soon. A Jerboa spent the night with the C.O. & Maj. Murphy in their dug-out last night. Queer little things. A lot of artillery fire – we sent out a heavily armoured patrol. In the afternoon a German battery put a few salvos into the water about ½ mile away. The naval piece on the hill soon silenced them and the Gnat came in – apparently to replace the Ladybird.
15 weeks in Libya.
Wednesday 14 May 1941
Woke up feeling very fit after a perfectly peaceful night and morning. B.B.C. still on the amazing news about Hess. Hope it has some significance. Very quiet in town all the morning – couple of warnings but nothing happened. Had lunch down at the docks and struck another warning on the way back through the town. Got down into an underground shelter but nothing happened. Mick Hogg came back with me for a swim – very pessimistic about everything. Raid about 3.30. Very large flares don’t know whether they hit anything worth while – probably not. Our armoured patrol did not do much good yesterday. Been hearing details of fire raid on London – must have been frightful. Germany will get as good as she gives in that line now. Been dropping a lot of booby traps lately – thermos flasks – fountain pens – shaving stick etc. – go off if they are picked up. Not much use as our lads are awake up to them. Casey relieving Tyner up at the A.G.H. Completed our shelter at the Dental Centre – quite a good one.
Thursday 15 May 1941
Wakened by raid about 1.30 A.M. Continued until almost daylight. Crouched in my dugout and heard 5 bombs whistle down very close. Thought they were duds as there were no explosions. Heard a sizzling sound and my dugout was lit up like day. They were incendiaries – one dropped about 4 yards away from my dugout. Burnt for about 15 minutes before we could come out & throw sand on it – the planes were still bombing. Went back to bed thinking how nearly it came through the roof of my refuge.
Rest of day fairly quiet – busy morning in Tobruk again. In the afternoon two raids – each time a single plane came in from the sea and when the Ack Ack put a few shots near it – dropped its bombs in the sea and made off. Strange that both should do this. Dropped them just out off our camp. Saxby came out to tell the C.O. he intended establishing our heavy section in caves out on the Bardia road. Wonder what will happen to me. We shall miss the sea but I should certainly sleep sounder in a deep shelter. Received the photograph of Bon – a beauty. Wrote immediately and tried to tell her how much I think of it and of her.
Friday 16 May 1941
Slept well in the early part of last night but was awakened early by a raid. Could not sleep after that. Had a bad attack of nerves and leapt out of bed at the slightest sound. Felt rotten this morning. Worked all the morning again as usual and was undisturbed. Couple of alarms after breakfast this morning but nothing much happened. Now well into the afternoon and everything still peaceful. We got 30 prisoners and inflicted some casualties in a sortie last night. Apparently has been decided that the heavy section will definitely occupy those caves. I am to remain working at the A.G.H. so will probably live down at the docks with Case and company. Still very little amplification of news about Hess. Hope our people take drastic action in Syria. Have definite hopes now of being relieved here before long.
Very heavy raid just over – dropped heavy stuff over the hill – could hear them whistle. Did not apparently hit anything. Did not hear them coming – first bomb was the first warning we had. Some of us had to get under cover pretty quickly.
Saturday 17 May 1941
Another very disturbed morning between 1 & 6. 4 or 5 different raids & quite a few bombs dropped. More patients evacuated by the navy last night. Good news this morning – apparently our forces in Egypt have started to advance – we have taken Sollum and are advancing west. May casualties yesterday as the garrison made a vigorous sortie in one sector – successfully. Had my first German patient this morning – had been cracked on the chin with a rifle butt – nasty compound fracture. Fairly busy morning – had lunch at A.G.H. with Case & brought him back to camp with me for a swim. Very peaceful day so far.
Heavy raid again just after mess. About 12 very big twin engined bombers – diving in over the harbour. Terrific A.A. barrage – brought down two of them. Heavy artillery fire early in the night then complete quietness. Heard that Bardia has fallen. Should be relieved soon. I shall probably move down to the docks to-morrow. Must see Amies in the morning.
Sunday 18 May 1941
Felt much better after a quiet night. No raid until about 7 A.M. Another about 9 but nothing dropped. Fairly quiet morning in Tobruk. Got away early after a raid about 11.30 A.M. Down to Beach A.G.H. & had lunch with Amies & Quayle. Amies been ordered back into town after a week’s rest. I may get a rest myself then. Single flare came over while I was there & dropped several big ones. Went down to their pool and had a good swim. Amies & I lay in dugout & talked all the afternoon. Pritz of 1 st C.C.S. & Heiffy [Heaphy] both promoted. Amies very annoyed with the whole show. Very keen to get his operating unit going. Hope he succeeds – I may get a job on it. Padre Camroux paid us a visit at mess time. Seems very well – having a quiet time out in the line. No more raids this afternoon so far. Shall probably go into docks tomorrow or the day after. Destroyer came in again last night & took about 100 lying cases. Given up hospital ship idea.
Monday 19 May 1941
Again had a good sleep after a very quiet night. Fairly heavy raid just before dawn. Could hear their engines for a long time before they arrived. Busy morning but uninterrupted. Biggest parade I have had so far. Had lunch at the A.G.H. and got to work on the wounded German. Could not get an x ray but appears to be single midline fracture – grossly compound. Not caused by rifle butt as I had thought but by a burst from a Bren gun. Lot of tissue destruction. Immobilised left fragment by wiring but right side difficult to anchor. Did two mental blocks & injected deep in mid line on lingual – quite good anaesthesia. Very good patient. Took me about 1 hour to wire him and took it very well. Back to the beach fairly late.
No raid all day – uncannily quiet. Wrote another letter to Bon. Could write innumerable letters lately but no material. Quiet on the perimeter except for an occasional burst of artillery. Went to bed hoping for a quiet night and morning. Unit to move out to new underground quarters tomorrow. I must be up early to pack my gear.
Tuesday 20 May 1941
Best sleep I have had for some time. Woke up feeling very well. No disturbances at all. Up and shaved and packed my gear. Rogers took me in to Tobruk & carried by gear onto the docks. Moderately busy morning – still no raids. Got down to the dock hospital soon after lunch. Curran made up a bed for me in the lower part of a double decker in the inner tunnel beneath Admiralty House beside the Naval Signal Station. Bit of a jam – 5 patients (officers) in there as well. Phillips the navy M.O. has established his R.A.P. in the same cavern. Destroyer came in tonight. Got about 100 lying cases & 150 sitters aboard. Marvellous how quickly they get them away. Yeates, Hogg, & three naval officers playing poker. Very stuffy in these tunnels – have a headache already. Got a letter from Jo McPhie this afternoon. Mail came in on the little schooner. Hope to get some more tomorrow. Casey went out to rest camp on beach for the afternoon. Says it is a very pleasant spot. Might go out myself next week. Shall be glad of a rest.
Wednesday 21 May 1941
Slept well for my first night underground. did not find the air too stuffy. Evacuation of another 200 patients on a destroyer during the night. Everybody slept in and breakfast delayed by a raid about 9 A.M. Lasted quite a while. Big line up when I got to the A.G.H. Got through them about 1.15 P.M. Another raid about 12. did not seem too far away. Got a lift back to the docks on an ambulance after seeing Yeates’ brother at the theatre and inviting him down. Sat around most of the afternoon and got some mail. Two from Bon and one from Mother. Apparently been very worried about us. [Dr] Geaney expects it to arrive at 8 months so it might be all over now – wish I knew for certain. Going to be hard to wait for the next mail. Wrote to Bon last night & must write to Mother today sometime. Had two very good games of chess with Mick Hogg last night and so to bed but can’t get Bon out of my mind. Hope the news comes through soon. May have a chance of getting a Leica F2 for less than ₣10. Shall snap it up if I get the chance. Asked the new batman to wake me early in the morning. Had another couple of raids in the afternoon and much amused by the stories in Brisbane papers about us.
Thursday 22 May 1941
Bill – the new batman woke me promptly at 7.30 A.M. Also got me some shaving water so that I was cleaned up and had breakfast with Case before the others came up. Pretty sleepy trio. Warning about breakfast time so set off with Curly and Dan immediately afterwards. Uneventful walk up. Another very busy morning. Had lunch at the A.G.H. and left soon afterwards. Capt. Egan of 2/1 st Pioneers came in very badly shot up. Multiple wounds of both legs. One of other officers killed – someone handled a Mills bomb too carelessly. Perimeter quiet except for occasional artillery fire. Raid about 11.30 and heard a few whistles up on the hill near the naval signal station. Hit nothing and hurt nobody. Quiet afternoon and got another game of chess at night. Poker school started again so read for a while before turning in. Saw x ray of German – complicated fracture with lower fragment sagging a little. Otherwise position good. Must get Amies in to have a look at him. Have just continued irrigating. Both condyles fractured.
Friday 23 May 1941
Up at 7.30 A.M. again after a very comfortable night. No raid at breakfast time. Set off for A.G.H. with Case and Park. Had to dive into a hole full of rubbish by the roadside when a few bursts of ack ack broke above us. Nothing further happened so resumed the journey.
Frightfully busy morning. Told that another jaw case in Surg. A. Went & had a look at him. Broken at symphysis & left condyle. Fair position but end of tongue bitten off and considerable swelling. Felt a bit worried about the German too so got Colonel Spiers to send for Amies to come in tomorrow morning. Got back fairly early and lazed about most of the afternoon. Chap with the Leica can’t make up his mind to sell. Hope to get it for about a tenner. Beautiful job. Had a couple of games of chess with Mick late in the afternoon. Got beaten each time – played very stupidly.
Another evacuation – destroyer came in and difficult job – very rough. Little minesweeper went on rocks at entrance to harbour. All the patients got away successfully. Capt. Burn & Ms Gunner got away for a trip to Alex. Got a few pints of water in the afternoon and had a good bath.
Saturday 24 May 1941
Up late last night playing chess with A.D.M.S. while evacuation in progress. Did not win but struggled well. Up a little late but after a shave & wash felt quite fresh. Off to work in the beginnings of a dust storm. Fairly dense by the time I got to A.G.H. Comparatively small parade and finished fairly early. Amies arrived and seemed very pleased to see us. Had a look at the German with him. Said I had done the right thing and to continue as I was. Thought I had got very good position. Wound much cleaner now and can see large amt. of bone missing below the lower incisors. Lingual plate fractured but intact & in good position. Tighten up the wires in about 10 days. Amies thinks result should be good. Other chap in surgical A. better left until evacuated – needs splinting. Got back early – Amies gone back to beach to return on Tuesday. Suggests that I go out for a few days. Letter from Bon dated 6 th May – not so worried about me.
Dust storm very bad now – keeps the planes away. Played chess until late. Wrote to Mother and Bon.
Sunday 25 May 1941
Some difficulty in getting up but got away to work in good [time]. A few bursts of A.A. just before I left and more while I was on the way. Could see no planes so kept on going. Two raids during the morning – single planes each time. Got back early after a very light morning. Father Steel had just finished saying Mass. Colonel Farrell called in. C.O. sick will probably have to be evacuated. Unit bad enough now. Another raid after lunch. Ship on its way in – the biggest for some time although it is a very small steamer. Will probably come over and have a go at it later in the afternoon. Many warnings in the afternoon but no more raids on Tobruk. Planes apparently passing on the way to Sollum & Bardia. Played more chess and did not turn in till late. Dive bombers got a small tanker on its way up. Sweeper went out to pick up survivors – she was attacked so the Gnat went out. They sheered off then.
Monday 26 May 1941
Up late but got to work early as I ran into Rogers who drove me up. Fairly heavy morning. Had the horrible experience again of hearing bombs whistle without knowing there was a plane about. Went flat on the floor beside my chair again. They landed up near the R.A.O.C. workshops. Saw them explode – pretty big ones. Got back in time for lunch. Played chess most of the afternoon and went underground for three very heavy raids. Made the old tunnel shake. A.A. brought 3 down.
Met a Capt. Finlayson R.M.O. to an English unit – also a dentist – keen to meet Amies and have a yarn sometime. Am hoping that tomorrow will be my last morning’s work for a few days. Heard the news about the Hood. Bad luck but confident the Navy will make them pay heavily for it. Decided not to go out direct to beach tomorrow but shall pick Amies up and have a look at the place.
Tuesday 27 May 1941
My last morning’s work for a few days. Fairly large parade – kept me going till lunch time. Got hold of an ambulance and off to the 2/11 th site on the beach. Terrible road – about 2 miles beyond the beach A.G.H. Very pleasant little wadi below the old Turkish fort. Beautiful sandy beach – crowded with swimmers. Walked a few yards in search of Amies and heard a dive bomber coming down. Laid his eggs about ½ mile away. Seemed to be too large a crowd swimming for safety. Saw Amies, Eckland & Divine, had a swim & arranged with Maj. Marks for Hogg & I to go out tomorrow. Came back with the A.G.H. trio. Casey & Hoy were up at the A.G.H. so had afternoon tea there & walked back with them. Fairly heavy raid soon after we got back. While we were at the A.G.H. Col. Anderson of 32 nd Btn brought in – hit a mine – badly wounded.
Wednesday 28 May 1941
Up late for once without having to worry about work. Packed my gear and about 10 A.M. Flynn called for us. Called at A.G.H. for 2 gallons of good water and so on towards the beach. Broke a spring when about 1 ½ miles to go. Hoy had come with us for a swim. Decided to walk it and send a truck back for our gear. Wandering along in the open and a Hun came over. Went to earth pretty promptly. Strange experience – about 3 minutes after A.A. fire ceased a shower of fragments came down. Fell all round us and many pieces within feet of each of us but were not hit. Got to beach eventually – a truck picked up our gear – had a couple of swims & laze about. Met a Maj. Caradus, Col. Parry & a few others. Had a great game of Chinese chequers with them and drank my rum issue neat – must be getting tough. To bed about 9 P.M. and talked to Mick for quite a while before settling down for the night.
Thursday 29 May 1941
Up barely in time for breakfast. Soon after we were just about to have a swim when a hun dropped a stick of 6 about ½ mile away. About 20 minutes later two planes dived down and had a very determined go at the little camp. 10 bombs within 50 yards of our dugout. Horrible bloody noise – fragments flying everywhere. One casualty – so Mick & I packed up and came back in the same ambulance. Obviously no place for a rest. Can at least relax in the tunnel. Three terrific raids in the afternoon – in the first 60 bombers (mainly Stukas) escorted by a number of Messerschmitts. Smaller groups in the last two raids although very severe. Concentrated on the harbour again. Got another of our mine-sweepers. Direct hit but out of crew of 27 none killed – several badly wounded. Evacuation again tonight. Shall not get much sleep. No. 5 pier knocked this afternoon so it will be a long carry for the stretcher bearers. Should just about empty our place again.
Friday 30 May 1941
Did not get to bed till early morning. Up late. Giovanni came in last night. Shot down a Heinkel on the way and possibly another one. Brought a cable up for me – a boy!! and both well!! Can hardly believe it. The others almost as pleased as I am. Had a few drinks of “infuriation” on the strength of it. Case reckons it should be a fine sturdy youngster having had its head wet with “infuriation”.
Sat round in a daze all day and wrote a long letter to Bon. Began to feel very miserable at being so far away. Couple of very fierce air raids in the afternoon while I was writing. Made the tunnel shudder. Most of them landed in the water just outside. Another evacuation tonight. Hope to get a little more sleep.
C.O. going back to-night also Sgt. Morris. Gave Morris 100p. to send a cable for me. Up very late – played chess with A.D.M.S. again. Said farewell to C.O. – wonder whether we shall see him here again. May be sent back to Australia. Started reading “Dracula” and finished it before turning in. Hard to get to sleep – still excited about Bon. Hope it was easy for her.
Saturday 31 May 1941
Up late feeling rotten. Settled down to write to Mother after breakfast. Another raid on the harbour sent me underground where I finished the letter. Major Park going out to the unit this afternoon. Been suggested that I set up out there. Worried about Mick Hogg – nerves in a bad way after Thursday’s experience – may have to be sent back. I seem to be standing the strain alright.
Spent a very quiet day. Tried to have a sleep in the afternoon but did not succeed too well. Signal officer Lieut. Chambers a decent young chap. Played several games of chess. Stayed up late reading while evacuation in progress. Shelling the harbour again this morning.
Australian destroyer came in again. Took away a lot of P.O.W. wounded including my German Lieut. Eberhard. Seems quite comfortable. A couple of air raids in the afternoon but not on a large scale. Crete still holding out. Fighting must be terrific. Turned in about 12 and did not take long to go to sleep.
Sunday 1 June 1941
Up late again but did not feel as dopey as usual. Father Steel arrived and said mass. Colonel Farnell arrived too. Keen to establish an underground dental clinic but can’t find a suitable spot. Light the problem. Couple of alarms during the morning but nothing much happened. Tank barge came in last night loaded with petrol, oil, & Red Cross goods. Caught fire while unloading – lot of ammunition aboard also – explosions all day. In the afternoon a very heavy raid. The worst I have felt in here. Concussion and blast terrific. Wrote to Mother, Bon, and Jim. Evacuation again tonight – shall be able to get the letters away on the destroyer.
After mess strolled up to A.G.H. with Case and got Asson’s stamp on my letters. Coming back had to make a wide detour as a couple of shells going off in the barge sent fragments whistling near us. Came down into tunnel through Admiralty House. Did not realise the depth of the tunnel before – must be 70 or 80 ft. underground. While I was writing to Jim (Jocks Brother) earlier the air raid came on so gave him a ball to ball description. As usual they did no damage.
Monday 2 June 1941
Once again no bed until early morning. All patients embarked without incident. A few planes over in the morning but not very active. Park definitely decided to send Mick Hogg back. Has become very depressed – no appetite. Insisted on writing his last letter last night and advised us to do the same. No good his staying here – he would become worse. Another evacuation tonight – he can go then. A very heavy raid this afternoon. A stick of bombs landed along the quayside just outside our tunnel. Shook us up a bit.
Mick Hogg still very miserable – feel very sorry for him. Fulton also has cracked up and is going back. All went along to Phillips’ room about 9.30 P.M. and cleaned up a bottle of whisky. Barge slow and Destroyer at oiling pier so took Mick down by road. Went too far and had to run about a mile. Gave us a couple of beers in the wardroom. The M.O. on board Sam Stenning luckily a friend of Mick’s. Got them away safely and so back to bed. Park had put up a very amusing performance on the whisky.
Tuesday 3 June 1941
Woke up feeling pretty rotten. Long time since I have had a drink and the few whiskies last night gave me a head. Bit of sporadic raiding in the morning – one fairly heavy raid in the early hours but I did not hear it. Slept all the afternoon. Ron Hoy going back tonight. Lucky buggers! Feeling very sick of it lately. Evacuation did not start till late and just as barge pulled out a few planes came over and dropped a few at the destroyer – missed by a long way and everything went smoothly. Got a few letters away again. Still feeling rather homesick and missing Bon badly. Waiting very impatiently for more mail.
Saxby suggested I go and have a look at the caves where the rest of our unit have installed themselves. Will got out to-morrow instead of starting work.
Wednesday 4 June 1941
Rang up A.G.H. and sent a message to Amies telling him I would not be up. Went out to the unit in ration truck with Maj. Park. Saw Cameron, Murphy, & McCleod. Also had a yarn to Jack Ross. Tunnels very elaborate – would be ideal for Dental Centre if better lighted.
Aerial bombs strewn all over the place. Apparently had been an R.A.F. dump. Decided not much use to me to set up in. Shall continue up at A.G.H. Came back to unit about 2 P.M. A few raids during the day but nothing very heavy. Maj. Park summoned by Furnell. Expects a Lt. Colonel’s pip.
Wrote to Bon again – 6 th letter in about 6 days. Col. Anderson down here gain. Arm had to be amputated. Seems much better. Two other officers here waiting evacuation.
Nothing doing to-night so should be able to turn in early. Rumours that Bardia has fallen but no confirmation. Hope they are not long about it now.
Thursday 5 June 1941
Off up to the A.G.H. after a delayed start due to two air raids. Neither lasted long so set off keeping an eye on the sky. Found a big parade lined up and Amies very miserable with an attack of dysentery. Made him take it easy and soon cleaned up the morning’s work. He is not too keen about the routine filling and extracting but I am used to the grind and can work much faster than he can. Had lunch and did a couple of jobs after that. Got back to the docks early and scrounged about ½ gal. of water. Had a bath in it and did some washing. Still no news of mail. Evacuation to-night. Colonel Anderson going also quite a few other officers. All except the Colonel seem a healthy bunch. One of them an English 2 nd Lieut. was a frightful goat of a fellow. Air raid when the barge pulled out – dropped a few flares, then some bombs but hit nothing and worried nobody. Moon getting a bit too bright for comfort. Wrote to Bon again but did not succeed in getting it away on the destroyer.
Friday 6 June 1941
To work again. Amies a bit better but did most of the work myself again. A raid during the morning but bombs landed about ½ mile away and they did not stay around for long. After lunch tried to finish off a few patients but three separate raids delayed things somewhat. The last one dropped a stick fairly close. Heard the bloody things whistle. Got back to the docks fairly early and finished off my washing. Tyner came down so sat and talked to him and Case for quite a while. Amies and Heaphy summoned to a conference with Col. Furnell this afternoon to discuss the underground scheme. Am wondering what they have decided. Told Amies I would rather stay and work with him. He is keen for me to stay.
Case told me C.O. intended seeing Down to tell him of my work here. Feel quite flattered about it. Played chess, read for a while and so to bed.
Saturday 7 June 1941
Again woke with great difficulty but earlier than yesterday. Had a very busy morning at the G.H. Amies much better. Finished just before lunch time so decided to come back to docks for lunch. Was decided yesterday at the conference at H.Q. that Heaphy should get the underground place going if the lighting practicable and that I was to please myself about it – a singular privilege coming from Furnell. Heaphy went out to the caves with Maj. Park. Not keen on the idea at all. If he complains much I shall volunteer for it. The wadi next door to them was shelled last night. Park and Yeates would be happy to see me go – the fewer in the mess the greater the luxury possible. Case went out to see the place and is staying the night. Shall not be so keen on this place if he stays out there altogether. More chess this afternoon and wrote to Bon. Shall read for a while now before turning in. Rumours that 7 th Arm. Div. just outside and that we are sending out water carts to-night. Hope so.
Sunday 8 June 1941
Got a drive up to A.G.H. in our ration truck. Arranged for them to call back in ½ hr. A few patients but soon fixed them. Then called to ward. Amies had wired a case yesterday and the wires had come adrift. Sent the truck away and got to work. Took about 1 ½ hrs and had two air raids while on the job. Got good anchorages on and held him alright. Fragment from mortar bomb entered in temporal region – shattered ramus of mandible and emerged midway between angle and mental foramen. Whole mandible sagging to the injured side – many fragments but not grossly displaced and peri-osteum apparently intact. Name Wilkie from Brisbane. More raids this afternoon – single planes. Same thing to-night – single bomber every 15 mins. or so. Evacuation held up but in progress now. Another enemy aircraft just reported – Destroyer in now. Did not fix Wilkie completely left a fair gap in case he should be sea-sick. Simple matter for someone to tighten the interdental ligatures when he gets back. Saw him again to-night & gave him ¼ gm. Morphia. Should help him on his journey a little. Colonel Furnell here all the afternoon with Father Steel.
Monday 9 June 1941
Very busy morning up at the A.G.H. Two warnings just before I left delayed me. Very quiet morning – heard a couple of alarms but went on working and nothing happened. Finished up before lunch so came back to the docks for the meal. Casey and Chambers were just finishing. Spent a couple of hours telling Chambers a few things about Australia. Played chess most of the afternoon. News about Syria pretty good. About time we got in first. Still no mail. Nothing coming in tonight but one of the destroyers might bring it up. Heaphy apparently violently opposed to the underground scheme. Purely personal opposition – the business is practicable. Am prepared to prove it myself if necessary.
Turned in fairly early but did not get to sleep for quite a while. Planes buzzing about all night. Last night another direct hit on a ward near my surgery. Full of wounded Italians – only a couple killed but all the rest had hysterics.
Tuesday 10 June 1941
Woke drowsy after a very good sleep. Got away early. Don Aitken came up with me. Fairly large parade. Got a hell of a fright during the morning. A bomber came down out of the sun with his engine shut off and opened it up when he seemed to be a few hundred feet over the hospital. No warning – even A.A. missed him – grovelled on the surgery floor and heard his bomb go. A new rocket gun had a go at him then. Had never heard this gun before – peculiar noise – thought it was an extra large bomb coming down. No other raids all day. Came back to docks for lunch and spent a lazy afternoon. Chess again. News about Syria good. A bit of artillery fire during the day. Very quiet otherwise. Wrote to Bon again. Rumours that mail may come in to-night. Will believe it when I see it. Park perturbed about smoking in the outer tunnel and discussing ways and means of stopping the congregation round the entrance. Stevedores a terrible crowd. Dirty, foul mouthed and won’t move a yard from the entrance of the shelter.
Wednesday 11 June 1941
Delayed by alarm again. Plenty of work lined up when I arrived. Parks has been down with some sort of mild rheumatism but seems to be better today. Came up to work with me. Got away before lunch. Received circular from A.D.M.S. (Dental) – list of seniority – have put me down about ten. Seems a rotten sort of business. Amies very annoyed about it.
Evacuation postponed last night but is on to-night. Spent the afternoon talking to a chap called Potter of the 2/15 th Btn. who escaped from a prison camp at Derna about three weeks ago, together with 3 Tommies. Had a terrible journey but just made it. Most interesting story. Tells us that the R.A.F. have blown Derna to bits. All sorts of rumours about preparations at Mersa. Should be coming through. One chap just up from there says it will be 6 weeks before they move. Air raids all night but evacuation carried out without incident.
Thursday 12 June 1941
Did not get away till late. Very heavy raid in the early morning about 6.30. Kept awake by the foul language of the W.T. petty officer at the end of the passage. Intend to complain about the cow. Warning just before I set out for work but nothing much came over. One of the Stuka’s shot down this morning had an Italian crew. Pilot killed. They did no damage and apparently do not come down on the target with the same determination as the Germans. Heard that the Jerries out in the desert are having a bad time with dysentery. No evacuation to-night.
Very disappointing mail last night. Only two parcels for the unit and nothing else. Hope some more comes up to-morrow night. Wrote to Bon again. Yeates, Chambers and a couple of the Navy played bridge till late. Casey staying out at the caves tonight. Tickled to death with the job of paymaster. Father Steel turned up for tea and later Abe Fryberg turned up. Had a great argument about economics.
Friday 13 June 1941
Got away without any interruptions but had to bolt for cover a couple of times during the morning. Several officers turned up. They are a damned nuisance – occupy too much time. Had a long yarn to Amies. Keen to get a centre going back at base and would like to have me with him. Hope he succeeds in getting something like that going. Think I have done my share of the forward work. Evacuation again tonight – all hoping that more mail comes up. I believe it may be held up at Mersa until the moon wanes a bit more. The navy call the route – bomb-alley. Heard a very good expression for the jitters the other day – “Bomb Happy”. Plane just buzzed over at a great height but dropped nothing.
Saturday 14 June 1941
Sunday 15 June 1941
Off to a very small parade. Geddes’ batman drove me up and back. Spent a lazy day. All expecting a big push to start soon. Vague rumours all over the place.
Evacuation tonight. Furnell did not turn up this morning but arrived tonight with couple of colonels and Peters the D.A.D.M.S. Col. White going back to Mersa. All very confident. Obviously something big coming off. Many battalions on 1 hrs. notice.
Monday 16 June 1941
Geddes of the signals asked me to see his batman through so he drove me up again and I took his impressions. Terrific parade. Was not finished at lunch time. An attack of colic – feeling lousy. After lunch did a few more patients and then helped Amies with a bad jaw case. Once again grossly compound internally and externally. Could not wire him completely – several fragments.
Commando been here for several days – some of them quartered with us – Maj. Lord Sudely, Randolph Churchill, Peter Beaty. Queer looking crowd but seem quite decent chaps. Evacuation tonight. No news of what is happening below.
Tuesday 17 June 1941
Got away early thanks to the car and had a huge parade. Wild rumours all day. Armoured Div. supposed to be encircling the Germans. They have withdrawn many troops from this area. The perimeter is very quiet. Heard that we had straightened up the salient a bit the other day.
Slept all the afternoon. Once again the mail all parcels. Evacuation again tonight but feel up to it after having such a good sleep. Only air raid of the day while I was asleep. did not wake me luckily.
Heard tonight that big battle in progress. Bringing a lot of their planes down. Everyone been warned to recognise “Tomahawk” fighters.
Wednesday 18 June 1941
Off to work in the Signal’s car again. Fairly easy morning – finished before Amies. Heard that we had defeated the Germans in a terrific tank battle – sworn authentic. Also heard that we were hopelessly defeated – equally authentic! Got back for lunch and spent most of the afternoon playing chess. Evacuation again tonight. Not a raid all day. Heard a bit of artillery this afternoon.
Started a letter to Bon but did not finish it. In later news heard that we had retired in the Sollum area after a very successful operation – taking about 800 prisoners. 17 planes brought down – we lost three. Several caught on the ground at Gazala. Raid in the early hours of the morning did not hear it although I believe it shook the place a bit. Dropped some among an Indian Labour Btn. Some casualties. Amies and I saw one with mandible badly shattered on one side. Removed several large pieces of alveolus and broken teeth. Heard that offensive successful but after giving some hard knocks withdrew – very disappointed.
Thursday 19 June 1941
Not a very large parade. Drove up again. Amies fed up with the world reckons he would like to kick the world in the balls. Both of us spent some time in cursing things in general. Back for lunch and played some very bad games of chess. Col. McEwin and John Fleming of the 3 rd Fld. Amb. came down for tea and stayed for supper. Evacuation again tonight. Got details of operations round Sollum today. Apparently did very well although struck larger forces than expected. Not a sign of an enemy plane all day. Must be busy elsewhere. Commando still hanging round. Once again mail turned out to be all parcels. Everybody getting very fed up with mail situation. Lord Sudely, Sqn. Lieut. Phillips, Yeates, and Lipscombe of 2/11 th Fld. Amb. playing poker. Been drinking a mixture of rum and Italian cognac – frightful stuff.
Friday 20 June 1941
Great difficulty in getting up. Drove up once more – not feeling too good again. No mail. Late in the morning a raid – high level and ineffective. On my way back at lunch time another plane over – just got into a hole full of rubbish as they started to whistle down. Fell some distance away. Over again late this afternoon – two J.V.88s. Bombed from 18 000 feet. Played chess tonight but spent all afternoon talking to Abe Friberg and Case and printing some negatives. Chap with the Leica been winning at “two-up” and too independent to sell. Park put up his Colonel’s pip. He and Yeates still intrigued with the Lord. Tyner and Jim Yeates down for mess. No news of interest tonight. Wrote to Mother and started a letter to Bon. Feeling a bit better to-night. No evacuation. Probably to-morrow night. Jerry shelled the harbour this morning but failed to hit the little minesweeper coming in. The 6” gun on the hill soon silenced him.
Saturday 21 June 1941
Sunday 22 June – Monday 30 June 1941
Tuesday 1 July 1941
Just got back before “blitz” started at about 1.15. Terrific raid – worst I have felt yet. Tunnel full of smoke and dust – blast whistling through and noise. Heaviest bombs I have experienced. Three ships came in last night and pulled in to the docks to unload. Navy set off a smokescreen and not one ship was even damaged. After the raid we were shelled – our first experience – dock workers caught in the open – some frightful casualties – a fairly large gun. Could not go outside the tunnel. Stopped at dusk. Once again missed the ships. Volunteer crews took them out into the harbour during the shelling. Chock-a-block with all sorts of supplies. Bombs not so bad but no warning of arrival of shell. Certainly a hot spot down here. Successful evacuation. Casey sick all day – feeling very miserable.
Wednesday 2 July 1941
Shelled again this morning. Hit our cook house and badly wounded the water carrier. Stopped about 9 A.M. and no more all day. Hard day’s work. Set off armed with a “shell dressing” and expecting to have to go to earth any minute. Did not get back till late. Thinking seriously of living up at the A.G.H. Getting very sick of Park and Co. Get on my nerves terribly especially after a hard days work. No raid all day. Diary of captured German officer complains about the way their bombers let all their bombs go in one huge raid – hit nothing and have no more bombs for three days. Poker school again at night. Could not get to sleep for quite a while – bugger them!
Large groups of our aircraft passing all night.
Thursday 3 July 1941
No more shelling or bombing. All day without a raid. Very busy day. Had a task Major in who told me about the gun that had been shelling us. It is in a wadi not far outside the perimeter – German 5.9 – pull it back into a cave when attacked – very strongly defended – cost us two I tanks in the last attempt on it.
News of Russia still very vague – appear to be retreating. Hope they succeed in hanging on but doubt the guts of such an unsavoury crew. All sorts of supplies coming off the storeships – lot of stuff being thieved – frightful business. M.P.’s obviously unreliable. Evacuation tonight – some mail may come up. Wrote a short not to Bon in time to get it away.
Friday 4 July 1941
Shelling in early morning. Divebombing blitz in late afternoon. Brought four of them down. Hit nothing. Busy day at 4 A.G.H. Unloading still going on – should be finished soon. Moon brighter and raids heavy during the nights lately.
Saturday 5 July 1941
Fairly quiet. Single planes over fairly frequently but little dropped. Busy all day again. Met young Grimwade of Felton Grimwade – Corporal in Light A.A. A little shelling during the day not so close. Met Lt. Col. Seeley of 107 th R.H.A. Says the gun is 150mm very well emplaced. Looks as though we shall have to get used to it. Evacuation tonight – may be some mail.
Sunday 6 July 1941
Off to work early but interrupted by heavy low level raid by Heinkels? or Dorniers? Terrific barrage brought one down near the hospital. Curly was watching it and dancing with delight. Started shelling us in the middle of the bombing. Waited until all seemed quiet and then made good time back to docks. More sporadic raids – can’t be bothered keeping count of them now. Large mail waiting for me – 5 letters from Bon. Answered them. Padre McCloud came in and held a service. Father Steel here all day. Case heard from Mick – seems much better. Col. Wilson being invalided home.
Monday 7 July – Friday 1 August 1941
Saturday 2 August 1941
Left Tobruk at 2 A.M. in destroyer “Decoy”.
Arrived Alex. about 3.30 P.M. With Capt. Haywood of 48 th Btn. – found quarters at a Pension.
Attacked by 2 Heinkels at dawn – no air cover – enemy aircraft short of ammunition or fuel or both – A.A. Gunners thought they had winged one.
Sunday 3 August 1941
Left Alex. for Kantara. Pullman to Tantra – stood for rest of way. Arrived Kantara about 7 P.M. Left about 11 P.M.
Monday 4 August 1941
Arrived Gaza about 7 A.M. Difficulty in finding unit. R.T.O. thought they were in Syria.
Got a great welcome back when I found them at Kilo 89. Decided not to take any leave for a few days.
Tuesday 5 August – Sunday 17 August 1941
Monday 18 August 1941
Left at midday for Cairo.
Went on from Kantara to Port Said. Spent night at Casino Palace.
Tuesday 19 August 1941
Stopping at Simon Artz.
Swim at Plaze at Port Friad.
Wednesday 20 August 1941
Left midday for Cairo – arrived about 4.25 P.M. Lost camera. Put up at Houseboat Sudan on the Nile.
Thursday 21 August – Wednesday 31 December 1941
No further entries.
18 th Brig. 7 th Div.
V.X.16148 Capt. I. Jacobs 2/5 th Field Ambulance
Major Amies 4 th Aus. Gen. Hosp.
Maurrie Mitchell: Cnr. Grays Rd. & Prospect Terr.