Monday 25 April 2011 by Carlie Walker. 6 comments
1941, Tobruk, Tobruk diaries, Second World War, Tobruk, Rats of Tobruk, Siege of Tobruk

Bryant's diary:  Friday 25th April 1941

We spent all day making dug-outs and erecting wire.  Our area was bombed by German aircraft but without result.  I was at company H.Q. at the time and the Sergeant-Major was pointing out to the Captain the new British bombers.  Next we heard a whistle, then a roar and the mob just dived for shelter.  A great judge he is.  More canteen goods arrived tonight with some mail.

Cosgriff's diary:  Friday 25th April 1941

Raid as usual at 6.  Mass undisturbed.  Hospital still very quiet and nothing happening.  Nurse's sheets shows Aussie people being prepared for heavy casualties from Greece.  Things very bad there – retreating all the time.  Gave my watch to John to see if it can be made to go.  Big mail in – Marie, Elsa (2), Pat – no insurance until transfer through.  Bronchitis still bad and hardly able to talk.  Salter told he would be a “squib” so he has to stay.  Jerry Lieut. captured – very arrogant.

British Infantry leaving cover to attack.  Tobruk, Libya, April 1941. British Infantry leaving cover to attack. Tobruk, Libya, April 1941. 006642

Lecky's letters:  Saturday 26 April 1941

Well I'm still alive and kicking and still in the wretched hole they call Libya...Today has been one of the worst dust storms I've ever seen... We had our first experience of dive bombing about a fortnight ago - hitherto we had often witnessed it from afar and rather enjoyed the spectacle, but this was our first turn as the target - hence our appreciation diminished.  2 bombs landed in the middle of my section line but by the grace of God only the first (and smaller) exploded.  The second weighed a ton but happily was a dud.  Two dugouts were ten feet away from the first but fortunately the inmates were elsewhere - every scrap of their clothing was torn to shreds - blasted away but noone was hurt.  I was cowering in a hole about 50 yards away listening to the fiendish whistle of the bombs falling - that is the worst of the lot and fear does not diminish in each succeeding raid...Shellfire and machine gunning are child's play in companion although things are really very quiet considering... I have it from my batman (who has all the latest and most reliable information) that Engineers were out in no man's land pulling in a mine.  They were rather uneasy and had heads down going for their lives.  Something made them look up, to find 9 dagees, fully armed all around them watching with interest.  One who could speak English said "Come on Aussie".  The English were properly flabergasted and were mentally debating whether to make a dash for it or to go quietly when...again "Come on Aussie, take us on".  The poor devils had been starving for a few days and were sick of the war...Someone expressed a hope per a letter that I was keeping out of mischief - Ha! Ha!

Bryant's diary:  Sunday 27th April 1941

The weather is still crook, but not quite as bad as yesterday.  We have received information that Jerry is going to blow us off the face of the map today.  He can try.  We do expect an attack any day now of a decisive nature and it should be in the form of heavy dive bombing, tank and artillery attacks followed by the landing of parachute troops.  They’ll get more than they bargain for.

Bryant's diary:  Monday 28th April 1941

Aerial activity increased today and a concentrated attack of Hun planes made a pretty show at dinner-time near our area.  We spent the day burying a sig’s wire.  A wonderful idea has occurred to the platoon.  Near our position are hundreds of Italian howitzer shells and fuzes.  By burying the shell so that the fuze just sticks up from the ground and by making the fuze more sensitive a deadly mine can be made.  It only takes about 10lb pressure to send them off.

Cosgriff's diary:   Monday 28th April 1941

Up at 5 am for raid flares which made us think we were to get hell but it was mild.  Quiet morning with not much to do.  Raid about 11 am.  Blenheim down with 8 on board including Padre – might be Cherry.  Raid during lunch but we just watched a-a.  Steele in during afternoon with re-vitalised Thos-going off starter now.  In the nude when siren went this arvo.  Dressed and watched 15 dive bombers attack artillery.  Four down I believe – Few casualties.  One to anoint –all Hosts gone now.  Wrote to Butler today.  Find it hard to get news now.  Had whackho mess bill.

Bryant's diary:  Tuesday 29th April 1941

We had four very intense air-raid attacks in our area.  One in the morning, two at dinner time and one at tea-time.  There were over 50 planes used in the latter raid and although they drop a large number of bombs and make a terrible amount of noise they do remarkably little damage.  I struck it lucky today and found plenty of tinned food and this should be a good reserve.

British troops walking through Tobruk after a Nazi bombing raid.  April 1941.  Photograph by Frank Hurley. British troops walking through Tobruk after a Nazi bombing raid. April 1941. Photograph by Frank Hurley. 007513

Bryant's diary:  Wednesday 30th April 1941

The aeroplanes were a lot quieter today and only one raid resulted.  This raid however was late in the afternoon and it seemed to be the commencement of a large and determined attack on Tobruk.  Tank and artillery fire lasted all that afternoon and all night.  Flames and verey lights could be seen going up without end.  We all had to stand to.  The actual progress of the battle is obscure and many conflicting reports keep coming through.  One thing is certain, there is a battle going on and a pretty hot one at that.  Today we were given a pill to prevent us from going sterile because of the food we are eating.

Cosgriff's diary:  Wednesday 30th April 1941

Up at 1:40 am and 6 am for raids.  Planes keep high now and we think they are Eyeties.  Kept away from shelter but not much to see apart from stick of six in harbour.  Spectation at theatre this morning – Claxton died – see injuries – expanding bullet made horrible mess.  Received big breads from F. Reynolds – received first casualty who had been fired up in lines.  Funerals this arvo – 200 in cemetery since we came.  Still no planes - Jerry fairly quiet.  First game of rummy since Barce.  Gen. Morshead here – no planes for 5 days.  Our only hurricane shot down by over a-a Jerry pilots.

Bryant's Diary: 1st May 1941

Today is the 1st anniversary of the formation of the 2/17th Bn and we all received a rum issue and another anti-sterile pill.  We'll probably get a pill a day from now on.  The battle is still raging and fire could be heard all day.  Still there are no clear reports coming through about the position and it appears as if everything is satisfactory.  During the night there was occasional shelling by the enemy and an ambulance was hit by an incendiary shell.

Comments

Liz

I have been reading this blog with interest. My Grandfather, whom none of my family knew - Roy Squires was a "Rat of Tobruk" of the 2/24th Battalion and died there 1st May 1941 aged 39 and is remembered on the Alamein Memorial. Roy was the Company Quarter Master Sergeant for 'D' Company. His responsibilities during the Tobruk campaign would have included bringing up ammunition at night to replenish supplies. It is presumed that he may have been caught there during the attacks. Thank you for posting these extracts from Bryants Diary

Norm

What a wealth of information. My Grandfather, Brian Lesley Wigley, was in the 2/28th Battalion and was wounded at Tobruk then shipped home to become an MP based in WA. He never spoke much of the war and it has only been recently that I have seen some photographs of him while he was overseas. My uncle has his medals which I will have copies made and placed into a photograph collage with his unit colours and campaigns. I would like to thank the AWM and the families of those soldiers whose diaries have been reproduced to allow every Australian some insight as to what our Diggers went through. We will never know as those that experienced it did. For all those involved, lest we forget.

Glenda

2/24th Battalion - My late father, Walter Thomas (Tom) SMITH, of Waterloo, via Beaufort, Victoria, was captured at Tobruk on 1st of May, 1941. He spent the remainder of the war as POW in Austria, working at brickworks in Trieben, and was repatriated by the Americans to England, and returned to Victoria via the Panama Canal. He died on 4th of October, 2000 at a nursing home in Como, Western Australia, aged 94 3/4 years, and is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery in the same grave as my mother, Verna Mabel (nee SPURLING), who had died aged 86 years in 1996. They had two children, my brother Desmond (Des) and myself.

Debbie

My Grandfather was in the 2/24th Battalion. His name was Sydney Clyde Batty. He was killed at Al Elamein in July 1942. He is buried at the Al Elamein cemetary. He fought in both World Wars. Debbie

Lachie

Great to read these diaries, very insightful into the character of the men. Two of my Uncles, Duncan & Jack Carmichael served at Tobruk in the 2/23rd battalion. Later a third, Robert, joined for service in the Western Desert campaigns. Jack was killed at Tel-el-Aisa and is buried there but I grew up around Duncan (Uncle Spic) and Robert (Uncle Crow) and loved them dearly. They were very close to their mates from the Battalion all their lives and reading of the type of experiences they shared it is obvious why. Thank you for the effort and I'm looking forward to visiting AWM soon to see more.

Carlie Walker says:

Thank you for your comments Lachie and for sharing your family's story at Tobruk. In honour of the 70th Anniversary of Tobruk we have a special exhibition 'Tobruk: 1941' on and it will run until the middle of November. You may be interested in having a look.