Tobruk Diaries: The 'Adventure' Begins
For the Introduction and Glossary for this blog go to:
Owen Thomas Cosgriff
Owen Thomas Cosgriff was born 21 December 1907 in Korumburra, Victoria. In his adult years he moved to Brunswick, Victoria, where he lived until his enlistment with the 2/4th Australian General Hospital (A.G.H), AIF, (Australian General Hospital) in Caulfield. In December 1940, Cosgriff left Melbourne aboard the Maurentania bound for North Africa. After a brief visit to Perth, the ship moved into the Indian Ocean and after a week of travelling, Cosgriff disembarked in Colombo where he remained until 15 January 1941. By 24 January Cosgriff’s ship had entered the mouth of the dangerous Red Sea and after spending some time at Sugo arrived at Anastasia on 31 January. It is here that Cosgriff’s diary entries begin:
Arthur Francis Bryant
Arthur Francis Bryant was born on 27 August 1916 in Mudgee, NSW. Bryant enlisted in 2/17th Battalion, A.I.F on 29 May 1940 in Paddington NSW. He completed his basic training at Ingleburn, then moved to Bathurst army camp for subunit field training. In October 1940, Bryant left Sydney Harbour bound for the Middle East. He disembarked at Bombay and entrained for Deolali Rest Camp on 7 November. He sailed on to Kantara on 12 November, arriving almost two weeks later. He entrained for Ryrie Lines Camp, Kilo 89, at Gaza Ridge, Palestine, then, on 17 December Bryant left for Port Said on Garrison duty. For the first fortnight his section guarded an ammunition dump in Raswa Area and on 10 January 1941 he returned to the same lines in Kilo 89 for further training and re-equipping. It is here that Bryant’s diary begins:
Edmund Crawford Lecky
Edmund Crawford Lecky was born on 1 October 1920 in Coolah, New South Wales. After spending his teenage years as a signalman in the pre-war Militia and working as a Public Servant, Lecky enlisted in 8th Division Signals A.I.F in 1940 in Paddington, NSW. On 3 November, he was transferred to 9th Division Signals, where he was commissioned as a lieutenant. Lecky embarked upon HMT Queen Mary on 26 December 1940 for the Middle East where he was to attend No 2 course 1 Australian Corps Signals School. It is here that Lecky’s letters begin:
Every effort has been made to transcribe the following diaries and letters as accurately as possible in order to preserve the original language of Chaplain Owen Thomas Cosgriff, Warrant Officer Arthur Francis Bryant and Captain Edmund Crawford Lecky. Please note however, the task of accurate transcription is a difficult one involving a number of challenges including the age of the sources, illegible handwriting or incorrect spelling and grammar. Dr Charles Bean, war correspondent and historian, communicated these challenges in the introduction to his First World War Official History: [/cms_images/AWM38/3DRL606/AWM38-3DRL606-90-1.pdf]. Please keep these difficulties in mind as you read the text below.
The diaries shown in this blog are held in the Memorial's collection as: Cosgriff: AWM 3DRL/3367; Bryant: AWM PR03012 and Lecky: AWM 3DRL/7816. You can also find the records for these men at the National Archives of Australia website: http://www.naa.gov.au/.
Please note that the meanings of all underlined words within the text can be found in the glossary (which will be available later in February).
Bryant’s Diary: Friday – 31st January, 1941
We were to foster the 2/3rd Field Workshops tonight and early in the morning, but their arrival has been postponed indefinitely owing to casualties incurred in an air raid at Kantara. It is bad luck for them to cop it this way, but c’est la guerre.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Friday Jan 31st 1941
Anastasia hotter. Boys ashore last night and disgusted... Nobody wanted to take sisters and masseuses ashore today...no raids last night....Heavy uniform today but afternoon warm enough. Two masseuses from 2 A.G.H. here for lunch.
Bryant’s Diary: Saturday 1st February, 1941
Rained heavily last night and mud was everywhere today. We did extra work at Squires Lines in preparation for the fostering of 2/3rd Field Workshops, who are due in at 12:30 tonight. I have the job of messing N.C.O for the main workshops. Rumours are current that we may be moving from Palestine very soon. Ted and Jim Taylor were admitted to hospital for something or other. That makes 4 out of the section in hospital or under treatment.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Saturday Feb 1st 1941
Forgets ashore with Tyrer. Port Tewfik quite clean but Sugo filthy. Inspected Hospital – Good Shepherd – depressing place – terrible job for nuns – French – with filthy Arabs. Tried to find priest for confession but failed. Pilot on board to take us up canal but no word of departure. Gen party with Shannon and masseuses.
Bryant’s Diary: Sunday 2nd February 1941
The story about the 2/3rd Field workshops being bombed is all bunk. The coy fixed them up and I was in bed by 3 o’clock. During that night we had 2 air raid alarms, but no air-raid. There was another alarm this morning, but no planes were seen. The 1st Corps Guards Bn marched out today, probably to guard Dago prisoners.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Sunday Feb 2nd 1941
Two masses. Masses cancelled after I had finished packing to go up by train. Another drink with Shannon then early lunch. Disembarked at 1:30. Scare about missing luggage then departure by train at 3:30. Cairo at 7pm. Woman feeding kid on station. Black-out, searchlights veiled women, crammed streets. Dinner at Continental 16/~. Drinks exorbitant. C.O. lit fly on masseuses who were out with Rudd and Marsh. Walk through city with Chambers and Horan. Entrained at 11:59 for Abu-el-Kadir.
Bryant’s Diary: Monday 3rd February 1941
Air raid warning was sounded a number of times last night and once so far this afternoon, but no planes seen. Had a thorough kit inspection this morning and I think new equipment and a move are on the way. The Bn had a rehearsal this afternoon in preparation for Mr Menzies’ visit tomorrow. Copped the guard for tonight.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Monday 3rd February 1941
Slept well in train. Daylight at Alexandria. Nurses left there. Arrived at Abu-el-Kandir desert, Gyppos, filth sand, cold, shacks and no transport...Set to with tents – Horan Ackland, Horan Devine and me. No water, no shave and no Mass. Day’s work making place habitable. To bed on air mattress tired and dirty – I think Tom was here in last show. Letters from Elsa and Tooze – none for newly-weds.
Bryant’s Diary: Tuesday 4th February 1941
Had an easy time of guard and missed big review at Pier...for Mr Menzies. The 2/15thBn marched in from Australia last night. Pte Dalziel was knocked over and injured by a car while on guard duty.
Bryant’s Diary: Wednesday 5th February 1941
Marched about 18 miles today and did a stunt. Longest so far. N.C.O.’s Officers of Bn were addressed by Brigadier Murray on leadership. Nothing important. One air raid alarm during the day.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Wednesday 5th February 1941
Slept in today. Wanted to get to Alex to see Tim but could not get ride. Rang Alex but Tim away. Wrote home Elsa and Tooze. Said full service for nurses out today... Air raid alarm tonight but no bombs. Censoring mail this day. Trunks not here yet. Sergeant Burston to Cairo today to see whether here or Derna – hope it is Derna.
Bryant’s Diary: Thursday 6th February 1941
Nothing of importance, with the exception of pay, occurred today.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Thursday 6th February 1941
Alarm bung – no Mass. Desert storm today and we do not want another. Zac unbearable today – ennui. No mail yet. John’s alert scene became a dust-storm. Alex leave roster worked out. No pay as Corps cleared out to Tobruk. Marsh and Alec missed out on Masses today. Issued with head-camp against dust.