Tobruk Diaries: Planes, ships and automobiles
Bryant’s Diary: Friday 7th March 1941
The convoy spread out more today and there were only six trucks to the mile. As a result our truck didn’t leave until about 1 o’clock. We had a bit of a shock when a large plane flew towards the convoy. The truck pulled up and we dived out and took cover. The plane turned out to be British and I bet the pilot laughed. We passed through Barce, the ex-Italian aerodome and finally camped at Tocra. During the night we heard an air raid on Bengasi. We could hear the roar of the exploding bombs and then could see the tracers and the anti-aircraft shells in the sky. We learnt later that 18 bombs were dropped. I was sung to sleep by a million mosquitoes.
Bryant’s Diary: Saturday 8th March 1941
We left today at the head of the convoy and travelled through Bengasi to a point somewhere 60 miles along the main road. We had to change trucks just before our destination and 16 Platoon had to go further ahead to relieve a Platoon from the 2/5th Bn. Bengasi is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve seen. It is situated on the sea shore and there are dozens of avenues of Australian gum trees. The country around this district seems to be the best in Libya, but even this is very poor.
Lecky’s Letters: Sunday 9 March
...Well, I landed back [from Palestine], chez-moi [my home] and found I had half an hour in which to pack and come down here – to the 1 Aust Corps School of Signals for a refresher course...Equipment from Aust is very short at the school but they manage splendidly on captured Italian stuff – in fact Dame Rumour has it that big Australian advances are held up pending fresh supplies of material from Italy! I rejoin my unit next week, where Cliff’s brother (Ron) is now adjutant ... Fear a drought in the near future as this is too good to last. Cliff wrote several times – last from Bathurst, poor kid, also Nan and the sweet young things of my acquaintance...I had a stroll through Gaza War cemetery with a cobber the other day, and was very impressed with the order and dignity of the place...Close by is the famous Gaza Ridge, still deeply pock marked by the 16” shells of the Queen Elizabeth in the last war... I have twice fallen into smaller ones in the dark but luckily landed on sand...
Bryant’s Diary: Monday 10th March 1941
We spent most of the day digging in and camouflaging our position. At 9:30 this morning there was an air raid and the plane flew fair over our trenches. The bombs fairly shook the ground and shrapnel could be heard whistling over our head. Nobody was hurt around our area, but I think Brigade HQ copped the bulk of the attack. This afternoon a flaming sand flea bit me fair on the penis. I caught the blighter, but he gave me a hot half hour. Just before sundown we could hear a bombing attack going on close to our position, but they didn’t come near us. It is as cold as hell tonight.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Monday 10th March 1941
No news yet of departing. Spent day scrounging for water – bottles and haversacks. Boys got rifles to work and we exploded plenty of land mines. C.C.S. full of importance of their going. No electric light in tent tonight. To bed early with everybody disgusted with lack of hospitality. At 10:30 news that we are to go tomorrow.
Bryant’s Diary: Tuesday 11th March 1941
We spent all day erecting an anti-aircraft gun pit and it wasn’t too soon. Late this afternoon two German bombers dropped their eggs on the hill feature behind us. You could see them go into a dive and then would follow the roar of the exploding bomb and the subsequent column of smoke. The Bophas opened up and both planes hedge-hopped right over our position. One plane machine-gunned an ambulance without success. We opened up with the Bren, but without success.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Tuesday 11th March 1941
Last Mass at Bardia. Everybody packed early and ready to go. Clark and Polson of Petrol Park arrived with bottles of ’sky which disappeared quickly. Loaded on trucks – in back with men. Meal on road – hard ration. Arrived at Tobruk at 4:30 and driven to C.C.S. Dormitory to sleep in. Meet Chas Daly in his dugout with car sword and revolver. Party in Casey and comfortable quarters. John left gastroscope with me.
Bryant’s Diary: Wednesday 12th March 1941
I tested the Bren gun this morning and the bloody thing wouldn’t fire. It took nearly two hours to fix it up. It was quiet nearly all day until just before dusk when three German bombers came across. Two followed the road fairly high up and the Bophas kept them busy, but the third came low over our right and machine-gunned our position. I got a good bead on his with the Bren, but the gun didn’t fire. However, I fixed up the stoppage and let him have a full magazine as he was going away. Nobody was hit.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Thursday 13th March 1941
Mass in Casey’s room. Terrible air-raid at 2:40 am and every hour after. Took car in and had it registered in my name. Runs very well but plugs and battery faulty. O’Callaghan took Chas back and gave him his car. Dust started in earnest this evening. Row most interesting bloke in this show – genuine at anything. No raids tonight in this dust. Last night’s raid on El Adam ’drome – ruined two bombers. Crowd starting to hitch-hike to Barce.